RA belongs to John Flanagan. The Treaty kids and their misadventures are all my fault.
Nate was cutting behind the blacksmith shop in the village by Castle Redmont when another figure ran around the corner directly into him
"Oof!" he said as he fell, the other person on top of him. It was a young boy in the outfit of one of Redmont's ward children, and his face was streaked with tears.
"What's the problem?" Nate asked, standing up and pulling the boy to his feet.
"N-nothing, sir," the boy said, with a quaver in his voice. "I'm sorry I ran into you."
"It doesn't seem to be nothing," Nate said. "I might be able to help you."
Just then, the blacksmith's two sons came around the corner, laughing. They stopped when they saw Nate, and the boy cringed against him.
Nate came to his own conclusions. The two boys were known bullies, and the blacksmith was unwilling to believe that his boys were anything worse than a little mischievious.
"Here," he said to the boy, handing him the carved wooden bird he wore around his neck. "Go to the Heaped Platter and give this to Evanlyn. Tell her that I said to feed you and make sure you get up to the castle safely."
The boy ran off and Nate turned to face the blacksmith's sons. They were around his age, big and strong from working at their father's forge. But they had never fought anyone who really knew what he was doing.
"What are you doing, cripple?" the older one sneered.
Nate heard the blacksmith stop pounding at his anvil, and took a chance. The blacksmith kept his drinking water by a window that looked out behind the shop. If he was going to get a drink, he just might be able to hear what was going on...
"N-nothing," he said, mimicking the boy earlier.
"Sure seemed like something to me," the older one said, beginning to circle Nate.
"Tryin' to play Ranger, are we?" the younger one said, circling the other direction from his brother. "But you ain't your daddy."
The older boy moved fast, faster than Nate had expected, and kicked his wooden foot out from under him. Nate fell to the ground, slapping to absorb the energy. He had to roll away from the younger boy as he tried to kick Nate in the ribs.
However, this allowed the older boy to grab his shoulder and slam his face into the wall. Nate felt something pop in his nose and warm blood gushed from it. This was more of a fight than he expected.
His father had taught him some things about fighting, but Nate wanted the blacksmith to see that his sons were bullies, and anyway, Evanlyn would be along soon. She had always been over-protective of him; If the blacksmith didn't see his sons beating up on a "helpless" cripple, she would be able to work the situation to the best advantage.
So rather than use his cane to knock their feet out from under them, Nate used it to fend off the more dangerous blows. And rather than kick out their knees, Nate flailed ineffectually against their shins. Every rule about fighting from the ground, he broke.
After less than a minute of this, Nate began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of his plan. Yes, the blacksmith needed to realize his sons were bullies, but was having them beat up on him really the best way to accomplish that?
Just as he was about to give up and really fight back, the blacksmith and Evanlyn arrived at the same time. The blacksmith pulled his younger son off Nate by the scruff of his neck, while Evanlyn went after the older one with her ladle, striking first his shoulder, then his face, then between his legs. He went down in a groaning pile.
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?" the blacksmith roared. "I SEND YOU FOR COAL AND I FIND YOU BEATING UP ON A CRIPPLE!"
"It was going to happen eventually," Evanlyn said caustically. "Your sons taunt everyone in the entire village, if not to their face then behind their back. They're at the bottom of every nasty prank, and all the ward children are terrified of them. Not even the Battleschool Apprentices care to bother them."
"They're boys," the blacksmith said. "Boys are supposed to get into mischief."
"Mischief is tying someone's shoelaces together or painting a mustash on a wanted poster," Evanlyn retorted. "They just beat my little brother, and they only caught him because he was covering for the Ward child currently crying in the kitchen of the Heaped Platter!"
The blacksmith looked at his sons in silence for a moment, then said, "I may need to keep a closer eye on your movements. Now go fetch the coal, like you were supposed to!"
After the blacksmith had frogmarched his sons away, Evanlyn knelt by Nate as he began to rise, groaning.
"I suppose you had some sort of a plan here?" she asked, her tone indicating she didn't think so.
"I wanted him to realize his sons are bullies," Nate said. His lip was swelling and there was blood in his mouth.
"And so you let them beat you up?" Evanlyn said in disbelief.
"I didn't think it would hurt this much," Nate admitted.
Evanlyn rolled her eyes, then helped Nate up. His cane had been cracked by a particularly heavy blow, so she helped him to the back door of the Heaped Platter.
"I have to help prepare for the dinner rush," she said, "but after he takes the boy back to the Ward, Michael promised to stop by Grandma and Grandpa's rooms and ask one of them to come here and get you."
"I'm fifteen!" Nate exclaimed. "I don't need a minder!"
"You just picked a fight with the biggest bullies in a five mile radius," she retorted. "If you're going to do stupid things like that, you need a minder. Now sit still, and I'll bring you out a plate of food."
Nate leaned against the wall and stared up at the clear afternoon sky. He hurt so much more than he thought he would.
I am about to start a new chapter in my life. A wonderful chapter, and I am so excited for it. But I am about to loose the majority of my free time. Which means that updates are going to be even more sporadic than they have been. I'm sorry, but this is the choice I have made, and in the long run, it will make my life better.
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed this, and especially to my wonderful beta, Who Am I-You'll Never Know, who helped me immensely with this chapter.