Friday, March 14, 2014

The Dark Ages, Book 1: Chapter 3, Part 2

(Continued from Chapter 3, Part 1)

Cyrus was watching Glenn strike at a dummy made of straw when Reace arrived at the stables. It was quiet on this side of the keep, and the only sounds were of Glenn striking the dummy and the occasional whinny of the horses in their pins. The smells of the stables were comforting and familiar to Cyrus after his harrowing hunting trip, so he was well at ease while he offered Glenn tips on holding and swinging his practice sword. Now all he had to do was watch, as Ser Devon did after a lesson.
The baron’s son glanced at Glenn curiously as he made his way to Cyrus’s side.
“Who’s the toddler?”

Of course, Reace was even less familiar with the townsfolk than Cyrus was. Cyrus had the freedom to come and go as he pleased once his lessons and chores were done, but if the heir went missing from the keep’s grounds without an escort, the entire province would be up in arms. Luckily, Reace had no interest in mingling with the townsfolk, so it was never an issue in any case.
Cyrus knew that Reace would have an issue with being in the presence of a bandit’s bastard, however, so he had to be careful with his words.
“He’s the miller’s son,” said Cyrus, dismissively.
Reace raised an eyebrow, looked at Glenn, then shook his head. “You’re an odd one, Cyrus. I hope you’re not planning on inviting every brat in town to my keep.”
Cyrus grinned. “It’s not yours until the old man falls over.”
Reace snorted. “He’s no more fond of hoodlums than I am.” He watched Glenn take his practice swings for a moment. “So what’s he here for? I wanted to start planning our next hunt, maybe take a few turns in the training yard before the day is through. I owe you for felling a boar before me and making me look bad.”
“I promised to teach this kid to fight,” said Cyrus, shrugging.
“You already teach half the brats in town, from what I hear. Is there something special about this one?”
Cyrus looked at Reace square in the eye. “I think he’ll be the next Ser Arturos.”
Reace seemed taken aback for a moment at Cyrus’s somber expression, but Cyrus couldn’t maintain it for long. He grinned, and Reace laughed.
“You mean to say this child is Ser Arturos reborn?” He spoke loudly, beginning to walk toward Glenn, and Cyrus’s grin faded away. What was Reace up to? “This kid can barely even hold this wooden sword up, much less defeat a great demon.”
Glenn stopped practicing and turned to Reace, watching him warily.
Reace met his gaze and made a mock bow. “Pleased to meet you, young Ser Arturos,” he said, reaching for a nearby practice sword. “My name is Reace, and I keep the peace. Tell me, ser: why do you wield a sword as big as you are?”
Glenn stiffened defensively, and Cyrus noticed his eyes following Reace’s sword. Reace was waving it around casually, gracefully.
“It weighs as much as a real sword, milord. And my name is Glenn, not Arturos.”
“You will answer to what I call you, Ser Arturos,” returned Reace. Cyrus watched as Reace made playful swings in Glenn’s direction as he talked, which the younger boy flinched away from instinctively. The baron’s son seemed to enjoy toying with the boy, and Cyrus was forcibly reminded of the children teasing Glenn earlier that day. Reace was no child to be scared off, however. Cyrus could quarrel with his friend sometimes, but the baron’s heir had an odd temper and Cyrus was never certain which points were safe to press.
“It weighs as much as a sword, true, but only for a man grown,” continued Reace. “You are far from being a man. What do you hope to wield when you are grown? A tree?” Reace laughed.
Glenn was silent, but Cyrus thought he looked uncertain. Perhaps he was reconsidering his choice of practice weapon.
“How rude! Come, then! If you will insult me with your silence, then defend yourself!” Reace lunged forward and sent Glenn’s practice sword flying. He then slammed the flat of the blade into Glenn’s sword arm. The younger boy cried out and fell to his knees, cradling his bruised limb.
“Enough, Reace!” Cyrus stepped forward, stepping between his friend and his pupil. “Is this what you’ve come to? Beating children?”
Reace smiled and shrugged, unapologetically. “Don’t get so defensive, my friend, the brat will be fine; I only meant to teach him a lesson.” He looked past Cyrus to Glenn, who was already getting to his feet. “You’re a tough kid, I’ll grant you that, but you are no warrior. Don’t forget your place.” He looked back to Cyrus and smiled, every bit the baron’s son.
“Well, Reace,” said Cyrus, coldly, “Not all of us can be taught the blade from the moment we’re able to grasp the hilt.”
“Exactly,” said Reace with a grin, tossing the practice sword aside. “I am a nobleman. It is my right and my duty to have a head start.” He glanced at Glenn again thoughtfully. “But, then, I could always use a squire.”
“You’re no knight,” said Glenn, defiantly, coming to stand next to Cyrus. “You’re not old enough.”
“And you’re not old enough to be a squire, so that works out for the both of us, doesn’t it?”
Cyrus put a hand on Glenn’s shoulder, protectively. “He’s my squire,” he said. “I found him first.”
Reace placed a hand over his heart is mock dismay. “Why I’m hurt, Cyrus. Can he not be a gift? No?” Cyrus returned his gaze, trying to seem resolute. Reace sighed. “Very well, then. We will share him. Twice the knights will make him twice the squire, eh?” He clapped Glenn on the back, turned, and walked away, saying, “He starts tomorrow. I’ll make arrangements. Now bring him home, Cyrus. I expect you in the practice yard before dusk. You still owe me those turns, and I’ll not practice swordplay in this heap of horse dung you call a yard.” 

(Continued in Chapter 4, Part 1)

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