The people burst out laughing as the boy trembled in fright and shut his eyes tightly with the apple resting on his head. When the arrow shattered the apple, piercing it, the boy opened his eyes and searched his body for any sign of injury. When he found none he leapt in joy and left the spot after a servant placed into his palm some money.
Robert took his place, standing against the trunk of the tree as still as possible. The last thing he wanted was risking being pierced by one of the mean-looking arrows. One of servants of the Count’s son carrying a basket of fruits placed an apple on Robert’s head.
The count’s son who sat atop his horse, eating an apple with an amused smile on his face, enjoying the entertaining show as one of his archers aimed at the Robert’s head.
He enjoyed coming to the market square every Wednesday to entertain himself on poor boys who were willing to risk their lives for a few shillings. Only brave boys however stood in for such and were paid as promised for each apple shattered atop their heads.
Robert closed his eyes in fright and waited as the archer pulled the string of the bow with the arrow fixed on it. He couldn’t bear the sight of watching the arrow dart towards his face, lest he move in fright and cause his own death. The swishing arrow shattered the apple, sending bits of the fruit raining down on him. He left the spot with a great feeling of relief when the personal servant of the count’s son dropped some shillings into his hand letting another boy take his place.
They were four young boys including Robert, participating in the inhumane act of entertaining the count’s son and whoever cared to watch but there was always a crowd to entertain. He had been roaming the market one certain afternoon when he stumbled upon this game. When he inquired about what was going on, one of the boys had explained to him. He decided to take the audacious risk by participating in order to raise any money he could get for his mother.
He did not really care if he was injured in the process. All that mattered to him was making his mother well. It got to the next boy’s turn, the arrow successfully shattered the apple, laughing loudly at the frightened boy who had peed on himself, the Count’s son picked another apple from his servant’s basket and began to munch.
Robert was about to replace the third boy when a firm hand grabbed the back of his shirt close to his collar. He turned around and was shocked to see Aidan glaring down at him. ‘Aidan!”
With a brief displeased glance around, he asked. “What are you doing here?”
“I…I… huh…” He floundered for an excuse to give but couldn’t find any.
Aidan looked at an apple being shattered atop a boy’s head and returned his glare on Robert. “You’ve got to be kidding me! You can’t be participating in this, are you?”
Robert, knowing he was caught, gently shrugged off Aidan’s grip. “I had no choice. Besides it seems the easiest way to make some money.”
“This is preposterous, Rob!” Aidan snapped. “You choose to risk your life for this inhumane act all because of a few shillings? What if the Archer missed, do you think that haughty Berk cares if you bleed to death on that very spot?”
“Nothing of such will happen!” Robert barked.
“Besides I am doing just fine as you can see.” He pulled out a lot of shillings from his pocket and showed it to Aidan before returning it back into his pocket.
“Yea, I can see that and it also means you have had enough already, let’s get the hell out of here. I wondered what I would have told your mother if you had died.”
“I am trying to raise some money!”
“And you are being self-centred about it!”
“All I do, I do it for her!”
“And you think this is the best way to buy her her needs and raise money for her treatment.” He retorted. “Have you ever stopped to consider what will become of your sick mother if you died here?”
Rob looked down unable to say a word.
Aidan continued anyway looking over the heads of the crowd at the scene. “It hurts me badly to see these young boys act like puppets to please the empty-headed Count’s son and it hurts even more to see you willingly give yourself to such a pathetic act, Rob.”
“I got nothing to lose.” Robert Muttered.
“That’s what you think Lad. You are coming with me now!” he ordered as he began to lead Rob away by the shoulder.
“Hey! You there!” a loud voice called out overhead. Aidan and Rob stopped, half turning to see the Count’s son referring to them. “Where’re you going to? You turning chicken or your boldness have finally melted to jelly?”
The crowd roared with laughter and Robert felt embarrassed but the Count’s son continued. “Oh! I see… big brother comes to the rescue.” The crowd laughed the more.
Aidan quirked an eyebrow. “Hey! Dummy!” The countenance of the Count’s son changed to an unsmiling one. “You sure got a big mouth for a baby face!”
This time, the crowd laughed harder making the Count’s son embarrassed and angry at the insult thrown at him so publicly.
“And… who the hell are you, simpleton?” he asked nervously.
“I’m called the Rogue!” Aidan said aloud and some of the people in the crowd murmured at the familiar name. “How pathetic of you to come here and show off… I hope your father is proud of what public nuisance his almost rotund son constitutes here in the market place amongst humble peasants.” He regarded the crowd with open arms.
The crowd laughed hard and long while some added insulting names befitting the Count’s son. The Count’s son’s face flushed in anger.
“Hey! I’d advice watch that vile tongue of yours, pauper.” Then he smiled in order to please the crowd. “But count yourself lucky because I’m in a cheerful mood today. Riffraffs like you are only privilege to feed on leftovers from my table. I will therefore honour you with twice of what the others earn if you will humble your low-self to have just four fruits shattered upon your very lice-infested hair, peasant.”
Aidan scoffed and glanced at the other boys who participated in the fruit shooting. “You seem to derive pleasure in this when you yourself can’t tell a bow from an arrow.”
The Count’s son scanned the crowd to see if anyone believed what Aidan had just said, fuming in anger, he yelled. “How dare you commoner talk to me in such disrespectful conduct! You fail to realize where you stand. I am the son of the Count of Periquills-ville son and heir aspirant. You will without hesitation apologize to me this instant or find yourself rot away in my father’s dungeon.”
Aidan’s muscles flexed at the ridiculing insult. “Such guts!” He snatched a bow and arrow from one of the Archers close by and, set it, drew it, aimed at the Count’s son and fired.
The arrow wheezed through the air and pierced the half-eaten fruit the Count’s son was about bringing to his mouth for another bite.
Taken by shock and fright, he wobbled on the horse toppled over, falling flat on the dirty ground making the crowd erupt in laughter. Some almost doubled over laughing.
Aidan, aware that in was in trouble after disgracing the Count’s son in such manner quickly said to Robert. “C’mon, let’s get out of here, things are about to get rough!” They fled the square as the Count’s son struggled to his feet, his face florid with embarrassment. He yelled at his guards. “What are you waiting for you idle fools!” He then jabbed a finger towards the direction Aidan and Robert were fleeing through. “After them! After them now! I don’t care how you do it or what you do but I want that rogue before me! He will pay for this, after them this instant!”
Three guards immediately began to chase them but were ambushed by the crowd who intentionally refused to make a path for them or kicked baskets or any other obstacle into any path they took making them stumble. The Count’s son on seeing this, barked at the crowd. “I will have you all arrested if you don’t-” Before he could finish his words, a rotten tomato splattered on his expensive white shirt. He howled in disgust. “You miserable wretched peasants! I am-”
A chunk of wet bread hit his cheek and people began to throw all sorts of things on him till he was a sorry sight, the servants scurried for cover while the guards who had managed to get up, hurried to shield him from the assault with their bodies. They quickly bundled him into the carriage, mounted their horses and rode away as quickly as they could.
To be continued…
© Angela Okoduwa