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Archives: Cian’s Quest

Chapter 10: Wakey, Wakey; Broth and More Broth...

    With a slight grumble, and a few complaints under her breath, Sil took over for Cip. Well, she wasn’t really annoyed. It was just a ploy. Most mercs tended to do it, the difference was she wouldn’t act on them while a novice probably would. Occasionally throwing on wood into the fire, and taking bits and pieces from the leftovers, she continued on the rest of the night.

    As morning broke, Sil prepared a light broth to build their energies. Traveling on something to heavy made your reflexes slow, and even worse, you would be sleepy. When she felt the broth was hot enough, she sat up herself. Placing the gauntlet back over her heavily bandaged arm, she gave a call. “Come on, sleepin’ beauties. The sun is out, food is ready, and plenty ’o time between sunrise and sunset ta travel.”

    Kylia opened one eye lazily at the call, getting up a little slow she stretched and looked at the others. Travelling had always been good to her, though she would rather be in a warm bed.

    “Morning to you as well. How long do you suppose till the others have to be woken up?” she jested after getting ready for travel, making sure all was in order before even eating. She wondered how long Sil had taken to prepare the broth, but it was better than food right now.

    “How long have you been up for? It is not good to travel in very little sleep,” Kylia asked, after accepting some broth, sitting by the fire she sipped at it. Now was also the perfect time to gather herbs, she knew what was in the area and what they made. Maybe she would ask Cian to join her, show him something to help if he ever was on his own in a forest.

    Carianna, unlike most travellers on the road, slept like a rock. Curled up underneath a mysterious stranger’s cloth comfort, she had curled up like a baby and not moved since. Deep inside, it was instinctual reaction. In the worst home she could remember, it was how you slept after being reminded by so many men how dirty you were. It was a sign most wouldn’t recognize and would pass of as merely being cold. The call did nothing for her. Sil could have better served that time trying to break rocks with a thimble...

    Ciprian woke to Sil’s call, though he hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep. He was grateful for the fact that there were no disturbances in the night. The knight rested in his bedroll for a moment, fighting the urge to go back to sleep. He heard Kylia, but the rest of the party was still silent.

    With much force of will, Ciprian said up and gave a jaw cracking yawn. At least Cian had another full night of sleep. Ciprian could function on less, and he was alert enough. Once he got some food in his belly, then he’d be set for the day. Tomorrow night, they would probably have an inn in Khina.

    The knight climbed out of his bedroll and went to his squire. He nudged the boy’s back with his toe. “Time to get up Cian, you’ve got a busy morning!” Ciprian called. He intended to show Cian a little swordsmanship this morning.

    Cian woke with a start as Cip shook him, the boy was sweating and sat up slowly wiping the sleep from his eyes. “ it morning already? I’m up...I’m up...anything’s better than that damnable dream I was having. Oh and ’morning.” As he rolled up his sleeping wares the boy caught Cip’s expression then spoke, “What’s new today?”

    The boy noticed most everyone else was awake which was good, he was sure he’d have a good bit of chores to attend to before they broke camp, it was just a matter of what was he supposed to do. He was sure Cip would tell him if there was something he missed. The smell of food set his stomach growling and the boy headed over to the cook fire for a nice bowl of broth. It smelled good and he was famished, and if Cip had a sword practice scheduled for him today, he was sure he’d need the food to keep him going.

    Ciprian was concerned about Cian’s dream, but they didn’t have time to discuss it. “Get your things packed up, then get yourself a bowl of broth. After that, we’ll get some training in with your sword,” the knight explained.

* * *

    Ciprian turned away and left the boy to his work. To save time, he turned back to his own bedroll and began rolling it up. He hadn’t put on his armor yet, he would save that for after breakfast. While Cian was busy packing up his gear, Ciprian left his neatly piled by Agel’s saddle.

    The knight began towards the campfire, but he passed by Carianna who was tightly curled in her blankets. Was she cold...or was it something else bothering her? The violence she witnessed the day before might have traumatized her.

    Silk sheets on feather mattresses. Men with their smiles. Nothing between them but air and fear... She could feel their breath. Their strong hands grabbing hold of her by the shoulder and—

    “Please don’t...” the knight heard come out of her as he shook her awake. It was a whimper, like the last fleeting hope of a whipped dog. “Please...” Her eyes opened slowly, looking up to Ciprian with eyes that felt dead inside. It took a moment for them to focus and recognize him. “Ohh... Sorry...” she said in a sad voice. “Is it time to get up?” Already, her mood was returning. Those hazy, empty eyes were filling with every second, looking more and more like there was no tortured soul inside after all, as if he had imagined it.

    Ciprian knelt beside the priestess and shook her shoulder gently. “Cari? Time to wake up.” And still, nothing. Ciprian’s shakes did nothing to Carianna’s seemingly invincible rest. As cute as a child, she stayed motionless. It was almost as if she was dead, if only her breath was not present.

    Ciprian felt a chill creep down his spine when Cari first woke to greet him. There was something wrong with her, more than a bad dream. With the nonchalant way she acted, it made him think it was a demon she had struggled with for a long time, and not the trauma from the day before.

    The knight eyed her for a moment, concern heavy in his expression, but she didn’t want to talk about it, so he didn’t ask. “Yes, Silemria prepared some broth for breakfast,” Ciprian told the priestess.

