Wow, it's only been a few days since the last post. Still, I should make it up to you guys for my long absence…so…have story!

Kamaria desperately scrambled up and over the wall to drop onto the other side, avoiding her pursuers only by a few feet. As she pelted down the paths, she somehow drew enough breath to give the whistle that was her signal for help.

"Why won't you just stop already?" cried her pursuer, and Kamaria heard him drop ungracefully to the ground. She did her best to increase her speed, and with a gasp of relief surged around the corner that was her last obstacle between herself and the High Command.

"Scout Kamaria, report," ordered Jakob gravely, as Kamaria seized the water he held out to her and Maverick, Vera, and Abi went to guard the path.

Kamaria straightened, wincing at the stitch in her side, and saluted. "The enemy treasure is on top of the big red boulder in Companion's Field," she said, trying to control her panting, "There is considerable cover if you cut back through the trees, but it's quite time-consuming. It was only through the intervention of your timely attack at the river that I survived the mission."

Jakob nodded, considering this, and marked a few things on a slate. He ignored the startled yelp of Edim, who had been Kamaria's staunchest chaser, as he rounded the corner and ran directly into Abi's short sword.

"You're dead," said Vera, "The rest of the dead people are by the fence. Go tell them of your adventures."

Kamaria grinned as the stitch at last eased, and straightened up.

This game was a combined effort by Rhi and Garethe, melding strategy and weapons into one unholy monstrosity that was heavily bruising every Trainee that had to endure it. The idea was that the Trainees would get some idea of commanding in the field, people would get used to taking orders, and they would get some understanding of how terribly confusing things could get in wartime.

Every Trainee with more than one year of Weapons was required to participate. Today, the game involved two teams-the Purple team, which was based in a strictly marked-off part of the gardens; to put one toe over the line meant instant death, an edict insisted upon by every Healer in the Collegia and enforced by whoever was referee that day; and the Red team, based in Companion's Field.

Both teams had a treasure they were supposed to be guarding, and a High Command. Kamaria had been faintly surprised not to be selected, but took Jakob's orders with good grace.

It was, after all, much more fun to serve as a scout. The High Command had to sit and tally losses on a slate.

A Healer's Trainee Kamaria could never remember the name of, wearing her red scarf tied around her forehead to mark her allegiance, suddenly barreled into view and snatched at one of the water cups, draining it before she attempted to speak.

"Bad news," she said grimly, "The Purples ambushed us on our way back from the front lines. We've lost four."

Jakob swore under his breath. "Is our treasure safe?" he asked, "Where did we move it, anyway?"

"We moved it back by the bench someone carved a cat on," said the Healer's Trainee, "We're covered on three sides by the boundary, and everyone we've got left except the ones here is protecting it. We don't have the forces to attack like we wanted."

Jakob picked up the slate and the pitcher of water. "Take me there," he said decisively, "Abi, my loyal first lieutenant, this is your hour. Take Maverick, Vera, and Kamaria and go get that enemy treasure. I want to see all of you back alive."

"Yes, sir!" said Kamaria enthusiastically. Jakob nodded gravely, and departed in the company of the Healer's Trainee.

Abi turned to Kamaria. "You lead," he told her, "This is a stealth mission. There aren't enough of us to storm their base and protect our own treasure."

"Follow me, and be quiet," was all Kamaria said, and began leading them through the gardens.

The usage of Gifts was forbidden in today's game. There were four more planned this week; it was something of a holiday, since their first game had taken the whole morning and this one had consumed nearly the whole afternoon. Kamaria was forced to rely only on her own senses as she paused before every corner, listening hard for signs of ambush before peeking around the walls.

At last, they reached the Terilee, and Kamaria dropped down onto the bank, ducking so she was covered by the small bushes that lined the river. Normally, there was no bank at this particular spot, but it was the end of a long, hot summer, and there was just enough to use.

With a glance behind to see that the three others were behind her, Kamaria led them stealthily upstream, and ducked into one of the lovers' grottos as soon as she could.

"From here we're going through the trees," she whispered as the others gathered round, "Quite literally. There's a tree just a few feet away that we can climb, and then they're close enough so we can go tree-to-tree right over that outpost where they spotted me last time. But last time I was on the ground."

