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|RagDoll (profile) wrote, |
on 1-1-2003 at 8:29am
|"Do you know my brother?"
Lady Caerien continued her walk, graceful and delicate, ignoring the small, silver haired girl beside her. Caerien was the model of refinement. Her face never shifted from the perpetual disdain appropriate to a teacher of protocol. Every movement was elegant, precise and with intent. Every word carefully measured. It was such a contrast compared to Romuel Okani who strode next to her. Her stride was loud and determined, matching Caerien’s swift walk. Romuel’s face did not mask her rage, made all the more ugly by the tear-shaped wound on her right eye that was only now beginning to heal. Caerien’s voice was light compared to Romuel’s vicious whisper. Caerien pretended to ponder as she spoke.
"I know of him. He does have a reputation."
Caerien had been avoiding Romuel for days, hoping time would cool the decision she knew was in the girl’s heart. The labyrinth of Academy had made it easy. There were countless turns, endless hallways, and always a crowd to disappear into. Bad timing had crippled her plans, as Caerien’s path and Romuel’s did not meet in the late afternoon. This day, another instructor had detained Romuel, to express his sympathy and concern after the child’s attack. It was a foolish hope that the instructor’s words of solace would enter Romuel’s heart.
"Is it deserved?"
Once Caerien’s eyes met hers, Romuel stopped even pretending to listen to the instructor. She tracked Caerien down the hall with her eyes, and simply broke off the conversation when Caerien turned the corner. Romuel was uncannily swift. Before Caerien could hide, Romuel was side by side with her, looking as if she were ready to fight. Caerien hoped she had the means to diffuse the situation.
"I cannot say, Miss Okani.."
She let the words fall easily, gently. Romuel had not yet learned how to avoid spectacle. Others were noticing Romuel’s angry stride, so incongruous with the retreating child of the past year. She hoped her own words would serve as an efficient dismissal. Romuel instead put her hand to the sword that was a part of every Squire’s uniform.
"Would you say he is a good man, then?" she hissed at her instructor. Caerien prayed for patience, not willing to be baited. "I have never been wronged by him," she said mildly.
"I say he’s not." Romuel said threateningly.
Romuel was pushing this too far, and everyone was taking notice. If they stayed out in the open, one of them was likely to do something stupid, and Caerien refused to let this escalate in public. Caerien swiftly turned into an empty room, and Romuel followed suit. Romuel, however, did not stop as rapidly as Caerien, and Caerien closed the door behind them, locking it. No one could see or hear them in the empty classroom. She tried to gaze down Romuel’s challenge, her hand on the sword at her belt in the same manner as Romuel’s sword-grasp.
"Don’t say what you can’t take back."
Romuel remained defiant. "I say it. Even though you’re protecting him."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because he’s one of you. One of them."
Romuel stood her ground. She was so fragile, Caerien mused. So much smaller than her siblings, her wit and speed such drastically different gifts from anyone else in the Okani family. She should grow up to be a lady. She should use her mind to benefit the country. But in those eyes, all she saw was a bloody sword. The sword Caerien, Cyran, and the rest of the Society weilded.
"Tell this to the headmaster, then-"
"No," Romuel cut her off, her whisper blending fear with fury. "He does not control my fate." She continued, trembling.
Caerien felt a hundred years old. This challenge had to be answered. If she could have chosen any path for this fragile girl, it would not be this. Caerien had envisioned Romuel as a member of court, like her mother. Her natural intelligence and with would be an advantage. In time Romuel would come into her mother’s looks, and be desired by someone worthy of her. Academy would be a distant, if painful memory. Instead, all there was nothing but a driving intensity. A desire for the bloody road. Caerien took a deep breath, closed her eyes an asked the question flatly.
"Who controls your fate?"
Romuel drew her blade and raised it in a salute. The blade split her face in two, dividing the innocent promise of the past from the scar of the present. Her voice was even, as directed as her glistening eyes. Somehow, Caerien prayed, there had to be another way.
"My fate rests on the tip of my sword."
Caerien shook her head. The fury in Romuel’s eyes shifted to confusion, and then to panic. She knelt, offering the blade to Caerien, repeating the same words over again. Caerien wept inside for Romuel, knowing that if she took the blade, the child was lost forever. Tears formed at the edge of Romuel’s eyes, making her wound glisten. In that moment, Caerien grasped the sword, raising it. Romuel let out her breath, the rage leaving her.
"This isn’t a proper sword. It’s for battle, not honor."
Romuel rose, standing at attention. Caerien saw the chill as the fury bled from Romuel, turning into a cold determination. The silvery eyes were ice cold, meeting Caerien with murderous intent. Romuel’s name meant ‘winter angel’, and in seeing the woman now before her. She saw winter’s finality. Romuel had won. Everything had led to this unseen ritual, and Romuel’s future place in the Society. Had she known this would be the result, Caerien would have challenged and killed Cyran years ago.
"Where will I find honor?"
Caerien looked helplessly at her future protégé. Any other path was gone. She placed her hand on Romuel’s shoulder, gazing into eyes that hid pain behind a relentless will.
"In the blood of your rival."
"Where is my sword?"
"You’ll have it."
"When you make your challenge."
"I name my brother, Cyran Okani as my rival. He is without honor."
"And should he contest this?
"We will face each other, and I will prevail."
"Challenge him, then. The Duelists will not stop you."
"No one will."
Caerien unlatched the door, holding the Romuel’s old sword, offering it back. Romuel took the blade and left. She closed the door again, locking it once more. It would be unseemly for those to see Lady Caerien, at the same time Squire, Instructor, and Duelist, weep for a little girl.