Children of the Dragon Wars

By Paul Benkendorfer

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 19

Several years ago, before the events of current time, in the country of Junelle lived the young, eleven year old lord Jellal. It was a mid-summer's day, when the entire kingdom prepared for the annual tournament of knights. It was to be hosted in the countryside, outside Rosemary Village. The young lord traveled in the company of the young king himself, along with several of the other nobles of the land. However, once they arrived at the outskirts of Rosemary, Jellal broke off from the rest of the company to wander on his own.

He was just a child, and though he was told that he should consider it a great honor and feel distinguished to be in the presence of such high nobility at such a young age, he really didn't. He knew that his father had served as the hand of the king since before he was even born, and now he was expected to succeed his father's footsteps as the hand of the new king Duke. But for now, he was too young to hold such responsibilities sot the duties were left in charge of the council. The young kind did not like it much, but Jellal could do without such titles.

He made his way around the village, taking in the sights. It was a small town, mostly comprised of small wooden houses and cottages. The main street went through the heart of the village, as wooden buildings of shops, taverns and inns lined up on either side of the dirt path. A well was situated at the far end of the road for the villagers to gather water. A large wooden wall lined the outskirts of the town, with a gate that was overseen by two towers with several guards posted just outside the door.

Though the village was small in comparison to some of the main cities he had visited around the country, it was an ideal spot for the tournament. It stood in the heart of the country, on grassy plains that were perfect for farming. Though the village contained the main attraction, the majority of the population lived in villages outside the walls. Jellal had noticed long streaks of wooden fences that contained the area of crops and cattle. The distinctive smell of methane and manure hung in the air. The only benefit of the inside of the village was that one could be away from the farm's natural stench.

The boy wondered down one of the many dirt roads through passing by a few fields of wheat and even wondering horses. He continued to walk down the dirt path, absorbing the scenery. He had always wanted to come out and see the countryside on his own, but he was always too young. He had supposedly visited the countryside at one point with his father when he was younger, but that was too long ago, and he was too young to remember it.

As the young noble continued to marvel the landscape he heard the sound of clanging off in the distance. Curious, the boy followed where they were coming from. The young boy sprinted up the road, and to his joy his suspicions were correct, for when he had passed through a nearby wheat field he came upon two knights fighting in a grassy clearing. The boy knew that it couldn't be a real duel between the knights. Most often men participating in tournaments would go off and practice with one another to prepare themselves for any upcoming matches, and that's what these two knights appeared to be doing.

Though something else caught his eye as he walked up the dirt road. A young girl about his age was sitting on a wooden fence post observing the two knights as well. She was a small girl, with long scarlet red hair and dark eyes. He could tell that she must have been a farm girl, wearing a long, dirty white farm dress. She watched the two knights practice with great admiration. She didn't even pay enough attention to notice the boy approach her.

"They're amazing aren't they," Jellal said startling the young girl. She nearly leapt in place as she gazed peered down at him.

Jellal looked up at her, smiling widely at her trying his best to be friendly. Though he could see that the girl was a bit flustered. He wondered what it could be. She seemed nice enough, but she was just too shy. He didn't think that he gave off the impression that he was someone that would be unfriendly.

"What's wrong?" Jellal asked her, blinking at her. Though his attention was drawn away as he could hear the loud clamor of the two knights continuing to practice.

The girl turned her head away from him, her face still a crimson red as she did her best to avoid eye contact with him. She was definitely a shy girl Jellal could figure out that much as he saw her scooting away from the boy and bring her knees to her chest. Jellal peered back over at her with wandering eyes as he leaned in closer. His gesture only caused the girl to scoot away further from him. He wondered what it was that was driving the girl further from him, he was just trying to be friendly.

"So, do you like watching knights practice?" Jellal asked her. "I know I do. I myself have been training to become a knight one day! I'm not very good, but I'm getting better. I know that soon, with a lot of practice, I'm going to become a really powerful warrior, and I'll compete in this tournament one day." She didn't answer, she just kept her eyes averted from his stare. He began to get a little annoyed, but he still persisted on making friends with this girl. After all, she was one of the few people his own age he had been able to communicate with for a while. "I'm Jellal by the way, Jellal Fernandes," he said extending his hand, "what's your name?"

