They were the first clue that he was not yet a man, and would not be one for many a year yet. A white scar traveled along the back of his left hand nearly to his elbow, a thin scattered line never quite deciding to be a curve, almost lost in his complexion. Calluses were many, but if one looked closely, they could be traced back to specific activities. Forefingers and thumb made rough by archery practice, likewise the curve along thumb and index finger rubbed tough by the crossguard of a sword. They were young hands, smaller than a man's but not quite shaped like a child's, freckled, as fair skin was wont to become after too many days under the harsh sun. A boy's hands, trying desperately to belong to a man.
He gripped the quill in his right hand, suddenly made clumsy by the unfamiliar, unwelcome task. Ink splotched over both hands and much of his forearm, smudging across the grainy paper as he struggled to write as he'd been instructed. His name. It was a simple thing. Liam. Short, dignified, regal. He'd learned to write it in loose dirt with a stick before his little sister had even been born, and she was sitting a few feet away from him now, eight years old and studiously copying her own lessons. If Edith could do it, then he could.
At the head of the draughty classroom, presiding over the mammoth oak desk, was Master Ffeldspar. Unlike their last teacher, Master Ffeldspar was as imposing a figure as the desk that acted as barrier between him and his royal students. He often paused to finger his full beard as he shuffled papers, muttering almost soundlessly. The papers rubbed against one another like sand dunes shifting in size and location, pulling Liam's mind into an unpopulated desert where he would not have to write anyone's name.
He snapped his head up to stare at the teacher with a woefully open mouth, then clapped it shut. "Yes, Master Ffeldspar?" A prince did not stutter.
"Would you mind very much explaining where you have gone?"
Liam blinked back confusion. "I have not gone."
"You are not writing?"
"I am, teacher."
"If it is too difficult"
"No." A prince was not supposed to interrupt, but Liam felt more comfortable breaking that rule than he would have felt if he had ever allowed himself to falter or stutter. "I can do it."
"Then kindly return to it, prince." With a flick of his own quill that fluttered the stern grey feather like a breeze through short hair, Master Ffeldspar removed his stony attention from Liam and returned it to his sand-dune paper shuffling.
Liam reminded himself that princes did not stick their tongues out at teachers, even if they were overbearing mountain men with no manners and a funny accent. He could hear Edith giggling behind her little hand, which bore no inkstains at all.
Princes did not stick their tongues out at teachers, but he knew for a fact that they were often called upon to point such an action at sisters. He did so, and felt better for it. Then he returned to commanding his name to appear on the paper via the quill in his resisting hand.