The River – A Dresden Jakobs short story

Coming to you after a lengthy silence (sorry! I’m such a consistent blogger… #sarcasm) with another Dresden Jakobs short story! This one 2k words and much less sad. In fact, it’s almost all light-hearted. other than poor Regulus has difficulty with light-hearted, but I tried, haha.

So you if you’re curious what teen Regulus and Dresden goofing off looks like…read on!

“Okay, first of all, that was a dirty and underhanded move, and you know it.” Regulus shoved Dresden’s shoulder hard enough to make Dresden stagger a step sideways, but he was grinning. Sweat glistened on Regulus’ face and stuck in his patchy stubble. It was a constant source of disappointment to Regulus that, at seventeen, he could barely manage a decent layer of stubble, while Dresden’s beard was already thick at sixteen. They both stank from their afternoon of training. Training in the heat of the day was awful, but Hendrick and his friends avoided the training yard when the sun was hottest, providing Regulus and Dresden a chance to train unbothered.

“No, see, there’s no such thing as a dirty and underhanded move in a fight.” Dresden would have pushed Regulus right back, but they couldn’t risk someone seeing him appear to attack his master.

Kimberly castle towered not far behind them as they walked across the field at the rear of the castle. Any guard on patrol or servant going about their tasks or even one of the Kimberlys could see them, and Kimberly seemed to always be waiting for another chance to humiliate or hurt Regulus. Thankfully, Regulus was good at denying Kimberly any openings, and Dresden had learned to do the same.

“Hmmm, sounds like something a cheater would say.” Regulus laughed. “Admit it, you cheated, Jakobs.”

“Yes, master.”

Regulus flinched. “Not like that,” he whispered. “It wasn’t an order.”

Dresden’s face heated. Over the last three years, the response had become rote. Regulus said Jakobs, Dresden said yes, master. Or, on occasion, no, master. They still blurred the lines between servant and friend, more so as the belting Regulus had taken for Dresden became a distant memory, but Regulus strictly enforced the Jakobs/master rule of address. It did help deter Kimberly’s wrath. And had become so normal, it didn’t bother Dresden anymore. Most of the time.

“Well, then, no, I didn’t cheat. Father says, if you’re fighting to survive, you do what you have to in order to live. Anything is fair in war, so there’s no such thing as cheating in a fight.”

Regulus chuckled. “Your father is a philosophical shepherd.”

“No, he’s a practical one.” Dresden shrugged. “My parents grew up in a borderland in Carasom, between feuding warlords. Dangerous area, everyone knew how to fight to protect their family. That’s why they moved to Monparth. And why he started training me with the scimitars at six, as his father trained him.”

“Hm.” Regulus’ expression sobered. “In such a situation, when you’re fighting to protect your family…” He nodded. “You do what you must to survive and save others. Protecting those you care about is more important than your personal honor.”

Regulus frowned, his brows pinching as he looked lost in thought. Dresden wondered if he was thinking about that awful belting. Regulus shook his head and smiled.

“But, when it’s not a matter of life and death, honor matters, which is why I’m giving you three seconds’ head start to the river.”

Dresden scowled. “Now that’s insult—”

“Go! One—”

Dresden took off at a run, grinning over his shoulder as Regulus counted off two and three and followed him. A stitch in his side developed almost immediately, his aching body protesting running after three hours of sword practice. He pushed past the pain, determined to win this time as he leapt over a low dry-stone wall and skirted a bush. The sound of his own labored breathing filled his ears. He wound through a grove of trees. The wide and deep bend of the river came into view across the grassy pasture. A couple cows were drinking on the far side. Poor things were going to have quite a fright. Dresden leaned forward, fighting his burning calves and the pinching in his side.

“So close,” Regulus shouted as he sped past.

Dresden tried to catch up, but Regulus’ legs were too accursedly long. Regulus leapt into the river with a terrific splash. The cows lowed and skittered in panic. Dresden jumped into the river. The water was startlingly cold, and he resurfaced with a yell.

“Nope!” Regulus wrapped his arm around Dresden’s shoulders, wrestling him back under. “Losers get submerged!”

Dresden dunked under and broke out of Regulus’ grip. He burst back up and splashed Regulus, laughing. “Unchivalrous!”

“Says the man who kicked up dirt in my face!” Regulus laughed, a wide grin on his face as he jumped on Dresden’s back and pushed him back under.

Dresden grabbed Regulus’ shirt and pulled him under, then climbed up Regulus until he was sitting on his shoulders. “You’re a sorry loser.”

“You’re a sorry runner.” Regulus pushed Dresden off his shoulders, sending him tumbling back into the water with a splash.

Dresden came up sputtering and found Regulus leisurely floating on his back. “You have an unfair advantage, and you know it.” Dresden splashed Regulus’ face, and Regulus blinked rapidly in surprise. “You want to grow up to be a troll or something? You done growing yet?”

“I gave you a head start.” Regulus ducked under, and when he came back up, he spit a stream of water into Dresden’s face.

“Ugh, charming.” Dresden wiped off his face but couldn’t stop smiling. Times like this, hidden from view from the castle, just for a moment, they weren’t master and servant. They were friends. As much as a master and servant could be friends.

“What do you think,” a light female voice said, “if we ask, will they take off their shirts?”

They spun toward the bank they’d leapt from. Lady Brigid, looking like a dream in a pale blue dress that hugged her curves and bared her shoulders, stood near the bank. Her brown hair fell in soft waves down her back. One of her friends was with her. Lady Margaret’s ginger hair was half up in intricate braids and she wore a peach-colored gown with a maroon belt that accentuated her waist. One of Lady Brigid’s handmaids, her black tresses tied back in a bun, trailed behind them. Kiara. Dresden sent a smile Kiara’s way as his thoughts wandered to a lovely night a few weeks ago, involving a bonfire and a stolen kiss…

“I think if we ordered Jakobs to, he’d have to obey us, wouldn’t he?” Brigid grinned wickedly, her eyes sparkling.

