Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chapter 1: The Lowest Ebb Part 2

Crack! The wooden swords collided again and again. With each swing, Arcturus beat down the defenses of the elven boy. The two fighters circled each other on horseback, sword in one hand, and reins in the other. With a wild swing, the young dark-haired boy attacked the battle-scarred man. With a casual grace, Arcturus promptly knocked the blow away, and delivered one of his own. The now dented helm flew from the head of his overzealous opponent as he toppled from his horse to the hard ground.

Arcturus dismounted, and stands over the body of the bruised and slightly dazed boy. The blunted tip of his practice sword comes down to tap a particularly large lump on the boys head. The boy winced, looking up with one swollen eye. “Well, young master, you held onto your sword this time. That’s a definite improvement. Do you think you can stand up?”

The boy croaked an affirmative, and struggled to his feet, still clutching his sword. “Good to see you’re showing spirit, Melkior,” Arcturus saidlowly to the bleary-eyed boy. “You may soon need it. After all, you’re approaching manhood, and have duties as part of your noble house. The Whiteblade clan has been protecting the peasantry of this region for hundreds of years. You may not be the heir, but the duties fall to you until your cousin Casperian’s return. You must be prepared, in case the worst should happen. Now, are you ready? Hold your sword higher, young master!”

And with that, another flurry of sword strokes ensued. Taking hit after hit, Melkior managed to stay on his feet. His own strokes becoming more and more ragged and desperate, he lunged at his trainer, finally landing a single blow. Although managing to connect with his opponent at all was quite a feat, naturally the blow did not land on the intended target of Arcturus’ chest, but instead hit the warrior’s blade just above the hilt, sending it spinning to the ground nearby. With a cry of victory, he swung again at his now unarmed opponent.

Without knowing how it happened, he woke a few moments later on the ground, once again looking up at Arcturus, utterly defeated. His ears ringing, he began to make out most of the words being spoken to him.

“…told you before. A sword is a tool, not a weapon. Only a person is a weapon. The mind matters more than any hunk of wood or metal you carry around. I may be a Swordmaster of Lopan, young master, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight without one. Maybe we should move on to hand-to-hand combat. It looks like you could use some training in that area. Maybe it would help you focus a little.”

Arcturus bent down and snapped his fingers in front of Melkior’s face, bringing the boy's still muddled mind fully back to reality. He grabbed the boy by the sleeves of his padded leather tunic and pulled him back to his feet, unsteady though me may be on them. The two spent the next hour going through fighting techniques, until Melkior had finally reached the limits of his endurance and ended up on the ground once again, exhausted. Sitting by his side on the ground, Arcturus continued to lecture the boy about a variety of topics ranging from choice of fighting tools, to battlefield tactics, to the rules of honorable duels.

“Are you following all this, young master, or are you just watching the clouds go by?” he asked of the sky-gazing youth.

“Oh, I learned early on not to ignore you, Arcturus. After all, if I did you would be likely to attack me to teach me some sort of obscure lesson. Don’t try to deny it.”

“Why deny it? If you aren’t aware of your surroundings, you would deserve to have a few more sets of bruises. Now, if you are strong enough to try and make fun of me, you are strong enough to fight. I’ll even be nice, you have one minute to get back on your feet and ready.” With that, Arcturus hopped to his feet, watching his still sluggish charge once again rise to face him.

“Ready?” He lunged at the boy. “AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!”

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