This is not polished. It's just something I had in my head. I hope you like it anyway. :)
The sound of a boy’s boots, repeatedly thudding against wood, was constant in the room. Owen was restless, kicking the legs of his chair, and the movement rattled the silverware on the small dining table. It drew irate looks from the three other youngsters sitting around him. And it brought a stern word of warning from the young woman watching over them.
“Master Owen,” said Claudia, “Cease your kicking at once, and finish your supper.”
For a moment, the noise stopped. Owen scowled, his eyes searching the space around him, and they fell on the silver tray in front of his sister. On it, there was one remaining raspberry tart. It belonged to Thea, and this he knew, as their nurse had issued one to each of the four children sitting at the table. Thea had not yet eaten hers, and Owen eyed it with longing. He could not understand why she always saved her desert for last, but that was her way. In his way of thinking, she did not care for it if she waited so long, so it was only right that he should take it. She would be angry, of course, but if he was quick enough, there would be nothing she could do about it. He made his move…and received a hard slap on the hand. Thea gave him an ugly look, admonishing him.
“That is mine! You have eaten yours already!”
As he nursed his hand, with his lip curled in an angry pout, Claudia came after him next with a harsh scolding.
“Master Owen, if you do not behave, I shall box your ears.”
The warning made him pause. He had received such castigation before, and he knew how unpleasant it was to have his ears simultaneously slapped by a pair of hands. As the threat of punishment loomed over him, he looked over at Thea. And she stuck her tongue out at him. Unable to help himself, he blew a loud and angry raspberry at her.
Claudia's strike came more quickly than he had anticipated. It was painful, and he felt tears welling up in his eyes. Across the table, William was sitting and watching. He said nothing, but he shook his head, looking every bit the older brother as he gave a look of disappointment. Sitting next to William, Evelyn was looking on as well, although her expression was softer. There was a hint of pity in her eyes. But she kept quiet, concentrating on her food. William and Evelyn were always well-behaved. But Owen found it difficult to contain his feelings, particularly when he was angry. And looking at Thea, he found himself enraged by the sly little grin on her face. She always enjoyed seeing him in trouble, when she herself was often at the root of his punishments.
Under Thea’s arm was her favorite toy, made by their mother…a stuffed doll in the shape of a unicorn. Humiliated by Claudia’s reprimand, and furious with Thea for her smugness, he snatched the doll from her arms. And before she could stop him, he ripped its head off and threw the ruined animal on the floor.
A scream of horror belted out of Thea’s mouth. The room erupted in chaos. And Owen ran. He was not a fool. He knew that if he stayed, Claudia would see him severely punished. That was her duty, as their nurse, to see that he was disciplined when the occasion called for it. She reached for him, but he dashed away from her hands, fleeing into the hall. He wasn’t sure where he was running to, but he knew he had to get away, and if possible, find a place to hide. A reprimand was coming, and even at the tender age of four, he knew that no bad deed went without consequence. But he intended to try and hide from it. Perhaps after a time, they would forget about it.
He could only hope.
Standing at the top of the stairs, Evelyn looked down at the hall below, where her mother and father were hosting a banquet with several of their neighbors. It was a noisy affair, so it was unlikely that anyone would know of the commotion upstairs. Children’s concerns, especially ones that were not of a dire matter, would wait until after the guests had gone home. But looking over her shoulder, hearing the crying that was still coming from the nursery, she felt the need to do something. Slowly, she made her way down the stairs.
The guests, even seated at table, were all well above her small height. They hardly noticed her as she quietly slipped by, seeking out her mother. Moving to the chair, she called out softly, and Cassia looked down at her, smiling sweetly, but speaking with motherly firmness. She touched Evelyn’s cheek.
“Darling, what are you doing here? You should be upstairs, having your supper.”
Evelyn replied in a quiet tone. “Mama, Thea is crying. Owen broke her unicorn.”
From his seat at the head of the table, Guy looked down at his daughter. He wore a curious expression. “What has Owen done?”
She went to his side, placing her hands on the arm of his chair.
“He was misbehaving. Claudia punished him. But then he took Thea’s unicorn and ripped it apart. Now Thea is crying.”
Watching her father, Evelyn saw him push his goblet aside as he rose from the table. She was certain he could be counted on to set things in order. And her mother, she knew, would be there to help as well. Cassia stood, and Evelyn felt her mother’s hand holding hers as they went up the stairs.
Mama and Papa will fix everything, she thought. They always do.
As Guy came to the doorway of the nursery, he observed his daughter in the arms of her nurse. His heart ached a little at the sight of her in tears. He was tempted to call her over and coddle her, but it was an impulse he held back on, for it was not his place to rush to her aid. If she came to him, however, it was his duty as a father to care for her. And he was not at all surprised when, upon seeing him, she broke away from Claudia and ran to him with her arms outstretched. He picked her up, and her tears flowed freely against his shoulder. As he gave her a gentle pat on the back, his eyes fell on his wife as she took control of the situation. Cassia’s abilities never ceased to amaze him. He watched her as she spoke calmly to Claudia, who explained what had happened.
“Master Owen ran, my lady. I tried to detain him, but he was too fast for me.”
William, who had been sitting nearby in quiet observance, came forward. His expression was eager. “I think he is hiding, Mama. I will help to find him.”
