(Please note that there might be a few grammar errors here and there. I have proof-read it but the doesn't mean it's free of errors. I am not sure if I am going to continue this story - it depends on whether people like it or not. I am writing another story at the moment that I prefer. Anyway, enjoy what I've written.)

Chapter One

"Be on your best behaviour, look smart, stand stern, and for goodness sake, don't mess this up. I know I have been very firm on you and sometimes you don't like it, but for once please don't make a mess of things, this is very important."

Brandon's father carried on, but Brandon didn't care. After the twentieth time his father mentioned not messing things up, Brandon blurred out, as if a switch in his mind decided to switch off, allowing him to ignore the world around, or at least the unimportant stuff. He wasn't his father's favourite son – his oldest brother Leister was; who was already the favourite to become one of the king's personal guards – but he knew his father still wanted great thing from him.

Brandon the youngest was also the worst at pretty much everything. Each time he tried to ride a horse he would fall off – the horse trainer claimed that Brandon had rubbish balance, and refused to teach Brandon any more, despite all of the gold that Brandon's father offered. Since then, no other person dared teach Brandon anything in the art of horse riding. But Brandon didn't care; he would rather walk than ride. It also meant that he didn't need to find a place to keep a horse when it wasn't in use.

Sword fighting was worse. Where his brother was quickly becoming a master at the sword, Brandon struggled to lift the sword. Even the lightest of all swords were too heavy for Brandon to lift. Yet Brandon's father insisted on Brandon carrying on with the art of sword fighting. Brandon didn't see the point, what were the chances of him becoming a knight, let alone a member of the king's arm. He would never become a knight even if he had the desires to do so. What Brandon was good at was the bow and arrow, but his father dismissed this as a coward's weapon. He told him that none of his sons were going to become a coward.

"Son, are you listening?" Everything flash back and Brandon re-entered reality.

"Yes. It's important, I mustn't screw up; yes I understand," Brandon said sarcastically.

"Watch it!" his father snapped. "You better watch your tongue. I don't want you to speak like that to your future masters. Today is very important day, for you and for me; this house's reputation depends on you. I don't want this house to be disgraced because of you, do you understand?"

"Yes father, I do." This time Brandon toned the sarcasm down. But deep inside him he didn't mean it. He wished he had a twin, who he could swap his place with, but reality came back to again. He had only one brother – much older – and that thought quickly left his mind.

"I am glad you are seeing this my way; the honour of this house rest upon your shoulder. You don't want to disappoint me nor your mother, bless her name."

Brandon's mother died when he was very young. He could barely remember her remember, and for most of his life he had only the comfort of nurses hired by his father to raise him. Brandon never liked any of the nurses; none of them loved him, not like a mother did. They were only there for the gold. He knew that the secretly hated him – although trying to hide it – and none of them truly gained his trust. His short attention span and his tendency to be class clown got the better of him, and because of this many people disliked him. He had a few friends, but he didn't mind – friends only bring more problems.

"I swear on my mother's grave that I'll honour this house by trying my best. I promise that I won't disappoint," he said Brandon, this time with no hint of sarcasm. There was a moment of awkward silence, but Brandon's father broke it.

"Thank-you, I am glad you understand the importance of this all. Now make haste, you will be going with Sir Dave of Garley. He doesn't like to wait," his father said.

Brandon quickly left before his father could demand anymore orders. He quickly walked through the halls of the castle, walking pass paintings of great battles in the past, many of which Brandon had little interest in, unlike his brother who spent many hours staring at them. When Brandon was younger, his brother insisted on coming with him to look at the paintings. His brother could go on for hours talking about the meaning of each painting and the battle it depicted, but Brandon couldn't care less. He felt as if he had no purpose, nothing but fighting could please his father, but Brandon was not good at any of this stuff. It only made things worse whenever he saw his brother Leister achieve great achievements, such as gaining a kind's emblem after earning it in training – Leister managed to take down ten knights, all of them at the same time. Brandon couldn't even take on a simple foot soldier, let alone a fully trained knight.

As he approached Sir Dave of Garley, he noticed the knight walking back and forward impatiently. He noticed Brandon – the look he gave him made Brandon walk quicker. Brandon feared the knight more than he feared his father. Sir Dave of Garley was his sword-master and he was at an end trying to teach Brandon even the basic of sword fighting. Whenever Brandon made a mistake, such as dropping his sword, Sir Dave of Garley would hit Brandon's feet with a stick, making Brandon fall to the ground. To make things worse, he would make him carry one, practising the same move over and over again. Sir Dave of Garley refused to let Brandon use a practise sword claiming that it was not weapon a Baron's son should use.

