Lesson time in the Dielle household can get downright dangerous, what with the magic, and the weapons in the hands of children. A set of short tales.
"Absolutely no—" Anabella stopped as she caught her husband's eye. "Surely Charles, you can't be serious?"
He shrugged as their youngest daughter looked between her two parents and sized up the challenge ahead.
Lady Anabella had been sitting peacefully in her study, writing a letter to her sister in the brief period of peace in the morning before the arrival of her lunch guests and the other children who took lessons at their house. The girls normally had playtime and her husband had his own business to attend. Except, he had strolled into the room barely a minute before and three steps behind their daughter, whose nice dress was already stained and whose sticky fingers were clutching at Anabella's skirt.
"But she's six!" the lady cried in some dismay.
The toothy imp smiled and tugged at her mother's dress before forcing her bottom lip to tremble.
"Please Mama, please!" she pleaded, with wide, watery eyes.
"I was her age when I started my lessons," Charles said and father and daughter exchange a conspiratorial smile while Anabella floundered.
"That's different! You, I mean, it-it was a different time."
"Mama! I want a sword!" Aurelie yelled, tugging more insistently. "Please Mama! Papa had one when he was little."
"And you want to be like your Papa?" Anabella asked, feeling slightly faint as the curly haired child nodded an affirmative and she imagined all the things that could go terribly wrong with such a proposal.
"Lord Fenmore always wears a sword and he's eight! And Cousin Bert and Cousin Rogey both have sword lessons!"
"Those are all boys," Anabella said, hoping above hope that she could one day persuade the child to like sewing and sailing and dresses and not sharp pointy things used to kill people.
"Cousin Albert teaches Cousin Anne," the child replied promptly, causing both parents some shock.
"Does Uncle Basil know?" Charles asked.
"Oops! It's a secret! Don't tell!"
"I do hope they aren't using real blades," Anabella said, attempting to imagine the seventeen-year-old teaching the seven-year-old anything besides bad words.
"Says my wife who keeps wolves in the house," Charles chuckled.
In spite of his teasing he rather appreciated his wife's affinity for intimidating pets. They had often been used to terrify the royal soldiers before the Mad King's death and now just proved a deterrent to trespassers, along with good foot warmers in winter.
"They're only part wolf and that's beside the point. I don't want Aurelie getting injured!"
"Well there's no need to worry, she would have the best teacher, and of course we would start her with a wooden practice sword, then dull steel," he said, his eyes glazing over slightly as he imagined different metals and sword styles. "Why she wouldn't have a real blade until she was at least ten!"
"May the Sea King take mercy on us," Anabella murmured, though at the moment she was a long ways from her favorite divinity.
"I've already asked an instructor to come by tomorrow."
"You what?! But Charles, what about Marie?"
"She said swords are stupid, and for boys," Aurelie answered for her father. "She said she'd laugh at me if I took lessons, but I told her she'd be sorry after!"
"Oh dear." The lady covered her mouth and looked around the room. "I suppose a music lesson would balance them out. I think we shall have to get that harp she wanted."
"A sword for Aura and a harp for Rie, I'll send out the orders tonight," Charles said with a smile. It was these little victories that pleased him the most. His little girl would have her fencing lessons and his big girl would have her music and everyone would be happy, well except maybe his wife.
"Oh dear," Lady Anabella said again. "Whatever will I tell Lady Jujue and Madam Ruthbird?" she mused. "They'll find it terribly strange."
"Tell them-mm-that it's an old Dielle tradition, for ah, all children to be trained in various weapons, for their magic or somesuch," Charles rattled off with a careless flick of his wrist.
"Magic, alright," she said while tapping two fingers to her lips. "To hone their concentration and aim in spell casting."
"There you go! Excellent. Now Aura, what do we say to Mama?"
"Thank you Mama!" Aurelie chimed in. "You are a very good Mama."
Father and daughter left the room holding hands and Anabella attempted to focus her now unsteady attention on her letter. It was bad enough having a six-year-old who started spontaneous fires when she cried, the idea putting any sort of weapon into those hands made her shudder. And her father was already teaching the girl to manipulate people; Anabella had hoped that that at least would wait until Aurelie's teenage years. Sometimes she worried about Charles' plans for their daughters, for she knew he had them, though her would never share them with her. She was thankful that Marie at least, with her short temper, was less interested in weapons.
She started the new paragraph in her letter: "Charles continues to vex me…"
"Well it would be best if there was someone for the young lady to practice with," the fencing master said as he rubbed his chin. He was still tripping over the word 'lady' but the father did not even notice. "Some friendly competition does wonders for their skill, which is why households with several boys always progress so quickly."
"Hm." Sir Charles continued to beam at his daughter as he thought. Her eyes were bright as she attacked the practice dummy with the wooden sword and her giggles could be heard clear across the ballroom. She struck the wooden man in the crotch again and he was sure she was a natural. "Aurelie, come here a moment!"
"Yes Papa!" she called back, running towards him with the sword waving in her hand.
"Master Thane has said that you may have someone to learn with you if you want. Can you think of any of the other children that you want to fence with?" he asked. Charles had learned that it was always best to make it seem as if the child was choosing, even if he already knew what the answer would be or how to get the answer he wanted. Marie could be a bit difficult to predict, but he already knew what Aurelie would say.
"Kingsley!" she squeaked suddenly. "I want Kingsley."
The page boy was training to become a footman, but as he was only four years older than Marie and six older than Aurelie he also served as the girls' frequent playmate and bodyguard. He was the one who crawled through the holy bushes to retrieve an errant toddler or came running for help when the girls had let the dogs out of their paddock and into the sheep's pasture. Charles had high hopes of training the boy to continue this role as the girls got older and into more trouble and he hoped making him a swordsman would help.
A girl and a servant boy, the fencing master thought to himself as he was leaving the Dielle manor. He, the most respected instructor in the capital had just taken on the most farcical assignment imaginable. However he did not regret it, he knew Charles Dielle and he knew that the man was up to something, or mad. So either way he would have entertainment and a fat purse for as long as the girl held a sword.