"Up the tree one at a time," ordered Abi, "Kamaria, you go first; you're still leading the way. Vera's next, then Maverick, then me. Will the tree hold all four of us?"

"Maybe," said Kamaria, chewing her lip, "It should." Cautiously, she poked her head over the side of the grotto, peering onto the land. "I'm going now."

She and Vera both made it securely into the tree, hidden from ground pursuit, but just as Maverick made his dash someone spotted him-perhaps not surprising, since he was wearing the rust-colored Bardic uniform, which didn't blend nearly as well as Kamaria's own Grays.

"Intruders!" bellowed Alain, as Maverick stumbled in surprise, "Intruders at the grottos!"

"Ssh!" hissed Vera as Kamaria shifted, "We can't be seen!"

With an effort of will, Kamaria held herself absolutely still in the tree, clenching her teeth as Abi joined Maverick in the fight. Alain was 'killed' fairly quickly, and went walking off to the land of the dead with good grace and a shrug, but Abi and Maverick were soon overwhelmed by the rush of Purples that followed.

"The Reds will have to carry on without us," said Abi loudly, as Maverick 'died' elaborately, with curses and flourishes that earned a bit of applause.

"Abi, the dead don't talk," scolded Tara, "Except to other dead people. Begone."

The Purples milled around for a bit more, then headed downriver, never once looking up.

At last, Kamaria relaxed a bit. "Come on," she whispered to Vera, "Move carefully. It's up to us now."

The two girls worked their way painstakingly among the trees, having to backtrack once or twice when they weren't able to climb from one to another. Vera was quite a bit taller and could reach much farther, but Kamaria was more agile and could work her way through better. Periodically, she scaled the trunks as far as she could go to see where they were in relation to the river.

Their greatest moment of triumph was when they climbed right past a Purple outpost manned by Ruana, who had joined the game with glee, and weren't spotted.

"We're going to have to get down now," Kamaria breathed in Vera's ear when she saw the handkerchief she had dropped in her flight back to the Red side, "There's some cover, but not much. Don't get down until I'm fully under cover."

Vera nodded, and Kamaria left the younger girl in the tree as she climbed down and dove hastily under a bush.

She stiffened when, just as Vera was navigating the tricky bit before the drop to the ground, another Purple came wandering past, idly spinning a stick between his fingers.

It was Mandel. Kamaria was suddenly struck by an insane idea and sprang out of her bush, tackling her brother and pinning him to the ground just as he spotted Vera and opened his mouth to yell.

"Ssh," she said quietly, letting up the pressure a bit as her brother gasped for air, "Wouldn't want to do anything hasty as your last act on earth." Kamaria drew the practice dagger she'd been using as her weapon.

"Wait!" wheezed Mandel, trying to get some air back into his lungs, "Wait! Hang on!"

Kamaria paused as Mandel wrenched an arm free and fumbled with the scarf he was using as his armband.

One side of it was purple, but the other was red.

Both Vera and Kamaria stared at Mandel. "You mean you're a traitor?" said Vera with delight, "I didn't know they were doing that!"

"There's one on each side," said Mandel, "Kamaria could you please let me up?"

Kamaria leveled a suspicious glare at her brother. "This could be a trick," she said.

Mandel rolled his eyes. "I swear my eternal loyalty and allegiance to the Red team, forsaking all others, I spit on those dirty Purple dogs, etcetera etcetera. Please let me up? I can't breathe."

Vera and Kamaria exchanged a glance. "Good enough for me," said Kamaria finally, and let her brother up.

"So who's the traitor on the Red team, then?" asked Vera, as the three of them regrouped under the cover of another bush.

Mandel thought about it. "Technically I'm not supposed to say. Tell me who's dead on your side."

Vera thought about it. "Abi, Maverick, um…" she paused to remember.

"Don't, it was Abi," said Mandel, before she could continue. "He's why the Purples ambushed you at the river."

"Such betrayal," muttered Kamaria, feeling oddly cheated, "Never mind. We have to get that treasure!"

Ten minutes and a few miraculous avoidances of the Purples later, the three of them ducked behind a log just in the fringe of trees near the red rock. There were four Purples guarding it, looking bored.

