A/N I found this story,
it's one I wrote a while ago, but I though I'd put it up anyway. If you like it
I'll be very happy, and if you don't, tell me why. Please. Well, I own nothing,
and I'm not making any money out of it, so leave me be! Before I even start, I
wanna thank Words of Wonder for all her support. Her fics are 1000 times better
than mine, and yet she still encourages me. Well, Here ya go, and tell me what
Kel sat down on her bed, and idly pounded her fist against the mattress. Neal had fallen in love with another girl. This time, it was Kel's sister, Oranie. Adalia was already betrothed, but so far Orie wasn't. She was at court, looking for a husband. Kel sighed. She didn't think Neal would ever fall for her the way he did for the court beauties. It was true that Orie was beautiful. She was slender and medium height.
Orie had noticed Neal as well. She had asked Kel who the oldest squire was. Kel and all of the other first-year squires were fifteen, but Neal was older, twenty. And Orie was nineteen. What if…
Kel was interrupted in that line of thought, by a knock on her door. Opening it, she found Iden and Warric standing there. They were second- years, and had brought with them some of the new first years. Seeing that they had all brought staffs, Kel sighed inside. She really didn't need this right now. Leaving the door open, she put on a smile, and said, "Come in."
Iden said," Kel," but Kel broke him off.
"Yes, I'll help." She didn't let her unwillingness show in her voice. She walked over to where she kept her staff, and began to help them with their staff fighting. It was slow work. With Lalasa there it was easier, but Lalasa had left soon after Kel became a squire. She had her own dressmaking shop now. As she looked up from correcting a first year' grip, she saw Cleon poke his head in through the door.
Before he could retreat, she ordered, "Come and help." He looked at her uncertainly, but she shot a pleading look at him. To Kel's surprise, he actually did come in and help. She had thought he would flee. Well, she certainly wasn't going to refuse his help!
1 They worked for half an hour, helping the first years' grips and stances. When they left, Cleon and Kel were left alone in the room.
"Thanks!" Kel said. "It's much harder without Lalasa's help."
"Why'd they come here?" Cleon asked.
"Iden and Warric came for help when they were first-years. I helped them, and now I get to help everyone else as well." Cleon's eyes widened in surprise. Kel smiled ruefully. "I told them I was happy to help." Cleon laughed at this.
"So, are you coming to the study group?" he asked. Kel frowned and looked down. "No-one's chosen you for a squire yet?" he asked softly. Kel shook her head.
"It's not fair!" she burst out suddenly. "I was on probation, when none of you were. The Lioness isn't even allowed to see me! And she's the only one even likely to take me for a squire! My brothers already have squires. Sir Myles might, or Sir Gareth the younger, but that'd be worse than having no knight-master! I don't want to be the squire of a desk-knight." Kel had stopped, and looked up at Cleon. He was barely taller than she was now. He was looking at her strangely. A mixture of sympathy and… something else. Kel looked away, her heart suddenly beating faster.
She moved, and sat down on her bed. Avoiding his eyes, she said, "I'm sorry. I've been holding it in for so long. It just burst out." He sat down next to her, and patted her arm awkwardly.
"You'll get through it. It's harder on you than the rest of us, but you always manage. You do even better than we do." Kel looked at him, smiling bitterly.
"I had to. Otherwise Wyldon would've kicked me out."
"Well, you're still the best of the first-year squires. Come on, the other's will be wondering where I've got to. And I know some of them will need help with their Maths." He stood up, tightening his grip on her arm, and pulling her to her feet. "Let's go."
The others looked round as she came into the room. "So you found her!" Neal commented, and smiled at Kel. Kel's heart skipped a beat, but she kept her voice normal as she replied.
"Yeah, I couldn't leave you lot without my company. Someone has to be here to act normal." Neal grinned again.
