"Cooper! Quit screwing around and get in there! You're up!"

Alan startled at the rough bark of the training master, having indeed been screwing around with a friend instead of paying attention.

"Sorry sir," he called, and obediently bent to grab his staff. Alan trotted to the center of the practice courts to begin warming up. His partner was a younger boy from fief Haryse, and his tentative strikes were slow and easy to block.

haMinch was circling a poor first year at the other end of the court, so Alan decided it was safe to allow his mind to wander as he automatically moved through the drill.

Alan liked his training master well enough, and he was fairly certain haMinch was fond of him as well. Although generally stern and exacting, haMinch clearly loved his job, and enjoyed spending time with the boys. He was pleasant enough to Alan in their downtime, even going so far as to clap him affectionately on the shoulder or chuckle at his jokes.

So why does it nettle me so much when haMinch calls me Cooper?

At first Alan accepted haMinch's gruff "Who're you, Pirate's Swoop? Goddess that's a mouthful, let's just call you Cooper," as an explanation. But as time wore on he couldn't help but wonder if there was more to it than that.

He couldn't help but wonder if haMinch was unable to resist the urge to remind them all that Alan was different, the only page who bore a last name.

As haMinch finally approached their end of the court Alan began quickly swinging his staff determinedly, bearing down on his inexperienced partner. His father was in The Book of Gold. The boy missed a block, and haMinch swooped in to correct him.

"Not like that! Fingers spread, feet apart Haryse! Watch how Alan does it, boy," haMinch boomed, and Alan smiled to himself in grim satisfaction.