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Chapter 9.1

After dinner was done, Stellan went over to the fire and sat there a while. Since he didn’t feel like taking out his tent, he leaned back on a few boxes and closed his eyes. He’d told Wyn that they’d start first thing in the morning so he should do his best to get a good night’s sleep. Following that advise, Stellan relaxed his muscles and pushed his worries away, somewhere at the back of his mind where they wouldn’t bother his sleep. Sleeping was something that he excelled at. No matter the where or the when, he always got his rest.

The first peeking sunbeams pulled him awake. He stood up and stretched his limbs. It was still quiet in camp as everyone slept. Stellan walked to the tent Wyn had been issued and pulled the cloth to the side. Morning light fell inside and Wyn stirred then looked up. Stellan gestured with his head for him to join him. About a minute later they both were walking towards the back of the camp away from the wall and the men atop it. Stellan stopped next to a large rock which hadn’t been cleared for some reason.

“How do you feel?” Stellan asked.

“Not too different,” Wyn said shrugging his shoulders, “but last nights food was great and I slept really well. I don’t know if that counts.”

“Yes it does, you’ll start to see how much better you’ll feel after we put some muscle on you. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first I’ll show you some stretches. Now these are important because you don’t want to start straining your muscles out of nowhere, they need some warm-up first. As I said before, the food and tonic will help, but you have to do most of the work.”

Wyn nodded.

“Good. Before we begin, we stretch just enough to get our muscles ready but don’t over do it because if you’re joints get too loose you could hurt yourself,” Stellan continued and saw Wyn’s expression growing confused, he was losing him. “You’ll see what I mean after we start, but what I’m saying is, you need to find the right amount for your body. Not too loose, not too tight.”

Stellan decided showing would be better so he stepped to Wyn.

“Don’t be startled now,” he said as he grabbed Wyn by the armpits and lifted him up, “you see how my arms are shaking right now from the strain. This is because I’ve been asleep until now.” His voice was ragged in addition to the shaking arms.

He put Wyn down then stepped back and showed him the warm-up exercises. Stretching arm, leg and torso muscles. Stellan decided to go with a single muscle group for today’s training. After Wyn had built up some fitness, he could switch to full body workouts or keep to the targeted group ones. Stellan’s father was a huge fan of the full-body ones, and kept saying that was the way to a long life.

“Maybe one that didn’t involve killing, father,” Stellan thought as he rose up from a back stretching exercise.

“Okay good,” Stellan said after taking a breath in, “now move your arms and legs around. See how much better it feels? Almost like you’re happy right?”

“All, I feel right now is tired ,” Wyn said as he struggled to breathe.

“Understandable,” Stellan said nodding his head. “We’ll go on a little longer for now, so I can actually show you some thing of the actual training.”

Stellan had regarded Wyn as he moved and his legs seemed in okay shape more or less, so he decided to focus on upper body. He got to the ground and showed Wyn a normal push up wit which he was not impressed understandably. Stellan pointed out however what was the actually proper form for getting something from the movements. He asked Wyn to come to the side and watch as his muscles moved. He showed him the proper form and which muscles it activated then did it the sloppy, “normal” way. Wyn saw the difference and began to change his attitude. Stellan then showed him how he could train specific muscle groups by changing the position of his arms beneath him or the way his stood as whole. Wyn tried a few of those until he couldn’t move his arms anymore. Stellan felt very proud of the efforts that were shown. The young man tried hard to bypass his current ability and Stellan left him to it as it was best to learn one’s own limits with trial and error. The sweet pain Wyn would experience in the coming days will show him how much of what he was currently capable off, which wasn’t much, but that would be the true test. Facing one’s weakness and trying to overcome it. Stellan was going to see if Wyn was willing to become a real follower or just use Stellan to gain some easy strength.

Oak walked to them then around the large rock and began to relieve himself as he looked at Stellan.

“Can you do that somewhere else?” Stellan asked with annoyance.

“Fraid not, lads,” Oak said with a slight slur.

Stellan noticed the man was swaying as if by a gentle breeze.

