“And that,” Galahad said, “is why it’s wrongheaded and intellectually dishonest to assume that we mere mortals can read the Will of Wright in the way events work out.” He beamed at Kay and Freddy. “Make sense?”
“You seriously believe,” Kay replied, “that the Lord Wright doesn’t favor some Sims over others?”
“The Book of Wright tells us that he loves all of his creations equally.”
“He loves the cow demons as much as he loves us?” Kay replied.
Why was Kay smiling so? It certainly wasn’t a cheerful topic, or a funny one. But it didn’t take much to make Kay grin like that — or at least Galahad found the task to be absurdly easy. Too bad he only rarely meant to make Kay so happy. Nothing against Kay, but Galahad certainly didn’t devote his whole life and thoughts to making Kay grin. And yet it seemed to happen whenever the two of them met.
But Galahad had more important things to wonder about, namely how to answer Kay’s question. “Well,” he mused, “do you think your father loves you less when you’re in trouble and Prince Tom isn’t?”
“When does that happen?” Kay laughed.
“Oh … oh, good point …” Galahad pursed his lips together. “Well, what about Princess Jess, then? She’s usually not in trouble when the two of you are?”
“Well, I guess not.”
“See, the Lord Wright is like a father to us all — so just because the cow demons are currently in trouble, it doesn’t mean he loves them any less. Just that … well, he’s punishing them right now. For their own good.”
“Punishing them for eternity for their own good? Last I checked, our fathers punished us so we wouldn’t repeat whatever stupid thing we did that got us into trouble, and repeat it in such a way that would get us into more trouble later on. Eh, Freddy, isn’t that how it worked in your house?” Kay asked, nudging Freddy.
“Huh?” Freddy asked, jumping. He’d been distracted ever since they had walked into the coffee shop, Galahad noticed. It was very odd.
“Why did your father punish you?”
“He didn’t punish me!” Freddy snapped.
“Er, your mother then?” Galahad asked.
“Well, I assume, if your father wasn’t the disciplinarian, then your mother was …”
“It wasn’t her idea, and even if it was, it isn’t a punishment!”
“Um, Freddy?” Kay put a hand on his shoulder. “Allow me to explain. We’re talking about in general. You know. Over the course of your entire life. Not about any … shall we say, raven-haired lasses currently discussing dress patterns or what-have-you with my sister.”
Huh? Galahad glanced over his shoulder, where Freddy had been watching ever since they selected these seats. He saw the Princess, and then …
Oh. Lady Clarice!
“Oh, we weren’t talking about Lady Clarice!” Galahad answered, perhaps too loudly, to judge by Freddy’s mortified expression and Kay’s shushing motions. “Well, we weren’t,” Galahad continued, if in a softer tone. “I don’t think marrying her would be a punishment, anyway.”
Freddy almost smiled, but Kay asked, “Then who would it be a punishment to marry?”
“I … I don’t know. Let me think about that …”
Kay winked at Freddy, and Freddy managed a real smile in reply.
“Are we limiting the choices to women of the proper class?” Galahad asked.
“If we weren’t, who would you say?” Kay replied.
Freddy’s jaw dropped and Kay’s eyes went wide. “How in Wright’s name did you come up with Sir Bors?” Kay asked.
“Because he’s married,” Galahad answered, “and because he makes his wife miserable, so being married to him would be a horrible punishment for anyone, wouldn’t it be?”
Kay whistled, but Freddy tilted his head a little to one side. “Wait. He — he makes his wife miserable? How miserable?”
“Freddy …” Kay started.
“Oh, she’s in terrible shape!” Galahad answered. “When I went home for the yearly break, I heard my mother and Leona talking about her. Lady Claire was sitting all by herself in her room during the party for her new baby twins, and Leona said it was all Sir Bors’s fault.”
Freddy cast a quick glance at Kay, as if to ask for confirmation. Kay could only shrug.
“Why would it all be Sir Bors’s fault?” Freddy asked.
“Oh, Mum and Leona were saying that Lady Claire was sad about having another daughter, because of what Sir Bors did with Lady Lynn and Lady Clarice and Angelique.”
“Galahad!” Kay hissed, while, “What?!” Freddy asked.
