Title: I don't break the rules


Nobody says anything when I include Eryksa in the training sessions for the boys in the House because they think she is just another half-brother of mine. As long as she doesn't fall into any more rivers, it should be simple enough to disguise her gender for the time being. That's good for me, because if anyone asks me, I won't be able to explain why I'm doing this, apart from a vague idea that letting her learn how to fight properly would be preferable to her lashing out with her Talent every time somebody crosses her. It had only been an old blunt sword that time, but who knows what it might be the next time she loses her temper?

I wonder at first if I would regret letting her learn to fight. But she shows aptitude, and soon outshines those of the same age as her. The only thing that prevents her from progressing any faster is her size and lack of strength, and certainly not a lack of natural ability. When I join the training, I usually take her aside for personal lessons. That passes without comment, since I do the same with a few of the more promising boys. Perhaps she gets a few more hard knocks from her peers for making the ranks of my favourites, but she says nothing about that, nor does she betray anything of her feelings about it. She is definitely tougher than any girl I've seen so far.

The only irritating thing I can't cure her of is her habit of calling me "Freyl". After the first twenty corrections or so, I've given up trying to get her to use my proper name. But then we all have our little quirks, I suppose.

It's two months into her training and we are going through some basic moves in swordplay when her best friend appears all of a sudden. One of these days, I'd like to learn how he moves so silently. I've learned his name since the incident with Jysten, but we haven't exchanged so much as a glance since then.

Eryksa is delighted to see him, which is not surprising. From what I've seen so far, the two of them are besotted with each other, or at least Eryksa is, though I'm not too sure about Myveka. Personally, I think they're rather too young for that, but I keep my opinion to myself.

"Myka!" she squeals, "You came to see me train?"

He arrived with a pensive look, but he gives her a small smile together with a gentle shake of his head. She looks puzzled, so he shrugs in my direction.

Her enthusiasm is only slightly dampened by his reaction. "Oh, you've come to see Freyl? He'll tell you I've been a good student. Right, Freyl?"

She hangs on to his arm as he approaches me, but at the last minute, he pushes her away.

"I've something to say to you." He speaks to me with a strained voice, and he has the look of someone forced to do something distasteful.

His churlishness is annoying me a little, since I've done nothing to deserve it. So I give him a curt answer, "Say it then, I have no time to waste on waiting."

Eryksa looks a little alarmed at the sudden tension in the air, but she holds her tongue for once.

He speaks in a low voice, not looking directly at me. "It's about what happened with your friend. Rubdya thinks you might be my… Muse." He says the last word with a loathing bordering on contempt.

I've actually been thinking the same thing, but since he is the one that benefits, I'd left it to him to make the first move. His animosity is baffling, considering what he stands to gain. I wonder if I should just back out. I make a sound to show that I've heard him, but I don't say anything.

He is forced to fill the silence. "He wants you to find out if it is so… at the Touchstone."

And how am I to find that out by myself? I bite back the sharp answer that comes to mind. "I take it you're coming along as well?" I ask.

He looks me in the eye at last. "I want to make it clear to you, Young Master, that I'm only doing this at Rubdya's request." In his face I read rebellion and deep hostility, and I truly can't understand why.

So I answer him in kind. "And I want to make it clear to you that I am also doing this for Rubdya. This has absolutely nothing to do with me… or you."

My sarcasm does not improve his mood. He's almost bristling with antagonism, making the polite words he says next quite meaningless. "I await your further instructions then, on when to make the journey."

"I'll convey the message through Eryksa."

With a light pat on Eryksa's back, he leaves us.

I take a few moments to calm down. Eryksa gives my hand a tentative squeeze.

"And just when did I step on his tail?" I mutter, half to myself.

Eryksa hears it though. "Don't feel bad. He's like that with everyone, not just you," she says comfortingly.

I raise an eyebrow. "I notice he isn't like that with you," I remark.

She just laughs. I wonder… could Myveka actually be jealous of me taking Eryksa under my wing?


We set out for First Village three days later – Myveka, and I… and Eryksa. She was careful to reveal her presence in the cart only when we were too far from the village to turn back. As it turned out, I was quite glad for her cheerful chatter, because I don't think I would have survived the journey if I had had to endure the loaded silence surrounding Myveka all the way there. He seems to have calmed down somewhat, but there is no excitement on his face, only the resignation of someone facing impending doom.

Somehow, we arrive at the Touchstone in one piece. I speak to the Stonekeeper, who knows me fairly well since I often accompany young ones from the village on their Talent-testing. With his permission, we all head for the Stone.

At the foot of the stone, I turn to Myveka. He has still not spoken a single word, and even now he is studiously avoiding my glance. But he knows what he should do. Still wearing his resigned expression, he places both hands on the stone.

His Stone-glow is the cold, white light of the moon. The glow fills the entire Stone, which tells me his Talent is formidable. And I may hold the key to unlocking that power, which makes his reticence all the more perplexing.

Dutifully, I put my hands on the stone in turn. My sky-blue Stone-glow appears where my hands are, and slowly spreads. I have mixed feelings as I watch the blue spreading and confirming that I am his Muse. A glance at his face shows me that his feelings are just as conflicted. I can see consternation, trepidation, indecision and just a tiny touch of relief, all jostling for dominance. I look back at the Stone, waiting for the two glows to merge and confirm our connection. But it doesn't happen. Instead, the Stone is divided into two, blue on my side, white on his. In the middle of my half, there is a bright spot of white, and likewise in his half, there is a spot of blue. I've never seen this pattern on the Stone before.

The Stonekeeper runs up, mouth agape in astonishment. It seems he has never seen this before either.

And now Eryksa has come up and put her hands on the Stone. What does she think she is going to accomplish by that? And yet… something is happening. In the very heart of the Stone, there is a fiery glow, writhing like a living thing. Did she do that?

What is the meaning of all this? The Stonekeeper looks thunderstruck, so I don't think I'll be getting any answers from him. But one thing I'm sure of: no matter how we feel about it, the three of us are undeniably and irrevocably connected to each other.

I wish I knew what I've done to deserve this.