Warriors and Champions12
I felt a rough hand on my shoulder as I was awakened rudely. “Get up Ray and bring your sword,” Rayner said. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and when I went outside saw that it was very early in the morning. The ground seemed eerie with the moon sinking below the horizon and the ground covered in fog.
In the dim light I followed Rayner and as we walked I saw that his hair was loose and was blown by the slight wind. The fog swirled around this deadly warrior and his movements were cat-like, quick and sure steps and very light on his feet. The sword on his back looked like it was meant to be there and his left hand was ready to grab his sword when needed.
But at the same time I felt naked without by bow. I found it weird that I felt naked without my weapon. I never used it to fight and yet I still wished I had it. I had gotten so used to it that I had always believed it would always be with me.
We stopped and I took in the sight that unfolded before me. We stood before a ring that was made in the dirt a perfect circle that was about ten feet in diameter that was lined by white chalk. Torches lit up the ring like lonely watchers of the ring.
“There are many things a swordsman needs to know Ray. The art of the sword is more intense than that of being an archer. While an archer really only requires knowledge of the bow and mainly of Battle Vision a swordsman relies more on skill.
“You must have the right form at all times, maintain good footwork, and knowing how to move the blade. The form depends on what style you are using to fight so we will first focus on the feet. If you cannot keep your feet where they should be you are finished.
“Now do as I do. Stay on the balls of your feet for quick movements, never become flat-footed. Next you need to bend at the knees to get the perfect balance of body and movement. When you need to move to either side cross your legs but make sure that you keep them far apart and not close so you don’t trip.
“Good, now because you are right-handed you need to keep your right foot behind your left. Your right foot is your anchor and where you keep your strength. You can move your right foot past the left if your sword is going away from you can move your right foot past the left if your sword is going away from you and up. But when your sword is coming back and downwards keep your right foot back so you don’t cut it off.”
The sun had almost reached its peak when I was told to take a break from practicing my footwork. I immediately laid down my breaths ragged and quick. If I could have felt my legs I would have guessed that they would feel like jelly. My feet were hot and tired and felt like I could no longer carry the weight of my own body.
I thought all the time I had spent here got me in shape but I was dead wrong. Up until now I was in kindergarten but now I was suddenly thrust into college. I heard Rayner walking towards me. “Have some water, you can sit there but make sure you watch me as I explain the basic forms and styles.”
I sat up and watched Rayner step into the center of the ring and began showing the basic forms. He would suddenly stop and have me explain back to him what he was doing and the purpose behind it. And as soon as I answered correctly he would start back right where he had paused. The sun was starting to lower when he had me start to practice the forms.
I was glad to get up and practice. All those hours of learning and explaining back made my head hurt. But I soon found out that even though I knew the forms in mind it wasn’t so easy to do them with the body. I tried to stay calm but my temper was slowly starting to rise and I really had to fight it down.
After two hours of being frustrated I started to manage the basic form. After another half hour I was able to move on to another basic form. With the torches being my only light I finished the last form. “Not bad Ray but now it is time for you to sleep. I have a tent set up for you.” I slowly walked into the tent and took of my shoes and fell into bed and was instantly asleep.
I was back in the ring practicing my forms. For awhile things were going well when suddenly they got weird. For some reason whenever I swung the sword would go a different direction. And suddenly there were practice dummies but I couldn’t hit them at all. Whenever I swung at them the sword would always go right through them.
For hours I tried to hit them but only once I was able to hit one. My head felt heavy and my brain felt like I had been studying for hours on end. Suddenly my dream vanished and I was walking down a long corridor. The lights on the walls flickered very dull and seemed like the slightest breeze would snuff them out.
While walking I became aware that I didn’t have my bow just my sword alone. I slid it out the scabbard and walked down the corridor. I came to a door and opened it. At the end of the room stood a shadowed figure. From the cold shivers that ran down my spine I knew who the figure was. Astoroth was making another appearance.
The space immediately around him was dark and shadowy making the shadowed figure seem that much more malicious. The first time we met in a dream I was very scared and while some fear was there I stood my ground. I was aware that I only had my sword and was still trying to learn swordsmanship but I did not fear him. For a few minutes we stood there staring at each other.
