Chapter 6 - Training
“Is something wrong?” Orlai inquired, walking briskly to keep up with the man in black,
“No.” He growled ferociously. Orlai bit her lip to keep her tongue in check. Despite his gruff attitude and tough exterior he was surprisingly soft and she needed to learn that. She had to go about this politically,
“Well that doesn’t seem entirely true Mr. Grumps.” He stopped, head turning away to look out into the leaves of the trees that grew along the raised stone bridge they walked across,
“Sorry.” He sighed, shoulders slouching, the man turned to her, “Bad talk.” He coughed, “Andre.” Orlai frowned,
“What, the jokes? That’s why you’re all angry?” He shook his head, pausing a moment to look back at the bell tower,
“Andre is a friend.” He coughed several more times, hunching over. Orlai put a hand to his back but he gently pushed her away. She pursed her lips,
“Alright, but why are you so grumpy?” He shook his head, motioning for her to follow and resumed his march across the bridge. She sucked her teeth, deciding not to pursue the matter for the moment. They walked for a few minutes and Orlai realized the air didn’t smell so strongly of vegetation. After the week marching through the forest it was like she had stepped out of a great fog and high up onto a mountain where the air was crisp, cold, and filled you with life. A smile touched Orlai’s lips as she felt the gentle breeze on her face and tug at her long hair, boots on solid stone for once and no longer fearing the rogue root to trip her. She realized she had not asked where he was taking her, but with the man Andre behind them it must be a place full of people who weren’t trying to kill them. The stone bridge was extremely well made and she could see several trails of smoke rising above the trees. Finally Orlai would be able to hear the low roar of voices muttering to one another, a small comfort she had not realized she missed. It amazed her how many different sounds a well populated village could make and she hadn’t realized it till she’d walked through the dark and heavy atmosphere of the forest with its disturbing cries in the night. Orlai quickened her step to walk astride the man in black, “So where are we going?” His hood turned slightly and she caught a glimpse of his eyes,
“Undead Parish,” He rumbled, “Church.” Orlai nodded,
“Will there be more like Andre there?” She asked brightly,
“No,” He replied sadly, “Training.” Orlai blinked. A ball of uneasiness formed in her stomach threatening to burst. Orlai gritted her teeth and swallowed the emotion, swearing to herself she would face whatever he threw at her with a snarl and a joke, “There,” He said with a nod, “Be ready.” He reached behind his back, drawing the blue steel greatsword, large gem in its hilt glittering in the sunlight. Rays bouncing off the itself blade dazzled her. Orlai drew her own meager broadsword, puffing her cheeks out comparing their weapons, and walked on the balls of her feet. She looked up as trees slowly gave way to a stone structure she recognized as a large church,
“What’s in there?” She asked cautiously, hefting her weapon,
“Undead?” Orlai glanced at him, she could see the end of the bridge, “What are undead?”
“Like me.” He rolled his shoulders. Orlai could hear the stomping of running feet on the stone and looked to the end of the bridge, “Madmen.” He whispered. Four dilapidated corpses wearing rusted armor and carrying ancient shields filed out from beyond the sides of the bridge brandishing short swords. Their hysterical screams sent chills down Orlai’s spine,
“Go.” Orlai turned to him,
“Go.” Orlai looked on as the screaming corpses rushed down the bridge at them,
“Me?” The man nodded quickly,
“Training.” He said, “Go.” She stared, he gestured encouragingly, “Together.” She rolled her shoulders and cracked her neck,
“You’re that confident in me?” He nodded briskly, eyeing the soldiers,
“Yes, go.” She sucked her teeth,
“Well screw it then.” Yelling at the top of her lungs Orlai charged.
I watched as the princess, like a bat out of hell, rushed the oncoming undead soldiers and could not help but smile as I ran behind her. It was nice to fight alongside someone for once.
The first swordsman planted his feet, sheltering behind the ruined shield, and thrust his sword at her midsection. She swung the broadsword with all her might, batting his thrust aside, and shouldered into this shield knocking the undead back. She stumbled, eyes still fixed on her foe, and haphazardly whipped her sword through the air slicing the swordsman’s chest open in a burst of red. Shouting triumphantly at her victory, momentum carried Orlai off-balance and crashing into the ground. Rolling to her knees as the lifeless body of her foe fell, her courage surged. She could do this, she could win! Orlai scrambled to her feet and deflected the next swordsman’s sword with her own. A disembodied torso of another hollowed undead flew over the head of the one she was currently fighting, greatsword of blue steel slicked with crimson flashing in the sunlight as it sliced through the air and any that dare oppose it. She had been training with the man in black during the journey here after the encounter with the Black Knight for this very moment,
Keep your stance solid yet dynamic, the small of your body turned to the enemy, don’t give them a target.
Knight Captain Dio’s words echoed in her ears as she bumbled and fumbled, struggling to get around the swordsman’s shield. Suddenly he advanced and shield bashed her, Orlai bowling over. She rolled back to her feet, looking up to just barely swat his blade away. He was already swinging his shield. She braced, feet planted firmly, stars flashing she gasped. A blade pierced her stomach, lifting her several inches into the air for a brief instant. She keeled over, knees bruising on the hard stone as she landed. A feint? What had happened? The red glowing eyes of the swordsman glared down at her as she fell to her knees, staring at the blade wedged in her stomach, blood and bodily fluids pouring from the wound. She was frozen with shock. The head of the swordsman landed on the ground to her left and its body collapsed, dilapidated hand releasing the sword still lodged in her. The man in black crouched down and she looked up at him unable to speak. His soulless eyes looked over her, the pity in them evident,
“It hurts,” She whimpered, “It hurts,” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she weakly grasped the blade, crying out as it moved within her body. She withdrew her hands and clenched them into fists. She didn’t want to die. It hurt, her stomach hurt, she didn’t want to die. Her vision flickered, color beginning to fade from the world. The man in black held up a thick piece of leather,
“Open.” He growled, pushing it against her bared teeth. She obediently disengaged her jaw and he briskly shoved the leather between her teeth, pulling out the white wrapping of cloth, “Bite.” She did so and he yanked the sword from her stomach, frozen air rushing in to fill the gap before blood gushed from the wound. She bit deeply into the leather and a muffled scream tore from her throat. Touching the white wrapping to his forehead the man whispered words she could not hear, too focused on the agonizing pain that ripped her open. A holy light glowed, circle of golden runes forming around her, and the pain vanished with the circle. Orlai gasped, leather in her mouth falling to the stones of the bridge. Her body went limp, cold sweat pouring down her face and soaking into her armor. The man in black hooked an arm under her legs, the other around her back, and lifted her off the ground. He marched back to the bell tower, holding her to his chest. She looked past his arm at the bodies of the swordsmen, six in total. She had not seen the other two appear. Her eyes slid closed as she let herself be spirited away,
“That hurt.” She wheezed, “You could have,” She swallowed, throat dry as a desert, “You could have said you could do that.” He didn’t respond, “I got one, did you see?” Nothing, “Hello?” The man in black stopped. Orlai cracked her eyes open to see him looking down at her from beneath his cowl, hollow eyes smoldering with black fury,
“I was afraid.” His voice was little more than a whisper,
“Well,” Orlai chuckled faintly, “Danger and fear are one and the same aren’t they?” He looked away, hood hiding his face,
“We will try again.” He murmured and Orlai grinned.
“Damn right.” Her eyes slid shut, darkness closing in.