Authors: B.T. Narro
His father had told him that they could only read emotions and detect lies, but he always guessed they could do more. Basen didn’t have an inkling as to how psyche worked.
Something with bastial energy, he assumed.
He realized he’d forgotten to ask Effie about meditation. There was so much to learn, and he was eager to absorb all that he could. First would be meeting the new Sanya.
“Sanya Grayhart?” he asked. “Is that you?”
The moment she turned and her eyes met his, recognition crossed her face. “Basen! I would hug you if every part of my body didn’t ache. I thought we’d never meet again.”
She truly was different. Immensely different. Unfortunately, this left him speechless and gaping like a fool.
Annah laughed. “You put him in shock. How do you know each other?”
“We grew up together.” Sanya spoke tensely, offering nothing else. Basen got her hint to say nothing of Tenred.
“I almost didn’t recognize you,” he said. “I heard you’re putting up quite a fight on Warrior’s Field, but by the looks of you, you’ve done more damage to their weapons than to their flesh.”
He never would’ve made such a remark to the old Sanya, and used it as a test now to see if she would yell or scratch, as had often followed any insult in the past.
She laughed bitterly as she turned to Annah. “In our youth, Basen never came to realize that he could’ve taken any woman to bed if he’d kept his stupid quips to himself.” She looked back and smiled genuinely. “I see that hasn’t changed.”
“And it never will.” He put his hands on his hips with mock pride.
Sanya laughed. In her inquisitive expression that followed, he read that there was much they needed to speak about. Her pouty lips held a grin, showing it was something to look forward to.
Perhaps it was because he’d spent months in the workhouse, sharing a room with only his father, but he seemed to find every woman he’d met so far incredibly attractive. Alabell, Effie, Reela, and now Sanya. The soft curve of her chin and cheeks rounded her face to give her a look of innocent beauty that her wounds failed to mar. This was magnified by her bright eyes, while her smile made him feel at home for the first time since the exile.
“This is Annah, my roommate…who I just met yesterday.”
As he shook Annah’s hand, he could see just as much beauty framed by her argent hair. Her curious blue eyes and full red lips called to be noticed.
“Where did you and Sanya live?” Annah asked excitedly. “I’ve tried asking about her childhood, but she changes the subject every time.”
He wondered how much Sanya would want him to reveal. “That’s because it’s a secret, Annah. But I’ll tell you if you promise not to tell others.”
She huddled closer, her eyes widening. “I’m known among my friends for being the best at keeping secrets.”
“We were raised by Krepps,” he whispered in an earnest tone full of shame.
“You were not!”
“It’s true,” he claimed as Sanya nodded along. “They taught us to spit, hunt, and speak their harsh language before we escaped. Here, we’ll demonstrate.” He cleared his throat and faced Sanya, then grumbled out a line of gibberish: “Muk kori kush tar. Gurra vantok ror?”
Sanya held a serious expression as she replied, “Sah! Muk kori ror.”
“See,” Basen said, “I just asked if she would like to come to my hut to drink goat blood, and she enthusiastically agreed.”
“Goat blood is the finest of all the bloods,” Sanya added. “To refuse would make me an eki.”
“No Krepp wants to be an eki,” Basen explained.
Annah wore a smirk above folded arms. “You two are skilled liars. If only the subject was more believable.” She formed a sly smile. “Or if I couldn’t already discern the truth from psyche. I’m very skilled for a first-year, so you’ll have to tell me the truth.”
Annah had the dialect of a noblewoman, a lofty lilt that made her sound as if she thought she was superior to those around her, though Basen didn’t assume it to be the case. To him, she just seemed like a kind but rich young woman who’d spent most of her life around other privileged people.
Basen came from a noble family as well. But his father, an army strategist, had shed the accent in his youth and didn’t want Basen picking it up from his mother, so she’d dropped it as well.
Fortunately, Basen and Sanya didn’t need to think of something else to distract Annah, as she was next in line. Reela and another psychic Basen hadn’t met were questioning the people in front of them. He pointed so Annah would turn around.
“Oh, I apologize,” she told the two psychics as she hurried forward. Basen noticed instructors in the lines beside him, including Penny, who was being questioned by two psychics beside Annah.
Sanya stretched her neck to put her lips beside Basen’s ear and whispered, “Give me some time to figure out what I want to tell people about Tenred.”
“Cleve and Alex already know you lived there with me,” he whispered back apologetically. “I met them in the dining hall.”
She put her face in front of his to show him a bitter look. “And you told them of your bloodline and exile?”
Her eyelids lowered. Actually, only the one that wasn’t swollen did.
“That isn’t fair,” she said.
“I didn’t know you intended to keep it a secret. I don’t see why it matters.”
“It shouldn’t, but some people will give false meaning to our past.” She shot a look behind her at Annah and the psychics before turning back.
“It won’t matter after our loyalty has been proven,” Basen said.
“I suppose that’s true.”
He shifted his focus to the psychics questioning Annah. They seemed stunned by something she’d said and glanced wide-eyed at each other.
“Let me ask again,” Reela said to the other psychic, who nodded her assent. Standing nearly a head taller than the small noblewoman, Reela leaned toward Annah. “Do you harbor any grudges toward Kyrro, King Kerr, or the Academy? Please answer by stating which of those three you have ill feelings for.”
“I was born in Kyrro and I love this territory! I don’t have any grudges against it, King Kerr, or the Academy. I have no ill feelings!”
Reela looked around and got Terren’s attention with a wave. He rushed over and spoke quietly with the two psychics for a moment.
“I don’t understand,” Annah told them, though her words were ignored. “What’s the problem?”
