Galen walked out onto the field after lunch and moved towards his weapons session. He had a full two hours scheduled today, and he was not looking forward to it. He didn’t mind using weapons. He thought he was proficient at swords and knives, but he got tired of Darron constantly chiding him.
He had guessed by now that his brother and Darron didn’t have the best relationship. He couldn’t tell if it had something to do with the High Captain obviously preferring Roderick or some other incident. Perhaps it was a combination of many things; bad blood between people usually was at least two or more things, Galen had found. Or perhaps, it had been one thing initially and other events and situations had made the relationship between Roderick and Darron grow fouler.
Whatever the reason or reasons, it was clear Darron did not like Roderick, and he enjoyed taking out his dislike on Galen. Galen found he could easily dismiss Darron’s criticism. He knew how to fight with a sword. He was very good at close combat with knives, and so far, he had done well with throwing knives and spears. What got to Galen was Darron’s constant comments stirred up a few other students, causing nothing but distractions for him.
Bax and his friend, Bolton, never did warm up to Galen. It didn’t help that Tomas was always letting Bax provoke him. Galen had hoped if he was quiet, Bax would grow tired of pestering Galen, but Tomas never let anything Bax said go unchallenged. Galen supposed he should be grateful to have such a loyal friend, but he often wished Tomas would just shut up.
“How was the banquet last night?” asked Tomas as he, Galen, and Cara stood back, waiting for their turn to throw knives.
“It was fine. I thought the food would be better since it was the palace, but it was edible.”
“The food, really Galen?” scoffed Cara. “He doesn’t want to hear about the food. He wants to hear how it went with the princess.”
“Oh, it was nice. We had some really good conversations about finding new ways to bind Mystics with runes. She had this fascinating idea of using Mystics and runes for divination. I’m not one for divination, but to use Mystics to actually divine the runes would be pretty brilliant if she can figure it out.”
“What else happened?” asked Tomas.
“What do you mean, what else? We ate dinner, and we talked. I walked home with Darron after it was over as my brother and the High Captain left early.”
“So, that’s it?” said Tomas disappointedly.
“Of course, that is it. What else did you think might happen?”
“I think he was hoping to hear of at least a kiss or something.” Cara gave Tomas a playful shove.
“A kiss? She is a princess of this kingdom, and I am a low lord’s son,” stressed Galen.
“I’m pretty sure princesses and princes have kissed lower born people than you throughout history, Galen,” said Cara, shaking her head as Tomas laughed.
“It’s not like that with the princess and me. We are just friends who enjoy a sensible conversation.”
“But she so pretty,” said Tomas.
“She is very pretty, but believe it or not, pretty girls can be smart,” said Galen.
“I haven’t found that is usually the case,” laughed Tomas.
“Maybe because no pretty, smart women want to talk to you, Tomas, because you are an idiot,” said Cara angrily.
“I wasn’t talking about you, Cara. You are very smart, but I hardly think of you as a girl. I mean, you are going to be an Elite.”
“So?” asked Cara. “What does that have to do with me being a woman or not?”
“It’s not the same as a girl I meet out in the town. You are one of us.”
“I was right; you are an idiot,” said Cara walking off to the other side of the group.
“What was that all about?” asked Tomas.
“I don’t think you really want to know, Tomas,” said Galen looking at him. “She is right, though; you are an idiot.”
Tomas looked over to where Cara had walked and then turned his attention back to the session going on in front of him. Another group had gone to the front to throw knives at the targets when Bax and Bolton came over to Galen and Tomas.
“How was your fancy lord party last night, Galen?” asked Bax with a grin.
“It was fine. I was telling Tomas the food wasn’t anything special, but the conversation was good.”
“What do you talk about at your parties? How to pick out the perfect tunic to match your eyes?” Bolton batted his eyes at Galen.
“I don’t know; some at the party might discuss it. I did not,” said Galen calmly.
“We went to a real party last night, down at Griffith’s. There were some very pretty girls last night who didn’t mind spending their time with us,” said Bax laughing.
