She tossed her braid behind her impatiently and lifted the sparring spells before she sheathed her sword, panting in the morning sunlight. Dar straightened and sheathed his sword as well. He had insisted on using his sword with the sparring spell so he could become accustomed to the size and weight of his blade. She had no objections and thought this a good idea for each of them, now that they all had blades of quality. She nodded to the huge boy’s request to a drink of water and turned her attention to where Rick was showing Emanuella how to hold the throwing blades he’d purchased at the Market while they waited for her attention. Ander and Fiorra were waiting for her inside the cabin with their books.
“Dar,” she called. He looked up at the sound of his name and set the water jug down before he strode back. At the same time, she called to Emanuella, who looked over her shoulder questioningly. It was, after all, not yet time for her lesson. Gabriella beckoned the girl over. Promptly, she gave Rick’s knives back and hastened over, just as Dar arrived.
The two of them stood, eyeing each other with wary curiosity. Emanuella tightened the leather thong that bound her curls back while Dar swiped a tanned forearm across his temple. The outcome of this would prove interesting, but she would not relish bringing it about.
“Now that I have both of you present, I need your attention.” She paused and waited as they focused their concentration on her. “Dar. There is little else that I can teach you, save exercises on horseback, which we will continue each morning. You are my equal in swordsmanship now. And the best way for you to apply your skill is to teach it.” She watched his face. “I will no longer be your teacher, except for horseback maneuvers. Ander and Fiorra are each entering their Academies in their Third Cycle and the bulk of my time in the coming summer will be spent preparing them. You will take over Rick’s weapons training, and, upon occasion, Ander’s. With their strengths and limitations, you are familiar. ”
She paused and looked at Emanuella, where comprehension was suddenly mixing with her usual respectful expression. “Dar, of more importance, you will also be Emanuella’s instructor. After her wound has healed, you will need to work with her first and evaluate her, and then resume where I left off with her.” She studied Dar’s face. He seemed wary, but covered it well with his usual courteous manner. Pleased, she observed that he was absorbing the range of this task. Emanuella appeared to have bitten into something sour, but was trying desperately not to allow her features to betray her distaste. Gabriella strove to control her mirth.
She placed a hand on Emanuella’s shoulder. “I am sorry that I am unable to continue your training, you have much potential. Understand that I would not leave you lightly in another’s hands.”
Emanuella looked back at her and sighed as she nodded. “There’s no help for it, I know.”
Gabriella smiled but saw that Emanuella was far from happy over the situation. She was, Gabriella knew, a creature of habit in many things. A sudden change in this unthreatening environment would benefit the girl. And this particular arrangement would be a true test, though she had not planned it so. They had to do well, not just for themselves, but for the prophecy….
She placed her other hand on Dar’s shoulder, but kept her eye on Emanuella. “Will the two of you be able to do this?”
The two of them considered each other quietly for a moment. Then each of them nodded together, if rather grudgingly.
“Just – as long as you understand – ” Dar crossed his arms on his chest, searching for the right words. “I may have to tell you something you don’t want to hear, not because you I’m trying to make you angry, but as your teacher. You can’t just fly in my face every time I criticize you. You have to accept that.”
Gabriella entertained a proud inward smile to see the big boy – she still thought of him as a boy – struggle to be reasonable but clear as he assumed the role of teacher; he was already taking it seriously. But Emanuella…?
Plainly distressed, the girl attempted to contain her emotions. She was not angry, nay, Gabriella observed as she frowned, but hurt?
“Emanuella? You must be able to work with him,” she prompted the girl gently to respond.
Emanuella turned her troubled blue gaze to Gabriella and she saw tears fill in the girl’s eyes as a betrayed expression crossed her face and her mouth fell open. But before Gabriella’s eyes, Emanuella gathered the shreds of her dignity and, blinking, smoothed the emotion from her expression.
She replied coolly to Dar, “I will not – and would not have – done so. I understand the bounds of a teacher-student relationship very well.” Here, the girl flung an abandoned look at Gabriella that made her wince. To Dar, Emanuella said, “With your leave?”
Startled, Dar said, “What?”
Recovering from Emanuella’s soulful slight, Gabriella laid a hand on Dar’s arm and murmured, “She is requesting permission of her teacher to leave.”
“Oh – of course, yes, go.” Dar was looking uncomfortably guilty as he gestured dismissively with his hand.
Rick wandered up at that moment, sucking on a bloody thumb, a result, Gabriella thought idly, of another slip with his throwing knives, she was sure. He leaned a casual elbow on Dar’s shoulder. “Man, what did you do now?” he asked as he watched Emanuella stride away in the direction of the creek.
Dar turned to Gabriella with a bewildered expression. “I don’t honestly know. I didn’t think that was so bad, did you?” he appealed to her with his palms out.
Rick snickered and punched him amiably on his way to the work shed for another bandage. “You never learn, do you?”
Dar sighed and shook his head. After a moment, he took a deep breath and said, “I better go after her.”
Gabriella thought of how she had been at Emanuella’s age and told him quietly, “You may want to give her some time.” The last thing she would have wanted was more of the same.
Dar eyed her thoughtfully and then squinted up at the sun, considering. Finally, he said, “No, if she stews over it, it’ll just get worse.” He raked his hand through his hair and stared apprehensively off down the trail where Emanuella had disappeared.
Gabriella patted his shoulder and said, “I don’t envy you your position, lad.” She watched as he trudged down the trail toward the creek.