Tuesday, July 8

Chapter I (Second Book)

(I changed Damus backstory slightly. I realize I did something wrong.)

A man with fairly light tan skin took a refreshing drink of water, the liquid drip surpasses his chin as he drank gladly. Eventually, once, his thirst has been quench. He returns to the wooden practice dummies; made out of slats that have an outer body. 

There was one in particular with deep gouges and cuts in it's body, all of which were recent. This was his dummy; it was well worn by a least an equivalent week worth of damage, perhaps even more. Usually, it's replaced daily, but the help around here has been slacking lately. 

At his dummy, he worked through his paces. His strikes had two purposes, either to debilitate or kill. He repeated strikes in the general area of where the heart should be. Soon followed by fists hammering away at the skull and then the neck. 

He knew practicing against dummies only did so much. The men at arms had often told them so. To really improve, you needed a partner to train against. Unfortunately, he had already scared off any potential sparring partners, including the instructors.  


Unlike most knights who adhered to their moral code, he grew up a commoner's life.  He worked a forge to gain strength, then got into unnecessary fights to toughen himself up. 

During his first year as an Esquire, his peers had been particularly cruel to him. Most of those among his rank had often ganged up on him, taunting him; jeering his family name. Some could say they were jealous because he had received a pardon from the King as a second chance. Since his family had been wrongly accused of treason. The king appointed him an opportunity to become a Knight to clear his family's name once and for all. 

Sadly his Father and older siblings receive no such mercy. They were sentenced to hang; treason is a serious crime even if there was not much evidence to suggest such a thing. But King Roderick could not take the word of one noble against the many that suggested the Johan Family was conspiring against him. 

Regrettably in this world all you need is a piece of paper in addition to a few nobles bought with coin to produce evidence and witnesses'. Sadly, they were stripped of their lands and titles. Worst of all they were sentenced to hang. However, the King was not completely cold hearted. Since the boy was young - too young to be associated with the crimes at hand. The King spared him on one condition; he would enlisted in his army.  Raised to knighthood and from there on if he rightfully served his King faithfully, he would be granted Viscount; including a proper holding. 

Still some say it's a special treatment. Whether it's out of amusement or pity. Despite everything he showed them exactly what he thought about their crude comments and remarks. Sure, he  got his arse handed to him more often than not, but he didn't go down without a fight. It wasn't long before folks started to keep their mouths shut because he became a brute force that most would not dare reckon with. 


Then he felt it..  Not like he hadn't expected the rain to come at any moment, the thunder had been cracking for the last half hour and the clouds had been hanging ominously overhead since the previous evening. Shortly he paused only to enjoy the droplets running wildly down his sweaty face.

Briefly, he tunes in and out the small chatter of oncoming voices. The tones consist mostly of eagerness and excitement. Well, with the exception of one individual: Marcus, who had, unfortunately, been given the task to handle this month's new recruits.

Annoyance, utter annoyance, that's all they were to him. - Until one particular sound grabs his attention. It wasn't too loud, it wasn't too faint, but he could only describe it as hearing a body meeting the wet mud.

A sudden flash of white lightning blitzed through swiftly and brightly lighting the area for a brief moment. That's when he saw a scrawny short pale kid; who quickly regain his composure and looked up at the man who was much larger than he was.

"I am terribly sorry!" He exclaimed loudly before his lips form a genuinely honest smile. Obviously the guy was beyond embarrassed from not paying attention. Nervously he ran a muddy hand through his auburn red hair. 

Three onlooking recruits exchanged a few words,


"Is that guy obvious? Garrett abruptly stopped on purpose."


"He's scared shitless I would say."


"It's probably both." 


"Don't you know who I AM!?" Garrett asked with a scrunched up nose.


"Oh, sorry we haven't been properly introduced I-I'm uh - A- A- A- Adam, yeah Adam!" He finally blurted out while extending his arm quickly to him. Accidently flinging mud across Garrett's leather chest in the process.


All Adam received in return is a hard cold stare and a punch right in the nose. Although he was rather taken back by surprise. The punch didn't really seem to bother him at all. In fact, he actually said, "I probably deserve that."


