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A Request Fic- Chapter Three

   The king of Sounis and his magus arrived with all the pomp and ceremony befitting their station. And it didn’t take a day for Eugenides to force Sophos into something he didn’t want to do. In this case, it was sword practice with Attolis’s guard. Really, everyone knew that the only reason Eugenides did this was because he didn’t want to suffer it alone when he could make someone else suffer it with him. And Sounis really could use more practice anyway, according to his own magus.
Costis, as could only be expected, was personally condemned to suffer along with them—being the king’s training partner as he was.

    “Find someone for Sophos to whack swords with, will you?” Eugenides orders in the middle of his arm stretches. For a moment, Costis stood there waiting for more detailed instructions. Upon seeing Sounis shrug helplessly, however, Costis realized he was on his own. Finding a suitable training partner for a king had never been something they taught you in the Guard.
He looked around at the guards present. Lepidus was competent but he had a bad habit of freezing up in the presence of royalty. Legarus was there, but Costis had a feeling the king of Sounis would prefer an opponent who wouldn’t flip distractingly perfect hair in his face with every exchange. Teleus would probably have agreed to help him by now, had he not been busy discussing the creation of a very specific set of swords with the blacksmith across the courtyard.

The only other person there was Janus. Costis supposed he would have to do.

“Janus,” he called, approaching the other guard. Heads turned to look at him, but Janus’s wasn’t one of them.  “Janus!” he said again, when he was only a good five meters away from him. “We need someone to train with his Majesty, the King of Sounis. You aren’t on duty, are you?”

Janus glanced toward the stretching kings, then at Teleus then, slowly, back towards Costis. “I don’t think I’d be a suitable training partner, sir. Perhaps squad leader Crassus could—”

It was not custom to contradict your superior in the Guard.  Costis wasn’t sure if Janus was being modest or simply defiant. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously and said, “Crassus has to be on duty in the queen’s guardroom in fifteen minutes. Aris has trained you. You’ll be fine.”

“Respectfully, I don’t think—”

Aris suddenly turned up behind Janus and clapped him on the soldier. “Costis isn’t bothering you now, is he?” Aris teased. “Shame on you, Costis, recruiting the new guy when you need someone to get hit with a practice sword.”

 Costis sighed, suddenly exhausted. “The king has asked me to find someone to train the king of Sounis. Would you mind?” he asked, almost desperately.

Aris raised his eyebrows. “Fine gift to give me on my birthday, friend,” he said, with a hint of annoyance.
There was a moment of silence.

“I am an ass,” Costis groaned. “I forgot.”

Aris shrugged then waved him off. “To be honest, I nearly did too.” The sound of the king clearing his throat reminded them they were needed.

“Well, all right,” Aris said. “Shouldn’t be too bad, compared to the whacking you’ll get at least.”

The two walked towards the kings, bowed respectfully and began the sparring. Costis had meant to watch how Aris would hold up with the king of Sounis, but his attentions were soon taken up by the engaging task of trying not to get every surface of his body bruised. The king, even if he was not fighting close to his best, was still leagues away in skill from Costis. The only sign of distraction Eugenides showed as he watched the other match in progress beside them was hitting Costis more times than usual.

“Costis, I’m beginning to fear for my safety,” the king suddenly said, in between thwacks.

Surprised, Costis barely managed to dodge the king’s next swing. His shoulder stinging, he said, “Why so, your majesty?”

The king, infuriatingly, didn’t answer for another half-minute. Then, he said, “Because the king of Sounis is actually beating your good friend, Aristogiton.”

“Is he, your Majesty?”

“Didn’t I just say that? Now what do you think that says about the rest of the guard,” the king said, with a teasing smile.

Costis was contemplating a respectful, but firm reply that went along the lines of ‘Aris tends to lack a competitive urge when fighting against monarchs that may not like losing’, when it happened.

The king of Sounis fell to the ground with a loud thud.

Suddenly, his Sounisian guards had their swords out and pointed at Aris’s throat.

    The king of Sounis frantically attempted to get up. “No, no,” he said quickly. “I…tripped.” Costis saw that he was blushing in embarrassment. “Put your swords away,” he ordered to his men, who followed and drew back to their earlier positions.

    Eugenides waved Costis away, concluding their match, and approached Sounis who was thanking Aris for his time.

    “I did not remember you as being someone who was particularly clumsy,” Eugenides said to his fellow king.

    Sounis’s magus approached to join them. “Perhaps if the pavement of your training ground was more evenly laid out,” he said, in a mock-serious tone.

