Ander watched as Fiorra and Master Barcik repelled each other warily. The Adept tended to Emanuella, checking her fever, administering her wounds, scribbling notes.
Fiorra watched him cagily in a combination of protective familial interest and what Ander decided was loathing, though this latter was quite uncharacteristic of her. They exchanged not a word superficial of Emanuella’s condition. But the Adept was, Ander knew, her professor as well, so perhaps Fiorra had her reasons.
At one point, she was nearly hovering over the Adept’s shoulder. Master Barcik, turning to move, instead found Fiorra in his stead and then Ander realized – he had been checking over Fiorra’s ministrations. Ander felt sure that only respect for the Adept’s professional position kept Fiorra from second-guessing him, and less than politely.
A strange thing occurred then. The Adept, in finding Fiorra in his way in such close quarters, caught her eye and raised an eyebrow, staring her down. Fiorra’s brown eyes narrowed and she looked fit to spit; she spun on her heel, her red hair whirling about, and she left.
Master Barcik, without even missing a beat, returned to his examination undeterred.
More alert, Ander leaned forward on his knees and pondered this brief encounter. The Adept was never anything but pleasant and competent, careful…. But for one fleeting moment, his expression had said crossly, “Do you mind? Get out of my way.” Just ever so briefly – and was gone, his mask returned. What was more, Fiorra saw it, saw it and recognized it immediately. Now that… was odd.
Ander leaned back in his chair to surreptitiously (he hoped) study Barcik. He wasn’t that much older than Dar, another five, maybe eight Cycles at most upon close scrutiny, but he exuded a carefree, tousled appearance. He in fact seemed quite young for an Adept. Ander supposed he was good-looking in the way girls thought of such things.
An old memory sprang to mind of Fiorra and Emanuella giggling all the way back to the Illyth from Spring Market last spring, and how nervy Fiorra became as they rode increasingly closer at the end of the summer to begin classes. Finally, they’d confided to Ander that Fiorra had met someone at her Academy whom she was expecting to meet again. Ander recalled her being positively giddy, though he had privately wondered how realistic the potential was.
Then for the first few weeks of class, she was depressed, moping, whenever he saw her. Her waspishness around Master Barcik, heretofore unprecedented in Ander’s experience, furrowed his brow suddenly with suspicion. Surely not….
Uncannily, the Adept half turned so that a blue eye appraised him. “Questions?”
Ander blinked. His walls were steel, impenetrable; he would know if someone had so much as slipped a tendril across them.
“I – how is my sister?”
Then he instantly regretted his query – he saw the tiniest raise of the Adept’s eyebrow and realized that he might assume Ander was inquiring about Emanuella – or Fiorra. Ander felt heat blossom up his neck, knowing also that Barcik, with his trained Healer’s eye, did not miss this show of fatuousness on his part.
The Adept did, however, straighten, his mask very much in place as he declared quietly, “Your sister has a good deal of quick-healing yet to complete, and even after she will be quite tender, sore even, for some time. I do not predict any scarring. She is very fortunate that she was found when she was… had she been outside much longer in the cold, I don’t know that her frostbite could have been recoverable.”
With pride, Ander answered, “She’s tough, Emanuella, but if it weren’t for Fiorra, she wouldn’t be alive today.”
Master Barcik looked as if he very much wanted to say something but instead, his face softened slightly and he deferred. “Fiorra will make an excellent Healer when she is ready.” He nodded a short by-your-leave and left the small room.
But Ander had no time to ponder the slight encounter further, for Rick slipped in, and, finding Emanuella still asleep, whispered loudly, “Guess who I found pacing about the entry to the Healers Wing?” And he pulled Fiorra through the curtains by the wrist.
Ander wasn’t sure if Rick had set her off or if her demeanor was a remnant from Barcik, but all experiments required hypotheses, and then hypotheses had to be tested.
He decided to go for broke. “You can relax. Master Barcik’s left.”