Although the pain felt extraordinary. His nose was beginning to bleed uncontrollably and swell. 


Garrett's lack of response did not stem, or deliberate one ounce of irritation to Adam, and all that did was make Garret want to hit him even harder.


Adam looked at him with an apologetic stare; as if this whole circumstance was entirely his fault. 



"It was one little mistake, right? People do that, right?" He asked in a gentle polite manner.


Viciously Garrett threw another punch while roaring, "MISTAKES" The impact of the hit forcibly sent Adam's head plummeting back.


"GET!" The second one was more of a quick jab right in the temple, leaving Adam momentarily dazed with stars in his eyes. 


"YOU!" The third blow might as well have struck his ears because they were now chiming like church bells.


"KILLED!" The last punch completely knocked him flat on his ass.  

Briefly Adam looks up in a haze as he fell in and out of consciousness. The last thing, he remembers hearing, is a hand clashing against a cheek. There was no doubt in his mind it would leave a mark, still the weird thing about it is... he never actually felt it. 


The very moment his eyes refocused, he couldn't believe what he saw. The man who had come to his rescue just slapped Garrett right across the face. 


"I would have murdered you if I used my fist." He exclaimed. 


Yet all the recruits nearby thought otherwise and so did Adam. It's humiliating for a man to be slapped by a woman but to be slapped by another man... well that's just unheard of.


Garrett expression went from angry to confused then to furious. He snapped straight into an action by firing a balled up fist. Unfortunately, he had put so much power in the punch - it actually made him topple from hitting nothing but the air. His opponent was so quick he barely had a chance to change course. So nevertheless he couldn't help besides falling over his own immense swing. 


The man nudges the back of Garrett's head with the heel of his foot slightly and pushed him even further into the cold mud. 


"You've picked the wrong place to prove your dominance. We all stand equal under this roof." He told him. 


"Says you; son of a traitor!" Garrett spits the words out from in between his gritting teeth.


Damus didn't hear Marcus approaching. In fact, he didn't notice until the heat of his breath had expelled through the cold air. 

Marcus eyed him, while looking not the slightest bit amused over the circumstance. 


"Do you mind...?" He began to say." Momentarily he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the negative thoughts that were now clouding his mind with distress. 


"You should go easier on the new recruits." He protested.


"Easier?" Damus frowned, "Didn't you see what this brute was doing to this kid?"


"You - you're calling somebody a brute?" Marcus asked after giving him a questionable expression. Then, of course, his eyes drew towards Damas' foot that is still holding Garrett's head down in the mud. 


Damus removed his foot and declared, "This is nothing compare to what the Lord Commander will do to him."


"He's not going to know of this incident," Marcus said while idly brushing his thumb across his chest plate. 


"You're not going to report any of this because you don't want a blemish on your report, huh? That's so like you." Damus told him. 


"If not a single word is spewed by any of the newcomers. I'll let them all pass the introduction exam with flying colors." Marcus explained. 


Damus knew Marcus could care less about what happens to anyone but him. Although he would enjoy seeing Marcus land in a steaming pile of shit. Regardless he knows it didn't matter what anyone else thought other than the victim himself; Adam. 


"What do you say?" Damus asked, before helping him back to his feet.


Adam seemed rather hesitant about taking the bargain, especially with everybody watching. 


During the brief moments of silence, Damus felt like the air around Adam was warm, inviting, but foreboding at the same time, emanating a sense of danger and thrill, the sort of thing that can make a heart slow down, but want to race as well. 


To top it off, each step, Adam made, was perfectly timed and quiet. In spite of that, those eyes of his were cold, hardened, and yet many found themselves staring into those hazel eyes that managed to stick out among his symmetrical features. 


"No hard feelings here, right?" Adam playfully banged his fist against Damus' chest plate and immediately regretted the decision. He took a painful intake of breath before clenching his fist to himself. 


Marcus never once offered Garrett a helping hand, but he did manage to threaten him, "Make sure to clean yourself thoroughly. If I find one spec of filth inside these barracks, I'll know who to blame."


He paused only to shift his glance over at the recruits before continuing, "And as for the rest of you... Take this time to get acquainted with your quarters until further notice." 


