This is an idea that greatly amused me and my simple mind for hours upon hours. Happy Reading!
C H I L D H O O D N E M E S I S
Have Socks. Will Travel.
He probably wouldn't have known her to be anyone of importance if he hadn't seen her arrival.
It was the sound of hoof beats that awoke him. It sounded as if every single mounted knight in Redcliffe had decided to take a few laps around the castle courtyard and had chosen to make it a huge, very loud brouhaha. Blearily, he lifted his head off of its pillow of straw and blinked warily at the loud procession circling outside. It was dark in the stable, especially in such a secluded corner as the one he had chosen to sleep in the night before, so he was barely able to muffle a yelp of discomfort when a harried stable boy pulled open the doors, letting sunlight spill in through the large opening.
"They're here a day early!" The boy shouted, startling more than a few of the resting horses.
The stable master frowned, both in confusion and in distaste at the boy's shouting. "No need to shout boy. My ears are fine. But who is here?" He added more as a side note. He wasn't at all one to keep up with castle rumors and instead contented himself with the quietest of Redcliffe's inhabitants: its horses.
"If your ears are fine, how did you manage to miss the great dirty sound of hooves outside?" The boy asked, but shook his head. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that Arl Eamon's guests are here!"
The stable master took a few seconds to digest the information, then jumped to action, understanding the weight of the situation. He waved the boy off, telling him to get a few stalls prepared, and quickly.
"Blasted Bryce Cousland: Always traveling with far too many horses—Like I'll have room for them all." He muttered grumpily under his breath, and then yelled to the stable at large: "ALISTAIR!"
Alistair tumbled off of his straw bale, where he had spent the night in relative comfort. Brushing bits of straw out of his hair, he swung his stall door open and snapped it shut, hurrying to heed the stable master's call. He clicked his heels to attention, but without the wooden heel of normal boots, it was a practice doomed to failure.
The stable master had to grin, despite his sudden foul mood. Alistair did that to people—made them smile whether they wanted to or not.
"Ah, "The stable master nodded his head superiorly at Alistair. "Thought you might be around. You always happen to show up when I need help."
Alistair had been thinking much the same thing, but with less of a favorable tone and more of a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"I'm a man of tradition," Alistair stated moodily, scratching the peach fuzz on his cheek, "Wouldn't do to depart from that now."
"I take it you're offering to help?" The stable master asked, reaching for a pitchfork to hand to Alistair. Alistair sighed, and took it, already feeling the blisters forming on his hands. The stable master furrowed his forest-like eyebrows, though, as he looked into the stall Alistair had recently vacated.
"Sir?" Alistair prompted, breaking the man out of his reverie. The stable master still had a hard grip on the pitch fork and Alistair was trying to pull it away, albeit unsuccessfully. A person didn't train horses and walk away unmuscled, and it was those muscles that Alistair was fighting against.
"It seems you did a pretty good job of spreading out that straw in there," The stable master grinned and Alistiar shrugged. A horse sniffed Alistair's head, mistaking the boy's hair for straw.
Alistair looked up at the beast inquisitively, but answered the stable master's unspoken question. "I'm a restless sleeper, sir. Plus, I'm allergic to straw." He let out a spine shattering sneeze to punctuate his words. Alistair had since stopped tugging on the pitchfork, and instead started swatting at the horse, which had begun to nibble at the boy's head. The horse, upon first taste of Alistair's hair, whinnied shrilly and butted Alistair with his head. Alistair could almost hear the horse's thoughts: "You tricked me you fiend! You proffer straw but all I get are foul tasting sprouts!"
"Off you go then," the stable master ordered, whacking Alistair in the back of the legs with the pole of the pitchfork. "I'm sure the kitchen can find more use of you than I can."
Alistair bolted away, thankful to finally be out of that place. He wasn't a soft boy, but he had soft palms—he found his knuckles to be more use in a fight—and he knew that the stable master would sooner or later find a job for him to do if he lingered. That reason and, as he ran out of the stable door, he could hear that blasted horse calling his fellows to arms.
"He tricked me, that fiend! After him!"
Once out of the stable, his b-line path straight to the nearest well was cut off by an arm.
"Whoa there partner," The voice said, and Alistair looked up to see the face of Donall, a boy a few years older than himself. The older boy blinked back surprise. "Alistair? And where are you headed off to so quickly?"
As he spoke, he dropped his arm. Alistair remained where he was. Donall was in training to become a knight and because of this Alistair practically hero worshiped him. It didn't help that he was the only knight-in-training that would actually stop and talk to him.
"Uhh—" Alistair began intelligently, but Donall cut him off.
