A/N: I'm a huge fan of Kel/Roald and first thousand times reading the books there were chunks missing here and there so I wanted to expand on those while manipulating the storyline to give me a Kel/Roald story. I'm going to try and stick as close to canon. It's going to start with Page and probably run all the way through Squire and maybe Lady Knight; I really haven't decided how far I wanted to take this.
I'm also gonna try and do highlights on some of my favorite and neglected characters.
Re-writes started Dec. 25th 2013; Still after all these years unbeta'd. I doubt my English has improved any.
Chapter 1: Welcome Home
Kel groaned as she pushed herself up slowly from the ground, her arms trembling with the effort. She blew air out between her clenched teeth as she straightened her arms and locked them, wondering if she had done enough of her exercises to make up for her laziness the evening before. She had to do something to keep her moving or she felt she was going to go a little mad. While she was content in solitude the days were dragging on a little too quietly for her. At least tonight would be the last night of waiting. Kel had arrived a few days before most of the pages would be making their way back to the grounds, but the rest should return by tonight, or at the very least sometime in the next morning. Tomorrow their second year officially started. Her first year as an official page.
She had yet to see Neal or any of her other friends, other than a brief glimpse of the Prince of course, and hoped that she would get to see them all during the evening meal after they picked first year's to sponsor. Her friends would make wonderful sponsors, after all she'd gotten to see the experience first hand. She'd already decided that she wasn't going on. Her reputation preceded her, and even without that mark she couldn't imagine what type of shame some kid might get from having a girl as their sponsor. Kel had imagined a lot of bullying in that boy's future. Let others handle showing the ropes.
With a deep breath, making sure she stretched as she inhaled, she stood up and wiped the sweat from her forehead, pushing the bangs that were stuck against it, back. Her hair had grown out almost to her shoulders since she'd last cut it and made a mental note to get that done as soon as possible. Summer hadn't been the best for long hair anyway but her training had kept her busy. Kel rolled her shoulders back, feeling them pop and crunch loudly as she stripped off her clothes. The benefit of practicing her muscle strengthening exercises in her room was that she could head straight to the bath. She'd requested one and done her last set as she let it cool. A hot bath would've made her dizzy. Despite it being Autumn the wind was lacking and the sun was determined to cling to the last feelings of Summer. Even if her aching muscles would've appreciated the warmth Kel worried that she would've stumbled out of the bath into an ungraceful heap on the floor.
Kel soaked in the bath until it turned completely cold, the sun already starting to set, her body chilling. The bell was about to ring for the last meal of the day. For a second, Kel contemplated not going, she was quite comfortable. It wasn't as if she had to attend anyway, these meals were not mandatory so no one would care if she showed up late or at all. She let herself idle in the bath for a few more minutes before she scrubbed herself thoroughly clean and stood up and out of the bath. After drying herself off she got dressed, she'd already picked out a cream color dress with the edges embroidered with green thread.
The door closed behind her with a resounding clack and she turned to twist her key in and whisper to it, making sure no unwanted guests could enter. She didn't even manage to turn around before she felt a friendly punch to her shoulder. "Kel!"
She smiled, "Welcome back, you look like you've added a few inches."
Merric shrugged and leaned back, puffing his chest out a bit, "I wouldn't know about that, and anyway, I'd rather be at home if it's all the same." He continued to tell her that he'd only arrived a few hour and had yet to find anyone else.
"I'm assuming your summer went very well then?" The two of them began to walk towards the dinning hall. It was going to be nice to have company.
"Hot and stuffy, but at least if I avoided the right people I'd get around to having some snoozing time," he said with a grin, "my father stressed the point that I needed to keep up my training a little too much for comfort. I'm not going to be getting away with any of that here."
Kel hid her grin behind a stoic, understanding face. Her mother had make sure that during the family she didn't slack on her training as well, but for her it hadn't been forced. Instead it had been a welcomed refresher. "Is Faleron here yet?" she asked, remembering that they were related by blood.
"He should already be here, actually. King's Reach is closer to the castle than Hollyrose," Merric commented as they entered the hall that led tot he dinning room. There they would wait for the pages to gather until the last of the new arrivals had come. Sponsorship picks would occur after. Those who arrived late would be dealt with separately.
Cleon found the two of them after some searching, bidding a quick farewell to friends he'd been talking to in his own year. Spotting Kel, and knowing while he couldn't make her run errands for him anymore, he smiled. He could still have fun teasing her, trying to see if he could managed to get some type of reaction; he could consider himself accomplished if he did.
"Who should be here? Kel! My pearl, the sunshine in life. My summer days have been so dark and empty without your glowing presence to warm them." Kel turned around to see Cleon giving her a mock bow.
"I'm sure you had a candle or two to keep you company," Merric said as he elbowed Cleon, making him wince and stand up. The two boys tussled around for a bit.
"Ruffians! The lot of you," a husky voice exclaimed from behind them. "Barbarians. I had hoped that your families might've beaten that out of you through the summer months."
Neal stepped nexto to Kel and bumped her slightly as a hello. She grinned up at him, shocked that while he'd grown she seemed to be gaining on him as well. She bumped back into him and Neal briefly rested a warm palm on her shoulder.
"Too much brain and no brawn makes for a coward," Faleron commented stepping out of the gathering crowd.
"You look well," Kel said and smiled moving forward to greet her friend.
"I look tired, the ride wasn't an easy one."
