Part 2 - First Practice
Kahor handed her a sword chosen from among the many kept inside a big wooden box, and Allana swung it around, trying to get used to its shape and weight. Although made of steel her sword could hardly hurt anyone, its blade dull and its point rounded. Even so it was much heavier the sword she had been used to fight with, back in Everlyn.
After breakfast Kahor had led her to the training grounds reserved for their group. Consisting mainly of teens boys, many younger than Allana, no one seemed to want to waste any time, quickly forming small training groups as they arrived. Kahor too, took the opportunity to teach Allana some of the basis. Simple things that she had never considered before but that, with a sword as heavy has the one she now wielded, made it much easier to control each swing.
"Hum, not bad. I'd say you've got the hang of it," Kahor complimented her as she watched Allana repeat what she had just shown her. "For a better defense you should lower the center of your body. Bend your legs a bit more. That's it!"
"Ah! And here she is! Our new companion!" a feminine voice noted and Allana lowered her weapon to look at the three girls that had just arrived.
"Beat it, Larrise! We have no time to waste on your stupid talk!" Kahor replied immediately and Larrisse smiled, running a hand through her hair, undisturbed.
"Kahor. Hadn't noticed you standing there. How's it going? Has that nice Knight you're hanging with told you who's going to be the judges of your Test yet? If he doesn't hurry you won't have time to bribe them all!"
"If you don't shut up with that nonsense right now I'll ..."
"You'll what? You should give up while you can!" Larrisse added lowering her voice. "You'll never pass that Test! I'll make sure of it! See you around, Darna. It was a pleasure," she added with a cynical smile and walked away, followed by the other two girls.
Allana remained silent, not knowing exactly what had just happened, but, as she turned to face Kahor's angry expression a smile touched her lips.
"Don't mind them. Just believe in yourself and I'm sure you'll be fine," she stated firmly and Kahor looked surprised. Up until then Darna had seemed a timid, distant girl. That almost childish smile showed a completely different person.
"Thanks ... Sometimes she can really piss me off!"
The sudden silence that surrounded them made them turn around just in time to see Elipson crossing the training grounds. Most conversations were immediately terminated, with exception of the two excited voices of the other girls.
"Larrisse!" The girl jumped, startled by that strong commanding voice, and Elipson smiled lightly. "Choose one of the others and remind us of the different types of attack we've practiced yesterday."
Larrised seemed out of sorts for a moment, but it didn't take her long to pull herself together. Picking up one of the swords she stood in the center of the circle formed by the rest of the cadets and faced Allana with a smile.
"Darna!" she chose, almost mockingly, and Kahor stepped forward, even angrier than before.
"Don't be stupid! You know very well that Darna has just arrived. Of course she can't ..."
"It's okay," Allana calmly intervened. "It will be my pleasure to help you with this demonstration," she stated and Kahor looked towards Elipson, hoping she wouldn't allow it, but the cold smile that touched older woman's lips quickly told her that her hopes were in vain.
"Great. I'll take this chance and see what you can do," Elipson warned and Allana replied her challenge with light bow of her head.
Tapping Kahor on her shoulder as to reassure her, Allana stepped into the circle and raised her sword, flexing her legs into a defensive posture, just like Kahor had taught her just moments ago. Larrise smiled, completely sure of herself as she faced the small, thin girl standing before her, and held her sword with both hands. Jumping forward she attacked with a fast swing, trying to knock her down, but Allana defended her blow with ease, making Larrisse's sword slide over her own blade, just enough to allow her to step aside. Larrisse rushed pass her, driven by the force of her own attack, and almost fell forward. Straightening her back, she spun around facing her opponent, her smug expression giving way to a much more annoyed one. Allana raised her sword again, taking her defensive posture, and waited for the next attack. Larrisse's swings became faster and harder, her smile giving way to a more serious and focused expression. Allana, on the other hand, did nothing but defend and parry the other girl's sword, causing her to lose her balance each time she charged blindly.
"Larrisse! Enough!" Elipson commanded but Larrisse seemed too angry with the inefficacy of her attacks to comply. And so, wanting to put an end to that useless fight, Allana defended her next attack and, abandoning her defensive position, advanced for a counterattack, disarming her with a fast blow. With Allana's rounded point sword pressed against her chest, Larrisse couldn't help but stand still, breathing heavily and looking hatefully at her adversary.