"Right," whispered Kamaria, "There are more of them, but we can surprise them. Who's the fastest runner here?"

"Probably me," murmured Vera, "I'm always first when we do laps around the salle, so Rhi makes me do extras."

"Right," said Kamaria, "Your priority is to get the treasure away. Mandel and I will attack-they don't know he's traitor yet, so it'll be a surprise-you hang back a bit, get in, get the treasure, and run like hell. If we don't die we'll cover your retreat. Everyone got it?"

The other two responded with variations on the theme of "Yep."

"Right, then," said Kamaria, "Let's go."

Unsheathing her dagger, Kamaria flung herself over the log with a wild battle cry and launched herself at the startled Purples.

She accounted for two before Mandel joined her and helped her dispatch another, and as both of them turned to the remaining Purple, Vera clambered to the top of the rock, picked up the treasure, signified by an old beer tankard with a purple ribbon tied around the handle, and bolted for the Red side.

Kamaria was killed by Ruana as the other Purples came charging out of the woods, and Mandel, after some confusion, was dispatched as well, but Vera made it back to the High Command with the treasure and presented it just before the Purples made a charge for the Red treasure, so the Red team was, in the end, victorious.

"Well done, well done," said Rhi, surveying his students proudly as they gathered in a ragged group by the fence, in the designated land of the dead, "We'll go over details later. Rest assured, General Chantrea and I took good notes. Go bathe, my dear pupils, you smell."

That was greeted with a weak laugh, and the Trainees staggered off towards their respective Collegia.

"That was incredible fun," said Alain, appearing out of the crowd to loop an arm around Kamaria, who was limping thanks to a turned ankle as she 'died'.

"Tiring, though," Kamaria told him, "And painful. And long. And grueling."

"And fun," retorted Alain good-naturedly, as Kamaria stepped wrong and yelped in pain. "You should probably wrap that tomorrow," he added.

"Probably," agreed Kamaria.

"So, how did you get past our guards, anyway?" asked Alain curiously, "We cut off the attempt at the grottos and ambushed you that one time. I can understand you slipping past for scouting, but we doubled our patrols…"

"You didn't cut us off at the grottos," said Kamaria, patting his shoulder comfortingly, "Vera and I were up in the tree. They grow close enough together that we could climb from tree to tree for a while. Then we mostly hid under bushes."

Alain laughed. "We'll have to look up more, I suppose," he started to say, but paused as someone yelled his name.

As he turned, Kamaria turned with him, letting the other Trainees get ahead of her with some resignation. Her bath could be postponed for a while, she supposed, but she was really looking forward to washing all the sap off her hands. At least her hair wasn't blue any longer-just after the duel, Kavin had pronounced that the blue part had grown out enough for him to cut it off. It was now barely an inch long, but Kamaria could wait for it to grow again, as long as no one else spilled ink on her head.

"Alain," said his sister Lirite, who had stopped yelling when he had turned to pay attention, "I just got the news-our Clan is coming to Haven again! They'll be here for two weeks in the middle of fall, just outside the city-they want us to visit!"

She grinned, and Alain smiled back at his sister. Kamaria, however, was confused. He was smiling, true, but Kamaria couldn't sense any happiness in it.

"I'll talk to the Dean," was all Alain said, "Sorry, Lirite, I'd talk more, but we're both really tired from the games today."

Lirite laughed. "Understandable!" she said, clapping her brother on the back, "Tell me about it later, when you're not all sweaty. I have to go, I'm in the middle of translating a ballad from Hardorn!"

Without another word, Alain's sister headed back to the Bardic Collegium.

Alain stood quite still. Kamaria debated internally for a few moments about a tactful way to phrase her question, then threw tact to the wind and moved to stand in front of him.

"Right," she said, as Alain blinked at her, "You haven't seen your family in how long? And yet you aren't happy. What's the problem?"

"Kamaria," Alain began, and stopped.

Kamaria took a limping step forward and took one of Alain's hands between her own. "Alain," she said, much more gently, "You don't seem at all happy that your family is coming. When you are unhappy, it makes me sad. What's wrong?"

Alain sighed. "Let's keep moving," he said, putting his arm around Kamaria's waist again to support her, "I'll tell you while we walk."

