I woke up, for a second I had no idea where I was. Then I remembered everything that happened yesterday. I looked out the window. It was almost dawn. I got up and changed into the clothes Julian had told me to wear. A lot of the other guards were gone.
I got out of bed and put on the shirt and pants Julian had given me. I was putting on my boots when Julian came in, grinning.
“Looks like I do not have to come and wake you up after all.”
I turned to him. “Where were you?”
“Having breakfast. And now,” he said, vaulting into bed, “I sleep.”
He closed his eyes and I left the room, walking to the meal area. There were a couple of soldiers there, and several squires were gathered at a table, rubbing their eyes and falling asleep in their oatmeal. I was dismayed to see that most of them were younger than me, though there was one or two that appeared to be around the same age. I got a bowl of breakfast and sat at their table.
A few of them looked at me with obvious disgust, others with open admiration. I simply ate my oats and tried not to look at them. The breakfast was actually quite good. The oatmeal was sweetened with honey, and we all got a sausage and some watered down beer. After finishing, all the squires stood and I followed them to the training grounds. Orion was there, standing next to a line of swords leaning against the wall. We all lined up and waited.
“Today,” Orion said, pacing in front of us, “you shall continue your sword training.” The squires grinned and looked at each other. I paled. Continue sword training? I had never done any in the first place.
Orion walked up to one dozing squire and shouted in his face. “Before we begin, you have to be woken up!” The squire started and stood up straight.
“Run a few laps around the courtyard.” The squires muttered and took off. I jogged behind them looking around at my surroundings. The castle loomed high above us and I thought about how old it must be. It was built when this kingdom was first conquered. It had outlived many kings. I shook my head and continued running. It was tiring, and by the time we finished, everyone was gasping. As we caught our breath, Orion picked up a couple of the swords on the ground and began handing them to us.
“Here is how it works. Each of you will pair off with someone else. Then the winners will fight each other until only on person is left. And that person won’t have to run laps tomorrow.” There were some enthusiastic hollers. I stared at my sword incredulously as Orion handed it to me.
“We are fighting with actual swords?”
“Dulled swords. I cannot trust you fools with real ones.” He handed the next person his sword.
“Now start.” The boys began choosing partners and I found that people were clamoring to have me for their partner, obviously hoping for an easy defeat. In the end I was left with a dark haired youth with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. I lifted my sword. It felt heavy and awkward. The boy laughed.
“This is going to be easy.” He jabbed and I brought down my sword to stop it. He slashed and I lifted the sword to block it. The fight was just him attacking and me trying to defend myself. He jabbed again, but when I tried to block it, he twisted it somehow and my sword clattered to the ground. He held his sword at my throat.
“I win!” He grinned and ran off to join another boy looking for a new partner.
I picked my sword and studied it. It was rather plain. There was no crest, not even that of the guards themselves. The hilt was a dull gray, with copper as a decoration. I sighed. Why was Orion making me sword fight when I had not picked up a sword until today?
I heard someone clear their throat and turned. There was another boy there.
“Do you want to pair up?” he said, a smile etched on his sunburned face.
“I was defeated.”
“So was I. The whole point of this exercise is to get better.”
That made sense. I lifted my sword, and the boy burst out laughing.
“Your stance is all wrong. No wonder you lost. You have to stand like this with your feet apart.” He demonstrated. “Then you hold your sword out in front of your at this angle.” I tilted my sword and spread out my feet. “Now one of the basic moves you learn is this.” He lashed out, but when I tried to block, he weaved the weapon around and slashed at my chest. “Now you try.” I tried to do it, but he blocked my sword and slashed at me again. I kept trying, but he kept blocking me.
“No, no, you cannot just lash out like that and expect it to work. You have to know exactly where the sword is going to go.” I was about to try again, when Orion called out for us to stop.
“We have our victor.” I looked up and was surprised to see that it was the youth from before. He grinned. Orion motioned for him to come closer.
“You may have won, but you have one more opponent.”
The boy looked surprised. “Who?”
“Me.” The boy froze, and everyone began laughing and cheering.
“But I cannot possibly win!”
Orion shrugged. “There is no harm in trying. And if you beat me, you will knighted on the spot.” The boy swallowed and got into his stance. Orion jabbed. The boy tried to block, and somehow, in the space of a couple of seconds, his sword had ended up in Orion’s hands. I had not even seen what had happened. Orion tossed the swords onto the ground and began collecting the other ones.
“Training is over for now. Go to your charges.” The boys left and he turned to me.
“You shall do your personal training with Julian. Understood?”
“Um, yes?” Personal training? What did that mean? I turned and walked off toward the guards’ quarters, hoping that he would be there.
He was, and he grinned as I came in.
“Good. I was just about to begin working. You can follow me around, then we can train later.”
We went to the armory and Julian told me how to help him put on his armor. It was heavier than it looked, and it looked pretty heavy. We then entered the castle.
“Today I am guarding the king’s fiancée.” Julian told me as we neared a door. “This means that we stand outside her door and keep an eye out for danger. It can get pretty boring at times.”
“Fiancée? You mean Sarah?” I was going to see Sarah again?
“Yes. Now…” he trailed off as the door flew open and a flustered Sarah looked out. She seemed to be both surprised and relieved by my presence.
“I need to talk to you. In private,” she said with a look at Julian. He stepped back.
“W-w-why?” I asked.
“It is about what you told me earlier. I think that William is haunting me.”