My second year began after the break between terms. The break was a long month and a week. I spent most of it with Kevin and my other friends trying to stay as preoccupied as I could. The best thing I could do about Gem was to try and not think of her, or of all the wealthy sons of lords who would be fawning over her. I thought it was inevitable that one would catch her eye, so the sooner I let her go the better. One thing you might hear over and over again but don’t put much thought into is that, time heals all wounds. I had plenty of time. It wasn’t that my feelings for Gem would change, I just grew more able to put them to the side. I was able to cope.
The first term began, and the weeks passed. Kevin began growing tighter with Savannah as he spent more and more time with her. I spent a good deal of time in study or otherwise alone, simply passing time. I did make a point to get out with my friends when they asked me to.
My classes that first term were not particularly hard. I had another class with Speaker La’Turge and did most of my learning outside of the classroom. My issue with the Quatane continued, like with fire I started noticing that I could take certain aspects of the language only so far before I stopped progressing with them. I brought my issue up with La’Turge and he gave me a simple answer.
“The Quatane has limits and you’ve reached them, no point trying to get better at something that you just can’t improve upon,” he explained to me after one of his classes. “However, the language is vast you’ll have plenty of things to improve on.”
And I did. Speaker La’Turge helped bring several more aspects of my Quatane to their limits before the term was over. I could create breezes in closed rooms. I could convince less intelligent minds to do things or think things, mostly animals. I could increase the rate of plant growth. I could freeze water. Stop the flow of a small spring. My abilities with the Quatane were impressive but the limits chaffed at me.
By this time, I had taken Gem’s suggestion and began visiting Speaker Saving regularly while receiving some basic medical training as well. It was mostly just anatomy and what not, she wouldn’t let me practice with the Quatane quite yet. I asked her if I could do my summer apprenticeship with her instead of La’Turge this year, and she agreed. I just had to get Speaker La’Turge to agree as well.
“You want to learn medicine? Good for you! That’s something useful, unlike what I’ve had you doing,” Speaker La’Turge said after I told him of my plan to study under Larissa.
“You… what? What I’ve been learning under you wasn’t useful?” I asked confused.
“No, not really, not yet, I’ve taught you a lot of stuff. That stuff isn’t all that useful now, but one day, when you go to learn something useful, like medicine, you’ll have a lot of stuff to draw on.” I rolled my eyes at the old Speaker. He was a crazy old man, but he generally knew what he was talking about.
The first term came to a close and I began my apprenticeship under Larissa. She was a kind women but medicine was a demanding profession. As her apprentice I went with her to visit the hospitals throughout the city to treat the sick and injured. I had to be reliable, or terrible things could come from it. There were so many words that were used in healing, and they were rarely instantly gratifying. This was one of the few times in my life, I was constantly challenged by my use of the Quatane. However, I made fast progress. By the end of the summer I was treating my own patients out from under Larissa’s careful eye, and I did not disappoint.
The end of the summer had come, and regular classes would start up shortly. An attendant had brought me a message saying that I was to attend Speaker Saving tonight at her home. When I arrived she already had food ready and invited me to sit with her and eat.
“Have you thought much about what you’re going to do when you become a Speaker?” she asked.
“A bit,” I answered.
“It’s hard to believe that your just sixteen now, and that you’ll be able to graduate at seventeen years old. Most aren’t even accepted till they’re your age.”
I smiled. I am far from immune to pride, “Thank you.”
“So tell me, what thought have you put into what you’ll do when you’re a Speaker. I’m sure you understand that Speakers have a diverse number of outlets for their abilities.”
“I want to be a Blood Hunter.” I said firmly.
A look of disgust crossed her face. “A Blood… there are so many more fitting outlets for your talents, Blood Hunting is for… not for you, you are capable, smart, and talented. Blood Hunting is for the foolish or vain.”
“Speaker Hari is a Blood Hunter,” I said slightly insulted. Hari had been on my mind recently, especially now that I was reaching the limits of various aspects of the Quatane. I could name more that I had reached the limit of, than those I had not at this point. I was not capable of flattening men with the wind, unfortunate suspicion of Hari had been festering in the back of my mind.
“Speaker Hari Atique… is an unfortunate soul. He is hard pressed to stay put and is not one take on much responsibility, or command, despite others efforts to give it to him. Yet he is talented and intelligent. The High Speaker has taken much advantage of your friend. He has unleashed him time, and time again, despite his age, on the Hemomancers that cross over from Jahzn. He is the Church’s best Blood Hunter, and I have no doubt you would be even better, but he is no more than a tool now. That is not the life you want to live.”
“I could do more good as a Blood Hunter.” I said stubbornly.
“Good? Good is what you’ve been doing this past summer. Good is saving lives with the medicine and with the medical Quatane that I’ve taught you.”
“Maybe, but isn’t it true that more and more Hemomancer raiders are being reported crossing into Ruaheon? If Jahzn will not stop then… Then who else but us? we cannot invade, because of the treaty between Jahzn and Carplentaria, but we can protect those who live near the border. That’s what I want to do, that‘s what I‘ve dreamed of doing.” I said firmly. I wanted to be a Blood Hunter. No way I’d spend my life locked up in a church taking care of the sick. The reason I wanted to learn from Larissa was that I knew her medical skills would be useful for Blood Hunting.
“Yes, more and more Hemomancers are crossing into Ruaheon, but let the Glren deal with them, them and the Speakers foolish enough to lead them.”