Adam was surprised when Garrett wandered away without making one remark. Unlike him; most of Adam's classmates felt relieved, and some of them actually praised him with a small pat on the shoulder as they walked by. 


Damus didn't have the slightest clue why this kid was still lingering around even after everyone else had left. 


He simply said, "Adam? If that is what you addressed yourself as so."

"It is, why...?" Adam weakly replied.


Damus never gave him an answer, because he didn't have to. Adam knew exactly what his silence was implying. And every single time he tried speaking up, the words "Shut up" screamed throughout the very depths of his mind. 


"Word of advice kid; gullible... and easily manipulated are the colors you now display upon yourself," Damus spoke rather bluntly.


That's when Adam caught a small glimpse of himself in the reflection of Damus's armor. He saw how much he looked exposed... vulnerable but most of all weak.


"I'll show you." He bleakly smiled with trembling lips, "I'll prove you wrong, ALL of you wrong!" His smile faltered only for a moment.


"You're looking at a future knight of Rivale!" He shouted with a cheerful confidence when he said that - it was something he'd practiced over and over again, hoping that the more he said it, the most likely it would become true.


Damus approached closer, with the same hard face he always seemed to have, saying a simple statement in words that matched his expression.


"I'll be looking forward to it." He exclaimed with the utmost sarcasm, and yet somehow at the same time there was pride left in his tone.


He merely smirked, glancing downwards at Adam. Literally, since Adam was way shorter than him after all, though Damus had to admit there was some sort of childish satisfaction in it.  

Then without any further words, Adam made his way to the bathhouse. From what Damus could tell, Adam didn't seem very eager to get there. He assumed it's because he wanted to avoid any additional quarrels with Garett. 

So Damus stuck around for awhile, even after Adam had left the bathhouse in new attire; a dark tan tunic and a pair of leather pants. 

Although Damus kept himself quite a distance back from Adam. It wasn't too far back enough for Adam to stay out of his sight.

Inside the barracks; Intrigue he watched Adam trace his fingers along the walls, feeling the cold rough stones as he continued. Above them the light of the lanterns flickered ever so sharply. 

Upon an upcoming turn, Adam discovers his belongings have been pushed aside, right outside the door; of the room, he originally was assigned to. Not giving one-second thought about it, he snatched the rucksack. Quietly his boots echoed through the corridors, while he searched for an unoccupied bed. 

Eventually, he came across a medium sized room. The space wasn't lit, but the moonlight piercing through the windows was just enough. From what he saw, the room is split evenly down the middle by a single door. 

Sparsely both accommodations were decorated with full sized beds and a desk in the corner. He could only assume they were the officer's quarters.


"It's only a temporary stay." Adam wearily told himself.


Damus made a slight cough alert Adam of his presence. In doing so; Adam looked back as if though he was a thief that got caught red handed. 

"If you wanted to lodge with me you could have least asked first," Damus said with a smug, almost taunting tone. 


"All of this is yours?" Adam stammered. 


"As you've already heard by my reputation; I don't exactly play well with others," Damus explained, "The more exclusion the better." 


Adam was quick to say, "I haven't ever heard of you before."


"Well then..." Damus disappointedly grunted, "Help yourself then kid." 


He watched Adam suddenly disappeared behind a closed door. Softly he cursed under his breath; he wouldn't have acted so lightheartedly if he'd known Adam was a leech.


-----


The upcoming weeks Adam had not been pleased about how his training sessions went. According to the instructor, he was progressing as intended. However, in Adam's eyes, his performance was nowhere near satisfactory.

While sparring with another Squire, a blunt practice sword began to sway in between his sweaty palms. Although this condition wasn't caused by exhaustion. It originated from the leering bystanders - who might as well be reflecting his imperfections within their eyes. Those thoughts shattered the second he felt his adversary deck him right on the head. 


“There are twelve rules to swordsmanship... but for your sake, I think I might have to add another.” Their swordsman instructor mentioned in a rather baffled tone. 


Instead of expressing discomfort, an apology immediately escapes from Adam. 


The instructors blue eyes narrowed in frustration when he sighed, “Yes, yes I've heard it all before. Just remember to keep an eye on your opponent, especially at this close of a range.”


