A/N: Here we go. Kel is still stationed on the Scanran border at the fort that will come to be known as Giantkiller as soon as Raoul leaves to take Kel to Corus.
Kel was slowly making her way to the practice area with her sword at her hip, hoping she wouldn't run into anyone she knew. All too soon, she heard a commotion behind her. As she turned and looked for the disturbance, she saw Dom's head between the other soldiers of the Own, his height setting him apart. She grimaced and ducked back into the milling crowd, quickening her pace. Though generally Kel would be delighted to see Dom's handsomely charming self, she couldn't wait to escape her current pursuant and makeshift jailer. Ducking through squads, Kel hoped she wouldn't stand out too much. However, it seemed that may have been a little too much to hope for, as Dom soon caught up wither her. She once again cursed the horse blood that ran in his family. Neal was ridiculously difficult to evade as well.
Dom had been the one that was most insistent that she get enough rest and healing. Normally she wouldn't be so opposed to this, but she had been in bed for most of the day before, and at least half of today. This was the first escape from the healer's quarters, and she wasn't even close to ready to give up her hard-won freedom yet.
Breathing slightly harder than she would have wished, Kel started the argument she knew was coming with, "Dom, I think I know whether or not I am able to practice. My shoulder really doesn't hurt much. "
"So you admit that it does hurt. Kel, you had a barbed bolt lodged three inches in your shoulder, barely missing major arteries and you still lost way too much blood. You don't think it's a big deal?" Dom asked, his voice steadily rising. "You were laid up for a day and a half. I don't think I've ever seen you that badly hurt before. Raoul was fit to be tied. I don't think I've seen him that worried either."
"I had worse after Yamani raiders got me and Mama, Dom. There's a reason I know how much her fan hurts when I fight the healers." Kel replied sensibly. She really didn't know what the big deal was. Her Yamani trainers had been just as adamant about not receiving much time off, and they hadn't received any healing.
"Yes, but you don't know how worried I was. How worried we all were." he quickly amended. "I've never seen you that pale before. Not even when you had the beastly little Griffin."
"That little monster dug a piece out of my heart. Of course he didn't hurt me that badly." Dom scoffed when he thought of the tiny terror, but refrained from commenting.
"Whatever. The point," he returned, "Is that you shouldn't be training. Maybe some light jogging, and a pattern dance. Or that terribly frightening fan game. You should not be practicing all out with any live weapons."
"The healer said I should be able to use my own judgement, Dom. And now I'm judging that I'm as fit as I can hope to be from here on out."
"Kel," Dom said, thoroughly frustrated, "he only said that on the assumption that you weren't stark raving mad and as tolerant to pain as a Yamani berserker. Go back to the healer's quarters."
"Dom, if I have to sit around and listen to men talk about ladies for any longer I'm going to tear my hair out. I want to do something. Most of the time, I love the Queen's Ladies. Having your men substitute for them just isn't the same though," she added with a grin.
Dom laughed, though he had to admit that Kel made a decent point. "Fine, woman," he grumbled. "Name your price for cooperation."
"Find me something to do. Or a sparring partner. Either will work."
"uh... uhmmm... what about..." Caught off guard, Dom could really do nothing but stammer and try to remember his earlier suggestions. "The Fan!"
"You want me to stand by myself and just toss the fan over and over? How interesting.
After thinking for a minute, Dom voiced a very brave suggestion, "You could teach me how to play. Well... not just me. I'll blackmail some of the others to learn as well."
Giggling, Kel replied, "I'm sure at least I'll find it incredibly amusing."
After he sighed and nodded Kel said, "We'll work on the throw first." She began think of somewhere public where Dom and the others would be at their best advantage. And where it would be painfully obvious that they were learning a game all Yamani girls knew by the time they were six. Once she made it back to her rooms with Mother Dom in tow, she grabbed her two silk shukusen and sent Dom to round up his fellow victims, er... she meant learning companions.
She also stopped by the healer's to see if he could do something about the sharp edges of the fan since the men would hurt themselves if it wasn't dulled.
Kel ended up bribing one of third company's mages into putting a thin barrier around the sharp edges of the fans so none of the men would maim themselves. Blunt force trauma to the head, perhaps, but they would all keep their fingers.
Dom had gotten three men from his squad, as well as Learant, two men from Qasim's squad and Sergeant Osbern. Eight was enough that they wouldn't be ridiculed alone. Plus, there really wasn't much else to do around the fort but train and play practical jokes.
After the men had assembled, Kel began her lesson.
"First," she began, snapping open one of the fans and tossing it up into the air, "you need to work out the timing of the flips." She caught the base neatly in her hand. "I want you all to count how many times the fan flips in the air before I catch it."
She threw it again, and the men realized that this may be slightly more complicated than they had previously thought. Only a few of them got the number of flips right the first time, and that was more luck than anything.
"Ok, that may not work," she said, sighing, and then flipped the fan just once. Then twice. Then three times. "We'll be starting small. You hold the fan like so, with the base settled firmly in one palm," She demonstrated, and the men peered closely at her hand...
three hours later...
Though the men weren't yet good at throwing the fan, all of them could go around the circle with it. They were by no means as graceful as Yamani ladies, but they had potential. Kel decided to show off a little.
"I'm going to call this lesson over for a while, but you can use a dagger to practice the timing of the flips. The weight is a little different, but it's better than nothing and I only have these two fans with me."
She then had a mage remove the blunted edges and demonstrated how the fan was similar to a dagger by throwing it towards the barracks wall. The men laughed as it tumbled prettily towards the barracks, but stopped laughing when it buried itself an inch into the wood, point first.
"This only affirms that I never want you angry with me," Dom commented, and all the others rushed to agree.
