Old Strawbelly

In which there is a spar and a discussion of fashion

Knights’ Practice Room

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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. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

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You can go: Equipment Room <E>

Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren); Doel, the

Trainer; and Straw Target.

Haft is standing in front of a target, giving it a bit more than ample attention with his fists.

Megren walks into the room, the blade of her practice sword tapping restlessly against her shoulder. She tilts her head upon seeing Haft there and practicing with perhaps more fervor than is usual.

Haft delivers a couple more blows to the target before glancing up at the new arrival and halting, wiping his forehead with his sleeve and offering a smile.  “Good day, Megren.”

Megren responds with an easy grin of her own. “Hello! Got one in for old strawbelly this morning, huh?”

Haft looks a bit sheepish, but allows himself a laugh.  “It’s been a strange morning.  And last night was stranger.  I reckon strawbelly can take it.  How are you?”

Megren asks, “A good morning for me.” She pauses, reflecting with her head tilted. “And a good night, too. What was strange?”

Haft hesitates.  “Uh.  Bit of an argument with someone.  I think it’s mostly sorted now, but left me feeling a little off, ya know?”

Megren asks, “Is that was Abrielle was talking about?”

Haft’s eyes widen.  “What?” he says faintly.

Megren looks confused. “She said… what was it. ‘It’s resolved.'”

Haft asks, “She said that about me?”

Megren’s brows draw together. “You were right there.”

Haft looks bewildered for a moment before his face clears.  “Oh!  No, that was before…I mean…her uncle, he’s a bit funny.  I came to tell her he was acting odd.  We went and looked after him and came back.  That’s when she said it was resolved.

Megren says, “Oh.” She looks a little concerned, but she nods. “It was her, though, then.”

Haft says, “I–yeah, it was her.  It wasn’t her fault though,” he says defensively.  “She just…took me by surprise and I said some things I wish I hadn’t.”

Megren says, “Oh, I see.”

Haft shrugs, turning to finger a hole in the burlap of the target.  “Yeah, well, like I said, I think we worked it out.”

Megren says, “Looks like it.”

Haft tenses, then takes it for the joke it’s meant to be.  “Well, old strawbelly’s never minded letting me work off some energy while my frustration catches up with my brain.”

Megren perches on one of the benches lining the walls for the knights and guards to rest on. “Long as it’s him and not me, I suppose.”

Haft says, “Not unless you’re looking for a spar.  But in that case, I’d rather it be with swords.”

Megren gives him a cursory once-over. “I was looking, in point of fact.”

Haft says, “Oh really now.”  His lips twitch mysteriously.  “Well, I’ll take that challenge.  I should warn you, though, it’ll be ripe gossip for the rumor mill, whatever happens.”

Megren asks, “What,” she says, taking on a street accent, “‘Oi did you hear, them guards is sparring again, what lascivious deeds will they get up to next?’ Like that, you mean?”

Haft colors instantly, and he coughs.  “I’ll tell ya when it’s over.”

Megren squints an eye at him. “You are in rare form today, grandfather,” but she shrugs, and moves over to the sparring area.

Haft takes up a wooden sword and follows.  “You’ve no idea.”  He takes his stance.  “After you.”

Megren’s movements have improved impressively over the course of the last year, though her weakness is still in losing the muscle-memory of form as she grows more tired. She starts out very well, losing some of her edge as she flags.

Haft handles his blade well, countering Megren’s moves, but he’s slightly worn already from his practice session with the dummy, and despite his willingness to take the challenge still seems a little distracted.  He starts out a little weakly before rallying, but fails to avoid one of Megren’s harder strikes as it slips past his guard.  He stumbles back, nearly losing his balance.  “Hold!”

Megren steps back gratefully, looking close to spent herself. “Good match,” she breathes, leaning on her practice blade to catch her breath and switching weight from foot to foot in order to avoid the dizziness of stopping movement all at once.

Haft takes several deep breaths.  “A very good match.  Well done.”

Megren takes a couple more cool down paces before allowing herself to sit. “You too.”

Haft joins her on the bench.  “That’s the first time you’ve beaten me.  The Captain was right when he said you were one to watch.”

Megren wipes her face with a cloth and teases, “Beating you’s the test, then?”

The corner of Haft’s mouth tugs upward.  “Used to be.  I was one of the best in the regiment when I was younger.”

Megren clicks her tongue regretfully. “Only to be beaten by an upstart girl barely twenty.”

Haft says, “Don’t make me turn you over my knee.  There’s no swordsman so good he never loses.  Distraction, fatigue, a loose stone, or a single ill guess can affect the outcome.”

Megren wrinkles her nose at the expression. “I know, I know. I’m only teasing.”

Haft turns to her.  “I know,” he says lightly.  “Still, this will definitely be fodder for the gossipmongers.  No way to avoid it now.”

Megren squints an eye at him. “Yes, tell me why that is. I’m very curious to know.”

Haft says, “Well I’m very much afraid–are you quite sure your heart can take it, Megren?–Very much afraid the rumor will be that you have soundly thrashed your new husband.”

Megren draws her chin in, confused distaste giving her an involuntary open-mouthed frown, her brows peaking together.

Haft doubles over in laughter at her expression, releasing great, loud guffaws.

Megren rubs at her hairline. “I… what?”