Afterward, he changed the subject, "Today you will be assigned to a knight; it will be your duty to attend to their basic needs. 


Firstly; Donning him in armor; Knights, of course, are able to fit themselves into armor, but depending on the circumstances it may not be fast enough. Such as during a war or a siege, it is urgent to get our men out onto the field as fast as possible. Although this seems like a very small task it is the utmost important duty. Having your armor on properly can make a difference between life and death.


To get acquainted with this exercise, you will be required to suit him whenever he is needed to wear his armor.


The process goes as the following.


1. Tunic.
2. Chainmail.
3. Breastplate.
4. Wrist guards.
5. Shin guards
6. Helmet. 

Secondly; Maintaining equipment; by either replacing lost or damaged gear. This includes carrying armor, shields, and multiple weapons. A good Squire will always have spares for every occasion. 


Third; Accommodating your knight. You will be at his every beckoning call; fetching dinner, tidying his living quarters, emptying his chamber pot, and readying his horse. But most of all you must be able to fight for him if need be. 


Lastly, your assigned Knight. 


Benedict you are with Count Berinon. 
Lambert is with Ser Reynard. 
Cartwright and Ser Reeve. 
Warin and Viscount Bishop. 
Folcard and Ser Loys. 
Giffard and Baron Christopher.
Hamlin and Ser Tomas. 
Charlet and Lord Damus. 


At that very moment, the instructors voice had become so distant to Adam. Briefly he stood there wondering if all of this was a fortune or a misfortune. 


It wasn't long before Adam started to mechanically walk towards his pending doom; Damus. He knew exactly where to find him. Usually, if Damus wasn't in his room, he could always be found in front of a practice dummy. And there he was swinging away to his heart's content. 


Adam approached quietly while only managing to get the words, ''Um, and “Sir” out. 


“If you're going to address somebody. At least have the audacity to speak loudly and clearly.” A timbre of a voice came from Damus, who suddenly halted his movements to focus now on Adam. 


“You – shouldn't you be serving a knight?” Damus questioned him.


Given no response he asked again, “Are you going to say anything, or are you just going to keep staring kid?”


Adam gave him a vague response by slowly raising his finger to point right up at him.


“You can't be serious,” Damus exclaimed, “I'm not even enlisted!” 


“The instructor-” Adam began to say.


Damus quickly cuts him off, “You've heard wrong. We're going to get this straighten out – follow me.”


“O...-okay” Adam bleakly replied and followed behind. 


“Segarus you better double check that list of yours.” Damus voice suddenly boomed, seemingly out of nowhere. 


“There's nothing wrong with my list.” Segarus retorted. 


Damus wasn't hearing any of it. So he snatched the list from him and took a look for himself. 


“Look at that oaf, no manners whatsoever,” Marcus commented in a quiet tone, but it was deliberately loud enough for Damus to still hear it. 


The second Damus came across their names, he immediately crumble half of the parchment into a tight grip. Then he glances on over at Marcus, only to see a smirk play across his face. 


Adam couldn't help but cowardly watch the irritation dance between Marcus and Damus. At this very minute, he had finally received an answer to his longing question; It was, in fact, a misfortune. 


Adam cleared his throat at the distinct pause. He watched while the two of them were lost in their own silent and yet intense conversation. Although he wasn’t sure who was winning, he didn't exactly want to get any further involved. Quietly he snuck away until he heard… “Kid!” 


Instantly the fear swelling in Adam’s chest collapsed like a glass vase, making him freeze right on the spot. 


He took a deep breath, trying to erase all the emotion from his face. 


“Heaven Almighty…”


Adam wasn't sure how to respond. Still, it would be rude to simply say nothing, so he might as well just tell the truth. 


“My only intent was to give you space – sir.” 


“I didn't dismiss you yet.” Damus declared. 


(He’s right.) Adam told himself inwardly. He already completely forgotten his place. 


“If you're incapable of training a Squire." Marcus sneered, “How will you ever earn back the title of your own birthright? If you can't even fulfill the simplest task.” 


Damus balled his fist, “He'll be the best after I'm done with him.” 


“Y-you really think so?!” Adam asked, bewildered before he turned his wide-eyed gaze up at him. 


