The Sentinel of Cassendar: The High Captain

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Chapter 9

Galen stood in a large room inside the Fortress. There were small, narrow beds in rows throughout the sapce. Each bed had a small bedside table with three sets of draws in which to keep personal items. As he entered the Fortress, he was given two sets of novice clothes: two black shirts, two black pants, and a pair of black boots.

Galen looked around the room trying to decide what bed he would like to take. He had hoped to get one in a corner or at the far end of the room so he could be alone as much as was possible in such a place. As he was scanning the room, his friend Tomas caught his eye. He waved at Galen, motioning for him to come to him.

Galen walked up to Tomas who was setting up his bed at the far end of the room. He had already changed into his new novice clothes.

“I saved that bed for you there next to me,” said Tomas. “I had to cross words with three different men so I hope you will take it.”

Galen looked at the bed. It wasn’t at the very end of the room, but it was close. He considered if it would be wise to be sleeping near Tomas. Tomas liked to talk, and Galen didn’t want to be kept up late or away from his studies by some nonsense from his friend. Still, Roderick and The High Captain said it was important to make connections and form camaraderie. He supposed he might as well start with someone familiar.

“I will take this bed, thank you, Tomas.” Galen put his new clothes on the bedside table. He picked up the simple sheets folded at the foot of the bed and quickly made the bed up. He noticed there was one small pillow and a thin blanket. Galen arranged his bed neatly and then stood up, looking around.

“Where should I go change?” asked Galen looking at Tomas.

“There is a large washroom through there,” said Tomas, pointing. “Or you could just do it right here. We are all men. I am sure we will all have to get used to seeing more of each other than we would like.”

Galen thought Tomas probably had a point, but he still took his new clothes into the washroom. He walked into a wooden stall there and quickly changed into his new uniform. He was met by two young men he didn’t recognize on the way back to his bed. They were not children of lords he knew or anyone who went to the lower academy with him.

“I’m Bax, and this is Bolton,” said one of the boys. He was tall with broad shoulders. His hair was straight and dirty blonde, and it fell just below his ears. His friend Bolton was shorter and slim with light brown hair.

“I’m Galen,” said Galen politely.

“Are you the son of some lord?” Bolton looked Galen up and down.

“My father was a lower lord of the court. My oldest brother is now Lord Ellis of Low Hill,” said Galen calmly.

“Well, my father was a baker, and Bolton’s owned a farm. Does that bother you?” asked Bax with narrowed eyes.

“No,” shrugged Galen “Why would it bother me?”

“I hear a lot of your fancy lord’s sons don’t like it that the Sentinel is letting us be novices. We’ve been educated, you know,” said Bax looking at Galen’s side to Tomas, who had walked up.

“You clearly haven’t been educated on manners, have you?” asked Tomas with a sneer. “Are you hoping to pick a fight with us because it sounds like you might want to fight.”

Galen rolled his eyes at Tomas. This is not what he needed on his first day at the Sentinel. He knew the High Captain, not to mention his own brother, would be watching him closely to see how he handled himself as he trained as an Elite and a studied at the Royal Academy.

“I don’t care who your father was or where you grew up. If the High Captain thought you were worthy of joining as novices, then that is enough for me, as it should be for all of us. We serve her, after all.” Galen turned and gave Tomas a pointed look.

“True, Galen,” said Tomas as he looked at Bax, “I don’t care if your father slopped pigs as long as you can handle yourself, but if you are going to walk around accosting fellow novices, I hope your skills are sharper than your words.”

Bax grinned slightly and turned to his friend. “Come on, Bolton, let’s go outside and get ready. These two pretty boys aren’t worth the time it would take to get to know them.”

The two boys walked away towards the room’s exit as Galen walked to his bed to put his old clothes away. Tomas followed him.

“You do know that was very unnecessary, don’t you?” asked Galen as he stood up from putting his old clothes in the bottom drawer. “Why did you want to make enemies our first hour here?”

“They were rude, and they needed to be put in their place. I really don’t care if farmers and merchants are training with us, but such rudeness was unnecessary. It is clear they wanted to make you an enemy. I couldn’t let you stand alone,” said Tomas smiling.

“I don’t need any enemies,” said Galen. “I could have easily diffused that situation. I have enough on my plate without any added drama.”

