The next morning Magdaline woke and found nothing bizarre had happened to her over the night. She had half expected the girl to try to kill her in her sleep. As they marched the trio were quiet. As they ate, the same. During the circle, she was paired with an older half elf boy with a sword and shield. They traded blows, testing each other for weakness but ultimately found nothing. Phayefine fought some other girl and attacked with her typical ferocity. Her victory was not as abroarious as her previous ones. Both Sarros and Elizira fought against others, but their fights were unremarkable.
During practice, everyone followed what the instructor was doing working out routines that would some day save their lives in a real fight. Magdaline felt the smooth fluidity of the sword keenly. When she was done she knelt down, her shield hand pressed against the flat side of the blade. She leaned her head against the blade and thought.
‘Who told me to kill her? I don’t want to kill her. I just wanted her to stop. She did, for today.’ The thought harkened her back to a previous moment in time. ‘Kill your enemy, or they will kill you.’ Her training from her grandfather brought back memories that she did not want anymore. ‘Is she my enemy?’
That evening, after the march, she sat on Elizira’s cot. They talked slowly and quietly about what Magdaline remembered of the day she lost her parents. Elizira simply listened as she knew nothing to say to the girl. Magdaline knew how it ended, but could not figure out how it started. Answers never came to her. All the older girl could do is offer was a shoulder to cry on.
Phayefine sat quietly, intently listening to the conversation. She was keen to find something to pin this girl to a wall with. ‘Maybe a spear.’ She chuckled to herself. She was defeated, by someone so far beneath her that she was ashamed of it. In her family were governors, politicians, adventurers and leaders. Her parents expected things from her that she could not have thought of only a year before. Her mother prodded her into the city guard so they could train her to be strong and cruel. Her mother was an adventurer and now a stateswoman. She expected her daughter to be better and by virtue, more cruel. She had no option but to succeed in everything. She was the best of the half elves. She knew this child who was obviously from the lower city could never compare.
In listening though, she gained insight. ‘Magdaline had killed her parents.’ She thought to herself. She would find a way to use this. ‘What kind of monstrous child kills her parents?’ Phayefine did not know yet how this information could be used, but it must be used at the right time.
That night was uneventful, even though Magdaline was wary of what the girl would be plotting. She hated having to look over her shoulder all the time. It was stressful, stress she did not need right now.
A fortnight passed as the trooped trained. They tried many different types of weapons. Spears, glaives and halberds were very popular amongst the troops. It was not until they started training on bows that Magdaline felt completely unprepared.
One day, their training led them to the archery area. Dummies were lined up at the far side of a field, and it was expected that they would be able to hit the targets. This seemed an easy task for Sarros and Elizira. The best of the shots went to Phayefine by far. This is where she felt the most pressure. She wanted very much to make sure that the girl never had an advantage over her.
The class was instructed by Elyris, he was a high elf, from what Magdaline gathered. His attitude and snobbery was on prominent display that day. He expected everyone to be perfect. If you were not his belittling comments about your competency came up quickly. He was especially harsh on half elves like her. Aside from comments about how stupid you were, he would also put down your family, if not your entire race.
As he walked down the line, he drew satisfaction from those who were accurate, and sternness from those who were not. When he got to Magdaline’s position he stopped. “Stupid girl, that bow is too tall for you. Are your family related to halflings?”
“No sir.” She replied. “This was what I was given.”
“Do you know what that is called?”
“A bow, sir.” She thought the question stupid.
“A long bow urchin.” He snarled. “Go get a short bow.”
She started to run off to get the right bow, the instructor reached over and grabbed the bow she had. He looked at it queerly. “They don’t even have good equipment.”
By the time she made it back with the short bow, the instructor had an arrow knoched and was about to fire.
“None of you are going to live if you can’t even fire a bow.” The arrow flew at Magdaline’s target, sinking directly in the middle of the head of the dummy. The troop all gasped at the accuracy.
The next he drew and turned his body down the line of dummies to the farthest away. With this shot, they saw the arrow fly much higher in the air, coming down to rest in the middle of the chest of the dummy. As soon as the arrow hit, the troop all cheered.
Lastly, the instructor knocked another arrow and turned to face the dummy at the other end. Magdaline was front and center watching the elf intently. He was measuring distance and wind. His eyes flicked from arrow to target, then let the arrow fly. The distance was shorter than the previous, but the target was no less impressive. It struck the wooden neck of the dummy at the narrowest point.
“I expect no less from you miscreants.” His eyes seemed intent on the last dummy. As he walked away he could hear him say under his breath “Horrible equipment.” As if he were blaming a perfect shot on the bow itself.
Magdaline pulled an arrow onto her bow. This one was more comfortable for her size. She looked down to the dummy on the other side. She saw her arrow going straight into its chest. She sighted the arrow for distance, arched her back to get the best shot, let the arrow go, it soared through the air and landed twenty feet short. The boy beside her laughed.
She knocked another arrow. Arched back and tried to adjust the distance. The arrow landed five feet closer. She frowned.
Another arrow, this one was five feet past the first. Then another, and another. None made it any closer. She picked up the last arrow, drew it and shot. Again twenty feet short.
As she stood there, with no arrows left, she wondered what to do. She asked the boy who had laughed at her for another arrow, but he refused. The girl on the other side had only a couple left. She was panicked.
At the same moment, the instructor came back to her position. “Girl, what are you doing?” He said arrogantly.
“I am out of arrows, sir.”
The tall elf stooped down to her level and pointed towards the arrows in the middle of the field. “Go get them you idiot.”
She panicked even more. She slowly made her way to the railing that separated the troop from the field of fire. She slipped through the rungs of it and proceeded to walk slowly onto the field.
“Stop!” The instructor yelled. Everyone stopped, including Magdaline. “You’re dead.”
“A bow is your life. If you run out of arrows, you’re dead. If you drop your bow, you’re dead. If you run out to meet the enemy in battle, and they have bows, you’re dead. If you are stupid girl, then you’re dead.”
Magdaline ran back to the railing and slipped through. “Understand girl,” he said softly while looking into her eyes which were filled with tears. “An order is only as good as it’s intent. Go and get arrows for everyone from the armory.”
Magdaline ran off as she was ordered. The instructor picked up the short bow. He examined it closely. There was a split in the wood that never would have let it shoot correctly.
“Useless half elves can’t even make bows right.”