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A/N: This snippet takes place post-Bad Things; Gate is a rock man, Judith is thirteen, and they've got Sir Bertram stuck with them.  This piece was inspired by the lolertastic arguments fanboys had over the gender of a golem character in a computer game.  Seriously, I feel that those fanboys sum up all the stupid arguments I've had about gender ever--and also demonstrate how frothing-at-the-mouth people can get over it, because for some reason, they just gotta know.

In Which Sir Bertram Abuses the Word 'Obvious'

"Tell me," Sir Bertram asked Gate over dinner, "do you ever have troubles with birds?"

Gate raised an eyebrow, and the princess looked over her watery stew at Bertram and said, "Of course not.  Why would he?"

Sir Bertram chuckled, hoping to encourage her to do the same. "Well, it's made of stones, and birds... they... I thought it..."

Princess Judith didn't smile.  She only stared at him.  Apparently she was not possessed with great humor.

"It's not funny," she said flatly, "and why do you keep calling him it?"

Sir Bertram's laughter became uncomfortable. "I'd think that was obvious."

Judith's voice was ice cold. "I've told you to call him him.  He's told you to call him him.  It is not obvious, sir."

He looked to his stew. "Surely this is not appropriate dinner discussion..."

"I'm the highest ranked here; I say whether it's appropriate, and anyway, you started it."

Sir Bertram glanced at Gate, but the monster's expression was unreadable and it made no move to silence the princess.

"Well, it's not a man, obviously..." He said.

"You keep misusing that word.  Gate was a man before he was transmogrified; he is a man still."

Sir Bertram's smile felt frozen to this face with embarrassment. "I would say it is lacking, in that respect," he said, glancing nervously at Gate again. "It's made of stone, which has no gender."

"Except that both he and I have said he does.  You and I are made of meat, which has no gender either."

"I am trying to be tactful," he said through his teeth.

Princess Judith apparently had no such inclination. "You are failing, Sir Bertram, both at being tactful and at being right."

Sir Bertram felt his ears flush red. "Gate is anatomically lacking, your Highness."

"I didn't realize you spent such time measuring up young men," Gate said with facile humor and a rigid smile. "Should I be flattered?"

Sir Bertram felt the heat in his cheeks this time. "What are you implying?"

Gate leaned to Judith and asked, sotto voce, "Would I be misusing the word 'obvious,' Princess?"

"No, Gate," she replied, "you would not."

Sir Bertram considered himself a man of manners and self-control, but to be insulted in a conversation he hadn't started by a monster and a girl was too much. "He's not a man!  He's a bloody golem!  A talking lump of masonry with a poor sense of humor, ill-equipped to pleasure any woman, and that is undeniable, rational fact, your highness."

"It is nothing of the sort," she said calmly. "You are wrong."

"No, princess, you are wrong.  'A golem is not a man.  It is but stone and sorcery, clay and qabal, made for one purpose and one only, and once that purpose is done, to stone and clay it must return.  To behave otherwise is to--'"

"What is that you're quoting?" Judith asked suspiciously.

"A Work of Holy Qabal, volume thirteen.  You recall," Sir Bertram added, "the works you have me read."

Her lips twisted in disgust.  In the monotone of someone reciting from rote memory, she stated, "'In this above all, treat others as your beloved.' That's from the first book of the holy text, as said by the prophet her own self.  Get out."

"What?" Sir Bertram sputtered.

She raised her voice. "Gate, throw him out."

"With pleasure," Gate said.  It moved as though to get to its feet, and Sir Bertram hastily fled the kitchen to eat his stew in the great hall.  Neither golem nor princess followed.

He fumed as he ate his soggy vegetables.  How dare they?  They'd started the ridiculous argument in the first place, double-teamed him, gave no evidence whatsoever for their assertion, and then, instead of arguing rationally, they'd insulted him and thrown him out.  They were lunatics.  Anyone with eyes to see knew a man when it stood in front of them, and Gate was most certainly not.

Perhaps Gate had never been a man in the first place.  He'd heard tales that the southern kingdoms preferred to castrate their royal guards.  It'd explain the innuendo.

Thus soothed, Sir Bertram finished his stew.  For the first time since he'd arrived here, Gate wasn't tailing him.  Perhaps they hoped he'd flee, tail between his legs.  If so, they'd drastically misjudged his character.  Princess Judith needed to be rescued from this hellish place, with its monsters and witchcraft and rotting dead, and Sir Bertram planned to do it.  She had obviously been here for too long already.  Monsters for brothers, rocks having genders, living off dried peas and smoked pheasant--she had grown so used to the madness that she'd become a part of it.  Surely once she rejoined lucid society, she would recover.

The only thing preventing him was that cursed monster.

Sir Bertram was not worried.  He had a kingdom's worth of qabal texts at his fingertips.  Surely one of them would hold instructions on how to dispose of a golem.

* * *

"I don't like him," Judith said.

Gate was silent, arms crossed over his chest, staring into the fire.

"Don't listen to his rot.  He only uses qabal and rationality as an excuse to be horrid."

"I wasn't," Gate said. "It's only that I have been with you alone since I was transmogrified.  I'd forgotten."

Judith frowned. "Forgotten what?"

"That not everyone is as kind as you."

Judith expression softened.  She set down her bowl and leaned over to hug him; his stone skin had warmed and softened from the heat of the fire, making him almost feel like flesh and blood.

"I'm a witch brat who set a baroness on fire," she said. "I should not be your standard for kindness."

He smiled at her. "Pulled out holy quotes on the subject quick enough."

Judith rolled her eyes. "I was brought up proper, same as Sir Ass's Ears, even if I am a witch brat."

They glanced out the doorway, where Sir Bertram sat on the king's dusty throne at the great table.  He'd set his bowl down and rested his chin in his hands, deep in thought.  Judith grimaced with revulsion.

"You want I should run him off?  It would be no trouble," Gate volunteered. "I'd enjoy it."

"As would I," Judith said with a sigh, "but his notes are clear so far, and we need him to read, even if I don't trust him to be honest."

"Other knights will come."

She shook her head. "They're as likely to be honest as he, and we may not win over the next raiding party with sense.  I don't like it, but we need him.  The next party with a trebuchet will knock you down with the castle walls."

Gate nodded.  They watched Sir Bertram think.

"He's plotting something," Gate said.

"I've no doubt.  Don't let him out of your sight.  I don't trust him one bit."

"But of course." Gate said. "Why, however would I live without his company and conversation?  Be like living without sunsets and birdsong, it would."

"I'll make it up to you." Judith shook her head. "I can't believe he calls you 'it.'"

"He called me 'he,' right before we chased him out, at least.  Perhaps he'll grow manners."

They looked at each other and snickered mirthlessly.

Date: 2010-10-16 10:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Rogan: Okay, yeah, no. Our processor is only 1.4 GHz, and we have, like, less than one fourth of the RAM required. (We've got some new RAM we need to stuff into it, but that doesn't solve the processor problem.)

Oh well.

Sneak: Zombies? D:
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