“Come on, Galen,” said Tomas as they both started to walk out of the room, following most of the other young men. “A little drama can be fun, and those two clearly did not want to be your friends. You are going to have to play the game a little, you know. You can’t just hide in your little world here, not like you did at the lower academy.”

Galen nodded. He knew Tomas was right. The Sentinel was a much different world than academics, and Galen had chosen this for himself. If he wanted to hide away, he could have just enrolled in the High Academy with no thought to the Sentinel, but he wanted to improve himself. This was part of his improvement, learning how to live with others.

They followed the crowd of boys down the halls of the Fortress to the east entrance. As they reached the entryway, they were joined by a group of five young women. The women moved in front of Galen and Tomas, and one looked back at them. She had long, light red hair that she had pulled back with a ribbon. Her blue eyes looked at Galen and then Tomas. Her full pink lips smiled as her freckled nose lifted a little. She turned back to her friends, and Galen couldn’t help but notice her body filled out her novice uniform rather nicely.

Tomas looked at Galen with a sly smile and a raised eyebrow. “Not too bad,” he whispered to Galen. “I don’t recognize her, so if she is the daughter of a farmer, I do not mind the Sentinel letting in anyone they think might be worthy.”

Galen shook his head as they walked out of the Fortress and into a large open field. Several Elites were lining up the novices into rows. Galen and Tomas were taken towards the front and lined up next to each other three rows back from the front. Galen looked up to see The High Captain walking to the front of the group with Roderick and her other second at her side.

“Good king’s gods, Galen,” Tomas whispered excitedly. “You could have warned me about the High Captain.”

Galen looked at the High Captain. She was dress in a black dress that had half sleeves. It hugged her body and flowed out slightly into a skirt that reached her mid claves. You could just see the tight black pants she wore between where her dress ended and her boots began. She wore a thin black cape that was edged with silver stitching. Her hair was up in a crown braid with a few pieces curling to frame her face. Her eyes were bright, and her mouth was set into a straight line.

“Warn you about what?” asked Galen looking behind him to see other novices being put into lines.

“Look at her, Galen. How are we supposed to concentrate and make it through the Disciplines as she parades around in front of us?”

Galen looked at Tomas with a small smile. “I told you she was attractive.”

“Attractive? Your mother is attractive, Galen. Lady Wince is attractive. The High Captain might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Your brother gets to be by her side all day? How does he stand it?”

“My brother serves her with pride. He sees her as his Captain and leader. He respects her as a fierce warrior and fellow Elite,” said Galen. “I doubt he sees her in any other way.”

Tomas looked at Galen and shook his head. “Roderick is not blind. He might be almost as cold-blooded as you, but even he could not be unaffected by her.”

“We shouldn’t be talking about this out here.” Galen gave Tomas a harsh look. “She is our High Captain, and I think we are about to begin.”

“Right, we can talk about it later,” said Tomas with a smile.

Galen sighed and shook his head again, thinking he might need to expand his circle of acquaintances quickly. He looked around and noticed that everyone seem to be in place. The Elites, who had all gathered to the sides, turned to face their High Captain. He saw one at the far end nod towards the front. Galen turned and saw his brother whisper to the High Captain. She walked forward and looked out over the novices.

“Greetings,” she began in a loud, rich voice. “My name is Dracia Yates, but you will refer to me as your High Captain. I am pleased to welcome you all to the Disciplines of the Sentinel. You have chosen to begin an arduous journey that will be more than likely be the most difficult thing you will ever do in your life.

“Some of you will not make it past the first week. Many of you might not make it past the first month. You must understand what you are undertaking. We will be training you to be amongst the fiercest warriors in the kingdom. You will be trained in Mystics, agility, weapons, and fighting while on horseback.

“You will all be injured in some form or another. While we try to avoid it, but there have been instances where novices have died while in the Disciplines. We will push you to your very limits, physically and mentally. I guarantee there will come a time where every one of you will want to quit, and many of you will choose that path. Some of you might want to rethink what you are doing now, and I give you that opportunity. No one will ever be forced to continue here. If you want to walk away at any time, you are free to do so, but you can never enter the Disciplines again.

