Rising Waters

The next morning, Hercules and Ioulas were inspecting the children during their morning exercises. They noted hat several of the young women seemed more tired and less enthusiastic than usual, though they fought the fatigue with grim determination.

Gabrielle was there, watching the women working out, while David was off near the stage, studying several of the young men, making subtle corrections, or discussing technique with Paulo.

As was usual, Antonia was once again, off on her own, practicing some strange new footwork that Ioulas had never seen before.

After a while, Hercules stepped up onto the training stage and called them all to gather by him. He had a stern look in his dark eyes.

David sidled up to Gabrielle, standing at the rear with some of the other instructors.

"It has been brought to my attention," Hercules began. "That some of you are taking the tournament in Athens a bit too seriously." His eyes moved over the assembled students. "That's putting it lightly. I have been informed that several of you were involved in a scuffle last night, out beyond the walls. Now, since only one of you has permission to be outside the walls after dark, I'm curious? Who else was out, without permission last night, and why?"

His eyes fell on Quintis, Darus, Atrophis, and Trajen, standing near the front of the formation, but several rows back, which was unlike them.

"Can you shed any light on this, Master Trajen?"

The young man shrugged, trying to keep a bruised cheek from view of the Head Master.

"No sir," he answered dutifully.

Hercules nodded. "I see." He gestured to his own face. "How did that happen?"

"An accident, Head Master," Trajen replied. "Darus and I were working alone, early this morning, and I got careless."

"I see," Hercules nodded, clearly unconvinced.

At the rear, Gabrielle looked up at David quickly.

"Did you say anything?" she asked in an urgent whisper.

David shook his head. "I'm planning on letting them settle it in the circle this weekend. I was just going to keep an extra sharp eye on our young ambitious friends till then."

"Then who?" Gabrielle asked. "None of the girls would have said anything? Would they?"

Again, David shook his head. His eyes fixed on another figure standing nervously in the ranks. "I think I know who, though."

Gabrielle followed his gaze and saw Rasten, standing near the rear, his eyes darting back and forth with furtive intensity. They both saw his gaze settle and soften when he spied Antonia, looking about at the other girls in her impromptu team. A smile twitched at the edges of his mouth before he quickly looked away.

"Well, well," Gabrielle said with a knowing smile.

"Uh, huh," David agreed.

They turned and focused back on Hercules, now speaking with Quintis, who dutifully answered his inquiries with well practiced ease. Once he was done, Hercules nodded.

"See me in my chambers after the morning lessons, please," he instructed.

"Uh oh," David muttered. "Problem."

Hercules, with Ioulas at his side, dismissed the students back to their workout and exited the yard.

"I'll be back in a little bit," he said. He gave her a quick kiss and departed.

"Do you have them?" Gabrielle asked. David held up two rolled pieces of parchment and nodded, his smile spreading.

"I think this'll be fun," he said and he was gone.

Quintis walked down the hallway that led to the Head Master's chamber, his throat constricting slightly. He was fuming at the thought that he might be walking into an academic execution.

He paused outside the door and heard voices in discussion. Then he knocked. Instantly, there was silence.

"Come in?" It was Master Ioulas's voice that responded. Both of them in the chamber at the same time. This was not a good sign.

He opened the door and found Master Ioulas, Head Master Hercules, Master David, and a fourth man that he did not recognize gathered around the Head Master's desk.

"You wanted to see me Head Master?" Quintis offered innocently.

"Yes, Quintis," Hercules said, gesturing. "Come in."

"Well," David said casually. "If there's nothing else? I'll leave you two to it then?"

Ioulas nodded.

"Gentlemen," David nodded as he rose. As he passed he greeted the young student.


"Master," Quintis replied in a voice filled with subdued anger.

Hercules turned to the fourth man and handed him a parchment. "Get this to Tripolis as quickly as possible, please?"

"Of course, sir," the man replied. Inwardly, Quintis breathed a sigh of relief. The fourth man was obviously a messenger of some sort. He received the rolled parchment and departed.

"Now," Hercules turned to the young man standing before him. His fingers folded on the desk.

Outside the office, David took several deliberate steps away from the door, and then turned back. He stepped up upon a small wooden chair and peered into the ventilation shaft.

Rasten tried to scoot a bit closer to the opening, better to hear what was about to be said when he felt a gentle tap on his heel. Turning his head, he saw David looking at him from the opposite side of the vent. David gestured with one finger. His heart sank as he slowly backed out of the vent and dropped to the floor.

