The freshly-won victory lifted Bob's spirits for quite a while thereafter. Camille's too, come to that. She tried not to let it show, but every now and then Bob thought he saw an actual laugh tease in the corner of her mouth. Dedicated as ever to doing her tough-as-nails training-from-hell bitch thing, Camille dutifully tried to suppress anything more gleeful than a smirk, but Bob could tell when he made Camille happy. That bright, almost childlike smile the night of the drunken magicking had stuck in Bob's head.

One day during their lunch break, Bob tried to provoke it back into sight with an old joke he'd heard god-knows-how-many-times back in Platz.

"…And so he says, 'But I haven't got a baboon!'"

Camille rolled her eyes, and not without good reason. It was a spectacularly bad joke—the only kind Bob knew. Nevertheless, a thoughtful look came across her face as she swallowed another spoonful of soup.

Bob shot her a inquisitive look. Camille swallowed. "That actually reminds of this joke I knew from back home."

"Where is home?" Bob asked, genuinely curious.

The thoughtful look returned for an encore, but Camille cut her thoughts off.

"Nah-ah," she said dismissively. "You're not getting any diverting personal stories from me. It's time to get back to work and you know it."

She took the final mouthful of soup, before collecting her bowl and Bob's not-quite-yet-empty one and setting them aside. Bob let the matter go with no small amount of curiosity.

Camille and Bob returned to sparring. Bob had gotten surprisingly decent, but Camille's philosophy was that more practice always did a person good. Especially where Bob was concerned. Right in the middle of their session, however, there came a knock at the door. The wide empty space of the house meant that the sound carried to the courtyard out back, at least well enough for Camille's ears to pick it up. She was rather startled—who in the hell ever called on her? Bob was already there, and Tina was too busy rebuilding the tavern to go anywhere.

Camille held up a hand to signal Bob to stop, and then went to the door. Bob followed at a distance, not wanting to intrude in case it was someone important or private or what have you, but nevertheless still quite curious.

When Camille opened the front door, she opened it on a tall, dark, and handsome young man with whom Bob felt an immediate sense of rivalry. This couldn't be good.

"Dark," Camille murmured.

"Looks like mid-afternoon to me," Bob offered, but he was swiftly corrected.

"That's my name," said the man whose parents apparently hated enough to really name him that. "And who the hell are you?"

"Bob," interjected Camille tersely before Bob could respond. "He's my new student."

"Nice to meet you," said Dark, obviously not meaning it and in reality quite ambivalent about meeting Bob.

"Likewise," said Bob, who meant it no more than Dark did.

"What do you want?" Camille questioned her visitor. Bob noticed a guarded quality to her voice he had never heard before.

"Word is there was a bit of unpleasantness here a couple weeks back. The man in black…"

"So what? Thought you'd check up on me?" Camille replied in something almost (though not quite) like a snarl.

"Actually yeah," Dark said brightly, clearly unperturbed.

"Since when did you care about anybody but yourself?" Camille continued, with the kind of bored disdain Bob had come to associate with ass-kicking.


"Well, if you wanted to check up on me, then congratulations: your work is done. Anything else you want, or shall we agree to just meet again like this in another three years?"

"Where'd you find this… student… of yours?"

"A friend of Tina's."

"Oh really?"

"From out of town," Bob piped up, trying to be helpful. Camille did not acknowledge hearing him. Dark arched his eyebrows in a mild look of surprise, but his eyes still lingered on Camille.

"Mind if I join in on the teaching?"

"I sure do."

Bob was about to utter words of protest, for he was more than willing to show this cocky son of a bitch a thing or two, but Camille cut him off:

"You and I both know you'll be polishing the floor with my novice's face inside two minutes—I am astoundingly uninterested in watching you show off. Any other requests?"

"Well jeez," Dark muttered, apparently slightly surprised. "Not if this is the warm welcome I receive in your house. You take care, Camille. No doubt I'll be back to bother you again before too long."

And with that, he turned and left, though not before Camille could shut the door on his turning form. There was a brief quiet as Camille stalked off to one of the cabinets in the other room and poured herself a drink, Bob poised the whole time on the verge of asking her questions but wondering whether he really should at the moment.

"He's an asshole, Bob," Camille said without turning back toward him. "Just don't bother with him."

Bob decided to leave it at that. Certainly he wasn't going to get any information out of Camille while she was still so agitated. He did, however, make a mental note to himself to look this guy up sometime and soon.

"All right, let's get back to work!"

And so they did.


Tina's tavern had been her livelihood, and since her livelihood had burned to the ground, she was in a rather desperate state. Though she had a place to sleep on a friend's sofa for the time being, the amount of effort that would be needed in order to restore the smoldering wreckage of wood and debris into its original state of tavern-ness was tremendous. Fortunately, Tina was well liked by most everyone—especially the heterosexual men of the city—and so she had a lot of people willing to help her in this endeavor.

One of those especially heterosexual men was our hero, Bob.

By the time Bob had reached his actual magical training, the inn was nearing re-completion. It was a nice bonding experience for Bob and the villagers, and it was the closest thing to a steady job Bob had held… well, ever.

