"I refuse to do this. It is undignified," said the king, looking at Edmund as though the the adventurer had suggested he should don a five-tiered silk ball gown and dance a jig with three kittens in the throne room. "One does not simply collapse upon being approached by ruffians and rabble."

Edmund sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. This was the third time he'd tried to explain to the king understand what it meant to go dead weight, and the man still didn't seem to understand how it could ever be a proper course of action. "Sire, it is not a question of dignity," Edmund said. "It is a question of survival. Your advisors have hired me to instruct you in the finer points of keeping yourself alive. I am honored to have been granted the position, and as such, shall do my utmost to prepare you as best I can for any sort of invasion, attack, siege, or attempted kidnapping. Today our focus is on foiling abduction plots. A kidnapper desires a ransom, and is unlikely to kill you if you do not go along quietly. You simply need to buy yourself time for help to arrive, and you will be safe. Falling to the ground and letting your body relax is the easiest way to accomplish that goal, I assure you."

His Royal Highness King Denigaard II rolled his deep purple eyes and tossed himself to the ground, arms flung out dramatically, if not gracefully. His long black hair pooled about his prone body, the silky strands sliding across each other and his tasteful outfit of black and silver. "There. I have fallen, and I am as weighty as the armor that encases my guards. Has my attempt met your approval? Is our session complete for the day?"

Edmund wanted to be annoyed. He deserved better than babysitting a spoiled brat—even if the brat was his king, and a mere five years his junior. Edmund was only thirty three, and still within his prime, but being among the best had its price: there were some requests that no sane man could refuse, and this assignment was one of them. The problem was that although the brat-king was annoying, he was also charming, intelligent, and handsome to boot; it was difficult to stay upset with him, even with good cause. The way those pale pink lips flared out into a pout, for instance... How was he to resist the man?

"For the day, Highness," Edmund said at last, forcing a sigh from his lungs and trying to hide the smile playing across his lips. It would have been easier had he not succumbed to propriety and trimmed his golden blonde beard down to an elegantly styled mustache and goatee, but such was the price of consorting with royalty. "Tomorrow morning we shall resume your lessons. Would you care for a hand, sire?" He thrust one arm out in front of himself, fingers uncurled, waiting.

A tiny grin—not the least bit decorous—graced the king's face. "Unlike you, I am not so old as to need assistance to stand," the young man said. "And I am not yet such a helpless noble as to want the help despite its being unnecessary." The grin broadened a bit. "My staff and advisors will likely do their best to change that, of course."

Edmund let his own smile appear at that, and he nodded, watching as Denigaard sat up. "It is very likely, yes. There are some who think that doing anything for oneself is a sign of societal weakness or insufficient funds in one's coffers."

"Utterly ridiculous," the king scoffed, shaking his head. He stood in one smooth, graceful movement, his grace more like that of a dancer than a swordsman like Edmund. "Self-sufficiency should be encouraged in all men, royal or not. And in all women, too, though I'm sure there are even fewer in the court who would agree with me on that."

A snort escaped Edmund's body before he could stop himself. "You preach the virtues of self-sufficiency, sire," he said, "and you seem to believe in the words you speak. Why, then, do you resist my efforts to make you a difficult man to kidnap or assault?"

"Because," Denigaard replied, "There is no honor in collapsing to the ground or flailing and screaming until help arrives. There would be honor in defending myself; why do you refuse to tutor me in the use of sword and shield?"

Edmund sighed once more and pinched the bridge of his nose for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning. "Sire, your advisors have already explained this to you, I am sure of it."

"And my advisors are idiots. You are not. Tell me again, Edmund. Perhaps I'll believe the logic when it comes from your mouth," Denigaard said.

"I will not teach you to defend yourself because there is no need for it, sire. We are not at war, and tension is low between our country and those surrounding us. If you rule well and wisely, it is unlikely that we will ever go to war during your lifetime. Thus learning to fight cannot be considered one of your necessary kingly duties."

Denigaard frowned. "And what if I am accosted by bandits while on the road? Or by a cutpurse while I am surveying the streets of my city?"

"You will assuredly have guards with you to prevent such a thing from happening, sire."

"And if I am separated from them for some reason?" Denigaard pushed further, obviously unwilling to let the subject go. "What of my safety then?"

"It is unlikely to happen, but even if it does, I promise that you will be safest if you are unarmed. If you have no weapon, your assailant will view you as very little threat: just a pampered noble, unschooled in the ways of the world, and presenting no danger at all. If you have a weapon—even something as simple as a ceremonial dagger—on your person, you make yourself a threat with which to be reckoned. You will bring out your assailant's instinct to fight and survive, and he will likely be more skilled than you. It is a situation you would do best to avoid."

Denigaard stared at Edmund for a long time, his expression calculating. At last he nodded, the movement sharp but forceful. "Your reasoning seems sound," he admitted. "I much prefer your answer to the simple 'Because fighting isn't appropriate for a man of your great status,' or 'you needn't bother yourself when you have so many more important duties' that all the others have placated me with. I will heed your advice, but only under one condition."

The king was smiling broadly now, the expression almost wolfish. Edmund swallowed, then forced himself to speak, even though he suspected nothing but trouble would come from what followed. "And your condition, sire?"

"Simple: You must stay by my side at all times. Do so, and I will play the part of the proper king. I will behave perfectly. And you will make it worth my time."

Edmund nodded. There was nothing else to do, no way he could refuse and still have any sort of career ahead of him in this country or any of its neighbors. "Yes, my lord," he said quietly, bowing his head. A muscle in his forehead twitched. He already knew that this would, indeed, be nothing but trouble. He looked back up at the king, took in the delicate but handsome features, the silken head of ebony hair, and shrugged to himself mentally. He could have found himself with a much worse charge to take care of. And besides, the king would likely grow tired of his presence soon.

"Brilliant, I'm so pleased that you've agreed," Denigaard said, his voice suddenly and suspiciously cheerful. "Now, to begin with... You will accompany me to my bathing chamber. Tell me, do you prefer scented oils in your bath water, or a massage with oils after you are bathed and dry?"

A noise much like a whimper escaped Edmund's mouth, much to his chagrin. He stayed silent and followed his king out of the room, dismayed by the unseemly spring in the younger man's step.

Perhaps this would be even worse than he had feared.