I sat across from the the commander-in-chief in his quarters. His arms were resting on the desk between us, his gloved hands entwined. He was looking off somewhere, just over my shoulder perhaps, as his gaze wasn't quite meeting mine.
"Lord Larks, what is it?"
Larks rolled his shoulders back, parting his hands and leaving them both palms-down on his desk. It was as if he held his whole being on his hands just to look me in the eyes. "Cairn Russell, captain of the Blanc Chevalier, is dead," he said. "Gawain Rothschild of the Rouge Lion has resigned from the Royal Radiata Knights."
I looked to my hands, neatly folded in my lap, so he could collect his thoughts.
"Gawain has only offered us the barest of details," Larks continued. "He insists that he is to blame."
"Out of guilt? Or do you think his might have been the hand to slay Sir Cairn?"
"I don't know, Lord Lucian," Larks replied. "I just... am at a loss." His tongue flicked to wet his lips, but lingered there too long. Whatever else he wished to say, he had lost it, too.
"I understand." I gripped the edge of his desk. Were I bold enough, I might have taken his hand instead. "Sir Cairn and Sir Gawain both have been valuable assets to the knights, to Radiata, and few will ever compare to the dragon slayer. But you must not despair. We may have a chance now to alleviate some of the tension between the humans and the fairy races."
"That's the best we could hope for."
"Then I should speak with Lord Jasne immediately."
Larks nodded. We both stood and shook hands over his desk, over the report he had begun to fill on the matter. His hand held tightly onto mine. He hesitated to release it. When I withdrew my hand from his, and stepped away from the desk, he slumped back into his chair. His eyes met mine as he reached for his pen to continue the report. I offered him a smile.
I slipped out and pulled the door closed behind me, but hadn't traveled more than a few steps from the commander-in-chief's room. There was more than just a report to file. The Russell family had lost a husband and a father. Larks owed the family condolences. He was not himself, and such a delicate matter might best be penned from a clearer mind. I turned around and stepped back into his quarters.
Larks held his head in his arms, his glasses in hand. The report pages were scattered about the floor. He gave no indication that he was aware of my return. I left the door ajar and slipped nearer to him. It wasn't until my shadow fell upon him that he looked up.
"Lord Lucian!" he gasped, jumping out of his chair. "Ió"
He trailed off, his words lost again. He was unsteady on his feet. Before he could sink back into his chair, I wrapped my arms around him. Without hesitation, he did the same. I could feel him shaking as he grasped at my back, my hair, whatever his hands could close about, and he sank into me instead.
"It's all right, Lord Larks. Everything will be all right."