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At Ironhall (Chance and Time)
"Like that?" - Ambrose IV, p. 27
*

Radgar decided that he really, really hated fire. It had also started to occur to him that he might be cursed in some way - perhaps Healfwer had made a mistake somewhere, although privately, Radgar had to admit it was far more likely that he was simply imagining things.

His parents had died in a fire that had been lit by one of his father's enemies, who'd also tried to get rid of Radgar in the process by barring his door. The fire that was in the process of reducing West House to a smouldering ruin had been caused by lightning. Things like that happened sometimes. It had nothing to do with Radgar.

Wasp's parents died in a fire, too. One that was lit by Baels. And what was Wasp going to do once he discovered his best friend was one of them? Radgar should have told him by now, really - Wasp was his best friend, and Radgar knew he would trust Wasp with his life. But not, apparently, with this secret.

It was unfair, in a way. After all, Radgar's parents, too, had died at the hands of Baels. It wasn't as if it was his fault what a group of other Baels had done. He'd been little more than a toddler at the time. He'd never gone foering - although he supposed that if he'd stayed, he'd have gone. It was what Baels did, after all. Dad had gone foering plenty of times - the scols were still singing about some of his best ones, and the one where he'd met Mom had become the stuff of legends.

At Ironhall, songs were sung about people who'd died bravely. In Baelmark, they sang about people who'd brought home lots of loot, or killed monsters. Wasp thinks all Baels are monsters, too.

Lightning. Someone setting a house on fire. If Healfwer's hlytm hadn't signified for his wyrd to be fire, and warded him against it, how often would Radgar have died by now? And how many more times would someone try to kill him by using fire, hurting people Radgar cared about in the process?

No. Stop thinking like a half-wit. It's just a coincidence.

And he'd beaten it this time, hadn't he? He was mostly unharmed - he'd gotten out all three of the old men who'd returned here after they'd served their time in the Royal Guard, dubbed knights by the King, still quick enough to give most of the seniors a run for their money, or wipe the floor with any soprano who fancied himself a swordsman already, but not, it seemed, fit enough to escape a burning building.

Bad chance, that. Their rooms had been to the back, furthest from the exit. They'd made it halfway on their own already when Radgar had found them, yelling at them to move on. With him to guide the way and lent a shoulder to lean on to the one knight whose leg had looked like it had been broken, they'd made the rest of the way easily. Blades were tough, even retired ones.

Radgar sincerely hoped he'd never have to enter another burning building ever again. The fire couldn't kill him, but the smoke had made his lungs burn, and he could still feel the heat, even if his skin remained as pink as if he'd have been outside, in the open air. Hopefully, nobody'd noticed that. Hopefully, everyone'd be too busy putting out the fire and taking care of the injured to observe the way Candidate Raider looked decidedly unlike he'd just brought three men out of the West House.

And standing around here probably wasn't the best way to do that. He'd done his share of the work - he deserved a break. He'd find Wasp, and then a nice, quiet place to take a nap. Maybe find something to drink. His throat felt parched. Definitely find something to drink, too. But first, Wasp.

Practicallly all the candidates had come to see the fire - some of them had been set to work, of course, but there was only so much work, and only so many hands required to do it before they started getting in each other's way. Knowing Wasp, he'd have been overlooked, or else skipped in favor of someone who looked a bit older.

Radgar frowned as he sought for his friend, then mentally smacked himself. This was a fire. Most likely, Wasp had gone and found a quiet corner to hide in the moment he'd been told he wasn't needed for anything - a coward, Wasp was not, and Radgar would happily break the jaw of anyone who said differently, assuming Wasp wouldn't beat him to the punch, but afraid of fire, yes.

Only idiots are never afraid. Dad had said that, once. Radgar, being young and convinced his father was the bravest man in the world, had, of course, immediately asked what his father was afraid of, then.

Wasp turned out to be in none of the places Radgar had expected to find him. Radgar was beginning to feel a little worried. He wasn't in the West House. I'd have known it if he was. Someone would have said something.

