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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Yeah, My Best Friend Is A Dragon, So What?

"Gunther, you biscuit weevil! Have you never heard of fighting fair?"
"Perhaps. I think I have heard the term before, mayhap I read it in a book… what does it mean?"
"Do not smirk at me like that! You know exactly what I am talking about!"
It was sparring time in the practice yard. This meant that, as usual, Gunther and I were hurling insults at each other, the sound of wood hitting wood punctuating every word.

And, as usual, Gunther was cheating.
And, because of this cheating, he was winning.
…Once again, as usual.

"Ha! Beat you again!" Gunter exclaimed as he knocked me to the ground.
I brushed the dust off my leggings and stood, ignoring the slight pain in the leg I had landed on. "Because you cheated!" I said hotly. "Perhaps if you were following the rules, then I could actually beat you –"
"Jane, do not be ridiculous. Do you think, in a battle, that anyone would care who is playing fair?" Gunther snorted, leaning on his practice sword.

"Fine! I will cheat too, and we will see who wins!" I exclaimed, knowing just what Sir Theodore would have to say to this idea, but so irritated after spending the entire day with Gunther that I no longer cared.
We raised our wooden swords once more and began circling, little puffs of dust rising each time our feet hit the ground.

"I bet the first real fight you are in, your opponent will knock you down on the first blow," he taunted.
I gritted my teeth. "Please do not talk."
"Why? Does it distract you? Is it challenging for you to spar and talk at the –"

"No, it is your breath – I can smell it from over here," I snarled. It was a lie, but nevertheless it made Gunther swipe at me in exactly the way I wanted him to. Swinging my sword forward, I smacked his out of his hands and then placed the wooden tip against his throat, feeling supremely satisfied with myself.
"Dead," I said triumphantly, lowering my sword.
"Congratulations," Gunther spat. "Unfortunate, however, that in a real battle you would have died eight times before managing to kill me."

"Do not be a sore loser, Gunther," I said absently, wiping the sticky mixture of sweat and dust off my forehead. "I was not."

We both lifted our swords and headed to store them in the weapons shed, passing Dragon where he lounged on the castle wall.

"How was practice?" he called, opening one fiery orange eye to look down at us.
"Decent," I said, ignoring Gunther's snicker from in front of me. "How was your nap?"
"Was? Who says it is over yet?" He closed his eye and resumed snoring.

I grinned and shook my head, sticking my practice sword in the shed next to Gunther's.
"Maybe you should practice more, Jane," Gunther said, gesturing to the dummy. "We would not want you to die eight times in real battle, would we? "

I scowled at him, but removed my sword again and started to the dummy anyway.

"Maybe you should be less of a beef-brain, Gunther, and people would actually like you," I grumbled, smashing my sword into the dummy with a bit more force than a cloth figure really warranted.

"I heard that!" Gunther yelled.
"Good!" I shouted back, striking the dummy as hard as I could, again and again, until I was drenched with sweat and bits of fluff were coming out of the holes I had made.
"Oh, good. Supper. I am starving," I said, pulling the platter of fish towards me and scooping some onto my plate.

"We heard you at the dummy, today, Jane," Jester said, his mouth full of herring.

"Jester, would you please swallow your food before opening your mouth?" Pepper reproved lightly, shivering a little in the autumn breeze as she poured water for everyone.

"Yes, please," I smiled.
Jester swallowed very exaggeratedly before beginning to speak again. "Anyway, Jane, we heard you attacking that poor dummy. What were you so angry about?"
"Gunther was being aggravating, as always."

"Ah, Gunther," Jester said, as if that in itself were answer enough.

"What did he do?" Smithy asked, picking a tiny bone out of his fish and placing it on his napkin.
I shrugged. "He was cheating. He always wins."

We returned to our food, and only when the plates were empty did the conversation resume.
"You should have unleashed the legendary redhead temper on him," Jester said, his hat jingling as he turned to look at me, his eyebrows waggling comically.
"And what exactly is this 'legendary redhead…' thing?" I asked dubiously as Pepper stacked the plates expertly and whisked them away.

"Do you not know what your red hair means?" he asked, his head tilted to the side, a smile quirking his lips.
I pinched a red lock between my thumb and forefinger, glancing from it to Jester. "No…"

"Well…" Jester leapt off the bench and gestured to me with an overdone flourish. "It means your head is on fire, of course."

I snorted, as did Rake and Smithy.
"It is true, fair lady! And, one day," Jester said, glancing at Rake, Smithy and I, leaning forward, and saying in an elaborate whisper, "It will get so hot it will explode."
"My head is going to explode?" I asked skeptically.
"Absolutely. And when it does, you get so mad about your head being exploded that you go out and kill whomever you are most angry with at that moment – so, bam, problem solved. No more Gunther," Jester said with a grin, crossing his arms.

"I swear it is true, Jane."

I snorted again. "Oh yes."

Jester shook his head, plopping down on the bench once more as Pepper brought out pastries for dessert. "You just do not have enough faith, Jane. Perhaps if you were more willing to believe…"

"Perhaps if I were more gullible…" I interrupted, finishing my pastry in three bites and licking the syrupy sugar off my fingers.

"Gullible could work as well," Jester grinned.

I shook my head at him, amused, before rising from the table with a yawn. "I think I will head up to bed. Fighting Gunther is such an ordeal."

Trudging up the stairs to my tower, I felt as if someone had placed lead weights in my shoes when my attention was elsewhere – how else could my feet possibly move so slowly? When I reached my door, I barely had the strength to push the heavy slab of wood open. I fell into bed without changing out of my clothes, my eyes instantly closing.

Despite my exhaustion, I had trouble falling asleep – I was thinking about how it was simply not fair that Gunther was stronger than me just because he was a boy and I was not.
Auther Unknown

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