A sword clenched between my fingers, I stand for my portrait. Years of training in the Cecilia Academy of Knights, and my graduation was to be punctuated with my likeness hung in the walls of the village temple.
“Ay, Mister Harold, does this look good, lad?”
I come out of my heroic pose as the artist turns his easel towards me. It was, to say it nicely, quite crude. I hope this was an instance of poor interpretation, and that I don’t actually look like that. Also, he somehow got my eye color wrong.
“It’s, um, I think my eyes are more like-”
“Ya like it? Splendid, next.”
I walk out in my pedestrian robes, having had to give my squire outfit to the next graduate in the portrait line. At the moment, all I really have to show for my work is this baldric and an empty scabbard. Apparently I have to wait for something before I can receive my official sword. I don’t recall what, though. I was daydreaming during that part of the graduation. Perhaps a ceremony of sorts? That would be nice.
Sword or not, I figure I should still celebrate. I think that if I head to the pub, I’ll be able to engage in a conversation, and perhaps slyly bring up my knightly status to a fellow patron, and attract the wandering eyes of my peers.
I decided to go to Dunleavy’s, a quiet pub where I like to sit, drink, and forget. While today was not for forgetting, I figured I knew the bartender well enough to slide into conversation. And also give me a discount, because the Knights Academy is not cheap.
As I make my way, I see traveller children at play just a few paces from the pub. They’re looking quite dirty, so I try to walk around them. However, one of them locks eyes with me, before quickly scanning my person. The boy whispers something to one of his mates before running up to me.
“Ay, can a wee boy like me get a hug? My mother never hugs me, and you look kind,” he says with a voice dripping in sadness and poverty.
Normally children scare me, but it dawns on me that this boy probably saw my baldric, and realized my knighthood. And how could a knight, protector of the people, turn down the cries of an impoverished and neglected child.
I clear my throat, and try to speak with authority, “Why, of course, young lad.” I lean over, hover my arms around his body. Don’t want child germs on me before the pub.
I hear some rustling, and before I can even look down, the boy has scurried away. He must’ve slid through my loose hug.
I look at his running towards the other children he was playing with. He’s waving something in his hand at them, I wonder-
Oh lord. He’s nicked my coin purse. I pat the pocket of my tunic to make sure, and just as I suspected, no coins in there any more.
Well, it appears there will be no pub going for me, discount or not.
Not to be completely defeated, I still finish my journey. I got too close to just walk back. Instead, though, I have to sit outside, since I can’t purchase anything and I don’t want people to think I’m strange.
I adjust my baldric higher on my waist, because maybe someone exiting the pub will notice me, and I’ll still get my wish.
Hours have passed, and the sun is lowering behind the buildings in town. Nobody going in or out took notice of me. Well, besides the fellow who threw me a coin. He took me for a beggar I imagine, and normally I’d be rather upset. But things hadn’t gone too well today, so I have to take whatever luck I can get. Does that make me a beggar?
Just as I’m preparing to hobble back to my home, a man on horseback rides towards the pub. The majesty of his steed is astonishing. So much so, I get distracted and don’t realize he’s riding directly towards me until the horse is so close that it kicks dirt into my face.
The man stops his horse with a rear, and after the beasts hooves hit the ground he stares down at me.
“Are you Harold?” He is dressed in royal attire, with a courier bag strapped around his shoulder.
“Yes,” I’m plenty confused at the moment.
“We couldn’t find you at your mother’s house, but one of your classmates said most sad sacks hang out at Dunleavy’s, so I was told to see if you were here.”
“I have a letter for you, you apparently properly didn’t sign up for the second segment, but enrollment was low so the crown figured we’d give you a chance to still get in.”
“Yes. Segment Two. Of the Academy? You were at the bloody class portraits for it today.”
“I thought that was my Temple Portrait.”
He scoffs, “You think you’re a knight after a month and 3 classes? I like to fashion myself as the kingdom’s personal Icarus, but all my documents just refer to me as ‘courier.’ So, if you’d be so kind, could you sign this letter and pay the fee. You and I both know this is just to collect some easy tax, so if we can get this over with before my horse gets bored and starts pacing, that’d be wonderful.”
Somehow even more defeated than I was five minutes ago, I stand up, “If this is what it takes to be a knight, I guess this is what it takes.” He pulls out the letter, and I sign it.
“Good, good, good, classes start tomorrow, don’t forget your scabbard, yaada yada yada, now we just need that payment.”
I reach into my tunic pocket, and my eyes widen like saucers.