Alfred noticed that they were being watched as he and Edel practiced with their wastes and bucklers. This was Monday of the third week. Most of the time that Colin wasn’t yelling at them he was just shaking his head.
A few times he had matched them with some of the guard. Alfred was sure he was showing improvement. He was sure that with the sword he was much better than Edel. It was true that Edel was better at archery than he was. Edel had picked up archery much faster than Alfred had expected. Neither of them could hit the center of the target consistently. Most of their arrows were at least hitting the target. Edel had hit the bull’s eye once. Alfred had wanted to bust Edel’s lip just to wipe away that grin.
Edel was so irritating. He ate like a girl. Even used a napkin without being told too. They had lessons in the evening that Gertie gave on table manners. What a bore.
Well, he supposed he should know how to behave in front of nobles if he was traveling with the count. Now that would be exciting. Sitting at the table in some grand castle. Edel fell into it like it had been second nature to the waif. Alfred still had to watch Gertie so he could choose the right fork.
Well, he figured combat would be the key decider of who would become the Count’s page. And Gerhart would be the one to impress.
While Alfred was distracted with those thoughts, Edel pressed him and landed a hit. Alfred’s anger flared. He was tired of the gentle back and forth that Colin insisted on. “Well, I bet this will impress Gerhart.” Alfred thought when he began to rapidly beat against Edel’s buckler. He flailed on him. Beating away his waste. Edel retreated under the wild assault. One score, two, three. And a blow to the side of Edel’s head brought him down.
“Hold! Alfred hold!” Colin shouted. He grabbed Alfred’s arm and kicked his leg out from under him. Alfred landed on his rear as Colin towered over him. “What kind of fool are you?” He heard Colin shout as his blazing eyes on him. “This is your companion in arms!” He said as he turned to Edel to assess the damage done.
Colin offered Edel his hand to help him rise. He brushed Colin’s hand aside, grabbed his waste. He wobbled as he stood. Then he threw off his helm. “I stumbled. He barely touched me.” Gerhart touched Colin’s arm before he could intervene between the two. “Let us watch a bit. Most intent I’ve seen from Edel.”
Edel advanced toward Alfred. His voice intense he said. “Defend yourself boy!” He slashed at Alfred so violently that Alfred stepped back and avoided the blow. “You ill-mannered lout. You self-absorbed idiot.” Edel attacked him with his words and waste.
Alfred rallied and began to advance. But stopped as Edel’s waste pounded against his buckler. Waste met waste. They cracked as if they might break.
“you stupid boy!” Edel shouted. I try to talk, and you turn your ugly nose up. We share lessons and you act like I’m not there.”
Edel’s’ waste once more slammed into Alfred’s sliding down and slamming into the guard which wretched it out of Alfred’s hand. It flew behind him. He raised his buckler in defense. The blows stopped. Glaring at him, Edel said. “Well, pick that blasted thing up and defend yourself, boy!”
Alfred wasn’t sure he wanted too. But Edel looked far from finished. So, he turned and bent to pick up his waste. Only to receive a kick in his rear, that sent him tumbling.
“How dare you turn your back to me! Boy” Roared behind him. Edel threw down his waste as stormed off to the manor. Alfred was too stunned to notice the tears streaming down his opponent’s face.
Henry had a smirk on his face until Colin Said. “Henry, show Alfred how to defend against such attacks.
So, Alfred, feeling mistreated, spent another hour in combat practice. While Edel disappeared.
Edel was absent from lunch. Alfred spent the early afternoon in siege class. Which meant arithmetic lessons. Being the only student, he was expected to figure all the answers. He had never expected to miss all the interruptions that Edel’s questions caused. Before this, he had resented how those questions extended the class time. Now he realized just how much they kept them from more problems to solve.
Being Monday Alfred expected accounting class next. Another hour of torture by numbers. His mother did the accounting, such as it was, for the tavern. The lessons on managing the counts traveling purse appeared much more complex.
He was surprised when he walked into old Simon the Count’s steward’s office to find Colin and Gerhart inside. Not a sign of old Simon. They stood so he stood. Gerhart whispered something to Colin, Colin only looked at Alfred. Alfred shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Was he going to be dismissed?