It takes Haft a moment to master himself.  “It-I-I told you this morning had been strange, remember?”  He continues laughing.  “It was Greta, Lady Avery’s maid.  She stopped me in the ward and asked me how my visit to my family to introduce my new bride went…”  He dissolves into further chortling.

Megren asks, “Are you sure she wasn’t having you on?”

Haft shakes his head.  “I am fairly certain she is incapable of that level of humor.  But she is a terrible gossip.  Apparently she had it from someone in the kitchen that the only reason the two of us would go missing at the same time is if we’d gotten married.”

Megren still looks skeptical. “Someone… in the kitchen?”

Haft says, “Some woman.  I wasn’t listenin’ for the name.  I was too busy tellin’ Greta to stop spreading rumors around the castle.”

Megren says, “Cause you reckon folk would believe a thing like that.”

Haft opens his mouth and shuts it again.  “No one without feathers in their noggin.  Still, someone believed it enough to tell it to Greta, unless they were having her on.  But that’s too contrived even for my suspicious mind.”

Megren tilts her head. “Is it? Sounds just about right to me.”

Haft says, “Yeah, well, the intricacies of my suspicious mind aside, all I know is what she told me.”

Megren shudders and pulls another face.

Haft frowns a little.  “I told you because I thought it would make you laugh.”

Megren squints an eye at him. “You know I don’t like that sort of thing. At least it wasn’t Gearn again.”

Haft says, “What sort of thing?”

Megren says, “That… ‘oh look, they spend time with each other, so it must be scheming for marriage’, that sort of thing.”

Haft sighs.  “Well, you can take it up with Greta.  I told her not to spread rumors about you and to put to rest that one in particular.  For my part, I choose to find it comical, though it took me a bit to get past the shock.”

Megren makes a face at him. “I’m not angry. I don’t know her, so what’s it to me?”

Haft shrugs.  “Nothin’, I guess.”

Megren sighs. “You are a funny sort. What are we going to do with you?”

Haft says, “Am I the one who’s funny?  Cause I feel like we just quarreled and I’m not sure why.  You always wrongfoot me.”

Megren elbows him. “Well, I sure don’t know why. You’re the one accused me of not laughing when I was in a good humor.”

Haft takes the elbowing with good grace.  “When did I accuse you of not laughing?”

Megren says, “Just now.”

Megren exclaims, “Ah! Is that it? Your memory’s going.”

Haft narrows one eye as though he knows exactly what she’s doing, but allows it.  “It is.  They say it’s the second thing to go.”

Megren says, “After… let me guess, you can’t remember the first thing.”

Haft says, “Oh no.  First thing was my slippers.”

Megren says, “Your slippers. I never took you for the type. Boots, even to bed.”

Haft says, “Oh, they’re mighty comfortable, slippers.  Very popular in Narnia.  Don’t need to be polished.  Considered buying a pair I saw in Chesterton, but they just didn’t seem to fit right in the barracks.”  He looks thoughtful.  “Mighta been the lilacs embroidered on ’em.”

Megren giggles. “Sounds just your style.”

Haft asks, “Just so.  But what about you?  What would you want embroidered on your slippers?”

Megren fingers her chin thoughtfully. “Never took myself for the embroidery type.”

Haft says, “No?  Maybe just fur, then. Very respectable. Or false flowers.”

Megren says, “False flowers? You mean crocheted or something? Please, I do have some dignity.”

Haft says, “Well, there’s those fancy ones they make outta silk or ribbons.  They aren’t all appalling.  Least the court ladies seem ta fancy them, and I reckon Brigid or Calla would like ’em, right enough.”

Megren hmmms skeptically.

Haft asks, “You wouldn’t dare impugn the taste of my sister or niece, now would you Megren?”

Megren says, “I’ll let them impugn themselves.”

Haft laughs.  “I’d go with the fur.  On the inside.  Nice and warm.”

Megren says, “A wise choice.”

Haft asks, “You don’t go in much for ribbons and bows then, even when you were younger?”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “I’m sure Lady Paige could make one fashionable, but I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Haft says, “Maybe she should devote her attention to restyling the guard.  Can’t help but wonder what she’d come up with.”

Megren lifts her brows. “A fascinating prospect.”

Haft says, “See, now I’m trying to think what the Chesterton livery looks like.”

Megren asks, “You mean for their guard? Greta must wear the servant’s livery, doesn’t she?”

Haft says, “Yeah, I was thinking more of someone not in a dress.  Some of those houses have ’em wear two different-colored stockings.”

Megren looks upward in a skeptical fashion. “Well, you’d know better than me, I guess.”

Haft says, “Just so the sleeves don’t involve so many tippets I can’t swing my sword.  That’d be a right pain, that would.”

Megren laughs. “You draw up a design, then, and propose it to the captain.”

Haft raises a hand in mock protest.  “I said Lady Paige should try it, not me.  I’m plenty happy with the uniforms now, if a couple of the lads could keep theirs clean a bit better…but then I had only the one shirt for awhile after the battle, and it’s only the gambeson kept the wretched thing hidden, so I can’t talk.”

Megren wrinkles her nose, then looks down at herself. “Speaking of — I could stand to change mine.”

Haft asks, “S’pose we both could.  You heading back to the barracks?”

Megren says, “I was figuring on it, yeah.”

Haft rises.  “I’ll walk with you.  Gotta get ready for my shift.”

Megren says, “Sure.”

Haft leads the way out of the room, then walks with Megren back to the barracks, where they part ways.

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