"Well, Rasten," David smiled. "You really get around this place, don't you?"

Rasten shrugged. "It's easy, if you know how?"

"I bet," David's smile was broadening. "Come with me please?"

They found a long unused stairway that ascended to the highest tower of the keep. Rasten followed David with growing concern. His questions were met with only stoic silence by the other man as he continued climbing.

When they finally reached the top, they could see far into the surrounding countryside as well as the activity below in the courtyard.

"How did you know about this place?" Rasten asked.

"The Head Master told me," David replied easily. "This was a watchtower for the previous inhabitants of this particular castle."

Rasten nodded. "So, why are we up here?"

"Up here," David said. "We can talk privately."

David leaned his elbows against the rail and looked down at the students finishing up their training and filing into the keep for their academic studies.

"What do you want to talk to me about?" Rasten asked as innocently as he could. David smiled.

"I know that it was you who informed the Head Master about Quintis's little surprise in the forest last night." David said without preamble. "And I have a pretty good idea why."

Rasten shrugged. "I guess there's no point in denying anything, is there?"

David shook his head. "Nope."

Rasten looked down from the dizzying height and sighed.

"I couldn't just let them do it," He finally blurted. "Not to her!"

"I don't have a problem with what you did," David explained. "You did the right thing, and I respect that. I'm just curious as to why you never told her?"

"Told who?" Rasten asked.

"Antonia," David said. "Why haven't you told her that you care about her?"

Rasten shrugged and looked back out at the landscape. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh come on Rasten," David said. "I saw the look in your eyes last night when you found us. Then I saw the look of relief on your face this morning when you saw her, alive and well, in the courtyard. You've got a crush on her or I'm blind."

Rasten said nothing for a long moment, and then he sighed. "Okay, fine. I like her. What about it? Why would she ever want anything to do with me?"

"I can't answer that one, sport," David replied. "But I think she deserves to know, so she can make up her own mind? Don't you?"

Rasten squirmed visibly at that.

"Ras," David said gently. "You're going to have to tell her at some point? You realize that?"

"Yeah," Rasten finally nodded.

"Which brings me to another interesting twist in this little soap opera," David continued. "By going to the Head Master, you effectively betrayed Quintis and his goons. Why? Isn't he a friend of yours?"

Rasten smiled ruefully. "Ah, he just uses me to get things that he doesn't want to do done. Homework and stuff. And I can go anywhere in this place. If he needs information, he comes to me."

David nodded, smiling. "Then why were you in the vent when Quintis was in the Head Master's office. I'm sure he was going to find out everything he needed to know, all by himself?"

Rasten looked at David intently for a moment. "By the way? Why did you talk the Head out of expelling him after last night?"

"You heard it," David replied.

"Yeah, but it doesn't make any sense?" Rasten said. "You seem bent on letting Quintis compete, even after all the things he's done? Besides, you know he'll try and get Antonia again. I don't know why, but it's like he's become obsessed about her?"

"Maybe you should find out why that is?" David suggested. "It might finally help you make up your mind which side you're going to be on? In the mean time, you can tell Quintis whatever you want regarding my little meeting with Hercules and Ioulas. It won't hurt, and it might actually help?" He shrugged.

"You're trusting me?" Rasten asked in surprise.

"Why not?" David replied. "You've done the right thing once already. I think you'll do what's right if it comes down to it."

He moved back to the stairway and looked back. "Why don't you think about what you want to do?" He vanished down the steps. "Just don't take too long." His voice reverberated back up to him.

Quintis was pacing furiously in his room, his eyes ablaze.

"I'll kill that bastard," he thought. "Turn me in like that!"

Rasten dropped to the floor inside the room.

"Hey Quintis," he greeted.

"Rat!" Quintis spun. "I want you to follow this David. Find out where he goes, what he does, everything! I'm gonna get him for turning me in!"

"Uh, Quintis?" Rasten said. "It wasn't him."

Quintis spun to face him. "What?"

"I was listening in before you go there," Rasten admitted. "David was in there for a long time, talking the Head Master out of giving you the boot."

Quintis didn't know what to say. His mouth opened and closed several times as he dropped into his seat. "He was defending me?" he asked.

Rasten nodded.

"We go after his prize student and he kept me from getting kicked out?"

