"I cannot say I altogether approve," said Sir Stephen, a little stiffly.
He and Damerell were both seated comfortably, having retreated to Sir Stephen's study after a pleasant dinner during which nothing of any particular importance whatsoever had been discussed.
Sir Stephen viewed Damerell as a friend. Thus, rather than request Damerell's presence as the Sorcerer Royal might request that of a fellow magician who had failed to behave as Sir Stephen felt one ought, he had invited Damerell as someone whose company he found enjoyable and whose opinion he valued.
If there was a stiffness to Sir Stephen's tone now, it was because he resented the need to question the judgment of a man whose judgment, as a rule, perfectly (or, if imperfectly, then at least in general lines) coincided with Sir Stephen's own.
"Well," said Damerell, who had not come here in ignorance of the matter Sir Stephen wished to discuss or, as the case might be, express some amount of disapproval of. "To be sure, I am sorry to hear it."
"Naturally, your elevation to the rank of sorcerer gives me great joy," Sir Stephen went on, in a tone that masked these exuberant feelings quite well. "Still, the fact remains that we cannot simply do as we wish for no other reason than that something pleases us."
"Indeed," agreed Damerell.
For a moment, Sir Stephen seemed to find Damerell's agreeability disagreeable, then, putting an expression on his face that appeared only slightly forced, he said, "I trust that you have taken precautions, at least."
Damerell might not view this particular matter as Sir Stephen did. He might even resent Sir Stephen insisting on discussing the thing with him nearly as much as Sir Stephen resented what he felt to be his duty to do so. Still, there was a friendship of many years between them, and Damerell's temper was not of the sort to forget that. He responded to Sir Stephen's question with a slight inclination of his head that suggested, with an air of delicate reproval, that the answer ought to have been obvious.
"Walker's cage, perhaps?" Sir Stephen had no particular wish to pursue this matter, or make the discussion last any longer than it had to. Still, his academic interest had been awakened. "Liddell's bedazzlement? Jones's or Smith's conjuration might serve in a pinch, I suppose, although I should not like to rely on it overly much - it has been satisfactorily proven by McCaine that the effects wear off in time, and that would hardly do."
"I found Chatterly quite helpful," said Damerell, rather blandly. "Winters as well, on occasion."
As the Sorcerer Royal, Sir Stephen was well-versed in all matters sorcerous. He was familiar with those enchantments listed by Damerell, as well as their usual application.
"You," he said, flushing a little. "Well. I suppose there is nothing to it then but for me to trust in your good judgment." In fact, Sir Stephen might have done a great many things more, but he knew very well that such actions would likely have resulted in irreparably damaging his friendship with Damerell.
A broken house, Sir Stephen reasoned, might be mended. A small part of the city, ruined, might be rebuilt when the need arose. It would be regrettable if any persons were to get injured, but Britain boasted some excellent doctors, and it was a fact of life that accidents occurred every now and then.
"And I, in turn, shall trust that I will never give you cause to regret that decision," said Damerell, rising at the same time Sir Stephen did. "Thank you again for a most enjoyable dinner."
"Perhaps next time, you might bring a guest," said Sir Stephen. He tried to sound cordial, but did not quite succeed.
"Poggs! Where have you been? I looked for you in several places," said Rollo, upon finding Damerell returned home. "I was worried someone might have made of with you or something of the like."
Damerell paused for a moment as he considered which question to address. Likely as not, Rollo would forget about any of the others, which might suit Damerell just as well, for his conversation with Sir Stephen had left him in somewhat of a melancholy mood.
"I was with Sir Stephen," he said.
"Oh," said Rollo, instantly reassured. Regardless of Sir Stephen's feelings, for his part, Rollo viewed Sir Stephen in the most positive light possible, firstly, because he was a sorcerer and secondly and most importantly, because Damerell had only ever spoken of Sir Stephen as a friend, and any friend of Damerell's was, by extension, a dear friend of Rollo's.
"Have you eaten?" Damerell judged it best to move on quickly from the topic of his visit to Sir Stephen.
Food was not always foremost in Rollo's mind, but it was an area in which Damerell enjoyed indulging him. While Fairyland boasted a great variety of animals that might be hunted and devoured, after a while one flawless white hart tasted much like another - in addition to which, Rollo had added piteously, there was always the chance of someone interrupting and stealing what was rightfully his.
"Yes." Rollo looked slightly abashed for a moment, before his expression darkened. "Haven't you?"
"Naturally," replied Damerell. "Incidentally, I thought that you would be able to locate me, at least over small distances. Is this not so?"
"Only if there isn't any interference of some kind," said Rollo. "Which is why I was worried."
"I must be sure to tell you, next time I go to visit Sir Stephen, then." Damerell decided that Sir Stephen's wards apparently blocking Rollo's ability to find was not a cause for alarm. Still, it might be interesting and even useful to find out what or who else might so fully conceal him from Rollo, both to prevent something regrettable that might have been prevented taking place and to ensure that something regrettable that ought not to have been prevented would in fact occur.
While Damerell would not in the least object to Rollo defending him against someone wishing to take him somewhere he did not wish to go, he would prefer not to be the cause of someone's home being reduced to a smoking ruin, or at the very least having a hole put in it.
"I don't mean to worry overly much, truly," said Rollo. "It's only that I cannot help it. Growing up, I don't think that I ever possessed a favorite toy that wasn't stolen at least once. And then, if I got it back, often as not it was broken and ruined or, if it wasn't, it only got stolen again."
Damerell firmly steered his mind away from any thoughts of himself being broken or ruined. He was, after all, a living, breathing being. More, he was a sorcerer and as such capable of defending himself far better than any childhood toy.
"You must have had friends, at least," he said. Damerell would never pry, but, like all magicians, he was possessed of a curiosity when it came to Fairyland and the going-ons therein.
