Practical Exercise

Very soon I was surrounded by people, all trying to speak to me at once.  One of them was the Marshal-at-Arms. I’d met Master Monserrate once.  “I can’t hear you,” I shouted.  “Too many voices.”

Marshal-at-Arms Master Monserrate shooed the audience away. I began to describe what had happened, had to start over twice when groups of lictors arrived,  but finally reached the end of my story. The docent’s description of events more or less matched mine.  “He said he was going to kill me,” I said, “and tried to make his words come true.  He called me a…I used the two words.  I called Death-Pride Honor.  He failed.  I won,” I concluded.  The lictors took Fourbridge into custody.  From the back and forth between the lictors, it seemed I’d managed to smash a combat golem, not to mention draining its Presence reserves; it had been about to collapse when I cut it to ribbons.

“You could have died,” Master Monserrate countered.  “Why didn’t you run?”

Unfortunately, he had a good question. Too good. Fortunately, I had an answer.  “House Triskittenion does not flee.  The kittens conquer!  Truthfully, I was too busy killing the thing to wonder if maybe this was not your test.  And when I used the ward password, it didn’t drop the wards.”

“You didn’t try screaming ‘Not fair. Not fair!’?“ a lictor asked.

 I did not quite glare at him. “The world is not fair,” I said. I couldn’t quite believe someone was making me quote that aphorism.

“True,” Master Monserrate said.  “You have clearly passed the test, if not the one I had set, and need not trouble the Campus Martius again.”

“The perfect test stretches every student to her limits,” I added.  “This one was beyond perfect.”

Monserrate gestured at the area outside the circle.  “That was a very nice lawn, too,” he said sadly.

“Apologies,” I managed.  “I was a bit busy.  I didn’t notice.”

“Better busy than dead,” Master Monserrate observed.  “House Fourbridge will, I fear, be annoyed.  I shall emphasize to them that this boy assaulted a docent, tried to murder you, and lost a duel on a matter of death-pride honor, he having offered the insult.  Saving this idiot from the headsman will cost them a pretty penny in weregild.”

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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