Ander watched her countenance avidly. She paled, then reddened, as he predicted.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Just that. Each time he comes around, the tension builds and you two circle each other like two wolves over leftovers. As soon as one of you leaves, the tension is gone.” Ander stared her in the face as he got up to go. “I wonder why that is….”
Her eyes narrowed.
“Rick, come on, we have things to do,” Ander placed a hand on Rick’s shoulder.
“We do? I just got here – ”
“Later. Good-bye!” Ander waggled a hand at Fiorra, whose hands were on her hips with masked outrage.
“But – ”
Ander drew a handful of Rick’s tunic and yanked him out of the room.
“So when are you going to tell me what this is about? Or is this just a trip for the fun of it?” Rick asked, matching pace with Ander. “Just so I know what to say when they find me – Weaponry students don’t often get kidnapped by K’yor students if you know what I mean,” he gibed.
“I have two roommates,” responded Ander. “Now, more than likely, they’re at classes, hoping to learn something, so we shouldn’t be bothered.”
“Wait. Bothered? By what? I’m not going to be some secret recipe, am I?”
Ander glared at Rick as they turned to climb the front steps of the Kyor’rashni Housing Commons.
“You remember when I used to Scry, right?”
“… Yeah….” replied Rick very warily, looking at him out of the side of his eyes. “With the bowl and the water….”
“Good. I need you to help.”
“Me?” Rick nearly squeaked. “Why me? Why not Fiorra? She’s got kyor. Why not your roommates even? And why are you Scrying at all? You’re only supposed to do that when it’s really important, I remember Gabriella saying…” Rick trailed off as he looked at Ander’s spread hands.
“You don’t think this, Emanuella, is?”
“You’re sure about this?” Rick asked uncertainly, glancing around Ander’s dorm.
“Yes, for the last time. Now, here,” Ander shoved the pitcher of water at him. “Pour it in slowly, a little at a time.”
“What if someone comes in?”
“Rick. If my roommates come in, they’ll recognize Scrying when they see it and probably try to assist.” Ander didn’t elaborate further that Norbert and Bosworth would also be astonished at just how far ahead of them he actually was – Scrying was a very advanced skill, 5th Cycle Students learned Scrying at the end of the cycle, if they were able to perform it then. He knew his roommates believed him to be ahead of them by several chapters, but an entire Cycle or more – that might not be fortunate in the long run.
Rick took a deep breath, studying Ander with his sober brown eyes. “Okay. Go.”
Ander nodded and drew himself into his Scry trance as Rick poured the water slowly, letting it trickle down the side of the bowl. To be sure, Ander was a bit nervous. It had been over a cycle since he had last Scryed… and Gabriella told him when they parted that students, even advanced students such as himself, were not to Scry, for it could be very dangerous. A second person, an anchor, must always be present to stabilize you, and be sure that you don’t screw up your spell. Of course, he grimaced inwardly, your anchor was supposed to have kyor themselves….
The water took shape and color before him, grew. Then, as he peered into his bowl, Gabriella looked back up at him and their worlds merged.
Suddenly he felt exceptionally foolish. Her tone conveyed surprise, disapproval, and concern all at once. Everything he had meant to say vanished in the semi-presence of his former instructor. He stared at the background of the cabin, stolen with a longing for its warmth, the snapping of the fire, the unassuming wooden planks of its floor….
“Ander.” Gabriella’s tone was more insistent and her green eyes met his directly. “Surely they are not instructing you in the fundamentals of Scrying so soon.” The unanswered question in her voice demanded a response.
Ander shook himself. “I – had to. It’s – important.” He cringed at the ineptitude of this reply when there was so much that needed to be said, so much that had to be explained.
Gabriella arched a single scarlet eyebrow. Odd, Ander mused, how a single expression could intimidate him and yet here, he was not really afraid of anything. He took a deep breath but before he could say anything, Gabriella replied, “Is the Prophecy in danger?”
