Kel woke up slowly, feeling empty but well rested. Lalasa had let her sleep late so she had no time for her glaive practice. She still had a few minutes left and was just slipping on a tunic when someone knocked on her door.
She swung it wide to admit a very awake Neal. He looked like he hadn't gotten more than an hour or two of sleep, his hair was disheveled and his tunic hung crookedly, despite the shabby appearance, Neal's eyes didn't look tired. Kel waved him in and he sat on her bed while she cleaned her teeth.
"So what brings you here, Neal?"
He smiled, "So I've lost the right to escort my best friend to breakfast?" She laughed and he savored the delicate noise. "Seriously though, I wanted to make sure you were ok, after yesterday and all."
She sat next to him on the bed, "I really don't know what I feel. I still don't like Joren, don't worry about that!" she told Neal's incredulous look, "I'm just confused about him lately, trying to be nice to us..." she shrugged. "And then," she blushed, "his touching me. I never want to be that helpless again.
Neal hugged her tight and she gave him a small, reassuring grin, "Just as long as you're not horribly scarred from that truly traumatic experience." He joked dramatically. He held her tucked under his chin for a few moments longer than necessary, but Kel didn't object. Finally he released her, "Come on, let's eat."
She slid her tray in next to Neal and noticed all of her friends watching her. She had enough time to say, "I'm fine, guys." before Lord Wyldon began the prayer.
After the ritual "So mote," from the pages Wyldon scanned the crowd; seeing Kel he said, "Page Keladry will report to me after her meal is finished."
Her friends let the hum of conversation rise before besieging Kel with questions, completely ignoring Neal's orders from last night and the glares he was shooting at them now.
Before she answered their questions she turned to Neal, "What did you tell them to make them this concerned over me?"
That's not fair, Kel!" Owen interjected, "We're your friends too!"
Kel just blinked, "It honestly wasn't that bad, I'm fine." She lifted her arms and rolled up her sleeves, "See? No bruises, cuts, or bodily harm in general, I'm fine." She gave a look to Neal, clearly warning him to tell no more. Kel wasn't sure if she wanted to tell her story again, not even to her closest friends.
She finished the rest of her food quickly and went to stand in front of Lord Wyldon, avoiding Joren's passing smirk and kept her eyes focused on her training master.
He wiped his mouth, "Page Keladry, you missed supper last night, please explain your absence to me."
Kel was deciding which lie to tell, but settled on the truth or part of it anyways, "I was working on my fear of heights, milord."
He raised a brow, "Is that all that happened? Nothing else at all, Mindelan?"
"That's all I did, milord, I just lost track of time."
"Very well, I commend you on working to rid yourself of your fears. You are dismissed, Page Keladry."
She bowed, "Thank you, milord." And she walked out of the hallway. Neal met her and walked with her to grab her training harness before weapons practice began.
The morning was going smoothly until staff practice, "Queenscove, Hollyrose; Nicoline, Marti's Hill; Mindelan, Stone Mountain. Get working!" Kel froze, either the gods were playing a horrible trick or Wyldon knew more than she thought.
Stiffly she walked in front of Joren; he still had a sneer on his face. No emotions showed that he remembered yesterday. This round began as her first with Joren had; he acted polite, exerting no unnecessary force. That is, until he realized she was afraid. He waited until Wyldon was walking in the opposite direction and Ezeko was correcting a first year's grip before making his move.
Joren gave a haunting, monstrous grin before speeding his staff into a blur, not caring whether he hit wood or flesh. When they reached the barn this time, it was Kel who was in trouble. He forced her against the wall as he had the day before.
"Well, well, Mindelan. Look at the position I've got you in." Joren said, repeating the same foul words from the day before. The mocking gleam was still in his eye as he swung his staff around, hitting her temple squarely, and blacking her out once more.
"Kel!" Neal yelled when he saw her fall. The boys look down the line, but the pair was missing. Following Neal's gaze they saw Joren standing over her as the rest of her body hit the ground.
Wyldon ran over, closely followed by her friends. Neal knelt before her, checking her pulse and then probing his Gift into her. He grimaced, "Kel's skull is cracked, we have to take her to my father."
Wyldon nodded, "Do so." He watched Neal pick her up carefully and run quickly towards the infirmary. He glanced coldly at Joren, "Stone Mountain, follow me immediately." He set off towards the palace, leaving the class, except those three members in shock.
Sergeant Ezeko glanced at Wyldon's retreating form. "Back to work, back in your lines!" he yelled, "If someone is injured in battle, the action doesn't stop! Immortals won't care if your friend falls in the front line!"
Merric nudged Owen and whispered, "But friends will."
"What could have possessed you, Stone Mountain, to attack a page so ruthlessly?" Lord Wyldon was trying to keep his voice calm, seeing Joren's coolness did not help him.
"Sir, I-" Joren tried to cut in.
"I am not finished, Stone Mountain. In cold blood, unprovoked in any way, your actions as a squire to the Crown are inexcusable."
"Unprovoked? I was provoked sir! Do you think it fair for a woman to let herself become a knight? She is out of place, out of line. She has no more right to be here than a commoner."
A vein began to pulse in Wyldon's forehead, "in what ways is she unworthy? She has proven herself, has bested even you on many occasions, in academic and fieldwork.