“Glren aren’t a match for Hemomancers.” I said firmly, before taking a bite of food.
“And Speakers are? Have you ever met a Hemomancer? Their powers are terrible. With the taste of blood they can cripple the Quatane and manipulate the elements around them. Tell me what advantage does the Quatane give you over a Glren when a Hemomancer rips the ground open beneath you, then lets the earth swallow you, before they seal it shut? Nothing! Don’t waste your life dancing with Hemomancers.”
“If hunting them was futile, then how come we do it? Then how come they are successful?” I asked.
“A Hemomancer, is still human. If you can ambush them and put an arrow through their chest, they’ll die as surely as we do. Glren shoot bows, throw spears and fight with swords better than most of us can. Let them do it, Speakers shouldn’t be wasted so!” I had never seen Speaker Saving become so angry before.
If I am anything, I am stubborn. I had made up my mind in this a while ago. “I’m still going to become a Blood Hunter.”
Larissa snorted. “Have it your way, if you crave death so much then have it. But I won’t have you in my hospitals any longer, and you will receive no more training from me. If you want to be like Hari so badly, then let him teach you. He’ll return in the month, a more permanent stay this time.”
I perked up. I had not seen Hari in almost a year. “Really?”
Her mood had soured; she didn’t seem to want to converse with me any longer. “Eat then leave, Speaker Atique will be back, I will leave you to him.”
Falling out of Speaker Saving’s good graces was not all too much of setback for me. I had already reached the limits of must of what she had taught me, though she did not know that, and did not need to know that. Better she thought her refusal to teach, had been an effective penalty for my arguments against her. She had been correct about Hari. Within the first two weeks of the second term, Hari was in Ruahden.
The first night after I had heard of his return, I went knocking on his door. He answered with a smile and gestured me in. He was still in his blood red trimmed Speaker robes that were parted at the legs for riding. Mail and leather were worn in layers beneath and sewn into the white robes. Blood Hunters, the only sect of Speakers to sport separate garments.
“I’ve been hearing that you’ve ben doing well,” Hari said sitting on a couch in his living room. He looked tired, and I noticed he wore a new scar running from below his ear and down and along his jaw.
“I’ve been fine, but enough about me, how was Blood Hunting? You look exhausted,” I said concerned.
“Not as young anymore, and neither are you by the looks of it,” he said. I was six feet tall now and proud of it. I sat on a chair in the room. Sighing he continued. “Speaker Saving gave me a lengthy lecture not a bell after I got back about how I’d corrupted you.”
I smiled a bit.
“Becoming a Blood Hunter isn’t something to smile about. It isn’t an easy life. You could have more you know.”
“I want to be a Blood Hunter.” I answered.
Hari nodded in understanding. “I know the temptation, its stronger when you’re young. But even now, I can’t say if I would rather be back here, or out there hunting. Sure, I appreciate the rest, but… Are you sure Dmitry?” Hari almost looked sad.
I nodded. “Yes, I’m sure.”
“I should have a year before I’m sent back out, so that gives us time.” Hari paused for a moment. “You will be my apprentice next summer if your goals remain unchanged. That’s a ways away. Tell me of you classes, friends, girls…” I smiled and began with my classes. I was glad Hari was back, it made the last bit of second term that year more enjoyable.
Second term rolled on and grew closer to an end. There was the Ball again that year, but without Gem, I paid it little mind. I hadn’t put much effort into girls recently, and I really didn’t feel like putting the effort forward for the Ball. Savannah seemed to have taken it upon herself to bring her friends with her whenever she would be with Kevin and I.
The Ball grew closer and with it the pestering of my friends, primarily Kevin, about who I was going to take, began. As it turned out, I didn’t take anyone, or even go.
The Ball ended, and the break between terms began. Kevin and Savannah ended their year long relationship, which unfortunately disrupted my life as they had both been my friends. It was during our month break that I’d begun to hear rumors, from legitimate sources, that the Princesses had returned to Ruahden. Somewhere inside I nursed the hope that Gem would be knocking on my door, but no such thing happened. The break ended with the New Year’s celebration, and like in years past it included a trip to the Palace to feast with the royal family.
It was during the Kings speech when the Royal Family was presented on the stage, that I saw Gem for the first time, sense she’d left. She was beautiful, she’d always been beautiful, but in a year, she was taller, longer legged, and more mature in figure. She was stunning. One thing I did notice was the absence of Bethany amongst the King’s children.
Seeing Gem again, caused me to react in a way I didn’t expect. A year was a long time. Did I really know her anymore? I had grown a good bit in the past year. She had probably done the same. The prospect of reacquainting myself with her seemed far less likely.
During the feast I sat with Kevin at the high table like church members did every year. Myra Aven also sat with us much to my displeasure. Kevin had started a fling with her, that would be fortunately short lived. He’d pestered me about talking to Gem for a while, but now seemed more preoccupied with Myra and feeding her a piece of steak. The act disturbed me. Myra was pretty but… well… I can’t think of a non vulgar way to describe her. Ignoring the two, I focused in on my food.
“Dmitry!” I looked up to the familiar sound. Gem was walking towards me smiling.
“Gem,” I responded as she got closer. Her smile was the same as I remembered. Suddenly my nerves disappeared, whatever had happened in the past year, she was still Gem.
Tyler W. Golec