Unnormal Normalcy

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King of Blades – Chapter 5 “Roofrunning”

Coulta was far too restless to sleep that night. Despite what he’d said to Wildas about not fretting about their situation until they had more information, Coulta was still stressed and full of worry for his spies. Not even Wildas and Myri combined could find a way to relax him. Instead of keeping them awake all night with his tossing and turning, he decided to do something he hadn’t done for months. He slipped carefully out of Wildas’ bed, trying not to disturb him or Myri, and went to his own bedchamber to get dressed.

He loved the feel of his simple black leather fighting clothes – it was like a second skin to him, familiar and perfect. It was very different from what he’d been used to wearing on jobs in Arren, because in Arren he’d had no armor. He’d gotten used to it, though, because it was light and didn’t limit his movements like heavier armor would. On his chest was embossed the golden leaping horse of the royal family. To finish his preparations he laced his boots, pulled on a pair of black leather gloves, and tied back his black hair.

Wildas’ room had the window that most suited Coulta’s needs, so he returned to his husband’s room – almost silently, in an effort not to wake his two spouses there. The window was open to the warm night, and Coulta stepped up onto the windowsill. He took one calming breath, then jumped.

He landed with a roll on the barracks roof and was on his feet immediately, running to the opposite end of the roof. From that edge he launched himself to the roof of the armory, making the fifteen-foot gap easily.

In Arren, roof-running was the only pass time that had kept him from going insane, and it had been one of the main ways he’d come to realize that he had magic. He knew of no normal man who could jump out of a third-floor castle window and land on a roof one story shorter and fifty feet away without incurring a single injury. And do it without allowing a single person to notice him unless he wanted to be noticed.

Feeling the wind in his face as he ran across the roofs of the castle grounds lifted his spirits, and he made for the surrounding wall. This time he had to jump over and up, and catch the top of the wall with his hands. He hung there a moment before climbing easily up and heading for the nearest roof on the other side. This was the Noble Circle, where nobles who could trace themselves back to the royal family could live if they chose. The houses were grand, with lavish gardens and intricate stonework designs. There were also a number of expensive stores catering to the royal class.

Surrounding the Noble Circle was another, slightly lower wall, surrounded by the rest of the city of Ryal. Here were the houses of merchants and scholars, the taverns and shops for the lower classes, gambling houses and whore-houses of all kinds, theaters and markets, the academy for sorcerers and the city’s Temple. Around this vast outer city was a third wall, topped by guards. Coulta stood there with those two men, surprised that they weren’t actually sleeping – though they were playing a game of cards. Coulta could understand how boring an average night on guard duty could be, so he let their game go on as he stood there unnoticed.

He looked out at the farms that made up Lower Ryal in the distance and smiled. He knew he could leave the city if he wished to. It wasn’t like it had been in Arren, when he couldn’t physically leave the city even though he desperately wanted to. But he didn’t want to leave Ryal. It was home now.

When Coulta made it back to Wildas’ room an hour after leaving, he was much more at peace than he had been in days. He undressed and slipped back into bed with his spouses. Myri wasn’t bothered by his return, but he noticed Wildas’ eyes watching him from the other side of their wife. Coulta slipped an arm over Myri to grip Wildas’ hand, trying to reassure him. Wildas gave him a small smile.

____

“You know,” Wildas began the next morning after Myri had left to check on Anil, “I should practice my swordplay if there’s going to be a war. I haven’t sparred in months.”

Coulta smiled. “I suppose you want me to spar with you?”

Wildas kissed him lightly. “I would give the court some entertainment.”

They certainly did draw quite a crowd almost before they started sparring. It was understandable, Coulta thought, since the people within the grounds of the royal castle rarely got to see both of their kings spar together. And Shelton had never sparred with the late Grand King Deandre because his strength was in his abilities as a sorcerer. Deandre had sparred on occasion with Queen Yvona, which had drawn much attention, but apparently people liked watching Coulta fight. Especially when he was against two opponents.

Rohan, dressed in his red Royal Guard uniform, was waiting for them when they got to the practice arena.

Coulta raised an eyebrow at Wildas. “Cheating?”

Wildas smiled as he pulled on his blue leather gloves – his light sparring armor was blue and gold and much fancier than Coulta’s black. “You expected me to fight you alone?”

Coulta just shook his head and said nothing. Instead, he took his blades from his belt and warded the edges so they wouldn’t inflict any real damage. He did the same for both Wildas’ and Rohan’s swords. They all nodded to each other, and the battle began.

He was used to sparring with two opponents at once – sometimes more, like when Rohan had sent a whole class of new recruits at him at once. Coulta had resorted to using some magic for that fight, and had still come out of it with his fair share of bruises, though the twelve trainees were also hurting by the time Rohan called a halt to the practice session. Despite being experienced with multiple opponents, it was still a challenge to keep track of both Wildas and Rohan. He ended up backing against the arena fence so neither of them could hit him in the back when he was distracted. Damn, the brothers were a tough team.

The crowd grew as the fight went on, and Coulta could hear bets being made on which of the royal brothers would yield first – hardly anyone was betting on Coulta yielding first. That was a good choice, because it ended up being Wildas who dropped his sword first, when Coulta’s sword came to rest less than an inch from his throat.

Wildas let his sword fall to the dirt as he held his hands up in surrender. “Yield,” he panted.

Coulta pulled back and rounded on Rohan, who was about to strike while Coulta was focused on Wildas. With one blade, Coulta swatted the sword out of the prince’s hand, bringing his other sword to point against Rohan’s chest.

Rohan held up his hands as his brother had done only moments before. “Yield,” he wheezed.

Coulta nodded and sheathed his blades, trying to catch his own breath. Then he shook hands with his opponents as the crowd started to disperse, some people happy with winning bets and some far from it.

“I’m definitely glad to have you on our side,” Rohan declared as they all moved toward the arena gate.

“I’m glad to be on your side,” Coulta replied with a smile and a nod.

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January 14, 2012 - Posted by | King of Blades

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