    Sounis, however, shook his head and only continued to look dazed. “I thought I saw…someone.”

    “Someone in particular? Or does the sight of people just amaze you now?” Eugenides said with teasing concern.

    “No, no…just, I thought I saw a guard that looked like someone. But it can’t be because…well…I’m just being silly I guess.” He gave them a nervous smile and waved away their concern.

    “Well, I suppose it’s time for breakfast,” the king said. “And we’ll need to hurry to get there on time or Irene will kill me. Not literally, of course.”

    And the kings and magus left.

    Aching and sore, Costis paid a visit to the closest apothecary. As usual, the universe was not cooperating with him and the shop owner refused to see him. Apparently, an urgent order of medicine had come from the Baron Susa and, as Costis could not explain the attempted assassination without spreading hysteria, his concerns were only second priority.

    Stuck with the shop owner’s assistant, Costis thought it wouldn’t be such a waste of time to ask him a couple of questions.

    “If I described some symptoms to you, would it be possible to figure out what medicine or drug could’ve caused it?”

    The assistant looked suddenly eager. “I could try. What symptoms? And are we talking about a man or a woman?”

    “Well, it’s not actually a person,” Costis said reluctantly. “It’s actually my…pet dog.”

    The assistant perked up further. “Well, that could be a challenge. What happened to it?”


    There was a pause.

    “Anything more specific?” the assistant asked, with a nervous laugh.

    “Right,” Costis said. “Well, I fed it some left-overs and he died within a couple of minutes. I didn’t see anything suspicious when I fed it to him so I’m not even really sure if it was the food.” Trying not to make it sound like a matter of concern, he added, “I’m probably just being paranoid, but I thought to ask for curiosity’s sake.”

    The assistant looked grim. “I really don’t know. I mean, I thinking it was a poison but you said you fed him leftovers and you don’t look dead. Unless, you didn’t eat any of it.”

    “If it were a poison, what could it be?”

    “Hard to tell. A lot of poisons could kill within a few minutes and plenty of them can be disguised easily enough. And since we’re talking about a dog, I’m even less sure. Animals don’t react to poisons the same way as humans do.”

    “Huh,” Costis said contemplatively. He took one of the many small crystal bottles on the shop counter and fiddled with it as he thought. “Well, if I said he was fed a chicken leg, would that help in anyway?”

“Hm, well it would be hard to disguise most powdered poisons on a chicken leg. And not many poisons can be poured on meat without being noticeable somehow. It either changes the appearance, like changing its color to green, or it gives it an odd smell. One of the few I know that does neither would be moon’s ire.”

    “Moon’s ire?” Costis said, now running his finger nervously along the raised vine pattern circling around the rim of the small bottle in his hands.

    The assistant nodded. “It’s made from a plant of the same name, which only grows in Kathodica.”

    “Strange name for a poison,” he commented.

    The assistant shrugged. “There’s a myth all about it actually.” Noting the harried look on Costis’s face, he added, “But perhaps another time, you look like you’re in a hurry.”

“Right,” Costis said, putting the tiny bottle down. “One last question, though. Do you have any idea where someone could get any moon’s ire?”

The assistant suddenly blanched, glanced at Costis’s guard uniform and said, “It’s illegal for anyone to cell poison in public apothecaries.”

Costis tried not to roll his eyes. “This isn’t an interrogation. Just curious, remember?”

“Well, don’t say I told you but…on an academic whim, most apothecaries keep a bit. Just for study, though. It has promising medical uses,” the assistant said hurriedly.

“Including this apothecary?” Costis asked.

The assistant’s eyes widened. “That’s for the owner of the shop to answer. It’s his business,” he said, in a tone that heavily hinted that they did have some.

Costis nodded. “Thanks for the help.” He took out a coin and gave slid it across the counter to him, nearly knocking one of the intricate bottles as he did.

In the Guard’s canteen, Janus sat down heavily beside Aris.

“Hello Janus,” Aris greeted. “Seen Costis anywhere? We were supposed to meet for lunch.”

“No, sir,” Janus replied.

Aris shrugged. “Oh well. Did you need anything?”

Janus fished out something for his pocket. “I saw this lying around in my things and I thought you’d appreciate it better as a birthday gift.—as opposed to a cup of watered wine at the tavern.”

Aris took the small bottle lying in Janus’s palm. It was intricately crafted glass, with an octagonal base and a raised pattern of vines circling the bottle’s mouth.

“It’s…well, it’s beautiful.” Aris looked up at him. “Are you sure you want to give this to me.”

Janus nodded. “Yes. I’m sure.”