Two days later, Brom and Lagge reluctantly returned to their families. Carm remained, and he, Haines, and I took up my lessons again. I found out that, though I retained the knowledge, I needed to recover the strength and confidence. I had been ‘knocked down’ to the point of death, and as with all major injuries, there is a time of convalescence and therapy before recovery can be complete. My convalescence was winding to a close; this was my therapy. I was starting almost from the beginning though I was much better with a sword and a staff.
It wasn’t long, however, before I noticed Patricia’s prolonged absence and questioned where she had gone.
“She is staying with a family in the village,” said Tsan when I asked him one morning.
He spoke so matter-of-factly, but I was at a loss. “Why?” What was wrong with her staying here?
“Master Durmas determined that you would pay more attention to your lessons if she wasn’t here. He will determine when the two of you can be rejoined, and Liam, before you think to change this, you should know that the Master has something special planned for the two of you. You would be very disappointed if you screwed it up.”
Something special? What is he planning for us? “Can I send her a message?”
“Write her every evening if you like. I’ll see to it that she gets it.”
That’s what I did. I redoubled my efforts with my lessons and wrote Patricia every night. I found myself pouring my soul out onto the paper. I wanted her to understand everything about me and I wanted to understand things about her as well, so I sprinkled many questions into my letters. Her answers were waiting for me every evening. It wasn’t as good as feeling the warmth of her body, but I was determined to make it do.
There were occasional letters from my parents too. These came by special messenger through Mr. Preston’s office and Tsan saw to it that my answers to those letters got sent too.
Carm and Haines didn’t hit it off very well at all. Carm felt that Haines was too high and mighty, and Haines thought Carm was the worst example of a back-country hick. My teachers saw this dissension as well and designed their lessons accordingly, much to my dismay. The tasks were brutal and required meticulous cooperation from all of us to accomplish. We suffered many failures because of small disagreements between Carm and Haines.
Finally, after one four-day campaign that ended with the three of us trussed up like hogs to be taken to the butcher, I turned on my two friends. “You know why we failed again don’t you?”
“We failed because he…” started Carm.
“We failed because you both are more interested in out doing or defeating each other. Haines, my god, you were the captain of the emperor’s guard and my senior by at least fifteen years, you should know better. This will stop or I will send you home, Carm; and Haines, I will send you to live with Mr. Preston. I’m giving you one more chance to sort this out between you. If you stumble over each other again, I wash my hands of you both.”
They left us tied up like that for two more days, but as soon as we were allowed to go back home, I went into my room and left them to their own devices, which meant that I left them hungry unless they begged a meal from someone else.
I don’t know what they did or said. They never said anything to me about it, but apparently, they came to an accord of some sort because it never happened again.
After a full six months of hard work, I began to feel much more normal. Durmas felt it too and gave me permission to visit Patricia.