“Pretty girls at Griffith’s? I doubt it, but I hope it didn’t cost you too much for their services,” said Tomas.
Bax grimaced and looked ready to throttle Tomas when Darron walked over to them.
“Novice Galen, is this session not to your liking?”
“It is a fine session, Elite Darron,” said Galen. “I am just waiting my turn.”
“You think you have nothing to learn from watching the others?” asked Darron.
“I have been watching, and I have learned much. Novice Jimson doesn’t keep his arm straight when he throws. That’s why his knife is always left of center.”
“You are distracting others. I have watched you speak to at least four people during this session,” said Darron angrily.
“They spoke to me first,” answered Galen simply.
“I think it is your turn, novice,” said Darron to Galen. “Since you have been observing the whole time and not distracted, I expect to see excellent accuracy.”
Galen said nothing as he walked to the front of the group and stood back from one of the wooden targets. Another novice handed him three knives he had just retrieved. Galen put two in his belt and held one by the handle.
“You may throw when you are ready,” said Darron to the novices who stood in front of the targets.
Galen held up his knife, aiming it carefully.
“Do you know how your brother got to be the second to the High Captain, Galen?” asked Darron quietly as he stood next to Galen.
Galen ignored him and threw his knife. It hit and stuck just a little right of the center. He pulled out another knife by its handle and held it up.
“Your brother and High Captain have been good friends, very good friends since their own time in the Disciplines. They have always been very close.” Darron gave Galen a closed-lipped smile. “In fact, I believe they were caught a few times in compromising positions as novices.”
Galen tuned Darron out and threw his knife. It landed slightly left of the center of the target.
“Of course, they may have been equal here, but let’s not kid ourselves, she was still Lady Dracia Yates, and your brother was still the second son of a low lord. What would her father say if he knew how she was carrying on with Roderick?” asked Darron shaking his head.
Galen took his last knife out of his belt by the handle and held it up.
“When she was somehow named High Captain, it was the perfect opportunity to have your brother do whatever she wished, whenever she wished. He is often in her rooms, you know. So, he got to be a second, and she gets to keep on having her secret rendezvous with him. He basically sold himself to be a second of the High Captain. What would you call someone like that, Galen?” asked Darron with a nasty smile.
Galen aimed his knife and threw it. It landed right between the other two, hitting the middle of the target. He turned and looked at Darron, who looked at the target.
“Go collect your knives, novice, and try again. Those first two were a little off.”
Galen made it through the rest of his weapons session, with Darron ignoring him. Tomas pestered him the rest of the session until Galen agreed to go out with him to the Bird’s Nest for some drinks. After weapons, he had an hour of riding instruction before he was due in class. He ran into the novice room to clean up a little and change his shirt before walking to the Royal Academy.
He made it to Kingdom History before the teacher had gotten into the room. He sat down at the table with Princess Lexine, who smiled at him.
“How were sessions this afternoon?” she asked
“Long, and annoying,” said Galen getting some paper and a quill out of his bag.
“Did something happen?” asked Lexine. “You seem more agitated than usual.”
Galen looked at her, wondering if he could tell her what happened. He didn’t believe Darron about his brother and the High Captain. They were both too honorable for what he was suggesting. The High Captain chose his brother because Roderick was an excellent Elite who was loyal to her. Darron was obviously jealous of Roderick.
Still, he wondered if there was any truth to what Darron was saying. Were his brother and the High Captain really caught in compromising positions at the Sentinel? Did he really attend to her in her rooms? Did it matter if there was something between them?
“Galen, are you well?” asked the princess.
“Yes,” said Galen with a small frown. “You have known the High Captain for a while, haven’t you?”
“Yes, for a very long time. We grew up very close to one another. I still consider her one of my dearest friends.”
“So, she tells you things about her life?” asked Galen.
“Yes,” said Lexine carefully. “But I do not gossip about her.”
