Kalyan Rihera, Soldier
Kalyan sat at his small wooden desk, hunched over the textbook he was trying to read. He yawned as he turned another page, blinking as he tried to keep his eyes open. It was the middle of the afternoon, and he wasn't actually sleepy, it was only that the Aiel War was that boring. And impossible to understand, he added to his list of complaints. This was his third attempt at reading through the entire assigned section, and he still didn't think he'd remember any of it tomorrow, despite the pile of notes drying on the desk. The Soldier sighed and raised his head, rubbing his aching neck as he looked at the other Soldier in the room.
Beside him, in the chair borrowed from Kalyan's roommate, was his friend Uliel. The black haired man held another copy of the book Kalyan had, but it had been open to the same page for several minutes while Uliel idly stared at the white walls. He turned his head, fixing his grey eyes on Kalyan. "This is ridiculous," he muttered. "I can't keep track of all the battles, can you?"
Kalyan shook his head. "No," he admitted. "I think I could if we had less reading, one or two important events at a time, but there's no chance I'll be able to explain anything if Dedicated Isandro calls on me tomorrow." He winced as he thought of the possibility. Nobody wanted to be on the wrong end of the Dedicated's temper, and Kalyan was no exception.
Uliel rolled his eyes and looked up at the ceiling, tapping his fingers against the pages of his open book. "Honestly, I don't think that man cares whether we learn anything from him or not. If he did, he'd hand out reasonable amounts of work. Do you think he knows we have other classes?" he asked as he looked towards Kalyan again.
"He has to," Kalyan grumbled. "But I think he considers his class more important than any other." Uliel was still tapping on the book, and his gaze drifted towards the walls. Kalyan bent his head over his book again in a mostly futile effort to at least commit the most important points to memory before class the next day. Flipping through the pages, his head jerked up when Uliel spoke to him.
"You know what we should do?" his friend said. "We should put sprinklewort in his tea. He's always got a cup on his desk, it wouldn't be that hard."
Kalyan squinted at the other man. "Huh?" Whatever Uliel was talking about, he'd never heard of it before. "What's that?"
"It'll turn his mouth blue if we put it in his tea," Uliel explained, smiling for the first time since they'd sat down to study. "Show him how we feel when he mocks us during class....and it would just be funny, too."
Imagining the cranky Dedicated standing in front of the class, lecturing with a blue mouth, Kalyan gave a short laugh. "It wouldn't hurt him, would it?" He enjoyed a good prank as much as the next Soldier, like the time he and Uliel had snuck into another class and turned all the chairs and desks upside down, but wasn't at all interested in doing anything that wasn't completely harmless.
"Of course not," Uliel assured him. "My brother gave it to me once, that's how I know about it. All he'd have to do is wait for the color to fade in a few days." He leaned towards Kalyan, fingers now still on the nearly forgotten book in his lap. "I can get some, but you have kitchen duty tomorrow, right? Can you get it in his cup without being seen?"
Kalyan nodded. "He always uses the same one, that green one with the trees on the side," he pointed out. "Think it's actually his, not the kitchen's. Shouldn't be too hard."
Uliel stood up from his chair. "Then I'll drop by tomorrow during our study time, give it to you, and you can put it in his tea the morning after that."
"I can do that," Kalyan said. "You leaving?"
"I'm done with this for now," Uliel said. "It just isn't any use. See you tomorrow." He left the room, and Kalyan, still at his desk, laughed quietly to himself, thinking about the idea, before doing his best to force himself back to his reading.
True to his word, Uliel showed up at Kalyan's door the next day and handed over a pouch that Kalyan stuffed into his pocket the next morning before heading to the kitchen for the morning's chore. The kitchen was a place that was always buzzing with activity, and offered plenty of work to keep a Soldier busy. Most of his morning was spent stirring pots at the direction of one of the cooks, but as the end of his chores approached, everything in the pots had been cooked and there was nothing more to be done.
Dismissed from that duty, Kalyan took the opportunity to scan the counters for the green teacup that was always on Dedicated Isandro's desk. When he spotted it in the middle of a row of others with a steaming pot of tea beside them, Kalyan hurried over and began to fill the cups, every so often raising his head from his task to look around the kitchens. Everyone was occupied with their own work, and nobody looked twice at a Soldier who also appeared to be working. He took the pouch from his pocket and opened the drawstring once all the cups were full.
Peeking inside at the contents, Kalyan began to feel a little nervous. The leaves were dark, which seemed strange. He had thought they'd look at least a little blue. But what would I know? He'd never seen sprinklewort leaves before, and besides, he trusted Uliel. Kalyan took a deep breath and poured the leaves into the green cup. He watched it steam, worried that the liquid would turn darker from his addition to it, but nothing changed to differentiate it from either of the cups beside it. Satisfied, he let a novice take the cups away, hid the pouch back in his pocket, and busied himself scrubbing dishes for the rest of his time in the kitchen.
The hour passed slowly, and when he was finally free, Kalyan left the kitchen in a hurry, eagerly anticipating the results of his earlier deed. As a result, he arrived early to class, settling down in his usual desk in the middle, which usually allowed him to escape Dedicated Isandro's notice. He was eventually joined by Uliel, who sat down next to him and nudged Kalyan with an elbow. "Did you do it?" his friend hissed. Kalyan nodded, then both Soldiers looked towards the front of the room and waited for class to start.
It started out as boring as it always was. The Dedicated stalked back and forth at the front of the room, giving a lecture that was suspiciously close to the assigned textbook reading. Kalyan looked down at his paper, scribbling down notes as he pretended to listen. His eyes flickered back and forth between the paper and their instructor, anxiously waiting for the man to take a drink from the cup on his desk. A short flash of amusement flared up within him when Dedicated Isandro finally paused his lecture to drink. While the man's back was turned, Kalyan looked at Uliel with a grin, and his friend's expression mirrored his own.