“Well, not exactly. I don’t know.”
“Who is your Anchor?”
“About the Prophecy – I’m not exactly sure. It’s just – someone tried to kill Emanuella. And it wasn’t just your average discrimination against Kin’keska – they left her for dead.”
That got Gabriella’s attention. Immediately, her face darkened, her eyes narrowed. “Explain.”
“Well, she was found by her roommate –”
“What roommate? I specifically requested that she have no roommate,” Gabriella snapped.
Taken back, Ander paused at this before he continued. “Well – I – she has one. Nixy is her name. I think she just moved in all of the sudden. They seem to get along well enough. It was Nixy that found her in the snow. She –”
“In the snow?” Gabriella’s voice had dropped to steely level as she repeated Ander’s words.
Ander cleared his throat. “Well, she was found badly beaten, a lot of broken bones, left for dead in the snow in front of the Weaponry Hall. We found her sword and dagger in a midden heap. She took a fever – ”
“When was this?”
“A few nights ago.”
“Nights? Why was she out past curfew?” Gabriella demanded.
Ander had never seen her so angry, except when she had fought the Kin’keska and the Riders of Rumeth, and even then, she had been - controlled. Delicately, he said, “Well, it was a FifthDay – and she tends to spend those and weeksends out of the city – with Fiaz….”
Gabriella’s expression softened some. “So she was caught by someone while she was outside the Academy Grounds?”
“No. She was given a Detention that night,” Ander replied ruefully, wishing he had explained the whole thing more cerebrally.
“A Detention? That doesn’t sound like her.”
“No. She tries to escape notice as much as she can,” Ander agreed.
“An evening Detention is reserved for especially poor behavior. That really does not sound like her,” Gabriella replied, sounding more as if she were speaking to herself than to Ander.
“That’s just it,” Ander said. “Emanuella doesn’t even come to our biweekly meetings at the Sword and Stag because she wants to spend as much time as she can outside the City with Fiaz, her bond being what it is. She wouldn’t do anything that would keep her from getting out of the City. Her roommate says Emanuella’s got a real bastard for an Armsmaster.” Ander paused as Gabriella’s eyes narrowed. “We all know the only way for her to deal with the discrimination is to accept it and transcend it – but….”
Gabriella gave Ander a level look. “Go on.”
He gathered his courage and plowed onward. “She’s been doing that since we got here. And admirably. But what if… it overpowers you?” He paused, allowing his implication to sink in. He looked away before her eyes narrowed and continued relentlessly.
“There is talk of war. Dominion and Resistance. If there is talk of war – already – then perhaps people know of the Prophecy – meaning that it’s already taking place. And those working against it might have tried to do that – the other night. If you take one of us out – then the entire Prophecy falls apart… doesn’t it?” Ander glanced briefly at Gabriella but did not wait for an answer to his commentary. Continuing, he observed, “Emanuella was injured so badly that she remembers nothing beyond dinner that evening. She is in the Healers’ Wing, Quick-healing, and we are guarding her. Dar does not know, or heads would have rolled days ago. So – I was not sure if this had something to do with the Prophecy or not. It could crumble if she – or any of us – died. If Dar found out, he would kill the people involved and then the law would hang him. The people who did this to Emanuella are walking about free. I thought it was important enough that you should know.”
Gabriella seemed thoughtful. “You are correct. It is important. Who knows of this?”
“Just us, and Nixy, and Master Barcik. A few Healers only he trusts. No one but the five of us knows of the Prophecy still.”
“If there is talk of war already, then inevitably, there will be talk of the Prophecy. Continue to keep Emanuella under guard, but not one that anyone would recognize as such. How many classes have you all been missing?” Gabriella queried.
Sheepishly, Ander answered, “The last few days…. But to be honest, I already know nearly all of it, and I’m sure the others are ahead as well…” he finished hopefully.