"Have you seen Wasp?" His voice sounded much calmer than he felt, Radgar was pleased to notice. That was good. A good leader never lets his men know when he's panicking. Dad had said that, too. Of course, Radgar would never be the leader of any Blades - or Baels, for that matter.

Bullwhip and Mallory, both looking pale and with soot on their clothes, but otherwise unharmed. Good. That had to mean Wasp was all right, too, didn't it? He'd probably gone off somewhere, some place Radgar hadn't thought of.

"Still in there." Bullwhip was very pale, Radgar realized. Not pale like someone who's glad he's escaped with his life out of a very dangerous situation, but pale like someone who knows that a person he cares about is about to die, and that there's nothing he can do about it - Bullwhip and Wasp weren't friends like Radgar and Wasp were, but they were both seniors, and neither of them was very hard to get along with. "I'm sorry." Which was absurd, because really, how could any of this be Bullwhip's fault?

Bad chance - no, the worst chance. Lightning. And Radgar, maybe? He'd been here for nearly five years, and there'd never been a fire before - not like this one, at least.

Wasp!

***
Into the Fire Lands (Fire and Earth)
"But if the lad is your special friend, he is acceptable to us." - Cynewulf, p. 313
*

Even though Radgar had repeatedly explained about Wasp being his Blade, as well as his friend, and as such not a person Aylwin needed to worry about (at least not in the sense of his being a threat to Radgar's safety), it was fairly obvious that Aylwin wasn't buying any of it.

"He's a cniht," Aylwin sniffed.

"He's very good with a sword." That should impress Aylwin, if anything about Wasp could.

"He's from Chivial," Aylwin countered, making Radgar wish he had some impressive muscles, and was able to lift Aylwin single-handedly to shake some sense into him.

Radgar swallowed a comment that probably wouldn't have gone over well, for all that it was true that many Baels weren't full-blooded Baels either, and that lots of things were 'from Chivial' without Aylwin scoffing at them.

"And he sounds like a cniht lots of times," Aylwin added. As if that had anything to do with anything! Radgar knew that poor Wasp was embarrassed any time his voice didn't quite came out sounding like he was an adult, but Radgar also knew that Wasp would be able to slice Aylwin to pieces without even working up a sweat. Radgar was better, of course ... maybe.

Back at Ironhall - and why did that feel years and years ago, when they'd left there less than a month ago? - Wasp had been considered the better swordsman, but Radgar knew he'd been holding back there most of the time. He hadn't wanted to stand out, for one, and, well, he hadn't seen the point of exerting himself more than he needed, really. Nobody liked people who were the best at everything and Radgar already had a reputation for being brilliant at politics and history.

Wasp had said he'd wanted to become Radgar's Blade because he was a better swordsman than Radgar was, and Radgar hadn't yet worked up the courage to ask him if he'd really meant that, or if it had simply been the first thing he'd thought of, and thus the first thing Wasp had said. Wasp had been fairly uncomplicated, before. Easy to read, for Radgar, at least.

The binding had changed both of them, Radgar thought. Pulled them closer, yes - too close for comfort, it seemed sometimes, although perhaps that was unfair to Wasp, to blame him for the effects of a conjuration - but also pulled them apart, in a way. Radgar would never again be able to stand up for Wasp, to fight Wasp's fights for him, because he was Wasp's friend and wanted to help, rather than because he thought Wasp was too weak to do his own fighting. (It had been like that, once, but Radgar didn't think it would ever be like that again.) From the moment of the binding onwards, Wasp would be the Blade, and Radgar his charge, until one of them died.

Radgar didn't think he'd be able to live with himself if Wasp got himself killed for Radgar's sake.

"Half the time, he sounds like someone who's been banged on his beallucas."

Aylwin really was quite hung up on the subject of Wasp's voice - perhaps Aylwin, too, hadn't quite sounded as grown-up as he did now too long ago? Radgar hoped it was as simple as that; bad enough to worry about his enemies getting it into their heads to have a go at Wasp. Assuming they'd keep it fair, Radgar would say they were free to try, but ...

