Magister Hollint, who was responsible for the King's Menagerie, was an enormously fat man. He had the skin of the peoples of the western islands, dark brown with undertones that were almost gray, and enormous black eyebrows that emphasized the baldness of his head. He rose gracefully when Cyjar entered his office, seeming almost to float rather than to move. "My prince," he said , and offered a broad smile. "What brings you here? As you can see, you've caught me at my breakfast."
Cyjar would have expected an enormous plate of food: sausages and vegetable rolls, cooked eggs and pastries, fruits and sauces. Instead what he saw was a small plate, holding a single roll, two shimmer-berries, and a modest slice of meat. It was less than Cyjar would have eaten himself (had he been sitting to his own breakfast, instead of making a visit to the menagerie this morning). "I wanted to ask you a question or two," he said.
"I am at your service," said Magister Hollint, still standing behind his simple wooden desk.
Realizing, belatedly, that the man was waiting on him, Cyjar said, "Please, sit. Eat." The Keeper of the Menagerie was treating him as the crown prince, rather than a thirteen-year-old boy. Cyjar was more used to people who treated him as a boy in need of teaching, watching, and discipline - who saw him more as a child, and less as a prince. "This isn't urgent."
"Thank you, my prince." Magister Hollint drifted back down into his chair. "What is it you wish to know?"
Cyjar took the second chair, a simple wooden one that was placed in front of the desk. "I'd like to know more about the beasts that you store here: where they come from; how they're stored; how they're released. Things like that."
Magister Hollint swallowed a bite of his meat, and smiled. "You need help with your lessons?" he asked. "Or are you thinking of becoming a conjuror, like your cousin?"
...Like my cousin? Cyjar wondered. He took a moment to turn that over in his mind. "I didn't know Dabin had taken up conjuring," he said, puzzled.
"Dabin?" asked Magister Hollint. "No, not the older one. It was Seshil who came to me and asked to learn. He is a good pupil: talented, studious."
Cyjar thought quickly. If Seshil was studying under Magister Hollint, then he was almost certainly the source of the grabby-monster. It might even have been his own idea; Dabin and Seshil did everything together, and it was often hard to tell which of them was leading and which, following. Either way, though, it was almost certainly something the two of them had come up with, and not a part of any larger intrigue.
Should he tell Magister Hollint? Cyjar didn't want to, for the same reason that he hadn't called for the guards, or said anything about it to the wizard. He wanted to deal with this himself. He needed a better plan.
"Ah," he said, to cover his moment of thought. "No, I'm not ready to take up conjuring. What I wanted to know about was the spells for the containing-crystals. I have something I'd like to store in one of them."
"They are simple enough," said Magister Hollint, and took a bite of his roll. When he'd finished chewing, he added: "I have time this morning, if you wish."
Cyjar shook his head. "I'm due in the hall for blade practice this morning. Could I find you here this evening?"
"The pleasure is mine, my prince," said the Keeper of the Menagerie.