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Fic: First Impressions

Fandom: Tamora Pierce (Protector of the Small)
Title: First Impressions
Author: dragonbat2006
Words: 944
Rating: G
Pairings: Genfic
Summary: Raoul was expecting the first girl to train openly as a page to be a second Alanna. He's in for a surprise.
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Thanks to Sara for the beta!

This fic written for sylleptic.dreamwidth.org who won this fic in the help_japan auction!

First Impressions

Well, what had he been expecting? Raoul of Goldenlake smiled and answered his own question. He’d thought to see another Alanna, slender, slightly built, but radiating a fire and determination that burned brighter than her copper curls. Alanna might have kept her sex a secret, but never her presence.

This new girl, though, this Keladry of Mindelan was of a different cut altogether. Raoul and his men had been headed upriver to investigate reports of a lone tauros when they’d stopped in Corus for supplies. While awaiting the quartermaster, he and some members of the Own had gone out to the training yards to watch the first-year pages as they took their first tilting lesson. At first, Raoul hadn’t realized that she was among them. The first-years were all dressed alike in sturdy practice clothing. Most wore their hair short. As he glanced from one to the next, he saw no distinguishing characteristics to announce that any one of these youths was, in fact, ‘the girl’.

He wondered whether Lord Wyldon of Cavall’s disapproval had already succeeded in driving her away. He doubted it. The conservative elements of the court would have been only too quick to gloat about the girl who had hoped to become knight—and left before the first snows of winter, unable to handle the training. No, the Mindelan girl was almost certainly here, although he wouldn’t have put it past Wyldon to assign her to extra classwork or clerical duties over combat training.

Raoul watched as one of the first-years—a lad who appeared far too small for the strawberry roan gelding on which he sat—take a pass at the quintain dummy. The page’s lance missed the target and Raoul winced in sympathy when the heavy sandbag on the dummy’s right arm swung into the hapless rider’s back.

Wyldon strode over to the page and spoke quietly as he repositioned the lad’s hands on the lance. The page was clearly not used to the weight of the weapon. Raoul’s eyebrows lifted. That was odd, considering that the practice weapons were generally on the light side. The youth was of stocky build, and didn’t look as though he should be finding the lance a strain to raise. Still, as the page readied for another pass, Raoul could see the weapon begin to waver.

The gelding took off at a fast gallop, and the page fell against the back of the tilting saddle.

“Get your point up! Get it up!” Wyldon was bellowing. “RAISE YOUR POINT!”

The page struggled—both to obey the training master, and to control his mount—but his striving did him scant good. In the end, while he was able to keep in the saddle, he was barely able to clip the edge of the shield. Another buffet from the sandbag was the only reward for his effort.

As Raoul watched, the page leaned forward, and spoke softly to the gelding. Raoul grinned, pleasantly surprised. From what he’d seen, too many young nobles—or young people, for that matter, upon meeting with failure, tended to cast blame on their peers, their underlings, their animals... He’d witnessed more than one angry youth stumble over a rock in the road and actually kick the rock in anger—with predictable results. And after the ride the page had just had, Raoul would have understood—not condoned, but understood—had he vented his ire on his horse. But no, this one didn’t look to lay blame on any shoulder save his own.

Raoul smiled. Good commanders, true commanders, took responsibility for their actions—the bad and the good, not only their own but those of any serving under them. Of course, it was foolish to assess this lad’s future based solely on what he had observed for less than ten minutes in the training yard, but he liked what he saw and he meant to keep an eye on this lad. Of course, just because the boy wasn’t blaming his horse didn’t mean that the steed had played no role in earning him those two buffets.

“The horse is too big for that page,” he called to Wyldon. “I’m surprised you let him ride that gelding, Cavall.”

Wyldon looked up, angry at having his lesson interrupted. “The probationer picked that mount herself, Goldenlake,” he retorted. “She had a choice of horses, just like the others.”

The object of the discussion turned then, and Raoul blinked. “This is the girl?” he asked.

The girl did her best to look stoic, but it was clear that she hadn’t realized that she’d attracted an audience, and wasn’t at all pleased to discover one.

Wyldon looked like he’d just bitten down on a lemon. “Keladry of Mindelan,” he confirmed. “She knows she may exchange her mount for another and has chosen not to do so. Have you something we may assist you with?”

Raoul shook his head. As he explained about the tauros, though, he stole a sidelong look at the young girl.

She stood respectfully at attention, as unmoving as stone, but behind her carefully composed mask, she was absorbing every word, watching, analyzing, and learning.

If Alanna was a dancing flame, this girl was a glowing coal, calm and steady. Some coals, he knew, burned for a time and then went cold, their potential spent before it could be actualized, but he thought Keladry might spark.

As he left the training yard, a messenger approached him to report that his supplies were ready. Raoul nodded and headed for the quartermaster’s office, while making a mental note to look out for the probationary page the next time business brought him back to Corus.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 4th, 2011 05:55 am (UTC)
First, let me say I am so sorry that I didn't comment on this sooner. I'm mostly over on Dreamwidth, so I tend to forget to check LJ things, and I just the other day went "oh, hey, I should check on help_japan stuff, shouldn't I?" *facepalm* I must have seemed terribly ungrateful, being silent for so long, and I'm really sorry.

Second, this wonderful fic! Thank you so, so much! This is exactly the Raoul I love and was hoping to see. He's rooting for The Girl and he believes she can succeed even before he meets Kel. You did a great job showing the commander side of him, with the way he evaluates Kel's performance, and *notices the weighted lance* (that is particularly awesome), and notes her command-potential. And then you tie the end back to the beginning with the fire metaphors, and give us hints of Raoul's future mentor relationship with Kel. These are all the parts of Raoul that I enjoy so much in Kel's series, and it made me so happy to read a new exploration of them here.

Now I have to go back and reread that scene from Kel's perspective. :-) Again, thank you so much!
Jul. 5th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
No worries! I'm the opposite; I have a Dreamwidth account I never look in on.

So glad you liked this! I think I may need to reread POTS myself, sometime soon!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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