Sir Dave of Garley was annoyed that he had given the task to bringing Brandon to Regisarm, the kingdom's main city. Worse was the fact the Brandon could not ride a horse, meaning that he was to ride on Sir Dave of Garley's horse despite his dismay.

"Get on and we will get going," snorted Sir Dave of Garley rudely. "I don't want a word from you, get it?"

"Yes," said Brandon. He decided not to say anything in fear of annoying Sir Dave of Garley. He didn't want him annoyed as he would have to deal with an annoyed Sir Dave of Garley for the rest of the journey, all three days' worth. The rode for what seemed like eternity, and the silence made the tension worse. Brandon didn't want to disappoint his father. He was going to get an apprenticeship so that he didn't have return home empty handed and with an angry father to contend with. Anything could be better than that.

"Why oh why is your father sending you to this fate when he knows perfectly that you won't succeed," the knight broke the silence. "You cannot ride a horse, you can't lift a sword, and you can't even concentrate even on the simplest of taste. I doubt you will ever become a master of the sword let alone a king's cook. A waste of time I think. Better to let you rot in waste if I was your father."

"But it's my father choose to send me to Regisarm for an apprentice. All I can do is my best," the boy replied.

"And even that you cannot do," he sneered unkindly.

After that episode they rode the rest of the way in silence, staying at inns along the way. Brandon ate only porridge while he watched the knight chew away at a cut of the finest beef. But he decided it was best not to question the knight's decision.

One the third day they arrived at Regisarm. If it wasn't for the fear of Sir Dave of Garley temperament, Brandon would have enjoyed the sight as the rode through the main street of Regisarm up toward the castle. As they passed Brandon noticed stalls where shop keepers were trying to get people to buy their best wares. He noticed a group of traveller's wives dancing while a wise-woman predicted people's futures.

"Scum of the earth," said Sir Dave of Garley. "If I was the king I would kick them off the street all they do is take up room that could be used for better things. They don't pay their taxes; they get in their way, what good do they do? Nothing is the answer!" Brandon decided to ignore this comment. There was point in arguing. The knight was stuck in his ways and he wasn't going to change anytime soon.

As they reached the castle gates a group of soldiers wearing the king's royal uniform approached them. Brandon quickly got off the horse and Sir Dave of Garley followed suit. A servant came to take the horse away to the stable.

"I am here," said Sir Dave of Garley, "to present this boy to the commissioner of apprenticeship, Lord Rhesus. Be swift, I do not have all day."

So the soldier led them into the castle. The entrance was the most the largest hall Brandon had ever seen. His father's castle was a small one compared to this. And he knew very well that this hall was compared to the throne room. He had heard many tales about this hall – according to some; it was the biggest room in all the lands. These tales were most likely right.

They passed through the hallways and entered a room much smaller than the entrance hall, but still larger than the halls of his father's castle. Waiting there were a group of boys the same age as Brandon, all of them awaiting the same fate as him – will they gain an apprenticeship of not?

One of the king's guards approached him. "And who may you be?" he asked Brandon.

"I am Brandon of Ferrufortis, the second son of Baron Leister. I am here to gain an apprenticeship," he answered the soldier's question.

"Yes, you don't have to state the obvious. Go wait with the other boys."

"I will be living," said Sir Dave of Garley sneeringly. "I will be waiting at the gates in case you fail to gain an apprenticeship." And he left – Brandon was pleased.

He waited with the other boys. Most of them were taller him, and much stronger built. Although they hid their nervousness, Brandon could sense anxiety among them. Most of them had dark blond hair, typical of the reason, but a few of them had darker hair, most likely from the southern provinces. He noticed that none of them had dark red hair, typical of northern folks like Brandon. A few of them had darker skins than most people Brandon had seen. He had heard of these people – they came from the east in the desert areas. Most of them were of the king's people, but because of an alliance between the kingdom and tribes of the desert, they were allowed to send some of the boys to come to Regisarm for training.

A boy a year or so younger than him entered the room. Unlike the rest of them who wore reasonable respectable clothing, the boy wore clothing that showed his status a commoner. He had curly brown hair and his hazel eyes glazed out as if he could read someone's mind. His face with rather dirty – he looked as if he hadn't had a bath ever in his life – and he wore sandals, something a nobleman would never dare to wear.

"And you must be Pylades," the soldier said. The boy – Pylades – nodded his head. "I was warned of your coming. Go wait with the other boys. We will make sure you have a bath after your interview – but from what I have been told, you stand a great chance in succeeding."

