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“You take that back, you-- you-- low-life, garbage-eating swine!” A large, wooden club was pointed straight at Marc, the nine-year-old boy that had just been yapping his mouth without thinking. “You've got no idea what you're talking about, so shut your trap!”
A girl, small and spindly, about five years old, her bright blue eyes narrowed in righteous fury, stood before him. Unlike normal girls her age, she wore her older brother's seasoned tunic and breeches, her hair was unruly and uncombed, her hands were dirty from climbing trees or wiping mud off of her clothes. Despite these boyish qualities, however, she was a handsome child, would even be considered pretty if her nursemaids had the power of will to tie her into a dress.
Her sparring sword, carved out of a light brown, dense wood, was held masterfully (for a five-yer-old) to Marc's throat, as if the edge was metal that could cut the exposed skin on his neck.
The redheaded boy sneered. “Ha! Does Julian send his baby sister to fight his battles? Coward,” he taunted, pushing the polished wood aside nonchalantly. However, even so, his pulse fluttered in his throat.
“The Prince doesn't see need to lower himself to your abysmal level and acknowledge you as an opponent,” the golden-haired girl snapped, her tongue unusually sharp for so young a child. She went on to give a detailed comparison between Marc and the back end of a barnyard animal.
“At least I'm not some little princess playing 'hero'. Do you really think you can stop me from saying what I want?” he growled, jumping back and holding his hand out for a weapon of some sort. One of his counterparts placed a shorter sparring sword in his hand, though this one had an end sharpened to a point, thin and dangerous. The girl's eyes widened.
Marc wasted no time lunging forward eagerly, his knee bent and his arm extended fully for extra reach, to use his length to an advantage. The girl beat his stick aside with little strength, though even that was enough to change the direction of his traveling weapon. Faster than he could bring his hand back close to his body, she slashed at his exposed right shoulder, weight evenly distributed on her toes. Just like her brother had taught her.
The red-haired boy dodged the makeshift sword, rolling to the side and vaulting forward to strike diagonally from shoulder to opposite hip. The girl barely managed to stop his blow, wincing as her wrist was forced out of shape. She couldn't stop the small amount of give that he juvenile strength allowed for.
Pulse racing, the girl managed a grin of elation. The opponent that was madly grappling for his wooden sword was almost twice her size and age, yet she was a good match for him. She was Julian's champion, his right hand, an extension of his authority. As she fell deeper and deeper into her romantic daydream, however, the polished stick struck her on the side of the head and she tumbled onto the ground like a rag doll. Her weapon fell from small, desperate fingers, just as a voice commanded, “enough!”
She looked up from a vision that swam in red, casting a bloody light upon everything around her. Tall and impressive, dressed as well as he had been during his tutelage at the academy, Julian was standing over her, his silver rapier poised at Marc with a grace that the girl could only dream of attaining. The redhead looked upon the older boy with intense dislike, though he knew he had no hope of a chance against someone old enough to be growing into his youthful strength. What was more impressive, perhaps, was Julian's friend Zakk, looming over everyone with his gargantuan (for a boy of eleven) size.
“Rozalin, what's going on?” Julian demanded, though by now he'd checked his tone.
The girl, Rozalin, got to her feet slowly, shying closer to her older sibling even as she regained her fake weapon. She was a little disoriented and achy, but the threat of sustained injuries was far worse. “Marc was claiming untruths of you,” she accused, eyes flashing. Nobody would damage Julian's honor and live to tell of it. Nobody.
Julian turned a stormy gaze on the redhead in question, who was panting on one knee even as his circle of comrades receded to isolate the boy. The 'Prince's' eyebrow raised, his eyes dangerous, but for a second it seemed as if Marc would match his fierceness. The moment passed, though, and he turned away with a grumbled curse. Julian smiled.
“You should know better than to strike a young lady, Marc,” he chided, then extended his hand to his sister and lead her down the worn path towards their home.
Once they were a sufficient distance away from the rest of the children, Rozalin looked up at Julian. “Why didn't you challenge him, Jules? He embarrassed you!” she exclaimed furiously.
The boy brushed some of his blond hair out of his eyes. “Tell me, Rozalin, if father were to beat you for wearing boyish clothes and running with the neighborhood kids around the lake, would you stop?” The girl shook her head defiantly. Julian nodded. “I should hope not; I've taught you to think for yourself.
“Now, if father were to convince our young friends that playing outside by the lake was dull, boring, and they all abandoned the practice, would you still disobey him?” he questioned, looking down at the doll-like little girl.
“I suppose not...”
Julian broke out into a grin. “Same principle applies to Marc,” he explained.
Rozalin's lips twitched in the semblance of a smile. “This is why you're Prince, I suppose.” In her secret heart, she vowed to become a prince one day, as well. Just like her brother.