“No, I would not want to.” Galen was quiet for a moment, trying to think how to continue. He didn’t want to pry into the High Captain’s life, but it was his brother as well. “If I knew something about her that was a secret, or thought I knew, would you confirm it for me? Especially if it affects someone close to me.”
“What do you mean?” asked the princess, shifting in her seat.
Galen sighed. “I heard something about the High Captain, about her spending time with someone and my brother being involved...” The princess cut him off.
“No, we can’t talk about this here,” she said, whispering quickly.
Galen nodded with wide eyes.
The princess looked at Galen and moved in close to him. “Just don’t judge her or him too harshly, please. They aren’t just spending time together; they are in love. They have been for a long time.”
“They are in love?” asked Galen, shocked.
The princess shushed him. “Yes, they have been for a long time, but it isn’t allowed, at least not right now. Her father doesn’t even know, and my father is adamant that they cannot be together.”
“Your father?” asked Galen confused. “Why does your father care?”
“I don’t know. It shouldn’t matter to him. He loves her and that should be it. There is no reason they should have to hide their love.”
Galen wanted to ask more questions, but the instructor walked into the room. The princess moved over as Galen tried to focus on the lesson. He wrote some things down, but if someone had asked him what he had heard during the lesson, he wouldn’t have been able to answer them.
The princess walked out of class with him. She grabbed his arm and took him outside and to the left of the Academy, out of the way of others leaving for the day.
“Whatever you heard, or you have seen, you need to keep it to yourself,” said Princess Lexine.
“Of course,” said Galen. “I won’t tell anyone. I think I am just sad for them.”
“I know,” sighed Lexine. “They have both suffered, but I believe they have found ways to find time together. Lately, it seems like he spends every night with her.”
“Galen, promise me; you won’t say anything to anyone about this, ever.” The princess took his hand.
“I promise, princess, I do,” said Galen as she squeezed his hand.
“Thank you,” said the princes with relief in her voice, still holding his hand. “Hopefully, one day, it won’t matter, and they won’t have to hide anymore. My father just needs to be convinced. Maybe, after these Navalians and Siccarians are gone, he can be worked on. They have been such a nuisance, especially the Navalians.”
Galen nodded again, not knowing what to say.
“I have to get back to the palace,” said the princess. “Do you have something planned tonight?”
“Yes, I told Tomas I would go have a few drinks with him at the Bird’s Nest.”
“That sounds like more fun than my evening. I have to spend time with our guests, and I am sure Leal will want me to distract the Navalian princess for him, so he can get away at some point. She is so determined to have him, but as you know, it won’t happen.”
“Yes,” said Galen, still thinking of his brother and the High Captain and not attending well to what she was saying.
“I hope you have fun tonight, Galen, but not too much fun. Try to stay out of trouble,” she said smiling.
“I’m not a fan of trouble. I am only going to keep my friend well away from it,” said Galen.
Princess Lexine finally let go of his hand after one more squeeze. “I will see you in class.” She walked off towards the palace as Galen turned towards the Fortress.
He got back and spent his hour of reflection trying to study, but his mind would not settle. He couldn’t stop thinking of his brother and the High Captain. They were in love? Galen couldn’t believe it. He knew they were close, but to be in love? Why did they have to hide it? He supposed the High Captain’s father wouldn’t like it, but what could he do? She was of age and lived outside her father’s home.
Why did the king care if his brother and the High Captain were in love? Did he not want the High Captain distracted? Was it against some rule for the High Captain to have a relationship? Galen wasn’t sure. One day he would have to work up the nerve to ask Roderick about it all. He wanted his brother to be happy, but if it was wrong to be with the High Captain, how could Roderick do it?
Galen ate dinner with Tomas and Cara. Galen was quiet, and Cara was sullen.
“What is the matter with the two of you?” asked Tomas. Cara only glared at him while Galen shrugged. “We are still going out tonight, aren’t we?”
“I am going out tonight, but not with you, Tomas,” said Cara turning away. “I told a few other women I would go with them and a few other novices tonight.”