"You're flaw is the same as all the others. Too much strength. Makes you lose your balance and agility," Allana stated and Larrisse frowned even angrier.
"But who the hell do you think you are to tell me what ..."
"She's right!" Elipson cut in, silencing the girl who suddenly looked very embarrassed. "And I've told you so many times!" she added and Allana lowered her sword awkwardly, since she hadn't thought before she spoke, and had now drawn everybody's attention to her. "And next time you refuse to obey one of my orders I'll expel you from the Order! Are we clear?" Larrisse lowered her gaze, muttering a "Yes ma'am." and Elipson turned to face the other cadets. "This sad spectacle will not be repeated a second time! And as punishment you will all spend the rest of the morning training basic positions! Which means you too, Darna, since you'll belong to our group from now on!"
Allana had to blink a few times until she understood what that meant. She had been accepted, she concluded smiling as she returned to Kahor's side.
"Wow! Where did you learn that?" Kahor asked in a small voice, trying to avoid any further scolding, and Allana shrugged.
"Mostly all by myself. First watching others fight, and then fighting against them. I've only recently been told that there are specific techniques, where sword fighting is concerned."
Kahor smiled and placed an arm around the girl's shoulders.
"You'll get it in no time. You'll see. With the knowledge and practice you already have you'll probably be beating me in two weeks time."
Elipson watched from afar as the two girls talked. That little girl, with long blond hair and a face like a doll was nothing like she had expected. Elian had been right, she had to concede. She was quite good with a sword, for someone with no training whatsoever. And now Kahor was teaching her the various basic positions. For a moment she just stood there, watching her, her golden eyes recording every single word the other girl told her. Sometimes Kahor would correct her, things like the position of her feet, or how high she should raise her arms. But, unlike most youngsters at the beginning of training, Darna seemed to never repeat the same mistake twice.
When morning came to an end Allana was so tiered that all she could do was wish for nighttime that was still half a day away. She'd learned a lot of new things and, although her arms ached from the lack of training with such a heavy sword, she was overall happy with herself. Luckily a cold bath and the so waited lunch were enough to reinvigorate her and, in the afternoon, Kahor took her to the enormous library of the Dark Order.
"See these books?" She asked pointing one of the shelves. "They're all about combat techniques and strategies. I've read most of them. Some are about the Knighthood and the Codes of Honor. There's a lot of information here that I'm sure will be very useful. That is, if you don't mind reading, of course."
Allana smiled reading some of titles, and turned back to Kahor.
"I'm sure you're right. And I don't mind reading at all. Thank you."
Kahor smiled happily and walked towards the window.
"See that training ground down there?" Allana nodded approaching her. "If you need me I'll be there, training for my upcoming Test. Anyways, if someone messes with you the best you have to do is ignore them. They're always like this, whenever someone new joins the Order. So don't worry too much."
"I'll be fine."
"Well, after this morning I don't doubt it in the least."
Allana laughed lightly and went back to the shelves loaded with books.
"Besides, I don't want to cause you any trouble."
Kahor's hand on her shoulder startled her and she turned to face the other girl's smiling face.
"Elipson asked me to look after you and that's what I'm doing. But please don't think I'm only doing it because she told me to. It is my duty, as it would be for any other Knight."
"To help those in need ..."
"Exactly! So don't worry about anything else, and if you need me I'll be down there!"
"Thank you," Allana replied with a smile and Kahor seemed happy with her answer walking towards the stairs.
Allana waited by the window where they had stood just moments ago until she sawher leave the building, and then went back to the bookshelves choosing a book with a brown binding.
"If I were you I'd start by reading this one." Allana gazed away from the book she held and looked at the boy that had spoken to her. With green-blue eyes he blushed profusely, looking embarrassed. "Ah ... Hi. My name is Karl. And you're the new girl, right?"
"Guess so. I'm Darna," she answered, amused by his awkwardness.
"Oh, I know. I saw you today ... You fight very well."
"Oh, it was nothing. Were you telling me to read that one?" Allana asked, looking at the book he held, and which he seemed to have completely forgotten, and Karl blushed again.
"Ah, yes, yes! This was the first book I read. Explains the origins of sword fighting and covers all the basic positions. It also goes over some of the most important Codes of Honor," Karl pointed out, handing her the book, and Allana took it.
