The Way of the Spartans
I awoke to a loud banging on my door. Goddess, what time was it? I looked at the clock by my bed and groaned. Six in the morning. Who the fuck was waking me up this early?
Get your ass out of bed, Prince Charming. You wanted to train; you work on my schedule.
I shot out of bed, my body waking with excitement. It was Asenna’s voice in my head. She was here. I went straight to the door, opening it to see my warrior mate staring at me with hardened, emotionless eyes. As she took in my appearance, her eyes lingered on my bare torso and I watched with satisfaction as a flush of scarlet rose to her cheeks. I leaned against the doorframe and crossed my arms.
“Well, good morning to you too.” I said with a smirk.
Her eyes narrowed and she focused back on my face, glaring daggers at me. She was cute when she was trying to hate me.
“Are you going to get dressed, or what? We have a lot of work to do.” Her voice was brisk and curt, not giving any room for softness.
I rolled my eyes with a sigh and went to grab some clothes, not bothering to close the door. Asenna stood there trying to look at anything but me as I changed into gym shorts, a cut off and tennis shoes. Seeing her in the entry of my bedroom made my pulse quicken, my mind quickly jumping to a world of possibilities. I pushed those thoughts aside, as entertaining as they were, and walked to Asenna, ready to go.
“Alright, I’m ready. What’s first, General?” I teased her.
She raised a brow in response, clearly not amused. “Basics.”
“Seriously? Come on, Asenna, I think I can handle more than a stick.” Ryker complained.
I took hold of my own staff and spun it lightly in my right hand. “I don’t know how they train you Royal wolves, but I can promise you, it’s nothing like the Spartan fighting style.” In a flash of movement, my staff swung out with swift precision. He backpedaled, throwing his staff up in defense. I continued my forward movement. “Your people are safe, organized. They fear no attack. They train only for formality.” I lunged. Another swing. My staff connected with his ribs.
“Shit!” Ryker growled, arching away from the pain. He swung his staff, bringing it towards my knees. I planted my staff in its path, blocking before spinning it upward and away from me.
“To fight as a Spartan is to fight with controlled rage.” I jabbed my staff straight into his chest. He stumbled back, wincing from the impact. I circled him, spinning my staff lightly. He came at me again. My staff knocked his aside, the slapping of the wood ringing through the room. “You hold yourself back. A Spartan never fights with half measures. A Spartan gives their all in every moment.”
Rage flashed over his face. He swung in a fury. Coming from the left. Block. I met him halfway. I was on the defensive now. He was coming low. I jumped, swinging my staff toward his head. He ducked, growling and flourishing his staff with skill. He landed a jab to my stomach and I doubled over from the air rushing from my lungs. Shit. Ryker brought his staff to my knees and the sharp pain brought me down. He stood above me with a smirk, he though he had won. From my place on the floor, I swung my staff, putting all my strength behind the blow. It connected with his ankles and he fell in a heap, the air rushing out of him in a grunt of pain.
I used my momentum to spin off the ground and crouched on top of his chest, the end of my staff pointing dangerously over his throat.
“A Spartan knows that the battle is never over.” I panted. I could taste the salt from the sweat on my face. The points of impact on my body throbbed as I felt my blood rushing to them. “Not until the enemy takes it’s last breath. The scales can always be tipped until death.”
I looked down at him, sweat rolling from his forehead and his chest heaving from adrenaline. His eyes were almost black, and they were clouded with excitement and desire. I couldn’t deny that I could feel that same rush running through me now as I hovered over him. My heart hammered against my chest as I pictured myself leaning down, bringing my body to rest on his, letting him touch me…
I stood and moved away from him, placing my staff back on the rack against the wall. We had come to the compound below the city to train, and that was it. The longer I was around Ryker though, the more I had to force myself to control my thoughts. Ryker placed his staff next to mine on the rack and turned to me.
“So, what’s next?” He asked, his breathing still heavier than normal.
I was shocked. “You…you want to keep going?” I thought he would have had enough for today. Wasn’t Prince Charming ready to go relax with his fiancé by now?
I tried to ignore how his face shifted, as if he was thinking about something other than fighting.
Ryker cleared his throat. “Well, you keep saying I have a lot to learn, so why not get as much done as possible?”