"Yup," Rasten said, watching as Quintis's eyes moved back and forth as if searching for another target for his anger. Rasten thought he looked like an animal searching for prey.

"Then who?" he finally asked.

Rasten shook his head. "They never said the name. All David said was that to kick you out for this would have been something he called overkill. He was confident that you and the others had 'learned your lesson'."

Quintis was on his feet and pacing again. "It had to have been one of those little bitches that came to help her, then," he said, drawing the next likely conclusion. He fixed Rasten with a reptilian stare. "Find out which one!"

"Is that really necessary?' Rasten asked. "It's over with. You're still here, and still in the tournament. What's the point?"

"You questioning me?" Quintis asked angrily.

"No, Quintis," Rasten replied nervously. "I'm just saying that we might want to lay low for a while? If something else happens, I think the Head would kick us all out? He practically said as much!"

Quintis's eyebrows rose. "Really? What else did they say before I got there?"

Rasten shifted nervously on his feet. "Something about some special visitors that Mistress Gabrielle had sent a message to, regarding the tournament? I guess we're going to have more guests in the next few days? Also, that until these guests arrive, the tournament will be postponed?"

Quintis smiled knowingly. "Judges from Athens, probably? Gauging our ability to fight before Argosy?"

Rasten shrugged. "I don't know? They never said?"

Quintis considered that for a moment. "We need to get the others. Come on."

Rasten followed Quintis out of the room and down the hall.

Gabrielle stood before the six young women, all standing at attention before her. She smiled in approval and looked back at her husband. "What do you think?"

David strode to his usual position on the fallen log and mused. A smile creeping across his face.

"I think I'm looking at a fifty five gallon drum of 'whoop-ass' standing in front of me?" he said.

Kitia looked confused. "What?" she whispered.

"I'll explain later," Gabrielle whispered back. "Just trust me. It's a good thing." Then she looked back at her husband. "What about the message?"

David nodded. "Went out this morning. They should have it by tomorrow, which would put them here in a few days."

"May I ask who?" Antonia asked, standing at the far end of the line.

David only grinned wider and tapped the side of his nose. "You'll see."

"You're sure they'll come?" Gabrielle asked.

"I know I would," David replied and Gabrielle gave him a knowing look.

Gabrielle nodded and turned back to the others. "Okay girls," she said. "While we work on our general technique, my husband will be pulling each of you aside and teaching you some very specific things that you can use during the competition." She moved up and down the line, looking at each of them in turn. "Each of you is going to have a specialty, something to keep our opponents off guard. Understood? These will be specific things that you will practice, in private, during the normal morning training sessions. No one is to see what you are doing. Only I and my husband know about this."

All of them nodded.

Gabrielle looked back at David. "Okay, let's get to work."

Hercules stared over the rim of his goblet at Ioulas, standing again at the window and looking down at the small clearing below where the small group of figures trained.

"You know," Ioulas said. "This whole thing has gotten completely out of control."

"How so?" Hercules asked.

Ioulas coughed suddenly. When he composed himself he turned back to his friend. "First we agree to let Gabrielle and David help one student, and now, he gives us a roster for a complete team to compete in the tournament next week?" He coughed again. This time the fit lasted longer than the last one.

"You okay?" Hercules asked.

Ioulas waived a dismissive hand. "Fine, fine," he said. "Just a dry throat."

Hercules laughed. "Well stop hovering at the window and take a drink?" He pointed to Ioulas's waiting goblet.

Frowning, Ioulas did as requested and settled into his seat.

"I still think we should do something about Quintis and his followers," Ioulas said, repeating the same argument for the third time.

Hercules shook his head again.

"David told us both what he had in mind, and I like it." He smiled. "Besides, we can always step in later if things get too out of hand."

Ioulas coughed again, setting his goblet down. "I think they're already out of hand, Herc," he managed to say, and then he coughed more and leaned back in his seat.

"Ioulas?' Hercules got to his feet. "Are you alright?"

Ioulas looked up at him, a thin sheen of sweat on his face. "Actually? No, I think I'm not. I feel a little sick to my stomach."

Hercules was at his side in an instant, helping his friend back to his feet. "Let's lay you down, and I'll send for the healer."

"Herc," Ioulas protested. "It's probably something I ate. You know what they say about school food?"

"Well," Hercules countered. "I want to be sure."

"You know what they say about school healers, too?" Ioulas retorted as he lay down on his bed.

Hercules went to the door and waived to a nearby member of the faculty.