“You will obey the commands of your Elites in charge of your training, and ultimately you will obey me. If you ever take our oath as an Elite of the Sentinel, you will be taking an oath to the kingdom and me. If you have any doubts about my leadership, you should leave now.

“Above all, you will conduct yourself with the dignity that is expected of one of the Sentinel whether you are on Fortress grounds, at court, or in the town. Any disgrace that is laid upon you is laid upon the Sentinel, and I will not have it.

“Today, you will be split up into four groups, and my Elites will drill you in Mystics, agility, equestrianism, and weapons. My Elites, as well as myself, will be observing. Some of you will be sent home today if we do not find you worth our time and effort to continue training you.

“I do wish you good luck in your endeavor. The Sentinel stands true.”

“The High Captain is strong and just,” replied all the Elites.

Dracia nodded to Roderick and then to Darron.

“You first five lines will go with Elite Smithy to the upper left side of the field,” commanded Roderick. “The next five will go with Elite Dilwyn to the upper right side. The five after that will go with Elite Farley to the stables, and the last five will go with Elite Darron to the back of the field. Go now.”

Galen and Tomas walked over the field’s upper left side to gather with the other twenty-three novices. They all stood around Elite Smithy. He was an older man with gray hair and a wrinkled tanned face. Galen saw that Smithy’s eyes were a clear blue as he looked out over the novices.

“All of you are starting with me, which means agility. We want to see how quick you are and how far you can run without getting tired. One day soon, you will be training to go through the Sentinel Course. The course is dangerous, and it is almost impossible to complete, but it can be done. Today we will start with just one part of the course. You will all have to follow me,” said Smithy.

The group of novices and three Elites followed Smith as he walked away from the field and the Fortress towards a few trees. As they got closer, Galen could see a series of apparatus set up in a line between the trees. The first set seems to be logs hanging from long rusted metal beams held up by huge old tree trunks.

Past that, there was a long wooden ramp that led to a small platform where many fat poles stuck in the ground beyond it. Galen could see more logs hanging on the sides by these poles. Beyond the poles was a long platform with many curved blades tied up to each side. The blades were on poles held by heavy rope, so they would swing. Lastly, there was a high platform with an old-looking rope ladder.

Smithy stopped the group in front of the hanging logs.

“We will start with the log bump today. In a month or so we will progress on to the pole hop, then the blades, followed by the leap of death.”

“Wait,” said a young man with dark brown hair not far from Galen. “Are you saying that in a few weeks, we will be running through swinging blades?”

“Yes,” said Smithy. “Is that a problem?”

“Won’t we die if we are hit with the blades?” asked the man.

“You will be in some sort of armor, and the blades aren’t all that sharp. You will get knocked around a bit and nicked up, but you probably won’t die.”

“Probably?” asked the man with wide eyes.

Smithy eyed the young man carefully, and then he turned to all the novices in his group. “You should know as an Elite of the Sentinel that every day you wake up, there is a chance that it could be your last day. As Elites, we don’t know when or where we will be called into action. We could be sent to the far end of the kingdom or beyond if the king or High Captain wills it. We could be put up against forces with fifty times our men. I have been in fights like it. If you are so worried about losing your life during a simple training exercise, I believe you will need to excuse yourself now.”

The young man looked down, but he did not leave. Smithy looked at the young man for a moment but said nothing to him. He looked at the other Elites and nodded to them. They walked to the logs and stationed themselves on each side. Galen could see they each went to a different rope that was hanging against three of the large tree trunks. The three Elites looked at each other and nodded, and then all pulled their ropes. The logs that were hanging started swinging and spiraling back and forth.

“You will run straight through the logs to the other side. If you fall, the Elites will stop the logs and you will try again. You will get three tries today. Now line up,” said Smithy.

The novices all looked at each other, wondering who would volunteer to go first. Galen wasn’t scared, but he wanted to watch the logs’ movement for a few turns so he could plan his run. Finally, the young woman they had seen earlier in the Fortress stood in front of the log bump. Everyone else fell in place behind her.

Smithy looked at the woman. “Are you ready?”

The woman nodded.

“Go, then,” ordered Smithy.

