A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 40: Fencing

Gilmir woke early. During the night he had dreamt about Ada. She had been in a cell. Calling for help. He could not remember much more. It was probably a mix of his time in the dungeons and Chris calling from help the night before. Still, the sounds and smells, the cold walls, the details were vivid in his mind.

He pushed the images away.

It would be a busy day. A fine day. He dressed with a smile on his face and moved the chair to the window. Putting his feet on the sill, he started detailing the plan in his mind. Saendar had delivered a message to Hobble. The old man had arranged the meeting with Dick and Shark. They would meet at the church square at sundown. Getting rid of the tainted shard would be a wise move. He hoped Hobble would not get cold feet. The halfling had been strange about the stone. One could not carry such shards without being influenced by it one way or another. Especially if one had an untrained mind.

Moreover, this stone was foul. Its impact would be bad. Gilmir put the thoughts to the back of his mind. It was no use worrying about it. They would learn the truth soon enough. Before that, he would meet with Chris. It would be good to get some weapons training. It was months since the last time he had done any work in that department. Gilmir stretched and watched the first rays of sunshine, reaching the slanted roofs of Oldtown.

*

‘It is all good leading with your left foot sometimes, or even most of the time, but you must be able to adapt,’ Gilmir said, reaching out a hand and helping Chris to her feet.

‘That’s how my father taught me!’ Chris answered.

‘I know. That is how humans with rapiers fight. Jumping back and forth on a line. It is great for attacking straight ahead and defending by skipping backwards. However, as I just demonstrated, your enemy may not attack in a straight line.’

‘I was too slow, try that again and I’ll show you,’ Chris said with determination.

‘With pleasure, fencer!’

Gilmir crouched and raised his two wooden swords. He had made the two practice swords that same morning, in addition to one resembling a rapier for Chris. They had been sparring for half an hour. The girl was talented. Fast and strong. However, her former teacher was no swordsman. A fencer? Yes. A fighter? Probably. But a swordsman? No. A swordsman would not limit himself to one style, at least not if the style was so inefficient.

Chris quick-stepped forward. Three steps and a lunge. Gilmir parried with his shorter blade and stabbed with his long blade. Chris reversed momentum and stepped back, avoiding the hit. They continued this for a while, the girl working her legs furiously, back and forth, back and forth. The elf more economical in his movement, a small sidestep here, a parry there. Chris came forward again. This time Gilmir slapped the sword away. The girl half turned following her blade and the elf sidestepped the other way. Chris spun around, but too slow. By the time she turned, two wooden practice swords were pointing at her chest. She breathed heavily.

‘You are in better shape than me.’

Gilmir laughed. ‘The other day, I was a tired old man, and now I am in better shape?’

‘I am exhausted; you are hardly breathing!’

‘I couldn’t have kept up with all that jumping around. I move less.’

‘How can you defeat me so easily by moving less?’

‘My technique, my experience, but most of all, my style of fighting.’

‘So your point is that I shouldn’t lead with my right foot?’

‘I keep telling you, don’t I?’

Chris shook her head, looking annoyed.

‘So what happened this time?’ Gilmir asked. ‘You kept up as long as I let you fight on the straight line. But as soon as I stepped to the side, your quick-stepping couldn’t help you anymore, and I had you beat.’

‘I got fatigued. I should have been able to turn in time. You fight dirty!’

‘So you think the cornerstones of this world of ours are princes and fair fights?’

‘No, no, I know you are right, I’m drained and discouraged. I thought I was good at this. I have been practising for a long time, you know. Then you come along, beating me without breaking a sweat. It’s just … hard.’

‘Did I say you weren’t good at this? You are incredibly fast and strong. Really talented, but you need to trust me when I say your garden fencing style won’t bring you far in this world of unfair fights and hideous brutes.’

Chris smiled. ‘You think I’m good?’

Gilmir almost regretted the words. Letting a novice fighter think she was good was the worst you could do. However, he had shown her she was not that good. He trusted a few words of encouragement would not ruin her. However, before he could say something Chris continued.

‘I trust you. You have shown me that you are right. So where do we start?’

‘Oh, I think that is enough for your first, I mean second, lesson. We have come to an important understanding here. Tomorrow we can start working on your new pose.’

‘Tired, old man?’

‘Tired? Yes. Old? No. Man? Definitely not!’

Chris chuckled.

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