“That seems right to me.” Margaret laughed. “Take off your shirt, Jakobs.”

Dresden flushed and looked helplessly to Regulus. Regulus looked unamused, but then a relaxed smile slid over his features.

“Ladies, my servant need only obey me. But more importantly, it is my duty to ensure your innocence is protected.”

Brigid’s smile twitched like she was trying not to laugh. “Come, Regulus. As soaked as you are, we won’t be seeing that much more.”

“We did walk all the way out here.” Margaret winked. “And not to see cows.”

“Um…” Regulus cleared his throat. “Pardon?”

“I know you often come here after training.” Brigid’s smile turned teasing.

Dresden mentally cursed. If the ladies knew of their swimming routine, Hendrick might as well. Regulus would realize this, and insist they act more formal and distanced.

“And,” Brigid blushed, “we can’t get a good look at you in the training yard.”

Dresden’s face burned so hot he wanted nothing more than to duck under the water. He glanced over at Regulus. Regulus had turned cherry red.

“Such admissions are inappropriate,” Regulus said quietly.

“Oh, stop being so chivalrous.” Margaret stepped closer. “You’d be more comfortable with your shirts off instead of weighing you down with all that water, wouldn’t you?”

Dresden glanced at Kiara. She was blushing, but also looked like she was trying not to laugh…and a little eager. Well, if that’s what it took to get another kiss… He looked at Regulus, waiting for some indication of what to do. Regulus looked as uncertain as Dresden felt.

Brigid stepped close to the bank. “Oh, it’s just some harmless fun!”

“My lady,” Regulus’ voice was firm, “your father would not approve.”

“Please.” Margaret rolled her eyes. “Scared of Lord Kimberly, Master Hargreaves?” She fluttered her eyes at Regulus.

Brigid’s smile faltered. Regulus lowered his head, not looking at the girls. Dresden could practically hear the echo of the belt slapping against Regulus’ back.

Brigid took Margaret’s arm. “Let’s leave them be.”

“What?” Margaret frowned. “But—”

“Let’s go, Margaret!” Brigid pulled Margaret away.

Kiara stalled, still standing near the riverbank. She looked at the retreating ladies as Dresden flopped back to float on the calm surface, feeling relieved but also a little disappointed to be denied the chance to show off. Kiara looked back at them. “I have to admit, I’m disappointed. I was curious, Master Hargreaves.”

Regulus made an odd squeaking noise.

“What, not me?” Dresden straightened to stare at Kiara, offended.

Kiara grinned, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “Oh, that’s a sight I’ve already managed to glimpse.” Her smiled turned seductive. “Not that I’m uninterested in taking a closer look.” She spun away and hurried after the ladies.

Dresden gaped at her back. Wait…what? When?

Uproarious laughter invaded his thoughts. Regulus splashed him. “She likes you! I wonder if it was all her idea.” Regulus splashed him again. “What’s her name?”

“Kiara,” Dresden mumbled.

“Kiara.” Regulus laughed. “As awkward as that was—especially now that every time I see Brigid and Margaret, I’m going to be self-conscious—this is wonderful. Now I can tease you about Kiara.”

“Tease away.” Dresden pushed Regulus over. “I already kissed her.”

“You what?” Regulus chuckled and pushed him back. “Scoundrel!”

Dresden grinned. “I’m pretty sure Lady Margaret would gladly kiss you—”

“Shut up.” Regulus pushed Dresden under.

“—if you’re interested,” Dresden finished as he popped back up.

“One year, and we’re free. I’m not risking that by kissing a pretty girl.” Regulus made little waves with his arms, staring at the ripples.

“So you admit she’s pretty? Because she definitely thinks you’re handsome.”

Regulus scowled and splashed him again, but amusement showed in his eyes. “Come on. We need to get cleaned up before supper.”

They moved to the bank, but as Dresden started to climb up, Regulus grabbed his shirt and yanked him back into the river. When he resurfaced, Regulus was standing on the bank grinning while squeezing excess water out of his shirt. “What are you still splashing around for?”

Dresden rolled his eyes and clambered onto the bank. “I’ve half a mind to push you back in and make a run for it.”

“Bad plan.” Regulus shook his head, his expression serious as water sprayed from his hair. “You run too slowly for that.”

“Rude. You’ll see. I’ll win one of these days.”

“Sure. The same day you beat me without scimitars or cheating.” Regulus headed back toward the castle, and Dresden followed.

He wouldn’t admit it, but he knew he couldn’t defeat Regulus with a broadsword. He could barely hold his own against him with his scimitars, and they were lighter, faster weapons and had the advantage of two blades to one. Which was why Regulus loved fighting Dresden when he used the scimitars. He said it was a better challenge.

“I am sorry about getting dirt in your eyes.”

Regulus chuckled. “Only be sorry that I’m not afraid to use that move on you now.”

Dresden sighed. Oh. Great.

“Oh,” Regulus said, “Lady Margaret being here likely means Lord Hatan is here, too, so I won’t be able to sneak off from supper early. You’ll have a little extra free time. You know, if you wanted to see if Kiara still wants to see your muscled chest.”

“Shut up.” Dresden quickly glanced around, hoping no one had heard him silence his master. No one seemed to be around as they walked into the castle’s shadow.

“But I’ll need these clothes cleaned and hung out to dry first, Jakobs.”

“Yes, master.” He smiled as they went in the servant’s entrance so as not to drip water in the halls, and started making plans to pick some flowers before paying a visit to Kiara.

Thanks for reading! If you missed the last Dresden short story (which is referenced in this one), you can read it here.


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