“If you train hard enough.” Damus told him. 


Quickly a large smile grew on Adam’s face, "Then I'll train harder than I ever have!"


Damus wasn't entirely sure why Adam was being so accommodating, but perhaps he too enjoyed the idea of a challenge. Nonetheless, what little information he could glean from him was; he’s desperately trying to hide something.


“I'm sure you'll make QUITE the effort to catch up to my squire. Since you're already so far behind everyone else. As for me, I have other business to attend, so I'll be on my way.” Marcus finished off with a dismissive wave. 


Damus never looked back when he said, “We're starting today.” 


Adam watched him with his piercing hazel eyes, “Today – when?”


Damus turned to face him, “Right now, for starters we’re going to be warming up. We’ll do ten pushups-”


“Ten?” Adam interrupted, “That’s not so hard.”


“I’m not finished- ” Damus grabbed some padded garments, along with a chainmail that had been previously used for the instructor’s demonstration.


“While wearing this.” He tossed the equipment right across Adam’s path.


Then he began walking away while saying, “Once you’re gear up meet me in the arena.”


“The arena?” Adam scrambled about.


Damus never hinder his movement when he explained, “Plus five laps around the arena, and after that, we'll do five more sets of pushups. Then we will proceed with sparring.”

-----

Adam struggled to get to his knees from the weight of his chainmail that caused his arms to wobble beneath him. His lungs felt like they would collapse at any given moment. He heaved a shallow breath, knowing quite certain he may pass out if he didn't pull himself together. The air around seem so uninviting, so musty, and contained sweat with a slight tint of dried blood. As the wind picked up slightly, ruffling his hair, he felt the distinct chill of Damus looming down at him.


His head swiveled towards the sound of Damus voice, “Giving up already?”


“I-I…”  Adam’s limbs ached with the strain of defeat. Unfortunately, he knew it was only the beginning.


“Don’t answer yet.” Damus told him, “I’ll wait a second for your heart to catch back up with your head.”


The experience led him to believe there’s a storm brewing within Adam and his emotions were changing in the truest sense of phrase like the wind.


“No…”


Adam exhaled,


“Never.”


He could feel his heart starting to beat stronger against the chainmail. And with all his strength he stood straight up, before taking the first step, then the next, shortly followed by another. Whether or not he fears the miles of this vast space surrounding them. He knew deep down he would dread disappointing Damus even more.

Damus watched him stride in silence. Being perfectly honest, he hoped that he could avoid any form of interaction while he was here. It was just another nuisance blocking him from furthering his goal, but somehow it felt different now. He could feign the same apprehension exterior, a lifetime of experience made it simple enough. Although whenever he was alone in his head, which happened more often than he'd like, things were hard to ignore and harder to pretend he was okay with the lonesome solitude.


“Hey pick it up!” He instructed.




"Of course sir!" Adam muttered obediently in-between a wavering painful smile. 


Once the two of them managed to finish all the laps, they met in the center of the arena. There Adam was given a sword, a rather dull one, in fact. 


“You can’t even cut butter with this. Why is it so –“ Adam began to ask.


“It’s great for practicing because you get the real weight of the sword without injuring your sparring partner.” Damus enlighten him. 


Damus took a few steps to enclose the distance between him and Adam. It was almost as if he feared nothing like he could take on the whole world or maybe it’s partially because he overtowers him. 


Without warning, Damus sent a flurry of attacks his way. Adam tried his best to dodge, but he was always too late. In spite of the sword being blunt, the power behind his strikes was hard enough to leave bruises. 


Not wanting to give up, Adam thrust his sword forward in the reminiscent of a spear. Surprisingly Damus dodge simply by stepping off to the side. Adam now fully exposed was kicked right in the chest. The impact made him tumble backward onto the floor. 


Adam barely could manage to get a word in after getting the wind knocked out of him. 


“You-"


He coughed momentarily.  


“You - you cheated!” 


His eyes intensely squint. 


“That’s not fair!"



“Not fair?” Damus lightheartedly laughs, “Do you think an enemy could ever possibly be fair? That kind of thinking will get you killed.” 


Filled with anger, Adam inhaled and exhaled sharp breaths as he arose back into a fighter’s stance. 