"I'm Erza," the girl whispered in a hushed tone. She peered down at his hand before turning her gaze away from him clutching her knees tigher.

"Erza?" the boy said skeptically. "Erza what? What's your last name?"

"Just Erza," the girl whispered, Jellal could barely hear her. He pursed his lips as he leaned in closer. His movement startled the girl as her eyes went wide watching him. "What are you doing?"

"I'm just trying to be friendly," Jellal answered eyeing her carefully. The girl recoiled under his gaze. "So, what? You don't have a last name?"

"Only nobles have last names," she answered softly shaking her head. "I'm just a farm girl."

She sat there in silence continuing to keep her eyes down. She felt a little embarrassed talking to the young noble, it wasn't like one of them to be friendly towards a girl like her. Jellal continued to stare at her, eyeing her carefully when he decided to lean in and take a handful of her hair. It was supple, and the strands felt as soft as a blanket made of cotton. But the one thing he liked most about her hair, was the strong, deep crimson color about it. Shining like strands of velvet rose, he had to admit the girl was cute.

"What are you doing?" the girl asked as her face lit up to a deep crimson, nervously pulling away from him.

"Just admiring your hair," the boy admitted, confused by her outburst. "I really like it. The deep scarlet color it has."

"Oh, thank you," the girl said softly. The comment only caused her to blush even more. Now her face was the same color as her hair. She bit her lip as she brushed her hair to the side, but mainly she did it to hide her embarrassed face.

"Since you don't have a last name of your own, maybe that's what I'll call you," Jellal told her grinning widely. "Erza Scarlet, like the color of your hair. That way I'll never forget you."

"Oh, okay," the girl answered in disbelief but she said it with a shy smile. She rather liked the name, and it made her feel good to have one. In all actuality it made her feel important. She had never known what it was like to have a last name, and she rather liked the sound of it. Erza Scarlett.

The two of them sat together and continued to watch the two knights practice. Jellal could see that the girl was still a bit shy, but she was coming around. Though neither the two of them spoke, the girl occasionally glancing back at the boy as she saw how excited he was to watch the men practice. She had never met a noble before. She found it odd that one would act so friendly towards her. Often they were mean and ridiculed people like her. But this boy, he was something else entirely.

It went on for about another ten minutes before the two knights stopped. They sheathed their swords and removed their helmets, allowing their long, soaking hair to drape down upon their shoulders. They exchange words of encouragement before they made their way back to the town. They didn't even notice the two children watching them.

Without saying a word the red haired girl leapt down from her seat on the fence.

"Where are you going?" Jellal asked her as he watched her walk away.

"Home," she answered softly before turning around to leave.

"Aren't you going to watch the tournament?" Jellal asked her raising an eyebrow.

"Nah-ah," Erza answered shaking her head. "The tournament only allows rich people to watch, and since I'm just a farm girl, I can't watch it. Though I always wanted to," she sighed sadly.

"Then how about you and I go watch it together?" Jellal said leaping down from his perch. He offered her and extended hand, as he grinned widely. The girl peered at him skeptically, not sure if he was being honest with her, but she couldn't help but feel excited.

After mulling it over for a few seconds, Erza smiled a little as she nodded her head. "Okay," she answered as she took the boy's hand.

The two of them ran down the dirt pathway together. Erza growing more and more excited as she anticipated seeing the tournament up close. Jellal led her back to the town gate where they encountered two guards standing in front. They eyed the two of them suspiciously, seeing the boy in his noble robes, clearly indicating that he was of higher class. What they didn't like seeing was the farm girl that was running up right behind him.

One of the guards began to approach them, Erza felt her heart stop cold in her chest. She knew this was a bad idea, she wondered how she could have ever thought this was going to work. They never let her into the tournament before, and now she was going to get thrown out again. She almost came to a stop, but she felt herself being pulled forward by Jellal, who simply ignored the guards and ran on through.

Erza was stunned as she noticed that the guards didn't even pursue them. She could hear them murmur about the two of them, but they simply waved it off once they noticed Jellal was a noble child. They simply decided it wasn't worth the effort to deal with it. Erza couldn't help but smile as a sensation of relief over took her. She was growing more and more excited now as Jellal led her down the busy street towards the field where the tournament was to be held.