“I guess if that’s how you want to play it.” I moved toward a sparring dummy and leaned my elbow on its shoulder. “Come on.” I said, slapping the dummy’s artificial abs. “Show me how you move.”
“Wouldn’t you be able to assess me better in hand to hand?” Ryker smirked, taunting me with his flirting.
The blush that rose to my face enraged me and I hated how he had this affect on me. I motioned for him to begin and he immediately sent his fist into the dummy’s face. I watched his movements, analyzed his tendencies and weaknesses. The poor dummy rattled and shook with every blow Ryker sent into it. The Prince was strong, that was certain. He was decently quick, less bulky than Bryce, and all around somewhat impressive. His movements were strong, precise, measured and… predictable.
“Stop.” I ordered. He stopped his punching and looked at me. I could see the sweat glistening on his sides through the holes in his cut off shirt, making every ripple of his muscles more pronounced. “You’re not bad, but I can see everything you’re going to do three steps in advance. Everything you’re doing is calculated and predictable.”
He looked offended for a second, but his face relaxed. “Then what do you suggest?”
I smiled, grateful that he was willing to listen. “Try to keep things closer to your body. Don’t swing out wildly or go for the same spot over and over- your opponent can lure you in and catch you mid swing that way.” He nodded. I could tell he was taking mental notes. “Square your hips more.” I placed my hands on his hips and moved them into a better position. Ryker’s body followed my guiding hands. “And keep more tension in your core. It will give you more power in your movements.” I placed a hand on his abdominals, feeling them tighten beneath my touch. “There.” I breathed, almost mesmerized by the feeling of him beneath my fingers.
I could feel the pull between us, and I didn’t know if I liked it or hated it. Ryker was leaning toward me, his face getting closer to mine. All I would have to do is lean up and meet his lips…
“Um…give that a try.” I stammered, pulling away from him and motioning to the dummy. My whole body was hot, and my stomach had this strange, fluttery sensation.
Ryker sighed and his fists collided with the dummy with a newfound energy and force. I could feel the frustration coming from him in waves, but it was doing wonders for his form and performance. His punches had more power behind them, and his moves were now less structurally coordinated and more animalistic- more dangerous.
“Good. Much better.” He stopped at the sound of my praise, surprised that I had something nice to say, no doubt. “Let’s take a break.”
I tossed a towel to him from one of the racks against the wall. He caught it easily and dropped down onto the sparring mat to rest. As he wiped the sweat from his face, I brought over two water bottles for us and sat beside him.
“So, you were doing all this when you were just a kid?” Ryker asked through his heavy breaths.
I smirked, stifling a small laugh. “Worse than this, actually. I’m going easy on you for your first day.” He looked at me like I was insane. “Spartan training wasn’t a pretty thing. They would tie us to posts, beat us until we were bloody. If we cried out in pain, the punishment was a hundred times worse.”
“But why? You were only children…”
“To make us strong.” My voice wasn’t sad or bitter. This was a fact of life for my people, it was our sacred tradition. “They hardened us for battle, ensuring we wouldn’t run from the prospect of death. The pain became a constant childhood friend to us, and we were proud to be learning the same skills our parents and forebearers had for generations.”
He shifted uncomfortably, taking a sip of his water. “You… you know that’s not normal right? For kids to go through that?”
“Whether it’s normal or not, that was our way.” I shrugged. “We were taught to protect those who stood behind us, respect those who stood by our side, and show no mercy to those who stood against us. That was our creed.” I suddenly felt self-conscious. I knew my pack was different from others, but I had never worried about what people thought of me or my past before now.
“That’s a really great thing to live by.” Ryker offered. I looked at him with obvious shock. “I mean, that’s something I would want to teach my people, when the time comes.” He lowered his eyes. “I know we’ve gotten soft. We’ve gone so long without a threat I think they’ve all become complacent. I guess I was hoping that if I could learn from you, maybe they could too.”
His voice was soft and genuine, both reverent and hopeful. It hit me deeper than I expected it to. His understanding, his curiosity, his willingness to learn from me, but more than anything it was his kindness that struck me.
“Who knows? You might just make a great Alpha King one day.” I teased. “Now, come on, back to work.”
“More?” Ryker asked, looking at the clock on the wall.
“Yep.” I stood, offering him my hand. He took it and I helped him up. Feeling the warmth of our skin touching sent a chill up my spine. “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in war.”