The Knight and His Squire
Copyright© 2015 by Spherical Spoon
Maes roused from her not-so-restful sleep. Rohea and Maes had set up camp a few hours after the encounter with the bandits, before the sun had totally set. Maes got up and looked around for Rohea. She spotted him standing off to the side, swinging his sword around in slow, deliberate movements.
Maes walked up to him and said, "Good morning, Sir Rohea."
"Good morning, Maes. The day is still young, and we should begin your training, especially after last evening."
"What should I do?" Maes asked.
"The lessons I gave to your village are useful, but as a squire, you will need to start from the basics. So, we'll begin with the basic stances and movements. Watch how I am standing," Rohea said and clapped his hands on his thighs. "If an opponent knocks you over, you lose the advantage, and quite possibly, your life."
Rohea continued, "At the village, you showed me that you can be quick and dexterous. For these movements, you will want to be slow and exact. Once you get the hang of it, you can speed up the motions." Rohea drew his sword in a figure of eight motion in front of him. "These movements teach you the weight and feel of your sword, and train your mind to treat your sword as an extension of yourself. Take one of the practice swords and follow what I'm doing."
Maes held the practice sword with both arms and followed Rohea as he instructed her on how to move the sword in a slow but fluid motion. As she got the feel of the sword, Rohea encouraged her to speed up, which proved to be more difficult than she had initially thought.
"Now, Maes, tell me what you are feeling."
"I feel like I'm moving too quickly, that I'm losing control of the sword's motion."
"Good, that is the way that your sword communicates with you. Now slow down the motion until it feels right. Every time you practice, feel what the right speed is and stick to that. Over time, you'll move faster without even realizing it."
Maes nodded and kept her concentration on the sword and the weight of it resting on her arms.
"Think back to our encounter last evening with the bandits," Rohea said. "Remember that man that grabbed you."
A frown formed on Maes' forehead as she recalled how the man had surprised and grabbed her. The motion of the practice sword wavered, as she struggled to concentrate on the sword's path while images of the past day came rushing back.
"Be at peace," Rohea advised. "The flow of the sword is a part of you. Describe to me what happened after the man held you."
"I was shocked, and scared. I had dropped the sword, and was defenseless as he held the dagger to my throat. I thought I was going to die." The movement of her sword started becoming erratic, moving in bursts.
"Concentrate on your sword!" Rohea admonished.
Maes gulped and focused again on her sword. She slowed down the motions further in order to maintain control of its path.
"Good, what happened next?"
Maes was silent for a moment before answering, "I clenched my fists, and prayed that it would be over. I cursed that man and hoped he would suddenly just die. Then, he just let go of me."
Rohea nodded in acknowledgement. He was deep in thought about the events of the previous day. There was little chance that Maes was trained in magic, and yet there was no doubt that something had happened to that man, something to do with magic.
"I am not familiar with magic, but it looked like you cast a spell of some sort on that man," Rohea said.
"Magic?" Maes asked, narrowing her eyes. "How would I have done that?"
"That is the question, isn't it?" Rohea commented. "That's enough practice for now. Let's continue on to Toggir."
It was three days before Rohea and Maes arrived at Toggir. On the last leg of the journey, Rohea had donned his armor excluding his helmet, and rode on Feisty with her royal colors while Maes walked alongside. Maes had commented on that issue initially, but Rohea had explained that knights had to live up to a certain image, and a squire walking next to a mounted knight was expected.
"Hail, Knight of the King's Honor Guard," the town guard called out as he spotted the bright colors displayed on Feisty.
Rohea raised his armored fist in acknowledgment and rode slowly to the town gates. He stepped off his horse when he arrived at the gates, and nodded at the guards. They took Feisty's reins and guided her to the nearby stable. The royal colors that Feisty wore would ensure the utmost care and respect would be given to her.
"What brings you to Toggir, Sir Knight?" the town guard asked.
"I am Sir Rohea, and I have recruited a squire in my travels," Rohea replied, nodding at Maes. "I have come to Toggir to purchase a suitable weapon for my squire."
"Welcome, Sir Rohea," the town guard said. "We have a number of weapons shops in Toggir. You will find that Yieler offers the best quality, although it will not come cheap."
"And where will I find Yieler?" Rohea asked.
The town guard gave them directions, and Rohea and Maes walked into town. Toggir was a fair-sized town, and dozens of people were mulling about the cobblestone streets, carrying out their daily business. The directions given by the guard was clear, and the pair found the weapon shop with little trouble.
"Welcome," the owner Yieler said as the pair walked into the shop. There were swords of various lengths and types hanging on the walls, and suits of armor propped up on stands. "How might I help you today?"
"I'm looking for a short sword for my squire here," Rohea said. "What do you have?"
"Hmm," Yieler looked over Maes. "A pretty young lass for a squire." Maes scowled at the comment. "A short sword eh? We have the finest steel in the town." Yieler walked over to a wall and picked out a sword that was hanging at close to eye level. "Try this one."
Maes took the sword from Yieler's hand and moved it around experimentally. "It feels lighter than the practice sword."
"Yes," Yieler said. "Our steel is light but hard. You'll be hard pressed to find a better deal in town!"
"How does the sword feel, Maes?" Rohea asked.
"It feels light, almost too light."
"That won't do. Do you have something else that's heavier?" Rohea asked Yieler.
"Yes, yes, of course," Yieler answered. "Try this instead lass."