The woman walked up closer to the log bump. She watched the logs for a moment and then made her move. She dodged one quickly and moved a few spaces forward. She spun to avoid being hit by a log from her left, and she ran forward. She turned to her left and bent backwards as a log came at her, it swung just by her head. She moved forward a few more steps when Galen realized she misjudged one of the logs that had hit another one. She turned but could not get out of the way. The log hit her in the back, and she dropped to the ground.

The Elites pulled the ropes to stop the logs, and the woman jumped up to jog to the beginning and restart her run.

Smithy looked at her. “Not too bad for a first try. Are you ready to go again?”

The woman nodded. She didn’t make it to the very end during either one of her tries, but she got very far during the last one. Smithy looked pleased with her performance as the woman made her way to the side to watch, moving her shoulder around that had been hit hard by a log.

Galen watched closely as four different young men tried. The first one didn’t get very far during any of his three runs. The next one seemed to have figured it out by his third but wasn’t fast enough to dodge the last three. He was hit on both sides by heavy logs. It took him a moment to stand up, but he seemed to shrug off the hits. The third one didn’t have much luck, just like the first man. The fourth made it just passed the middle. Another woman tried after them. She did well but could not make it to the end.

Tomas was one ahead of Galen. During his turn, Galen watched carefully for any patterns he could find with the logs. He started trying to calculate when each log would swing, depending on when they were released. They swung high at first after the ropes were pulled and started spinning and dying down after a few minutes.

Tomas had seemed to decide speed was the way to go. He did not do well on his first run and was hit hard rather early. He jumped up, ready to go again. This time he made it farther but wasn’t able to spin away in time in the middle of the run from a log that hit him in the back, knocking him over.

During his third run, something happened that gave Galen an idea. Tomas had made it over halfway through when a log hit another log and slowed some of its momentum. The log hit Tomas, but it did not push him over. Tomas was able to absorb the blow and move on. He still didn’t make it through the three swinging at the end, but his run was still more successful than most. He jumped up off the ground with a grin.

Galen stepped up for his turn with a definite plan in mind. He wasn’t sure if it would be considered cheating, but no one had told him he couldn’t do it. The trick would be catching the log at just the right time. His first run, Galen dodged the first few high swinging logs. He made it with some effort through the first and middle of the course. He got to the three swinging logs at the end and tried his plan. He paused for a moment, waiting for his chance. As a log came by, he grabbed for it, but he had not timed it right. Another log came swinging from a different way and hit him in the side. A hot flash of pain when through Galen’s shoulder, and he was knocked down.

He stood up after the logs had stopped and walked back to the beginning. He knew he could do this. He concentrated. He easily made it through the beginning and the middle. He stood very still between the swinging logs at this back and the ones to his front. He waited for a few minutes, and watch the three swinging logs.

He took a deep breath and then braced himself, catching the log on his right. He held it up and it clacked with the one coming to his left, causing it to stop swinging as it spun in a circle. He then turned to the third log swinging at him from the front and caught it with the log in this hand, holding it up high. When the log was as high as he could get it, Galen let go of the log in his hand and ran to the finish. He exited the course and walked over to the other novices who had finished their runs.

“He didn’t do it right,” said a harsh voice from the line of novices still waiting to do the course.

Galen turned and saw that it was Bax, the man who had been rude earlier.

“Why do you say he didn’t do it right?” asked a voice behind Bax. Bax turned and Galen looked to see the High Captain staring at Bax.

Bax looked the High Captain up and down with an annoyed look. “He didn’t dodge those end logs. He used another log to move them out of the way.”

“Elite Smithy,” said the High Captain looking at the old Elite. “Did you say the novices had to dodge the logs?”

“No, Captain, I only said they had to make it to the other side without falling down.”

“It sounds to me as if Novice Galen listened to the instructions and used them to his favor. Wouldn’t you agree, Novice Bax?” The High Captain looked at Bax with a stern expression.

Bax looked like he would disagree, but he only glared at the High Captain and said, “Yes.”

“You are speaking to your High Captain, Boy,” said Smithy angrily. “You will address her as such.”

Bax looked at the High Captain and muttered, “Yes, Captain.”

The High Captain looked at Smithy and said, “Please continue Elite Smithy. I will try not to interrupt your session again.”

“You may do as you wish, Captain,” said Smithy.

The High Captain nodded as Smithy told the next novice to go. Galen noticed that Roderick looked at him and gave a very small smile in his direction. Galen only nodded in response.

