Five Things That Never Happened to Kalasin of Conté

I.

Duke Baird of Queenscove shook his head as he straightened and turned to the King. "I'm sorry, your Majesty, but it doesn't look like she has the Gift."

Jonathan frowned, disappointed and trying to hide it. "Are you sure?" he asked. "The Gift runs strong in the Conté line, and –"

"I'm afraid not," the Chief Healer replied. He turned back to the five-year-old, now being hugged by her mother, who was reassuring her that it was nothing to be ashamed about. "The Gift awakens late in some people," he said gently. "Maybe in a few years time…"

Kalasin said nothing, her face buried in her mother's shoulder. Roald had the Gift when he was five. So did his father. And his father before him.

She felt tears sting her eyes, but she refused to cry.

II.

The white flag was flapping in the cold sea breeze. Kalasin and Roald stood on the battlements of the Swoop, keeping a lookout for the pirates. Not that they were likely to shoot their prize. Not when they'd already surrendered.

Thayet was saying goodbye to Alanna and George. "There's no other option," she said as she hugged two of her longest friends.

Alanna tried to plead with her one last time. "Thayet, listen. Once they have you, they'll ransom you off to Ozorne, at best, and attack the Swoop anyway. You're walking into a trap."

"Sometimes that's the only thing left for us to do," Thayed replied sadly.

As a non-combatant, Thom was not supposed to be on the battlements; however, he had managed to scramble up the stairs and after that, no one had tried to stop him. He now stood opposite Kalasin and Roald, the strong wind whipping about black and red hair alike. "You two are the best friends I've ever had in my life," Thom told the two siblings sincerely. He hesitated, and asked haltingly, "Do you think we'll ever see each other again?"

Kalasin blinked back tears. "I don't know."

There was a pause. Then Roald finished her thought aloud. "I don't think so."

III.

Blood was already soaking through the makeshift bandage onto the white sheets. The soldier, fighting to keep his voice calm, told her how he had been shot in the chest by a Scanran archer, the barbed head hooking in his flesh as one of his comrades pulled it out.

Kalasin listened intently, then nodded and touched a finger to the man's temples. He slumped back down into the pillows, his face easing into a more peaceful expression, and she got to work. Quickly, she peeled back the bandage, calling for another healer to get a basin of water. She carefully washed out the wound, picking out any remaining thread with a pair of tweezers.

She reached for her magic and let it sink into the exposed flesh, knitting the broken skin together as best as she could and flushing out any infection building up in the wound. Kalasin would have liked to do more, but time was running out, and so was her magic, so instead she simply smeared antiseptic over the wound and rebound it.

She cast one last look over her work. The bandage was loose; she should have bound it tighter – careless, careless – but it was the best she could do in these circumstances. She washed her hands of blood and moved onto the next patient.

Being chief healer was hard work.

IV.

"I was wondering if you would like to be my squire."

Kalasin stared at Raoul in astonishment.

Seeing the surprise in her eyes, Raoul backtracked. "That is, of course, if someone hasn't already asked you – oof –" He was cut off when Kalasin threw herself at him in an enthusiastic hug.

"I'd love to be your squire!" Kalasin beamed at Raoul, who was looking a little embarrassed. Then she suddenly remembered the correct protocol for this situation and hastily disentangled herself from him, backing away several paces so she could bow properly. "I mean, I'd be honoured, my lord."

Roald laughed. "We'll make a knight of you yet, Kalasin."

V.

They broke camp near dawn, taking down hastily erected tents (consisting of a basically stick, a few stones and a piece of oiled canvas) and rolling them into bundles and saddlebags. They'd only had a few hours of rest and Kalasin was exhausted – they all were – but as Evin reminded them, Gret was not going to wait for them to catch up so he could be hauled off to face royal justice.

Kalasin strapped her tent bundle onto her pony and mounted up with the rest of the Rider Group, checking her weapons as she did so. She slid her quiver onto her back, checking her arrows as she did so. Ten left. Enough, she hoped, to last the rest of this expedition. Her dagger was nicked, but there was no time to fix it now. Her hands fell to her sword. It was in desperate need of cleaning, but was still sharp, so Kalasin sheathed the blade and nudged her pony into line.

From his position at the head of the line, Evin wheeled his pony round to face his Seventh Rider Group. "Well, dear friends," he announced, flourishing his arm dramatically for effect, "Let us continue the chase!"

Kalasin smiled at the groans of her fellow Riders, and followed.

end