Chapter 1 – Little life in Solimar (Meresin)
Meresin (embroiled in his blankets):
Don’t want to…
Joanna (placing clothes on a basket):
Young man, you get your head off that bed and start walking outside, NOW! You’re late.
That’s why I shouldn’t even go now, Sir Gallo will just yell…
Joanna (interrupting him):
GET OUT! And you better go to school today or I’ll tell your father.
Meresin got up from his bed, ranting, and left the house.
Joanna (coming outside with the basket full of clothes):
Be home at midday or you’ll be sorry.
Meresin (from far):
Solimar was stupid. What sort of city would build the school on top of a hill, and the houses downhill? Kids would just give up and go do something else instead of walking all the way up there. Not talking about skip classes and returning home from school a lot desirable too.
When Meresin got to his destination Sir Gallo had already started the math class.
Gallo (interrupting his class):
“Sir” Meresin, how good to have you here. Got lost on the way here? Three days we’ve been expecting you.
Meresin grabbed a math tablet from a pile and sit near Marco.
No smart answer today, “Sir” Meresin?
Meresin (quick and in a respectful tone):
No, sir, I was sick but I’m good now. I’m sorry about missing your classes; I have so much to catch up.
Gallo stopped, and measured Meresin with his eyes, trying to discover if he was mocking him or talking serious. Meresin was mocking him, but he didn’t understand, or at least pretended he didn’t.
Gallo (turning away and going to the front of the class again):
You seem to have gotten some sense; however, I’ve told Sir Cogan you will not assist his classes until you covered the classes you missed with me.
Meresin (couldn’t believe what he was hearing):
Oh, come on…!
Gallo (didn’t even look back):
“Come on…”, what? Anything to add?
No, sir… This tablet is broken… Please go on.
Grab another one, and be quiet, you already made me lose time. Time is precious, Meresin, “precious as a flower in the Winter”…
Meresin trade his math tablet and sat near Marco again.
What happened to you? My mom didn’t let me go to your home. She is pissed at my dad again, and is yelling at me and forbidding me to do everything again…
Meresin signaled with a head nod in the direction of Sir Gallo.
Marco (checked that Sir Gallo wasn’t paying attention to them and added):
You’re not talking to me?
No, but maybe Jalla will.
You still pissed over that? It was a kiss.
You knew I liked her. Now suffer.
They listened to Sir Gallo.
Sir Gallo was boring, a tall, skinny and arrogant, boring man. He was however a famous poet, he had been in far Numaneia, and even much farther Orium to recite his poems to important leaders. The problem was that he recited his poems even in Math classes, showing off and trying to make anyone there wanting to be like him some day later. He hadn’t had much luck so far though… You see, Solimar was a warrior village; it was the choice of refugees from the East because of that. The recent increase of attacks from barbarians made people choose Solimar instead of Numaneia (which was a much larger and powerful city), because it praised the warrior, the man who trains with a steel sword since the moment he is able to grab it and swing it. However, the part that bugged Meresin, was that “when a man reaches a certain age, he must be educated in the much more difficult art of literature and math… And love”. So now he had to learn to write and to count, but it was so, so boring, and he already knew the basics, anyway... When you are taught to spend all your energy in combat wielding a sword so long ago you just believe you came with it from the belly of your mother, that it it’s the continuation of your arm, you find sitting down and listening to a boring man, very, very tortuous, especially if you’re trying to ignore your best friend, especially if the boring man is really, really boring. Meresin now noticed Sir Gallo was trying to fake a vacant stare into the horizon, as he always did when he stopped the lesson to recite his poetry and wanted to make it look deep and genius. When Sir Gallo got back to the lesson again, Meresin gave up.
If you wanted to kiss her, you could have told me. She’s stupid anyway. I just liked her hair.
Exactly, you told me you didn’t want anything with her, so when she tried to kiss me, I didn’t stop her, what’s wrong with that?
It was treacherous. When I have a family and one day I get mad at them, will you kiss my wife and steal my kids?
You’re being stupid. That’s the most idiotic comparison I’ve ever heard. You are just mad she wanted to kiss me and not you.
Meresin (after a brief pause):
You are wooing her now?
No way, it was just a kiss… She kissed well though.
What?? Sure, you know that from all your kisses, you kissed how many times? Once all your life? Counting with Jalla of course. You can’t compare if you have nothing to compare with.
Oh, wise one, oh great romantic and handsome god, please tell me all your wisdom based on a girlfriend all your life. Anyway, I don’t need to compare anything. If a kiss is good, you just know it.