Kay just closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.
Galahad glanced between the two of them, biting his lower lip — but Freddy’s narrowed eyes gave him no excuse to back away. “Er, well, you don’t think the girls are … are the way they are naturally, do you?”
“Why would I think anything else?”
“I don’t know,” Galahad murmured. “Maybe because they’re a lot different whenever you get them away from their father.”
Freddy winced. “I’ve never seen any of them with their father.”
“Don’t worry about it, Fred,” Kay put in, clapping Freddy on the shoulder. “It’s — look, the de Ganis girls are … are …”
“They’re a lot nicer than they’ll act around strange men, you know? And — and other relationships notwithstanding, to them, or rather to Clarice, you’re still a strange man –”
“Even though they’re going to be getting married as soon as they graduate?” Galahad asked.
Freddy flushed and Kay shook his head. “Yes. Yes, even though they’re practically betrothed. She still doesn’t know you that well, mate,” Kay said, clapping a hand against Freddy’s shoulder.
“She doesn’t seem to want to get to know me, either,” Freddy muttered to the table.
“That’s very silly of her. Not logical at all,” Galahad replied. “And it’s not –”
“Not logical, like you said, Galahad, not logical at all,” Kay interrupted, jerking his head in Freddy’s direction and glaring.
“That wasn’t what I was –”
“I know, I know, Galahad, my man, you don’t like to repeat yourself — but I think ‘not logical’ covers everything that needs to be said — don’t you?”
“Well, no, what I was going to say was –”
“But Galahad! What other comment needs to be made? After all, she’s a woman, naturally she’s not going to be logical!”
What Galahad had been about to say was that being so cold and standoffish to Freddy wasn’t like Clarice, but Kay’s statement blew that clear from his mind. “Kay! That’s a horrible thing to say! Of course women can be logical. Why, haven’t you heard of the medical texts of Circe of Beaker?”
Freddy cocked his head a little to one side, but Kay replied, “No, we’ve never heard of them. Do tell us about them, Galahad.”
“That’s odd, Freddy, you should remember them, we did a whole project on them for our Simology class last year –”
“Well, I do, so — ow!” Freddy glared at Kay, but Kay only gave him a smile that would better grace the face of a Most Holy Llama than the most prosaic Kay. “How about,” Freddy continued, rubbing his side, “you tell Kay all about them, since I know you can do a much better job than I ever could.”
“All right! Circe of Beaker was a tribeswoman from the Municipium Inusitatum Desert — it used to be part of the Reman Empire, but the Remans pulled out of there about a century ago. Anyway, she lived about four hundred years ago. She was a great doctor, a brilliant one, so good that she was accused of witchcraft in order to get her results!”
“Because all women who are good doctors must be witches,” Kay murmured, nudging Freddy.
“Well, as it turns out, she wasn’t a witch, but she … wasn’t very nice, otherwise. She would capture different Sims and perform experiments on them. On the one hand the experiments were clearly unethical, but on the other … well, she developed a method of experimentation that really helped Sims to figure things out. And the thing is, the method worked whether you were doing torturous experiments or if you just wanted to find out if plants really do grow better if you walk to them. Here,” Galahad said, starting to rise, “I’ll explain it to you as we walk back –”
Galahad was never quite certain what happened next. He knew he was getting up, he knew that he brushed against someone or something — and the next thing he knew, he was having a pudgy finger jabbed into his chest by a very angry-looking fellow-student.
“Watch where you’re going, peasant!”
“Huh?” Galahad glanced at the man working the coffee bar, who was the only person in the room who could truthfully be called a peasant, but he was carefully looking in any direction that did not include Galahad.
“Do you have any idea who you just bumped into?”
“Somebody who needs to get his eyes checked?” Galahad asked, tilting his head a little to one side. He saw Kay’s jaw fall and watched as Freddy leapt from his chair.
“WHAT?” the other man shouted.
“Well, you’re calling me a peasant,” Galahad replied, trying his best to be helpful. “When anyone who didn’t need his eyes checked could see that I’m wearing chain mail –”
“The lowliest town guards wear chain mail, peasant!”
“And a noble surcoat?” Galahad asked.