They bumped into some people, but for the most part the boy was able to navigate the two of them by town's folk. Many of them stared at the two of them with bewildered glances, wondering what a farm girl was doing with a noble child. Many of them even recognized that tattoo over lapping his right eye as him to who he really was. Erza even began to wonder why everyone was getting into a uproar about them, which made her more confused, but she didn't care. She was just so excited to see the tournament up close.

They eventually made their way up to an arena where knights in full suits of armor rode on their horses and carried around their lances. The young King Duke sat upon a cushioned chair in the center as he eagerly awaited for the first two horseman to begin the games. He sat impatiently as trumpets blared and squires introduced their lords to the crowd.

Jellal pulled Erza up to the edge of the wooden post near the center of the stage. They caught some eyes as the two of them stood there together side by side. Nobody said anything to them, as the roar of cheers echoed from the surrounding crowd. Some nobles from the king's stage watched stared at the two of them wondering who the red haired girl was that was with the Fernandez boy. Just like everyone else the children had passed on their way to the arena. They were just as confused to see the two of them together as anyone else.

"I can't believe it," Erza said breathlessly, her eyes filling with splendor as she marveled the arena. "Thank you."

"It was no problem," Jellal said grinning at her.

He stared at her, as he could see the wonder in the girl's eyes, a warm sensation filling up in his heart. He didn't know what it was, or why he felt it. But looking at how happy Erza was, just made him feel better; it made him happy. There was something about her, something that he liked. Something drew him to the girl that was uncanny to anything he had ever felt before.

They watched as the two men charged at one another, their lances outstretched. Erza jumped upon the wooden post to get a better view and cheered loudly as soon as the two knights collided. One of the lances shattered, the splinters flying each and every direction as a roar of cheers came from the crowd. The knight who was struck toppled from his horse and land hard to the ground in a loud thud. The triumphant knight raised his lance before returning to the king.

As the sun began to set, trumpets blared out signaling the end of the tournament for the day. Erza sighed as she watched the knights leave for the evening. The crowds began to disperse as people made their way back to the town, and even the nobles began to leave with the king. Jellal and Erza and made their own way down the road from the arena. Jellal escorted Erza to the gate as she made her way back up the dirt path through the fields, Jellal following beside her.

"Thank you for this," Erza said as he cheeks began to flush a slight pink. She combed her hair back in an attempt to hide her embarrassed face.

"Well do you want to come back and watch it tomorrow with me?" Jellal asked with a wide grin. "I really enjoyed today. Most of the time I'm stuck with a bunch of old people. It was nice to be able to do something with someone my own age for once."

"Yeah," Erza said smiling at him. "I would like that."

The next morning Jellal got dressed and rushed out to the fields where he had seen Erza the day before. He eventually found her standing in an open grass field, only this time she was not alone. She was surrounded by a group of other farm children, all of whom sat around her as she told them of the day she had at the tournament and what she had seen. The kids clung onto every word she spoke growing more and more interested.

One was a boy about the same age as Erza and Jellal, with olive colored skin and muddy brown hair. Sitting next to him was a little girl, only about the age of five or so, with similar hair color, but paler skin. Another young boy sat next to them, his hair was blonde, bowl cut, but his skin was as dark as dirt. He had to be a couple years younger than Erza, but he wasn't that much younger. Next to him sat a little girl, with a similar bowl cut hairstyle, but her hair was brunette like the other two. But what stood out about her the most was the cat like eyes she had. Finally, there was another boy with shaggy black hair and a square jaw. He tried to appear too cool to care about what Erza was saying, but he was just as intrigued as any of the others there.

Holding up a stick in a similar manner to a knight Erza cried out, "One day I too will be a knight! And I will bring honor and glory to my family as Sir Erza Scarlett of Rosemary!"

"You can't be a knight," the brown haired boy objected. "You're a girl! And girls can't be knights! It's like, the law or something."

"I can be a knight!" Erza cried in protest. "I can be just as strong as any of the men fighting in the tournament!"

"But Simon is right sister, a girl can't be a knight though," the youngest boy with blonde hair interjected.

"Why can't a girl be a knight big brother?" the youngest girl asked turning to Simon. She had a confused expression on her face, one that was curious.

"Because only men can be knights, Kagura," Simon answered.

