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From Chapter Thirteen of the third book in the "Hannibal's Elephant Girl" series

Hannibal’s mother remained at Carthage, in North Africa when he traveled across the Middle Sea with his father to Iberia.

Without his mother and no concubines to supervise him, he taught himself how to deal with others to make his way through life by the use of persuasion and force of will, without resorting to the leverage of his family name.

At the age of twelve, he left his world of toys and took a bronze sword from his father’s collection to join the older boys on the junior arms training field.

None of the youths wanted to draw blood from the son of the great general, so they let him pin them to the ground without a struggle. Even the largest of the boys gave way with little more than token resistance.

Frustrated by their cowering behavior, Hannibal pressed on, raining insults along with his blows.

Finally, one boy of about sixteen, after hearing his mother being compared to a barnyard hog, was fed up with Hannibal’s arrogance.

He advanced on Hannibal, swinging his sword. “You call my mother another filthy name, and I’ll have your head for it.”

“I’m sorry.” Hannibal, without a shield, parried a sword thrust with his own sword. “I meant to say she’s nothing more than a street whore.”

Enraged, the young man, who was much taller than Hannibal, swung his shield, knocking Hannibal to the ground.

He was instantly on his feet, taking a stance with his sword before him.

Emboldened, his opponent advanced, clanging his long sword against Hannibal’s smaller one, pressing him back against a stone wall.

With the flat of his sword across Hannibal’s chest, the youth trembled with anger. “Give way!”

“Never!” Hannibal ducked under the young man’s arm, then turned to face his adversary again.

“Here!” One of the other boys tossed his shield to Hannibal.

He caught it, slipped his forearm into the straps, then spun around to take a sword blow against the shield.

All his fights so far had been easily won, with his opponents unwilling to put up any great resistance, but this boy, having his mother insulted twice, roiled his anger into rage against the inexperienced Hannibal.

Again and again, he hammered Hannibal’s shield, bruising Hannibal’s forearm and compressing his biceps so many times that the strong muscle behind the shield throbbed with pain.

But he continued to make ineffective sword thrusts and swings, hitting nothing.

When the other boy hooked his blade in the hilt of Hannibal’s sword and flipped it away, Hannibal went down on one knee and laid his shield aside.“Your mother is a saint among women. I apologize. I beg for mercy and…”

“And what?” He extended his hand to help Hannibal stand.

“Sword training. Up until today, no one has offered any resistance. How can I learn to fight if they simply drop their weapons in the dirt as soon as I approach?”

“No one wants to bloody a prince.”

“I’m not royalty. My father is only a general, and I think he’d be glad to see me acquire some skill other than proper etiquette and perfect penmanship.”

The young man laughed. “If you don’t mind a few bruises and cuts, I’ll teach you a bit of defensive swordsmanship.”

“I already have the bruises, let’s get on with the cutting. How are you called?”

 “Rocrainum. You’re going to need a longer sword.”

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