His parents died because Baels set fire to their house.

Wasp wouldn't have been here if it hadn't been for Radgar. And King Ambrose, of course.

Dad died in a fire, too.

Wasp was mostly here because of Wasp, though. He'd come here because Radgar was his friend, and Radgar wouldn't have wanted to do this without him, so maybe it was all for the best. Now all Radgar had to do was to figure out a way not to get both of them killed.

***
By the waterfall (Air and Water)
"Anything I can give you is yours." - Radgar, p. 420
*

Radgar knew that he'd be happy to give his own left arm to Wasp - or have it chopped off if he could have given Wasp back his own left arm, or do whatever it would have taken to make Wasp smile again, really. Before he'd talked to Wasp for the first time after he'd become a king and a hero, he'd liked to believe Wasp knew that, too.

Now, though, it seemed much better to believe Wasp didn't. Much, much better to believe Wasp was simply bitter out of ignorance, rather than because he didn't care about anything of it - Radgar, or the fact that they were both still alive, or, well, anything at all.

Last time he'd seen Wasp like this, Radgar had more or less known what to do. Then, Wasp had been the new Brat, and everyone'd known the story of why he'd come to Ironhall alone. Radgar had known exactly how he'd felt, or thought he did.

Losing an arm ought to hurt less than losing your parents. Maybe. You couldn't get either of them back, after all; conjurations could heal a lot, but they couldn't grow back a complete arm, or bring back the dead. (Not really and not permanently, at any rate.)

Since they'd left Ironhall, they hadn't fenced. Radgar had suggested it, once. Wasp had barely been able to hold even a wooden foil, let alone wield it anywhere near like it was a rapier. Apparently, the binding did not accomodate a ward who wished to practice fencing with his Blades - or else the binding was simply too new to allow such things. Radgar supposed he'd never find out now. He certainly had no intention of binding another Blade ever again, even in the unlikely case that he'd get a chance to do so, which seemed very unlikely indeed.

Perhaps he was being selfish. Perhaps he was expecting too much of Wasp - too much and too soon.

What do you want me to do, my friend? Don't you know how much I need you back by my side?

Aylwin wouldn't know wit if it slapped him in the face, and his fencing was downright atrocious. And Radgar daren't teach him better, because that might mean creating a future enemy who'd be able to fight him Ironhall-style. Being a king was no fun at all, most of the time. He was surrounded by people who thought they could use him, or outthink him, or push him around. The people he'd allowed himself to begin to think of as his allies and friends were worst. He couldn't snap at them - at least not too often. Obviously, being a dracan-bana didn't mean he was allowed to forget his good manners every now and then. He needed someone to talk to, someone who'd understand his jokes.

Someone to hold his hand and make sure he didn't run out on his own wedding would be nice, too.

To see you or your mother in pain and be unable to help, Dad had said, when Radgar had asked him what he was afraid of. At the time, it had seemed like a strange answer, something that was unlikely to ever happen. Now, Radgar thought he understood.

However, Dad had never been able to force Mom into doing anything she didn't want to do - some people had told Radgar that meant his father was a weakling when he'd been younger, but even then, he'd known that wasn't true. Love made people stronger, not weaker.

Wasp, Wasp ...

Radgar would see Wasp back on his feet and smiling again even if it cost him his life.

It wouldn't, he didn't think - Wasp hadn't wanted to kill him when he'd found out Radgar was one of them, one of the monsters who'd killed his parents, and surely, surely, Wasp couldn't hold Radgar responsible for having lost his arm, when Radgar had destroyed the firedrake. Surely not.

Still, Radgar was getting the sinking feeling that the price of Wasp's recovery would be very high indeed.

I don't want to lose you, my friend, not to anyone or anything.

Dad had offered Mom a trip home on a ship filled with gold, if she truly wanted to leave him. She'd never taken him up on his offer. Naturally. People who loved you didn't leave you. Not when they knew you loved them back. Not when they knew you needed them to stay. Not ...

