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By Myranda B. Kalis



The side of Seera's bed sank as a relatively light weight was applied to it, and a shadow fell over his face. A low chuckle caressed his ears as his hazel eyes flickered open. "The great Allanyn Seera sleeps alone--will the wonders never cease?"

"I sometimes sleep alone," Seera rolled over onto his back and stretched slowly, ringing the sleep-stiffness out of his long body and doing his best to ignore Tyrnan's smirk.

The Eshu's full lips curled into a dubious approximation of a sweetly innocent smile. "I'm sure you do....it's just that the story of how you failed to score with the lucious but frosty Ambassador from Shadowmount has already made the rounds." Her earrings caught the minimal light, and her dozens of thin bracelets chimed gently as she dropped a plain brown file folder on the bed next to him, now rather thicker than it was before. "I, however, have enjoyed a rather fruitful and satisfying evening indulging in that basest of Kithain urges....snooping."

Seera's coppery eyebrow arched nearly into his hairline as he lifted the newly fattened folder. "You *have* been a busy girl. Give me the highlights?"

"Well, I made a few calls to the more cooperative sorts in the melanoma capital, and, initially, met with very little in the way of success. According to the Court records, King Greyhawk signed off on Scathan ap Ailil's Ambassadorial status without any real struggle--the Huntsman's past track record of making formal requests of the Court has been rather minimal and he performs a service to the Crown by keeping the Border secure, so the request was granted with minimal fuss and bother. A standard inquiry was made into his background, turned up nothing of serious controversy, and he was basically rubber stamped into official diplomatic status from there." She poured herself a glass of water from Seera's beside pitcher and sipped. "Unofficial channels were even less helpful, our friend Lady Esteban doesn't even have any real information about him, though there are several juicy rumors attached to him. According to Court gossip, he's something of a figure of mystery--big surprise, there--whose careful lack of anything resembling an intriguing past just drives 'em wild. No one at Court remembers him, claims to remember him, or even pretends to remember him, though I'm given to understand that there are large numbers of unattached young ladies who wish they had the nerve to try it. He has never, since he first appeared at Court in 1986, taken a mistress or a lover, though the attempts to seduce him have been something less than subtle in some cases. He flirts in a highly courtly fashion, he plays the Game with great finesse, but he evidently never claims his winnings, which is an issue of some frustration for those that wish he would. Theories on why this is range from the romantic to the idiotic, but most people seem to believe that he's suffered some horrible emotionally managling tragedy that keeps him from adequately returning the affections of his would-be paramours. I personally think they might just be overlooking the fact that he's a cold bastard."

"I wouldn't go quite that far," Seera's tone was wry and, for an instant, he felt lips against his own and a pair of lean, strong arms around his waist.

"Heh--well, no, I suppose you wouldn't. The upshot is that he's been wooed but never won, and you'll want to bear that in mind if you intend to break the Assassin's First Rule." She cleared her throat. "As for the connections with his mortal existence, I had a bit more luck in that regard. Human ID: Christopher Robilliard, a very wealthy young man indeed--his personal net worth is hovering in the area between Oh my GOD! and Yes, Sir, Mr. God Sir!, and was built primarily by his late father's business dealings, holdings, and maneuverings. His father--Marcus Robilliard--was evidently the sort of individual that you didn't want to disappoint in any way or he would buy you out as a matter of course. The portfolio he had when he died was a sight to behold, let me tell you: real estate, mineral rights, partnerships in several firms, connections galore to multinational corporate concerns. His mother--Ellen Robilliard, yes, I think she married him just so she could have *that* name--was the daughter of a fairly well-to-do southern family as well. Christopher was born in 1960 in New Orleans, Louisiana and grew up thereabouts for the most part. He went to a rather prestigious prep school located right here in our dear old New York--I didn't bother to get his grades, but he was apparently a *very* talented musician--and was called home just before graduation his senior year, mid-1978, because his mother had died. I had Terry do a little hacking around and pulled up the coroner's report on her death--officially ruled a suicide via overdose of prescription sleeping pills."

"And unofficially?"