Cassia touched his cheek. “Thank you, dearest. That would be good of you.” As he hurried from the room, she turned back to Claudia. “See that Thea and Evelyn are put to bed. The master and I will look after Owen once we find him.”
Claudia nodded, and as she took Evelyn by the hand, Cassia bent down to pick up the separated sections of the unicorn. Going to where Guy stood with Thea, she gently touched her daughter’s back. Rubbing her teary eye, Thea looked at her mother. Seeing the toy again, the corners of her mouth turned even further down, but Cassia spoke soothingly to her.
“You can cease your tears, my love. Your beloved doll will be mended, and he will return to you in the morning. I promise.”
A look of hope came to Thea’s eyes. Cassia took her from Guy, looking at him as Thea’s head rested against her shoulder.
“William will help you find Owen. I am sure he has not gone far.”
Her look was a meaningful one, and Guy knew what it implied. Owen had gone too far in his behavior, and he would have to be punished by a firmer hand than his nurse could give. It was a father’s duty…one he was not looking forward to. He gave a heavy sigh at the thought of it. But he had his job to do, and however reluctantly, he left to see to it.
The guests were sleeping, and the house had been shut down for the night. As Guy entered his bedchamber, he saw Cassia sitting up in bed, weaving a needle in and out of the neck of Thea’s doll. For a moment he just stood there, looking at the little combination of multi-colored patchwork and goose-down stuffing that his daughter cherished so much. He did not understand her attachment to the inanimate thing, but Cassia obviously did, as she lovingly repaired it stitch by stitch. She looked up at him, watching as he came to stand beside the bed. As his valet helped him undress, she spoke in a quiet tone.
“Is everything settled?”
He made a wordless little sound in reply. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he was silent as his valet removed his boots. After the servant was finished, Guy waved him away. Swinging his feet up on the bed, he leaned back against the pillows, his mind dwelling on somber thoughts.
“I dread the thought of doing that again,” he said.
At first, she said nothing, continuing to work on the doll in her hands. In the silence, he recalled how difficult it had been to inflict a physical punishment on Owen. He had only managed to give three strikes with a switch, after which he could give no more. He knew that other fathers were capable of greater severity, and such behavior was perfectly acceptable. It was even encouraged. But seeing the fear in his son’s face, it had taken all of his strength just to do what little he had done. Now, he looked at Cassia, hoping she would offer him consolation. He watched as she finished her work. She set the doll aside and turned to him.
“You did what needed to be done.” Moving closer to him, she rested her head against his chest. “You are a good father, Guy. Enforcing Owen’s punishment may hurt you now, but in the long run, you will see it was the right thing to do.”
He sighed, a worried sound. “I have never struck one of our children before. Do you suppose he will fear me now?”
She replied with a shrug. “A small dose of fear is not unhealthy. Better to have a respectful fear than a spoiling that will lead to future decay. And besides, he is only a small boy. His mind will soon turn to other things. There will be no permanent scarring.”
He knew she was right, of course. She was always right about such things. Still, he feared that he had somehow damaged his son irrevocably. He could still recall how, long ago, little children had run away from him in fright, knowing him to be a brutal enforcer of the law. What could he do to keep Owen from thinking of him in such a way?
Cassia spoke, interrupting his thoughts.
“Take him on a journey,” she said.
With a curious expression, he looked down at her. “A journey?”
Sitting up a little, she smiled at him. “Take him fishing. Or better still, take him on a hunt.” She seemed to be growing rather excited, and it amused him.
“He is rather young to take on a hunt. But perhaps he will enjoy a fishing expedition.”
Her eyes were bright with enthusiasm. “Take him on a hunt, Guy. But make it special. Tell him you go to hunt dragons. He will adore you for it.”
Her merriment was so entertaining to witness. It was delightful to see her this way, when she was being so imaginative and full of child-like energy. She always seemed to enjoy her own cleverness, and it pleased him to no end. A grin crinkled the corner of his mouth.
“Where do you come up with these wild thoughts of yours?”
She hugged him tight and giggled, obviously quite pleased with herself. And when she was happy, he could not help being so himself.
The next morning, Guy quietly approached the nursery. Standing in the doorway, he observed a calm and quiet meal. No arguing, no kicking or fussing. Thea was quite pleased as she held her beloved doll, now fully repaired, under her arm. William and Evelyn enjoyed their meal in silence. As for Owen, he sat with an unusually somber look on his face. Guy felt it was time to remedy that. He clapped his hands together, ordering their attention.
“Good morning, all. My sons, we have a journey to take. Let us depart.”
They all looked at him with wide, curious eyes. Thea rose from her chair and came to him. She looked up at him with pleading eyes. “Just the boys, Papa? Can I go too?”
He patted her cheek, but shook his head. “I am afraid not, my lamb. This is a quest for men. Young ladies are not permitted. You will stay here and help your Mama in the garden. Perhaps she will take you on some adventure of your own.”
That made her smile, and as Claudia led her back to the table to finish her breakfast, William and Owen hurried towards Guy. As Owen passed, Guy could see the look of delight that shined on his face. It was just as Cassia had said. The damage was not permanent. He was deeply pleased and comforted by the thought, and his contentment remained with him all day as he took his sons on their quest.