"Sit down." He pointed at the chair next to him. Kel sat down, and Cleon sat next to her. She stared at her work and sighed. She supposed that she'd better get on with it, but what was the point? No one would ever choose her for a squire! She'd either have to stay at the palace for the next for years, or go home in defeat. And how could she stay at the palace? Most of her friends would be away, and she'd be stuck with the pages, practising stuff that she already knew. She wouldn't get any of the experience that squires needed to become knighted!
Cleon gently shaking her shoulder jerked her out of her thoughts. The others were looking at her in concern.
"Come on, Kel. You've been like this all week. Get some work done." She looked up at him, and then at the others. He was right. Merric still hadn't been chosen yet, either. She really shouldn't be falling into self- pity like this.
Giving herself a mental shake, Kel replied brightly, "I'm fine. I just…" Kel shrugged. She went back to her work.
1.1.1 Chapter Two
Kel couldn't sleep that night. She tossed and turned for what felt like all night, although it was probably only a few hours. At last, she got up and opened her window. A cool night breeze came into her room. All of the sparrows were asleep. Nothing was moving outside. Kel stood at the window, feeling more awake with every passing minute. Finally, she decided to go for a walk. Going through the palace would surely get her caught, so she decided to climb out of the window into the courtyard. She climbed out of the window and was about to close it when she realised she'd left her key in her room. Sighing, she climbed back in, picked up her keys, and climbed out again.
Kel put the keys into her pocket, and pushed the window until it was only slightly ajar. She set of into the night, with no idea where she was going. At first, she meant to visit Peachblossom in the stables, but one of the stable boys would surely catch her. Funny that there weren't any stable-girls, she mused. She found herself next to an ornate fountain. It was obviously powered by magic, because the patterns of the water were always changing. Kel sat on the edge of the fountain, dipping her fingers into the water. They added to the pattern, the water swirling in ripples around her fingers.
Suddenly she felt a light touch on her shoulder. Kel spun around quickly, feeling apprehension, guilt, and dread all at once. She'd been caught! It was Oranie. Kel let out a long breath and smiled at her sister. But Orie wasn't smiling.
"What are you doing out? What if you get caught?" She was nervous and jumpy. Kel looked at her.
"I couldn't sleep. Why are you out?" Kel was a bit annoyed with Oranie, but she didn't let it show in her voice. Orie mothered her more than Ilane did! Kel was fourteen, after all.
"I… couldn't sleep either." Orie replied. "You should go back to bed." Although it was dark, Kel thought Oranie's face looked more flushed that normal.
"I'll go now." Kel replied, and rolled her eyes. Orie didn't seem to notice. She kept glancing back. Kel stood up, and walked slowly away. She glanced back, to see someone moving out of the shadows towards Orie. Thinking that it might be part of Joren's crowd, Kel spun around. She was almost about to run back to help Orie when she was who was coming out of the shadows. Neal. He sat down next to Orie, a lot closer than he needed to, Kel thought. Orie murmured something to him, and he laughed, and moved his face over to hers, and kissed her.
Her heart sank about three feet. It's not fair, she thought, not for the first time. It wouldn't be the last, either. Kel realised that if they saw her they would think she was spying on them. She turned back around, and, feeling utterly miserable, fled to her room.
1.2 Chapter Three
Kel jumped out of bed the next morning, and briskly began her glaive exercises that she did every morning. She'd been doing them for about ten seconds when she remembered the events of the night before. She dropped her glaive. It fell on her foot. She barely noticed however, because she was fighting an incredibly strong urge to cry. That was the first morning in a long time that she didn't finish her glaive practice. In fact, she didn't move from that spot until Gower's knock came on the door. In he came, as gloomy as usual.
"Mornin' miss." He said. It was then that Kel realised that she had about five minutes until breakfast. Lord Wyldon wouldn't excuse her for being late, and she didn't need her friends asking why she was late, either. She might accidentally drop her Yamani façade and show them her feelings! Concentrating on not letting her grief show on her face, she muttered a hasty "good morning" and fled quickly to the dressing room to get dressed. She didn't see Gower shake his head worriedly as he started up the fire.
