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Part Eight

Of Endings and Beginnings

"That depends on ye, lad. If ye c'n do t' work I've laid out fer ye, yes, I'll advance ye."

"And the other Masters?"

"I'll talk 'em 'round, lad, never fear. Ye settles down and applies yourself, everything else will soon be forgotten."

Another thought occurred to me. "And Karien?" Karien's head popped up at that.

The Master leaned back in his seat. "We're nay sure, to be blunt. He knew t' rules about leavin' Temple grounds without permission."

There was nothing said for a long while. I chewed my fingernail in thought. "What about...?" I started, but the thought wasn't fully formed yet.

"Aye, lad?" Arikian prompted after a bit.

I gazed thoughtfully at Karien, trying to judge his reaction to what I'd say. "What about grounding him?"

Karien spluttered. "Grounding me?"

"Mmmm," I murmured, more sure of myself now, and enjoying every second of it. Keeping the smile off my face was easy, out of my eyes was another thing. "The problem is that he's got too much time on his hands. Too much freedom to get into trouble."

I looked over at Arikian. "And you did say that he was to tutor me. Well, he can't do that if he's got to be home every night, not properly now, can he?" I choked for a bit on my next words. That guilt would haunt me for a long time."There's room in the barracks now, and we could work until lights out, rather than having him leave at sundown. It would free up the guardsman who escorts him home, as well."

Arikian stroked his beard, considering my words. "Go on, lad." Karien was still choking on his indignation. We ignored him.

It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to say, "And we'll be needing a new instructor for Brainard's classes, won't we? He was teaching logical thinking, cause and effect? Isn't that a lot of what diplomacy deals with? Something a politician would understand?" I grinned wickedly. "Or a politician's son?"

Karien groaned. "Oh, God's Teeth, man, not a teacher! Not a bloody respectable teacher!" He made it sound like an epithet.

Arikian stared at us both, suspiciously. "Why do I feel like yer tryin' t'pull the wool over me eyes, lads?" he asked, but there was no heat in his words.

"Us, Master Arikian? Would we do such a thing?"

"Aye, ye would," was the prompt reply. "However, ye may have a point, young Surier. P'rhaps it would be best if Karien continued his studies under closer supervision. It might prove t' be o' some benefit t' the lad t' learn some discipline." He rose. "An' I take it, ye'll be stayin' on, then?"

I grinned. "Aye, Master," I mimicked. "T'leave ye t'tend this rogue by yerself would indeed be ungracious of me, fer all that ye've done."

Arikian grunted. "Aye. But yer accent'll need some work." He stalked off.

We watched him retreat in amusement.

"Karien?" I made my voice flat, and cold, still watching the pathway Arikian had travelled.

"Yeah, old man?"

"Karien, what were you drinking that night?"

Karien flushed. "Ummmm, water," he finally admitted.

"Hmmm," was all I said for a long time. "So you drank water, and got me drunk." I didn't dare look squarely at him, but I could see him out of the corner of my eye.

Karien squirmed a bit and managed a sheepish grin. "Looks that way."

"Hmmm, it does, doesn't it?" Another long pause.

"How did you figure it out?" Karien broke the silence.

I shrugged. "It wasn't hard. You forgot two things. One, you forgot to tell the Master to say 'Once Karien had sobered up enough to tell me the whole story.' At least he got the part right about having to carry both of us home."

"And the second thing?" he prompted.

I grunted. "When I woke up the first time, you looked like you'd been rode hard and put away wet." I gave a low chuckle. "But how many times have I seen you hungover? I've noticed that one of the first things that you do is get cleaned up."

Karien groaned, and we were silent again.

"Karien?"

"Yeah?"

"So, you'll be tutoring me in politics and teaching the logic class."

He hid his head in his hands and moaned. "Looks that way."

I stretched my feet out in front of me, getting comfortable. "I'll make you a deal. I won't tell anyone that you go into bars and drink water and you..." I stopped. It was going to be hard to say the rest of it.

Karien shifted uneasily. "And?"

"And you'll stop bloody well calling me 'old man'."

Karien and I looked at each other then, and burst out laughing.


Oh, and my other friends at the Temple? Hmmm. Loviath and the others came later, but that's an altogether different kind of story.

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