Here is a St George’s Day special in the series of short stories written by members of the 390-strong Portsmouth Writers’ Hub.
Whack, wham, thump – Georgi, baptised Georgius, relished these noises and the shouting of the young audience. ‘Look out Georgi, he’s behind you!’ and ‘Watch it Marcus, he’s almost on you!’
Georgi loved these sparring matches with blunted swords. Marcus was his cousin of the same age. Both looked very similar with fair curly hair and the same height and build. They might have looked the same but their characters were very different.
Marcus was reliable, honest and fair. Georgi was completely the opposite and resented his cousin Marcus who was his mother’s sister’s son.
He was always determined to win and get his own way. He often landed Marcus in trouble blaming him when he himself was to blame. Yet Marcus didn’t resent this, he truly loved his cousin.
Lesson #1: Start well with good training when young.
Lesson #2: An attractive appearance always helps.
Now anyone could see that Georgi was fighting unfairly, shoving Marcus to one side and putting his foot forward to trip him.
In fact there was someone watching who was a friend of Georgi’s father. He was a Roman soldier called Antonius and he was thinking that Georgi should join the army to ‘toughen up’ and learn fairer play. He resolved to discuss the matter later with Georgi’s father.
Georgi’s father, Gerontius, was a committed Christian and Georgi and Marcus had been raised in the same house and taught the same rules.
They were both nine at the time and too young for army life. But at supper that evening Gerontius and Antonius discussed plans for the boys’ futures and agreed that Antonius would enrol them into the army when they were 12.
Georgi was ecstatically happy but Marcus was not; he was much more of a bookworm and would rather have taken up politics.
Lesson #3: Have an older relative who is willing to help.
Life continued for 30 months until tragedy struck and both Georgi’s parents died in a horse accident.
The boys were left orphans and Antonius returned to take them into the army. They served under Antonius and strangely, Marcus thrived under army life, more than Georgi who hated the rules and regulations.
He also hated the enforced physical training. Marcus excelled in this and he was also very popular with his peers. He was soon promoted to Tribune which Georgi bitterly resented since he remained a common soldier. The years went by until the boys were 20.
Although the two were still very much alike, Georgi had begun to thicken round the waistline and his face was blotched through excessive drinking.
He was also doing something that was very risky. Marcus was worried as he knew that Georgi was often visiting the governor’s wife, Agrippina.
In spite of everything, he was still fond of Georgi and he started following him to make sure he was safe.
There were huge gardens around the house and of course anybody approaching had to walk through these first.
The problem was that the governor had a huge collection of exotic animals which he sometimes allowed out of their cages.
Georgi was so besotted with Agrippina that he didn’t seem to care about the risks.
One day as Marcus was following Giorgi he saw a strange animal nearby. It was twice their height with a green scaly skin with small wings. It seemed to have warm breath as it was breathing steam as it panted after Georgi.
Marcus drew his sword and ran closer. Suddenly the creature pounced. Georgi screamed, but when he saw Marcus shouted for help, he knew he would be saved.
Marcus drew closer and killed the creature with skilful sword thrusts. He ran away and escaped quickly leaving Georgi with the dead animal.
Suddenly Agrippina appeared and screamed: ‘Oh brave Georgius, he has saved me from this awful creature.’
She threw her arms around the surprised Georgi and kissed him. By then the slaves of the house had appeared and verified the story of how brave Georgius had slain the mythical dragon.
Lesson #4: Have a relative who would give his life for you.
Everything went well for Georgi after that. Antonius had his suspicions but never discussed it.
Georgi achieved fame and glory and the story was much embroidered as the years passed. Poor Georgi enjoyed the fame but found it hard to manage and in the end he died at the early age of 29.
It seems that he was decapitated by a nearby native tribe when he foolishly ventured into their territory. On this occasion, his cousin wasn’t with him.
Lesson #5: Die a dramatic death which people interpret in their own way.
Jennifer Fisher is a retired biology teacher and a member of the Writers at Lovedean writing group. She is a keen swimmer and bridge player.