"Send Mistress Gadneye to Master Ioulas's room, quickly!"

"Gadneye?" Ioulas groaned. "She has the bedside manner of a harpy."

A single figure came running down the path towards them as they worked. Instantly, Gabrielle called a halt when she saw Rasten slow to a stop. He paused when he saw six pairs of eyes fix on him angrily.

"Uh," he held up his hands. "I'm sorry to bother you, but, uh?"

"What do you want?" Antonia asked him. He smiled when he saw her, despite the severe look he was getting from her.

"Um, Hello Antonia?" Rasten said quietly.

"Why are you here?" Gabrielle asked in a disapproving tone.

Rasten blinked. "Oh, sorry, I just thought you should know. Master Ioulas seems to have had some kind of attack."

"What?" Gabrielle and David said at the same time.

"Mistress Gadneye is with him right now," Rasten continued quickly. "She's the school healer - "

Gabrielle was off like a shot, sprinting toward the keep.

"Okay," David said as he quickly gathered a few things. "Class dismissed. Get some sleep tonight." He jogged after Gabrielle. He turned back to them. "Antonia?" he asked. "Please escort our friend here back to the school?"

Rasten's eyes went wide in horror and he subtly shook his head.

"No problem," Antonia replied, fixing him with a stern stare.

David nodded and followed Gabrielle up the path.

Gabrielle burst through the door of Ioulas's room and saw Hercules standing off to one side, his fingers pulling nervously at his beard. Another figure was seated on the edge of the bed, examining Ioulas, who lay pale and sweaty under the blankets. She was a severe looking woman with straight graying dark hair and sharp gray eyes.

After a few minutes, she looked back up at Hercules and motioned for them to move outside.

Numbly, Gabrielle followed.

"I'm sorry, Head Master," she said in a somewhat tired voice. "It's his heart. I'm afraid that there is little I can do for him, beyond what I've been doing for the past few months."

"Few months?" Hercules asked. "What have you been doing for him over the past few months?"

Gadneye seems surprised at that. "I thought you knew?" she said. "Master Ioulas has been in my care for the past few months regarding this condition. I've treated it as best I could, with supplements and some herbal medicines. I've even communicated with my old teacher in Thessalonia. Master Hypocrates said that there was little else that could be done, though he has also been working on this particular affliction for some time. He told me he would send me any new findings, but so far, there has been little.

"Hypocrates?" Gabrielle blurted.

"Yes," Gadneye replied. "He's been a healer for nearly forty years. His school in Thessalonia is known throughout the world as one of the greatest houses of healing. I was one of his earlier students?"

Gabrielle smiled as she remembered the passionate young man in the temple. The one who had stayed with her and Xena during the middle of a battle. The one where she had died for the first time.

"Getting back to Ioulas?" Hercules said anxiously. "Can you do anything?"

Gadneye shook her head. "I've done as much as I can over the past months. It seemed that we had the condition well in hand, but I did tell him that these treatments were only a temporary measure. He knew this day would eventually come."

"This day?" Gabrielle asked, dread forming in her belly.

"What did I miss?" David asked as he jogged up to them.

"I'm sorry, Head Master," Gadneye said soberly. "Master Ioulas is dying. In my estimation, I do not think he will last through the night."

Gabrielle's hand rose to cover her mouth as the emotion welled up within her. She felt David's reassuring hand on her shoulder and she fell into his arms, weeping.

Hercules looked down at her and then at the closed door before him, his own expression unreadable, though his eyes were shimmering.

He nodded automatically. "Thank you Healer," he said. "Is there anything else we can do?"

Gadneye sighed. "Just make him comfortable, if you can. It won't be long."

The door opened slowly, and Hercules stepped in, closing it behind him. He stepped over to the bedside and knelt down.

Ioulas looked at him and nodded. "I guess the secret's out now, huh?"

Hercules nodded. "You know, the older you got, the more stubborn," he paused. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"What would you have done, Herc?" Ioulas replied easily. "You knew this day would eventually come. No one lives forever, buddy. We both know that." He smiled suddenly. "Unless you want to try and find that angel fellow and get me another extension?"

Hercules smiled. "Somehow, I don't think that would work."

"Probably not," Ioulas agreed. He coughed again and then lay back on the pillows. "Get the others in here, would you? I don't want a long drawn out series of goodbyes. It's depressing."

Hercules smiled and went to the door. He motioned David and Gabrielle to enter.