"I must have," agreed Rollo, a bit mournfully. "Yes. Surely. It is a pity they never revealed themselves to me, but to be sure, they must have been there."
"You have friends here, at least," said Damerell, a little ashamed of himself for bringing back memories of an unhappy childhood - although Rollo would insist that it had not been, stealing and breaking other people's toys apparently being considered perfectly normal behavior amongst his kind.
("After a while, I simply learned not to have any favorites, and then I was much happier," he'd told Damerell. "I'm sure that it was a useful thing to learn, don't you think?")
"Quite so, quite so," said Rollo, sensitive enough to Damerell's mood to realize it had taken a turn for the dark, even if he did not quite realize the cause of it. "And very good friends they are, too, even if some of them cannot be trusted to pick out a good, solid hat for themselves, or even a shirt."
Damerell smiled. He might disagree with Rollo on some topics, but in the matter of fashion, Rollo displayed a taste quite similar to his own, mainly by taking the view that, simply because other people were wearing it, that didn't mean one was obliged to follow suit or admire them for it. "Do tell."
Plans to disabuse poor Marcus St. James of the notion that wearing a lighter shade of green might flatter his complexion were easily made, Rollo making up in enthusiasm and originality of ideas what he might lack in sneakiness and subtlety. They also served to put from Damerell's mind the conversation had had with Sir Stephen, and the recent tensions put on their friendship.
Damerell had no doubt that time would mend whatever cracks his association with Rollo had caused - unless, of course, Sir Stephen would be proven right in his worries, in which case Damerell supposed that the loss of their friendship would be the least of his worries.
People, especially sorcerers, often spoke of the fickleness of those inhabiting Fairyland. For himself, Damerell was well-enough read to know the truth of the stories supporting this opinion.
Simultaneously though, he could not imagine a sudden and abrupt lessening of Rollo's affection for him, nor, it should be said, his for Rollo. They enjoyed one another's company; they enjoyed one another's physical closeness in a way that had led Damerell to seek out some extremely obscure and somewhat disreputable authors, whose theories, when shared, had mostly served to confuse him and Rollo both.
("Of course, I suppose it might be possible," had said Rollo, upon being read a particularly puzzling passage. "Only it seems rather unlikely to me, and a great deal of effort with little to gain besides.")
They had ruined an antique bed that had cost a fair bit to replace, as well as three doors, a closet, and a pillow that Rollo had mistaken for 'something I can now clearly see it is not'.
Damerell thought that, all things considered, they were doing rather well, and he dreaded the day when one of his colleagues might suggest (delicately, of course) that he might do future magicians a great favor by writing a monograph on the subject of his relationship with Rollo.
"I say, I do not think that you have heard a single thing I've said these past moments," said Rollo, sounding curious rather than offended, as he might and perhaps even ought have.
"Pray excuse me," said Damerell. "It's only that I'm rather tired."
"And here I am, carrying on and on. You should have said something sooner. Oh well, I suppose it's a good thing I noticed, or I might have kept you up all night. Are you very tired, then?"
No enchantment in the world could have made Rollo look sly. He might have a talent to artlessly ask questions while knowing entirely well that people did not wish to answer them, and he certainly had a talent for managing to get people to talk to him regarding subjects they had resolved not to tell a soul about, but Rollo's was, at heart, a simple and straight-forward nature.
"Your company could never be unwelcome." Damerell smiled. "Besides, we might discuss what to do about poor Marcus over breakfast."
"We should. I really am quite fond of him - of course, not nearly as fond as I am of you, but I trust that I need not tell you so. Still, there it is, and I shall be very happy to stay the night. It just is so very pleasant to know that while I am asleep, you are still there, asleep as well. And what comes before we go to sleep as well, of course, although I understand we must be discrete when talking about that, so I shan't ever mention it at all." Rollo frowned, his expression a little uncertain.
"You are and have always been the soul of discretion," said Damerell, feeling only a slight pang of conscience, for he suspected that while none of their friends and acquaintances were at all aware of Rollo's provenance, most of them had at the very least an inkling of the affection that existed between him and Damerell.
In a sense, this situation served Damerell quite well, as it served to excuse some of Rollo's behavior when he felt Damerell was being threatened or offended - where a friend might have let go, a lover would not, and so Rollo's occasional eccentric actions and strong words were given a mundane explanation rather than a sorcerous one.
"I certainly try." Rollo looked pleased. "And I do like to think that I'm doing a good job of it."
"I could not ask for better," said Damerell. "Shall we go upstairs?"
"Let's. Ah." Rollo flushed a little. "I hope you won't mind the slight mess. I'll clean it all up tomorrow, I promise. Although I fear that I ruined some of the drawers."
"You thought that someone had made away with me by shrinking me and hiding me in a drawer?" The notion should be amusing, Damerell thought, but in fact, it rather intrigued him, in a vaguely disturbed kind of way. There were spells to enlarge or diminish lifeless objects, to be sure, but he could not recall anyone ever claiming to have shrunk down a living being.
"They might have," said Rollo, defensively. "And I should have felt very poorly, had I not been able to discover it and free you. It would hardly do for you to be the size of an insect, after all - only think of how difficult it would be to find a tailor to make you up a new suit, or for us to have a proper dinner together. Why, I might crush you in my sleep and never know of it until the next morning."
"Happily, I am entirely un-shrunk and quite safe," said Damerell, smiling in what he hoped to be a reassuring manner. "There really is no need for you to worry so."
"The day I stop worrying is the day I stop worrying," said Rollo wisely.
It was not a statement Damerell could find any fault with whatsoever, so he did not, concentrating instead on the present, and the very well-fitted suit he had had made up for Rollo, and how best to go about undoing its buttons.