Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Dark Ages, Book 1: Chapter 4, Part 1

(Continued from Chapter 3, Part 2)


“Will you come to the yard and train me, ser?”
Reace looked up from his book at the sound of the brat’s voice. Practically everyone knew better than to disturb him in the study. He came here for the solitude, and nothing this boy had to say could be urgent enough to warrant this intrusion.

Where was Cyrus? Usually the boy was at his heels like an obedient puppy, and it was almost like the little bastard avoided being alone with Reace. Ungrateful, really, after Reace went through the trouble of granting the boy servants’ leave to move about the keep. Few peasants held that privilege.
“Why do you ask me?” asked Reace after a moment’s pause. The boy seemed sincere enough, standing there expectantly. He seemed a fit to this place, in a way; a dusty young boy among the study’s dusty old tomes. His hair, usually resembling a sodden mess of straw, seemed gilded in the dusty sunlight streaming through the windows, similar to the brass curios that littered Reace’s desk. “Training you is Cyrus’s duty. Ask him if you wish to train.”
“Cyrus has gone to town today,” said the boy, sounding disappointed.
“Gone to train the hoodlums again? Then join them. I won’t give you private lessons simply because you’re afraid of the other boys.”
The brat shook his head. “I’m not afraid. I’ve been helping Cyrus train them for the past month or so. But Cyrus isn’t going to town to train the boys. He’s courting one of the girls in town today. I don’t think he likes me to be around when he’s with girls.”
Reace snorted. “Girls are insipid creatures. I don’t understand why he bothers with them. Is it still the innkeep’s daughter?”
“No, the mayor’s daughter came to watch us train the other day, so he said he’s going to pay her back for the morale boost she gave everyone by watching.”
Reace’s eyebrows rose. The mayor was a nobleman, a branch of Reace’s own line some generations back. Cyrus must be getting bold, to court the highborn. How high did he aspire? Would knighthood be enough for him, when the time came?
It was inevitable: Cyrus was already a match for Reace with the blade, and with far less training. Soon he would be of age and prove himself in combat, and his natural prowess would either be a great boon or a great risk to Reace’s family.
The baron’s heir pushed these thoughts from his mind. Such thoughts would sour his studies and sully the sacred peacefulness Reace found in this place. They were courtroom thoughts, or practice yard thoughts.
“A squire has two duties to his knight,” said Reace, turning his attention back to his book. “He learns the art of fighting and the art of servitude. You have two knights, so we must split your duties among us: Cyrus teaches you the blade, so I will teach you servitude. Do you know your letters?”
“Yes,” said the brat, “a little. My mother taught me words and sums to take over the mill’s ledgers one day.”
Reace sighed and turned his attention to the boy again. “Oh, very well. I suppose organizing and delivering private documents is out of the question, then.” He thought a moment longer, then shook his head. “No pressing chores come to mind, but I will prepare some for the future. It’s time I begin compensating for Cyrus’s lack of responsibility.”
The brat’s brow furrowed. “Cyrus is very responsible. What do you mean by saying he isn’t?”
Reace snorted. “How is that even a question? He spends all of his time trying to give everyone his attention, and in the end nobody is satisfied with the amount they are given. He should learn the arts of delegation and command, the cornerstones of leadership.”
The younger boy seemed to grow angry. “Cyrus is a great leader, far better than you will ever be.”
Reace laughed. “A great leader, is he? How can you lead the people when you spend your time acting like one of them?”
“He acts like he is the same as everyone, but he proves he’s better by being better,” said the younger boy, starting to yell. “Unlike you who acts better than everyone, when you’re really just the same as everyone else!” Having said his peace, the brat fled the room.
Reace stood to chase after the boy, to make him take that comment back.
Instead, he turned and walked to the study’s large, crystal window and looked out toward the town where his friend was spending the day.
He wondered about how many others would consider Cyrus the better leader, and weighed the importance of popularity versus responsibility. The boys Cyrus taught, Reace’s future subjects, barely knew him. And Reace knew them not at all. If it came to it, whose banner would they flock to?
But Cyrus was his friend. Surely, it would never come to that.

(Continued in Chapter 4, Part 2.)

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