Damus slowly closes the gap once again and prepares to attack.


In that very moment, Adam felt something inside of him click. He swung while Damus brought his sword towards him. CLASH; the two swords passionately clanked together. Adam was so shocked that he was able to fend. It gave him the courage to make the next swing, but at the last second with some footwork; Damus is able to change course and strike Adams' pommel, the impact causes the sword to jump out of his hand, disarming him in an instant. 


Not wasting any time or allowing his opponent to recover, Damus kicks Adam down onto the ground, then grabs the falling sword by the handle and holds both swords to his neck.


Adam stares upward at the arena’s enormous walls looming down above them. He had been defeated, and yet at the same time it felt obscure. An empty stadium with no crowd, no cheers or shouts of triumph for the victor.


Damus slowly remove the swords away and announced, “That’s all for today.”


Adam couldn't help but sigh of relief, when he practically felt his muscles beginning to release tension. 


“Don’t give me that look.” He scoffed at him, “You’re still not dismissed from Squire duty. It would be an injustice if I allowed you to neglect all the basics.”  


And the second Adam attempts to remove his chainmail, Damus unexpectedly threw both swords aside. 


“You must wear armor at all times unless it is to bathe or sleep!” 


Adam dropped his hands back at his sides. Although when he attempt to ask why, Damus raised a hand to silent him. Obediently, he shut his mouth and naturally gawked back with a frown.


What Adam hadn’t counted on was somebody like Damus reaching out to him. In the beginning, Adam would be lying if he said he didn't tense up thinking that Damus was going to hit him. Instead, a hand landed on his shoulder. If Adam did make a break for it, anyway; that would have probably ended with him falling down from lack of energy. 


“What you may lack in strength can be recovered by speed. However, your body still needs to get acquainted with the amount of weight. Think of it as endurance training.”


His hand slipped away when he turned around and made a clear demand, “Now clean this up, then run to the kitchen and fetch me two hearty meals.”


Adam wasn’t too surprised that Damus wanted that much food, considering his size and all. Without any further word, he gathered the swords and headed back to the barracks. While passing through the main courtyard, he almost bumps into his instructor. 


“Charlet.” Segarus abruptly addresses him.


Adam seemed to have frozen awkwardly, blinking a few times, while staring up at Segarus who is now glancing down at him. 


 “I-I’ve come to return these!“ 


“Keep them.” Sergarus casually replied. 


“Sir?” Adam query. 


“Those are spares,” Sergarus explained, “Hopefully he’ll have better luck with you than I did.” 


“Thank –“ Adam began to say, but Sergarus interrupted with a small chuckle as he wandered away. 


----


After Adam left the swords back in his room. He headed off to the kitchen to retrieve Damus meals. There he is greeted by a soothing aroma emitting from varies of foods, especially the distinct smell of stew being cooked in a large three-legged pot over a small fire. 

The kitchen was wide with a very tall ceiling, including a stairway of high shelves traveling up along each wall. Large chopping blocks and worktables filled the floors, besides the one that is indented with a slight downward curve in the middle to form a sink. 


“Is it the usual?” One of the wenches pops the question without warning, although she never lifted her nose once to look at him while she scrubbed away at some dirty dishes. 


“E-excuse me?” Adam was quite perplexed. 


“You’re Charlet, right? Damus new squire? Or should I say his very first Squire.” Her voice paused when she brought her hands up to her half undone hair, trying to bunch it back up into a more proper bun.


“Yes.” Adam nodded slightly in response. 


“I knew it!” She exclaimed wholeheartedly, throwing her hands up into the air with a wide smile spreading from ear to ear, ultimately forgetting her hairdo in the process, which completely fell apart at this very minute. 


“You’re all the talk around ‘ere, don’t yah know? You sure do know how to make a gal jealous.” She giggle-snorted, “Well sit tight it’ll take just a few minutes.”


Quietly Adam waited nearby the counter. There he watched the sunset through the window, illuminating the world in a nice warm glow, especially the orchids glistening an enchanting harmony of purples and pinks.  


While enjoying the view, an arrow soars past his head, impacting the window sill beside him. The funny thing about it, he didn’t even notice. However, he did become well aware of the new voice lingering behind him. 


