Winds of Change

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His hand was no longer so sore. Fiorra had refused to heal it until he had explained why he had come to be in his present condition. Telling her about a rough practice session did not convince her at all, though she agreed to quick-heal his badly bruised face. The first time.

The second incident she refused to heal him in the least until he came completely clean. How could he lie to Fiorra as well as to Dar? She pressed him but he resisted, insisting she shouldn’t ask questions she didn’t want to hear the answers to. Women were so stubborn that way, he fumed. Then Fiorra told him he couldn’t come to see Emanuella until he was healed. It was that, came her ultimatum, or divulge what was going on. Rick had snapped back at her that he’d rather leave than lie to her.

So he had. He’d found a student Healer on his way out of the Healer’s Wing and, employing all his charm and wit, compelled the student to quick-heal his bruises so he could still attend class without earning demerits, or worse, detention. He gave a fake name after the lad expressed surprise at the amount of contusions and gashes on his body. Dismissively he put the lad’s fears to rest by saying he and his Cycle mates occasionally roughed it up a bit too much practicing new techniques after classes, which mollified the young Healer’s concern.

And he left.

Now that he was bodily healthy again, he felt a curious disconnection. He had sought out all those responsible for harming Emanuella. Each of them, from her so called instructor, Armsmaster Torvan, down to the three Upper Level students who Torvan had “instructed” to take out their worst on her.

Armsmaster Torvan, from what Rick had been able to glean here and there, never participated himself in the actions that such lowly pursuits as Detentions of this sort demanded; rather he chose pets and favorites of his who hoped to gain favor with him, or make up for past errors, and issued the ambiguous commands that the better they did, the more favor they would curry. Thus naturally it was in the students’ best interest to abuse the unfortunate recipient of such a Detention, and in all such Detentions, identifications of students who meted out punishment to victims were kept anonymous at all costs. It was whispered even, Rick heard, that such detentions were rarely issued by Masters at all any more and also – that those who returned from said Detentions of Torvan’s… rarely remained enrolled in the Academy beyond that.

So. Torvan liked to beat the life out of his students, one way or another. Well, he had never met Emanuella before. She was tough, Rick daresaid, tougher than possibly all of them. Perhaps that had something to do with Fiaz, perhaps not. But Armsmaster Torvan had not broken her.

Eerily, as she healed, she seemed to grow stronger – perhaps fiercer than she had been before. If only Rick’s imagination captured his fancy, certainly a grim determination set her jaw and her stride was purposeful now.

Rick would never tell her of the three students he’d beaten. He was still pondering a way to attack the Armsmaster – certainly Torvan would be no easy quarry. But after much sneaking about as Ralfie and Jeppers had proposed, Rick listened in the right corners, asked the right questions, and made nonchalant remarks enough to get his Upperclass Weaponry peers talking. Two 6th Levels, looking for sport of all things – sport! Rick fumed. And a lordling-born 5th Cycle… what was he looking for? Future references, perhaps?

Rick almost got the wrong 5th Cycle. Three of them looked too alike for his purposes, but fortuitously, a peer called out to Rick’s victim to bring some water up to their dorm when he came up.

Rick made a mental note of the 5th Cycle’s dormroom and then, sneaking, followed him carefully up the stairwell, keeping close to the shadowy stone wall. Just outside the dorm, he looked down at the packet he’d effortlessly filched from Fiorra’s supplies. If he remembered it correctly, all it did was make one sleep well. Rick inhaled a deep breath.

He bent and looked under the neighboring door. No candlelight meant either they were asleep, otherwise occupied – unlikely as feminine companionship beyond Curfew earned incredible Demerits – or absent altogether. Rick opened the door, which creaked on its hinges abominably. The taper from the corridor revealed the room to be empty. He snatched the pitcher on the night stand, thankful that it was already mostly full, and emptied the packet of sleeping powder. For good measure, he dumped most of the packet in and swirled it about until it dissolved.

As he removed the full pitcher of water from the empty room, Rick reviewed what he was doing: on his way to drug a fellow student, who, Rick reminded himself had nothing to do with Emanuella’s condition.

But his roommate did, and there was no better way to get back at his roommate than a one-on-one fight.

Rick assumed a calm, serviceable demeanor as he knocked at the roommate’s door.

“What?” grumped a sleepy voice from inside.

“Water, Ker. Your roommate sent me with it,” called Rick through the door respectfully as he assumed the pose of a squire working his admissions entry.

The door opened. “Of course, right then. That Getchwick’s quick, then, I’ll give him that,” yawned his roommate as he stepped aside for Rick to enter.

Rick set this infiltrated pitcher of water on the nightstand and poured a cup for the roommate. “I’ll just take this empty pitcher instead, then, shall I? Will you require anything else for the evening, Ker?”

“No, no,” mused Getchwick’s roommate with preoccupation, “not unless you can write this Middle Ages History Wars and Battles report for me for tomorrow.”

Rick nearly scoffed but instead said sterilely, “I’m sorry, Ker. But should you need more firewood or water….”

“Yes, yes –” Getchwick’s roommate dismissed Rick with a curt wave. Already, Rick saw as he gave a short bow, he was reaching out for the mug.

Shortly, the dormmate would be so soundly asleep that he’d never hear Rick’s re-entry, much less his attack upon Getchwick.

It went quite well, though Getchwick managed to slam the pommel of his sword onto Rick’s face, issuing a very effective black eye.

Rick had at first felt the blood surging through him, coursing, demanding payment for his part in Emanuella’s near death. But something stayed his pummeling fists as he sat atop this scrawny coward who undoubtedly had used gauntlets to attack Emanuella, something stayed Rick from slicing his neck, spilling his blood. And Rick could have done it, for Getchwick – beaten badly now, bore broken ribs, gashes about his person, both eyes bloodied and nearly shut.

Whatever stayed Rick’s frenzy decided instead to mar this perfect lordling’s face beneath him, scar it in such a way that each time he looked in the mirror, he’d remember why he appeared that way… because he had abused Rick’s sister, sunken to a level of cowardice never heretofore known of. Rick broke Getchwick’s nose.

Rick muffled Getchwick’s screams of pain, his begging and crying, his pleading for answers under the pillow he’d stuffed over his face throughout most of the ordeal.

Rick couldn’t tell this contemptible, spineless bastard that his careless indifference, his cowardice had nearly violated the Prophecy, no. So instead Rick told Getchwick that from now on, each time he looked in the mirror, he would see the face of not a hero but a coward, and his scars would forever remind him of it. Rick personally doubted Getchwick would recall this later given the amount of sleeping potion he’d be soon gulping down, but it was possible he’d have a blurry recollection of this.

When it was done and over and Getchwick had passed out, Rick flexed his hand, looking mercilessly down at this suddenly silent, bloodied lump that was Getchwick. He wondered if this was how Getchwick and his friends had stared down at Emanuella.

Then he forced several swallows of the tasteless sleeping potion down Getchwick’s throat, until he became woozy and conscious. Getchwick coughed and spat up a mouthful of blood onto Rick’s tunic. Disgusted, Rick propped him on his pillows and dumped the rest of sleeping potion down his throat.

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