The After Effects

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Day School and Familiar Faces

A grin split Harper's face. "I've never been to school."

"Would you like too?" I asked.

I was ten when the Plague happened, meaning I wasn't in school very long, but I loved every day of it. After the Plague, my father ensured that I continued my education when I wasn't in the arena, training. The only good thing that man ever did for me was that I suppose.

"That would be so much fun. My mother taught me how to read and write but I never get to use it." Harper pouted slightly.

"The king brought day school to my attention, apparently someone in the castle teaches the kids around here. You wanna check that out today?" I asked, hoping she'd find the love for education that I had.

Harper rapidly nodded her head and sprung off the couch. "Let us go."

"Oh right now?" I chuckled as I got off the couch. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I checked, making sure I wasn't pushing her too hard too fast.

She responded with a nod and hopped around the living room.

"Alright then Buckaroo, let's take these plates back to the kitchen and go find day school." Harper gladly took the plates and carried them to the kitchen. She did good about not freezing every time someone passed us, well as long as they didn't look at her. She hummed most of the way there, only pausing when people passed us.

We got to the kitchen and found it mostly empty. The helper from last night's dinner was the only one around. Julie, I think it was, was putting away dishes, singing a song while working.

"Take the plates to the sink and start running the water on warm," I instructed Harper as I retrieved a dishrag for us to use.

Julie jumped at my voice, squeaking a sound of surprise as she turned around. "Oh my, you startled me." Julie covered her chest with a hand, attempting to calm herself

"Oh sorry. We're just washing our plates and then we'll be on our way." I said simply before joining Harper at the sink.

"I can do-"

"Don't worry about it." I waved her off with a smile.

I smiled at the confusion written on Julie's face.

Harper hummed away as she and I scrubbed our plates clean with soap, rinsing them, and then finally drying them. I turned to put the plates away, only to find Julie still standing there in confusion.

"Everything alright?" I asked, reaching up to put the plates in their cupboard, which was marked as "Breakfast Plates", making it really easy to find.

"You're... You're." Julie fought for the right words. "You're not what I expected, that's all." She had a faint smile gracing her young lips. I figured Julie to be around the middle twenties. Her brown hair was pulled into a neat bun, and her deeply tanned skin revealed her mixed heritage.

I shrugged, "That's just how it goes, I suppose."

I asked Julie where day school was held and after finding out its location I turned to Harper. "Ready?" Harper nodded. "Alright, say bye to Julie."

Harper hesitantly waved and said bye, I felt proud of her for the small action, before I led her out of the kitchen and through the many halls of the castle that I still knew so well.

We finally arrived at the room that was used for Day School.

I cringed as I heard the deep voice of a male. This is going to be interesting. I sighed as I pushed the door open, Harper glued to my heels.

The room was pretty big, filled with ten desks and chairs, though only eight of the desks were filled. A bookshelf filled the right side of the room from floor to ceiling. A desk was pushed against the far wall, filled with papers and other odds and ends.

My eyes met jade green eyes that sparkled with humor. You've got to be kidding me right now?

It was my turn to freeze as a smirk grew across the male's face.

"Hello dear sister," Locke said in a way of greeting.

"Sister?" Harper said softly in question to herself, thankfully she wasn't petrified at the sight of him.

"You've got to be kidding me." I groaned, turning and facing the wall while pinching the bridge of my nose with my pointer finger and thumb.

"Oh hello brother, it's so nice to see you," Locke said in a mocking voice.

Snickers rang out around the room.

I felt a tug on my shirt and turned to see Harper staring at me in question.

"Harper," I sighed, bending down to her level, "This is my brother and apparently your teacher?"

Locke stepped forward and corrected me, "Actually the usual teacher is out sick today and since I had the day off, I filled in for her."

I narrowed my eyes at him, finding this all a little too convenient.

Harper eyed my brother cautiously. "He looks just like you." She finally said. I sighed in relief that she didn't seem to mind him.

