“What do you mean I can’t enter?” I ask once again to the clerk in charge of sign ups.
“like I said, you’re too young boy, we can’t have little kids being beaten with sticks in front of the whole town.” the clerk, a skinny man who had worse handwriting than Elsa, said with exasperation.
“I can vouch for the boy’s skill with a blade being a match for any man in this match.” Ethan tried to reason with the man for the second time.
“Ser Roc, I understand your predicament, but the margrave has set the rules, and I must follow them. This event is for the entertainment of the town and we can’t risk the chance of your squire making a mistake and getting hurt. Please understand.” It seems even Ethan’s noble status wasn’t enough to get the man to look the other way. If we told him that I wasn’t even his squire then it would only decrease our chances. I would respect his integrity, if said aspect wasn’t currently annoying me.
“Sorry Ben, it completely slipped my mind that they wouldn’t let you in. Honestly you behave so much like an adult that I'd think you were a dwarf if you weren’t so good looking.” Ethan says with a wry smile, trying to cheer me up with a light joke and a bit of flattery.
“It’s alright Ser Ethan, please wish Ethel good luck for me, I think I'm just going to look around the market.” I dismiss Ethan’s concerns with a wave and head back to the main street. Though I am a little annoyed that I couldn’t participate, unlike Ethel I have fought many opponents in the past, more often than not to the death. As for the rules I already learnt them from the introduction and can always watch the last match of the day for the best idea of it. The summary is that single combat inside a certain area, using a wooden practice sword to hit an arm or a leg that’s 1 point, torso is 2 and the head is 3. Best to 5 wins the match, every time someone is hit, they stop and restart their positions.
What I'm most annoyed about is that I have nothing to do. I already visited the market and Marg over the last 2 days and I've seen just about everything.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Listening to that sound brought back memories, of adventure, friendship and home. As I approach a nearby stall that wasn’t there the past 2 days, I see several cages with small new-born pups inside.
“Hello young lad, I can see you interested in our dogs. These are Alaunt hounds also called a boarhound. They are called that because they have been known to fight to the death to protect their masters when a boarhunt has gone wrong.” man in charge of the stall beamed at me when I approached, likely noticing my training leather and practice sword by my side. I come across as the son or squire to a knight, either one would be a potential customer, either for myself or for my family.
“I haven’t seen you the past couple of days, why sell these on the last day of the market?” I ask as I approach one of the cages. He exaggerated his sales pitch, boarhounds are called that because they are used for hunting larger game and while they grow to be quite big, they rely on packs of hounds to kill boars or the more dangerous variety of prey.
“Well the margrave’s hound recently had a large litter so he picked a few that wound inherit the hunting tradition and left the rest to me to sell. I was told this only yesterday, so you’re in luck for getting such a great offer.” the man started sell me the idea of buying already. I could tell he’s not used to sales, otherwise he never would have told me that the best pups were already chosen, thus lowering the price of the rest of them.
I didn’t care whether the previous owner didn’t want them. As I looked down at a small brown pup, eyes still closed and pushing the hay about as it moved, I made a decision. I bought the pup for the price of 2 stags, pleasing the seller, as well as a large blanket and a leather sack with milk. When I picked him up he squirmed and whined at the unfamiliar sensation and smell, but that’s to be expected, so I just held him firmly and let him tire himself out. Before feeding the pup, who I named Brutus in honour of my old friend, I headed back to the inn and asked if I could book one of the stable spaces for the night, as the inn didn’t allow animals in the rooms.
After setting up a sleeping space for Brutus and myself, I intend to sleep in the stables tonight to have Brutus adapt to my smell as fast as possible and keep him safe, I got out the flask of milk and opened the top. I may have purchased the pup primarily due to sentimental reasons, however I have no intension on letting him become just a pet. I intend to turn him into a tamers companion, and to do that there is 2 things needed.
The second requires time and that is training. The first step however can be done immediately. As I concentrate my qi in my hand, I cut it with my hunting knife, allowing my infused blood to flow into the milk, which I then feed to the hungry pup.
Before I mentioned that tamer’s have the ability to communicate with their companions and it is through this method. My feeding it my qi constantly over its infancy period, it becomes accustomed to me and my energy. Just like I can sense qi in the air, Brutus will learn to sense qi in me. When raising animals, the trick is to get them to associate certain tones and words with certain actions. Scolding the animal with an angry tone tells it to stop what it is doing, praising in a happy tone encourages certain actions and so on. The use of I gives another method of communicating that no one else can see or hear allows for silent commands and when reinforced with the other communication methods it helps the beast learn lessons faster
If I'm really lucky then Brutus will learn to sense not just my qi, but the airs as well, growing to be a magical beast. This is quite rare, and this is why most tamers in my previous world prefer to buy or catch the young of magical beasts rather than animals, so they have a greater starting point. With that comes increase strength, lifespan and most importantly, intelligence. With that Brutus will evolve from a tool to a true equal and friend.
It was nearly dark when the Roc’s returned, Ethan drunk on his son’s shoulder. Seems Ethel won the contest and received 1.3 stags, that he spent on wine for his father. Ethan, proud of his son, accepted and they drank for the last hour before returning to the inn. As Ethan went inside the bar for more liquor Ethel came to me and told me he was leaving.
“What are you talking about, where would you go?” I asked confused. Nothing in the past weeks indicated any ideas about leaving.
“One of my opponents today was from the Raven Claw mercenary group, he told me I fight really well and offered to let me join. Ben, I haven’ been getting any better for a while, yet just today I learnt several tricks and moves I didn’t know before. I want to go with them so I can become a knight, something I can’t do in Oakbridge.” Ethel told me. He seemed quite reluctant and was earnest in trying to convince me his reasons. Likely he thought I would be betrayed that he was leaving me behind.
“Ethel, don’t worry about me I understand. However, are you sure this is what you want to do? Being a sell-sword isn’t going to guarantee you get stronger, in fact you could just die within the year.” I try to remind him of the dangers of fighting outside of the ring. “Out there, there are no rules, the enemy could come at you with any weapon, from any direction and any number. It only takes a single stab from the back, or a stray arrow and you will die without ever seeing you killers face. You don’t even need to be killed, wound your leg or your hand and you will be either crippled at worse, at best the injury could give you a great disadvantage in tournaments, preventing you from ever becoming a knight.”
“I know, but it’s not like being a knight is a safe occupation either. Hundreds if not more died in the king’s war, and as knights we will be obligated to go to war if the lord does too. At least this way I'll experience a bit of freedom and if there’s trouble I'll have 30 brothers watching my back.” Ethel counters, sounding like he’s repeating someone else’s words, likely that Raven.
*Sigh* “Alright, it seems I can’t stop you, though it’s really your dad you need to convince.” If Ethan knew his son’s plans, no amount of armour or sword skills will save him.
“Don’t worry, why do you think I bought him wine.” Ethel smirks at me, revealing his deception.
The next morning Ethan woke the inn up with a bout of cursing, his son’s belongings disappeared, and only a letter in its place.
The next day we returned home, Ethan understandably quiet and I had no intention to broach that prickly subject. When we arrived home, we went our separate ways, I expressed my thanks for bringing me and carried Brutus to my home. I’d like to think that the affectionate welcome was due to missing me, and it probably was at the beginning, but the fact none of them even looked at me for the rest of the evening made their feelings quite clear. ‘I mean I can understand the kids, but even you Mom?’ I sulk in the corner, comforting myself with thoughts of harshly training my new hunting partner.