It took a few steps for Alain to get his thoughts in order. "I do want to see my family," he said at last, "I miss them, and I was raised among them. However…Kamaria, when I was Chosen, they…um…didn't react terribly well."

Kamaria was struck by a sudden sense of foreboding. Alain continued. "It was difficult enough for Lirite to convince them that she wanted to go to Bardic and get real training. When I was Chosen, and Ramya took me with her, after their initial shock…they followed me."

"What?" said Kamaria, incredulously, "You mean they objected?"

"Exactly," said Alain, and now his tone grew rueful. "My family…er…well, they brought their entire Clan into Haven and set up camp on the Palace grounds."

Kamaria could find no words to respond to this.

"They stayed there for eight months," said Alain, his voice growing softer, "It was…well…actually they didn't stay there for eight months, but when the Guard finally escorted the caravans out of the city, they set up camp outside the walls and every single day, my parents, the Clan head, and whoever else wanted to come rode into the Palace grounds to try to get them to let me go back with them."

"Ah," said Kamaria, her thoughts whirling.

And she'd thought Amaya's brief vapors had been embarrassing.

"It took Dean Nessa speaking to them almost every day and months of arguing with me for them to finally accept that I wasn't going to go back with them," said Alain, "I love them, but…my Clan does not accept change very well. And that's not even going into my marriage."

Kamaria stopped dead and stared at him. "Your what?" she snapped, yanking free of his arm.

Alain realized how he'd phrased it and lifted his hands. "No, no, I'm not married!" he yelped, at Kamaria's furious glare, "I promise you I'm not and never have been married. But my family expects me to marry a girl from the trading Clans, because-oh, it's complicated, but it gives them status that I'm a Herald now, no matter how long it took for them to accept it, and any hypothetical children I might have would be raised by them, and give them more status."

Kamaria tried to work that out, failed, and returned to staring at him.

Alain ran his hands distractedly through his hair. "It's wretchedly complicated," he said, "But…well…it took them almost a year to accept that I was going to be trained as a Herald and not as a Clan trader. I…don't know how they're going to react to you."

Slowly, Kamaria nodded, and allowed Alain to put his arm around her waist again. "As part of it, they also fling girls at me," continued Alain regretfully, "The favorite last time was a girl named Riva. Also, if the Clan is coming to Haven, it means they're gathering all the caravans from all over, so…it's going to be crowded."

"Huh?" was the only thing Kamaria could think of to respond with.

"Each trading caravan is only about three wagons," explained Alain, "Sometimes only one wagon will go, other times it may be as many as eight. In my childhood I usually traveled in a caravan of about five wagons, since my family traveled with the Clan head. But my Clan, the Owl Clan, is one of the larger ones-almost three hundred people-so there are going to be a lot of wagons at this Clan gathering."

"You're related to all of them?" asked Kamaria, faintly.

"More or less," said Alain, resignedly, "Oh, I love them dearly, but…well…I'm in a different world now. Seeing them again is always rather…well…strange."

"Oh," said Kamaria. It was all she could think of to say.

Since she had taken so long to get back, Kamaria's bath wasn't quite as hot as she'd wanted, but to make up for it she used a good deal of the muscle ointment her father had given her just before the games started. At the time, she hadn't seen the point, but now she was incredibly grateful, and shared it out with other Trainees who seemed to be in pain.

Dinner was beef stew, a dish Kamaria was usually rather lukewarm on, but tonight she inhaled it with most of the rest of the table. They took it in turns to tell Lani and Siral, the latter of whom had been Chosen only a week before, of their exploits that day.

Kamaria allowed Vera to take the lead in telling of their treetop adventures, instead thinking over Alain's words as she ate.

After dinner she had free time, since during the games no work was due and she had finished almost everything the afternoon before, so Kamaria went looking for Kenan, suddenly in need of a kindly ear who could possibly explain things to her. Alain was wrapped in his own thoughts, and after dinner Kamaria saw him heading towards Companion's Field.

A tentative probe towards Sitara made Kamaria blanch and slam her shields up. She loved Sitara dearly, but really, she did not need to know every detail of her Companion's life.

