“Your Life is Terribly Hard”

In which cooking lessons are threatened

Knights’ Practice Room


You stand on the chamber which serves the Knights’ Practice Room. One part is dedicated to hand to hand combat, and the rest of the area has stands for straw dummies. You can also see much of the countryside from here. On a chair near the door sits the old sergeant, Doel, who maintains the equipment.


You can go: Equipment Room <E>

Contents: Doel, the Trainer; Straw Target; and Straw Target.

Megren comes walking into the Practice Room.

Haft stands practicing his bladework against one of the targets.

Megren enters the equipment room, but she hangs in the doorway when she sees someone there.

Haft runs through a series of forms that resemble the ones he’s been copying down from the borrowed library book.

Megren looks a little tired, not coiled with energy as she usually might be. She pauses in the doorway a little longer, as if undecided about whether to remain, but after another moment’s hesitation she picks up a practice sword and starts at a dummy at the other end of the room from Haft.

Haft continues with his training, turning after a moment when he hears the added sound of Megren’s practice in the quiet room.  He finishes another couple of forms before turning to observe her.

Megren’s performance is, as ever, competent but a little rote. She continues to show slow improvement in form and endurance.

Haft hesitates for a moment before abandoning his target and ambling over.  He leans against the wall near her target.  “You usually practice this late?”

Megren finishes her set as she says, “I wasn’t tired.”

Haft nods.  “Don’t usually come out this time myself, but got busy between shifts and didn’t want to do without.”

Megren drops her stance, breathing a little hard, but not too badly. “Practicing from the book?”

Haft says, “Yeah.  Few forms there I haven’t used regularly.  Got 14 years of falling into bad habits to correct.”

Megren says, “Looked pretty good to me.”

Haft asks, “You have any sword experience before you joined the guard?”

Megren shakes her head. “Not much use with them in hunting.”

Haft says, “Well, your forms are good.  You don’t have any habits you’ll need to break.  That’s important when you’re learning.”

Megren runs her hand through the hair on the top of her head. “When I get tired I forget to keep the pommel on my wrist.”

Haft says, “Thought you said you weren’t tired.”

Megren says, “Well, not right now.”

Haft looks at her eyes.  “Mmhmm.  What do you think was the hardest part to learn, swordplay or otherwise, when you joined?”

Megren tilts her head thoughtfully. Her eyes look a little distracted, but she returns the gaze with her usual genuineness. “I don’t know. I’ve been here more than a year and I feel like I’m still learning everything some days. But some days I felt like I’d already been here most of my life even in the first few months.”

Haft says, “You ever had mess duty?  Sometimes they’d assign a couple guards to cook for the rest of their regiment, mostly when the kitchen was overwhelmed.  That can be an experience.”

Megren shakes her head. “I helped a little with food during the battle since I was fresher than some of the others.”

Haft nods.  “Well, I didn’t hear any complaints.  Couldn’t have offered any myself, for that matter.  Cooking’s not my own storng suit.  Like I said, mother taught me how to heat up and prepare a few balms, but anything that has to go down the gullet…” He makes a face.  “Wonder if anyone remembers that one time…”

Megren says, “You must’ve eaten something while you were in Narnia.”

Haft cocks his head.  “Eh?  Oh, well I can make sure meat’s cooked till it’s done enough not to kill me nor charred enough to be inedible…usually.”

Megren squints an eye at him and grins, “How old are you again? Somebody’s got to teach you how to take care of yourself.”

Haft scowls.  “Forty-five.  And I take care of myself just fine, thanks.”

Megren mms skeptically. “I’ll teach you a couple meals. It’s not hard.”

Haft folds his arms.  “And what possible use would I have for that now?”

Megren says, “Well, first thing if you ever get called to help again, I don’t want food poisoning. Somehow I think it’s possible you might have to feed yourself once or twice in your life, too, though.”

“Thought that’s what I’d been doing,” Haft mutters.