The room got colder and the light started to shy away from the room. I took a stance and waited for Astoroth to move but he never did. He started to laugh and then vanished. I woke up and tried to recollect the dream. What did it mean? Did he know what I was doing with the training? Could he really see me? Or was it that I was overreacting?
I settled back down again and went back to sleep. I felt Rayner shaking me awake. I got up and ate a quick breakfast. Today I was to put the two things I learned the day previous together as one. Rayner had me take the most basic form and called out where my imaginary enemy was and what he was doing. Hours went by as Rayner continued to call out instructions on what my enemy was doing and where he was.
A few times my feet got tangled and I fell into the dirt. I quickly got back up and pressed on. In the afternoon I was allowed a short break to catch my breath. As I ate some lunch and rested I practiced the forms and movements in my head. Right now I had to put every effort and energy into learning the sword.
For the rest of the day I fought against an imaginary opponent. “You have done well Ray, tomorrow we will start sparring so you can get a real feel of a sword fight. So far you have only swung against air but steel against steel is much more different not to mention steel against flesh. Get a good sleep for tomorrow the real training begins.”
Morning came too early for me and just as promised the training began. The first hour I was trying to get used to the sting my hand felt every time Rayner connected with my sword. He slowed down for me but he was still fast and very fluid with his motions. Each movement not only had a purpose of attack or defense but was used to create the next motion.
As we sparred I knew that I was sparring with a master. For another week we sparred and I saw that I was soon able to keep up with him and Rayner increased his speed and power. I was now back to square one but I knew he did to increase my skill. Every time I climbed up to the level where he was Rayner went up to another level. And although I felt like I could never keep up with him I knew that my skill was increasing and at an incredible rate.
But that was because I had very little time to learn and Rayner quickened the teaching pace. I looked back on when I first started and saw that I was becoming more fluid with my motions as well. With the sparring I was doing I thought about what Rayner was doing and why he was doing what he did. I started to emulate him and learned more about sword fighting by doing that.
After a week of sparring my training came to an end. “You have done well Ray but remember what I taught was merely the beginning. I taught you so you wouldn’t hurt yourself with your sword. Your best weapon against an enemy is range and your bow, never let an enemy get within sword’s reach of you. But if that happens you can defend yourself.
“But don’t be fooled you are merely a boy when it comes to sword fighting among men. There are many advanced forms and techniques that they know. So you must do whatever necessary to win even if it means fighting dirty. You need to do whatever it takes to come out on top. For if you lose your life the lives of those that you are protecting also become forfeit. Remember that Ray.”
Rayner walked off and left me to think about what I was taught and what he had said.
If I died so would everyone else that I was fighting for. I needed to make sure that I was mentally prepared for fighting. My body was almost ready but my mind was still in a power struggle of what to think. I had to find a way to make up my mind once for all and let the consequences follow.
I made the trip back to Norshire thinking all the way. And one of the things I thought about was my bow. I truly was naked without it for the bow was my defense and my ability to live through a fight and keep those I fought to protect alive.
I decided to sleep in the barracks when I arrived in Norshire since the sun had already gone down and I was ready for sleep. I carefully placed my sword down and got dressed for bed. As I was lying in bed I thought about the past week and half. Part of me was still thinking that Rayner was a little bit surprised of how fast I was learning.
The second to last day I countered an attack and immediately did a counterattack which Rayner was not expecting. I didn’t execute it properly because it was an advanced move. It was one of the moves Rayner had done when he saved me from the bandits. However the move caught Rayner off guard and he quickly countered in a way that was available to him.
He swung his sword to block mine and with his off-hand punched me in the stomach. I doubled over and almost puked. After that incident I never did another advanced move. But even though I caught Rayner off guard he was still able to block my blow and counter it. And with that incident I was taught another way of attacking.
I had a good hearty breakfast after I awoke. With my meal finished I headed up to see Lizeth. I needed to speak to someone about my training that wasn’t Rayner. The sun was shining brightly as I walked the streets up to the house. The sword felt good on my hip but I also wanted to feel the bow sitting on my back again. I really did feel vulnerable without it.
© 2014 RichardBBenson
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