When we think of fantasy worlds, many of us think in terms of epic battles, of knights fighting dragons, castles, strange creatures lurking in the woods. But every valiant hero had to grow up somewhere. In the spirit of this I present to you:
Xin Elementary School
Second grade class
Teacher: Mr. Klein
“All right children, let’s settle down,” said Mr. Klein, rapping his quarterstaff thrice on the polished stone floor of the classroom.
“Good morning Mr. Klein,” said twenty-six children in unison, as they did every morning.
Mr. Klein scanned the room, paying special attention to a couple of children who’d needed extra reminders of the school rules these past weeks. School bags all in cubby holes. Shields all neatly hung on pegs, good, good.
“Grethe?” He stared at a red-haired girl with a sprinkling of freckles across her face. “What do we not bring to our desks?”
She blushed. “Bladed weapons larger than our forearm. I’m sorry, Mr. Klein, I just got it as a birthday present and wanted to show to my friend Therese.” She stood, scampered to her cubby hole and set the short sword next to her school bag.
Mr. Klein started to chide her about “running with swords,” but stopped himself. Discipline required a balance, and kids will be kids.
“So children, today we have a special guest, I’d like to welcome Mr Aracyne. He’s a city defender.”
The children broke into excited whispers as Mr Aracyne, clad in his full ceremonial blue silk robe with green needlework in abstract leaf patterns strode into the classroom. He bowed stiffly, greeting the class with, “Good morning, children.”
Mr. Klein continued the introduction. “Does everyone know what a city defender does?”
Thorvald, a boy with bright green eyes and brown hair in a bowl cut thrust his arm skyward and blurted out. “A city defender gets to fire the cannon!”
Mr. Klein started to speak his all too frequent phrase, “Wait until you are called to speak,” but hadn’t made it past the first syllable when a girl with brown eyes, and long black hair in a single braid down her back blurted “The city watch man the cannon, you dummy. The defenders man the lightning throwers!”
“Ooooh! Does that mean you are a mage?”
“Can you do magic? Show us a trick!”
The city defender finally managed to get a phrase in edgewise, “I’m a legal defender. That means I–”
Thorvald this time thrust both hands in the air, simultaneously shouting “You’re a privateer! That’s almost like being a pirate!”
“Xin doesn’t hire privateers, you lunkhead,” said Viggo, thrusting his tiny chest out proudly. “Only mercenaries. But my mother says mercenaries are just a bunch of thugs.
The defender again managed to squeeze in a phrase. “The city defender is a legal position. We defend people in court. People who get in trouble with the rules of our city.”
“Ohhhh….” a half-dozen small voices mumbled in unison, as the excitement level in the room calmed considerably.
“Mr Aracyne is going to tell us today about a very important rule in the city,” said the teacher.
“Don’t use armor-piercing arrows in the playground,” blurted Simon, a boy with green eyes.
“That’s a school rule. And it’s important for your safety.” The defender straightened his posture, pleased that the discussion was finally on track. “But there’s a much more important rule: don’t talk to predators.”
The class fell completely silent, they knew this rule, this was the one their parents rarely joked about.
“Can anyone name the two types of predators we have in our area?”
“Harpies and merfolk,” said Grethe.
“That’s correct,” said the defender.
“What about steppe panthers, aren’t they predators too?” said Simon.
“Can they talk?”
“Then you don’t have to worry about talking to them, do you?”
“I guess so.” Simon shrunk back into his chair.
“Now, children, the law is officially called ‘consorting with predators,’ but we’ll just call it talking. They can be very tricky and mean when they talk to you, so it’s important that we don’t give them the chance.”
“My uncle is a fisherman and he said he saw a mermaid once. She was really pretty,” said Therese.
“He rowed his boat out to go talk to her.”
Therese’s head drooped. “And he got eaten.”
Mr. Aracyne used the moment of glum silence to continue his story. “And because of this, the law about talking to predators is very serious indeed.”
“Talk to predators and they cut off your head!” shouted Thorvald.
“And stick it on a pole by the front gate!” added Viggo.
“Do you cut off people’s heads?” asked Simon.
“Show us your axe!”
“I am a defender. I help the city find the truth. What if you are accused of talking to a predator, but maybe you are innocent. We don’t want the city to cut off your head by mistake, now do we?” The defender straightened his posture, wishing at this point that his ceremonial robes were a bit more imposing. Perhaps with a few armor plates. Maybe some spikes and skulls.
“Is that like a detective?” asked Grethe.
“Ohh, my dad read me this book about a detective: Frans Lassen, P.I.,” said Thorvald. “He’s an elf in the city of Arania. He carries this big revolver and wears a cool hat, and–”
“The constable actually handles the investi–”
The recess bell rang, sparing the defender further interruption.
“No running in the classroom.” Mr. Klein’s admonishment seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Grethe darted for the door. “Let’s play harpies and heroes. Simon, you’re the harpy.”
“No fair! I was the harpy last time. Why do I always have to be the harpy?”
“Great talk,” said Mr. Klein. “Maybe you can talk to the third grade class next week.”
“You know, I think I’d rather try my luck with the harpies.”