The boys exchanged greetings and swapped small stories of their summers as they waited for the new pages to arrive. The doors creaked open and they hushed. A line of shy, small, looking boys (many sneaking wide eyed glances at each other), marched through the large double doors. Some were swallowing nervously as they looked around the room. Most of that faded into poorly concealed shock as they eventually found her, with her long flowing dress. Lord Wyldon walked in after them, letting the doors slam shut with a loud bang that send the first years jitering and jumping. All but one, a plump boy who continued to stare at the room in awe.
"Name and fief; we will have a senior page be appointed to you to show you the ground," Lord Wyldon said, his voice echoing off the walls. He pointed to the first boy in line.
"Owen of Jesslaw!" the boy bellowed out, a big grin on his face. There was a small pause as the older pages took in the young boy.
Neal leaned over to whisper in her ear, "That grin's not going to last very long here."
Kel spoke back just as quietly, a smile in her tone, "This place hasn't seemed to dampen yours."
"I will sponsors him." The crowed parted as Prince Roald stepped forward. Kel hadn't even noticed him joining the knot of pages. Not that it surprised her. He wasn't a very big fan of attention. What did impress her was the almost carefree way the young boy, she'd forgotten his name already, had walked up to the prince. Putting him out of her mind for the time being so continued to watch the selection of pages. Neal, Cleon, and Merric also stepped forward and chose to sponsor a boy.
Just as her stomach was about to start protesting in the most hideous of ways, the selection process was over and they were herded towards the dinning hall. The mass of boys rushed forward, all hungry and wanting to sink their teeth into something with substance. Prince Roald held his sponsored page back as he waited for the mass of boys to pass and thin out. It didn't make sense to get trampled. Kel and her group pushed forward.
"Prince Roald," she said with a short bow and smile. The older boy made a small face at the 'prince' but let it slide, bowing a small greeting in return.
He smiled, "Glad to you see you back with us. Has Seaver arrived yet?"
"Haven't seen him- now let's goo~, we can catch up later," Merric nearly whined as he attempted to push Neal and Cleon's towering forms into the rush in the hall. The prince gave a half nod to Kel and smiled, before turning and walking with the rest of the group, listening to Owen's cheerful chants of 'Food! Food! Food!' They sat down at a table in the back, where they were least likely to get bothered. They walked to the lines of food in turns, making sure that someone was always at the table to claim it for them.
"So, Nealan, did you romance yourself any new women over the summer?" Cleon teased as they sat down after the conversation had briefly turned to who all they'd already seen at the castle. Daine had been mentioned much to Neal's chagrin.
"Actually, yes," Neal said with a dignified huff, blowing into his soup briefly before diving into his food with vigor.
"Yes, but there's a difference between staring after her and her knowing you exist," one of the new pages mumbled, surprising everyone by talking but getting the intended laugh out of the group anyway. Kel smiled into her own bowl of soup as Neal sputtered.
"And to think I tried to be kind and sponsor you," Neal muttered into his spoon with an eye roll.
"Probably did him more harm than good," Kel pointed out, "it does not do well to be sponsored by someone at the bottom of Lord Wyldon's list."
Neal huffed a but but grinned at her. "Oh but my fair Keladry, you are wrong on one count. I've been usurped! I believe a certain lady page holds that most coveted position these days."
The boys laughed and Kel shook her head, grinning with them. The prince turned to look at her with a shake of his own head. She was truly a welcomed change, and not simply because interesting to talk to. Her experience abroad alone made her one of the most valuable peers he had ever come across. He was well aware of what the treaty with the Yamani Islands meant for his future; it was an honor to be friends with someone who had been immersed in the culture first hand. She was also easy to talk to because she wasn't like the usual female companions that he was introduced to. It gave him a strange sense of ease to know that she wasn't interested in anything but conversation when they talked. He didn't blame the other girls, of course not, they'd been trained by practically a script. It didn't stop Kel's friendship from being a breath of fresh air.
Kel looked up as she felt eyes on her, tilting her head in question. Roald shook his head, "You've grown again," he commented simply, "soon enough you'll be taller than Cleon." She made a face and turned to the older boy, who had stopped to stare at them with food half hanging from his mouth once he'd heard his name
"Oh gods I hope not," Kel said with an easy smile, leaving Cleon confused.
Later during the meal, Esmond joined them having arrived late and barely catching himself a plate of food as the cooks began packing away the trays. He'd dropped onto the bench with a grateful sigh, muttering a 'hello' as he inhaled his food. Kel listened to the chatter for a bit longer before excusing herself. She was still sore and the hard bench wasn't helping. She felt guilty for wanting maybe an hour more to relax her muscles before the hard work began but her aching body agreed with the early bed time. Neal offered to walk with her but she shook her head and told him that she would be fine. She didn't have younger pages to show to their rooms. She bid her friends good night and after crawling into bed fell asleep almost immediately.
A/N: * Updated ; Originally this story was published Nov. 10th 2008, I got 9 chapters in before I lost steam and then lost my book. Well, guess who got First Test, Page, and Squire for Christmas? (Of course, right as I asked for them my mother went through my old room to pack the last of it up in storage and found The First Test and Page) . So I'll be starting to write this again, if only a little.
Original authors notes may or may not be made available, haven't decided yet. But probably not seeing as I can't copy paste off of anymore and the original files for this story are long long long gone. But hey, for those of you who've hit met up on tumblr asking me to continue, here we are. :)