The Fine Art of Battle: Part One
I've always been fascinated with the extension of every warrior's very being-- his weapon. The piece of art that lends to the dangerous dance of warrior versus warrior. I am honored to create the very finest art of battle. But it hasn't always been that way.
As incredible as it may sound, my interest has not always been famed and sought after as it is today. Nay, there was a time when it shamed me terribly. It was not so long ago...
"Kentari!" Allance shouted, "Kentari, you'll never believe what's happening!"
"I am lying in a bed right next to you. I promise I can hear you without you elevating your voice," I answered irritably, carefully wriggling out of the quilt. I left the bed perfectly made, without a single wrinkle.
Allance regarded me in disgust. "I hate that. You make your bed with no effort whatever. You just slither out like a giant snake. Do you know how... weak it looks?"
"Weak?" I looked upon him with raised brows. "The way you get out of bed belies your strength or weakness? Hold on a moment, I must get a pad and take notes."
"You'll never become a great warrior with that attitude. You must always display your strength, always be the warrior in all you do." Allance struck a pose.
"And you must not act as if there is an artist ready to immortalize you in stone when you are no hero," I replied acidly, neatly sidestepping the issue.
To be true, I did not want to be a warrior. Every male in our village thirsted to be a fighting machine. To learn the intricate dance of pet to pet combat. For war or for Battledome, they cared not which. Only that they could become the best.
I had only begun my training a few moonturns beforehand. I had been feverish for the glory before. But now I knew that it was not my life path. Even that short a time had shown me that fighting was not my strength.
Quickly, my brother Allance and I got dressed in our armor and walked down to the Field. We called it this, but in truth, it was many fields and many buildings, for different specialties. Other males joined us on our walk. Loudly, they jostled my brother and talked technique. I simply kept walking, looking straight ahead.
No one wished to talk to one such as I. The others in my class had already begun to hit the targets in the practice field with bows, to wield their swords in a few simple drills. My arrows didn't even strike within the range of the field. There was one memorable occasion in which it flew behind me. The instructors informed me in overly serious tones that it had never happened in the history of our village. I could not even pick up the heavy practice swords.
We arrived at the Field, me going to my beginners studies, my brother going off to his training in the fine art of the sword.
"Kentari!" Master Blepheros shouted at me as I entered. I bowed, but even my most careful bow was not nearly as good as even the youngest of the village boys. Bowing was taught at a young age, and perfected in your first day in the Field. It seemed I could not even manage that.
Master Blepheros' cold eyes bore into me, noting how miserable even my bow was. "It is my thought," he said harshly, "that my tutelage is lost on such a one that can not even wield a sword, let alone defeat his enemies with it." I hung my head in shame, admitting his words were truth. "Since this is so," he continued, "I have decided that maybe if you see what a beautiful thing a well trained warrior is, it will give you the motivation to begin your training anew."
My heart leapt into my throat. Only the boys in the very highest levels of training, boys that lacked a year at most to earning their own weapon, were allowed such a privilege. To even watch the warriors at their work was a fine sight indeed.
"This is not for good work, nor is it for punishment," he continued somberly, "but because I am not sure that anything else will get through your thick skull." A rebuke, at seeing my joy.
The tall Skeith nodded at my reaction. Master Blepheros was noted for his hardness of heart. Even his most prized pupils were hardly ever reworded. The training, he was fond of saying, was reword enough.
Still, whether for ill or good, I was going to be allowed a full day to watch the warriors at their drills. I couldn't help but get excited. Meekly as I could, I left the beginners Field, and walked to the warriors Field.
As I neared, a tired looking Moehog came into step beside me. Master Rellion. I'd never met him before, but his reputation as a warrior preceded him. His green fur was mussed and unkempt. "I have been told," he mused as he walked beside me, "that there is a student in need of special motivation."
"Ah, yes," I answered, "I'm to watch the warriors at their drills, so that I may see what I may become."
Master Rellion nodded slowly. "Well then, follow me, boy."
We came upon the Field. Just as we were within sight, two knights entered the ring. "Quiet, boy, we must not break their concentration," Master Rellion whispered to me, indicating me to sit on a low bench placed there for commanders to come and pick the best knights for their company.
The knights met in the middle of the ring. Their armor was fine, glinting silver in the sunlight. But what caught Kentari's full attention were the beautiful weapons that the knights saluted each other with.
The furthest knight was a Maraquan Uni. His blade was a curious deep purple color. I wondered how they could turn steel lavender. It glittered, as a faceted amethyst. The hilt faded to a slightly lighter lilac, but completely harmonious. Inset along the hilt were small but gorgeous diamonds, sparking all the colors of the rainbow.
