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I stretched and groaned. A choking scent had awoken me; smoke. I flipped over to face Noveran, but, seeing as he wasn’t there, I figured he was the cause of the smoke. I hurriedly got dressed so I could find the cause of the smoke. Once fully dressed, I walked into the kitchen where I saw Noveran’s back turned to me and the source of the throat burning smoke that sizzled directly in front of him. Was he trying to cook? The last time he had done that was when he had broken a window on the local tavern, and we nearly went poor trying to pay for it. So, my first thought was, “What has he done this time?”
He turned to face me, a wide smile pasted on his face. I raised my eyebrows and pasted a wary smile onto my own face. In his hands he held two plates piles with bacon; one of my favorite foods. The smoke suddenly made sense as I bit into a slice of bacon after he had placed the plate in front of me. After we were done, he scooped my plate up, along with his, and began to wash them with the pan he had cooked the bacon in. When he shut the water in the sink off, I asked, “Any special reason you’re cooking?” He spun around, a look of shock and disbelief crossed is face. When that faded away, he sighed and shook his head. “You forgot, didn’t you?” He sounded a bit angry, but was trying to hide it with a joking attitude. “Forgot what?” I asked, confused. He suddenly started walking towards the door, still shaking his head. “We’re going to be late if we don’t hurry.” He called over his shoulder before exiting out the door.
I hopped up and started after him as I frantically searched my mind for what I had forgotten, but I couldn’t think of anything! I shook my head as if I was trying to shake out the thought as I dismissed it. Oh, well! Noveran wouldn’t let me go the whole day without telling me; just most of the day. Turning the corner, I discovered Noveran had gotten both our horses out and was mounted on Renaia, patiently waiting for me. I mounted Taverasu and off we rode. It was the same as yesterday or any other day for that matter. The townsfolk’s attitudes were all the same and so was the place where we left our horses.
We walked through the garden where classes were held yesterday, past the small stream in the back of the garden, past the stables, and into a large field, specifically placed there for the knights. And, in fact, there they stood, laughing and talking amongst themselves. As we walked across the field towards them, they all turned to look at us. When we reached them, they unsheathed their swords; as did Noveran. I did the same, though a bit late. Never before had I sparred with them. In fact, the only times I had ever used my sword was when Noveran had demonstrated the stances to me and when I had to kill that wolf that was stealing a townsfolk’s hens.
Rowan, the commander of the knights, stepped forward to address me. His black, short cropped hair ruffled in the slight breeze, and his teal eyes analyzed every move I made. “Do you know the beginning stance at which to hold your sword?’ he asked. I nodded and assumed the position; feet slightly apart, but one foot slightly in front of the other, knees and elbows a bit bent, and sword in hand. He nodded. “Good. Now, this is a thrust.” He thrust his sword out horizontally from his body, piercing the air with a sharp, crackling woosh. I mimicked this movement. He brought the sword above his head then quickly swung it down, but then Noveran said, “She already know these moves, Rowan. I taught her soon after she received her sword. She’s just never sparred with anyone before.” Rowan stared at me for a bit, his head tilted to one side, considering.
Suddenly, Rowan lunged at me, his sword thrusting. Quickly, without thinking, I brought my sword up to block. His sword clashed back above his head. I spun, my sword to my middle, slashing his stomach before he could bring his sword down. Though I didn’t wound him deeply, I wounded him enough to make him bleed. He winced and brought his sword down. Again, I blocked it, but he put so much force into that swinging sword of his, it held my sword down. He smiled at me ruefully, his face only inches away from mine. I glared back and smashed my head into his. He cried out in pain and fell backwards to the ground as I tried to clear my eyes of the dizzy star that had popped up before me. When the stars were gone and I could see, I could see Rowan on the ground, rubbing his forehead, while the others stared at me; their mouths gaping open like fish.
I pressed my lips into a tight line to repress my amusement. “Maybe you all should close your mouths before you swallow horseflies.” I suggested playfully. Rowan stood up, and then stared at me in utter disbelief. “That was dishonorable!” he cried. ”Ever hear of ‘all is fair in love in war’? Out on the battlefield, no one cares about honor. All they care about is killing their opponent so they may live.” I said. Rowan glared. “You will never do that again!” he ordered. “I will do what I think will keep my fellow knights and me alive.” I argued. “Fellow knights?” Rowan snarled. “You are no fellow knight! You haven’t been knighted and never will be! Now, heal me, you foul wretch.” I turned my back on him and began to walk away. “Where do you think you’re going? I said heal me! Do as I say or I will report you to the king!” Fury rose up inside me, burning like a fire. I whirled around to face him. I was only about seven feet away from him. “Tell the king and let him call me to him! He ordered all of you to treat me with respect, but this you refuse to do! I can’t wait to see what he does to you, you pushy, obnoxious, disrespectful naïve!” And with that, I marched off.
I whistled and Taverasu came galloping towards me, stopping right in front of me.
I had trained her well. Angry moisture made its way into my eyes, demanding to be allowed to spill down my cheeks, but I refused it. I wouldn’t let the knights nor the townsfolk see me crying as I rode home. I mounted Taverasu and began to ride. I raced through the town so fast that everything was a blur. It took me no time at all to reach home. At the front door, I hopped off Taverasu, and she trotted off to the back of the house to put herself back into her stall, as she often did. Once through the front door, the tears found their way down my face. As my vision blurred, I stumbled forward to find the bedroom. After a little effort, I found it. I plunked down and held a pillow to my face as the tears stained my cheeks and chin.
A few hours later, the front door opened, and I could hear Noveran come stomping into the kitchen. Then, I heard him clank around in the kitchen. I sat up in bed. It wouldn’t be fair to him to force him to cook for himself. After all, it was my fault that ordeal happened earlier today. He didn’t interfere because of a deal we made when the king allowed me to be a sort of woman warrior in his kingdom. The deal was I would fight my own battles, and he would fight his. To expect him to go against that would only prove I was a horrid wife, as the gossiping townswomen often said about me. I brushed my hand across my face to remove any traces of the tears, for nothing scared Noveran more than tears, and picked myself off the bed; trudging into the kitchen.
On the kitchen table lay a basket, and Noveran was closing it. What was he doing? Sensing my presence, he looked up and smiled. He picked up the basket and came over to where I was standing, taking my hand. “I have a present for you.” He said. Out of his pocket, came a cloth, which he promptly tied around my eyes. “What are you doing?” I cried out in surprise. “Trust me.” He purred. He led me by my hand, pulling me along for what seemed like forever, but, finally, he stopped. He removed the cloth from my eyes, and I let out a small gasp as I took in all I saw.
A tall oak tree stood beside a picnic blanket and covered in twinkle lights, matching the stars above. The picnic blanket was checkered midnight blue and white, but only white showed for the dark had stolen the blue. On top of the cloth, sat lit candles, all bunched in the middle of the blanket; the basket beside it. “Happy birthday, Areina.” He said softly. “Today, you are officially seventeen.” He took my hand once more and pulled me to sit over on the picnic cloth........