 “What are you daydreaming so deeply about?” 


Adam wasn’t familiar enough to determine who had just spoken. From what he heard, he sounded deep, but yet at the same time, it held a childish tone as well. 


“GARETT!” The wench placed a hand on each hip, “What did I tell you about bringing WEAPONS into my KITCHEN?!” She had enough and was about to blow up all over him.


“Jacqueline...” He started to chuckle, “The chicken will burn.” 


In a blink of an eye, she scurries off to battle the flames. With a quick maneuver, she manages to turn the chicken right before it can be charred.


“Just remember…”


She lightly leaned in, slightly out of breath. 


“I always love you.” 


She bit her lip as she watched the chicken for some sign of recognition.


 “Who’s the master!?”


She lets out a wild growl. 


“I’m the MASTER!”


The edges of her mouth widen when she stuck her tongue out and wagged her fingers playfully at the chicken. 


“She seems very passionate about cooking.” Adam laughed awkwardly. 


“Too passionate,” Garret told him, “That’s enough to make any man raise a brow.” 


Jacqueline then struts herself all the way back to the counter in triumph. With a soft expression, she looked over to Adam and announced, “Foods up; one roasted chicken with a bowl of stew.”


“Thank you, ma’am.” Adam retrieves the food. 


“You know…” Garret followed him out of the kitchen, “I happen to overhear Ser Luther talking about something quite interesting. Like how the commander’s only son has snuck in through recruitment. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” 


Adam continued to keep a steady pace. 


“You know what they say about the commander’s son? How suspicious it was when the residence was set aflame and he was the only one who survived.” 


Adam remained stoic and unwavering. 


“Constantine Benedictus was one of the foremost commanders, renowned for his brilliance in the campaign against the Ahlasar.



Camellia Benedictus a radiant mother who gave birth to seven beautiful daughters, each named after a flower.” 


Adam’s hand conveyed how he truly felt by the way he gripped the plate. 


Garret moved ahead of him then stood in the hallway, holding his ground, not planning to move anytime soon. 


“Look…” He began to say, “I’m sorry.” 


Adam looked up at him, although his expression was straight, something sparkled in Garret’s eyes.


“No worries!” Adam replied, “Now if you’ll excuse me.” 


As he walked past him, Garret intentionally stuck his foot out and yelled, “Sorry we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot!”


Falling; Adam manages to save the chicken but failed to recover the stew.

Although Garret found it amusing, he stopped the moment he realized Adam acted more concern about the food than his own well-being. 


Shortly afterward, Garret crouched down right next to him. Their eyes met in a soulless stare when he said, “Do be careful now.” 


Adam didn’t bother to say anything back, nor clean the mess. He just headed back to the barracks, hoping he can come up with some kind of excuse to avoid creating any consequences. 


---

Damus lifted his nose from a book after overhearing the loud shriek of the door opening. He wasn’t surprised in the slightest when he saw Adam returned only with the roasted chicken. It didn’t bother him as much as his body language did. He looked like a child who had accidently wandered into a dragon’s den. 


Internally Adam kept panicking, but he tried to not let his emotions get the best of him. Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together. He hurried over to the desk and set the chicken down. Then without a second thought about it, he headed back towards his room. 


Damus stopped him by simply saying, “I haven’t dismissed you yet.” 


Adam tried making up a scenario of what happened before a scene could unfold. 


Damus stared blankly, not with the stare of ‘that’s believable’, it was more like ‘If you continue to feed me this bullshit I will beat the truth out of you.’  


A part of Damus felt sympathetic while the other part of him knew he had to fulfill his role. And to think that Adam hoped to simply walk away, perhaps he's been too naive to think he leave him be.


His eyes strayed back to the book when he said, “There’s only so much you can learn from these.” 


He tore off a page. 


“It’s not really hard to pick out those who were more experienced than others in battle…  It has nothing to do with the weapons that they carried or the armor that they wore. 


He balled the page up inside of his hand. 


“For even an inexperienced fighter, could get their hands on good a weapon and armor if they had the resources to do so. It’s the way in which a person held themselves. How the air surrounds them that one could tell just how experienced they truly are.” 


