The Baron’s Prize

Chapter 22

Swordplay

The two men listened to the dowager talk about her son and grandchildren. Jensen preferred not having to converse at the table so he was happy with listening to the ramblings of his aunt. Jared wasn’t used to it and took Jensen’s quiet as the norm at the table here.

Both men’s minds were wandering when Jensen heard his name. He shook his head and turned toward his aunt, knowing he was caught not paying attention.

“I would have thought you were raised better than this, Jensen.”

Jared looked at his husband’s red face and was grateful she had not spoken to him.

“I’m sorry, Aunt. I don’t know what came over me.”

“I imagine living at Avenleigh with your father and Jessica, it was most likely a survival tactic. Don’t let it happen again.”

“I won’t. What were you going to ask me?”

“You have lots of free time here,” she pointed out.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jensen replied warily.

“Why don’t you teach your husband to fight like you do?”

“What?”

“I mentioned to your aunt that I would like to learn your sword techniques. You’re good, Jensen,” Jared commented.

The duke’s cheeks reddened. “Yes, I could do that.”

“Good! I have plenty of open gardens, and there’s that area on my son’s lands where you used to practice.”

Jensen looked up at his husband, “After lunch?”

“Yes, and any time you feel up to it.”

Jensen stared across at the baron, picking up on the challenge. “I’m always up for a duel.”

“Are you through eating?”

“Yes, I am, Jared. If you will excuse us, Aunt Margaret?”

The older woman smirked. “Go, compete with each other. Make it a game where the winner gets a prize.”

Jensen turned red as he left the room, heading upstairs for his sword.

…..

Jared followed the duke towards the rose gardens. Jensen removed his sword from its sheath and turned towards the taller man. “We’ve only fought once, and it was in the dark during a dire situation. I want to see what you do know before we start.”

Jared removed his sword and went into a stance. Jensen smirked and waited on him. Jared’s right eyebrow rose in surprise. His husband entered no stance at all. “What are you doing, Jensen?”

“Your form and stance mean you intend to defend. I’ll just give you time to get nervous and then take you down.”

“Damn it, Jensen. That’s the first stance I was taught.”

“Yes, it would be. After all, Jared, they would want you back for the next lesson.”

Jared grew angry and leaped into an attack which Jensen easily avoided. Turning, the baron went after the duke. Within five minutes, the taller man’s sword was on the ground about ten feet away and Jensen’s was pointed at his throat.

“Never allow anger to control you. Using a sword is complex. You have to have a clear mind and the ability to read your opponent.”

“You were stabbed at the convent.”

“Yes, I was. I was trying to escape death and found myself fighting ten men in a very dark hallway. I was injured, but I walked away, leaving ten dead men behind me.”

“Understood.”

“Now, if you’re serious?”

The baron nodded.

Jensen suddenly leaped into an attack, and the duel started. Jared was a good swordsman, Jensen thought as they slowly circled each other. The baron preferred to rush into his opponent. Size can help with that, but it also made the larger man a target for anyone who knew how to fight. He faced his opponent head on.

Jensen did a couple of quick steps and had Jared backing up, trying to avoid being stabbed.

The duke stopped and shook his head. “I think I’ve won this duel, Jared. For the remainder of the lesson, we are going to work on footwork and body position.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

“How have you stayed alive in combat or do they all fight like you?” Jensen stared at him and muttered, “No, don’t answer that.”

….

The remainder of the afternoon was spent with Jensen running the older man through drills. When the duke finally called a halt to the training, the baron was frustrated and angry. He grabbed his sword and took off towards the house, leaving the younger man standing in the rose garden, shaking his head.

…..

The dowager was entering her favorite room when Jared stormed into the house.

“Are you all right, Jared?”

“Your nephew is a slavemaster!”

Jensen, entering quietly, stood and listened to the tirade. His husband called him a number of choice names. He blushed slightly, hoping his aunt wouldn’t know them but he wasn’t hopeful.

“I’m through!”

Margaret remained silent; she looked over the baron’s shoulder towards her nephew who had heard all that was said. Jared turned and stared at his husband.

“Jared, I only wanted to keep you alive when you come up against a competent swordsman. I won’t make any more attempts. I apologize for making you work.”

The duke turned and left the building.

Jared stood there, mouth open, face white. Taking a deep breath, he headed towards the door.

“Jared?”

“Countess?”

“Leave him be. He needs to calm down just as you do. I’m guessing that the Commander of Morgan’s armies is not the swordsman my nephew expected. Neither of you handled it well?”

“No, ma’am. We didn’t.”

“Go for a walk, but let him seek you out.”

….

The baron walked the gardens and headed towards the trees where the tables were. He saw the duke sitting at a table, chair pushed out, his head bowed between his legs where his hands were clasped tightly.

For a second he almost went to the man, but he remembered what he Dowager had said. He turned to leave, when he heard something.

“Jared?”

The baron stopped but did not turn around. He waited.

After a few minutes, a hand gently touched his arm. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Yes, Jensen?”

“I’m sorry. I…the more I fought with you and realized how little you knew, it scared me.”

The taller man turned and stared into the tear filled green eyes. “Scared?”

“Anyone with training from a master could take you down and kill you. I thought..I..Jared, you and your men need training badly.”

“We put Morgan on the throne.”

“But you didn’t have to fight in any serious battles. It was all but handed to you. You’re good, Jared, but not good enough.”

“So you were afraid and acted out?”

Jensen turned red, “Yes, I did. Damnation, Jared, what have you done to me?”

“What?”

“I’ve never been like this. I don’t know me right now. I’m sorry.”

“So love is making you afraid for me and because you don’t want to admit that you acted out?”

“No!”

“Jensen?”

The green eyes stared in fear. “All right, damn you! Yes!”

“That I can deal with. I’ll get Chris and eight of my men. I will be with them, and you can train us as your master taught you. Just a promise that you don’t act out any more. We both know the reason now.”

“Okay. Send a note to Chris. We probably should have them here anyway.”

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