Winds of Change

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Fiorra yawned, spooning porridge and fruit into bowls on her tray for her morning breakfast. She grabbed a few honey bars and met Karess and Sessla at their usual table. She was so glad it was weeksend morning… getting some more sleep had been sorely needed.

She swept her robes over her bench and sat down. As usual, Sessla and Karess were deep in conversation. Karess looked up. “You’re lucky it’s not a Secondday – you slept late.”

“We thought to wake you, but we snitched some fruit for you instead and decided to let you sleep.” Sessla, always bending the rules, gestured toward the peaches sitting on the table.

“Thanks,” Fiorra told them. She knew they were curious as to how she knew all her classwork, for they rarely saw her truly studying, but she worked so hard on keeping her walls up – day and night - that she was exhausted by nightfall and slept deeply whenever chance afforded her time.

“So what’s the news about the grounds this morning? And remind me, I have to run into Herbals and replenish some of my stores, will you,” Fiorra spooned some of her porridge down.

Karess sighed. “Master Jaysen truly is married, I had no idea.”

“I tried to tell her, as did practically everyone we knew. She just won’t listen,” Sessla shook her head.

Fiorra stopped in mid-bite, her own personal knowledge of the man’s illicit affairs kept to herself. “You didn’t.”

Karess raised mournful brown eyes to her. “Well I had heard that he – you know – was seen off campus… on his own?” Her tone implied that the Healer Adept might be availing himself of other female company.

Fiorra sighed and looked down at her plate, not wishing to tell her roommates what she knew of the man and Healer Melody.

“Just as bad as Master Barcik, I’m telling you.” Sessla admonished the lovesick girl.

“Yes, but everyone knows Master Barcik dallies with students,” Karess argued.

Stung, Fiorra closed herself off to their discussion. It was enough that she had been a fool to fall for the man, she didn’t want to hear how everyone else knew about it. She scooped more of her porridge down, depression settling in. And then she heard,

“Oh, and on top of that, some Kin'keska girl was found nearly dead this morning.”

She nearly dropped her spoon. “What – what did you say?”

Karess, happy to be the center of attention, sat up primly and reported with all innocence, “Yes, my sister’s… well, her friend, last Cycle, from Weaponry, told her that a Kin'keska girl was found beaten nearly to death out on their Common Grounds this morning. I didn’t know we even had Kin'keska here at this Academy, did you?”

Fiorra found her mouth hanging agape. Emanuella! She tried calling her with kyor but found nothing, just a darkness. That told her that at least she was alive.

“Fiorra?” she heard her roommates ask as she stood up suddenly. She grabbed the peaches and ran off in the direction of the Weaponry Common Grounds.

She had mind-called Ander to meet her at Emanuella’s dorm tower and find Rick as she hurried across the Academy Grounds.

Worry tinged Ander’s thought.

-- I found Rick. He’s a bit beside himself. His dorm room is across their Common Grounds from hers. He says it was the talk of their Academy this morning. --

-- Well… tell him…tell him that I’m on my way and --

-- He says that Dar is going to take this very badly. You know that, don’t you? --

This arrested Fiorra’s last thought completely. Of course. Of course Dar would. Any time one of them was in danger… his sheep, she remembered. The memory of him killing the Rider of Rumeth who’d shot Emanuella with the leech bolt sprang to mind….

Clenching her teeth, she told Ander -- DO NOT let him know. DO NOT tell him it’s Emanuella!! He will go hunting down whoever did this and kill them! -- ­Then, curiously, ­-- Who DID do this, I’d like to know…! --

There was no instant reply and she took this to mean as she scrambled into the Academy of Weaponry Dormitories, trying to find the Bell Tower, that Ander was relaying her message to Rick. She ignored the students’ double takes as she marched up the steps to the Bell Tower and in through its massive doors. Then,

-- Rick says she had gotten some sort of detention from what he’s found out. And he found her sword in a midden heap. That means that… well --

-- That they beat her bloody -- Fiorra replied grimly, taking the steps two at a time. -- Tell him what I said, to make sure Dar knows nothing about it. --

-- Well then, what is he supposed to say? -- asked Ander.

--I don’t know, Ander, make it up! LIE! -- Fiorra snapped with impatience. They couldn’t have Dar going off in a rage and killing someone here.

--I’ll join you as soon as we work out a few details. Rick says he may be a while.-- came Ander’s thought.