He watched the Dedicated even more closely afterwards, but though he took several more drinks, Kalyan saw no sign of his mouth turning blue like Uliel had said it would. As time passed, he concluded that it must not have worked for some reason, and began to pay more attention to his note taking and less to watching their instructor. He was in the middle of a sentence when he realized that the Dedicated had stopped talking. The realization was quickly followed by the sound of a sudden thump, and ink splattered across the page as Kalyan dropped his pen and snapped his head up to see what was happening.
Dedicated Isandro leaned against the desk, one hand clutching its edge and the other holding his stomach. He wobbled as if he suddenly couldn't sustain the effort of standing, and Kalyan saw a few of the other students rush towards the door, calling out that they were going to get a Yellow. As the Dedicated continued to struggle, a couple more Soldiers left their desks to hurry towards him, and so did Kalyan. He might not like the man, but that didn't mean he wanted to see him fall and possibly injure himself.
By the time the three of them reached the front of the room, their instructor had stopped shaking and was slowly sliding towards the floor. Kalyan took hold of one arm, a classmate the other, and the third grabbed hold of him under the arms as they gently lowered him to the floor. He didn't speak, and never moved, but the dark eyes were open, and Kalyan could see the man's fear within them. He was standing besides the Dedicated, trying to think of anything else he could do before the Yellows arrived, when he felt something tug at his coat sleeve.
Kalyan blinked and looked in that direction to see Uliel smiling at him as he pulled on the material. His friend's expression seemed out of place after what they'd both just seen, and since he didn't know what else to do, a confused Kalyan let Uliel drag him from the room. When they emerged into the hall, Uliel still wore that same strange smile. As they walked aimlessly down the hallway, the other Soldier looked towards Kalyan and said, "He sure got what he deserved, didn't he?"
Kalyan frowned and shook his head. "I've never seen someone get that sick that fast." He didn't think he wanted to see it again anytime soon either.
"We can't get sick, Kalyan, remember?" Uliel muttered, rolling his eyes.
Kalyan had not remembered, and as he thought about it, the fact disturbed him. If channelers couldn't get sick, then what had happened? He could only come up with one potential answer, and he didn't like it at all.
"What if it was something about the sprinklewort?" he asked nervously. "His mouth didn't turn blue, so I thought it just hadn't worked."
Uliel looked away from him with a shrug of his shoulders, a sharp edge in his voice as he said, "Maybe."
Kalyan blinked. "What do you mean, maybe? You said it was harmless."
"Well, it is. He'll be just fine in a few bells."
Kalyan stopped walking as a chill crept up his spine. He moved closer to Uliel to object, "But he's not now. Didn't you see how scared he was?"
Uliel didn't look at him as he said, "So? It's no worse than he's made any of us feel. Remember when he told you you'd never make it as an Asha'man?"
Kalyan did remember that comment, and how it had hurt, but didn't agree with what Uliel had said. He shook his head. "Doesn't matter." A sick feeling grew inside him as he realized that whatever Uliel had given him had to be the cause of their instructor's sudden illness. "What just happened...it's no different than how he's been treating us."
"I knew you wouldn't understand," Uliel said.
Kalyan, still thinking, feared he understood too well. "So you lied to me," he said. He studied the man he'd thought was a close friend. Light, did I ever really know him?
When Uliel said nothing, Kalyan turned away from the other Soldier and hurried off, fleeing down a side hall. He didn't care where it led, as long as it took him far away from the classroom and from his former friend. While he was quick to get away from both, there was nothing Kalyan could do to escape his own growing guilt. It was that emotion which caused him to stop a few steps past the infimary. Placing his back against the wall, he gave the door a nervous glance. Will Dedicated Isandro really recover? What if the Yellows can't help him? Uliel might have claimed he'd be fine, but Kalyan now had no reason to believe anything the other man had said. Worried, he crossed the hall, opened the door, and stepped inside.
"Can I help you?"
The speaker was a brown haired Aes Sedai in a simple yellow dress, someone Kalyan didn't know. He swallowed and said, "I just....I mean, I was wondering......Dedicated Isandro was....unwell....during class earlier.....and..I just wanted to know if he'll be all right."
The Yellow seemed to be studying him more closely as she said, "You were in class with him, were you? I imagine all of you had quite the scare, but he'll be back to himself by the the end of the day." With a sigh of relief, Kalyan thanked her and rushed out of the room, never noticing that the Aes Sedai was still watching him, tapping a finger thoughtfully against her lips.
Two days later, Kalyan was attempting to shovel the manure in the stables one-handed and hold his nose with the other hand. He could barely move the heavy shovel that way, and it almost slipped out of his grasp. He scowled at it, then reluctantly let go of his nose so he could use both hands. Wrinkling his nose at the smell, he breathed through his mouth and kept working, knowing that his punishment could have been much worse. Could be at the farm with Uliel instead. He shook his head at the thought, relieved that he hadn't been sent there as well.
Cleaning out the stables was hot, heavy, smelly work, but it was still better than being sent away. You're lucky you weren't, he reminded himself, grateful for that small mercy. He leaned against the shovel, hauling out another scoop of the mess, and deposited it outside of the stables. His back and arms ached, but Kalyan used the hard work to distract himself from the regret he felt for what he'd done and the pain of losing his trust in a friend. He put all of the effort he could summon into the work, wanting to demonstrate that he took the punishment he'd earned seriously and would be more careful with his choice of friends from now on.