The rest of the line went through without too much incident. One boy tried to do what Galen did, but he could not catch the log and was thrown down to the ground. Galen got a small amount of pleasure watching Bax struggle to make it to the middle all three times.

Next, their group was sent to the stables. Galen had no problems with this session. He had ridden horses his whole life. They all took turns galloping over rough ground with their horses and weaving around trees. He had no issues on his run; besides that guiding the horse sometimes hurt due to his sore shoulder.

Galen could tell this session was one that showed who had grown up with ready access to horses and who had grown up with limited experience. Most of the higher born sons and daughters did well with this exercise. He noticed the red hair woman from earlier had no problems with her horse, making Galen think she must have belonged to a wealthy family from a different village. Bax surprised Galen with his skills since Galen knew Bax grew up as the son of a baker.

After horses, it was lunchtime. They all walked into the hall following three Elites. The Elites led the novices to tables on the far right side. They ate from platters that were filled with meat, cheese, and bread. There was also fresh fruit available. Galen ate enough to make himself full, but no more. He knew they would be working hard the rest of the day, and it was getting hot outside.

He made sure to drink plenty of water as well. The two sessions they had left were weapons and Mystics. Both would take a lot of energy, and Galen wanted to be ready. He wanted to make a good show and not be sent away in shame the first day. He looked around to see other Novices stuffing their faces and sipping water. Galen did not look forward to seeing the effects of this overindulgence later in the afternoon.

After lunch, Galen’s group was sent to Elite Dilwyn for a Mystic session. Galen felt very sure of this session. Before the group was a large group of stones, an empty fire circle, and a well. Each Novice had to stack the stones into as high of a stack as possible, light a fire in the fire circle, and then put it out with water from the well.

Galen stood back and watched many other Novices go through the session. Most did a decent job. A few struggled with one element or another. The red hair woman did well with fire and water, but she couldn’t stack her stones very high. Galen could see her stance was not strong. Stones did not respond well if you weren’t well grounded. Bax was actually decently skilled on each Mystic element, but he was nothing special.

Galen took his turn towards the end. He walked up calmly to the group of stones and planted his feet. He reaches down into himself, feeling a power welling up from his gut. He took a deep breath and raised his hands. The stones rose and stacked upon each other. He knew he was showing off a bit, but he stacked two onto one stone at the very top.

Galen walked up to the fire circle and placed his hand over the left side of his chest. He felt a slight warming over his heart and moved his hand over the fire pit. A bright fire sprung up in a pillar. It settled into a strong, controlled flame. He then looked at the well. He felt a sense of calm run through him, and his arms and his hands felt tingly. He waved his hands slightly and a stream of water rose from the well. Galen had it circle the fire before dousing it. Then he couldn’t help himself; he closed his eyes and felt pressure in his head. He raised a hand, and breeze circled around him and then blew at the smoke from the smoldered fire, making it swirl around.

Galen turned and walked back to the rest of novices. Elite Dilwyn looked at Galen with a small, smug smile.

“I don’t remember asking for any wind, Novice.”

“No, and I shouldn’t have done it. I know I should learn control,” said Galen putting his head down.

“I don’t know; I rather like a good show. A little flair never hurt anyone,” said a man who walked over to stand near Elite Dilwyn.

Galen looked up to see a tall, well-dressed man with sandy blonde hair standing there. Galen wondered when he had walked up. He seemed to come from nowhere.

“Your highness,” said Elite Dilwyn, bowing low.

“Please, none of that today. I went through the Disciplines. I like to think of being a bit of an honorary member of the Sentinel out here.”

“I suppose that is up to me,” said the High Captain walking up with Roderick by her side.

“I am the Crown Prince,” said the prince looking at the High Captain as she walked up to him. “I am sure I have some say in the matter.”

“When you are the king, perhaps you can make that decision; until then, it is up to me,”. She gave a shallow curtsey. “Your highness.”

The Crown Prince gave the High Captain a half-smile. “Very well, High Captain.” The prince held out his hand.

The High Captain looked at the Crown Prince for a moment before taking his hand. He looked at her and bowed over her hand, kissing it.

“Now,” said the High Captain. “I believe you have interrupted this session. Please go on, Elite Dilwyn.”