“It is not a matter of knowledge, it is a matter of attendance, even if you are He Who Sees Through the Water,” she replied dryly. “Speaking of such, if no one else knows of your circumstances, then just who is your Anchor?”
Ander bit his lip. “Well… he’s done a good job so far….” Ugh. That awful eyebrow. He expected it could exact pain and torture from even the bravest of warriors. Sighing, he gave up. “Rick.”
“I see.” She nodded slightly, the mildest of smiles curving at the corners of her mouth. “You are indeed auspicious, He Who Sees Through the Water, that you are able to grasp such spells with the ease you do, or your situation, I assure you, would be quite dire. As it is, you shall still learn a lesson from it.” She nodded as if amused. “Since you have involved one of our own, do invite him into our conversation; I should like to speak to him and I have directions for him.”
Ander did not know more that one person could be involved in a Scrying Spell. Frowning, he said curiously without thinking, “You can do that?”
Gabriella smiled. “Truly ironic. Though He Sees Through the Water, he yet has much to learn.” Her tone was unmistakably sardonic.
Now Ander’s eyes narrowed at the irony and pulled his attention carefully away from the bowl. “Rick,” he called. Once he explained to Rick what they had discussed already, he guided Rick’s awareness into the Scrying spell, hoping he was going about it properly.
Rick, as always, was amazed by kyor. He stared all about the inside of the Scrying Spell with awe. Gabriella humored him briefly and then asked him for any other details. Rick told his side of the story, answering questions and supplying extra information.
Finally, Gabriella decided to dismiss them. She told Rick how to care for Ander after the Scrying Spell was over, for he would be exhausted and would need a great deal of water and rest, which Ander was not looking forward to. Nor did he recall feeling poorly when he had conjured the spell when he had learned it, but of course, circumstances had been ideal at the time….
Gabriella also warned Rick that he, too, would likely have quite a headache. Rick snickered. “Well, then, it won’t be much different than a hangover and the best cure for a hangover is…” Rick trailed off as Gabriella’s steely gaze penetrated through his sense of humor. “Right then. Headache. Make Red drink water, plenty of rest. Anything else?”
Peering at him suddenly, Gabriella stared through the Spell at Rick. Ander wondered what had caught her attention so avidly.
“You didn’t – leave anything – important… out, did you?” Her gaze was suddenly piercing. Ander was extremely glad not to be on the receiving end of it.
Rick cocked his head to one side and blinked, almost nonchalantly. “No. I think I’ve told you everything. Why do you ask?”
She stared at him with that jade gaze another second longer, then nodded. Addressing them both, Gabriella said good-bye and severed the connection. Ander watched as Gabriella’s cabin slowly receded and his gray Scry bowl became more and more visible. Finally, just a bowl of water remained.
Exhausted, he looked up.
Rick breathed out slowly, as if relieved of some kind of tension.
Recalling Gabriella’s last question, Ander’s curiosity was piqued by this response. “What was that all about?” he demanded.
Rick’s troubled eyes darted away from Ander’s. “Nothing. No idea. Now let’s get you some water.”
“Scrying is dangerous. And really, why are you here if you’re so advanced that you can Scry on your own?” Bozworth wanted to know. He and Norgan had arrived back early and seen the Scry bowl. Ander had left it out in case Gabriella wanted to Scry a message back, though he’d thought the chances slim.
At a loss, he stumbled through an acceptable answer. “My older sister taught me – she’s very Advanced.”
“Then she should know better. We would have helped you. Did you have an Anchor at least?”
A little irritated, Ander nodded. “My brother.”
“You have a brother attending this Academy?” Bozworth whistled. “You come from a wealthy family indeed, mate.”
“Next time, ask one of us,” Norgan chided.
Inwardly, Ander scoffed. He couldn’t imagine asking them to Anchor him – they could barely get their Charms and Spells done correctly. But it might do to have someone with kyor, he mused, yawning. Gabriella was right. He was exhausted.