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When he first sees her, she is wearing a dark grey riding dress, more suitable to a recent widow than a noble maiden, a simple cord necklace, broken and re-knotted carelessly, with a burning jewel on it, and an archer's armguards. Her feet, clad in sensible boots, are planted firmly in the earth in a way he is startled to recognize from his own training, and when he lets his eyes rove a bit (he is only human), he is startled to notice that, strapped to her waist by a belt of battered old leather, is a sword. It is the thinnest sword Jon has ever seen.

All in all, Jon is not quite sure what to make of her.

She snorts as he stares, and tosses her head like an irascible horse; her red hair, pulled into a messy bun, starts to slide loose. She curses and, entirely ignoring the presence of others, reaches up to pull it free.

"Let me," says Francis. With a few deft twists, he has the startled lady's hair repinned, much more neatly than before. At her glare and the others' snickers, he reminds them defensively, "I have six sisters."

Lady Gwynnen, one of the six, smacks him. "Rude is rude," she says, but Alanna waves it off.

"It's okay," she tells her friend. "Thank you," she adds to Francis.

Francis bows.

Jon risks a glance over his shoulder. Thom, thank all the gods, is nowhere to be seen.

Alanna snorts again. "If you're worried about my brother, your Highness, he's holed up in the library."

Jon thinks he sees Gwynnen kick Alanna's ankle, but he's not sure. Surely no one would kick someone so intimidating, right?

…He hasn't just thought that about a girl who came up to his shoulder.

And who is wearing a sword, and who likely knows how to use it.

…Okay, she is intimidating. Moreso than her lunatic of a brother, which is saying something.

"They let him back in?" Raoul says, and Jon realizes he has been so preoccupied that he has entirely missed the obligatory shocked pause that followed Alanna's statement.

"I think His Grace made them," Alanna says.

Gary shakes his head. "Father said he'd never let Thom in the library unsupervised again."

Fat lot of good that pronouncement had done, Jon thinks. It didn't stop him in the least.

"Oh." Alanna cackles, sounding disturbingly like Lady Roxanne. "No. I meant your cousin, your Highness."

If that's the case, then Jon can almost believe the rumors that Roger is attempting to kill them all.

Alex, who has always been the only one of them completely unaffected by Thom's lunacy, mercifully changes the subject. "I wasn't aware they taught fencing at the convent," he says with a nod at her sword.

"They teach whatever they feel is needful for keeping husbands in line," Alanna retorts with a disturbingly familiar grin.

Alex's responding grin is just as fierce. "Would my lady care for a practice bout sometime?"

Alanna cackles again. "No time like the present," she says, taking his offered arm.

Gwynnen bobs Jon a quick curtsey, gathers up her skirts, and jogs after them. "I'm refereeing!" she shouts. Alanna gives her a lazy wave of assent, without even bothering to turn around.

"Think about it this way," Gary says once they are out of earshot. "If you courted her, you'd never be free of her brother." He sounds just as shaken as Jon feels, and that makes Jon feel a little better.

"What is it about Trebonds?" Raoul asks, but there is no answer.