Gabrielle sat on the edge of the bed and took Ioulas's hand.

"Hi there," she said, her eyes filling with tears.

"What's this?" Ioulas asked, looking up at her. "None of that now."

Gabrielle smiled as she fought to keep the torrent of emotions at bay. The tears slowly stopped. Ioulas nodded.

"Better," he said. "You don't need to be crying over an old man, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle laughed in spite of herself. "You're not that old. You're going to be alright. I know it." She looked up at Hercules. "The two of you always manage to pull through. Right?"

She looked back at him and saw peaceful resignation in his eyes. He shook his head.

"Not this time, I think," he said. "But it's okay, because I got to see you one more time before I go. That made it all worth while." He closed his eyes for a moment and then looked past her at David, hovering near the door, keeping a respectful distance.

Ioulas motioned for him to approach. He did so, and knelt next to Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle told me a story once," he said, smiling. "About how everyone, a long time ago, had four legs and two heads. How the gods split them all into two beings, and how they all spent their lives looking for their other halves." He put Gabrielle's hand in David's and smiled. "I'm glad you found your other half, Gabrielle." He swallowed and sighed. "Can I speak to him for a moment, please?"

Gabrielle nodded and stepped back next to Hercules.

Ioulas looked at her and smiled.

"Look at her," he said to David. "Even now, she's still beautiful."

David looked up at her, the tears streaming anew down her cheeks.

"I envy you, young man," Ioulas continued. "I've been unfair to you since we met."

David shrugged. "No hard feelings. You had your reasons."

Ioulas shook his head. "You have what I wanted all my life, and I guess I held that against you since I found out. I'm sorry about that."

David smiled.

"You take care of her," Ioulas continued. "You keep that flame bright and beautiful, understand?"

"I'll do my best," David promised. "The last thing I need is some old codger coming back from the afterlife to haunt me?"

Ioulas laughed weakly. "And you know I would, too."

"I know." David smiled. "Now relax."

Ioulas looked up at the ceiling and his eyes became suddenly clear and bright.

"Would you look at that?" he said breathlessly. "There's something you don't see everyday?"

David followed his gaze and saw nothing. When he looked back down, Ioulas's eyes were still fixed on the place, but the light had faded from them.

Gabrielle and Hercules stepped up and looked down at Ioulas. Slowly, Hercules reached down and closed Ioulas's eyes. He lay peaceful on the pillows.

"Goodbye, my friend," Hercules said quietly.

Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment and then backed out of the room. In the end, she turned and bolted down the corridor.

As quickly as he could, David also withdrew and followed her.

Gabrielle didn't stop running until she reached the outer wall. She climbed up to the top and stood there, looking out at the land, shrouded in mist and she gave into her grief.

David found her a few minutes later, seated against the cold stone, hugging her knees to her chest and sobbing.

He knelt before her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him, the tears streaming down her cheeks.

"I couldn't do it in there," she sobbed. "He asked me not to."

"I know, baby," David said gently. She leaned into his arms and let him hold her while the torrent finally escaped.

Footsteps sounded behind him and he turned to see Rasten, of all people stopped a few yards away.

Right behind her came Antonia, Kitia, and several others in her team.

David held up a hand to stay them. He shook his head gently and then returned his attention to Gabrielle.

Reluctantly, the students withdrew, descending the stone steps to the main grounds.

"What was that?" Kitia asked quietly.

Rasten sank down and sat on the last two steps.

"I don't know?" Antonia replied.

"I do," Rasten said in a far away voice. The girls all turned and looked at him with just a hint of disdain.

"What?" Kitia asked.

Rasten breathed deeply. "Master Ioulas just died."

"How do you know?" Antonia asked, folding her arms across her chest.

Rasten looked up at them and smiled soberly. "I saw it happen. I was in the vents, looking around and I saw it all."

"You were spying again," Antonia said sternly.

Rasten looked up at her. "You don't think too highly of me, do you?" he said knowingly. He shrugged. "It's alright. I don't blame you. I kind of hang out with a rather disreputable crowd."

"That's one way to put it," Kitia said. "Come on girls, let's go."

Antonia put a hand on Kitia's shoulder, staying her. She looked back down at Rasten.

"So, why do you?" she asked.