"She had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse, including stays in some rather prestigious rehab clinics, but she never fully kicked it. Her loving husband probably laid out quite a bit of cash to avoid a public scandal concerning the circumstances of her death. Christopher went to Louisiana State, where he majored in Political Science, graduated in due course, and went back for his Masters. His college career was not without some incidents, particularly his freshman and sophomore years, though nothing too serious--or, rather, nothing too serious that the other individuals involved in them couldn't be paid off." A dry smile. "As to the issue of the scholarship he endows at his alma mater, it's officially called the Julian MacNamara Memorial Arts Scholarship, and is granted to one deserving senior each year with the highest GPA majoring in one of the arts, blah blah blah. Julian MacNamara was a member of Christopher's graduating class, who was killed in a car accident a few months before graduation--drunk driver runs a red light and, yes, I found pictures of his mangled car, and, yeah, I think it was an accident. Mr. MacNamara was, incidentally, Mr. Robilliard's roommate his junior and senior years, and he isn't the only one that has donated cash to the college in memory of the deceased--he and several of the wealthier members of their graduating class underwrote the costs of building the new arts center. In the purely logical column, charity and donations of this type are wonderful tax write-offs. In the other column, I could check into Julian MacNamara's background to see if I can come up with any more significant links between him and our boy Scathan."

"Do it."

Tyrnan made a note in the file. "Christopher went on to get his Masters in PoliSci, awarded in 1984--May of 1984, as a matter of fact. As near as can be determined, the night of his graduation, Christopher experienced his Chrysalis." She shot him a look. "You notice how most of the traumatic events in this guy's life have occurred before, during, or after significant points in education? It's no wonder he never went back to school after this. Anyway, there was the usual graduation party, after which, our friend seems to have stepped out on the town--he was found in the French Quarter of New Orleans by no less than our old friends Shrike Westmark and Lady Frenzy of the Company of the Shadowed Blade, apparently deep in his Chrysalis and in a very bad way. It took a little work, but I managed to discover that Shrike and Frenzy evidently homed in on him through the dark glamour he was putting out--reports from the Duchy of Orleans indicate that *everyone* in the city felt it when he Chrysalised, severely wounded, very likely dying, and accompanied by some not-so-nice things that Frenzy was good enough to kill for the Duchess. As payment for their largesse, they snatched Scathan and hauled back to Shadowmount, dodging a couple attempts to intercept them as they went. You know about the whole tussle between the Huntsman and Her Grace about who would get to keep him. However, most people *don't* know that the main reason Scathan dropped out of sight after that was because he spent a good long time at a very private, very exclusive hospital outside Albuquerque--an addictions treatment clinic, if you ever get him in bed, you might want to check him for track marks--followed by a stint at a psychiatric facility."

"You're kidding....The Huntsman had him kidnapped so he could send him to a *psychiatrist?*"

"Oh, but it gets better! The psychiatric facility was, at the time, conducting an experimental test program in deep recall hypnosis therapy--at the time *very* experimental, and highly drug dependent to achieve the necessary state of withdrawal for the hypnosis to really take effect. I know, I had Terry raid the program records."

Seera sat up slowly, hazel eyes darkening a shade. "And what else did you find out?"

"Christopher Robilliard's stay was apparently an uneventful one. What happened to Scathan ap Ailil there is anyone's guess. My guess? He knew something that the Huntsman really, really, really needed to know and he was willing to risk the banality of human science to try and get it--which, by definition, means that faerie magic had already failed to extract it, or else insure Scathan's cooperation in the venture."

Seera rose, kicking the covers off and paced the confines of his bedchamber, visibly thinking. "I wouldn't put that anywhere past the Huntsman, or his resources--but I'd dearly love to know for sure."

"Dig deeper?"

"Use a pneumatic hammer if you have to. I want to know what the hell happened there." A pause. "Of course, my previous injunction about not getting caught holds double, since you're rather too valuable to lose, and you just reminded me of that today." He bent and placed a decidedly fond kiss on her cheek.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you keep saying." She flicked one of his braids back and rose. "Don't *you* do anything that might convince him that you're a complication better off removed."

"Who, me?" Seera managed a very convincing approximation of wide-eyed innocence.

"No, him." Tyrnan looked down rather pointedly. "Face it, Seera--I know you too well, this one represents two of the three things you can never let lie, a mystery and a challenge. Add that to the fact that he's as dangerous as they come, and your little Fiona heart is just singing with joy. And don't try to tell me it's not, because I can see it in your eyes."

"Am I really that transparent?"

She snorted. "Only to those that *know* you. And he does *know* you, doesn't he?"

A fractional hesitation. "Yes. He remembers."

"Then I stand by my assessment of the situation. Watch your back."

"And yours."

"Always." The door clicked gently shut behind her, and Seera stood for a long moment, considering everything he had just been told.

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