Galen turned to watch the next novice go through his session, but he saw his brother’s expression out of the corner of his eyes. He noticed his brother watching the High Captain and the Crown Prince with a very dark look on his face. He watched his brother for the rest of the session, wondering what could make his brother look in such a way. The whole time Galen watched his brother, Roderick’s eyes did not leave the High Captain, and his expression did not change.

When it was time to move on, Galen went to follow the rest of the Novices. He was stopped by the Crown Prince coming up to him with the High Captain.

“Novice Galen,” said the High Captain. “The Crown Prince would like to be introduced to you.” Galen stopped and nodded. “Novice Galen, this is Leal Cassendar, the Crown Prince of Lanoxan.” Galen bowed as the Crown Prince smiled at him. “Your Highness, this is Gallen Ellis, youngest son of Lord Ellis of Low Hill. He is a novice of the Sentinel.”

“I am very pleased to meet you finally,” said the Crown Prince as they started to walk towards where Galen’s group had traveled. “I have heard many wonderful things about you that so far appear to be true.”

“I hope to live up to your expectation, your highness.”

“Work on living up to your own expectation, novice,” said The High Captain. “You are the only one you have to live with when it comes down to it. In the end, you only have to answer to yourself and hope you are satisfied with what you find.”

“Are you satisfied with your choices, High Captain?” The prince looked over Galen at the High Captain.

“I haven’t seen the full consequence of all my choices thus far in my life. I am also rather young. I am sure I have many important choices yet to make. What about you, your highness. How satisfied are you with your choices?”

“I am very satisfied with the choices I have made, and due to that, I plan to stick with them. They have made me very happy,” said the Crown Prince.

“Novice, go catch up with the rest of your group,” said Roderick, who was walking on the other side of the High Captain.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Galen,” said the prince. “I look forward to seeing what becomes of you.”

“Thank you, your highness,” replied Galen. He nodded to the High Captain and then walked ahead to join his group gathered around Elite Darron.

Elite Darron was in front of a rack filled with dull, old sparring swords. He looked out over all the novices in front of him with a small, smug smile.

“While Mystics are an important part of any battle for the Sentinel, there will be many times the use of a sword or other weapons will mean the difference between life and death for an Elite. You can be the most skilled Mystics user in the kingdom, but if you cannot use weapons accurately and proficiently, you can never be skilled enough to join the Sentinel as an Elite.

“You will be trained mostly with swords, but you will also learn how to throw knives and spears during your sessions. Someone of you my move on to archery if you possess any skill. Today I would like you to spar with one another. You will not strike to injure one another, just disarm. Pair up amongst yourself. We will be one short, so one of you will need to form a group of three. Once you form your pairs or group, take time to spar at least twice. I and the other Elites here will walk around and observe.”

Galen looked around and saw Tomas nod at him. He made his way to Tomas, who was talking to the red hair girl from earlier in the hall.

“Galen, this is Cara. She is from Meadowslyn.”

Galen bowed to Cara. “It is nice to meet you, Cara.”

Cara gave Galen a pretty smile that made her freckled nose crinkle. “It is good to meet you as well, Galen. Tomas said we could form a group of three. I hope that is alright with you.”

“Works for me,” said Galen looking at Tomas, who was smiling brightly.

The three walked over to the rack and each took a rough sparring sword. They found an area away from others where they could have some space. All three looked at one another, waiting for each other to say something.

“Why don’t you and I go first, Tomas,” said Cara with a grin. “Then the winner can spar with Galen.”

Tomas shrugged. “I have no objections, do you Galen?”

Galen shook his head. He was pleased to sit back and observe. He knew Tomas’ s style well enough, but he would like to observe Cara sparring before taking his turn with her.

Tomas and Cara walked a little away from Galen and faced one another. They nodded to each other as they raised their swords in front of them. They started by circling slowly around one another before Tomas struck out at Cara. She easily blocked his strike and turned away.

It became very clear to Galen early in the sparring session that Tomas was slightly outmatched. Cara was quick with good footwork. She was stronger than she looked, and it was clear she was very well trained. They sparred for over five minutes before Cara was able to hit Tomas’s arm, causing him to drop his sword. Cara looked at Tomas with her sword pointed at him. She had a brilliant smile on her face.