Wasp!

***
Chivial (Death and Love)
"The only thing predictable about Radgar is that he always gets what he wants." - Wasp, p. 440
*

Wasp was going to kill him.

Probably - no, very likely, Radgar was the better swordsman; he still had both his arms, after all, and he'd been better before that, too, possibly. Still, Wasp did have some right to be angry with him, and Radgar disliked the idea of getting Wasp hurt or injured simply because he, Radgar, had done something Wasp was rightly none too pleased about. Radgar was a king after all, and kings were supposed to be fair to those who had served them well in the past.

It wouldn't be fair to ask anyone else to deal with Wasp. It would be only a little unfair to avoid seeing Wasp right away, but unfortunately, Radgar seemed utterly unable to come up with a good excuse to explain why he urgently needed to be somewhere else.

Even the news of a firedrake ravaging the countryside would be welcome. Well, not quite welcome perhaps - one firedrake had already been more than enough - but better. Less painful.

"Why?"

Wasp's voice didn't squeak anymore. He'd gotten married, a year after Radgar had. He had children - a daughter and a son. He'd built a new life for himself, a life away from Radgar. Oh, Radgar was still a part of it, and to others, Radgar supposed it might seem like they were friends - still, or again.

To Radgar, it felt like he'd brought Wasp back to life only to lose him again. Wasp's visits were always welcome - or had been, until today - and yet there was a distance between them that hadn't been there before. Radgar wasn't the most important person in Wasp's life anymore. He was just someone Wasp talked to every now and then; after that one time, all those years ago, Radgar had never again dared ask Wasp to fence with him. Quite probably, that meant he was horribly out of shape.

Good thing Ambrose was dead and wouldn't be able to come up with any schemes to smuggle a Blade-assassin into Baelmark. Radgar wouldn't stand a chance against him.

"Because he killed Dad." He'd repeated his reasons to himself lots of times. No matter what some of the witan were saying, mumbling about the impulsiveness of youth, Radgar had thought long and hard about his decision to kill King Ambrose IV of Chivial.

It wasn't that Chivial had been a threat, and killing its king the best way to put an end to it. Chivial was helpless, defenseless, Baelmark's to plunder to its heart's content. All because of Wasp's idea. Wasp's brilliant, perfect idea. Radgar had killed Chivial's king, and there was nothing Chivial could do about it. Because of Wasp's idea.

Oh. Oh! Storm and fire! He's really going to kill me!

"Because I wanted to put an end to it. All of it." Wasp should understand. Wasp had left Baelmark, left Radgar just so he could forget and heal. "I'm sorry."

Not for killing Ambrose, he wasn't. And not for using Wasp's idea, either.

"I'm not going back."

Radgar blinked. Wasp took a deep breath and lifted his chin.

"I asked Gertrude if she wanted to come with me. She didn't, so before I left, I made sure she'd have all the money and help she might need."

Radgar wondered why people called him unpredictable. Especially Wasp, who ought to know better than anyone than Radgar never did anything without a reason, even if that reason wasn't a particularly good one. Wasp was the one who let his temper get the better of him.

"I'm not going back," Wasp repeated. His voice was still firm, but Radgar detected a glimpse of uncertainty in his eyes. "That is, if you'll have me, I'd like to stay here." With you, he didn't add, but then, he didn't need to. Radgar had always been able to hear the words Wasp didn't want to say out loud, because they might make things awkward between them, or uncomfortable.

"You're welcome. More than welcome." Had he been worried about Wasp wanting to kill him? "I'm sure we can find a suitable room for you." The rooms closest to Radgar's had been Culfre's - putting Wasp there would be ... a bad idea. A very bad idea. Radgar wouldn't even consider it. Was, in fact, not considering it at all. He'd probably marry again someday soon, once the witenagemot had settled on a suitable candidate. Wasp might meet a nice Baelish girl.

By this time next year, Baelmark might have been conquered by Chivial.

Spirits of chance! Not very likely. Not very likely at all.