Ch18: The showdown
The next morning, Magdaline was tired, but not from being overworked but from lack of sleep. As she worked through the events of yesterday and the last night in her head, she wondered how she could prove herself.
In the mess hall she avoided Phayefine, and sat with Sarros and Elizira. They ate quickly, but quietly talked about Damon. They could hear almost everyone talking about him. After mess hall, they got into formation and marched up to the training fields. They were greeted by a new instructor. She was a tall half elf with a stern expression and a long scar that started from her brow down her cheek, only missing the eye.
“My name is Instructor Daraerys. I will be teaching you for the foreseeable future. I am not here to answer your questions. I am not here to be your mommy.”
Many recruits giggled.
“Today, we are going to learn defense. Everyone grab a shield and a sword.” Each student in turn grabbed a wooden shield and a wooden sword. They formed up in training formation and began the movements the instructor commanded.
The sword was easier to Magdaline than the bulky staff. She liked the weight and pivot point, where the staff she had a hard time controlling where both ends were. The shield felt natural to her. As she practiced her moves, her body naturally moved with it. Elizira looked over and saw the girl even smiling.
Training went on throughout the day. Magdaline was fluent as she went from move to move. The instructor was careful to define what every move was, how it was to be used and why. She would occasionally look up and see others fumble with the new weapons. This would make her smile more.
At the end of the training, the troop again got into formation and marched back to the mess hall. Elizira asked how today was for her.
“I think I found a new friend.” Magdaline beamed.
“I think you did too.”
Once they got to the mess hall, Magdaline again avoided Phayefine. Sitting with her friends, she always kept an eye on where the girl was. She felt like there was always some looming disaster just over the horizon and if she did not watch every second her world would crash around her.
Outside, she marched with Sarros and Elizira, slowly chatting about the day. In the back of her mind, she always watched.
Once they returned to the barracks, everyone was milling about, murmuring. Most of the time she did not hear the conversations, those she did were about Damon and Tylenyphe. Phayefine sat with her friends, she seemed to always be whispering. She would often glance over at Magdaline as she chatted with them. It made the young girl feel cold.
That night, she slept, almost half way. She worried about what the girl was going to do to her next. She awoke in the morning, her blanket was damp and reeked. Urine? She bolted out of bed and took her blanket outside and dunked it in the trough. Her uniform smelled, she smelled. She got in the trough and laid in it. When she got up, rushing water fell from her as she stepped out.
Once back inside, the sergeant who had been watching, gave her a new uniform. She changed in her office.
“Child, today must be the day.” The sergeant said coldly.
When Magdaline went back into the barracks, the troop was already getting up and getting to attention. Phayefine’s face was half contorted into a sneer and a grand smile. As Magdaline walked, her eyes never left the older girl’s.
The sergeant walked in after her and waited for her to get in line. She ordered the troop out to the mess hall and with that, they gathered outside in formation.
Magdaline made it a point to stand right next to Phayefine. The older girl snarled at her. “You wet your bed?” She could barely contain a giggle. “Poor baby.” She said condescendingly.
‘Today must be the day.’ She thought to herself.
She got in line right behind Phayefine, watching the girl the whole way, studying her. As they grabbed a bowl at the same time. Phayefine turned and looked at her. “Get away from me. You smell.” Magdaline did not move.
Phayefine sat down with her oats and began to shovel it into her mouth, when Magdaline sat right across from her. The younger girl stared directly into her eyes while eating. The whole time Phayefine barely could get a spoonful without trying to stare her down.
As they walked back to formation. Magdaline followed closely.
“Get away from me.” The older said. “Are you lost you little mutt?”
Magdaline said nothing, she felt cool and in control of this situation.
Again, in formation, she marched right next to Phayefine.
“Today you are going to die.” The older girl said blatantly.
Magdaline seemed unphased. They marched to the training ground where they were commanded back to the circle. Today, they were given a choice of weapons, the staff or the sword and shield. Magdaline of course chose the latter. She watched as Phayefine picked up her trusty staff.