Adam realizes the book that Damus held was, in fact, his father’s manual. He was about to speak up until he ate the page. 


“I've now lost my appetite.” 


He tossed the book aside.


“You have at it.” 


He reclined back with his arms resting behind his head. He watched the ceiling, tracing the patterns with his eyes along the textured surface. 


“You need it more than I do.”


Adam climbed up into the chair and propped his elbows against the edge of the desk. Then he leaned forward and took a large bite out of the chicken’s leg, without bothering to extract it first. 


He became so lost in his thoughts that he didn't eve pick up all the pitter-patter from the folks; who are trying to rush back to the barracks before curfew. Eventually, he comes to a conclusion. 


“Not every battle can be won with a sword.” He muttered with a mouthful of chicken.


Damus caught the remark, but he chose not to respond to it. 


Adam knew it was pointless to argue. So he quickly took a couple more bites then excused himself to his room. When he shut the door, a stubborn nail kept it from completely closing all the way. Too tired to care, he collapses face first into his bed.


Damus eyes bolted open the instant he overhears a thud. Without delay, he climbed out of bed, only to discover it had been none other than Adam. Through the crack of the door, he saw Adam lying still fully armored while snoring as loudly as possible it seemed. His body was sprawled out with his mouth hanging wide open. The most he could guess is that Adam passed out the second he hit the sheets. 

Damus let out a strangled sigh with his head hung low. Slowly he returned back to his bed in an agitated manner. 


--


The next couple days, Damus was half tempted to just do all the chores himself. It’s partially because he wanted to make sure they would be done at least properly. Although he knows it’s not because Adam isn't trying, simply his talents must lie somewhere else. Perhaps one day he’ll help him uncover them. As soon as that thought escaped his mind, he watched Adam trip over his own two feet. 

Damus shook his head and said, “Hopefully soon…”


Additionally he’s still struggling to wrap his head around the thought of somebody serving him. And among other things… the spilled chamber pot made his skin crawl in disgust. 


“I-I’m sorry!” Adam pleads, knowing he's not the easiest person to work with, mostly because pressure turns him into a complete klutz. 


“Don't apologize, JUST hurry up and clean!” Damus groaned from the horrendous mess.


Then without any further words, he took shelter in Adam’s room. Surprisingly he’s met with the scent of iron and strawberries. The source of the strawberries is easily located from a bowl, that’s filled with leftover stems. As for the scent of iron, the answer was found on a piece of fabric; blood. The moment he realizes it had been torn away from Adam’s blanket, he heard the cawing of a crow. It flew right in through the window and perched itself on Adam’s desk. 


“Get!” He swatted harshly at the bird, but the hit didn’t come without a consequence. 


“Caw!” The crow wildly flapped its wings, shedding black feathers everywhere while furiously flying up into the air above him and poop right on his head. 


When the crow was about to escape through the window, he bellowed, “Oh NO you DON’T!”  At the same time, he swung with a fist full of rage. 


He punched the pest straight into the wall, rendering it unconscious or well… perhaps he had killed it. Not entirely sure, he picked his feathered friend up off the floor for a closer examination. A split tip tongue flop out of its partially opened beak. Rotating the bird around, he finds a cylinder attached to its back; indicating it held some sort of message. It’s not uncommon for carrier pigeons to fly freely throughout the quarters, but it’s unheard of for a crow. 


Damus shoved the crow behind his back the moment the heard the door creak open. Its head dawdled to one side to the other. 


“I thought I heard-” Adam paused after noticing the new palette of color in his hair. “Is that-” 


“Is it done?” Damus sternly changed the subject. 


“Almost...” Adam replied without ever looking away from his hair. 


“Almost isn’t good enough!” He slammed the door right in his face. 

Finally sighing of relief, he returns his attention to the cylinder, popping the top open to see what's inside. Before his eyes could ever gaze upon a single word, the door opened again. Quickly he chuck the crow outside the window and hid the cylinder behind his back. 


“Are you sure-” Adam stuck his nose in. 


“What DID I tell YOU?!” Damus shoved the door close once again. 































© Tiffany Ann Adkins 2015 - 2019