Victor nodded and looked around at the knights, their fearsome helmets facing him. “Okay, well let me just say that I used to be your age. And I know it’s an awkward, uncertain stage of life—your body’s changing, you’re interested in girls [here there were a few snickers], and you’re trying to figure out what life is all about. I’ve been there myself, I know what it’s like. And whatever you’re feeling, most guys here are probably feeling the same thing.” He nodded in encouragement. “And whatever question you have, I bet there are at least four or five others here who have that same question. Okay? So don’t be embarrassed, or feel like you’re the odd one out—just ask your question, and I’ll try and answer it as best I can. Does that sound good?” He looked around the circle; though a few of the helmets still faced down, all of them nodded. “So, what I’m going to do now, if it’s all right with The Spectre of Puberty—” the Spectre nodded “—is, starting on my left here, I’ll go around the circle and you can ask me whatever questions are on your mind. Now, you don’t have to ask your question, but I would like you to.”
The knights mumbled their assent.
Victor turned to his immediate left, where sat a knight in white armour, from whose broad shoulders draped a long cape of brown and white feathers. The visor of his helmet was wide and almost flat, with two huge golden circles like eyes. A long, elegantly curved bow laid beside his chair, along with a fully stocked quiver. It was the owl knight. Victor smiled. “I’m Victor,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Sir Brian,” said the owl knight.
Victor nodded. “It’s good to meet you, Sir Brian. Now, I’m sure you have a question. What’s on your mind?”
The owl knight shifted on his stool and glanced around the circle.
“Remember,” said Victor, “everyone else here is going through the same stuff.”
The owl knight nodded. “Yeah, okay. Well, um… I guess I was wondering about… about facial hair.” He lowered his head and lifted his hand to the side of his helmet, making an unnecessary adjustment to his visor.”
“Ah, yes. Facial hair,” said Victor, looking around the circle. “Is that something that anyone else has wondered about? Let’s have a show of hands.” Eight of the knights, as well as the Spectre of Puberty, raised their hands. “See, look at that. We’re all in the same boat.” He turned to the owl knight. “So, what do you want to know about facial hair?”
The owl knight looked around the circle, and then at Victor, and asked, “When do I have to start shaving?”
Victor nodded. “That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked it. The answer there is—you start shaving when you need to. You’ll start to get hair growing on your face—just soft, light hair at first.”
“I have that already,” said the owl knight. “Just a bit, on my upper lip, like a moustache.”
“There you go,” said Victor. “Just that very soft hair, right? Yeah. We call that ‘bumfluff’.” The knights laughed. “I know it’s a weird name,” said Victor. “Once that starts growing on your face, you can start shaving. Then, as you shave regularly, after a while the hair starts growing back thicker and darker. Soon enough you can grow a nice bushy moustache, or a beard, or sideburns—whatever you want.”
On the opposite side of the circle, the bear knight and the leopard knight whispered to each other, excited, it seemed, by the prospect of growing sideburns.
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