Something Else To Worry About

A Tamora Pierce Fanfiction

by Machiavella of Kingsport

Rating: PG-13 (For language, some violence)

Genre: Romance/Drama

WARNING—PLEASE READ: Before you even read the summary, you must be warned that some of the scenes in this fanfic have been taken from the latest Protector of the Small book, "Lady Knight". If you haven't read the book and you don't want anything to be given away to you, I recommend that you either skip these parts (I will have them enclosed in stars), or not read this story. But if you don't mind knowing what happens ahead of time, then by all means, do read…

Summary: Kel thought the Chamber of Ordeal was done with her once she defeated Blayce the Gallan; but instead, an old "friend" was resurrected—and it's Kel's duty to change him into a respectable noble! Joren/Kel romance. Please review!

Disclaimers: I don't own any of the characters, nor any of Tamora Pierce's text, which is enclosed in stars.

                                                                                                                                               

Prologue: Say It Isn't So!

            So he was dead—as was her mission. Blayce the Gallan would no longer murder children for the sake of his killing machines, and Kel didn't have the Chamber of Ordeal relying on her anymore. She took a deep breath and wiped the blood off of her glaive, turning her face away from the still-warm corpse of the Nothing Man. She should have been jumping for joy, but for the fact that her shoulder was a mess and she could have fallen asleep where she stood. She was tired, hurt…all she wanted right then was a hot bath and a bandage to replace the makeshift one that had already been soaked with blood.

            **Using the glaive as a crutch, Kel turned. What she saw was not the door she had come through, but another, familiar entryway lined in bright blue light. She now looked at the door to the Chamber of Ordeal from the inside. The face sculpted in its keystone looked at her. Its eyes shone yellow, as they had during Kel's previous experiences with the thing.

            Very tidy, its voice announced in her mind. I said you would do it, and you have.

            Kel gripped her glaive until her fingers creaked inside her gloves. "Yes, it's done," she replied. "I 'fixed' it. I killed a swordless man and saw a lot of good people murdered. Now you have your balance, I have the little ones, and you and I are quits, understand? Find someone else to do what you can't."**

            The thing's answer both surprised and angered her. No, it said simply. Kel was furious. After so much pain, fatigue, work, war, and bloodshed, the Chamber of Ordeal still had more for her to do?! Lacking the strength to shout, Kel said in her most menacing quiet voice, "How dare you toy with me like this! I have done what you showed me to do, I've gone through horrors just to fulfill this quest you gave me! I don't mind saving children—but I'm very irritated when more work just gets dumped on me!"

            It was uncharacteristic of her to complain, but the injustice stung. The voice continued. You are not finished protecting the small ones of this earth. Do you forget your duty as a knight? You must right what wrongs you can!

            "And what more have I to do than help Tortall win the war against the Scanrans? What more do I have to do besides defend my country with my life?" Kel shut her eyes in pain, her shoulder pulsing at its deep wound.

            I killed a person near three years ago for what he did to people such as you. But it was wrong for him to die. I made a bad choice, a rare thing for me to do. I have brought him back. He will try for his shield again, but you will help him to change himself. Do you know of whom I speak?

            Nearly fainting with the blood loss and fatigue, Kel shook her head—but not because she could not guess. She knew exactly who the Chamber was talking about. Joren of Stone Mountain. She shook her head—"I cannot do what you ask of me this time!" If she had been angry before, she was now irate. "I refuse to help you! Like I said before, find someone else to do your dirty work! Don't you ever do anything for yourself? And besides, if killing Joren was a mistake, this is worse!" Kel's hands slid weakly down the shaft of her glaive and she sank to her knees in desperation. How could anyone do this to her?

            The chamber spoke again, its voice cold. You will be punished if you do not do what I ask. I will tell you now—the Scanrans have not lost power because their machines are useless and their mage is dead. In fact, they will gain power and wreak havoc upon your country, killing many valuable knights—especially the best ones. They will strike Tortall where it hurts. Tortall will need all the help it can get, and Joren, though you may not have noticed in your fervent hatred for him, he is an excellent fighter. All you need to do is change mind about a few things. The war will rest on his shoulders.

            Change his mind. About a few things. A FEW. The war will rest on his shoulders. The voice's words raced through Kel's mind in her tired stupor. I have no choice, do I, she thought. I will hate the Chamber forever, but I have a feeling I really might have to do this. Raising herself up a small bit, she met the face of the Chamber with a level eye. "If I was a God myself, I would destroy you for this. But it seems I have no choice but to do your bidding. But if I fail, what would you do to me?"

            Nothing. Why should I? You would be punished by the fact that Tortall would be overrun with Scanran tribesman and its kingdom would fall. You would be punished by the Scanrans, who would rape and pillage and kill your people, leaving them to die. Any they choose to leave unslain would fall under the rule of slave-driving tyrants. You would be powerless to stop them on your own, without knights to command…But I know you will succeed.

            "But how could just Joren possibly stop the Scanrans?"

            I have filled him with powers beyond your imagination, on top of his skill. He is a hero now, save for the fact that in his heart he is a terrorist. You must be the one to change that, and save your country.

            "How convenient." Kel squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to stand. "Where is he?"

            Right here.

            Kel's eyes snapped open. There he stood, in the doorway, leaning against it nonchalantly. He eyed her with contempt. "Good luck, tutor." Kel looked above him; the face of the Chamber of Ordeal was gone, as was its doorway.

            Sighing resignedly, Kel spoke to her long-time nemesis. "Hurry up. I have people waiting for me."