"Where ever you're going, I suggest you redirect your path in that direction." He pointed to the boisterous display of carriages at the far end of the courtyard. "Our guests could use some help unpacking."
Alistair nodded in agreement, then looked down at his attire. Donall looked down too and cringed. The boy looked a mess and was hardly wearing the colorful purples, reds, and golds of the other boys lending a hand. He was hardly dressed to help out. He looked more likely to pick a pocket then to pick up a trunk and carry it where ordered.
Donall shrugged and waved a hand in dismissal. "Eh, no one will notice. And if they do, it'll add to the quaintness of Redcliffe—everyone throws in a hand to help: even mangy mongrels such as yourself." He laughed heartily, then pushed Alistair toward the collection of carriages. "Off you go then!"
Alistair was getting really tired of hearing that.
Donall had thought it a good idea to send Alistair to the procession of carriages, but when he arrived, Alistair realized that he had no idea what he was supposed to do. There seemed to be people scurrying everywhere, boxes piled high in their arms. It was organized chaos, Alistair decided, and at the same moment, he decided not to try to help. Instead he hurried around to the back of the carriages where there was less bustle and less opportunity for him to mess something up.
He froze when he heard the carriage swish door open. He looked back to see a girl, about his age, all made up in a fluffy green dress with a monstrous ribbons adorning her long curly hair. She looked at him with level, dark eyes which seemed to be looking at him appraisingly, as if sizing him up. She didn't seem to find much in him and instead cleared her throat.
"Well?" She asked, seeming to be waiting for something. Alistair had no idea what in the world she was waiting for.
"'Well' what?" Alistair asked, now turning himself to face her all the way. She gave him a disdainful look down her regal nose, and then sighed as if she had expected him to be such a simpleton.
"Aren't you going to drop the step for me?" She asked, gesturing to a spot below her. He noticed a sort of contraption folded below the carriage; it was metal, and he guessed that this was the step he was supposed to unfold. He grunted.
"I don't know how to do that. Why don't you get out the other side? I bet the step is unfolded for you over there."
The girl sighed. "No matter," she said with an air of resignation. She hopped out of the carriage with a graceful little bounce, landing on the balls of her pristine white shoes with a practiced refinement. Alistair got the feeling that she rather liked disembarking from carriages that way and it was only protocol that stopped her from jumping out every time.
She studied him for a minute, one eyebrow quirked, lips pursed.
"You smell bad." She said tactfully after a few seconds of appraisal. "And you have straw in your hair."
With a click of her tongue, a squishy looking puppy hopped out of the carriage and landed at her feet. She gathered the mound of brown fur up in her arms and with that, she spun on her heel and trotted off.
Alistair didn't know what to say.
The kitchen boys were all aflutter that night, a fact which Alistair couldn't stand. They were acting like girls, the thought. He poked his carrots moodily with his wooden fork as the boys around him cooed over the guests and the excitement that they had brought. He was going to get cooties if he stayed around them for much longer.
"Did you see the oldest boy? He did some serious maneuvers with that sword of his."
"And did you see the size of those horses? Can you imagine owning one of those, let alone six of them?"
"I hear that family has power second only to the king!"
"Did any of you catch a glimpse of the girl? She was a sight for sore eyes, I can tell you," One boy boldly proclaimed. All the other boys nodded and fell silent.
"Well I met her," Alistair busted out before he could stop himself. Sometimes his temper got the better of him. "And she wasn't anything special."
The boys all turned to him and began pestering him for details of his meeting with the lovely guest. But Alistair was fed up with their antics, so he sped out of the kitchen, refusing to answer any of the outrageous questions. His only regret was that he didn't grab his carrots as he left. What a waste of food.
Over the week that the guests stayed, Alistair tried his best to keep out of the way. Where ever there seemed to be a large amount of noise, Alistair steered clear of it. Whenever a large train of people started down the same hallway as him in the castle, he ducked into the nearest alcove. He wasn't in any hurry to meet up with the nobility again, lest they comment on his nose or his need of a haircut this time.
Aside from the occasional detour he was force to take, Alistair nearly forgot about the dignitaries that Arl Eamon was hosting. He continued on with his life in almost the same manner he always had. Mornings found him asleep in random spots in the castle and by midmorning he was already up to mischief with the kitchen boys. There were mud wars to be fought against the town's boys and pies to be stolen and consumed. He didn't have time to think of the girl who had bugged him a few days earlier. Slowly, but surely, she slipped out of his memory.
Until he ran into her in the castle courtyard.