“Where are you going?” asked Tomas.
“I’m not sure. I think a couple of spots around the town. Janelle says there are usually handsome farmhands at the Faded Wing, so we might go there and see about some company,” said Cara.
“You should come with Galen and me instead,” said Tomas after taking a drink. “The Bird’s Nest is the best tavern in town. The lords of the kingdom even drink there sometimes.”
“I think I am quite done with any lords of the kingdom or their sons at the moment.” Cara, stood up. “Galen, I hope you have a pleasant evening. Don’t let Tomas get you into any trouble.” She took her dishes and put them in a bin to the side and left the room.
“I guess she is still mad at me from earlier,” said Tomas. “She didn’t need to take offense. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just meant she is our friend and not some woman we might pick up in a tavern.”
Galen looked at Tomas and shook his head. “I would call you an idiot again, but it is starting to feel redundant, so just assume you are always an idiot.”
They walked into town with a group of other novices Galen vaguely knew. They entered the Bird’s Nest to find it fairly crowded, though not so much they couldn’t find a few tables in the upper left corner. As they sat down, Galen chose the seat in the corner so he could see the whole room. They all ordered some drinks as Tomas looked around the place.
“There doesn’t seem to be an available young ladies here yet,” said Tomas as he scanned. “But the two barmaids here are worth looking at, so there is always that.”
Their drinks came, and Galen decided Tomas was right. The bar maid in front of him was worth looking at with her blonde hair, light brown eyes, pink lips, and ample bosoms on display.
“Thank you, Emy. What are your plans later?” asked Tomas smiling at her.
“I’m much too busy for a little son of a lord like yourself, sir,” said Emy as she handed Galen his drink.
“I’m of the Sentinel now, Emy,” smiled Tomas. “Perhaps you aren’t as busy as you think?”
“I might find time for an Elite if I choose, but not for a novice. Besides, I believe you have some sort of curfew, don’t you?”
“I do, but I am sure we would have time to have some fun together before I had to get back,” said Tomas suggestively.
“You aren’t selling yourself very well, my lord,” said Emy shaking her head as she walked away.
Galen looked at Tomas. “I know, I know, you don’t have to say it. I am already assuming it,” said Tomas slumping down in his chair.
Galen sipped his drink as Tomas started talking to someone else at their table. Tomas gulped down two drinks quickly as Galen watched the tavern. He was trying not to think about his brother when the door opened, and the very man walked in the room with the High Captain. They turned to the right and sat down at a table in the back right corner.
“What are you looking at, Galen?” asked Tomas as he received another drink.
“The High Captain and my brother just walked in,” said Galen.
Tomas leaned over and looked in the direction Galen was facing. “Where? I don’t see her.”
“They are in the back corner to the right from us,” said Galen.
“We should go say hello at some point.” Tomas picked up his new drink.
“That would be a horrible idea,” said Galen, taking a drink.
“Why?” asked Tomas.
“You are already almost done with your third drink. Soon, you’ll be spouting all kinds of nonsense. Do you really want to go say something stupid to the High Captain?”
“What could I possibly say to her that would be stupid?”
“Almost everything that comes out of your mouth is stupid when you are sober, so I can only imagine what you would think would be appropriate to say when you are drunk,” replied Galen.
“Like what?” Tomas took a long drink and put his mug down.
“Like how you seem to enjoy describing in detail everything you find enticing about the High Captain,” replied Galen.
“She is very tempting, isn’t she?” asked Tomas taking another long drink. “You know, I think under that dress, she is a very nice set of…”
“Good lord, Tomas, could you talk any louder?” asked Galen incredulously as the others at their table laughed. “But it is a good example of why you definitely should not go over to the High Captain’s table.”
“You don’t think she would be flattered?”
“No, I do not, and for you to even ask that question shows me you are already well in your cups. You never could hold your liquor.”