Megren tilts her chin at him cheekily. “I promise not to let it be too miserable.”

Haft rolls his eyes to the ceiling.  “Tell you what, I’ll cook something for you and you decide if it’s too awful.  If it is, I’ll let you give me a lesson.”

Megren says, “You got me reading. Consider it just returns.”

Haft asks, “Oh, that’s my fault, is it?”

Megren says, “Mhm.”

Haft says, “And yoo’re leaning to write too…well, that was most imprudent of me.”

Megren nods once. “So it’s cooking lessons for you.”

Haft asks, “Suppose we couldn’t make some other arrangement?  Say you stop learning to write and I don’t have to learn to cook?”

Megren shakes her head. “Nope. You’ve already earned at least one lesson.”

Haft sighs in mock dismay.  “See, but I’ve created my own worst enemy.  If you don’t learn to write you’ll have a much harder time drafting that incriminating note you were gonna stick under your mattress.”

Megren says, “Note? No, no. I’ll be much cleverer about it than that.”

Haft asks, “Oh?  Enlighten me.  How would you go about it?”

Megren says, “I’m going to start planting suspicions now.”

Haft nods.  “A solid beginning.”

Megren nods. “Little stories. Furtive looks.”

Haft says, “Yes, because I don’t get those looks anyway.  You’ll have to try harder if anyone’s going to notice a difference.”

Megren asks, “Furtive looks from /me/?”

“Not from you,” Haft allows.

Megren nods. ‘You see.”

Haft asks, “You’re relying heavily on the observant nature of your audience, but if it’s primarily members of the guard, you /might/ be able to get one or two to notice…I doubt it.  What’s the next step in your grand design?”

Megren makes a face at him. “You don’t give your fellows much credit.”

Haft says, “Most of us /do/ pay less attention when we’re off duty…or were you planning to shoot these furtive looks at me in the Outer Ward as we walk past on-duty soldiers?  That should be noticed by any man worth his salt, true.”

Megren says, “I have better faith than you.”

Haft says, “Yes, but you have better faith in people in general Megren.”

Megren says, “I guess we’ll see who’s right once I’ve fallen to my untimely death.”

Haft makes a face.  “Doesn’t sound like much fun on either side.  I won’t be able to rib you if you fail.”

Megren concedes this with a nod and an “mm” sound. “Have to stick with the cooking lessons, then.”

Haft asks, “Not quite sure how that follows.  Aren’t you going to tell me what follows the furtive looks?”

Megren lifts her brows. “Cooking lessons follow.”

Haft says, “Oh.  Well, so I’ve got a few weeks of furtive looks first, before I have to wrroy about the cooking lessons.”

Megren says, “No, no, I’ve already started those.”

Haft’s lips twitch at her response.  “I think you fail to see the flaw in your master plan.”

Megren asks, “Mm?”

Haft says, “If I start cooking for you, no one will be wondering who tipped you from the parapet.  They’ll all know I killed you with my cooking.”

Megren says, “Good enough for me.”

Haft raises his hands in surrender.  “Like I said, I’ll cook for you first.  Tomorrow maybe.  Some roasted meat.  There’s extra in the smokehouse.  You can judge if it’s bad enough to warrant lessons.”

Megren shakes her head. “Roast meat? What kind, even? It’s not all the same.”

Haft asks, “Will venison do?”

Megren says, “Venison, then.”

Haft pushes himself away from the wall.  “Good.  Don’t see that it’s real necessary myself, but we’ll let you judge.”  He cracks his neck.  “Reckon I’m done for the night.  Should leave you to your practice.”

Megren says, “Oh, it’s not necessary, because you are getting the lesson either way.” She grins. “See you tomorrow.”

Haft makes a face.  “I meant the lessons aren’t necessary.”

Megren says, “Your life is terribly hard.”

Haft says, “I blame you.”  He starts toward the door.  “Remember to keep your pommel against your wrist.”

Megren says, “I will.”

Haft says, “Night Megren,” and leaves the room.


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