‘Pan, you have to speak to us.’
‘There’s no need to be frightened. You’re safe, now.’
‘Come now, boy. You must cooperate if we’re to punish those who wronged you. Tell us what happened.’
‘Have you been threatened? Did they threaten to harm you further if you reveal them?’
‘Why won’t he speak when instructed, Beron? Has he a history of insubordination?’
‘He’s never insubordinate, Director Hay. I assure you, he’s not refusing to cooperate. He just doesn’t speak before superiors; he’s almost incapable of it, now. And I’ll be wanting a word with you, Director, and the other escort Directors as soon as possible, I wish to discuss this further in privacy … ’
‘He can’t speak? That’s how thorough you have become, Master Beron? Impressive though that is, I humbly recommend you modulate your methods with your next apprentice, however unruly. Why haven’t I heard of this before?’
‘It never hindered him in his work. I saw no reason to trouble with physicians.’
‘If you had brought him to us sooner we may have been able to prevent further loss of speech, restore that already lost without excessive difficulty. It may be too late now, without extensive treatment …’
‘Refocus please, Lyre. Such issues can be addressed at a later date; there are more pressing matters at hand. Even if the boy cannot speak, he can still write. We must know who did this. They cannot be allowed to remain at large.’
‘Here you are, boy. Sit up … no, sit up. Up, that’s it. Take this … take it. Take the pen, Pan. I won’t have this continue, do you understand? That’s it. Now, give us the names. Write down their names.’
‘Obey your master, boy! Write them down! Exactly what they’ve done, how long it lasted, all these details can wait. All we need right now are the names. Tell us!’
‘This is ridiculous. What is your apprentice even thinking?’
‘He’s upset, Director. Hurting.’
‘He’s ignoring orders when he’s the one who will suffer for his silence. He would allow this abuse to continue? But what if it’s not you next time, boy? What if it’s a friend? Or worse, a woman? Would you let this person treat a woman how he has you?’
‘Director, he’s distressed. Speak more gently. Pan? Are you all right?’
‘Perhaps you should both leave, you’re frightening him. If he’s to relax and reveal anything, he can’t be …’
‘We’re not leaving until we know exactly what has happened to this escort.’
‘… All right, but perhaps step back. Don’t crowd him. Pan? It’s all right, you don’t have to write anything. Just answer me yes or no. Can you do that?’
‘Did another escort hurt you? Was it the hazers from your first year?’
‘Was it a servant, a soldier stationed here, perhaps?’
‘Are you trying to protect someone, is that it? Did a friend do this to you?’
‘For Heaven’s sake, just shake or nod, boy! We cannot have this kind of behaviour in my castle! I will not allow it! Yes or no, answer him!’
‘All right, I’ve had enough of his silence. We need answers, and we need them before this ruffian, this … this criminal … attacks again. We’ll be needing a flask …’
‘That’s not necessary, Director, is it? Pan speaks to the other escorts, doesn’t he?’
‘To an extent. His friends are the ones that brought this to my attention – Grange’s apprentice saw him in the bathing hall, he’d been trying to hide it. Then I saw for myself …’
‘Perhaps one of them can convince him to …’
‘They’re not coming in here when they could be the criminals! Everyone is a suspect. You, trainee. Go to the storerooms. Fetch a full flask …’
‘Director, this boy is my patient. However terrible, this situation is not one appropriate for the use of such means of …’
‘Beron, do you have any objections?’
‘… No. Not when we must deal with those who have damaged my apprentice.’
‘Stay with him if you wish, I’ll summon Director Owen to supervise. Follow his instructions, and we’ll have what we need to arrest the culprit by sunrise …’
‘Pan? Wake up, Pan.’
Slowly, Pan lurched into a seated position, resting his forehead on his knees. His head ached terribly, and he groaned, putting a hand to his temple. Fen, he noticed as he blearily took in his surrounds, knelt on the floor beside him.
What was he doing here? Where was Beron? Fen … Master Fen!
Pan’s back shot pole-straight, and he scramble to escape his twisted bedclothes, standing at attention once he found his feet. Fen rose, too. Concern gave Fen’s coin eyes a polished gleam and Pan’s innards knotted until they were as snarled as his sheets.
‘I heard you, you sounded … are you all right?’
Pan lowered his head at an angle of thirty-five degrees.
Fen sighed, and took a pristine navy handkerchief from the breast pocket of his dressing gown. It was pressed in a perfect right-angle triangle, and had glinting gold thread embroidered in a border to the blue, like sunset on the horizon as sky sinks into night. Unfolding the faultless triangle, he passed it to Pan. Pan, interpreting the gesture as an order, took it.
As if the cloth were a trigger, Pan at last noticed the moisture on his face. His cheeks. They were damp. And his eyes felt raw. Sore. He’d been crying in his sleep.
Alarmed, Pan bowed so deeply his nose could have polished the floor planks. Above him, Fen sighed again.
‘Wipe your face, you can bathe after we eat. We don’t have to go down to the dining hall, today.’
Pan rushed to comply, rubbing away the condemning tears, scrubbing so hard the soft fabric scraped and reddened his softer skin. ‘I ordered you some new ointment,’ Fen said, placing the tiny tub on the dresser as Pan pulled a fresh uniform from a drawer. ‘It’s for the swelling beneath your eyes – it’s grown quite pronounced, I’m afraid. You cannot look so woebegone with the women. Put some on now, just a small smear.’
Silently, Pan applied the cool ointment beneath his eyes, feeling the distended, swollen skin with his discerning fingertips. ‘Use it after you bathe and before you sleep. Hurry and dress. I’ll order us an early breakfast.’