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When Holly Met Barras

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Braev read over the report for a second time as Alternis Dim continued to stand to attention.

"Again?" the Templar said at length, confirming he was not imagining the report's contents. "He was injured and she did nothing to help him?"

"Yes sir. Though if you re-read section 'A', you should note that she is the reason he was injured in the first place." He interrupted again a moment later as Braev continued skimming the text. "We are beginning to run out of options; if Holly was allowed to operate on her own, or if we could make Victor her partner-"

"While she and Victor would assuredly work well together, I cannot risk a disruption in his care of Victoria. Victor must remain here. Find someone else," Braev replied still reading the report.

"With all due respect who else could partner with her?"

"All problems have a solution, Alternis. If we cannot draw from the ranks we must recruit."

"But who could fill the role of her partner?"

Braev cracked a smile and looked up at the Dark Knight. "The crux of the problem. I welcome any input." Before Alternis could respond, Braev held up a hand. "Not today. Think on it."

"Very well. If I may take my leave?" Alternis asked.

Braev nodded, sitting back in his chair as he reviewed the report for a third time. Holly Whyte; an early recruit to his forces once under the command of Ciggma Khint. Now one of Braev's most powerful White Mages. But in a strange paradoxical way she was nothing like any other user of that asterisk; flippant, cruel and something of a sadist. So odd; those who wished to train with the role did so with the hope of becoming healers or helping those around them. Holly, it was safe to say, had no such compulsion. If anything she had focused on splitting the effects of healing magic. She conjured the ability to cure physical injury separate from the anesthetic. No one had conceived of the practice before, nor considered using it to keep someone just this side of death.

Her first partner's report detailed reported an encounter a captured Crystallist supporter. Holly both inflicted several wounds on the man, but also left him in agony even as she stemmed the blood-flow. With no concern to his wounds she began interrogation. That same partner also reported a litany of mental and physical abuse in their brief time together. The second partner she had let fall behind after a fight got bad and retreat was the only option. And now a third partner had fallen through. Braev was reluctant to press one of his agents into a duo like this. The others operated solo or in groups without problem, despite disparate mixes of personality. Yet Holly was more difficult to control, bilking orders as and when it suited her. He could order her to remain in the Healing Tower, yet there were so few White Mages prepared to go into combat. It seemed a waste to restrict her like that.

He had hoped that Ominas Crowe might provide a suitable foil for Holly's personality, but that had proven naive. Ominas's misogyny undermined the plan from the start. From the man's pained reporting it sounded like they started on the wrong foot and things had gotten worse from there. It had been an appealing notion though - putting two of his magic users together; black and white, attack and defense. They should have complimented each well. But maybe they were too similar, Ominas with his penchant for burning and Holly with her desire to injure rather than heal. It was surprising what she could inflict with magic or her own hands.

The notion of attack stuck in his head, an idea forming. He searched in amongst his documents for another report. Barras Lehr, a monk asterisk user, also troublesome. Monks were suppose to favor peace of mind and defense rather than attack. Not so Barras. His last report consisted of short, simplistic sentences detailing his actions. Following this was a litany of complaints about his former commander halting his full frontal assault on the enemy. Twice. Then his successful but near suicidal full frontal assault a few minutes later. And shortly after that the latest in a long line of disciplinaries. Then the severe injuring of his commanding officer and his transfer to another division. Braev glanced back at the report on Holly. Could he? Would they work as a team? Monk and White Mage? Mage and Mage had proved a disaster, as had putting Holly with either a Salve Maker or a Performer. No, he would risk it. Holly needed to be out in the field, but had to adhere to some kind of command. Re-summoning Alternis, Braev began drafting the paperwork.

* * *

It was far too early in the morning for this. Holly scowled at everyone as she stalked through the frigid corridors of Central command. Anyone caught in her gaze recoiling and pressing themselves against the walls. She glared at the sheet of paper Alternis had insisted on waking her up for an hour earlier. Why did they keep on trying to pair her up with someone? That idiot Ominas was free to be a pyromaniac wherever and whenever he wanted. Khint, whom she at least respected more then most in this army, was free to come and go as he pleased. And he could get away with charging people for his time. Whereas they pressured her to hang around with some peon who only served to slow her down or get themselves injured at the drop of a hat. She was good with magic, but there was a limit. Holly had no desire to keep propping up people who could not take care of themselves. Magic was not infinite after all.

"Ha ha ha ha!" A voice roared from nearby. A tremor shuddered through the stonework and Holly swayed. What or who was that? The voice had come from up ahead - her destination. Great. Just what kind of idiot was she expected to babysit this time? The backwash of a new shock-wave rushed past her as she turned the corner. A muscular man was punching targets, his fists near atomizing the standing stones. Without pausing he turned and slammed his fist into the next, a maniacal grin on his face, delighting in the destruction.

Oh. Now this was interesting. Holly smiled as she watched the stranger. He was all rippling muscles and pure, concentrated power. Debris sprayed around the training ground, the fighter consumed in his pursuit of destruction. He only seemed to notice her once his targets were rubble, the area cleared of any one else but the White Mage.

"You gonna be my partner?" he said, bumping his fists together in front of him. He seemed anxious to be moving, anxious to punch again.

"I might be," Holly replied, gaze lingering on his arms, liking what she saw. Her scowl had long since departed and now she was appraising him in a different light. "If you can keep up with me."

He threw his head back and laughed. "Anything that gets in the way, I'll punch it apart!"

Sparkling wit did not seem to be part of his personality, but she was not about to let that be a hindrance. He had volume and strength. If he could handle conflict, all she had to do was keep him upright. Seemed fair to her. "Not afraid of getting your hands dirty then? I would rather avoid it if possible."

"It is not a good fight unless you do!" he roared.

Holly winced at the volume, but extended her hand. "Holly Whyte."

"Barras Lehr," the man thundered squeezing her hand in a near bone-shattering grip. "Now let's start the real training!"

She winced, but his comment intrigued her. "Oh?" she asked, looking around the trashed area. "This wasn't training?"

"This is nothing. This was just a warm-up. I need to fight something that can fight back!"

Holly smiled. This was going to be an interesting partnership.