Joren struggled for a fault, any idea that was wrong with her. 'Damn her, she has none; wait...' it clicked. Heights, yesterday, the kiss! "Remember that she is female, I have seen her flirting amongst her friends milord-"
"Have you actually sat and heard the words come from her lips? None of the boys I have seen are infatuated with her."
"But Lord Wyldon!" Joren said, spreading his arms wide in what he hoped to be an innocent looking gesture, "My lord, I haven't heard the words come from her lips, but Keladry of Mindelan kissed me! Am I supposed to let this injustice run free?" He smirked; Wyldon was eating it all up.
The training master had gone slightly pale, Joren knew that he respected Keladry now, as a warrior and a woman, but the rules were clear. She had to be kicked out, for the life of him, Joren could not help grinning, the Lump would finally be gone from a kiss that he had given!
"Report to me after dinner from your punishment work, Stone Mountain." Joren bowed, any punishment Wyldon could think of had no effect on his mood; the Lump would be gone at last!
Once Joren had gone Wyldon sighed, and shook his head. He didn't believe that Keladry would, or could, kiss a boy, especially Joren. She was too obsessed with her training to give most boys a second glance. He sank into a chair for a moment before scowling deeply. Then he got up to leave for the infirmary, whether or not he had to dismiss her, Wyldon was going to make sure The Girl would be alright.
Kel groaned, her head felt like it was on fire, she opened her eyes but the effect was dizzying.
"Keladry?" That was Duke Baird, he put a hand behind her back and lifted her up so she could sit, "Can you open you eyes?" he asked gently.
She obeyed but her ears buzzed and her stomach plummeted. Seeing she was about to throw up he quickly handed her a bowl and moved out of the way.
She was lying back down when Wyldon came in. "What time is it?" she asked the healer.
"It is time for you to return to your rooms." Wyldon answered. Kel sat up, opening her eyes again. Duke Baird knew what was coming and slid another bowl onto her lap. Kel threw up again, violently.
Once she had finished Wyldon helped her lay down again. "Gods, Mindelan, how hard did he hit you?" Wyldon looked worried, there was no visible sign of the wound and yet she was acting like she was in horrible condition.
"I don't know sir." Kel answered honestly, "I just remember being backed against the wall, Joren saying what he did yesterday, and missing the block." She was starting to sound hazy again and before Wyldon could inquire about what Joren had said, she was asleep once more.
Lord Wyldon looked at Baird, "Do you know what she meant by, 'Joren saying the same thing as yesterday?'"
Baird just shrugged, "I don't know, Neal possibly might, he is her best friend."
Neal was in his mages class with Numair and as much as he loved his magic he couldn't concentrate; he was too worried about Kel. His mind kept flashing back to how worried she looked and he kept cursing himself for not noticing Joren's attack sooner. He was pulled abruptly from his thoughts when Lord Wyldon entered the room.
The two conversed for a minute then Numair beckoned, "Page Nealan, Lord Wyldon would like a word."
Neal waited until the door was closed behind them before speaking, "How's Kel?"
Wyldon watched Neal's face, "How did you know that I wanted to talk about that?"
"One-" he held up a finger for each, "she was just severely injured; Two-you looked worried about it; Three-I'm not your favorite, so you usually don't drop by to chat. Now, how's Kel?"
"She'll live, but that's not what I want to discuss." Wyldon shifted, looking uncomfortable.
"Oh?" Neal couldn't help it, this was too funny, "Pray tell, your worship, sir."
"Do not test me now, Nealan of Queenscove." Wyldon squared his shoulders, "What happened between Mindelan and Stone Mountain yesterday?"
Neal froze, 'How did he know about that?' taking a breath he said, "Nothing, milord."
Wyldon didn't look convinced, "I haven't ever seen her look as scared as when Joren backed her against that wall, Queenscove. She also mentioned something about what he said yesterday. I am not as dense as you may think."
With that said, Neal felt guilty. He ducked his head and began the story, "Well, Kel went to work on her fear of heights, you see, and Joren followed her. He started berating her about being female. Saying that she should get married and saying that women are weak. But then he insulted one of us, one of her friends, I mean, and they fought."
Neal was growing angrier, the rage at Kel's injustice and his new feelings for her made him look into Lord Wyldon's eyes as he finished. "He backed her against a wall and trapped her."
"Was that why she was so scared today?" Wyldon looked tense, as if his sanity was depending on how this story would turn out.
"Yes... Joren kissed her." Neal wrung his hands, he was longing to hurt Joren badly.
The training master went pale, he knew there must have been more to the story than this. The rules were clear, though. They stated that any feelings or circumstances like that happening, and Keladry would have to go; Probationary Page or not.
"Keladry must be dismissed." He said simply, after thinking over the consequences in silence.
"What? Milord, that's not fair!" Neal was rigid, "It was all Joren's fault!"
"I know, Queenscove, but the rules were changed when Keladry came. They say any circumstances like this and The Girl is out."
"And what about Joren, does he even get punishment for it? No! Just because he's a boy! Kel basically gets raped and you're standing here saying that she's the guilty one! You're basically patting Joren on the back!" Neal was yelling, not caring whether the whole class of mages could hear him. The Stump had gone too far now, kicking Kel out for getting kissed by someone.
Wyldon looked confused, like he was trying to add up what had been said. "Raped?" was all he managed to croak.