hi! i'd love to hear what you think would have happened if wyldon hadn't let keladry stay after her first year!! love your writing :^)
“Mindelan, it may be that the best thing said of my tenure is that you were my student. Should that be the case, I am the wrong man for this post. I did all I could to get rid of you. Your probation was wrong. You know that, I know it. I was harder on you than any lad. Thank Mithros I remembered my honor and let you stay when you met the conditions—but it was a near thing. Next time, I might not heed the voice of honor.”
– Wyldon of Cavall (Squire)
Kel sat and thought about it all through the long summer– thought about joining the Riders when she turned sixteen, or going back to the Yamani Isles with her parents, or running away to become an unlawful bandit hunter.
She drank tea with her mother and accepted her quiet sympathy. She wondered what was going to happen to Peachblossom. She did her morning glaive practice dances in the heady air of the tiny courtyard garden of her parents’ townhouse, where the cook grew herbs and spices in big overflowing boxes.
Summer rolled on. She sat, and she thought, and she did not tell her thoughts to anyone. On the first day of what would have been her second year of page training, she woke before the sun and had a quiet breakfast with her father, and then she jogged up the big dusty hill to the palace grounds.
When the pages trailed out of the building to the practice yards with dubious enthusiasm, she was waiting just outside their ground. Her chin was high, her shoulders loose while her hands gripped her weighted staff.
“Probationer,” Wyldon barked out her, when one of the boys went to fetch him. “Was I unclear in the spring?”
Kel stared him down, fingers white on her staff, and said, “I’m not a probationer anymore.”
“She’s a private citizen, just enjoying the fresh air,” Neal called from the other side of the practice yard fence. He got armor cleaning punishment for a week for his cheek and Kel lifted and lowered and struck with her staff to the call of the masters. Her staff hit thin air. The clack of the pages’ staves colliding hit her ears.
“That’s palace property,” Wyldon said ten minutes in, and plucked the staff out of her grip, so Kel followed the lesson with empty hands and brought her mother’s spare walking stick the next day.
They started calling her trespasser, after that, and Kel stood calm on the public grounds just on the other side of the practice yard fence, practicing her high blocks.
While the pages had riding practice, she sat in the dirt outside the riding yard and did the homework Neal smuggled out for her. He handed the finished assignments in for her, too, even though only Myles and the one Mithran priest who had never learned anyone’s names graded them. She took notes on what riding exercises the masters were assigning the pages and watched Neal where he sat on Peachblossom’s back like a sack of mulish peanuts.
“When I heard you weren’t t’ be coming back,” Stefan the hostler told her. “I wasn’t sure what would happen to the old lad.”
“Me, either,” said Kel, looking down at her math and trying to keep her face smooth and still.
When the pages went in for their seated classes, Stefan let her take out Peachblossom to try to exercises herself. Days the gelding was too tired, he found other mounts for her and Kel learned all their names– gentle Aubrey and fastidious Starfall and distractible, clever Redding and poor anxious Terence, who almost threw her more than once. “He comes by the fidgets honest,” Stefan told her and Kel brought extra apples for Terence when she could.
She still took on Lalasa when Gower found her feeding the sparrows in the courtyard beside her old rooms and asked her. Her parents’ townhouse had the funds to hire another maid, though Kel didn’t need or want a personal servant.
Lalasa pinched Kel’s torn clothes from her room all the same and returned them better hemmed and beautifully mended. Kel barely saw her, though she tried to leave a coin from her allowance on the piles of clothes she thought the young woman was most likely to steal away next.
She didn’t ask for the help and she told herself she didn’t want it, but she jogged up the big dusty hill to the palace grounds every day with her weighted harness weighing on her shoulders.
She stood just outside the low fence of the practice yards and ignored Joren’s comments and Zahir’s sneers and the rebukes of the swordfighting teachers– distraction, they said. Lump, waste, failure.
The sun beat down on her aching shoulders and she thought I could stand here forever, thought you are just noise and wind, I am a mountain. I will be here long after you cease howling.
Neal landed blows on Joren’s fingers, apologizing blandly to the masters for his clumsinesses, because Kel had ordered him to get in no fights for her honor. The sun beat down on the careful stitches of Kel’s cotton shirt, which fit as perfectly as Lalasa could manage from a shy distance.
She told herself she didn’t want the help, didn’t need it. Her harness weighed down her shoulders, her makeshift staff weighed down her arms, but the cotton laid light and kind on her back.