“Sorry she won’t let you out!”

                Pine didn’t look as his sister Amelia pranced about on the flagstone behind him. The girl was quite bubbly, and always had been. She wasn’t at all bright, though, as Pine saw it. She was his only sibling, which at times seemed strange to him, since all the other families he knew could have upwards of a dozen children. Misfortune had brought him only Amelia and no other children for him to entertain himself with.

                “If I were her, I’d let you go,” Amelia nodded absently. She was holding a stuffed toy, which Pine thought most childish of a ten-year-old. “You could always practice to be a Royal Guard with Duran!”

                “Duran doesn’t know anything about swords, he’s a Cakumi,” Pine informed her matter-of-factly. “They use their fists. And daggers, if they’re desperate. Have you ever seen a furred Royal Guard, Amelia?”

                “Well, no,” she frowned, thinking about it real hard and scrunching up her face. “But I’m sure that because he’s so old he must know something. He’s older than you, he must know more than you do!”

                Pine was shaking his head, still staring out into the street, “I’m the best young swordsman in central High Block. Didn’t mom tell you I broke Jo Hattery’s face?”

                “Wasn’t his face, was his shoulder!”

                “Was his face.”

                “You’re a liar,” Amelia giggled, waving her stuffed doll at him. “But you know I’ve never seen you spar, whenever mom forgets how naughty you’ve been…you should take me with you! Maybe I could learn something too, if I ever get jumped by some nasty fish-man, I could defend myself!”

                Pine finally caved in and looked over at her, amused by the determined sparkle in her eye. Her fists were clenched and she stared straight into him, as if for reassurance.

                “Defend yourself with what sword?”

                Amelia thought on this for a moment, “The sword of courage! You know!”

                He could no longer contain himself, bursting into peals of laughter. Amelia was confused for a few moments but eventually joined in with a few giggles. Pine didn’t have the heart to ask if she knew that the Sword of Courage was just a nursery tale, one that all Fahlhari mothers told. More likely than not, the girl believed she could pull an entire blade from her chest in times of need.

                The two jested back and forth, watching as regally dressed adults walked past them, paying absolutely no mind to such young ones. Most of them carried scrolls and large texts along with them, while others guided wagons pulled by teams of Litten. Amelia would giggle at the creatures, mocking their short arms and large back legs.

                Pine’s ears perked to the sound of shuffling. Their mother appeared at the front doorway, her face askew with mixed emotions. She descended into the courtyard with a long sheet of parchment. Eying it fretfully, she looked from it to her children, openly debating aboutsomething.

                “I can do it!” Pine spoke out suddenly.

                His mother exhaled deeply, an unsurprised, reluctant sort of sigh. With a scowl she stepped forward and handed him the sheet of paper. He snatched it happily. Mistress Demasa put her hands on her hips and surveyed her offspring, wondering away at something unseen.

                “You’re not going, Amelia.”

                Her face dropped, and her eyes began to glaze with tears. Mistress Demasa didn’t seem to notice. She pulled a leather pouch from her blouse and tossed it to Pine. He caught it without looking, smiling proudly as his mother undid the lock on the gate. He bolted down the walkway before his mother could say anything more.

The End

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