Ch12: Combat training
Sergeant Lorafean led Magdaline to where the rest of her troop was being trained. They were in a circle, cheering. Her initial thought was that they were all so tall. Even the shortest was a foot more than her. They were rowdy, yelling, chanting. As they approached, she saw the comotion. Two of them were inside the circle with long sticks. They were fighting.
Magdaline was ushered to a spot on the outside of the table. She saw the others around her. Few looked in her direction, as they were engrossed in the action in front of them. A boy and a girl were in the middle. The staves the children had gave loud cracks as one would attack and the other would defend. Quickly the table turned and the other attacked fiercely. Blocked again.
As she grew up, her parents never bore her to cheer violence. Her grandfather taught her that violence was necessary. The two concepts were so opposed to her that when she had asked her mother about it, she was given the response of “violence is only necessary for defense.” Again, her questions went unanswered. But here, these children seemed to relish it.
The boy seemed to have the upper hand at the moment, and with a sweep, he tripped the girl who dropped to the ground. Magdaline watched in amazement as the girl rolled with the attack and within seconds was back on her feet. She swung her staff quickly in an odd motion and the boy was caught between two types of blocks and could not defend the attack. Her staff landed straight into his side. It stopped just shy of his ribs. “Dead” she proclaimed with a wry smile.
The boy, who felt that he was cheated by this, raised his staff high in the air, and brought it down straight towards the girl’s head. With an instant, she raised her staff to block. His blow landed with ferocity. She backed up a little to deflect some of the force. Before she could react, he held his staff high again. And again it came down with a swift crack, only inches away from her hand. She retreated again, as he raised his staff. Magdaline saw bloodlust in his eyes.
“Halt!” His shrill voice. The short but stout halfling strode forward into the circle. He held in his hand a smaller staff. With a swift motion he landed his staff on the thigh of the boy in such a way that buckled his knee. He came crashing down to the ground and held his knee in pain.
Instructor Hamelfoot was in charge of their training in weapons but he was shorter than anyone she had ever met. His stride was confident and his words were clear.
Such was her focus on the event that she did not see the sergeant walk over and communicate something to the only other adult there.
“Hate and anger are tools in battle. They give you strength, but they blind you to truth. Your enemy is cunning, he will not always be in front of you. “Pleneth and Karobos.” Two youths from opposite sides stepped forward. “Attack me.” His orders came even as the girl and boy were still in the circle.
Both came in fast; they each held their staffs at different angles. As one boy swung at the halfling the other would come from the other side. With a simple flick of the instructors staff, both were blocked at the same time.
It was time for Hamelfoot to go on the offensive. His focus seemed to be all on the boy in front of him, but with every strike that he threw at his target, the other was blocked. Thwack, crack, smack. His final blow disarmed his target. In the same swift motion his staff returned behind his back and blocked another attack. Swiftly swapping hands, his staff came back around and struck the child in the middle of his chest, sending him flying backward out of the circle.
The instructor turned to face the lone boy. He held his staff in an attack position. The boy backed away. His hands trembled from the workout already. His lungs heaved from exertion. The halfling stood firm, almost calm.
“Finish this.” The instructor said coldly.
The boy raised his staff to attack and brought it down as hard as he could on the halfling. Crack. The weapon was blocked and in instant later the instructor’s staff was only an inch beside the boy’s face.
“Anger is an excuse for recklessness. Focus will always win you in battle.”
The boy, upon seeing the staff so close to his face dropped his weapon and scuttled backwards.
“Magdaline.” The instructor said.
She was transfixed on the events that she barely heard her name mentioned.
With a flick of his staff, the instructor flung the boy’s staff to her. As it went through the air, it did not turn. As it was, it was easily caught by her. Bewildered, she stepped forward.
“Present your weapon. It is time for you to fight.” His trill order shocked her.
She held up the staff as she saw the others do. She had used the weapon before. Her grandfather and his guard taught her how to use it, but what she saw here was so fast compared to the simple things they did.
The halfling, swung his staff sideways. His staff hit hers between where her hands were. It was not a loud sound, he was not hitting hard. He reversed his stroke and swung from the other side. It was slow and deliberate. She instinctively moved the staff to block it. This strike was harder and faster. Another reverse, and hit the other side with even more force. As she watched, she saw only the tip of the staff as it moved through the air. Strike after strike, the halfling would strike one side, then the other. She felt the fight speeding up, and she could barely keep up with his blows. Crack, thwack, pop, and her world went black.
She woke up on the side of the circle, her head hurt badly, and there was a big knot on it. A young half elf tended it for her. He held a rag against her head. She looked up at the half elf girl. Her eyes were golden and hair red. She held a symbol in her hand as she prayed. Within seconds the pain stopped and her head cleared. She did not know what was happening, but she had to get back to her feet.
When she rejoined the circle, two girls were in the middle fighting. They were fast and agile. Both defended each blow as it came. Neither could land a decisive blow. This went on for minutes until the instructor yelled “Break.” Each girl returned to the circle and were winded.
Moments later the instructor yelled “Training formation.” and they spread out into rows, some distance apart. Magdaline struggled to find where her place was. When she found an adequate spot that looked correct, she waited. Each of the other children had a staff, but she still had none. Each stood in a stance where the staff was off to the side, but vertically, the bottom on the ground.
The instructor looked at her, and pointed towards a cart that had a few still left inside. She ran to the cart and picked up one and brought it back to her station. She looked around and tried to hold her staff the same way. The instructor seemed to have the same stance.
The instructor yelled an order, and everyone, including him changed the position of the staff, now out in front of them. Another order, and now it was beside them in an attack stance that she saw in the circle. Another and yet another position.
Everyone in the troop was in perfect synchronization. Everyone but Magdaline, who watched the instructor carefully, and did everything he did but in reverse.