The kitchen dogs were at his heels and the pie was in his hand. While at first he was frightened that the dogs would bite off a limb, he and his years of experience knew that the chains that held the dogs to the kitchen were sound. They would chase him for a few meters, but in the end it wouldn't matter: sooner or later the dogs would come to the end of their chain and they would be left snapping at air. Alistair sprinted off down the hallway, pie in his and a smile on his face. Success.
The way he took was the long way to the courtyard. Unfortunately, the dogs blocked the shorter way. However, Alistair didn't mind: going the shorter way to the courtyard would have taken him past Arl Eamon's office, and Arl Eamon had a way of sniffing out when Alistair was causing trouble. He trotted along the long passage, trailing his fingers along the wall, feeling every brick in the thick stone walls and thought salutary thoughts about himself and his excellent pie pinching abilities. When the corridor spat him out into the courtyard, he was feeling very sure of himself, on top of the world.
Then he froze, a familiar and unwelcome presence making itself announced, coming around the corner.
He wouldn't have even recognized her, if it weren't for the familiar hoity look she always wore. Her long hair, rather than framing her doll-like face, was pulled back with a slim, emerald green ribbon. It seemed she had swiped a pair of trousers from somewhere, as well as a brown, rough linen shirt. Alistair discovered where she might have procured the items, as a pair of the kitchen boys rounded the corner, too, laughing and similarly dressed. At first she didn't seem to notice him, and he began to slink off the path and into the grass, good mood gone sour. But then their eyes locked and Alistair saw something there that he couldn't turn down—a challenge. The girl closed the remaining steps between them, her mass of hair swishing behind her.
"What's that?" She asked, pointing to the item Alistair had in his hand. He looked down to see that she was pointing to the pie.
"Well," Alistair began, wrinkling his nose in distaste. "I call this 'pie.' So does most of the world. I'm surprised you don't know that. Don't they let you enjoy yourself at that castle of yours? Or is all you learn the art of looking down your nose?"
The girl brushed his jibe away with enough poise, but Alistair could see a bit of heat light up in the dark eyes and he knew he had landed a blow. She turned back to her two lackeys—Alistair reminded himself to pelt them with chalk later—and asked: "Wasn't the baker missing a pie when we just went there?"
The two goons nodded, glancing at the pie Alistair was holding. "Blueberry, I think." One of them added.
The girl turned back to Alistair. "Is that a blueberry pie?" She demanded.
"So you do know what a pie is! Good! I was beginning to think we had an unfeeling tranquil on our hands," Alistair cheered sarcastically.
"Do you talk to give your brain time to catch up? Because all I've heard is mumbling from you."
"I do not mumble!" Alistair exclaimed. "You merely got a taste of my sharp wit."
The girl snorted—and yet it still managed to look dignified; Alistair wondered momentarily how she pulled that off. "'Sharp wit' is hardly the term. I think that half-wit is more in your ballpark. And you still have yet to answer me. It that the cooks blueberry pie?"
Alistair was a bit confused. Just how old was this girl? She looked to be his age, but even he—and he considered himself a good speaker—couldn't construct sentences like that. It must have been some of her royal training.
"It may or may not be," Alistair sneered. This girl was nosy and irritating. Her eyes lingered on him and he felt like he was worthless. It wasn't something he liked.
"Take the pie back," the girl ordered.
Alistair scoffed. "What authority do you have to boss me around, bossy?" He thought that sounded dignified.
The girl's scary eyes gleamed. "I'm older than you. Take it back."
"And just how old are you, hmm?" Alistair asked, rolling his eyes.
"You first." She used the normal ploy, and Alistair fell for it hook, line and sinker.
"Ten," Alistair shot out. "Almost eleven."
"I turned eleven last Thursday. I'm older, and I'm telling you to take the pie back."
"No way. You're not that much older. I don't have to listen to you." Alistair scoffed.
The girl fumed, as did Alistair. She was being so bossy! It was just a pie; she shouldn't be working up such a sweat over it. That girl had to have had the biggest justice meter on the planet.
"I outrank you," the girl snapped. "I am your superior, and I am ordering you to take the pie back. Now."
He was angry. Very angry. Dangerously angry. His hands clenched into fists and he stood rose to his tiptoes, prepared to fight. No one had ever pulled the "rank" card on him before and it rankled his very own justice meter. For the first time in his life, Alistair wished he could pull his trump card. He wished that he could yell to the girl that he was the King's son. He wanted to see the reaction on her face when she realized just who she had been trying to order around all this time.
But in all honesty, Alistair had no idea who this girl was, or what her status of nobility was. For all Alistair knew, she was the daughter of the King, come to spend the week with her Uncle. All Alistair had to judge her off of was the seemingly endless parade of carriages she had come with, as well as her hoity air. No, he defiantly couldn't stand it if he threw out his title as the son of the King, then have her laugh and call his bluff. He was only the illegitimate son, after all.