As the boy sat down, the other boys stared at him. The boys that were sitting near to where Pylades sat moved away as quick as they could. "Who let the wreck in?" one of them scorned. The other boys sniggered at this comment. "I bet he's bathed in horse poo," another boy said. These insults kept happening, each one worse than the other. But the boy ignored them. Brandon decided that it would be best to sit next to the boy and talk to him, even if it caused the other boys to ridicule him.

"You name's Pylades, right?" Brandon asked him. Pylades simply nodded. "My name is Brandon." He offered a hand out, hoping that the boy would shake his hand. But Pylades simply stared at him.

"I don't think it's wise that you shake my hands. They say I'm unclean – my village that is," he modestly said. "My mother sent me here after realising that I had the power."

"Realising that you have the power? Does that mean you're magic?" Brandon asked. Pylades nodded.

"It was either staying there where my father refused to acknowledge me as a son, or come to a foreign country where I could gain some sort of respect?" he said.

"Where're you born?" asked Brandon. He wasn't too sure. He had seen a few people with curly hair, but most of them were foreigners. He never bothered to ask where they came from. He knew that there where lands in the south with people of such features, but he never knew their people's name or the land that came from.

"I'm from a sea faring town near the city Lόviqo," he replied. "Most people there fear those with the power. I am luckily to be alive. My mother sent me here after hearing tales of how respectable the people of this land." The other boys laughed.

"Don't count on that. We still have outcast here, and they're usually the same type of people that live in your land. And we nobleman don't usually respect those of lower birth," Brandon explain.

"So why are you being so nice to me now?" Pylades queried.

"It's because I'm not like other people. I am like you – an outcast – despite being of noble birth."

As he said that, an old man who looked as if he was in his mid-fifties entered the room. He wore a brown rope and wore a funny looking hat sharped as a triangle. He held a long stick, but because the old man didn't look as if he had a limp, Brandon guessed that the stick had other usages – hopefully not as a discipline tool. "I request Pylades for his interview." Pylades followed the man into the next. Brandon stared at the other boys, who now seemed to have turned against Brandon due to him talking the peasant boy. A few of them were whispering between themselves, most likely rude thing about Pylades and him.

The other boys talked to themselves, refusing to knowledge Brandon. But Brandon didn't care – they were not worth his time. In about an hour or so he would most likely be heading home and this incident would be the thing of the past. He didn't care what his father would say – his father most likely would have expected this outcome anyway. Or at least Sir Dave of Garley wouldn't be surprised.

After ten minutes of gossiping between the other boys, about subject such as where Pylades sleeps at night – they decided on pile of hay –, if he's ever bathed before – they decided that was he was too poor to even afford a pint of water – and other things, before Pylades re-entered the room. Quickly, he walked over to the soldier and handed him a note. The soldier nodded and Pylades quickly left.

Brandon waited for another hour or so before being called up by the old man. He reluctantly followed the old man down a long hall way. Strange pictured stare at him as he walked down the hallway, their image created an eerie feel. Unlike the usual paintings seen in a castle, these one's more grotesque. They depicted what seemed like epic battles, but the heroes looked deformed and over dramatized with bright but disturbing use of colour.

"Carlos of Esmalum is the artist of these paintings," said the old man after realizing that Brandon was looking at them. "An unusual painter he was. Most people, including the king, hate them. But I find them peculiar, if not intriguing. It's not everyone's taste, but not everyone comes down this way."

"They are a lot better than the paintings at home," said Brandon, trying not to sound sarcastic or rude. The old man turned around and stared at the boy. Brandon could feel the old man enter his mind. It fault wrong, as if some intruder entered someone's house and started to read their diary – their most secretive of thoughts. It was only for a few seconds, but it seemed much long, before the old man released grip from Brandon's mind.

"The truth," the old man said. "I like it when people tell the truth. Although lying does have its purpose, especially when to please someone; both the truth and a lie can be misused. Remember that boy in your future endeavours." And with that, the old man kept walking, pretending as if that episode had never happened. They soon approached another door. The old man opened it and insisted on Brandon entering first even though the old man was his senior.

After being a dimmed lighted room, the bright light that shined in his eyes blinded him for a split second. After regaining sight, Brandon started to look around the room curiously. The room looked as if it was an old court room, used only rarely seeing that most of the woodwork had dusk on it. Sat where the judge would usually site was an even older man – he looked as if he was over a hundred years old - too old some people might say.

"Name, title, and age," the old man said hastily and unfriendly, as if he didn't care about the job he was doing. As he wrote things down, Brandon answered his question.

"My name is Brandon and I am the second son of the Baron Leister of Ferrufortis. I am twelve year old," he said as formally as he could. The old man wrote for another minute or so after Brandon answered his question before asking anything more.

