Chapter 7: THOMAS' LESSON OF BATTLE
By all accounts, yesterday was a disaster as far as the royal children’s lessons went. Kyrstin had ditched out on all of hers to go traipsing through the forest, Patrick had tamed a bear instead of learning about the different types of agriculture in the area, and Thomas had shown up to his sword lesson without his sword, and was given welts and bruises across his whole body by his sword instructor, Corson, for doing so. This morning he showed up with his sword, and with a ring on his finger meaning he was the ruler over everything, including Corson, and was excited to show off this new control. He wondered what things he could get the tall man with black hair and muscular build to do for him. Most likely, Thomas should get one free chop with the flat side of the blade, just so Corson had a matching bruise.
The sword lessons were taught on one of the many balconies of the castle which was half roofed over, and half in the sun. The castle green thumbs had planted hanging baskets of flowers which dangled from the ceiling. Some vines erupted from the baskets and went from one pot of soil to another creating a rather living feel to the castle’s stone make-up. )This particular balcony overlooked the Western portion of Springborough lands which was just a small sliver of the town’s grounds, the Kingdom walls, and perhaps a hundred meters of trees before the tallest cliffs of land gave way to the waters of Cornwall.) It was Prince Thomas’ choice on where these lessons would meet, and he chose this balcony because it seemed the least likely to be watched by prying villagers eyes, and he did not feel like he was going to be very good wielding a sword.
Prince Thomas, Ruler of Springborough, was a strong lad of twelve years. He was constantly active, and made sure to never stay in one place too long, because he got absolutely bored if doing the same thing for over an hour. But, this did not translate to the act of fighting. He had no desire to show his strength through force. When first told of his great responsibility to the Kingdom, when he learned of his royal birth, and his royal upbringing, and realized that the children he saw below his castle in the town were “his people” and not “his potential friends,” Thomas’ idea of what he must do centered around trying to help everyone around him. It wasn’t until he was ten that the King, his father, sat him down and said he was going to start learning the advantages of war and battle.
“What are the advantages?” Thomas asked his father.
King Daniel was a great hulk of a man, towering over Thomas by at least three feet, and with hands the size of Thomas’ head. He looked down at his son with his brown eyes that resonated in a freckled face below red hair, and with his deep voice sighed. The King was very practical, level-headed, and only said exactly what he believed, which was a trait Thomas would have to learn as the young Prince would be more inclined to say exactly what he thought. What one thinks and what one believes are two very different things with the most different being what one says.
“Well,” King Daniel would say, “we are very fortunate in life to have what we have. And sometimes, the less fortunate are also less resourceful, and so instead of using their wits and brains to get what they want, they use their brawn and their hands. So, to protect what you have, you have to be stronger, and not bend to others’ wills.”
Thomas didn’t understand.
“People are going to fight me because I’m a Prince?”
“Not you. And not because you are a Prince. They are going to fight Springborough, because Springborough is in charge of the Kingdom. We, as a family, the Lishens, try to do the best that we can for our people. We oversee the farmlands so that everyone has food. We collect taxes so that repairs can be made to the structure. We train and employ an army so that our lands can be protected. We regulate hunting of the forest to make sure there’ll be enough meat for everyone. We keep the schools going so that everyone can have an education, so that everyone can read and properly take care of themselves. But, for some people, this will not be good enough. For some people, they’ll compare their lives of digging in the trenches, of cleaning fish, of cleaning the roads of horse droppings, and then they’ll look at us.
“They’ll look at us in our castle, and just because we were born to be who we are, into the life we have, they’ll be jealous. If you’re a good Prince, and I’m a good King, and your mother, a good Queen, well-… we’ll have nothing to worry about morally. We must regulate ourselves. We must keep ourselves introspecting, looking within ourselves. We must, every night, think about our days, and the decisions we make, and contemplate what we could have done better, and learn from each day to be better rulers. We have a great responsibility to these people. They must see us as being worthy.”