"Why not? It sounds like a good start," she decided, walking towards one of the tables and sitting down.
"Do you mind if I sit with you?"
"Of course not. Please," she offered, pointing the chair across hers, and Karl blushed as he took it, trying as hard as he could to focus on his reading, instead of staring at the golden-eyed girl across the table.
When Allana finished her book the day was nearly over. She smiled as she noticed that the boy that had kept her company had fallen asleep over the huge book he had been studding. Peering out the window she saw two dark figures on the training grounds. One was Kahor, she knew. But she couldn't guess who the tall one was. Probably a Knight, she decided.
Looking back at Karl she couldn't help smiling as she recalled his blushed cheeks. He seemed her age and his brown hair formed large curls over the book's yellow pages. Overall he was short and slender, the complete opposite of what you'd expect from a Knight but, unlike the rest of the boys she had met that day, he was rather nice.
Not wanting to wake him, she placed her book back on its shelf and left the library without a sound, turning towards the training grounds where Kahor still practiced.
Outside a cool breeze blew against her cheeks, casting away the warmth that had been felt all through the day. The lonely sound of swords clashing echoed in the air and so, not wanting to disturb Kahor's practice, Allana decided to keep her distance and watch them from afar.
Kahor looked tired, droplets of sweat glistening on her brunette skin, but the Knight she was facing kept correcting her, even while she attacked him.
"Lower your defense, Kahor! And those steps! Faster!" he ordered and both swords met in the air, drawing them closer. "If this was a Test right now you would've just lost your sword. Let's stop here. You're too tired," the Knight decided, lowering his weapon, and stepped away.
"No! One more time!"
"You need your rest. The human body isn't a machine. It needs time to rest and recover, and you know it."
"Kai! One more time, please!"
"Tomorrow!" he rebutted but Kahor paid him no heed and charged forward. For an instant Allana thought he wouldn't have time to parry her blow but his sword flashed as it crossed the air, breaking her swing just before her blade could touch his skin. "You're so stubborn!"
"Defend yourself!" the girl commanded between clenched teeth as she forced her sword free and attacked him in a fast sequence of blows. But the Knight's technique was way above hers and, with a single blow, her sword flew off her hands. Losing her balance, Kahor almost fell backwards, but he held her arm, pulling her to her feet.
"You need to rest," he stated again, this time in a softer tone, and Kahor took a deep breath, lowering her gaze.
"I won't be able to pass, right?"
"I've answered that question so many times ..."
"You're right! I'm being silly!" she said, raising her head, and went to get her sword.
She looked back, smiling softly, and nodded.
Allana hid in the shadows as he passed by her and then walked over to Kahor as if she'd just arrived. Kahor was wiping her forehead on a small towel and piratically jumped to the side when Allana placed a hand on her shoulder.
"By the Gods! Darna! You scared me!"
"Sorry. Is he the one that has been helping you with your training?"
Kahor's eyes seemed to come alight made her way towards one of the storage units, carrying her sword.
"Yes. Were you there?"
"No. I mean ... I saw you from upstairs and he passed by me just then. He's the same Knight from this morning, right?"
"Yes. Come! I have to take a shower before dinner."
Allana followed her and tried to learn a bit more about that Knight that always looked so cold and serious.
"You always train with him?"
"Yes. It's always like this. Normally Elipson, or even Denar, are too busy to practice with us. So other Knights volunteer to help us. Kai has helped me a lot."
"But he seems so ... unfriendly ..."
Kahor laughed lightly and her expression made Allana smile.
"He seems like that, doesn't he? That's what I thought too, the first time I saw him. It was Elipson who introduced us, about a year ago, so he could guide me. I remember I was even a bit afraid of him. On the other hand, I was eager to learn and improve my technique, so I didn't mind having such a rigorous teacher. But, after knowing him better ... he's not that bad."
"I see ... You really like him." she stated, smiling mischievously, and Kahor blushed, averting her gaze.
"Yes. He's a wonderful teacher. You can go ahead to the dining hall," she told her, changing the subject. "Tonight there's a Reception at the palace, which means that, for us, dinner is over sooner than usually, so that Adira and the others can focus on the party," she added and Allana nodded, leaving Kahor with an amused smile.