"Companion, if you please," from Fen's Memoirs

Zyta's mother Serena was a very young woman when Misha came to live with her family. At the age of five, all Houseborne males were separated into two groups: those who would remain and become the next generation of priests and the majority that would be reared by host families in Cznorh proper. The host family provided the basics of food, shelter and a clothing until the child turned twelve and began their training at the military academy.

Serena was the youngest of three children and the only girl. When her mother passed away Serena and Misha became inseparable. Unfortunately Serena's father didn't care much for Misha. The sounds of laughter and frivolity always seemed to set him off, at least when he'd been drinking. On more than one occasion he'd erupt in to into a fit of anger usually directed at Serena. Misha would intervene, but to no avail. Soon enough Misha turned twelve and Serena never saw him again.

One of Serena's brothers became an officer in the secular army. The other sibling was killed in a hunting accident.

"With no one to leave his jewelry business to, it was passed on to my mother and father when the old man finally died."

She still hadn't gotten to why she was here and I didn't care what sad heart story she was weaving. I didn't like her. She reminded me of every fair young maiden that ripped me to pieces in not one, not two but all three courts. And she was going to be set lose on D'Hir.

"My mother included Misha in her will. At the end of the holy war my father and I set off to find him. With their army disbanded and with no place to go the Houseborne scattered. A good number had surrendered to the Kanabulan army and later offered to take up arms with them against the secular army when the war continued. Some turned to begging or stealing. At any rate, most were considered criminals."

"Misha, being the legendary oldest page of all time..." Neopar started.

"Companion. If you please."

"And a fine companion you are. Misha was not terribly difficult to find. Zyta's father traveled all the way to Belaurri to carry out Serena's dying wish. Isn't that beautiful?"

"When did all of this happen?"

"While you were out galloping about the countryside, I'm sure." Neopar quipped.

"What other secrets are you hiding from me?" I asked Misha.

"None," he responded. I knew him well enough to believe him despite his curt tone.

"How does all this make her suitable for service? What makes you think she'll be successful with D'Hir?"

"I have no choice," Zyta replied softly.

"What she means to say is that her father has accepted a position as, um, something or other, in an undisclosed location until they can be safely be reunited."

"Neopar, you're holding him prisoner?" I accused more than asked.

"He is a guest, a very closely guarded guest, but a guest none the less." Neopar turned to Zyta. "Well, my child, I believe it's time we said good night."

"I almost forgot," Zyta went back into Misha's bedroom. She returned with a neatly folded shirt. "Misha asked me to take care of this."

I took the shirt, thanked her and showed the two of them out. After closing the door I turned abruptly to Misha.

"Tell me her mission is really D'Hir."

"Her mission is D'Hir. She's really a sweet child, Fen. I think you're overreacting."

"I bet she has fabulous feet," I muttered under my breath. "Was that part of the plan," I gestured to his side.

"A scratch was part of the plan, but that was too difficult for such a mediocre swordsman as the Lord of Inger."

"How much did her mother leave you?"

"Enough to retire from this lap of luxury to one of my own design."

"When are you leaving?"

"When my job is finished."

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