"Thou'rt not serious,"

one of the Ixies protested.  "Surely thou didst not think that a million aphids was a legitimate bet!  Nobody hath that many aphids!"

"But .. but .." Typantronn stammered, crestfallen.  "Wouldst thou welsh on a bet??  That's despicable!"

"No more despicable than thou, betting against our own noble Sire for thy gluttonous gain."

"Sam," I whispered.  "Is there any way you can instill some discipline into these Ixies for me?"

"No," Sam replied curtly.  "Their leader I am not.  Up to you, that task is.  When mastered yourself you have, then underlings you may command.  Here, eat."  He held out a plate of green eggs and ham.

"I do not like them, Sam," I responded instinctively, despite being actually rather hungry.

"Up, your strength you must keep," Sam insisted.  "Eat, and then begin your training shall."

I quickly devoured the food.  Sam took the empty plate, and then produced from his Elfintory a strip of cloth printed with a formal floral pattern.

"Around your head tie this," he instructed.  "To remind you that Fuma's warrior you are."

I put on the headband and instantly began to feel more serious, more powerful, and more determined.  Yes!  Fuma's Warrior!  That's what I was!

Sam pulled two damp sponges out of his Elfintory and handed them to me.

"That menhir you must polish," he said, pointing.

"Not like that," Sam snapped as I began polishing.  "At eye level you must rub, and in circles.  Up and out."  He whacked my arms with his staff until I did it the way he wanted.

I stood there for what must have been several hours, pointlessly polishing the ancient stone.  My arms were aching, but every time I tried to lower them, Sam whacked me with his staff.  Every time I slowed down, he whacked me with his staff.  Every time I swirled in the wrong direction, he whacked me with his staff.

"DAMN IT, SAM!"  I yelled after he whacked me for the hundredth time.  "What is the point of this?  That rock isn't going to get shiny!"

"Eventually it will, if long enough you work," he replied sternly.

"Why does it NEED to get shiny??" I snapped.  "This has nothing to do with fighting!  Irenaeus didn't have to put up with such nonsense!"

"Irenaeus you are not," Sam observed.

"You're just wasting my time, aren't you?" I hissed, suspiciously.  "There's no point in me becoming a better fighter if I'm trapped in here and my enemies are all out there!"

"Come here your enemies never will?  This you think?"

"You're just distracting me from something I should be doing," I persisted.  "You're working for Vulpitania, aren't you?  You want me tired and achy for whatever surprise is coming next, eh?  Well, I've figured you out!  Go away, Sam.  I quit."

"There is no quit," Sam scowled.  He whacked me with his staff again.  "To your training, get back."

"QUIT HITTING ME!" I demanded.

"Stop me," he replied coolly.

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