"How about you go meet the other kids while I talk to him real quick?" I asked her softly.

Harper turned around and faced the other kids. Some of them were having conversations among themselves while others smiled at Harper. Again, relief flooded me that there was hope she'd fit in here.

"Okay." She said. The ten-year-old in her showed as she went over to the other kids and broke into conversations with them.

I stood up and shot my brother a death glare before leaving the room. His footsteps followed me out, he told the kids to start reading whatever pages before he joined me in the hall.

I stood with my back to him, arms crossed and my teeth grinding.

"How long have you and the King been planning this?" I asked stiffly.

A deep chuckle that brought back childhood memories of pillow forts and mud fights filled the hallway.

"He sent me a letter this morning, explaining the plan," Locke said.

I pinched my nose again, begging for patience from whoever would listen.

"Who's the usual teacher?" I asked, finally turning around and facing my brother. Who, despite being older than me by four years, was nearly an exact twin of me.

His deep red hair was cut short, the top a bit longer. His facial features matched mine almost exactly, his jaw having a sharper look than mine being the biggest difference. Where I had bright emerald green eyes, his were a deep jade green that women loved. He looked down at me, my 5'8 figure no match for his 6'0 self, but that never stopped me from beating him up.

"She helps in the kitchen before and after school, her name's Julie Hartz I think," Locke explained.

Sick? She was surely not sick... I felt a familiar stabby feeling rise in my chest. And by stabby I mean, I feel like stabbing someone. That someone most likely being my brother or the King.

"She's not sick, I literally talked to her in the kitchen twenty minutes ago," I told my brother.

"She must be feeling better than." I watched as Locke's right-hand ring finger twitched ever so slightly. His dead give away that he was lying.

My hands itched to reach for the dagger that I had stored in the back of my pants before I left my room this morning.

"You'd think the Captain of the Guard for the Southern King would work on his tells a bit better."

Locke sighed, rolling his eyes. "Are you always this pleasant nowadays?" He asked.

"I suppose you wouldn't know, now would you?" I crossed my arms, watching as Locke's features grew angry.

"Let's not forget who ran in the middle of the night, no note or anything." Locke fired back.

"You knew I couldn't handle it here. You. Knew. That." I said, anger forcing my words out of my constricting throat.

"What is so bad about here?" Locke asked. "Ives, I protected you to the best of my ability. I helped you when you got out of the Medical Hall. I never left your side until you were better." His voice wavered. "You promised me you were better, and then you disappeared that very night." His throat bobbed as he spoke and his eyes glistened. "I thought you were dead, that you had finished the job you'd started in the North."

"Who told you I was alive?" I asked. Guilt constricted my throat. I didn't realize I'd hurt him so badly.

Locke faced the wall, his usual bubbly self gone and replaced with anger. "Nobody. I was walking the wall one day and I saw you ride upon a huge black horse. Just from the swaggery way you held yourself atop that stallion, I knew it was you. The King confirmed my suspicions later that day when I approached him." Jade green eyes turned to me, burning into me with so many emotions.

"Why didn't you confront me?" Why did I have to be such an arsehole earlier to him?

"I figured you'd come around someday." A cocky smirk started to pull at his mouth.

His emotions shifted. It seemed he just needed to get all that off his chest.

"Oh shut up and give me a hug, you idiot." I wiped a stray tear from my cheek as I spoke to him.

Next thing I knew I was enveloped in the warm arms of my big brother.

"You should come to dinner tonight, Ives." Locke grinned down at me.

"That's never going to happen." I pulled away from him and collected myself. He chuckled as I spoke again. "Now I need to go yell at the King, you should tell Julie she can go back to teaching."

"Thank the gods, those monsters are impossible to teach," Locke said, quite dramatically.

"Whatever. You're just a horrible teacher." I jested with my brother.

Oh, how good it felt to be back at his side. Just like old times.

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