Life in the Palace

For the next month, Cren was given a crash course in life in King Rannon’s court. Every morning, if you could call the bare glimmer of sunlight morning, June would burst into his room and pull him from his bed. She would wait until he put on his training clothes and then drag him down to the training yard. In near dark, that dreadful man would make him run and run around the second largest training yar until his legs were as heavy as grain sacks.  As the sun finally rose, he would make him stretch until his legs were little more than limp noodles and then the real torture would begin. All of his children were required to learn the arts of combat. Every morning they would convene in this yard and learn how to fight. Cren was a simple novice and so he could not train with June. Facing her siblings would not be a walk in the park.

“Look, Cren,” Rannon said as he outfitted the boy in training pads. “Every prince needs to know the basics of self-defense. Even if you don’t think it’s necessary it is. Unless you want to be known as the fool king who didn’t even know how to deflect a knife thrust.”

Cren nodded. He had a point.

“Now I’m going to set you up with Esterfel since you’re both the same age. He’s only been training a few months longer than you so the skill gap isn’t very big.” Cren was steered towards a small boy who was a slender as he was. His hair was cut to just below his ear and combed neatly. The boy nervously wringed his hands as they studied each other. Even without any fighting skills, Cren thought he could take him on pretty well.

“Now Esterfel, I want you to teach him the basic fighting stance. Make sure he gets it right or else he’ll have to stay out here until he does.” The boy nodded and then fell into a position where his weight was equally distributed to each foot.

“You try.” He said, almost too quiet to hear.

“Easy.” Cren mimicked the boy’s stance and he fell out of his. He walked in a circle around him and then nodded his approval. Taking his position back in front of Cren, he moved into another one where most of his weight lay on his front leg. Cren guessed it was more of an offensive stance.

“Try this.” He said in that oddly quiet voice. Cren mimicked him just like the first stance, and he circled him just as he had done before, but this time he found a fault. “Move your leg back just a little. You’ll fall.”
“Fine.” He mumbled irately. He shifted his front leg back a bit and then he felt small hands on his ankle.

“No, now you’re too far back.”

“Make up your mind, am I too far up or too far back? Or are you just messing with me?”

“No I’m sorry. I just wanna help.” Esterfel looked over his shoulder at his father who was putting June through a sequence of maneuvers with a practice sword. Assured that he wasn’t watching, he turned back to Cren. “I-I don’t like meat either.”

“What? But you’re a wolf thing.”

“I know.” He said.

“How can you not like meat? That’s impossible.”

“I know. But It makes me as sick as it makes you.” He shrugged and went back to circling him. “Yeah that’s right.”

Then went on like that for awhile, going from the neutral to offensive stance until Rannon told them to stop. The two boys drank deeply from a cooler brought out by one of the servants and went to sit under the shade of an oak tree near the training yard wall.

“Don’t think this makes me your friend.” Cren suddenly blurted.

“What?” Esterfel said, startled by the sudden outburst.

“I’m not your friend now just because you told me that. I don’t like you. Any of you.”

Esterfel stared with his mouth open until June bounced over to them. She grabbed Cren’s hand and tugged him away. “Come on! Let’s steal some pasties. I’ll get you one with no meat.”

“What’s a pasty?” Cren yelled as the bolted into the palace. Esterfel was left to watch them disappear. He stood and shook his head at the wonder of it.

“Don’t like any of us?” He mumbled.” Sure looks like you like June quite a bit.”

The End

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