“I yield,” said Tomas smiling back at her. He then turned to Galen. “Your turn, Galen.”

Galen walked up to Cara as Tomas picked up his sword off the ground. Tomas turned to Galen with a smirk and said, “Good luck,” before walking over and sitting on the ground to watch.

Galen and Cara walked a few paces away from each other. They nodded to each other and held their swords at the ready. Galen circled her, waiting for Cara to strike first. When she finally did, he almost didn’t get his sword up in time to block her. She was so fast and subtle with her movements, it was hard to tell when or where she was going to strike.

Galen held his own, remembering what Roderick had taught him. He kept his footing sure and waited for his moments. The problem was it was hard to find the right moment to strike. Cara would look still and calm and then lash out like a snake, striking so quickly, without warning. Galen was able to get a few hits in on her, but nothing that would cause her to drop her sword.

After ten minutes of sparring, Galen was getting winded. He felt sweat dripping in his eyes. He was glad he didn’t overeat at lunch, but even his meager amount of food was sitting heavily in his stomach. Cara looked non bothered. She looked like she wasn’t even sweating. She looked at Galen for a moment before coming at him with a series of moves and turns that made him take several steps backward. She finally slashed out at him, hitting his leg, causing him to stumble and drop his sword as he fell.

Galen looked up to see Cara looking down on him with her sword point at him with a raised eyebrow. Galen put up his hands quickly. “I yield.”

Tomas laughed, getting up from the ground and walking over to them. Cara moved her sword away and offered a hand to Galen. She pulled him to his feet as he grabbed his sword.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” asked Tomas.

“My father and brothers taught me well,” said Cara putting her sword to her side and retying her hair up with her ribbon. “I have five older brothers, so I had to learn rather quickly to hold my own.”

“I say you do more than hold your own,” said Galen. “Are your brothers as skilled as you?”

“They are stronger, so sometimes they are able to get the upper hand, but I am much quicker, so usually I can take them.”

“Have none of your brothers tried for the Sentinel?” asked Tomas.

“No, my oldest will lead our village like my father. The other four have gotten married and settled throughout the kingdom.”

“Are you three planning on talking the rest of the afternoon, or are you going to actually do something?” asked Elite Darron as he walked over close to them. His eyes settled on Galen. “Should I tell your brother you spent the session flirting with some girl, Novice Galen?”

Galen felt his cheeks burn as Cara narrowed her eyes at Darron. “No, because it would not be true. We were just about to start again. I only wanted to ask Novice Cara for any advice she has as she is obviously more skilled than me.”

“I will tell you what advice you need in this session, novice,” said Darron coldly. “Now get back to doing what I asked you to do.”

Tomas and Galen sparred as Darron walked away from their group to see what others were doing. Galen was able to disarm Tomas after a hard-fought match. After that, Galen and Tomas both faced Cara to see if she could disarm them both. She caught Galen off guard towards the end, but Tomas was able to disarm her as she was distracted.

As they returned their swords to the rack, Galen noticed Darron watching him with a frown. Tomas and Cara seemed to notice it too.

“What is his problem with you?” asked Cara as they walked towards the Fortress to clean up.

“I don’t know. I barely know him,” said Galen.

“You would think being second to the High Captain with your brother would mean something,” said Tomas.

“So, your brother is Elite Roderick. I thought he probably was. I had heard a rumor and you do favor him quite a bit,” remarked Cara. “Well, maybe it does mean something that Darron is serving with your brother. Are there any problems between Roderick and Darron?”

“Not that I know of. They both serve the High Captain, so I figure they have to be on good terms in some way,” answered Galen.

“But you see who the High Captain keeps at her side as she sends the other out to train us,” said Clara looking over to her left.

Galen followed her gaze to see Roderick walking by the High Captain towards the Fortress. She whispered something to him, and Roderick shook his head smiling. Roderick whispered back before giving the High Captain a friendly small shove with his shoulder. The High Captain rolled her eyes, but Galen could see a small smile on her lips. He stopped for a moment and watched as Roderick and the High Captain continue to whisper to one another as they made their way into the Fortress.

“Sees her as just a fellow Elite, huh?” asked Tomas with a laugh. “Come on, Galen, supper will be soon.”

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