"How skilled are you with the sword?" the old man said. Brandon paused for a moment, trying to work how to answer this question. How could he word the fact that he was rubbish with the sword without sounding informal or offensive? He knew this was his last chance, so he tried to answer the question as best as he could.

"I am not all the good with the sword. I feel uncomfortable wielding a sword so I try to avoid it," the boy replied. After hearing this comment, the old man shook his head in a mixture of confusion and disappointment. He quickly wrote something down before asking the next question.

"And why do you find wielding a sword uncomfortable?" he asked Brandon. The boy pondered quickly before answering. He didn't want to sound like a coward, but it was the only answer he could come up with.

"I find the sword too heavy to handle. Every time I try to pick it up it falls right out of my hand. Beyond that, I have very little experience with wielding a sword. My teacher even tells me that I should simply give up learning the art of using a sword but my father insist on me carrying on," Brandon answered honestly. The awkward silence that usually happened after an argument with his father appeared, as the old man stared at Brandon, most likely trying to come up with a response for Brandon's reply.

"Can you tell me who your teacher is?" the old man asked.

"My teacher is Sir Dave of Garley. He is waiting outside in the courtyard," the boy nervously answered the old man's question. On hindsight, he shouldn't have mentioned the knight being there – he didn't want Sir Dave of Garley making things worse than they are by endlessly ranting on how rubbish Brandon was at sword fighting. And then Brandon's worse fears were answered. The old man requested for Sir Dave of Garley.

The other old man went outside – trying to locate Sir Dave of Garley – while Brandon and the old man stood there in silence. For the first time Brandon noticed that there was another man inside the room. He couldn't tell what the person looked like – since he wore a hood over his head – but his gown caught his attention. The gown the man wore was a royal green paints, and slightly lighter green shirt, with a stipe in the centre that was a brownest red. On his lap was what confused Brandon the most – the man was holding a jester's hat. For a brief moment the hood moved up so that he could see the person's face. The man looked as if he was in his early forties and his hair was starting to grey just a little bit. He had a grin on his face as if he didn't take this entire situation serious. Before Brandon could examine the person further, the other old man re-entered the room with Sir Dave of Garley.

"I present to you," the other old man said as he walked in to the room, "Sir Dave of Garley." Brandon quickly turned around to witness the grumpy Sir Dave of Garley walk into the room.

"I want to thank you Sir Dave of Garley for being willing to be questioned by us. You time is truly appreciated," the old man said.

"Yes," Sir Dave of Garley said grumbly, "but please make it quick."

"As you wish; fellow knight." Brandon could hear Sir Dave of Garley softly laugh – most likely hoping to only be heard by only himself but by accident Brandon could hear. "Can you tell us what you think of this boy's skill at wielding the sword?" Brandon as if he had dropped into a dark hole – he was sure that Sir Dave of Garley was going to answer the old man's question negatively, therefore ruining any hope of gaining an apprenticeship.

"The worse boy I have ever taught. He cannot wield a sword to save himself. This boy has such a short attention span, I wouldn't even bother teaching him if I was you," Sir Dave of Garley replied severely. Brandon sank even deeper into despair. What will his father say after seeing his son – rejected – return home empty handed, with Sir Dave of Garley with a grin face – knowing that he had succeeded in destroying a boy's life?

Surprisingly, the hooded man spoke – the first time Brandon had ever heard him speak. "And tell me knight of a fool's table," he said in a semi-comic but also semi-serious tone, "how many students have you taken through a hell's course. And most importantly, how many have returned?" For a moment, Brandon's hoped lifted, but it was short lived.

"Quiet Terence; you have permission to be here, but you don't have permission to speak. Now Sir Dave of Garley, please carry on," the old man said.

"That was all," said Sir Dave of Garley. "Can I leave now?" The old man nodded his head, meaning that the knight could leave. Once he had left, Brandon stared at the old man while he was writing the last of his notes.

"Markus please escort Brandon of Ferrufortis back to the other boys," said the old man after putting his pen down.

Brandon quickly followed the man with the pointed hat back down the hallway – without any talking. The man's staff hit the ground as he walked which somehow made the ground shake. They soon reached the other side. After opening the door, Brandon went through and sat with the other boys. He was told by the old man with the staff that they would announce if he got the apprenticeship or not later.

At least two hours passed until all of the boys were interview – with each interview taking at least ten minutes. None of other boys bothered to strike up conversation with Brandon and neither did they mention anything rude about him amongst themselves. A few comments about Pylades were said, but besides that it was basically them talking about where they come from.