Instructor Daraerys called out two names, and two of the troop came into the circle, both with sword and shield. As they dueled she saw the same tactics that they practiced the previous day. They were slow and cumbersome with the weapons. They fought, but neither gained an advantage. Finally, the instructor put a halt to the duel and both returned. Two more names, and another fight. Staff versus sword and shield. Magdaline watched closely. The boy with the staff hammered on the girl’s shield, She blocked everything he threw. The boy blocked or avoided the sword. The end came when the boy feigned and tripped the girl with the staff. Magdaline was disappointed.
Another set of names. Staff versus staff. She watched the tactics closely as each of them battled. She saw similar moves to what the previous fight was. These she had studied for the past few days. The fight ended quickly though. Both seemed adept at the weapon and comfortable.
“Sarros and Elizira.” The instructor yelled.
The two walked forward into the circle, Sarros with the sword and shield, Elizira held a staff. The girl started off with a quick series of blows that Sarros blocked. She had meaning in her attacks. Each one drove the boy backward. When he finally went on the offensive, she deftly blocked his attacks. What followed was a tit for tat fight. Sarros would test a strike against her, and she against him. They seemed to be testing every move they had learned against each other. Some were effective, some were not.
Soon, the instructor halted the fight, neither had won, but Magdaline did not figure that winning was the point in this matter.
“Magdaline and Phayefine.” The instructor said.
A chill ran up Magdaline’s spine. She had to win this and she had to do it better than anyone else could. She stepped forward in a defensive stance. She did not want to take any chances or give the girl any confidence. Phayefine did the same. They circled the center and then the older girl went in for the attack. She gave off three quick blows at different angles. Magdaline blocked each. Her eyes never left the girl’s core. She could see how she was moving and gave away where she was going to attack. Phayefine raised her staff to deliver a crushing blow. The younger girl blocked it with her sword.
Magdaline saw that the girl’s attacks were strong. She was pouring every ounce of energy into them. Magdaline struck at the girl’s stomach, but she moved away quickly only to return with another blow across her shield.
Phayefine confidently raised her staff to her side so that she could sweep the young girl off her feet. Her strike missed. Magdaline leapt over the strike towards her. Her shield sent crashing into Phayefine’s face. She retreated.
Both stared at each other, circling. Magdaline was not going to let her win and Phayefine was not going to lose.
Phayefine started a series of strikes to the younger girl’s right, each designed to attack the weapon. With each one, Magdaline blocked, but at a cost. Each one vibrated her hand. She struck twice from above and once to her face. The last attack Phayefine aimed towards her knee. Magdaline turned the sword to block but the blow ripped the sword from her hand, which by this time felt numb.
Magdaline backed away from the older girl. She was shaking her hand trying to get some feeling back into it.
Phayefine saw her chance and started attacking relentlessly. Magdaline now had both hands behind her shield and blocked every strike with force.
At the end, both girls backed away panting.
Magdaline reached back for her sword, Phayefine did not put up a fight for it. With the weapon in hand, she felt ready again.
Magdaline charged, shield first. Phayefine was unable to shift out of the way. She bowled her over onto her back and fell on her instantly. With her shield arm, she pinned the girls staff and both hands to the ground, with the other, she poised it to strike her heart.
“Do it. Kill her.” She heard some guttural voice from somewhere deep inside her. She reared back to deliver the killing blow. Phayefine braced.
“Halt.” The instructor yelled.
With that, the entire troop cheered.
That evening, Magdaline was hailed as a hero. Others in her troop that never spoke to her, offered her words of encouragement. Though the day was long and hard, she felt she had enough energy to conquer the world. Sarros and Elizira gleefully recalled Magdaline’s fight against Phayefine. Anyone who passed by would receive. “Yeah, we taught her that.”
At the end of the evening, she looked over at Phayefine. The girl was quiet, but her brow was furrowed. Clearly this was not over.