“What happens if they do not think we are worthy?” Thomas asked.
“Then they’ll rebel. And if they’re right, if we’re not worthy, then we’ll fall and lose everything. So, it is up to us to make sure we are worthy, before they do.”
“What if they rebel and they’re wrong?”
“That’s why we must learn how to fight. Good will always prevail as long as good is ready. And the reason why you must focus on your sword lessons, and the complexities of war is that a desperate group of people will not follow the general rules of war. So you must be ready for everything.”
As Thomas walked to his sword lesson, his father’s words echoed in his mind. It was almost as if King Daniel predicted that his son would take charge of the kingdom the way he looked at him, the way he said “you” directly toward Thomas. Not “us” as in the family of Lishens, or “for your sister” who was the next perceived ruler of Springborough, but specifically Thomas. The Prince must learn how to battle the Kingdom’s enemies. The Prince must learn how to wield a sword into battle. The Prince must learn of all the bad in the world in hopes to one day fight it and vanquish it.
He arrived to the balcony to see it empty save for Corson, the flowers, and the sunlight. Corson, a tall man who had won many battles before arriving to Springborough, turned and smiled at the young Prince. There was something about Thomas’ sword instructor that made the young boy feel safe. Perhaps it was the fact he knew that Corson would give his life for the boy, but even more so he knew that Corson would and could take many lives in the hopes of keeping Thomas alive. Having a warrior like that in your midst, on your side, would make anybody feel at ease.
“Ah, Prince Thomas,” Corson said while bowing at the waist, giving the royal proper respect. “How great of you to bring your sword today to your sword lesson,” Corson said while slightly making fun of Thomas’ oversight yesterday.
“I told you, Corson, my sister stole it from my room as I slept yesterday.”
“Perhaps, I should tell you the first rule of swordsmanship: Don’t let yours get stolen. Second rule of swordsmanship: Bring your sword to a sword fight.”
“Clever,” Thomas replied, showing his bicep where there were two bruises two fingers wide where the sword instructor had struck Thomas the day before. “You see what you did to your Prince yesterday?”
“Looks like a lesson or two learned. Better the broad side of a sword from an instructor than the sharp edge of a sword from an enemy.”
“No less the matter than the fact I am the new ruler of Springborough. I have my grandmother’s ring.”
Thomas showed Corson the ring that he had placed on his right ring finger the night before. Corson, always perfectly postured, sauntered over to Thomas with one hand on the hilt of his sword. He leaned over to look at the ring, the gold band, the dragon’s eye entrapped in the stone. Currently and seemingly always, the dragon’s eye was shut, leaving only green and orange scales of dragon skin to be seen, but the ring’s eye was rumored to have a habit of opening, revealing a mystical power underneath, a power Thomas did not feel when he put it on, but which somehow stopped the storm last night.
“It’s a nice ring.”
“It means I’m the ruler.”
“So it does.”
“And as your ruler, I must insist I get a free shot at you for all the bruises you put on me yesterday.”
Corson straightened up and stared at his ruler, his Prince. By all accounts, even before the ring, Corson was subject to Prince Thomas’ rule and had to do anything the young boy requested. But, as sword instructor, and as the most decorated knight in Springborough, King Daniel had entrusted the imposing, dark haired man to curtail his son into a great warrior. And so, King Daniel said, that he was given free reign in his instruction to Thomas to mold the lad however the warrior saw fit. This was how Corson was able to physically teach the Prince a lesson yesterday by beating him with a steel sword when Thomas forgot his own, or was robbed of it while he was sleeping.
And hence why today Corson, instead of rolling up his sleeves to show bare flesh and give Thomas a free shot at his flesh, he instead drew his own sword and held it out in front of him.
“A true swordsman doesn’t need a free shot to wound his opponent. Let’s see what kind of new Ruler you are.”
With that, Thomas drew his own sword.