I've had a huge cup of coffee (black, just the way I like it) and I think it's time for some retro. Ysani needs an introduction to go with all the screenshots! I'm so buzzed. Weee.
Vranesh gave her the creeps. She watched him furtively from beneath the curtain of tangled crimson hair that hung over much of her face, an unkempt hairstyle that inspired a great deal of exasperation (and, she suspected, a guilty sense of relief) in her big brother, Ayren. That worthy was just out of earshot, bowing deeply to Silvermoon's eminent blood knight champion. Her hands twitched in her lap.
When both men turned to look at her, she lowered her good eye and attempted to shrink into the bench and disappear. To her dismay, the soft pad of Ayren's leather boots and the sharper clang of ceremonial plate moved toward her, the sounds loud in her ears and causing a twist in both her mouth and her stomach, which she'd forgotten to fill with breakfast. Her lips moved almost imperceptibly as she whispered to herself. I am Ysani Cloudbreaker, invisible girl.
"Ysani Cloudbreaker, front and center." Vranesh had an unmistakable voice, clipped, dry and humorless, and it made her cringe. Rising slowly, the pale girl executed a halfhearted salute. "Sloppy. Stand up straight, shoulders back. And for light's sake, put your head up and show a little discipline." Ysani complied reluctantly, straightening her back, lifting her chin to stare blankly ahead through her wild red locks, taking in the champion's expression without looking directly at him.
The blood knight appraised her, his arms clasped stiffly behind his back, upper lip drawing up in a sneer that seemed to grow by minute degrees the longer he looked at her. Finally he spoke, an irritated edge to the words he directed over her shoulder at the lanky, tanned elf who would be horrified if baby sis called him Ren-Ren in public.
"I don't know what kind of favors you had to call in to get this miserable piece of work initiated into the Order, nor do I want to know." He paused, his cold, glaring eyes turning back to Ysani. "Your brother has an excellent reputation for dedicated service with the Shattered Sun, and it would behoove you to understand that this reputation, and nothing else, has purchased your continued tenure with the Order." Vranesh took a deep breath, and she groaned inwardly. He's going to give a speech, why is it always a speech? ... Did I remember to make my bed? I hope I did, I don't need more demerits. ... I hope there are some biscuits left in the mess hall, I'm so hungry. ... Oh wow, when did I break a nail? Ugh, it almost got down into the quick, you'd think I would remember having done that-
Vranesh barked, his eyes boring into her as he thundered, "Initiate! Pay attention, I'm only going to say this once. No amount of pulled strings will help you from here on out. You may have underachieved your way through your primers out in the sticks, but you are in my city now. Here your training is at my discretion. If your performance is unsatisfactory, I will not hesitate to expel you. Do I make myself clear?"
Her throat was dry as sandpaper, and she attempted to swallow, her reply hoarse and inaudible. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Yes, sir."
"Cloudbreaker," he said, addressing the elder of the two as though Ysani were not present (she still wasn't sure whether to be happy or annoyed when her Invisible Girl trick actually worked... it usually meant she was being treated like a child, and this time was no different), "Be aware that there is no room for pity or lenience among the knights of the Order. All initiates must pass the same rigorous tests," and he spat the word with more than a little distaste, "disabilities notwithstanding." Vranesh turned to her, the corner of his mouth turning up in a smug approximation of a smile. "I guess you could say... I won't turn a blind eye to imperfection."
Mouth contorting into a snarl, Ysani barely restrained the urge to throw herself at him in a fury and knock him to the ground, pummeling his smug, aristocratic face into paste. She could feel her brother tense and step toward her, a gesture of protection and a warning for her to keep her temper, his voice taking on a coldness she was not accustomed to hearing. "That was uncalled for, Champion. I do not expect her to be treated differently, for good or for ill... keep that in mind, or I will be forced to defend her by any means necessary." Ayren drew himself up to his full height and glared down at Vranesh, restrained but clearly demonstrating that he was and always would be, regardless of rank or honor, a hulk of red-headed farmboy with a temper to match.
Vranesh sniffed dismissively and turned away from the fiery pair, calling back over his shoulder as he mounted his precious warsteed. "Your threats are meaningless. I will treat her how I please, and she will earn better or suffer. And you," he smirked down from his perch at the seething woman with her hands balled up into tight fists at her sides, "you'd better get to class, you're late."
The champion rode stiffly across the common, one last chore to take care of before breakfast. Passing through an alley, he pulled up outside of the familiar hall, his nose wrinkling as he pounded on the door. Fabrio's timid eye appeared at the peephole. "Open up, official business for Keltyr Sunsworn." He dropped a crisp envelope bearing Liadrin's seal into the secretary's hand and spurred his horse toward home.