Ned aimed his catapult at the bigger boy to Gobba’s left. Just as they were about to attack, he unleashed the stone, which hit the big kid in the ear. He hit the ground with a thump, holding his head and screaming. Gobba stared with horror. The other member of his gang stormed toward Ned. As he neared, Ned leant back and grabbed his shirt with both hands. Ned threw the boy over his shoulders. Twisting in mid-air, Ned landed on top and pummelled his face with both fists. The boy screamed and tried to cover up. As the tears streamed down his cheeks, there was no fight left. Ned jumped to his feet and faced Gobba.
“Looks like it’s just you and me now,” he said.
Gobba was shocked. His gang of three always won fights. In fact, he rarely ever got involved in the beatings as his gang members went first. Gobba believed his strengths lay in tactics and leadership. Together, their squad dominated the children back in the Snook. And this boy was not even very big. Gobba was left with no choice. He ran toward Ned and swung a fist at his head. Ned leant to his right and looped a left fist in. It slammed into Gobba’s chin, and he crumpled to the grass. Gobba whimpered and flailed his arms about. Ned glared at the bully.
“Leave him alone… or I will come after you,” he said abrasively.
Gobba stood on wobbly legs and rubbed his chin, staring at the shadowy figure. But Ned’s head cloth had become dislodged during the fight and Gobba got a good look. He would remember Ned’s face. It was etched into his brain. He was going to be good at revenge. Firm enemies were made that day. Gobba grabbed each of his dazed accomplices to their feet. They shambled back to the Snook, startled by the rude awakening. Gobba looked back over his shoulder. It was a hateful stare.
The other boy strolled toward Ned with a lumbering gait. He had messy black hair, was tall and very well spoken.
“Hey ho, hello! My name’s Harry… Harry Snookington that is.”
This boy was high-born. Ned stepped back. “You… you’re Lord Snookington’s son?”
Harry swept an arm in front and did an exaggerated bow for effect. Looking up, he said, “Thank you for helping out. I had the situation under control, obviously.” He grinned and had mischievous eyes. Ned smiled.
Harry and Ned talked and laughed for a while until some farm workers looked their way. Ned needed to get away and tucked the head cloth back in place. As they parted, Ned offered to help out if the trouble-makers tried to make life hard for Harry again.
“So, what’s your name then?” Harry asked.
Ned hesitated. His father had ordered him not to befriend anyone from the village. “It doesn’t matter. I’m nobody,” he said.