A scratching at the shuttered window caught her attention. Biting her lip, she glanced at Nixy, who had yet to happen upon either the reason for her weeksend disappearances after curfew, or her means of departure. Nixy gave the small room a precursory dismissal with a few curt glimpses before returning her attention back to her text. Emanuella sighed silently with relief.
But the scratching came again. She rolled her eyes. It could only be Rick. Only Rick knew of the way to get in and out, it was he who had left the rope hanging amongst the vines outside the window after all. She did all she could to ignore it and focus her attention on the passages she was studying on Charms, though she was aware of Nixy staring intently at the window.
When Rick scraped more emphatically at the window, Emanuella sighed dramatically for her roommate’s benefit and muttered, “Damn rats.”
“Rats? Up this high?” Nixy’s voice radiated skepticism. She stood up from her bed and pushed her taper aside.
Alarmed, Emanuella said, “But then, you’re right, maybe not, let me see,” and nervously fiddled with the shutter clasp. Now was a very bad time – Rick should know better. She knew hardly anything about her roommate and had enough trouble just managing her lessons each day under the yoke of “female” and “Kin'keska” without her roommate reporting a male tumbling into their room past curfew. She could get thrown out of the Academy for this….
Opening the shutters wide, she expected to find Rick clinging to one side, but, in the blast of wintry night air, instead allowed the way for Rick to swing in. “It’s about time, what were you waiting for!” he chastised her, rubbing his hands vigorously.
Emanuella, standing on her bed, stared wide-eyed from Rick to Nixy, whose mouth had fallen open. She wasn’t sure which she wanted to openly acknowledge first, a thorough chastisement of Rick for his ultimate lack of poor timing, or the first and probably last time she would ever see Nixy in shock.
Rick easily hastened her decision by hissing, “Well, don’t just stand there, shut the window! It’s cold as a killer’s smile out there!”
Jolted by the sense of Rick’s observation, Emanuella turned around and hooked the clasp of the shutter shut again, not daring to think what might happen if a curfew check occurred and Rick were found in her room.
She hopped off her bed and found Nixy boldly staring Rick down as if she were studying her next target to pommel with her sword.
Emanuella caught her comrade’s attention just long enough to glare at him before announcing, “Nixy, please let me introduce my brother, Rick. He attends the School of Weaponry also, Fourth Cycle.”
Nixy’s eyebrow raised sardonically though she said nothing.
Rick bowed with all the courtly manners he could exhibit. “My lady. I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced.”
Nixy sniffed as she looked down at him. “Nor shall we,” she returned tartly.
Emanuella’s jaw almost dropped – so rare was it that Rick’s fine dramatics didn’t sway his quarry; his expression was a mixture of puzzlement and curiosity.
“Please, I do beg your forgiveness of my entry, late as it was.”
Emanuella stifled the impulse to roll her eyes and turned her attention to Nixy as all of Rick’s was.
“Importune all you like. You may note, most commonly, people of good breeding and poor alike… tend to use… doors, when we enter.” Nixy’s arch reply verified that she was not in the least interested in Rick or his courtly manners.
Rick turned to Emanuella, his eyes a bit wider with amazement. “Friend of yours?” he asked just low enough for her to hear. She grinned in reply. This ongoing defamy of Rick might be worth demerits, so rarely did it occur.
Clearing his throat, he adopted a more filial tone and asserted, “Truly, I felt I had to check in on my younger sister, she’s very important to me, you see.”
“And so you - somehow forgot about the curfew and – thus risked your life to climb – how far up, by what means? In the dark? Merely to check on your sister?” Nixy, watching Rick falter, continued dryly, “May I suggest in the future the use of a pigeon or courier, or even awaiting dawn perhaps, rather than imperiling your very existence?”
Emanuella had called upon all tricks known to her to refrain from snorting laughter aloud at her comrade’s expense. She saw a flicker of amusement slip across Rick’s face and dreaded what his response might be. All who knew Nixy knew her to be an excellent adversary of rhetoric, and she feared Rick was discovering this a bit belatedly.
“My fine lady of the night, for nighttime it is, as you have so definitively noted, I will hasten to your advice -” Whatever Rick had planned to say was shredded decisively.
“Spare me the cheap theatrics, such inept frivolity is utterly fruitless to me.” Even Emanuella winced to Nixy’s sharp slander.
“So I shall,” Rick replied with a grin, allowing himself to brashly drink in Nixy’s slender frame as she stood still in her nightdress by her bed, “and not having used any yet, will endeavor upon our next meeting to refrain from such tawdry pursuits.
“My dear sister, since I see your wellbeing is indeed well being seen to,” and he glanced over his shoulder at Nixy, whose eyes were thin slits by now, “I shall bid you good evening.” He made a show of hugging Emanuella with exaggerated affection and bowed to them both wordlessly. Then he climbed up on her bed, fiddling easily with the shutter and slipped out into the winter night.
She climbed on top of her bed after him and looked down the rope. “Are you crazy?” she hissed.
“When did you get a roommate?” Rick hissed back as he dug his footing carefully into the stones of the Tower.
Emanuella just glared at him. “Be careful next time!”
“Always,” he responded as his climbing allowed him. Then, with a roguish grin, he looked up at her and whispered back, “She’s pretty cute. I think I like her.”
Emanuella shook her head with disgust and watched as far as she could see in the dark before securing the shutter again. She turned to find Nixy with a contemplative expression on her face, her knees pulled up to her chin on her bed.
“Nice brother,” she commented dryly.
Emanuella offered several hasty apologies and let out a deep breath. Then she saw the folded up packet Rick had left her on her pillow.