Chapter 61: Leofric

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

“So, I heard you got past Luke’s guard.”

“Yeah.” Leofric jabbed a punch at Conrad, shifting to the side to avoid Conrad’s counter as he missed. “We did.”

“I’m impressed.” Conrad smiled, then spun around in a kick – which Leofric realized was a feint just in time to dodge a tail grab. “How far did you get?”

Conrad wasn’t the first to ask him about his recent escape attempt. Their escape attempt. If it weren’t for that, Leofric would’ve written off the whole thing as a particularly depressing dream. As it was, all he could come up with were vague images of a dreary staircase and running over dead brown grass, then his thoughts slid away from it.

He liked being partnered with Conrad for sparring practice, and he had a feeling it was mutual. None of the other cy’Luca knew what to do about either of them, especially not with Conrad being Kept – again – in his third year. And all of the other cy’Luca were pretty predictable, when it came to fighting style. Especially with the whole I shouldn’t hit him, he’s Kept attitude some of the more “gentlemanly” of his cy’ree had.

Sometimes, Leofric liked being partnered with them even more than with Conrad, because they underestimated him and he got to punch them in the face.

“Hey, if you don’t want to talk about it…”

Leofric paused, trying to remember what Conrad was talking about, and got a face full of knuckle for his trouble. “Ow, shit!”

“Shit, sorry, I thought you were going to dodge that.” Conrad stepped back, shaking out his hand and looking worried.

“I was–” No, he wasn’t. “Shouldn’t get distracted when fighting,” he muttered. His voice sounded weird and when he took his hand away from his face, there was blood on his fingers. Shit. His Keeper was going to– was going to what? He never seemed to do anything, except take Leofric outside. He couldn’t figure out if it was supposed to be a reward or some backwards kind of punishment.

“All right you two, that’s enough.” Luke stomped over and frowned at Leofric. “You, go straight to Caitrin’s.”

“It’s just bleeding.” Leofric prodded his nose gingerly, feeling for any moving parts that weren’t supposed to be, then wadded up the hem of his shirt against it. “Not broken. I can keep going.”

Luke grunted. “Conrad, you switch partners with Vlad. Vlad, take Leofric to Caitrin’s.”

“Yes sir.”

Leofric stifled a sigh and shared a look with Conrad. After the third time Conrad had “escorted” Leofric to Caitrin’s, Luke had caught on that they weren’t going to see the doctor at all – Leofric was splitting off to practice healing himself. So now he was stuck with a real escort.

“Come on.” Vladimir gestured for Leofric to follow, and Leofric trudged resignedly after him, shirt still pressed against his nose.

He was fine. A nosebleed was nothing. A nosebleed because he’d gotten distracted while sparring was just a basic consequence. Getting dragged to the doctor’s office because he had a nosebleed was just Luke feeling guilty and getting involved in the wrong things. And, as much as it annoyed Leofric, he couldn’t blame his Mentor for trying to feel at least a little bit useful.

He could blame his cy’ree for it, a hundred percent. Conrad was the only Kept. Conrad was also the only cy’Luca who ever did anything (and if that was really his Keeper’s doing, Leofric didn’t care). The rest of them – like Vladimir, his goody-two-shoes escort, only ever did what Luke told them to.

Vladimir cleared his throat, interrupting Leofric’s already grumpy train of thought. “Look, I know you’re still upset about getting dragged back down here, but you know it was doomed from the start. You can’t–”

“Oh, fuck off.” Leofric shot him a glare, thinking shut up as loudly as he could. “I don’t want sympathy from you.”

“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”

Doomed from the start. Leofric still didn’t regret picking Luke as a Mentor, but he really could’ve done without the cy’ree of pathetic do-nothings. “Maybe it was doomed, but at least we tried. More than anyone can say about you. What’s the point of you assholes not being Kept if you’re just going to sit around frowning uselessly at people?”

“I do not frown uselessly.” Vladimir frowned. “Look, this is still just your first year, next year you’ll get–”

“Get what? Is it contagious?” Leofric sounded sarcastic and angry, even to himself; he was pretty sure he was picking a fight. He was starting to recognize the signs, even if he hadn’t gotten the hang of figuring out the why. (At least this time, he was picking a fight with someone who deserved it.) “I better keep away from the rest of you so I don’t catch the helpless bystander virus. What’s even the point of learning how to fight if you aren’t going to use it?”

“Says the guy who got his nose broken sparring,” Vladimir snapped back. “Maybe the rest of us aren’t stupid enough to get our faces broken.”

My nose isn’t even broken. “Your face is more important than some new kid being tortured, is that it? If you just want to keep your precious face in one piece, maybe you should’ve gone cy’Fridmar.

“Why you little–”

That was the button, some small corner of Leofric’s mind noted in satisfaction as Vladimir attempted to deck him. Even with three years less training, he was still faster than the merman – faster and less predictable – and he easily ducked the punch before headbutting Vladimir in the stomach. The thought occurred to him that if he hadn’t already shed his antlers, they would’ve impaled Vladimir right through the gut.

As it was, Vladimir was knocked backwards with an oof, catching his balance just before hitting the wall. “What the hell is wrong with you? You think getting into fights is going to change anything?”

“I’m not assuming it won’t!” Leofric lunged at him again, aiming to telegraph a right hook while preparing a gut punch with his left. The older cy’Luca underestimated him, of course, and fell for the feint. He knocked the wind out of Vladimir with a thrill of satisfaction, taking a wild flail to the side of his head before sweeping Vladimir’s legs out from under him.

Just to rub it in, Leofric stepped on his chest and shoved down, ignoring the flurry of sparks scattering out across the floor and walls. “Next year,” he snarled, “you’ll be gone, you and your stupid friends, and I’ll be teaching this piece of shit hole in the ground that cy’Luca isn’t just a bunch of asshole cowards. That’s what I’m going to get.

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