Girls are stupid, and I might have only had one girlfriend but I had lots of kisses. So, thank you and come back later when you pass the barrier of one.
Meresin then got up and went to place his math tablet on top of the others.
Where you going?
All other kids were getting up too.
Class is over. You should really pay attention…
Marco got up and placed his tablet on top of the others, and ran to catch up with Meresin.
Where are you going in such a hurry?
Well, I can’t go to Combat class, so I’ll find something to do while you’re at it.
Oh, right! See you later then.
And he left. Meresin sat for a long while looking at girls his age practicing sword combat. In Solimar boys were taught to fight since they are little kids, and when they reached a certain age, they had to learn about literature and math. It was like that because men have a physical advantage over women. Girls were taught to read and count since they were little, when they reached a certain age they had to learn how to use a sword. It was like this because women had a mental advantage over men. They had to learn a little about what the other sex was specialized, to ensure a respect and balance about each other’s tasks in society. When they are grown men and women, though, the men drink, build, hunt and defend; women cook, treat, clean and love.
You have to grab a little more up.
Girl (noticing his presence):
You’re grabbing the sword handle too close to the pommel. You should grab it a little more up.
Alright, I’ll try that next time. The class is over, I have to go now.
Ri-Rihanne, wait… So, everything’s good with you?
Yes, and you? Look, I’m sorry, I really have to go.
Meresin (trying to look calm):
He stopped there, watching her leave.
Yes, you never think about her.
Meresin (got spooked because he didn’t notice his friend approach):
You… Don’t you have an ugly stupid girl to kiss?
Nice, avoid the question, and don’t talk about something that is important to you.
Meresin (starting to walk):
You think you kissing ugly stupid girls doesn’t affect me? I talk to you a lot, what will people think? I like that kind of girls too?
Marco (walking with him):
I give up… You want to know what I discovered in combat class?
You don’t know how to use a sword?
Marco (ignoring Meresin’s remark):
My father’s team beat your father’s team last night on training assault.
What? My father’s team is unbeatable, they have The Bull.
Well, it seems wits beat brute force.
You really believe that?
Now I do.
Who defeated Titanus?
I have no idea.
So, someone beat The Bull and that man’s name isn’t chanted in the streets? Isn’t being told along with that crappy story? Right…
Anyway, I suppose you miss being defeated by me, in a sword fight?
Oh, you still remember that one time, you have great memory.
Maybe last time I hit you with my shield in the head made you lose memory, I beat you every day. Except last three days, you’ve been hiding at your home.
I wasn’t hidden; I was helping Sir Malko training the kids, doing something useful, you know, you should try sometimes.
Yarr, sure. Want to go sword fighting or not?
Not in the mood. And today I have to be home by midday, or my mother will chop my head off.
Marco (flapping his arms, imitating a chicken):
Boc, boc, boc, boc, boc, boc, boc, boc...
Meresin stood there watching his friend doing the chicken imitation, when he finished, Meresin looked on him pitifully.
So, you changed your mind?
You’re ridiculous, and your girlfriend Jalla was watching that… Look behind.
Marco blushed and looked behind: no one was there. When he turned back to Meresin, he was already walking away. Marco walked faster to meet him.
It’s not midday yet, I can kick your butt two or three times before midday.
Not in the mood, really, maybe later, I've got to go do something else now.
Marco (stopped walking with Meresin):
You’re going to watch Rihanne again? That’s just sad… Leave her be… Forget about her.
Meresin (kept walking without looking back):
I’m not going to see no stupid Rihanne. Bye!
Meresin left the school gardens, headed down the hill, along the main road, towards the South Gate of the village, someone called his name but he just ignored it and started to walk fast, he passed the gates, and when there was no more stone road, but grass, he started running, then faster, and faster, and faster. When he was far enough from everyone, tears started pouring from his eyes, but he just kept running faster. He ran into the forest south of the village, jumping roots, evading branches, deep, deep into the forest, until he turned West and walked out of the forest to a green and white field, stopped running and let himself fall with his back to the ground. He closed his eyes, sun beating on his face, and just stood there hearing the loud sound of his heart beating. There were lots of flowers there, they were large, white, with a yellow center and were always turned to the sun. People called them Sunflowers. They somehow gave him peace. After resting a while he got up and walked up to the end of the large piece of land that hold that green and white field. It was a big precipice, at the bottom of it; he could see sand, and the endless sea ahead.
Life in Solimar (Arthur)