Tomas only laughed and finished his drink, looking to order another one from Emy. Galen watched as a man dressed as an Elite walked through the door of the tavern. He didn’t look familiar to Galen, but he must have been of the Sentinel; he had the uniform. He walked over to the table of the High Captain and sat next to her.
“Tomas, do you know that Elite who just came in and sat with the High Captain?”
Tomas looked and shook his head. “I don’t recognize him, but I don’t know all the Elites yet. I suppose he hasn’t helped with the Disciplines.”
The High Captain looked at the man with narrowed eyes and a frown. He started talking to her as she shook her head. The man leaned over and whispered in her ear. She sighed and looked at Roderick. Roderick started talking and shaking his head.
“Galen, you aren’t even drinking,” said Tomas. “Are you still on your first drink?”
“I find that I am not thirsty tonight, and I need to keep you out of trouble,” said Galen.
“Come on, Galen, do you really think I am stupid enough to go over and tell the High Captain how shapely her chest is?”
“No, I think you might go and ask her to show them to you,” said Galen as the other novices laughed.
Galen looked back up to see the High Captain was standing. She said something, drained her glass, and walked out of the tavern at a fast past. Roderick stood and followed after her.
Galen hesitated for a moment before turning to Tomas. “I’m going to go get some fresh air. I’ll be right back. Don’t do anything too foolish while I’m gone.”
Galen walked from the room and out onto the streets. He turned towards the Fortress and started walking when he heard the High Captain’s voice. He saw them out of the corner of his eyes between two buildings. Galen quickly hid behind a tree that was just off the street. He waited a moment and peeked around to see the High Captain was leaning against the wall of one of the buildings while Roderick stood close to her.
“I just don’t know what I am supposed to do. It isn’t like I can just go against the orders of the king,” said the High Captain.
“There is nothing you can do except what you are doing. I know this isn’t easy,” said Roderick.
“I’m just so tired of the hiding and the sneaking around. I feel like some shameful secret,” she said tearfully. “I am some shameful secret.”
“No, you are not, Dracia. You know you aren’t. There is no reason anyone should be ashamed to be with you. You know how impressive you are in every way.”
“I’m not good enough for the king, apparently.”
“That has nothing to do with you. Whatever the problem he has with you has nothing to do with who you are. I won’t have you thinking bad of yourself, not over something like this.”
The High Captain leaned over and put her head against Roderick’s shoulder. Roderick hesitated for a moment before putting his arms around her and pulling her in to hug her. Galen watched as he held her.
“Everything will work out, Dracia. It will,” he said soothingly.
“Novice Galen,” said a voice next to Galen. Galen turned and saw the Elite who had been sitting with the High Captain. “Are you out here for a reason?”
“I just wanted some fresh air,” said Galen looking at the man, trying to place him.
“I believe you have probably had plenty at this point. You should get back inside the tavern.Yyour friends are getting a little rowdy and curfew will be soon.”
“Yes, Elite,” said Galen looking at the man, wanting to ask his name but not appear rude since it seems the man knew who he was.
“You do know spying on the High Captain and listening to her personal conversations could be grounds for dismissal.”
“I didn’t mean to overhear anything personal,” said Galen with his eyes to the ground, the lie feeling wrong in his mouth. “I was just worried about my brother.”
“Your brother is a grown man and knows his business. Whatever it is you might have heard tonight, I suggest you forget it. It would not do to spread the High Captain’s personal affairs around the Sentinel or town.”
“I would never do anything to hurt the High Captain or the Sentinel.”
“Good, now go inside and keep your mouth shut, and I will forget I saw you out here.”
Galen nodded and walked back to the tavern, feeling properly chastised for spying on his brother and the High Captain. Still, he was worried about his brother, and he felt bad for the High Captain. Why would she feel like some shameful secret? Why would she be the reason to hide the feelings she shared with his brother? How did the king fit into all of this?
Galen couldn’t figure it out. He walked into the Bird’s Nest to see if he could somehow get Tomas home before he did something stupid, though Galen might take the top prize for being an idiot that night.