Kamaria declined Tara's invitation to a stones tournament in the library as she stopped by her room to wrap her ankle, and went towards the Heralds' quarters. She wondered if she should be alarmed when she turned a corner, ran into Baron Radan, and returned his greeting with a total lack of surprise.

"Ah, Lady Kamaria," said Radan, bowing much less flamboyantly than usual, "How did your games go today? I could hear the shouting on my usual afternoon constitutional."

"Good evening, Baron," said Kamaria, returning the bow automatically, "My team won, but I, alas, died covering Vera's retreat."

"You're looking remarkably well for one killed in battle," said Radan, falling in step beside her, "Why aren't you resting, then? I saw a few of you running about in the Field, and it looked most exhausting."

"I'm looking for Herald Kenan," said Kamaria, most of her mind taken up with wondering at how easily she had fallen into Radan's customary banter, "I want to talk to him."

"Fancy that," said Radan, lightly, "I'm in search of that esteemed Herald myself."

"Why?" asked Kamaria, and mentally slapped her forehead at letting her tongue run away with her.

"Oh, he made mention of a book he was looking for, and I found it in my own personal library," said Radan, hefting a volume in one hand, "I thought I'd lend it to him."

Several anomalies suggested themselves to Kamaria, namely the fact that the book looked brand new and that a Council member was running an errand himself instead of having a pageboy do it, but she kept quiet.

"I noted your attendance at the duel," continued Radan, "What is your opinion of the outcome?"

"It was inevitable," said Kamaria, with some pride in her teacher, as they turned the corner to Kenan's room, "The Count didn't have a chance."

"Nor, it seems, do any who engage in a duel with him, whether of swords or of wits," muttered Radan. It didn't seem directed at Kamaria, particularly, but she took the comment at face value.

"Oh, you should hear when his friend Herald Kiril and he get going," she said lightly, "My year-mates and I went on an overnight with him, and every other minute they were teasing each other."

Radan looked at her, and his expression suddenly made Kamaria want to reassure him, though she had no idea why. She kept talking as if she hadn't noticed him look at her. "It was very funny, actually-they acted like my brother and I sometimes do, with the way they dragged up old, hm, memories. Kiril won one argument by referring to something called the Potato Incident, though I really don't know what that refers to, since I seem to remember Kenan throwing something at him."

The Baron chuckled, but there was an undertone of uncertainty in it. Kamaria stopped in front of Kenan's door and knocked.

"Come in!" came the muffled shout from beyond the door, "I'll be there in a minute!"

Kamaria opened the door and went through. The Baron followed, closing it behind him.

"Kiril, is that you?" asked Kenan, from the other room, "You better have brought back that…" he trailed off as he came into his main room. "Oh, hello, Kamaria. Dressing up as a boy again?"

"Um, no," said Kamaria, and just then Radan coughed.

Kenan's eyes flicked up to the Baron, and he froze in the middle of running a comb through his hair.

"Good evening, Herald," said Radan, his voice a little fainter than usual.

It was only at that point that Kamaria realized Kenan wasn't wearing a shirt.

This ought to be interesting, she thought.

Kenan recovered first. "Good evening, Baron," he said, with aplomb, "Please excuse my informality of dress. I had no idea you would be gracing my rooms with your presence. Pardon me for a moment."

With considerable speed, Kenan darted back into his bedroom, and emerged a few moments later in a blue tunic. He had also made an attempt to pull his hair back in his usual manner, but the untidiness of the ends bespoke his hastiness.

"Please take a seat," he said, gesturing to the heavily battered armchairs at the fireplace. Kenan himself remained standing. "May I inquire as to the reason for your visit?" he continued.

When Radan didn't speak, Kamaria took the opportunity. "I just wanted to talk to you and…well…ask a few things," she said, "But if you two were planning…"

"No, no, feel free to stay," said Kenan very hastily, and looked at Radan. "Baron?"

The Baron looked resignedly at Kamaria as she took a chair, and ventured a few steps away from the door. "I..." he began, but seemed to feel this was not up to standard. He visibly gathered himself, and smiled. "Ah, my esteemed Herald Kenan," he said, picking up his usual pattern of speech, "I heard by chance that you were looking for a book, and it so happened that I had an extra in my personal library. I interrupted the usual path of my evening perambulation to bring it to you."

