In his pre-antagonist days, Rion Costello meets LY Archer, new recruit. (Kind of a prelude to the story 'Lysander Yakinos 'Hicky' Archer')
The main hall of The Big College stretched out in front of Rion. He let his feet lazily clatter onto the hard wood floor – at least his moves clattered correctly; none of the thirty men lining the wall surely knew how to walk as a smart man. Then again, that was one of the reasons he had already completed a first education and explored beyond it.
But that meant he had to stand and greet these uneven others.
He strode amongst the newbies. They were all scruffy. No turned up collars or swift blazers. Rion would have rolled his eyes if the general hadn’t already advised him against being so pessimistic. But they were all the same. These boys simply wanted to get in the action of war, with the fame of such actions. No real determination stood amongst those soled feet.
“Gentlemen,” Rion’s brother announced, “I, Major Stuart Costello, will be your commanding officer for the year. I will supervise your studies, but you will each be assigned one or two further studies tutors in your core subject. My brother will hand you your room key; each first year quarter is in our main building, third floor. The thirty rooms are along the corridor numerically. I trust potential warfare men will not need a map.”
At Stuart’s swift signal, Rion slid forward. He glanced up and down the line and edged along, barely catching the pupils of these men. To each new student, he nodded, smileless, and placed the metal-ringed key in their left hand, before shaking their right. He occasionally shared a word or two; Stuart’s sharp gaze negated utter silence. Rion nearly veered into reminiscing about the five years previously when he had been in the same position. Here lay appropriate power.
Passing half the line, Rion dragged his feet. Only ten more men, and he would lie down with a cool glass of lager. He looked beyond the third black-cut boy with extra shined shoes – they were turning the education into a stereotype! – to the next boy in line.
And that’s when Rion stopped. The next man carried no bowl-cut. He looked up from his shoes.
Their eyes locked, and, surprisingly, Rion’s heart thumped within its locked shell. Something twitched within him. He raised two neat eyebrows as he kept his gaze locked with the other pair. They glinted like dark coffee, hidden under the froth of golden-brown curls.
Quite without meaning to, Rion blushed.
Cheeks coloured cherry, too, the man extended his left hand flat; his right stayed upright, but beckoned, nonetheless. Those eyes held transparent vision – and an uncomfortable feeling brewed in Rion. He resisted clearing his throat and mind.
But Rion couldn’t calm the pulse quickening between his lungs.
Their fingers touched – in a second, one handshake bore interlocking fingers; the new recruit had a firm, brisk grip, but it was one that fluttered like silk. A thought crossed his mind: did this man manicure?
He parted the eye-contact as the hand loosened – otherwise, he would finally have lost that priceless composure Rion adored.
“I am Lysander – Yakinos – Archer.”
“Aha.” The Archers. They had quite a name, and a history to match, though war had not filtered through the generations as much as it had for the Costellos. “Room twelve for you. Enjoy.”
The next men passed the same as the first fifteen, but Rion took the line with a bigger pinch of salt. One new group would pass, as it had before. Instead, Rion finally locked gaze with the other men; in each set of eyes held a vanished grip, a cheeky glimpse of difference between the two men. Each grip hid the reflection of the one’s touch. He only had to imagine that to keep up his spirits amongst the other blank faces.
So, when he dropped the final key into the final palm, an afternoon had not entirely been wasted. Rion needed no signal from his brother this time. He lifted his shoulders and turned away from the students.
He nearly waved, before remembering that exact decorum that most of these students were missing. Until next year, youth. They hurried, footsteps mini fireworks clattering across the polished floor. Rion winced. Only a few pairs of steps mannered themselves – and two of those tripped from Costello slacks.
Rion halted, leaning up and closing a window, which one of the officers had neglected. This time, he did not hide his scowl. Not that anybody remained at which to scowl. Even Stuart had marched his way back into the heart of the College.
“Mr. Costello, sir,” called a voice.
Rion turned. The Archer boy had not left, though he didn’t run, either. When Rion took a step away from the hall wall, the boy came to a complete standstill. He lifted one hand to his head, almost tucking a strand behind his ear. Pruning? Rion raised a questioning eyebrow. “Call me Rion.”
The corner of Yakinos’ plump lips twitched upwards. “I was told that you will be my tutor for Management, Mr. C– Rion. I have some ideas for battle-plans. Basics and the such. Would you be interested in picking up a drink together?”
Well, he had the trademark Archer dialect. It rolled around his vowels, and Rion allowed himself the pure joy of a grin.
“This way, Mr. Archer.”