“Galahad, just –” Freddy was saying.
“You say out of it!” the very angry young man in blue snapped, shoving Freddy. Freddy stumbled a step back and Galahad thought he heard a feminine gasp.
“Hey, now that’s not very nice –”
“And you keep quiet until you’re spoken to!” the man in blue shouted, poking Galahad again. Galahad rubbed his chest. This really was getting old.
“I really don’t think this kind of hostility is necessary, um — whoever you are,” Galahad murmured.
“Don’t you have any idea who you’re talking to?”
“No. You’ve asked me that already, but you haven’t gotten around to mentioning your name.”
“I am Duke Arundel of Weatherell*!”
“Oh, is that in Gaul?” Galahad asked, turning his head a little to one side.
“Of course it is!”
“What a coincidence! My family is from Gaul originally! The du Lacs, perhaps you’ve –”
Duke Arundel leaned close to him. His breath smelled of sour wine and cheese that had been let out to sit for far, far too long. “You idiot. I recognized your surcoat. The du Lacs indeed! Don’t you know your own family history?”
Galahad knew that the du Lacs were originally from Gaul, and that the founder of their family in Glasonland had a long history of heroic deeds that merited the lands and title he was given —
“You’re but a bastard line of the noble house of Benoic!”
Well, that would explain why Great-Great-Great-Great … how many greats are there in there, anyway? Well, however many it was, it would explain why Grandfather Nascien needed to leave Gaul in order to win fame and glory for himself.
“And that,” Duke Arundel whispered, his cheesy breath filling Galahad’s face, “is why I wonder why you do not apologize and make way for your betters — peasant.”
“My lord,” Freddy injected, stepping between Galahad and this Duke who clearly had too much time on his hands, “is not the true measure of nobility not how a nobleman treats his equals or superiors, but how he treats his inferiors?”
“Do you claim to be either, peasant?”
“No, but –”
“Then I fail to see by what right you interpose between me and this fool!”
“By right of friendship, my lord.”
“Friendship? Friendship? Friendship gives you the right to put your nose into my business? Friendship allows you to stick your dirty common nose where it doesn’t belong?”
“If mere noble blood — and no noble actions that I can detect –” Galahad heard another feminine gasp and turned to see Lady Clarice even paler than she was normally, “gives you the right to harass a well-meaning, if somewhat clumsy, fellow-student, then surely friendship gives me the right to speak on his behalf.”
“Well-meaning? Well-meaning? He deliberately knocked into me!”
“I’d be willing to swear that he didn’t see you, my lord.”
“Then he should watch where he is going! And apologize!”
“As for the former, I am certain he will in the future … and as for the latter, with all due respect, my lord, you didn’t give him much of a chance.”
“You did just start poking me,” Galahad put in, trying to be helpful.
“And if I were to give him a chance, as you put it, would he apologize?”
Freddy glanced at Galahad, who instantly replied, “I’m sorry I bumped into you, my lord. I didn’t mean to.”
“Then I suppose,” the Duke yawned, “that I have no further quarrel with you.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
“After all, if a nobleman is measured by his treatment of his inferiors, then I supposed it would not be particularly noble of me to thrash a peasant for such a small slight — and your friend has proven himself to be a peasant. No real nobleman would offer an apology so belittling to his honor unless he lost a duel first.”
Kay help his hand firmly over Galahad’s mouth, so that it was not until after the Duke left that Galahad was able to say, “What an idiot.”
“You shan’t catch any of us arguing with that,” Kay replied. “Now, Galahad and Freddy, my friends, what say you that we get out of here before Freddy has to be Galahad’s knight in shining armor again?”
Freddy snickered and Galahad chuckled. “Good point. Now, what was I saying before Duke Arundel interrupted us?”
“Lord only knows,” Freddy murmured, as they laughed and made their way to exit.
They had just made it down the front steps when Galahad heard the sound of small be-slippered feet following them. “Hold on a second,” Kay said, “I think I forgot something.”
And so great was Galahad’s trust in his friend that he did not look back when he heard the hurried consultation with a female voice, or even the sound of flesh hitting flesh.
*Random dormie. We’ll see how long nouniprotect lets him last. 😉