With a flourish, Baron Radan held up the book. Kamaria couldn't see the title, but the sheen of the leather in the brighter light of Kenan's room continued to convince her it was new and had spent no time whatsoever in Radan's personal library.

"Ah," said Kenan, venturing forward, "Thank you very much." He took the book and opened it to the title page. "Yes, this is what I was looking for," he said, looking back at Radan with a peculiar expression, "I thank you. I will read it and return it to you."

"Oh, no need," said Radan airily, "Keep it with you, though I shan't expect you to wear it as you did my flower. Good evening, Herald."

With another sweeping bow, the Baron exited.

Kamaria watched her teacher's face, the expression on which could only be described as 'flabbergasted.'

With a brief shake of his head, Kenan turned to Kamaria, but not before setting the book down on the table in the middle of the room. "So, my student," he said, taking the other armchair, "What was it you wanted to ask me?"

Kamaria glanced at the mantel before answering, but her thoughts were derailed by the presence of the flower Kenan had worn the day before, sitting in a cup of water at one side. Kenan followed her gaze.

"Well, I couldn't just let it die," he muttered, and looked at her again. "Anyway."

With an effort, Kamaria marshaled her thoughts. "Alain's Clan is coming to Haven," she burst out, "But it took them eight months to accept him as a Herald, and he doesn't know how they'll accept me, because they think he should marry in the Clan, except we're lifebonded, and-"

"Whoa, whoa," said Kenan, holding up one hand with a bemused expression, "Start over, please. You think Alain's family is not going to like you?"

"It's not a question of liking," said Kamaria wretchedly, "But if it took them eight months to accept that he was going to be a Herald, how long will it take them to accept me?"

"Ah," said Kenan. "I remember that, actually. I'd just returned from Nihon at the time, and was very puzzled to ride up to the Palace and find an entire trading-Clan sitting there."

"The entire Clan?" asked Kamaria, her heart sinking, "All three hundred?"

"I didn't count them, but from what I gathered from the gossip, it was indeed the whole Clan," said Kenan, "Why? Does it matter?"

Kamaria groaned, her apprehension tripling. "I'm never going to be accepted there," she whimpered.

Kenan reached forward and patted her shoulder. "Look, Kamaria," he said, gently, "The trading-Clans are very welcoming people. They did accept that Alain was going to be a Herald in the end."

"But they expect him to marry in the Clan!" wailed Kamaria, "And-I'm a noble!"

"Yes, and?" said Kenan, a touch dryly. "Kamaria, you've never met these people before. They have accepted that Alain will be a Herald. You two are lifebonded, and they're not going to be able to change that. Every culture has a legend of lifebonded lovers-"

"And most of them end very badly," muttered Kamaria. "Kenan, this is not making me feel any better."

Kenan sat back in his chair. "What would, then?" he asked, tilting his head to the side. "I can think of a plan or two already that may help matters, if you want-"

The pleading look Kamaria gave him made him stop midsentence. Kenan smiled. "The one that comes immediately to mind is to use Lirite to your advantage," he said, "Before you introduce yourself, convince her to play ballads for them about lifebonded lovers to work their Clan into a, hm, congenial frame of mind."

It was brilliant. It was simple.

It was also clearly impossible for Kenan to have come up with it in that fractional amount of time.

Kamaria gave him a suspicious look. "You sound like you've used this ploy before," she accused.

Kenan laughed. "I admit it, I've been found out," he said, easily, "As a matter of fact, it wasn't precisely the same situation, but when I was a Trainee, a girl a few years younger than I-a Chosen noble, whose favorite uncle was not very kindly disposed towards Heralds-got her friend from Bardic to play at dinner when he visited and instill patriotic fervor enough so when she told him she'd been Chosen, he accepted it with hardly a blink. It worked like a charm, and I see no reason it shouldn't work here."

There was one problem with this. "Wouldn't that be unethical use of Lirite's Gift, though?" asked Kamaria, her hope sinking just a bit.

Kenan gave her an innocent look. "What do you mean?" he asked, with fabricated astonishment, "Lirite is entitled to play whatever she chooses, and the Bardic Gift simply enhances her performance. If she happens to choose love ballads, well, her family is hardly going to object to a performance by a trained Bard no matter what she sings about, are they?"