“Still tipsy no doubt,” Stellan thought gritting his teeth.

“Don’t put much stock in that, lad,” Oak said tipping his head towards Stellan. “What you need to be doing is learnen’ how to stab people with a sword. I learned how to do it and no one’s given me trouble ever since. See, I’m making trouble for Miss Trainer over there and he can’t do nothin’ bout it, cause I’m better than him at the sword.”

Stellan said nothing. Oak might be good with the sword but that was a very relative term. It all came down to your head and how it steered you to use your skills. If you were stupid and got yourself into a bad situation you’d get killed even if you were the best swordsman in the world.

“Oh, see,” Oak did his pants and pointed at Stellan, “he’s thinking about it. He thinks I might be better than ’em, and I am, but he thinks he might take me. Them seekers always think like that.” His voice dipped low and became menacing.

“Last time one of you thought like that I skewered him right good,” Oak stepped closer, a nasty smile on his lips. “How about it, missy? Want to have a go? See who’s better.” His words taunting and his teeth showed as he spoke.

“If we do it right now,” Stellan said, keeping his face neutral, trying to not provoke Oak, “one of us is probably going to die. I didn’t see any training swords in the weapon rack, so I assume you’re talking about fighting with real blades.”

“Yep,” Oak said, dragging out the word, “as real as your stupid mission.”

“I won’t agree to that,” Stellan said and Oak leaned back in triumph, “but a friendly unarmed contest is more than okay.” Stellan’s mouth spilled into a closed lipped smile.

“But if you’re afraid you’ll end up like last time and refuse,” Stellan continued, dropping any hope of non-provocation and just letting his anger speak for him, “I’d understand.”

“You got it,” Oak yelled and threw off his shirt.

Stellan did the same and waved Wyn away. Oak stood in the official position, his arms forward, fingers spread wide. Stellan’s father had taught him the basics of the show-fighting the nobles used in these competitions but beyond what was prohibited and how the matches start, Stellan knew nothing of real technique.

Grabbing Oak’s hands in his, Stellan mirrored the stance. As far as he knew, the first parts of the bouts were to see who had better strength. Each man tried to push the other’s wrists down or to the side until the other flinched and gave an opening. Now that Oak’s shirt was off, Stellan saw that he would be no pushover. The man wasn’t as big as Stellan, but he did have impressive musculature, especially in the arms, which stood to reason if he was a swordsman as Stellan suspected. As soon as their hands clasped, Oak pushed. Stellan withstood the attack and retaliated, managing to push Oak’s hands halfway back almost to the point of pain. Stellan expected some kind of fancy maneuver from Oak but he just put his strength against Stellan’s. Stellan respected that and pushed with all his might as well. The stretching Stellan had done before helped and Oak’s hands gave way. Stellan stepped into the opening and using his right hand and body momentum tried to spin Oak around. Oak released his left hand as he was spun, he put it around Stellan’s neck and drew his right up. Locking his arms together, Oak had immobilized Stellan’s right hand and was now choking him. Stellan lost the ability to draw in air from Oak’s iron grip. He drove his legs into the ground and heaved Oak in the air. Pushing his torso down he tried to throw him off. At the top of his arc, Oak pushed his own legs forward changing the center of gravity for the new shape their bodies were in. This made Stellan’s feet move away from ground and his face started to fall towards the dirt. Stellan put his free hand in front of his face and dampened the hit but it still violently pushed the remaining air out of his lungs. Oak recovered and quickly moved his body in a half circle around Stellan’s. Both of his arm coiled around Stellan’s neck just as he drew in a small breath. The world started to turn black around Stellan’s vision. If he didn’t do something now, he’d be knocked out. Summoning his strength in one explosive movement. Using his arms and legs he pushed both of them off the ground. He stood for a moment as the horizon was now mostly black. He gave a final command to slam back down to the ground. Oak would either release his hold and Stellan would have a modest personal victory of not being chocked out or Oak would be stubborn enough to keep him in his grip until he was slammed against the ground.

Stellan’s smiled because Oak hit the ground before him. As he predicted, the hold did not relent and the sky turned dark.

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