He had given up riding his mare and abandoned her to plod diligently along behind them so that he could ride in the wagon. An uncomfortable ride, now that it was filled with all of their new belongings and supplies, both those pilfered from the Riders of Rumeth and their purchases at the Market. Gabriella had insisted that they wear their ill-fitting, shabby clothing home from Terruth City so that they would not impress highwaymen and other unsavory folk as worthy of theft, thus all of value they owned was in the back of the wagon.
Ander had taken great delight in searching the Rumeth sorcerer’s saddlebags and had confiscated some interesting items of worth to which he was longing to devote further study. He had also searched the stiffened sorcerer himself, a grisly chore this morning after Dar had finished the man off. Dar had a way of killing men that always left Ander queasy. But he had found little else of note on the Rider besides a bag of common kyor powders and Healing herbs and the shaliente crystals that Gabriella had taken into her possession.
Ander wondered if, as a member of the kyor faction of a company, he would be loosing such things as leech bolts on people. He had seen the pain Emanuella had been in and knew that only she was stubborn enough not to have screamed. He had buried the leech bolt after studying it briefly. It had been created with kyor’rashni, a weapon of war, and was a cruelly fashioned device. The head had been sharply pointed and curved so that it would rend flesh open, but would break off if the shaft were removed, robbing the victim of as much energy as possible. Gabriella had explained quietly, as he was burying it, that the purpose of more advanced leech bolts not only leeched off energy from the victim, but enhanced the energy of the maker. Ander had shot an enraged glance at the tree where the sorcerer had lain, glad now that Dar had killed him as savagely as he did, for Ander would then have slit the Rider’s throat himself with seconds. Gabriella understood his glance and nodded curtly. He didn’t think that was the kind of kyor he was going to work, and if his company didn’t like that, they would have to find someone else. Ander hoped that after their schooling in Terruth, Dar would be able to fashion them into a company that would work around this new conviction. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure there had to be more honorable ways to use kyor in battle, a code of ethics of some kind. If not, then he would develop his own, and leech bolts would violate it. He hoped he would not have to explain that to his teachers at the Academy.
They were starting him off, with no little trepidation, in the Third Cycle, quite unprecedented, he had been assured. Even apprentices were started off in First and Second Cycles. But he had been tested via a Mind Meld whereby the badly balding Prime of the Academy of Kyor himself most uncomfortably melded minds with Ander and determined the extent of his abilities. Ander was not fooled, though, he was sure that the scroll that Gabriella had presented them with, bearing the Chancellor of Terruth Academy’s seal, had a good deal to do with the Prime’s final decision to place Ander in the Third Cycle. The Prime had not been an unkind man, however. He had rung for an assistant to bring him books from the First and Second Cycles as well as the Third so that Ander might study them over the summer.
And study he was. So far he had found that much of this First Cycle text on kyor’rashni was fundamental knowledge that he had picked up along the course of Gabriella’s tutelage, rather than her teaching it directly. But he would commit all of these dusty tomes to memory and make it clear to them that not only was their trepidation unfounded but that they should have placed him in the Fourth Cycle instead!
Well, Ander thought as he assuaged his seething temper, that was perhaps a bit extravagant, but he would be worthy of his accelerated placement by fall. With some amusement, he nibbled on a fingernail. He was not normally a competitive person, but the thought of school brought back memories of the race to be first in his class, which meant not only doing a good job, but excelling.
“That exciting, huh, Red?” Rick called.
Ander looked up and realized he’d been staring off, rather than bending his head over his book.
“Which book is it?” Gabriella asked, reining her horse in. Ander held it up in the sunlight for her to see.
“The Fundamentals of Kyor’Rashni. Well do I recall donning that for insomnia,” Gabriella chuckled.
“This is what I have to look forward to?” Emanuella, who had also ridden up, looked doubtful. She would be starting off in as a Second Cycle student, though she was rather advanced for a Second Cycle, Ander mused sympathetically. Even she could produce Illusions, though rudimentary. He wondered what they would make of her Gift of Animal Mindspeech. Then again, she might not even disclose it. He knew she and Fiaz were toying with the idea of hiding their bond altogether, though this would be difficult to hide from her teachers at the Academy of Kyor as well as a drain on their bond. He knew there was a book at home on one of Gabriella’s shelves that detailed the various gifts of the kyors, such as the ability to DreamScape, or Teleport. Since the Kyorics had left the land to populate Tallasesh, the occurrence of these gifts had declined sharply. Now there was a book he was far more interested in reading right now….
“You, my girl, shall be neither blessed nor cursed with insomnia, not with Weaponry Second Cycle as well. You will be seeking out the Healers quite regularly, I’m afraid, between headaches, as Ander can attest, and bruises. But you can handle it.” Gabriella grinned and clapped Emanuella on the back affectionately before she rode off to the front of the wagon.
“Hm. She says that like it should inspire me.”
Ander grinned. He didn’t feel a whit of jealousy for her position. He had seen how the men in the Academy of Weaponry office looked at her. They saw her as a pretty young girl who expected to manipulate her way through the Academy by sharing her bed. He foresaw her enduring a rough struggle before finally carving a niche out for herself, but was very proud of how she had stuck out her chin and allowed her eyes to smolder with purpose and spirit, but not quite blaze with rebellion and pride. They would have their hands full with her, and said as much to her now, quietly. Her bright blue eyes looked back at him with no dearth of dread.
“I hope the summer’s a long one,” she replied somberly.
“Well, you’re welcome to any of these books, you know, to help you get ahead. Especially,” Ander said as he snapped his book shut with a wop!, “if you are having trouble sleeping.” He gestured with The Fundamentals of Kyor’Rashni and placed it behind him.
“Thanks,” Emanuella murmured as she urged her mare forward, lost in thought.
Ander eyed the Third Cycle books with interest – The Advanced Craft of Illusion: Third Cycle; Superior Spells and Charms; Third Cycle Introduction to Sorcery and a few others that seemed far more engaging than the First Cycle books – A Beginner’s Course in Illusion; Basic Potions and Powders Cycle One; Bridging Kyors: Bringing the Mind Together; A History of Magecraft and, of course, The Fundamentals of Kyor’rashni. With a sigh and a glance at the waning sun, Ander picked up A History of Magecraft, blew the dust off of it, and attempted to engross himself in it.