The prospect of this project coming to a close though gave Bob an unusual mix of feelings: on the one hand, he would be glad to be sleeping once more in a comfy bed with a place of alcohol consummation just downstairs; on the other hand he had grown very fond of his dear teacher. It took a while for him to stop being completely petrified of her, but now that the severity of his petrification in her presence was minimal, he actually found it sort of hot.

There was something about her power and control that was very sexy to Bob; he found it uncomfortable to think about, but couldn't help but do so.

Bob was in the middle of a reverie on this very subject when his co-workers started shouting, breaking his concentration from not work.

"Sven, you're putting them on backward!" Le Jun's voice was piercing when his temper flared, which happened a little too often than was really healthy for anyone. This time it was exacerbated by the fact that he'd seen a cat on the roof earlier that day, which apparently triggered all kinds of superstition in his brain.

Sven, not speaking English, started muttering in his own tongue, clearly clueless as to what reason Le Jun had to yell at him. He resumed placing the roof tiles incorrectly.

On the street below, Tina and Giovanni were in a deep and thorough discussion concerning wallpapering and other such interior design aspects, which Bob was utterly clueless about. Giovanni had spent the better part of the day shopping, trying to find colors that really fit the atmosphere, but it was a tough job. He was a man of fine taste but that wasn't going to help anything if Tina didn't really tell him what she wanted. Or something. Bob wasn't exactly versed in interior design.

However, what really drew Bob's attention away from the important matter at hand was a solitary figure attracting no particular attention to himself. Bob recognized him at once as the man who visited the other day.

The one with the stupid name.

And the shirt that fit a little too tight on his biceps for Bob's comfort.


He was just strolling down the road at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights. He passed by a food stand, picked up an apple, and did some fancy sleight-of-hand tricks with it, the smug show-off. And then he had the gaul to go and buy that apple and six more, no doubt so that he could go about juggling. Well, he wasn't juggling now… but Bob was certain he'd be doing it later!

Bob's mind returned to the question Camille asked Dark when first he darkened her doorstep: what exactly was this guy doing in Revetahw? He didn't buy Dark's answer about being worried about the attack by Seraphoth, and he suspected that Camille hadn't bought it either. Did this mysterious stranger have some darker business in town? Could he perhaps be one of those spies for Seraphoth to whom Vance had alluded? That seemed quite possible. He had come straight to Camille's house, where Bob was now living, after all.

Bob was snapped out of it by more shouting from about five feet away.

Sven and LeJun seemed to be arguing again. Bob tried to care for a few seconds, he really did, but Sven wasn't speaking English and LeJun's voice was doing that weird high-pitched thing it did when he got really agitated. So in the end, Bob decided to let them work it out for themselves. But when he returned to the thought of stalking Dark around town until he found proof of wrong-doing, Bob came to his senses and realized how silly that idea would be.

After all, if Dark were spying on Bob, how would Bob know it for sure if he was spying on Dark? No, best just to wait for Dark to make the first move.


It was the middle of the night when Bob awoke from his slumber with the strong urge to pee. Getting up from his cot and shuffling over to the door, Bob vaguely pondered what hour of the night it was, but really could not be bothered that much. So tired. Pee. Go back to sleep. Hmmm sleeeeeep…

As he stumbled through the darkness down the hall towards Camille's bathroom, however, he heard voices. This triggered the very strange realization that it was not just an urge to urinate which had awoken Bob, but also the sound of footsteps in the hall. Curious, Bob paused outside Camille's bedroom the better to eavesdrop.

"Look, Camille, I do care about you. Otherwise I wouldn't be here at all."

"Dark, let's just be honest here. You go wherever you please for whatever reasons please you."

"Yes. What else should I do? 'Fulfill my destiny' or some crap like that I suppose?"

Camille sighed heavily. "Please, I'm not trying to go down that road again, you certainly don't need to."

"But it's there, isn't it? In your mind?"

"Of course it is."

A pause. Shuffling of feet.

Camille resumed, "Look, if I thought I could lead this thing myself, I would. But I can't. I'm not even sure anyone can at this point, but… if it is possible, it's your place to do it."

"Why? You are every bit the warrior I am. People respect you. And hell, if not you, what about your Knights? What about the mayoress? Why does everyone insist on laying this thing on me?"

Camille sighed. "I don't know anymore, Dark. I really don't."

Bob felt more and more uneasy the longer he lingered there, but at the same time his own curiosity would not be sated. Especially when Dark and the woman he was so fond of were speaking on such intimate terms.

"Why did you come here? I won't pretend I wouldn't like to believe it was for me, for… concern for my safety or whatever. There was another reason wasn't there?"

Dark made no reply. For a short time not a word was spoken.

"Dark…" Camille whispered, her voice now filled with a tenderness the like of which Bob had never heard, "Stay here at least."

"Please, Camille," Dark said, for once sounding entirely serious and very uncomfortable. "We've been through this part before. I'm staying in town for a while, but I'm not… staying…"

The hardness returned to Camille's voice. "Right."

Bob was not especially bright or sharp-witted, especially in social situations, but he thought he had quite enough sense to know what was going on here. Dark wasn't anything so deadly or secretive as a spy—that stupid pretty-boy was just trying to make a move on Bob's sexy teacher, and that would not do. The only way to go about this was to scare Dark off.

And so, even as he snuck back to his bedroom, Bob began pondering a plan.