"I want to be a knight though," Kagura whined, pouting at her older brother. "By the way what is a knight?"

"They're those metal men that go around riding horses, fight each other, and save damsels," the blonde haired boy answered.

"Good day, Erza," Jellal said as he approached the group.

All the other children in the group gasped as they saw the young noble boy walking towards them. Erza on the other hand spun around with a wide grin on her face. Jellal was happy to see that the girl wasn't so shy anymore, and now it seemed like they were becoming friends. For him, it was a moment of relief, not to be stuck with uptight adults all day. They may show him respect because of his namesake, but he knew that most of them looked down at him for being so young.

"Hello Jellal," the red haired girl answered. "What are you doing here?"

"I came looking for you," he answered with a wide grin. "I thought we were going to go watch the tournament today?"

"I didn't think you'd actually want to go again," the red haired girl answered, a slight blush radiating in her cheeks. "But I'm glad you're here." She wasted no time as she grabbed Jellal's hand and pulled him in front of the group. Most of the children were still stunned, all except the youngest, Kagura, who was just puzzled by this new boy.

"Big brother, who is that boy?" Kagura asked Simon.

"I don't know," Simon said as he scowling at Jellal as he watch the boy get a little too friendly with Erza, "but he looks like a noble boy."

"What's a noble?" she asked.

"Someone who comes from a distinguished family, generally rich snobs," Simon told her.

"Big sister," the blonde haired boy said interjecting as he stepped up behind Erza. Both Erza and Jellal looked down at him as the boy hid slightly behind Erza, eyeing Jellal a bit suspiciously, "who is this man?"

"This is Jellal," she said introducing the young boy, "he's a new friend I met yesterday. He's the one that I went to go watch the tournament with yesterday."

"Speaking of which," Jellal said leaning down so he was face to face with the younger lad, "how would all of you like to go with us to the tournament today?"

All the children squealed in delight as they jumped to their feet. The young boy's face lit up as he began to grow jittery with excitement. Erza had to lay a hand on him to stop him from tugging at her farm dress. They all huddled around Erza and Jellal, the red head unable to control her own wide smirk. She giggled happily as the younger children nearly pounced on the blue haired boy.

"Can we go big brother?" Kagura pleaded as she grabbed Simon's sleeve. "Can we? Please?"

"All right," the boy sighed, as he too reluctantly stood up to his feet.

"Yay!" the little girl cheered as she ran over to join the others. Jellal motioned for the others to follow him, as he walked towards the arena with Erza by his side.

"Excuse me, Mr. Jellal," the young girl with short brunette hair began to ask, "we were wondering, can a girl be a knight?"

"Well," the boy pondered it over for a moment as they all walked down the dirt pathway, "in order for someone to become a knight, they must be knighted. I've never met, or seen a girl get knighted, but I guess it's possible. As long as they pass the examines to become one, or do something worthy receiving it. So I guess there's no rule that says a girl can't be a knight."

"I'm going to become a knight one day," Erza said distinctively. "I'm going to grow up big and strong, and when I do, I'll become one of the greatest knights in the entire kingdom."

Jellal burst out into laughter. "You have to earn on spot on the King's own personal guard if you want to become one of the best knights in the entire kingdom," Jellal chuckled. "And you wouldn't be able to do it anyway," he said teasingly. "You're not strong enough."

"Oh yeah," Erza hissed as she ran forward and grabbed a couple of stick she found lying near the side of the road and threw one over to Jellal. The boy caught it, staring at her with puzzled eyes. "I challenge you," Erza said, as did her best to take a battle ready stance.

Jellal laughed to himself as he waved the stick in the air, before stepping in front of her. The other children encircled the two of them, all of them cheering for Erza. Jellal stepped to the side twirling his stick in front of him as Erza eyed him with a serious glare. She then stepped in and swung her stick at him, to which Jellal simply stepped to the side and then swatted her in her hindquarters.

Erza yelped as she grabbed her rear end, her face flushed with embarrassment as she scolded the laughing boy. The other children giggled amongst themselves as they could see how flustered their big sister was acting. She bit her lip and in a fit of rage she swung her stick at Jellal again. The boy knocked her stick away causing the girl to stumble forward. It wasn't until Jellal tapped her on the back with the blunt of his own weapon that the girl fell flat on her face.