It was nearing the first of September, and the weather was cooling off. Scanran attacks grew fewer and farther between. After two weeks of sporadic lessons, the men were getting quite good at fan toss, and Kel decided to increase the difficulty by changing the rules to where you could throw to anyone in the circle. Soon they joined the two circles and had both fans going at once in a larger circle. Everything was going well until two visiting rider groups stopped by the fort one night in August. The girls in one of the groups teased the men for learning a Yamani girl's game, and the men, with their honor at stake, challenged them to a game.
The rules were essentially if you dropped the fan or sent it badly, then you were out. The first group to lose all of their members lost.
A few of the riders did indeed know how to play, and the competitions ensued. After the Own decisively won the challenge, all of the Riders had joined in the spirit of things, as did many more of the Own. A few more challenges were issued, and the riders then won archery and the Own won wrestling. They moved from wrestling to loud, drunken stories over dinner, and only realized in the morning just how much they had to drink, and probably how loud they were. There were also a few blank spots in various memories, but not many of the men were going to bring that one up.
Raoul stumbled out into the dewey air that next morning, not having been able to sleep well due to the noise. As he made it out to the stables, he came across a large group of riders and King's own. "Hello, law abiding citizens," he began cheerfully as his eyes first fell on the riders. As his gaze shifted to the men of the Own he grumpily tacked on, "...marginally law abiding citizens," and then his eyes fell on Dom, "… citizen." He nearly growled, a low rumbling coming from the back of his throat, "Do you realize that you are one of the main reasons I couldn't sleep last night?"
Dom gulped, paled, and nearly choked on what he was trying to say. "How do you mean, sir?" He asked, unwilling to say much since he definitely wasn't the only who was making noise.
"That blasted fan game. If you had just left well enough alone, then you wouldn't be playing that game, and then we wouldn't have had those ridiculous challenges last night. And then you all would have gone to bed at a reasonable hour. Like the reasonable people I was under the obviously mistaken impression you were. Dom just grinned at that.
"You should blame your squire for that one sir. She was trying to spar as soon as she was up out of the healer's area, and I had to distract her somehow. I figured learning the fan would keep her occupied long enough."
"Plus sir, " one of the men piped up, "It's fun."
"I know, and it's wicked dangerous," another added. "Have you seen Kel throw that thing?"
Raoul just shook his head. Apparently his entire company had gone mad. He would also have to ask Kel if he could have a look at those fans. He had never seen one up close. They couldn't be that dangerous if the Yamanis let children play with them. Well, they probably weren't that dangerous. At least the Riders and the Own were getting along. Quite often the Own's ego got in the way of anything they tried to do. Perhaps invisible barriers really were falling between everyone. Perhaps it was just Kel though. She seemed to open people up to new experiences all the time.
"Kel, how on earth did you convince my men to learn to use the shukusen?" They were in Kel's attached rooms one afternoon, doing lessons, and Raoul sensed that it would be a good time to ask. He rubbed the back of his neck looking confused, while Kel only laughed. "At first, they did it to keep me from re-injuring myself, but I persuaded them that it wouldn't be a waste of their time to learn."
"How did you do that? I know most of them realize it's viewed as a lady's weapon."
"Well, after we had finished the first day, I got Torrin to take all of the protections off of the edges and showed them how effective it could be." Kel laughed, as she hefted the fan in her belt. She had taken to carrying one with her at all times since the games had begun. It was too much of a hassle to run and get one every time someone wanted to play a game.
"Would I be able to take a look at it? I've seen them before, but I haven't held one."
"Of course, sir," Kel said, as she unclipped the fan from her belt. They made their way outside, and Kel placed the dull base in his palm. Unprepared for the weight, Raoul nearly dropped the fan. "You'll want to be careful, sir, " Kel continued. "Most people don't realize it's as sharp as a live sword."
Much more carefully than he had previously, Raoul inspected what he was holding. It was a piece of fine tempered Yamani steel, resplendent with the blue waves that indicated the steel was of the highest quality. He tested the blade on a few hairs, and whistled when they split easily.
"What exactly did you do to convince the men that this was not a waste of their time?" Kel just laughed and told Raoul to pick a target. He pointed to a spot about fifteen feet away on the stockade wall, and when Kel hit the target accurately with the fan, he just whistled.
"Most Tortallans don't realize that the Yamanis have a warrior culture, and everyone in it is able to fight. Noble girls and commoners alike learn to thrown these by the time they're eight, and then they're given live ones like mine. If a noblewoman feels threatened, she will wear at least one shukusen, rather than a regular fan. It is as much a weapon as a dagger."
Shaking his head, Raoul ruefully admitted that he had much to learn about Kel. And about Yamanis too probably.
"What I intended to tell you though, before all of this started, was that you need to think about heading back to Corus. Winter is nearly upon us."
Kel looked at him in confusion, and Raoul nearly laughed when she didn't remember. "Why would it matter if winter is here?" She asked blankly.
"Midwinter is a rather important time for you, I believe," he said, teasing. "Although I will gladly welcome you into the Own if you chose, I think the realm needs you more as a knight." Kel blushed when she realized that time had flown by without her notice. She was at home here, and the Own was like family. A strange, rowdy family, but family nonetheless.
"Of course, milord. When do you want to start the travel?"
Kel was happy here on the border, but it had been a long time away from her friends and family in the capital.
A/N: I borrowed the 'Law abiding citizens' line from another fanfic. I can't remember where I read it, but it stuck in my mind well enough that I wanted to put it in my fic. I think it was a Naruto one (perhaps Harry Potter as well), so if anyone out there knows where the line comes from, I would be much obliged if you would mention it.