"Come on, Antonia," Rasten said. "No one else ever gave me a chance. I mean, look at me? I'm not big or strong, I'll never be a great fighter. Everyone just gave me the cold shoulder when I showed up. Quintis made me feel like I belong! It's kind of hard to refuse when that was all you ever wanted! To be accepted for who you are!" He looked at Antonia. "You should know all about that!"

Antonia fixed him with a hard stare. "Why should I know all about that?"

Rasten laughed bitterly. "Look at you! Leading your own little group after what? A few days! You finally found your place! I guess Master David was right when he said he could help you out. I think he was right about everything."

"Everything what?" Kitia asked.

"About not only cracking you out of your shell," Rasten looked at Antonia again. "But about making you the next team Captain when we go to Athens!" He looked at her astonished expression and the similar expressions on the other girls. "Yeah, I was spying then too. That's why Quintis hates you so much. You're a threat to his position." He sighed. "I shouldn't even be telling you any of this, but I figured, why not? You might as well know."

He stood up and walked away. Then he turned back in a sudden flurry of frustration.

"Those two showed up and immediately saw you," he blurted. "They gave you the break I've been looking for all my life!" He laughed bitterly. "Quintis was the only one who ever did anything like that for me." He shrugged and looked up at the sky for a minute.

Then he looked down at Antonia and the others again.

"When this little contest starts," he warned. "Quintis isn't going to pull any punches, especially where you're concerned!" He jabbed a finger at Antonia. "He's going to step in the circle with every intention of taking you apart! And I'll have to stand there and watch!"

Kitia looked at him with a sudden understanding. "You don't have to follow him, Rasten?"

The young man smiled bitterly. "Sure I do," He said. "He gave me my shot, just like David and Gabrielle gave you all yours! We each have to play with the Runes we draw, don't we?" His face twisted into something mixing pain and desire. He seemed on the verge of saying something else as he looked into Antonia's eyes. Instead, he turned and walked quickly away, vanishing into the shadows of a nearby archway.

Antonia looked at the others for a moment and then jogged after him.

She rounded the corner, but the young man had vanished. Looking about, she spied a small square opening, high above her head. She sighed and turned back to the others waiting patiently at the bottom of the steps.

Rasten crawled through the comforting darkness of the shaft, his eyes wet with sudden tears. He wormed his way through to the barracks, planning on dropping in on Quintis. He was duty bound to report what he had seen this night.

He stopped when he reached the opening to the young man's chamber. Just as he was about to drop to the ground, Quintis came in. He paused at his desk and pried out a loose stone. Within it, Rasten saw several small vials of different colored liquids. The young leader was muttering to himself.

"One down," he said. "Three to go."

"What?" Rasten thought in alarm. He froze and watched as Quintis replaced a single vial and then vanished, a cold smile on his face.

Rasten waited several breaths before dropping noiselessly into the chamber. He quickly pulled the stone from its place and inspected the small glass vials with growing horror. He didn't have to be a genius to know that they were probably filled with poisons. But if that were the case, then that meant that Quintis? He desperately tried to push that thought out of his head. Yes, his friend was ambitious, and yes, he could be hot headed at times, but cold blooded murder? Why? What would he gain?

His mind was in torment at the possibility, no matter how remote. Still, he had cast his lot with Quintis. Sworn a blood oath. He couldn't back out now.

He replaced the stone exactly as it had been and jumped back into the vent, worming his way up as far as he could until he came out at the stairway. Then he climbed all the way to the top and leaned against the rail of the watch tower, trying to rationalize everything that he had seen.

"One down?" he thought out loud. "Three to go? Three what? Who? Why?"

His mind was a whirlwind. He forced his breathing to slow and tried to calm down, just as Master Ioulas had taught them. "When you panic, you can't think clearly. The trick is to remain calm. See as many options as you can. Think straight, and the answer will present itself." As usual, he had finished with his typical remark. "Most of the time."

"Okay," Rasten thought furiously. "Three to go? Which three? Since he killed Ioulas - I can't believe that!" He banged the side of his head with his fist, as if it would help calm the storm of emotions within. Eventually, he was able to calm the tide and felt his breathing slow to something more normal. Even with his composure regained, the logical string he was following was still too fantastic to believe. He needed more information! He needed more input! He couldn't go to the Head Master with this. Even if they found the vials, they could be nothing, and then where would he be? Master David and Mistress Gabrielle were too busy consoling one another at the moment, and even if they weren't. If he brought this to them, they would inevitably go to the Head Master with it and he was back in the same position. In the end, he could only come up with one other person.

part 5

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