The corporal knocked on the door. "Come." Kevin called from inside. The guard saluted Kevin as Janna walked inside and sat down.
Janna stared at him. He's changed, she realized. The quiet clerk who raised pigeons and wouldn't tell her anything was gone. Here in front of her was a man in his blue and gold uniform, taking the file and smartly returning the salute. He closed the door and walked back to his desk. He saw Janna staring and smiled as he sat down.
"Quite a change, eh?"
"You... At the fire festival, when they found us, you said you were a Captain, but..." her voice trailed off.
"I am. Captain Kevin Potter of her Imperial Highness' Guard. Third Division, Company Twelve, Special Covert Operations." he bowed his head to her.
"I guessed that."
"What?" he asked, picking up a small glass paperweight from the desk. He turned it over several times in his hands.
Janna felt a sudden heaviness as a privacy spell suddenly covered the room. So different from the one in Mimbres! She started to reach out, to study it, but the Healer's words echoed in the back of her mind and she dropped her hands in her lap. "That you're a spy." she replied. "Why is there a privacy spell on the room?"
"Because I am going to ask you a few questions. I want your oath that what we say here is going to be completely secret. Nothing goes outside this room and you tell no one. Not your friend. Not your teacher. Do you understand?"
"Do you swear as a loyal subject of the Empire? Say yes or no."
"All right. Did you know the Duc outlawed magic?"
"Yes, Marigold told me."
"Who is Marigold?"
"She lived across the street. She saw a rat in her kitchen and I offered to do a vermin spell. She told me about the Duc."
"How long were you practicing magic for her?"
"Just a few days, I tried to be careful. Marigold said she was only going to tell a few friends." She shrugged, knowing how that had grown.
Kevin nodded, and wrote a note on the paper in front of him. "What then?" he asked.
"Can I ask you a something?" Janna asked when he stopped questioning her. "Do you really belong to the Pigeon Fancier's Society?"
"Yes. I have a membership in every chapter. Not all under the same name, however."
"So if I needed to send you a message I could just go to the local club?"
"If you must. Ask about Rollo Reds. But there are easier ways to find me."
"Oh." Janna considered asking what the other methods were, then decided against it. "Who was your friend? The one you helped under the stand?"
"Maurice. He's a messenger."
"Oh." Janna sat back in her chair and thought a minute. "The Weaver smiles on us all." she said with short chuckle.
Kevin frowned. "No need to be sarcastic."
"I'm not. Just a lot of coincidences. The Weaver must be smiling on us."
"I'll make an offering next Change Day." he replied. "What did the Duc ask you to do for the festival?"
"He said he wanted a hot fire."
"Then why did you make a wind? All the witnesses said there was a hot wind."
Janna looked at him. "I'm not a mage." she said. "I can't create a flame. I was directing heat to the kindling."
Kevin nodded, saying nothing. Dipping his pen, he wrote something on a paper in front of him, and handed it to Janna. "Sign here and you can go." He held out his pen.
Janna looked down at the paper, "What's this?" she asked, taking the pen and dipping it in the inkwell.
"A reward. For your service to the Empire."
"So we can go?"
"You should probably wait until the Healer says it's all right. Leon gets annoyed when his patents leave before they're ready."
Janna signed the paper and handed it back to him. "One last question?" she asked.
"I took a walk to the market this morning. The prices are down and all the stalls are full. It took us weeks to ride from the border, but it's been only a few days and there's food in the market again. Why?"
"What do you think?" Kevin asked.
Janna said nothing and waited for him to answer. He returned her gaze. Janna glanced down at the paperweight on his desk, still wishing she could study the spell.
Kevin sighed, "I can't tell you too much, but Her Imperial Majesty has known about the Duc's, hmm, activities, for some time. But there's an agreement from the War that keeps her from interfering except in certain dire circumstances. She made sure those circumstances came about."
Now it was Janna's turn to stare at Kevin. "Anything else?" he asked.
Janna swallowed. "No."
He picked up the paperweight, "I'll get someone to take you back to your room."