Eloise’s eyes widened and Chloe watched as emotions began to play over her face. Chloe smiled, seeing joy replace the initial shock, worry and indecision then played over Eloise’s face and she silently bit her lip before looking up at Chloe.
“I would love to go with you, unfortunately, the only dress I own is unsuitable and I doubt I could get another one by Monday.”
Chloe groaned her teeth, this was not a problem she would have anticipated. Her father had commissioned an entire set of dresses and gowns for her before she had left, saying that she would be representing both Twin Rivers and Telkirin and would need to be able to dress as such for any occasion. If there was more time she could send off one of her dresses off to be modified, unfortunately, the tailors would already be busy handling last minute changes to the clothes of other students, and making one of her dresses fit Eloise would require it to be practically transformed. Chloe’s jaw relaxed and she smiled, this wasn’t something she could handle yet but maybe.
Ash had been leaning against a tree some distance away, but at the sound of her name, she wandered back over.
“Would you be able to transform a dress into something more appropriate?”
Upon hearing Chloe’s question, the amused smile on Ash’s face was replaced with a look of displeasure.
“Chloe, I’m your familiar and there are many things that I will help you with, but this is something you would do well to remember, I, Am, Not, Your, Fairy, Godmother.” Ash snarled the last few words through gritted teeth.
Chloe winced, not only did it seem that plan was not going to work, she had managed to upset Ash for the first time, and it was an unnerving experience. Just as she was about to apologize, an idea struck her.
“Are you sure Ash? It seemed appropriate, a cosmetic change for a cosmetic change” she said running her fingers through her hair “and the slate is clean.”
Ash just stared at her for a moment, then, smile reappearing, she burst out laughing.
“The lord of the wood owes you a debt” Ash gasped out between laughs “And you ask for modifications to a dress?”
It took a couple of minutes for Ash to regain her composure.
“Agreed, I will ensure that Eloise is properly dressed for the ball, and the debt is paid.”
“Agreed” Chloe replied, relieved. With this the problem was solved, Ash was no longer irritated and she had a better idea of the sorts of things she should and should not ask Ash for help with.
“So, with that problem out of the way, are you willing to attend with me”
Even as Eloise at bit her lip, Chloe could see the corners of her mouth tugging up in a smile.
“You’re certain you want to be seen with me publicly?”
“Well then, I happily accept your invitation”
They continued to talk for a while, chatting happily. Soon after agreeing to Chloe’s deal Ash had returned to her tree, and returned to her goat form. Chloe’s and Eloise’s conversation eventually died down into a comfortable silence, both women looking up through the forest’s canopy to stare at the stars above them. All of Eloise’s birds had landed by then, and they too seemed to be staring into the sky.
“I suppose we should head back, we do have class tomorrow.” Eloise said eventually, though with clear reluctance.
“I suppose you’re right” Chloe conceded with equal reluctance “Ash!”
Ash stood up and trotted over to them, already growing. Chloe hopped onto the front saddle and cast her air spell, Eloise hopped on behind her, immediately wrapping her arms around her. Chloe smiled as they rode back, a smile that only grew wider when she recognized a part of the forest they were riding through and realized that Ash had indeed taken a long way back to the castle.
Eloise had to leave Chloe and Ash almost as soon as they entered the castle.
“This” Chloe thought irritable to herself “is just one reason to be unhappy with the location of the room they assigned Eloise.”
The return to their room was uneventful and after pulling on her nightgown Chloe slipped into bed. The next two days were equally uneventful. Chloe chatted with Eloise through the classes, Ash knew far more about the familiar bond than any of the instructors did, and seemed happy to show Sheila the ropes.
Saturday dawned bright and Chloe stretched as she got out of bed. Looking through her chest, she selected a robe and cloak, far more worn than the ones she normally wore. She belted the robe tight, pulled most of her wands off the belt, then pulled the cloak on and finished getting ready for the day.
Chloe sighed as she ate a light breakfast, the academy left the weekends as free time, but her weekends were far from free. Most mages learned only how to fight spell to spell but her father claimed that that was simply mage arrogance and foolishness, and on this subject, she was in full agreement with him. It was entirely possible to run out of magic, or be in a situation where you only have enough power left for one or two spells and would need more than that to pull through, thus weekend training with the arcane knights.
Arcane knights were people with a larger capacity for magic than the vast majority of people, but not enough to become mages. Physical enhancement spells took less power than almost any other spell, as the spell never had to leave the body, and as long as the spell was being held the caster could be far faster, and or several times stronger than normal. Most mages looked down on arcane knights because the knights had so much smaller magic reserves than they did, but Chloe, and some other mages, could see the benefit of training with them. Even if you only had the magic left to power one or two of your normal spells, you probably still had more magic than an Arcane knight ever would.
While some arcane knights used massive hammers, or practiced very rapid and accurate archery, they were the exceptions, most arcane knights used a saber and hook knife. The traditional fighting style of the arcane knights had been honed over centuries, and its weapons chosen with care. The saber, while heavier than a rapier, is also a far more maneuverable weapon than a longsword or bastard sword and is thus the natural choice for style. The hook knife, on the other hand, was a weapon purpose made for use by arcane knights. It got its name for its close resemblance to an unbarbed fishing hook, though both of its edges are sharpened. The hook knife is often used as a parrying dagger or sword breaker, but can also be used offensively. Offensively it is often brought up under an opponent’s arm with the hook being set directly below the bone, then yanked out, cutting anything caught in the knife’s half loop. While most often employed on arms, it is also possible to use it on legs, or the stomach or throat.
All this ran through Chloe’s head as one of the arcane knights that the academy employed as a guard drove her around and around the courtyard. As had been drilled into her so many time before, she would never be able to count on winning against an arcane knight, as they spent most of their lives practicing, rather than just weekends and spare hours. She smiled to herself, even as a touch was scored on her, “what I will be able to do is beat anyone short of an arcane knight, and hopefully I’ll even be able to hold out long enough, even against one of them, for help to arrive.” The thought kept her spirits up and she only stopped briefly for lunch, practicing for the rest of the day.
As the sky darkened she went back inside. Her mood soured throughout dinner and by the time she and Ash returned to their room all vestiges of the pleasant exhilaration she had felt throughout the day had fled. In truth, she knew that she had kept sparring so long because she didn’t want free time for her mind to wonder today. She yanked her nightgown on then mentally called out.
“I want to be alone tomorrow, you’re free to enjoy yourself however you want, though if you kill someone, try to make sure it’s someone who deserves it. And do make sure it can’t be linked back to us.”
Ash looked at her for a bit but eventually just asked “What time can I come back?”
“I should be asleep by the third hour of the night, so that will do.” Chloe said, then pulled the covers over her head and determinedly closed her eyes.