"Give. It. Back." She said again, menacingly. She didn't act like an eleven year old, Alistair thought briefly.
No, he defiantly couldn't throw his rank at her, so he threw the next best thing: the pie. It landed squarely on her doll face. Alistair didn't even attempt to hide the smile of delight that grew when he saw the spectacle. There was even some in her thick regal hair. His grin widened.
It was a grin that slowly melted off his face when he saw the murderous rage that seemed to be expelling the pie bits like some sort of wonky cleaning spell. As the pie tin clanged to the ground, Alistair began running earnestly in the opposite direction.
He didn't get far when a chunk of mud it him smack-dab in the middle of his head.
That mud was more efficient than throwing gloves at a person when it came to offering a challenge. As the mud slid down his head and down the back of his shirt, Alistair turned to face the girl. She had some wicked aim, he'd give her that. But she was smaller than him. Taller, but smaller. Her arms legs looked like toothpicks and her arms thinner than that. Plus, she had a sweet face: she didn't look used to fighting. She shouldn't be that hard to take down, he decided. They matched glowers before they ran at each other, bellowing war cries. The meet, arms already flailing, with a smack.
At first, things were going well for him. He was defiantly the stronger of the two. His first couple of punches landed where he had aimed. But after the first few strikes, he realized that it was she that had the advantage. Obviously she wasn't used to male fighting, which, even if it didn't appear to be so, had rules. She fought dirty. If there was mud to grab, she flung it. If there was a rock to use, she snagged it. Her teeth managed to find the soft part on the inside of his hand. Alistair was used to throwing punches, ducking some, and then retreating to wait for his next best opportunity. Obviously this girl didn't follow the same rules. There was no retreat. It was all forward motion. She was undoubtedly used to fighting, Alistair amended his initial judgment. And darn good at it too.
It was a lucky hit and a scream from two stories up that ended the fight. Pulling his fist back over his shoulder, Alistair tensed to jab at the girl with his full strength. It was then that above him, Arl Eamon's wife screamed.
"ALISTAIRRRRR!" She yelled, throwing up the window and leaning out.
The girl looked up at the Arlessa, distracted momentarily. But Alistiar wasn't distracted. The Arl's wife screamed his name often enough that he had learned to tune her out. He knew that his would be his last moment, his last chance to prove himself. And, arm still at the ready, he brought his arm forward, landing a punch just under the girl's left, dark, obnoxious, scary eye.
The weight of the blow sent her spiraling backwards, spilling onto the cobblestones without her usual grace and finesse. It was a fact that made the victory all the sweeter, and, even as the guards dragged him away, he cheered. He smiled sweetly at the girl, who sat up, her left eye squeezed shut, and she glared at him. It was a wasted attempt, what with only one eye in operation.
"THAT'S IT! EAMON! TOMORROW WE ARE PACKING THIS CHILD OFF TO THE CHANTRY! HE'S GONE TO FAR THIS TIME, PICKING ON MY GUESTS!" The Arlessa screeched, then the window snapped shut and only muffled sounds could be heard from the royal suite.
"I hope you enjoyed that pie!" Alistair shouted to the girl, who was being helped to her feet by a collection of castle residents, "Because the victory over here is sure tasting pretty sweet!"
The glare she shot him was undeniably nasty. But at that point, Alistair didn't care and let the guards drag him off.
The day the carriage drove away was counted amongst one of his more victorious days. He made sure to wake early enough to see the contingent of carriages and horses off. He scanned the carriages, and sure enough, there was a doll face peeking through one of the curtains. He smiled at her and gave her a thumbs up. Scowling, the girl snapped the curtain closed as her horses started off. But she wasn't quick enough with the curtain to hide the huge purple lump that was forming under her left eye.
He waved until the carriages were across the bridge and around the bend. Donall had stepped in line next to him and Alistiar nudged him.
"Just who was that girl?" He asked Donall, and the older boy looked down at him.
"Why?" Donall smiled. "Do you fancy her?"
Alistair's face drained of blood and became as white as the snowy hens that had chased him out of the coops on more than one occasion. "No, never," he choked.
Then he grinned wryly.
"I was just admiring the black eye that she was sporting."
Hmmm… I was seriously considering having it flash to Alistair all grown up and having him figure out that his Warden Commander was the same person he had bested in a fist fight all those years ago. That would have been an interesting plot to write.
Well, how did you like it? Did you think 'twas awful? Did you think it had potential? Was it all you ever hoped and dreamed of? Please leave me your thoughts by reviewing! I will love you forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.
-Have Socks Will Travel.