The rest of the day had passed without incident, although it was absolutely exhausting. Lessons lasted until barely an hour before sunset, and Erryn didn't get a single moment alone with Myshka to ask her about Mike. She was relieved to find, though, that she appeared to have a potential ally in all of the girls. Veronica had dropped several subtle hints that she wasn't entirely on the king's or the Academy's side, too subtle that anyone listening in would pick up on them but not so subtle that Erryn couldn't understand what she was hinting at.
The twin's loyalties were impossible to discern. They had given no clue as to whether they approved or disapproved of the Academy or the king, and that made things very difficult for Erryn, since she would still have to watch everything she said around each of them. But it was still nothing compared to how she had to watch everything she said or did around the teachers. Even the slightest slip could reveal her intentions to them, and she would never escape with them breathing down her neck constantly.
Erryn had had to work extremely hard the next morning to feign incompetence when they had their archery lesson. The teacher had almost seemed to be catching on to her act, and as a desperate attempt to hide that she had, in fact, trained in archery, she had allowed the bow to come unstrung mid-draw, snapping against the base of her fingers and flaying a strip of skin from the base of her hand. She had been sent to a well near the range to fetch some water to clean the cut, but would be expected to heal it herself.
As she brought the bucket up from the well, Erryn took the opportunity to take a look around. Not far from the range was a field, which the male students appeared to be using for fencing practice. All of them had taken off their blazers, and quite a few had taken off their shirts. Erryn was sure that if Tharos knew they had done so he wouldn't stand for it, since he'd shown himself to be a stickler for the rules and took the uniform quite seriously.
Erryn had gotten the bucket up from the well and was rinsing the blood from her hand when one of the male students came striding over. He wore his shirt, but there was a large tear in the fabric over his abdomen, revealing a painful looking gash along his stomach. Erryn had to work hard to disguise her surprise when she realised that it was the same young man that she'd seen Veronica speaking with the day before. "You don't suppose you'll use the whole bucket, will you?" he asked, giving Erryn a lop-sided smile. She smiled back and passed him the bucket, having finished rinsing her own wound anyway. The young man thanked her, ripped off a piece of his ruined shirt and dropped it in the bucket. "That's a nasty looking wound. Mind telling me how you got it?" he asked.
"Oh, just a bow string. It came off while I was drawing, that's all." Erryn replied.
"It looks painful." he said.
"Just a little. It's alright, really." replied Erryn.
The young man stepped forward and placed a hand over Erryn's injured one. Erryn instinctively jerked her hand away, but the young mad put his spare hand over her wrist to hold her hand in place. "May I?" he asked. Erryn didn't reply, but held still and waited to see what he did. She felt an odd tingling in her hand, followed by the feeling that something was crawling under her skin around the injury. It was a struggle for her not to panic and pull her hand away. She looked down at her hand, shocked to find that they wound was quickly closing up and fading. When the wound was gone completely she pulled her hand away and flexed it, testing it. As far as she could see the wound was gone for good.
"Thank you." said Erryn, as the young man stepped away.
"No problem." he replied, taking the piece of his shirt out of the bucket and wringing it out. He used it to start cleaning the blood from his stomach. "It's Erryn, isn't it?" he asked, not pausing from what he was doing. "Yes. Yes it is. And you are?" she responded.
"Steffan. It's a pleasure to meet you, Erryn."
"I would offer to return the favour," she said, "but I'm afraid that I'm a little new to magic."
"That's quite alright. Sacha, our fencing instructor, heals any wounds we get. We just have to come and clean them ourselves." said Steffan. He continued to clean the blood from his stomach, tearing another piece from his shirt when the first was too saturated with blood.
Erryn would have preferred to try to find out more about Steffan, such as how he was connected with Veronica and whether or not he was another potential ally, but if she hung around too much longer than was completely necessary it would start to look suspicious. Although there was a fair chance that it would be written off as a silly girl losing sight of her senses – Steffan wasn't unattractive, even if he looked somewhat more feminine than was ideal – it most likely wouldn't be worth the risk. She thanked him again and returned to the range, where the teacher was waiting for her.
Erryn wasn't given a bow to practice with again, but was instead told to watch the other girls and try to learn as such. She chose to stand near Myshka, though she made sure to watch each girl in turn, learning as much as she could about each girl's skill level and the manner in which they shot. Myshka's movements were clumsy, and she often fumbled with the arrows; she always hit the target, but never the bull's-eye. Both of the twins were more inconsistent; Victoria's movements were sharp and jerky, her arrows landing all over the target and sometimes missing, while Elizabeth often released the string too quickly, catching the tips of her fingers. Her arrows often landed below where she'd appeared to be aiming, which she'd made no clear attempt to compensate for.
The faults in the girls' shooting were entirely reasonable. No archer ever shot perfectly, and over time Erryn was sure that each girl could improve to a military standard, learning to work with and around the quirks in their shooting so that they were no longer flaws, or working past them. Elizabeth would need a shorter bow, rather than the longbows they were using, and should train for faster, shorter distance shooting, such as that used for hunting rather than that used for battle. Victoria could do with slowing her movements a little so's to give herself time to aim, as it appeared to be her aim that was off rather than her shooting. Myshka just needed practice and a little more confidence.
The only absurdity was Veronica. Her shooting was seemingly flawless, her movements smooth and flowing, as though the bow and arrows were merely extensions of her own body. Each of her shots hit exactly where she's aimed. When she noticed Erryn watching, Veronica lined her next shot up with the very centre of the bull's-eye, where another arrow was already embedded. Veronica winked at Erryn as she released the shot, the arrow from the bow splitting the one in the target straight down the middle. It was a childish bit of showing off and a waste of a good arrow, but the message was clear: Veronica could either be a valuable ally, or an exceptionally dangerous enemy.