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Boys at Play

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"You think I'm scrawny," Tarabas said, swinging his sword. "Weak."

Romualdo smiled. It made his eyes light up in a way Tarabas found at once disconcerting and captivating. "I think I might like to challenge you to a swimming contest," he said, blocking Tarabas's swing with an ease that was only a few hairs short of insulting.

"A swimming contest?" Tarabas repeated, incredulous. "Are you making fun of me?"

"It'll be a good way of improving your stamina," Romualdo said, counter-attacking. "Without giving you bruises that will get me scolded, after."

"I have plenty of stamina," Tarabas said, blocking. His arm hurt. "I think it rather is your memory that needs improving."

"So improve it," Romualdo invited, openly laughing at him this time. "Impress me."

"Here?" Tarabas asked. "Someone would see. People would talk. We would both get scolded. Just how stupid do you think I am?"

"Not stupid," Romualdo replied, pressing his attack. "Afraid. Intimidated. Outclassed."

"I could turn you into a pumpkin," Tarabas said. A dog might be more appropriate. Vicious and yet kind-eyed. Endlessly yapping, and infinitely loyal.

"Do," Romualdo invited.

"No." Tarabas had no intention of being the only one to get scolded - as he would be. "I don't need my magic to best you. Only my sword."

"Well, then - " Romualdo twisted his blade, sending Tarabas's flying. " - I would suggest you admit yourself beaten. Again."

Tarabas sighed and went to retrieve his sword. His shoulder felt definitely bruised, which was some comfort, he supposed, even if right now, he'd gladly trade all the scoldings in the world for one single victory over Romualdo.


("Boys at play." Fantaghiro sighed.)

("I think they are both being very stupid," Esmeralda said. "If I ever choose someone to marry, I'm going to choose someone a lot smarter.")

("Yes," Fantaghiro said. "I'm sure you will.")

("I am, too.")