Tengorn laughed freely, the first time for weeks, at his father’s jokes. The King was always making jokes, some so bad that they were funny. The two of them were getting the horses ready for a journey and they were enjoying the time in each other’s company.
Tengorn’s father, King Folcwine, made many visits around the Riddermark to check that everything was in order. Often he would take his two eldest sons with him, but this trip was an exception. Fengel and Tengorn had now been deemed old enough to join them on the visit. This had caused an uproar with their older sister Tana, and eventually she had been allowed to come as well.
Almost as soon as Tengorn had finished the three horses he was tacking up his brothers and sister appeared, carrying the provisions for the journey. Tana smiled at him as she came up to bring her horse out of the stable.
“Excited?” She asked, patting him on the head.
Tengorn was quivering with excitement. He nodded energetically but pushed her hand off his head. Tana laughed at his action.
“Oh yes, all grown up now. I’m afraid you’ll always be my baby brother and no amount of growing is going to change that.”
Her laugh had not been mean; Tengorn knew that she was only teasing him. He didn’t mind that. Not like Fengel’s form of teasing. Tengorn cast a nervous glance over to where his brothers stood. Folcred and Fastred stood tall against the rising morning sun. They teased Fengel, gently knocking into him until he fell over. The twins laughed and walked over to their father. Fengel picked himself up and glared at their retreating backs. Tengorn shivered slightly. He hoped he wouldn’t have to ride next to Fengel on the way.
Before they left, the King called all his children to stand around him. His face which had been full of laughter earlier was suddenly serious.
“Now, this is going to be a new experience to you. The village we are going to is very poor. It will not be like the comforts you have here. Many of the people that live in the village have had bad experiences with the Dunlendings. I do not want any behaviour that is rude or ungrateful, they have the right to be treated with respect just like any other person you will meet. If there is any bad behaviour we will all be going straight back. Understand?”
Four of the five children nodded that they understood. Fengel didn’t look like he had listened to a word his father had said. The King turned to him sharply.
“Fengel? Promise me you will be good.”
Fengel looked into his father’s eyes and nodded slowly, almost sulkily. He sidled up to Tengorn and whispered in his ear as quietly as he could.
“He never said I couldn’t do anything to you.”
Tengorn looked back, trying to hide his fear. He tried to stare his brother out but he could not face those hard, cold eyes for so long. Luckily Folcred came up just in time to stop anything else Fengel might have said.
“You two had better get on your horses now or you’ll be left behind.”
Fengel looked in annoyance at his older brother.
“You’re not on your horse.” He pointed out.
“I know that. I left my water in the stables so I’m just going to get it. I will only take a few minutes so you had better hurry up and keep quiet.”
Tengorn could see Fengel biting back an angry response. Folcred might seem calm, serious and quiet but he was one of the best fighters in Edoras. Even Fengel at the height of his fury would not dare to answer back to Folcred.
“Tengorn! Ride next to me.” The King called. Tengorn beamed happily and rode up to where his father was riding at the front.
“That’s a good lad. I want to keep you close so that I can see when you tire.”
“I won’t tire!” Tengorn protested, annoyed that he was being treated like a baby. It was only after he had said the words that he noticed his father’s grin. He aimed a playful hit at his father’s arm. His father laughed.
“How are your sword skills lessons coming on?” His father asked after a while.
Tengorn reddened slightly.
“Well… not too good really. My teacher expects me to be as good as Folcred and Fastred and I’m not. He keeps talking about how much promise you showed when you were my age as well.” Tengorn put on a husky voice. “I taught your father, you know. Young Prince Folcwine he was then. My best pupil I must say. Best pupil by far. A great swordsman and a great King as well. You could be like him some day Prince Tengorn.”
King Folcwine laughed at Tengorn’s realistic impression of the old swords skills teacher.
“I don’t know about best pupil. I caused him a lot of grief with the tricks I played on him.” A youthful smile spread over Folcwine’s face as he relived past days. Tengorn looked in amazement at his father.
“I cannot believe that you were naughty when you were young.” He said incredulously.
“Oh I don’t know how my poor mother and father coped with children like your Uncle and I. We were such terrors. I remember once, one of the men in Edoras had a garden full of ripe corn. It looked splendid and he knew it. He would boast about it to anyone that would listen so Théol and I decided to teach him a lesson. Late one night we crept down to his house and we began to pick all his eaves of corn. We put them into baskets and then went around the town laying them in the road. Around and around the town we went, with a trail of corn behind us. The next morning the man was furious! He demanded to know who had done it. No-one ever found out that it was us though. Well, except our sister. She was talking about the incident to her friends and we were standing behind her. Me and Théol both yawned very loudly and she turned around to stare at us.
`Why are you so tired?’ She asked.
`We did not get much sleep last night.’ We replied, not untruthfully.
Unfortunately she realised what we had done but she did keep it a secret for us. She always covered up for us.”
Tengorn choked with laughter at the image of his serious looking Uncle and respectable father wandering around the village at the dead of night dropping eaves out of sacks.
The stories of Folcwine’s childhood kept Tengorn amused for the rest of the journey. He did not notice the fading light and he did not notice how tired he was. The group stopped to set up camp and got a fire going. Tengorn could not enjoy the fire, however, he fell asleep almost as soon as he had finished eating. He drowsily made his way to the tent that he and Fastred were sharing, exhausted but happy. He was looking forward to the next few days of journeying. With his father around Fengel couldn’t do much harm.