Kel made it to breakfast on time, still feeling thoroughly miserable. She didn't even look at Neal as she sat down.
"What happened to the cheerful good morning I usually get?" Neal asked teasingly. Kel looked up at him and saw that, although he looked tired, he was a lot more cheerful than he had ever been in the morning before.
"Nothing." Kel replied, and she went back to staring at her food.
"You have your Yamani face on." Neal commented, sounding a bit worried. "What's wrong?"
"Absolutely nothing," Kel said coldly, "I am perfectly fine. You seem very cheerful this morning. Maybe I should be interrogating you, instead of the other way around." Somehow, Kel's voice continued to stay calm, and her face didn't change. She still felt like she was going to burst out crying any minute. Kel turned back to her meal, and continued pushing the food around her plate. Eating was the last thing on her mind. A silence followed her speech. At last, she couldn't take it anymore, and looked up. They were all staring at her.
"Excuse me." She said, and fled to her room. It was a good thing today was Sunday, without any classes. Kel knew she wouldn't have been able to face classes. Her mind replayed the events of last night over and over again. Neal laughing softly. Him kissing Oranie. Suddenly, Kel couldn't take it anymore. She flung herself onto her bed and cried uncontrollably.
Kel had no idea how long she had been crying for. It could have been a few minutes, or even a few hours. She stopped crying as suddenly as she had started, and a feeling of calm swept over her. If Neal wanted to kiss Oranie, it was his business. At least one of his crushes returned his feelings. She wouldn't let anyone know how she felt, and no one would ever be able to guess. She would act normally, and completely forget about Neal.
Kel heard a knock on her door. She dried off her eyes and opened the door. It was Neal. So much for her resolution. She felt ready to cry all over again.
"Kel, are you okay?" He asked her, with a worried look in his green eyes.
"I'm fine, I guess I'm just tired." Although it was against her better judgement, she added, "Do you want to come in?" When Neal nodded, she led him in. He sat down on the bed, and she took the chair. She managed to replace her blank Yamani face with what she hoped looked like a curious smile. Neal obviously wanted to tell her something, from the way he was fidgeting.
"Kel…" he began, and then stopped, as if unsure of what to say. He took a deep breath and continued, not looking at her. "I think I know why you're upset. Oranie said that she saw you last night, just before I… we… anyway, she said she saw you. She said you probably saw us last night. You know I really like Oranie, but I want you to know that she likes me too. I think we're meant for each other."
Kel was in shock. Neal knew she liked him. Neal knew that she, Kel, liked him. Neal knew. Kel didn't know what to say. Neal had obviously come to apologise. What could she say? She knew she could trust her face not to give away any emotion, but what could she do? Neal would be embarrassed to talk to her after this. She would lose her best friend, just because of a stupid crush. Kel realised he was continuing.
"I know you love Orie, but please don't be angry with me. I wanted to tell you before Orie does, and she agreed in the end. Just because I'm courting you're sister, please don't be angry with me. We can still be friends, can't we?"
So he didn't know. He thought she was upset on Orie's behalf. Well, she wouldn't tell him the truth. How could she? 'Oh no Neal, you're wrong. I'm upset because I'm in love with you.' Even the thought of it was laughable. Kel decided just to pretend she hadn't seen anything.
"I didn't know you were courting Orie," she said. Then, wondering why she bothered, she lied, "I don't mind."
"You don't?" Neal asked, meeting her eyes for the first time since he'd come into her room. "You're sure."
"Of course," Kel said briskly. Then, deciding she might as well be thorough, she added, "I know Oranie likes you. You'd be well suited to her."
"You think so?" Neal asked. What could Kel do? She spent the next hour reassuring Neal and listening to him talk about how wonderful Orie was. And, to her surprise, she began to feel a bit better. She would love it if Neal was in love with her instead of her sister, but at least both Neal and Orie were happy. Kel would survive. She always did.