Chapter 41: Regimen I
“What’s it called when you cry on someone’s shoulder, and then they never speak to you again?”
She sat on the lush rug, looking sad with her freshly acquired black eye.
“What are you going to tell them, when you return with a black eye?”
“There is no them.”
Alexandre looked over at the Lussa girl. “There was.”
“There was, yes. Now, I am ‘them.’ I will retake my father’s house, and I will relive his legacy. Something from nothing.”
“You are horrible at killing, but you’re hardly nothing Ammelia.”
“Thanks—ah! Let go!”
“What is this?”
“It’s—” the pale girl paused, flushing down to her toes. “That’s one of my horns.”
“What are you?”
“We…I don’t know Alex, but my father was the same. My brother too. He never…” She started to cry, and then whispered, “…he never cut his off in cowardice like I did.”
“They’re poking through your hair a little.”
“I know. I haven’t touched them since we first met…I was going to after returning but…”
“You are no longer a coward.”
Ammelia continued crying.
“Shalla, you’re cooking for one more today.”
“I am? Who?” Shalla looked around, but only saw Alexandre’s backside as the other woman left.
“I could, but I am really not sure what she knows already.”
Alexandre shrugged. “Almost nothing.”
Lilllith nodded. “I guess Siren could use a sparring partner. Senica may not have a lot of kill pressure, but she has years of defensive training. Siren could use someone more his level.”
“Really? You can tell that about the Djeb girl just through that one fight?”
“Yes. She is not at all accustomed to proper fighting, but she is very very well practiced. I would say she started a couple years after puberty.”
Kent was napping on a bench out back in the giant forest they called an estate. Senica was trading punches with Astore. Slow, and deliberate, but with no force behind them.
“Senica, I think you’re better at this than me. You should have gotten a better rating when you fought Lilllith.”
Senica blushed and stumbled, hitting Astore in the face as she fell. She caught herself, and Astore rubbed his cheek. “Oh umm. My apologies. I don’t really use weapons. I know a little spear or polearm, but that’s it.”
“So you know how to hit people with a stick?” Alexandre called out from the back door. She approached them, leaving the back door of the building open behind her.
“Yes.” Senica nodded, and then looked up thoughtfully. “You could say that I guess.”
Astore glared at the door. Ammelia poked her head out, and they locked eyes. “Yip!” She hid again.
“Is that the killer in there? Alexandre I think you’re being hunted.”
Alexandre shrugged and sat down next to Kent. She glanced back at the door, and then to Astore, who was still staring.
“She’s with me now.”
“Sounds like a trick to me.”
Chloe Rhye was woken up by Annissette. It took around six tries, which was similar to her success with Anselm Siren.
“Are all you Solune so lazy? Hmph!” The small girl crossed her arms. She was wearing an old fashioned large, grey, flowy dress. Old fashioned in the sense that it went to her ankles and wrists, covering most of her neck.
Chloe mumbled something again, and then sat up. “I got back late…let me—”
“Nope! Lilllith said you need to get on her routine. You will be learning to fence every day from now on.”
“Well, you’ll get one or two days off to heal.”
Chloe looked like she was about to cry. Like she was a child again. In fact, she had given Annissette childish vibes all morning.
“Come, grow up. It’s the same thing the rest of us went through.”
Chloe jumped up. She was wearing a blue nightdress with short sleeves. “Really? So you can fight then?
“Of course. A maiden must keep herself safe.”
Chloe grabbed her. It was supposed to be a hug, but the Solune, being over six feet tall and unusually broad, couldn’t properly hug her spontaneously, so it ended up as a grab. Annissette blushed. She could feel Chloe’s soft skin, and strong arms. It was a weird mixture, like an old farm mother who got strong lifting sheep out of the ditches and hauling straw and doing laundry.
When Chloe was done, she leaned back and looked down at the girl. “You’re over a head shorter than me.”
Annissette sputtered, and then just left.
“Lilllith is expecting you for breakfast soon. Get dressed!” She called back through the room.
“It’s Ammelia. She’s my new friend.”
Siren stared at the girl, who was wrestling with Senica, and then looked back at Alexandre.
“I…” Alexandre slowly raised her eyes to meet his. “I’m what?”
“I said you look beautiful this morning.” He looked back at the two young women fighting. Kent was actively engaged for once, but it seemed he was watching his wife intensely…almost creepily. Siren just stared amused.
Alexandre, who had almost never been complimented in her life, had no idea what was happening or how to respond.
“I think you look very good in light coloured dresses. It accents your raven hair.”
“Raven…” Alexandre blushed and pulled her head into her neck.
“I’ll take it. I was going to go on until you said something intelligible.”
“I…what?” Alexandre felt a rush through her psyche. “Siren don’t say such things.”
“Fine, I’ll say something mean.”
“You usually look ragged. Half dead with sleep deprivation and stress. But today, you look radiant, and you have this cute little dress on instead of…well to be honest, I don’t mind the clothes that show off your figure either.”
Alexandre waited more.
“I know we’ve already met, but I was impressed with how you’ve handled the journey so far. It seems like you’ve done more than all of us apart from Chloe combined. You’re impressive. I like you. Is this morning somehow different?”
“I slept in a bed for one.” Alexandre placed her fingers on her forehead, covering her eyes. “And I give Ammelia that eye.”
“Oh, yeah…she’s looking a little roughed up. I thought it was the wrestling.”
“No, I thought she was doing another attack but…she didn’t even have a weapon on her.”
“Hey hey!” A sweet yet commanding feminine voice cut through the meadow. “Stop a second.”
Senica dismounted Ammelia, who was losing by a large margin. Lilllith was right. Chloe approached the visitor and took hold of one of her horns in her fingertips.
“What is this?” Chloe said.
Ammelia sighed resentfully. “You’re the second person to do that exact thing, and ask that exact question.”
Chloe tilted her head and half smiled. “What did you tell the first person? And who is this individual imitating me?”
“Horns. They’re little horns. I usually cut them off.”
“One of your parents is from the far south?”
Ammelia’s world froze.
Chloe Rhye, Fifth Prince of the Solune, stood in front of her, taking in the sun and smiling. Her skin was lightly tanned, not pale. Her eyes were a deep brown. A brown, Ammelia felt, somehow deeper than the sky. She looked like a kindhearted aunt, the sort who would babysit you when your parents wanted to go on a date, and then bake you cookies and play games. Where did she come from? Where did I come from?
“Where did you say?”
“If you…cross the sea from the Djeb and head south many days. There are ancient records of a race of horned people with wide eyes just like a herd animal. That is you, is not it? But your eyes are normal.”
“My father is half Lussa so I am…”
“I see. I have long wondered what it is like to look through such eyes but…I cannot speak to sheep.”
“N-neither can I.”
Chloe laughed. “Of course not. What happened to your eye? Are you not here to attack me again? You are doing a poor job.”
Chloe looked back at Alexandre, but didn’t say anything. The other woman seemed to be smitten with her partner. How unexpected.
“Food!” A deep voice boomed across the field and echoed back off the trees. It was Rockk.
“Well, let us go Ammelia.”