Dragon, 7

All Life Choices are Valid, but Properly Justifying them Makes Things Easier

Ao3 Link

“Why don’t you want to be a knight, Owen?”

Owen glanced over at Gabrielle. She had offered to walk him out of town and nobody else was around. “You’re the one who said it wasn’t for everyone.”

“It’s not,” she said, looking at him strangely. “But most boys your age think it’s for them.”

“I’m not that much younger than you,” Owen grumbled. “Is it that strange that someone knows what he wants?”


Owen sighed. He wanted to be on the road and away, chasing after Gavin. He knew that Gavin was fine, he really did, but the longer they were apart, the more time Owen’s mind had to spin tales about what might be happening to Gavin in his absence. “What made you want to be a knight?”

“What, women can’t be knights?”

“I didn’t say that.” They hadn’t crossed swords, but Owen was pretty sure Gabrielle would kill him if they did. What he’d actually wanted to know was why a princess had become a knight, but he couldn’t ask that without her knowing what he’d been told about her. “I’m just curious.”

Gabrielle looked away and for a moment it looked like she might not answer. “I have a younger brother. When I was a little girl I thought I should protect him since I was the older. I had a friend who also had a brother, so we insisted on learning how to fight. I was good at it.”

“I bet.” She’d had a castle full of people to make sure of that, Owen thought, recalling Gavin’s words from a while back. “What about your friend?”

“She was good at it too, but she didn’t become a knight in the end.”

“What happened?”

“She met a boy.” Gabrielle shrugged when she said it, as if it were the stupidest thing she’d ever heard. “She liked him. She thought he might not like her if he knew she could break his face in half, so she took up needlepoint instead. They’re getting married next year.”

“Good for them.”


“But you became a knight.”

“Wanting to protect my brother became wanting to protect other people as well. That’s what we do.” She looked at him. “It’s what you do too, from what I’ve heard. You’d be a good knight.”

“Maybe,” Owen said, looking down the road. The heartfelt feeling that was obvious in Gabrielle’s attempt to protect her brother—Gavin—made Owen feel like an asshole for keeping him from her.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a freerider if that’s what you want to do.” Gabrielle added. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad.”

“I know.” Owen laughed. “I really am happy with the choices I’ve made.” They had led to him meeting Gavin and being able to spend this part of their lives together. He found himself wishing that didn’t have to mean Gavin’s family didn’t get to see him, though.

“You should ride with my company, then.”

Owen turned in surprise. “What?”

She shrugged. “You must have noticed I’ve got freeriders with me already. I could use one more. I’d pay you.”

Owen almost laughed at the fact that the princess was offering him a place working for her. That was exactly what he’d wanted a few months ago. “I can’t,” he said, without even an ounce of regret.

“Because of your partner.”

“Yes,” Owen said. “I have to catch up with him. Otherwise I’ll hear about it.”

“Why did you lie to me about him leaving?”

Owen tensed. “I didn’t.”

“You did. You said he had to go carry an important message to the next village. That really couldn’t have waited until this morning?”

“It was…really important,” Owen said, and he would have been shuffling his feet if they hadn’t been walking.

“I think that your partner didn’t want to meet a bunch of knights. Especially given how long you spent up there talking to him after we got back to the inn, and that you sent the children back to warn him we were coming.” Owen had to stop his hand from drifting down to his sword, remembering that she probably would kill him if he did.

Also, murdering a princess wasn’t really something he was in the market to be doing.

“Owen. Why is your friend afraid of knights? Did he commit a crime?”

“I don’t think I should tell you that.”

“I’ve got more important things to do than hunt down some petty thief.” Gabrielle’s exasperation was pretty clear. “And I don’t imagine you’d be travelling with a murderer or rapist or anything horrid like that. What did he do?”

“He…” Owen bit the inside of his cheek and didn’t answer for a second. He had actually thought up an answer to this question last night just in case it came up, but he wasn’t sure if it would fly. “He failed out of training.”

“Ah.” Gabrielle seemed to accept that, and Owen tried not to do a happy dance. “He wanted to be a knight.”

“Yeah. Turns out he wasn’t good at it, I guess.”

“It’s not for everyone,” Gabrielle repeated. “It doesn’t mean anything, just that his skills weren’t in the same areas as ours.”

“Yeah, I think he gets that.” Gavin was going to laugh at him when he found out about this whole fiction. “But still. It’s a bit of a sore point for him, I think.”

“I suppose that makes sense.” Gabrielle nodded. “Okay. I’m going to let you go, now. I suspect we’ll meet again and you’ve got a partner to catch up to.”

“And you’ve got a brother to rescue,” Owen said, not quite meeting her eye and wishing he didn’t feel like such a shit.

Gabrielle stopped, looked at him in the same way that Gavin sometimes did. “Well. There’s more to you than what’s on the surface, isn’t there?”

“I guess I’m not the only one.”

“I guess not.” They stood looking at each other for a minute before Gabrielle nodded up the road. “Go.”

“Yeah.” Owen mounted his horse, urging it into a trot. Gabrielle watched him and when Owen was a few feet away he stopped. “Gabrielle. If he’s anything like you, Gavin’s fine.”

“I know that,” she called back. “But he’s still my little brother.”


“Owen. Why don’t you want to become a knight?”

Owen thought about not answering. It would be easy to just turn and head up the road, ignore the question. “I used to want to.”

“What happened?”

He thought about Gavin’s smile, and his wit and his determination, and how sure he was that everything was going to work out if they just worked hard enough to make sure it did, and how much faith he had in Owen. And he smiled, shrugged. “I met a boy.”

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