Terren beckoned and two swordsmen hurried toward him, their clanking armor turning everyone’s heads. The psychics at the front of other lines stopped their questioning to watch. Whispers of confusion and worry spread quickly.
Basen took Sanya’s shoulder and moved her back a step from Annah, who had become pale as her head whipped to each direction. “What’s happening?”
Terren approached her with the guards at his sides. “Come with us.” His voice was firm but not demanding.
“What’s the matter?”
“There’s a problem with your answer. Allow us to take you to Kyrro City so we can sort out this matter.”
“I don’t want to go to Kyrro City.” She spoke in a panicked whisper. “I’ve wanted to join the Academy my whole life. I’m loyal!” Her voice was now close to a shout. She found Reela between Terren and the guards. “I’m not lying, ask me again!”
“You are lying,” answered the other psychic.
“We both confirmed it,” Reela said. “Twice.”
But Terren put his hand out, signaling for them to be quiet. His thin eyes were now unforgiving. “Come with us, Annah. Don’t put up a fight, or it will end in your injury.”
She seemed too shocked to speak or move, her mouth hanging open. Each guard took one of her thin arms and then practically lifted her as they made their way to the stadium exit, where four more guards awaited.
“Resume questioning!” Terren bellowed. But he put his hand out to stop Sanya so he could speak to Reela and the other psychic.
Sanya looked just as shocked as Annah. “She was living with me. She was in my house…and I had no idea she wasn’t loyal. What’s wrong with me?” she asked Basen.
“Nothing. She fooled everyone but the two psychics questioning her. She must’ve even fooled her psychic recruiter.” Even now, Basen had trouble believing she was a spy or a traitor.
“What did she intend to do by coming to the Academy?”
“I’m assuming they’ll get that information out of her at the capital.”
Sanya shook her head as she took a breath. “Coming here, I was ready for any trouble the warriors might give me, but I didn’t think I would need to be ready for psychic traitors living with me.”
“No one is prepared for that.”
Terren stayed with Reela and the other psychic as he called Sanya forward.
“Bastial hell,” Terren exclaimed. “I hadn’t noticed your injuries until now.”
“I’m fine. They look more serious than they are.”
“Psychics?” Terren asked.
“It’s the truth,” Reela said.
“Fine.” He stepped back and folded his arms. “Let’s finish this dreadful interrogation of my students and instructors.”
Reela stood a forehead taller than Sanya, though she dipped her head to look through the tops of her green eyes. “What’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Why did you join the Academy as a warrior?”
Terren came a step closer to listen to Sanya’s answer, his expression plainly curious. Basen felt just as intrigued as he moved closer as well.
“I want to learn to be the best warrior in the world. When I finish my three years, I hope to use my skill to capture heinous criminals. Being a woman, I should have advantages concealing my purpose that men do not.”
It gave Basen a warm feeling to see Sanya’s determination finally leading somewhere. As a child, she was always learning something new, practicing something old, or trying to improve something that no one else would think to improve. There were days Basen would find her stumbling around the castle with a blindfold on. Many servants tried to get her to stop as she broke vases and knocked over chairs, but she just screamed at them to leave her alone until they gave up.
“Do you harbor any grudges toward Kyrro, King Kerr, or the Academy?” Reela asked Sanya.
“I harbor no grudges toward Kyrro, King Kerr, or the Academy.”
“Do you have any intention of doing harm to any of the aforementioned or anyone at the Academy?”
“I don’t. I only wish to protect them.”
The psychics looked back at Terren, seemingly done with their questioning. He pointed his finger at Sanya as he spoke. “Then you’ll need to start by doing a better job at protecting yourself.”
“I will, sir.”
Sanya was excused. Basen stepped up next and was thankful to see Terren leave before he had to answer any of the same questions.
The psychics seemed too focused on detecting lies to even notice his Hiller surname. The thought that they might not be listening gave him comfort when he had to explain why he’d joined the Academy as a mage.
“Joining was a way out of the endless cycle at the workhouse in Oakshen, where I lived with my father. I’ve trained with sword and wand most of my life, but I find that manipulating energy has more uses and is more enjoyable.” His father had given him plenty of good advice throughout his life, but it was Basen’s mother who’d told him to stick with whatever he enjoyed the most.
He answered the loyalty questions without worry and soon was excused. He looked for Sanya and found her waiting for him.
“I want to get back to Warrior’s Field,” she said, “but we should talk once training is over today.”
“I can meet you at your campus house if I don’t see you at the dining hall for supper.”
“I’m at house one thirty-two. Can you remember that?”
“Shouldn’t be too hard given that my house is one thirty-one.”
Judging by her smile, the news that they were neighbors seemed to please her as much as it pleased him.
Alabell wasn’t sure how long it would take to get used to the nudity, but she hoped it happened sooner rather than later. It had been difficult to keep from making a face while watching her mother treat a rash on this old woman’s chest.
One of the king’s councilmen had brought in his aunt to be seen by Alabell’s mother. Being Genoviva’s daughter, and successor to the position of head chemist, Alabell was to watch Genoviva perform every task she could.
Alabell closed the door after the councilman’s aunt left and finally let her lips press and brow furrow as they’d wanted to when the ninety-year-old woman had disrobed.
“How many old women have you treated?” Alabell asked as she helped her mother reorganize her potions.
“Not many who are that old. Why do you ask?”
“The sight was somewhat of a shock. I’m curious how long it’ll be until I’m used to it.”
“Not long. When she comes back tomorrow and shows us how she’s healing, you’ll find yourself comfortable with her appearance. You should apply the healing lotion instead of me.”