Panting, she finally arrived at Emanuella’s door. It suddenly occurred to her that perhaps she had been taken to the Healers Wing. But no, surely she’d have heard of it sooner. She pushed the door open. What an awful room, so high up.

“Who’re you!” A girl dressed in Academy leathers met her at the door, a knife in her hand, accusation written all over her face.

Fiorra took a second to stare, taken aback at this girl’s effrontery. She had gotten the room right, she was sure. Then she saw a huddled mass under the blankets and black braid on the pillow.

“I? I’m her sister! I should be asking who are you!” Fiorra pushed the girl aside but remained wary of the knife.

“A little late, don’t you think, for a Healer?” chided the girl nastily as Fiorra rushed to Emanuella’s bedside.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I got your name? And exactly what you’re in here for…?”

“I? I happen to live here. These here are my dormrooms and that, her, over there, she’s my dormmate. A bit worse for the wear, though ’twas me who dragged her up the stairs and washed her up and put her to bed.”

Fiorra had pulled Emanuella’s covers down and gasped at what she’d seen, the gashes across her unconscious face, deep wounds slashing across what could be seen of the rest of her…. “Well, don’t you just deserve a bloody award,” she replied absently.

Fiorra let her hands slip into a Healing Phase so she could observe the basic damage. Running her hands down Emanuella, she nearly cried. Broken ribs, fractured shoulder…. “Oh, Emanuella….” She released her Healing Phase and put a soft hand on her comrade’s cheek. She sucked in her breath.

“Get me some water!”

“Right there, that pitcher next to you. There’s a glass, and a small cup,” the roommate pointed to the nightstand.

“How much of it has she drunk?”

“Hardly any, she’s been sleeping. She just took a little, I figured it hurt her lips, bloody and all.” The girl backed off a bit.

“Couldn’t you see she had a fever! She’s burning up!” Fiorra snapped.

“Do you see me wearing green robes, do you!”

Fiorra returned her attention to Emanuella and held her up to take a cup of water as she retorted, “No I saw a human with a possibility of higher brain function, my mistake!” She blew out breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “Stars, she’s burning up.”

Just then, the door opened. Cautiously, Ander poked his head in. “Uhm, it’s me.”

Still seething from Fiorra’s remark, Emanuella’s roommate snapped, “And you are?”

Ander, seeing Fiorra with Emanuella, gained confidence and slipped in. “Emanuella’s brother. Ander.”

“Family. Right then. Any other family, sibs, I should know about who’s going to show up?”

Fiorra glared at her.

“Well, you can’t blame me, can you, family resemblance being what it is and what not.” The girl shook her head in disgust.

Ander glanced from one to the other. “I see you two got off to a brilliant start. Hi. My name is Ander. I am Emanuella’s brother. Fiorra is our sister. I think,” he said calmly, as he walked around to the side of the bed, “that you can see why we are a bit concerned. And what is your name?”

The girl bit her lip, an eyebrow raised at being handled by a complete stranger. Fiorra stifled a wry smile as she forced water down Emanuella’s throat, for she had seen Ander do just this sort of thing on other occasions. “Nixy.”

Ander apologized for disrupting the morning and thanked Nixy for taking care of Emanuella thusfar. Just then, as Nixy was calming down, Rick burst in the door.

Nixy took one look at Rick and rolled her eyes.

“Oh. It’s you. Lovely to see you again,” he said brightly.

“Do spare me.”

The room was getting very crowded with all of them and Fiorra wanted to talk to them all without Nixy and her condescending attitude in the room.

“Just – make yourself useful and go – stand guard or something,” she suggested coolly.

The slam of the door resounded in the small dormroom.

“Isn’t that what you people do best anyway?” she added now that the girl was out of earshot.

“Fiorra!” Rick exclaimed, appalled.

“Well, really – she’s completely dense –”

“I’ll have you know, she’s a very likable young woman,” Rick replied.

“And that’s as it should be, then Rick – you think anything female and remotely attractive is likeable.”

Ander cleared his throat loudly. “Can we…?” he gestured at Emanuella.

Fiorra smiled by way of apology to Rick and took a breath.

“Get up on the wrong side of the bed, did we?” Rick asked pointedly with eyebrows raised.

“No, just… she’s a mess. Someone really beat her badly. They didn’t care if she survived, either.”

Their expressions faded to somber demeanors immediately.

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