The other children began to giggle amongst themselves, as Erza sat up and rub a tear from her eye. She felt humiliated, but she wouldn't allow herself to go out in such a fashion. She was going to become a knight, and that meant she would have to defeat immature boys like Jellal if she was ever going to achieve her dream. She stood up, lashing her stick and back and forth. Jellal fell backwards trying his best to parry the on coming lashes.

Soon Erza swatted the Jellal's stick so hard that both of their wooden weapons flew out of their hands. Jellal watched as his stick went flying, but Erza did not waste a moment. She pounced on the unsuspecting boy, taking him to the ground before she pinned his wrists into the dirt. The boy looked at her stunned as Erza smiled with a satisfied grin.

"Looks like I win," she mocked, sitting upright.

"Yeah," Jellal giggled, "looks like it."

Erza picked herself up, brushing the dirt from her gown. She leaned over and offered Jellal a hand to help him back to his feet. The boy took her hand in his and once he was back up to his own two feet, he dusted the dirt from his clothes. The other children laughed as they celebrated Erza's victory. The girl rather enjoyed herself standing with pride. Jellal simply laughed it off before he motioned for them to follow him to the arena.

When they came to the gate a guard stood in their way glaring sinisterly at all of them. A tall man that looked threatening, but it was the lack of teeth in his mouth that caused the kids to grow a little more worried in his presence. The younger children coward behind Simon as he stood upright, thinking that of course they weren't going to be allowed into the town to watch the tournament. He could feel his little sister tugging on his shirt as he pulled her in close.

"Hey, you're that noble kid from yesterday aren't ya? The one that came in with that little peasant trash," he said leering at Jellal before his vision fell onto Erza. "Yeah that one right there. Now you want to bring in a bunch of other rabble to the town? They ain't stray dogs you know."

"I am Jellal Fernandes, son of Faust Fernandes, Hand of the King. You will permit me and my friends to pass," Jellal demanded.

"As I recall, daddy's dead, and you ain't no Hand of the King just yet," the guard retorted poking at the boy's chest.

"Hey, leave the boy be and just let 'em pass already," another guard groaned from the other side of the gate. "It ain't worth no trouble trying to cause a ruckus with a noble. Even if 'e is a boy."

"All right, all right," the first guard said frowning. "I guess you can pass little master, but don't think that means we won't be keeping an eye on you."

"Thank you," Jellal sneered at him as he continued to walk forward. "Come on guys."

The guard eyed the boy threateningly as he watched Jellal and the others run pass the gate. Jellal didn't pay any mind to the man as he led the kids to the spot of the arena, being careful not to lose them in the crowd. He reached back, grasping Erza by the hand, causing the girl to once again blush from embarrassment. At first she was a bit shocked until she realized what Jellal's real intent was. She followed his lead and grabbed the younger brunette's hand as the kids made sure that they were tied together.

Finally they came to the arena, Jellal dragging them to the front where he and Erza had stood the day before. This time he drew the attention of most of the surrounding people as they saw the group of young children watching the tournament. The children themselves were more than excited to watch the event as the climbed on top of the wooden fence watching as the knights prepared themselves.

The younger kids looked around in awe as they took in the splendor of the tournament. Jellal on the other hand stood back letting the younger ones take the front row. Though he got the eerie sensation that someone was watching him. When he looked around he could see a man standing near the king; a tall, dark skin man with long black hair and black beard. He had a snide smirk on his lips as he peered down at the group of children. Jellal fell a cold sensation rush through his spine as he turned away.

Though when he looked away he noticed something else. He saw that he had Erza's hand still clasped in his. He blushed to himself, but it appeared that the girl hadn't even noticed it. His first instinct was to break the contact immediately, but he found himself unable to do so. Instead he decided that he would just let it be for now.

He watched her from the corner of his eye, seeing that the girl was just as excited for today as she was the day before. She had a wide smirk, as the two knights rode in on their horses, and right in front of them they collided. An eruption of applause could be heard from the crowd, and Jellal took the opportunity to peer back at the man that was watching him before. Only now, the man had vanished. Jellal shook his head deciding to ignore it for the time being. For now, he just wanted to enjoy the moment with his new friends.



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