P. S. Power
Rolph didn't send him off to Kolb, Tor's new Knight, the instant they landed or anything. No Tor had to primp and practice first. Apparently that was important. An actual rule or something like it. Some royal thing that a kid from the backwoods wouldn’t know.
Like he’d go and visit without washing first?
The Prince had him bathe and dress in his nicest clothes, which were just school browns that didn't have any visible stains at the moment, then go to present the man with the official document the King had sent. It was in a sealed envelope, with the royal seal pressed into the wax on the back, so he didn't know what it said.
That kind of ate at him.
After all, it could be anything, and it directly related to him, didn’t it?
Hopefully it was something along the lines of, “Don't let him get too killed”, if he was lucky, and the King didn’t secretly have it out for him. On the good side, from what everyone had told him, being a Squire shouldn't be that big a deal outside of a time of war. Mainly training to fight, which he had to do for school under Kolb anyway, and some ceremonial stuff, which primarily had to do with carrying and caring for weapons and gear. The modern weapons and armor were all just tiny amulets and small metal bits, so Tor thought he could manage if he worked at it. Maybe add lifting tiny little weights to his daily regime to build up?
There was a speech he was supposed to give when he walked up to Kolb, so Rolph made him practice it several times before he left the room. Not that Tor would screw it up, but just so it would sound proper and everything. Hit the correct royal accent, instead of sounding like a merchant like he normally did when he spoke Noram standard.
Even though school didn't start again for a full day, Tor found the instructor working with some of the combat students, all giants of course, in the bright summer sun already. Special lessons for the advanced kids, probably. They were all good at least. Way better than he was, from what he could tell. Though it could be hard to tell, since they all just looked like anyone in front of them should die. It was intimidating, even from a distance. Tor waited for a lull in the efforts to approach. It was polite, plus, really, he didn't want to be killed by mistake, if one of them tripped or something.
Freaking giants. Always looming over properly sized people like him the way they did. Well, he was a little short, only five-four, which wasn’t tiny once you got out of the major cities, but wasn’t tall even for his home village of Two Bends.
Three vast students tried to eviscerate Kolb with swords all at once, the man struggling to hold his own the whole time. The combat students were good, about ten times better than Tor, at least, and while none of them could equal the head instructor alone, they worked together well, pressing the man into exhaustion, and then, finally, moving in for the “kill”.
Laughing Kolb surrendered and held his right hand up.
“Take a break and make sure to drink some water. This heat's bad enough without sunstroke.” He spied Tor and looked down at the splint on his leg, then at the paper in his hand, a nice cream colored envelope.
“Tor! You haven't crippled yourself for life have you? Come to resign?”
Tor shrugged with one shoulder.
“Nothing like that. I get the splint off in about a month. It got broken when I dove head first into a middens. Anyway…” Tor took a deep breath.
Kolb walked away, over to the water barrel.
“Walk with me then, or hobble as the case may be. Now, tell me why you were doing a damned fool thing like that? Head first into a middens? Some kind of a dare? A drunken bet? Not going to be a habit is it?”
The large man drank dipperfuls of water, one after the other. Since sweat was glistening on his skin, even in the dry heat, Tor guessed it was warranted. He was just glad that those three monsters weren't going to be coming after him like that any time soon. They stood drinking their own water, carefully not looking at Tor. That was fair. The combat students, even the lower level ones kind of thought of him as a joke, and everything considered, he probably was in their world. Too small to even be an interesting training partner, not a good enough fighter to challenge even the second year students most of the time, and right now no fun to even chase around trying to hit with a practice sword. “Hobble away!” wasn't a very good battle cry at all.
Unless he could incapacitate them with laughter?
Tor ignored them back for the moment, he'd come for a reason after all. Still, he couldn't just ignore the question asked either, not politely, so he tried to give a thumbnail sketch of the situation.
“Um, no, not a dare or anything. There were some kids that fell into an abandoned cesspit that had opened up. Dried and collapsed under its own weight. Everyone else was too big to reach them, so, you know, I climbed down and got them. It collapsed on us, so we had to be pulled out by the rope tied around my ankle, which given everything, broke. Anyway…” He took another deep breath, ready to go into the formal speech he'd practiced.
Kolb stopped drinking and stared at him.
“Did you… save the children?” The large man looked worried suddenly, and all the combat students stopped looking away and stepped closer to him, leaving him feeling a little surrounded.
“Um, yeah, they're fine, I got a shield on the boy, and when I saw the little girl I got her mine before the whole thing fell in on her. Then we got her out. I, um, used direct effect to uncover her. It was… kind of a combat rage thing…” Everyone stared at him for a few seconds, but no one questioned him on it. They were all royals, so they knew not to. It just wasn't polite. He was pretty obviously a commoner, only, of course, he wasn't. His claim to royalty was at least nearly as good as anyone there. So he had that to worry about too. If Tor got too mad, he could go all crazy and try to kill people. Kolb had to know. Even if he was just a regular student, not his Squire, since it might come up. Only so far, when it had happened, he didn't go all crazy. He just tried to save people. Even if he was mad. A little desperately he brushed at his black hair, trying to change the topic.
“Oh! I guess this could be important, if you toss someone an activated shield, it will surround them just fine. Well, if it connects with them at least. The little girl, she's four or so, she grabbed it, bless her. That saved her life. Anyway…”
One of the giants took off the practice helm, showing short cropped and sweat matted blond or really light brown hair underneath. To Tor’s surprise it was a girl, one that looked only a few years older than himself. Obviously a royal given that she must have been nearly six-eight. She didn't have the fine featured look that Trice, his fiancee, or the Queen had, so the size made her looks a little mannish. Not that Tor was going to tell her that. He wanted to live.
Besides, she probably thought he looked a bit feminine, being so small and delicate, so who was he to talk?
She spoke; looking worried herself, which was strange. They weren’t friends or anything, he barely recognized her to tell the truth.
“But… If you didn't have a shield, didn't all the… waste fall in on you?”
“Yeah. Not fun, I kind of built one around me, but it could only do so much, and the rope was already inside it. Sorry everyone, not trying to be rude here, but really, I have to…”
Kolb instructed him to run through a series of exercises, not letting him finish speaking, which he had everyone else watch carefully.
“Karen, give me your combat readiness analysis of Tor here, please.” Kolb called out bends and twists for Tor to try, and the girl made her assessments while everyone else looked on. They were pretty accurate, Tor noticed. He really was still tight on his whole left side and his muscle tone had suffered a bit in the last month. His endurance too probably, without his regular running, or really any other exercise.
“Well… I wouldn't want to send him back to the front lines, but he should be able to practice sword and knife work, energy weapons and shield and… Can you fly?” She asked, her voice sounding honestly interested.