Maes exchanged the sword and moved the new one around a little. "This feels much better."
"Great," Rohea said. "We'll take it."
Rohea and Yieler haggled for some time, as Maes watched with an amused smile on her face.
As they left the shop, Maes commented, "You know, he would have gone for much lower than that."
"No, that was one of my best bargaining attempts yet," Rohea defended.
Maes laughed. "Then you obviously need more practice, Sir Rohea."
"Let's see how you do with buying the horse then."
The pair talked to a patrolling guard, and soon found their way to a small stable. Maes touched and stroked the horses until she found one that she liked – who liked her as well. It was a brown horse with a thick black mane. She walked back to the front of the stable, where Rohea waited. Rohea kept a straight face as Maes bargained with the stable master. As the bargaining progressed, he found it harder to keep quiet, and was at the verge of telling Maes to drop it and just accept the price. Maes and the stable master looked like they were about to come to blows. Finally, they shook hands and the deal was made, and both of them were smiling for some reason. It was a price much lower than what Rohea would have expected.
"There, that's how it's done," Maes said after they had left the shop. "We can pick Mud up when we leave town."
"Mud? That's a strange name for a horse."
"That's the first thing that came to mind when I saw him, and he seemed to like it when I called him that."
They stopped by a few other shops in town to replenish their supplies, and headed to a nearby tavern to stay for the night.
Pyar rode quickly towards the West. Although she did not know exactly where the dark magic was felt, she somehow felt certain that she would figure it out when she arrived. She had a small pack of supplies, a map of the region, and she wore the necklace Cyler had given her.
Every night, she would make camp and allow the horse to take a break. After spending weeks on end in an isolated tower, she felt at ease camping in the open; even though she would have preferred more creature comforts, such as a soft bed. Before she went to bed each night, she sat cross-legged and scryed the area, hoping to find some hint of the dark magic. Unfortunately, she'd had no luck in that endeavor thus far. Sas beginning to doubt that she had actually sensed dark magic the first time.
After a week on the road she arrived at the village of Paarl. It was a few days away from Vimml, on a horse at least. She was surprised to see some of the villagers practicing swordplay as she rode into the village.
Pyar was dressed in a comfortable cotton shirt and leather pants, quite unlike the traditional robes she wore in the capital, but much more suited for travel. The villagers were surprised to see a woman riding alone into their village, and a few came up to her.
"Greetings traveler," welcomed a man. "Welcome to Paarl."
"Greetings," said Pyar. "I am Pyar, and I am just traveling through this region." She did not want to let it known that she was a mage in training, as most people of the land viewed mages with suspicion. "I noticed some people practicing with swords, are there many bandits in this region?"
"Oh, not at all," the man replied. "Especially now that we have been training our local militia. Sir Rohea of the King's Honor Guard stopped by two weeks ago, and encouraged us to train our skills."
"Intriguing," commented Pyar. "Did he say why?"
"He said that it was to discourage raids on our village, and I got the impression that he was worried the war might come."
"The war? But the war is so far away, and Paarl is but a week away from the capital!"
The man nodded. "Aye, and we felt the same way. But I'm sure Sir Rohea had a good reason for doing what he did."
"I see, thanks for your hospitality. I'll be on my way now."
"If you wish to spend the night in Paarl, many of us would be happy to put you up for the night. From the looks of it, you have been traveling on the road for some time."
Pyar groaned inwardly. I must be really dirty for him to notice. She gave a weak smile and replied, "I would be most happy to, thank you for your kindness."
The next morning, Pyar said her goodbyes and thanks to the villagers of Paarl, and continued on her journey. The night in bed had done wonders to her spirit, and she felt certain that she would find the source of dark magic soon. However, a few uneventful days of travel on the road again dampened her mood once again.
She soon arrived at Vimml. Again, she noticed some villagers practicing swordplay, which she assumed was the handiwork of Sir Rohea. As she rode past the village, she saw smoke rising from the blacksmith's.
She wondered, Is that blacksmith making weapons?
An hour later, Pyar smelled the remnants of the bandits before they came into sight. Pyar dismounted from her horse, which was content to stay a large distance from the group of corpses. She covered her nose with her sleeve as she approached the corpses lying about the road. Most of them were half-eaten, and all were rotting, with maggots visibly crawling about the decaying flesh. She walked about the scene, not quite sure what she was looking for. She noticed a corpse of a man who had his hand sliced off. She peered at the corpse, which had grabbed her attention for some reason.
Pyar felt that there was something amiss about that particular corpse. For one, the flesh was rotting, but it didn't look like any animals had fed on it, unlike the other corpses nearby. As she stepped closer, she felt a burning sensation emanating from her chest. Taking a quick step back, she glanced down and placed her hand on her chest, and realized that the necklace was warm and glowing.
Pyar spun around, expecting to see a dark mage standing in the distance. To her relief, there was only empty land in the distance. She noted the lack of a "dark" feeling, although the necklace seemed to think otherwise. She looked at the handless corpse again, and gasped. She realized that the corpse still had its eyes intact – that was usually the first thing eaten by animals. Furthermore, the eyes were completely black, although Pyar was uncertain if that was an effect of death.
I must report this to Master Cyler! Pyar thought. Surely this has something to do with Sir Rohea and his training of the nearby villages. She gulped. Could he be the dark mage? Surely the Council would have sensed something before now?