Now that she had a plan behind her, Kamaria was feeling a lot better. "That makes sense," she said, with considerable relief, "I'll talk to Lirite at some point."

Her teacher smiled fondly at her. "Feeling better?" he asked, getting up and going to a cupboard near the fireplace.

"Yes, very much so," replied Kamaria, feeling something inside her unknot.

"Cup of tea?" asked Kenan, taking a pot out of the cupboard, "How are your Fetching lessons going?"

"Yes, please, and doesn't Kiril tell you?" Kamaria said, tucking her feet under her legs in the chair.

"No," said Kenan, mock-sternly, "Surely you know that we teachers aren't supposed to share specifics with one another! For shame!"

"Don't you anyway, though?" retorted Kamaria, as Kenan went into his bedroom and returned with a pitcher of water.

Kenan laughed. "Touché, my student, touché," he said, dodging the question neatly, "So. Tell me."

"Kiril's an entertaining teacher," said Kamaria, "And very patient. I have found that my Fetching Gift is pretty pathetic. I can fetch a small dagger, and nothing heavier. The one time I tried to Fetch a book, I got a terrible reaction-headache and nothing happened."

Kenan made a small noise of agreement as he started a small fire to heat the water. "I'd actually expected something of the kind," he said, filling the kettle as the fire grew, "Most Heralds have one strong Gift, sometimes a secondary Gift, and only rarely a third Gift. Your Farsight is quite strong, and your Mindspeech isn't anything to be ashamed about."

"True enough," said Kamaria, thoughtfully, and decided to change the topic. "What was the book the Baron gave you?"

Kenan was very good. Only the slightest hint of a blush escaped him, tinting his ears and the back of his neck a delicate pink. "The book is a history of Karse," he said, in a level tone, "And some ballads of a few of their heroes, translated from that language. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to find-either there are old copies, which are incredibly rare and expensive, or you can get it custom-made, which is…also expensive. I've been looking for it for two years."

Kamaria did her valiant best at hiding her amusement, thought for a few moments, then decided she could probably safely enquire further. "I wonder why he would have two copies, then?" she said, looking at the book on the table.

Kenan shrugged. "The Radan family, with a few exceptions, are by and large very scholarly," he said, "Even the Baron is noted for his pursuit of rare books. I wouldn't be surprised if he inherited that book, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he borrowed one and had a copy made."

Very diplomatic, thought Kamaria, He neatly danced around the 'expense' issue.

Although the Baron may be on to something. Kenan seems happier about this than the flower.

Instead of going further and possibly accidentally revealing things she shouldn't know, however, Kamaria decided to wander in a different direction. Kenan placed the kettle and resumed his seat, leaning an elbow on one armrest. "You said there were ballads in it," she said, with interest, "I don't know anything about Karsite heroes. Could you…" she paused, trailing off.

Kenan laughed and got up again, retrieving the book. He opened it carefully, and hesitated at the first page. Kamaria could see something written there, but refrained from trying to peek. "It's been a while since I got to look at one of these," her teacher said, riffling the pages until he got about three quarters of the way through the book, "But I think the ballads start around here." He started turning pages one at a time, speaking as he searched. "The first part of the book is a history, slightly more detailed than most, but I think part of the reason for its rarity is because it isn't terribly useful to us because much of the history seems to be irrelevant, so we never bothered to make copies…ah. Here's the first one."

Kamaria settled back in her seat as Kenan began to read from the book, starting by setting the ballad in a historical context, then moving on to the verses. The occasional odd turn of phrase told Kamaria that the translator had been more familiar with the Karsite language than her own, but the verses were entrancing…

She and Kenan both became so involved that the shriek of the kettle as the water boiled made both of them jump.

That was a very, very fun chapter to write. Although the sudden student-teacher dynamic at the end startled me. I hadn't expected that terribly much.

Still. Kenan's a good character, and quite fun to write!

So! I actually don't have much more to say, although if you have questions for me about the characters-brothers, sisters, favorite colors, etc-I'll answer them, or try to work them into the next few chapters, if you like.