The nearer knight's blade was more startling still. It was the yellow of purest sunshine. It was certainly made out of something that was not steel. It seemed to fade in and out of sight as the knight moved it up in the Salute. The hilt was a clear crystal, and it was only after the most careful scrutiny I was able to ascertain its existence at all.
Then, the battle began. But as much as I tried, I could not keep my eyes on either the yellow Kacheek or the Maraquan Uni. I had eyes only for their swords. The clashes made a beautiful music.
Even as they moved, I could close my eyes and hear the sound they made, and from that I knew exactly where the knights were. I fell almost into a dreamy state, watching the blades in my mind move behind my eyes. As a final clang rang out, I breathed, "The Maraquan Uni wins." I opened my eyes and looked over at Master Rellion.
I'd never seen anyone more startled. "How did you know the battle was over?" he asked.
"I heard it," I answered simply. I looked back out to the ring and saw the knights lovingly cleaning their blades and felt a pang of jealousy. To own something so beautiful would be beyond my dreams.
"I notice," Master Rellion commented blandly, "that it is not the knights that command your attention."
"No," I admitted, "It is their swords. Never have I seen anything so beautiful."
"It is always nice to hear that one's craftsmanship is appreciated."
"You made those?" My eyes grew large and round.
"But, Master Rellion, I thought you were a great warrior."
"I am also very old, boy. Once a warrior's body cannot fight anymore, he must find occupation elsewhere. I find mine in making the constant companion of every knight."
I contemplated this for a moment. "What if I wanted to craft such as those?"
"When you are through on the battlefield, you would be more than welcome."
When I was done on the battlefield? What if I did not wish to be on the battlefield at all? Wisely, I kept my opinions to myself.
Master Rellion shook his head. "Well, I'd better get back to the shop. You stay here, and continue to watch, until Master Blepheros sends someone to fetch you."
"Yes sir!" I said, and sketched the best salute I could. He winced at my awkwardness, but did not comment. I turned back and continued to watch the knights. No, not the knights, I admitted to myself, but their beautiful weapons of war.
The music of sword on sword entranced me, so that I was almost half asleep. I saw the swords swinging by themselves almost. Suddenly, I felt someone tugging on my sleeve. I realized that Nahdo, a small Darigan Zafara, was tugging on my sleeve and telling me it was time to go.
"Go? Go where?" I said, hesitantly. I didn't want to leave the field, leave the beauty of the swords.
"Sword practice. Come! Master Blepheros wants to see if you have learned anything!" He tugged and I tore my eyes away from the knights. What wouldn't I have given for just a few more moments with those works of art. I ran after him, wondering what fresh torture Master Blepheros had planned for me.
Master Blepheros looked at me with a cold stare. "Did you contemplate the moves of the warriors well, young one?"
I didn't want to lie. For Master Blepheros was famed for his ability to see through lies. So I said simply, "It was a splendid sight. I see now where my calling lies."
He nodded, taking my statement to mean I would be better with my training. Wordlessly, he pointed to the racks of practice swords on the wall.
I ran there with the other boys. But when I picked up the wooden blade in my hand, I realized that I could never fight with this.
It was just wood, roughly shaped like a sword. It wasn't real. It wasn't beautiful. A weapon should live and breathe.
"Find your sparring partner." Master Blepheros commanded from the corner, "And practice forms."
I found Grogdyn, my sparring partner. The angry Lupe had a spectacular bruise covering one eye. Master Blepheros thought I might do best with an... aggressive partner. We took our positions. Master Blepheros shouted, "Now!"
Try as I might, I could not lift my sword. Grogdyn brought his down on my arm, and it fell to the ground. He smiled in triumph.
"STOP!" Master Blepheros boomed. His eyes were fixed upon me. Slowly, he walked towards me. There was no sound as he crossed the practice salle. "Have you not learned anything, young Kentari?" he said so quietly, I wasn't sure he'd actually spoken.
"I have, sir."
"Then why can you still not pick up the sword?"
Treading carefully, I told him my thoughts, "This is not a sword, Master Blepheros. This is a piece of wood."
"And you believe yourself above this mere piece of wood?" His eyes glinted dangerously.
"Then why will you not wield it?"
"After seeing a real weapon, I can not bear to work with this imitation."
Master Blepheros smiled, with no humor in it. "In that case, Kentari, you shall have your wish."
No one made a sound as he went into his rooms and brought out two swords. Without sheaths. I began to sweat. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the overbearing Skeith would actually fight me sword to sword.
To be continued...