Champion of Fire & Ice - Megan Derr
Davrin was drunk when the soft knock came at the chamber door. He nearly ignored it, for who would be coming to see him at so late an hour that he wanted to see? No one.
Two years ago his best friend Ballior had been coldly murdered by King Rorlen's favorite lackies: Lord Tekker and his perpetual, slimy shadow Sir Grayne. A year and a half ago Davrin had learned of it when he'd returned from a diplomatic journey abroad. A year ago mourning had ended, and the cowardly bastards responsible had been sent abroad to murder more people.
A day ago they'd finally returned, and Davrin had issued a challenge. Even His Majesty could not interfere, not unless he wanted to push the patience of his subjects too far and draw an anger that might be more than he could control. Davrin was not the only one angry about Ballior's death; he was simply the only one stupid enough to demand Tekker pay for it.
He'd neglected to remember that point when he'd issued the challenge. The rules of a challenge dictated they each choose a champion, as nobility could not engage in direct combat themselves. Lord Tekker had of course chosen Sir Grayne, who'd accepted promptly.
No one had been willing to face them, leaving Davrin humiliated and devastated. If in the morning he did not have a champion, he would forfeit, and a second challenge could not be issued. Tekker and Grayne were going to get away with beating a man to death simply because he'd dared to stand against them and the new tax laws causing people so much pain.
King Rorlen had done nothing, happier to have a noisy problem resolved than he was troubled that his goons might finally be getting out of hand.
Davrin had no doubt he would soon be seeing Ballior again.
The knock at the door came again, and it was only the softness of it, so unlike the brisk knocks of servants and soldiers, the imperious knocks of nobles and messengers, that compelled him to finally answer it. Heaving himself to his feet, nearly falling on his face in the process, Davrin shuffled-stumbled his way to the door and pulled it open.
His empty cup slipped from his fingers in surprise as he stared at Cimar. "What brings the Master Archivist to my door at so late an hour?"
"Might I come in to have a brief word, my lord?" Cimar asked.
"Of course." Davrin swallowed and stepped back, suddenly regretting all the brandy he'd imbibed that evening. He closed the door and walked slowly back to his chair at the table by the fireplace, where a nearly-empty decanter of brandy sat beside a long-neglected supper.
Cimar followed behind him and set Davrin's dropped, forgotten cup on the table before taking the seat opposite.
When they'd been much younger, little more than fresh-faced boys thrust too soon into the world of adults, Davrin had dreamed of seeing Cimar in his room. In his bed. In so many situations, some sweet, some hot, many both.
But Cimar had been promised to another, and Davrin had spent much of his life traveling from one troubled spot to another, honing and using his knack for soothing ruffled feathers. Now that he was finally home for a time, taking a well-earned and longer overdue break—unpleasant though it was with justice his only goal now—old feelings he'd thought long faded and gone were proving to have only been quietly slumbering.
Fifteen years had only made Cimar more beautiful, time firming up the youthful roundness of his face, adding sharp edges that Davrin wanted to trace with his fingers before drawing Cimar into a soft kiss. They shared the same light brown skin of the northern part of the country, but where Davrin's hair was dark brown, a heavy mass he kept long as custom dictated, Cimar's was a pale, almost silvery shade that he kept shockingly short, so it feathered about his head in delicate wisps. Currently he was dressed, not in the usual dark blue robes of his office, but black hose and a dark green tunic that brought out the green in his hazel eyes.
"So what can I do for you, Master Archivist?"
"Cimar will suffice," Cimar said softly. "I was away visiting my sister today, or I would have been present for supper, and I regret sorely I was not present."
Davrin's brow furrowed. "Why is that?"
"I would have volunteered to be your champion."
Davrin was grateful he'd not poured himself more brandy. "What? How?"
Cimar laughed, though there