"I come from down south from the city of Nόvtou – my father is governor there. He wants me to become a knight so that I could get in favour with the king. According to my father, becoming a knight I can get in favour with the king and might persuade him to bring more soldiers down south," said one of the boys.

"I live near the borders to the desert lands," said one of the other boys. "I come from a long line of lords who came there during Fredric the Thirteenth's rule and we've protected the borders ever since – from those tribal raiders. The desert folks are worse than that Pylades guy's people. They are complete animals – absolutely uncivilized."

Despite no rudest about Brandon – they most likely got tired of mocking him, although the jokes about Pylades hadn't died down – he wasn't all the bothered about them and what they said. They all claimed to be of great importance, but none of them were of the same status as him. But he decided to keep that to himself. He decided that it would put unnecessary attention to him, something he didn't want more of. So he waited there, simply listening to what the other people were saying, hoping for end to waiting – he wanted to get it all over and done with.

After the last boy returned from his interview, the old man with the staff came outside, who was followed by the man named Terence. His hood was put back and on his head was his jester hat. While the old man called out his list, Terence stared at Brandon, as if he was complete oblivious of the current situation. Brandon decided to look away. As each boy was called up, the old man gave a scroll to them of their apprenticeship contract. Every boy inside the room was called up to accept a scroll – all but Brandon. He stood there alone while everyone left the room, escorted by the old man. Disappointedly, the boy decided to leave as there wasn't any point staying there. As he started leave the jester spoke. Brandon was completely unaware that he was still in the room with him.

"Well wasn't that a joke," he said, "and I make a living off making jokes. That just makes things worse, or funnier, depending on what way you look at it."

"Thanks for cheering me up," said Brandon miserably. "But I need to leave. I don't think Sir Dave of Garley would be happy being kept waiting."

"What, that grumpy fool?" Terence said. "He's going to be waiting a long I tell you."

"Yeah, I think I am sick of your jokes. Bye," said Brandon as he opened the door. Quickly he left, walking down the hallway back to the courtyard. Brandon knew that most likely Sir Dave of Garley was going to ridicule him, but at least all the fuss by the knight and his father would be over after a month so. After that, hopefully they would forget about the entire affair. Or at least his father would forget - Sir Dave of Garley would never live it down, wasting his time travelling to Regisarm only to have Brandon reject. "All for nothing," Brandon could imagine the knight saying.

Trying to not cause attention, Brandon walked through the entrance hall. Luckily enough, none of the servants approached him while he walked pass. He was sure he saw a knight stare at him weirdly as he walk towards the castle's front gate, most likely because it was unusual to see a boy walk through the castle by himself. One the soldiers quickly opened the gate for him without question – the soldier looked as if he knew Brandon's fate.

Brandon walked through the gates and into the courtyard where Sir Dave of Garley was waiting. The knight had already got his horse ready for the journey back home to Ferrufortis. He looked happier than usual, probably because Brandon had been rejected from an apprenticeship. Sir Dave of Garley's smirk irritated the boy even more than he already was. He had three days of putting up with this – hopefully the time will go fast, he thought.

"Get on," the knight told Brandon. The boy quickly got onto Sir Dave of Garley's horse. "We better be leaving – I cannot stand the capital – and we will find an inn somewhere on our way back," he said grouchily.

Brandon was completely unaware that Terence was waiting at the castle's gate. He walked down the stare that Brandon had gone down a few minutes earlier. He stood the proudly and announced to the knight – or at least Brandon thought the jester was talking to Sir Dave of Garley.

"I know I am in the folly trade but never thought I would ever come across clown funnier than you," he insulted the knight. This agitated Sir Dave of Garley and he rode his horse nearer to the jester. He drew his sword and pointed it at Terence. "All I want is the boy," he said calmly. Brandon was surprised at this, as anyone else would run and hid, but Terence stood his ground.

"And why would you want a weakling as him?" the knight replied.

"Because he has more wit than you will ever have," Terence responded still as calm as ever. "Wit is far better than strength. Someone like him would have more sense than to take on a royal jester. Would you willing kill the kind's entertainment? Let's keep thing clean and give me the boy – no bloodshed involved."

"Fine, the boy is useless anyway. Anything to get rid of him will do," the knight said. "Get off!" he ordered. Brandon quickly got off the horse. "I will tell his father that his has joined the fool brigade." The knight then swiftly trotted off down the main street and then out of sight.

"So," the knight said, "how about I make you some bacon. I love bacon. It makes men turn into real men."

(c) 2012 Toby Keet. If you steal anything from this, I'll hunt you down and hurt you real bad!