* * *

    Xian slowly got up off the ground, taking the time to wipe the sleep from his eyes. He moved closer to the fire and sat waiting to be served the broth. “G’morn.” he said in the midst of yawning.

    Taking a small bowl of broth, Sil lifted up, and in a rather barbarous display, drank it down without the use of a spoon. Using her free hand, she wiped off her upper lip, and licked it off her hand. “Not to shabby. Glad it didn’t thin out,” she said to nobody in particular.

    Raising up, Silemria walked over to the small horse that had been there since the night before. It didn’t really react to her presence, only giving her a rather lazy look. Taking out the feed bag, she filled it somewhat, and fit it over the horses neck. Even when eating, the horse took its leisure. “Bloody lazy horse... if it wasn’t fer the fact that ya don’t spook, I’d ’ve gotten rid o’ ya the day after I got ya.”

    The horse seemed to ignore her, its mouth moving lightly as it fed. “Me partner for a few years. Lareijae isn’t much ta look at, and is a bit lazy at times, but I’ve yet ta see ’er spook. Jus’ don’t touch ’er flanks, she kicks if someone gets to close to ’em.”

    Xian sighed. “Can I have food please?” He rubbed his eyes lazily and let out a jaw popping yawn.

    Cian looked at Xian and spoke to the large mercenary then towards Sil, “Morning, did anyone sleep as rough as I did?” The boy looked at the woman and yawned once again, “Could I have a bowl of that too? I’m starved, and Cip said I’ve got sword practice today. I’ve used a dagger lot’s of times, but is a sword more difficult? I could use some pointers, I like to know what to expect if possible.” It was part of his old thief training, and Cian did as he’d always done before trying to prepare for a situation before he under took it. The large fellow who’d joined them seemed to be sleepier than he was, but the boy couldn’t tell for sure and spoke, “So Xian, what do you usually do to prepare for uh...practice. Do you practice?”

    Xian shook his head. “I’m afraid that I’m self taught on how to use a sword. You can try to use my sword, but it’s rather large for someone of your size.” Xian grinned. “Most of my training came from tilling fields.”

    “I’m not gonna stop ya from eatin’, but if ya expect me ta serve you yer food, I’d recommend ya gettin’ yer arse ta be kicked from ’ere to Marmo,” Silemria said in a dry tone, rolling her eyes at Xian and Cian’s permission question. She shook her head at Xian’s comment. “The style of bashin’ an opponent with somethin’ sharp until its dead, eh? Well, it has the credibility of an anvil, but... if ya kill someone with it, I suppose it has to be at least somewhat effective.”

    Unsheathing her ‘normal’ sword, it revealed the subtle curve, and the thin blade of the weapon. “Well, a dagger ’as an advantage over a sword. Fits nicely in the hand and ’as zero weight. Unfortunately, it has no bloody range. Fer a boy like you... I recommend somethin’ small, like a rapier or a firangi... maybe a gladius, since yer a knight in trainin’ and such.” Moving over to Cian, she held the blade out. “But basically... thats the killin’ end, and what I’m holdin’ is the holdin’ end. The object is ta place the killin’ in yer opponent, without ’em stickin’ theirs in ya.” Resheathing it, she crossed her arms and smirked. “Unfortunately, mate, as a knight, yer bound by codes of honor and such. Can’t fight dirty. Me, I prefer to use every dirty trick in the book, confuse, and stab them in any place they leave vulnerable.”

    Polishing her knives, Kylia listened to Sil talk about fighting. She had a point about fighting dirty, using poison in battle was just as dirty as her tactics. Standing up, she stretched her arms by shadow fighting in measured and familiar attack patterns. After a few moments she sheathed her weapons, there was no need to have them out right now.

    All that talk about swordfighting left Carianna silent. The last thing she wanted was to watch them learn how to injure other people. Of course, the fact that she too had sword training didn’t help matters; though hers was strictly disarming and defense, it was still education featuring an instrument of distruction. It was yet another of Cari’s unusual practices that others in her temple did not like.

    Very shyly, she took up a tin cup from dinner and poured some broth into it. If there was a corner of a room, she would have gone for it. It was so hard to try and ignore combat and everything else that her friends chose to do. So, she turned away with the broth and did her best to pretend that Ciprian wasn’t going to teach young Cian how to kill people...

    “I don’t have a bowl,” Xian stated. “I don’t mind serving myself, but I doubt anyone wants me eating out of the pot. As far as my swordsmanship goes, I haven’t had any complaints. I can split a boulder clean in two with it.” He acknowledged Kylia with a nod. He was a little surprised that she talked to him first when he had tore up their only lead to Cian’s old master.

    Xian’s sword was a in poor shape, but if he could fight with it, then it was as good as any blade. Cleaving rocks into was quite the feat .She walked over to her horse and rummaged through a saddlebag, pulling out a larger vial she handed it to Xian. It was big enough to spoon some broth into it, and better for drinking it from. “If somebody here can carve a bowl perhaps we could make you one on the way, for now you can use this. Don’t worry it’s not been used yet, and keep it.” After that she started to prepare her Wildfyre for the day, making sure her partner was groomed and all comfortable packed.

    Cian got a bowl at Sil’s admonishment about serving himself and the boy poured a good bit of the soup then handed it to Xian and spoke. “Here ya go. And thanks Xian, I think I’ll follow Sil’s advice since a short sword and dirk work best for me.”

    The boy found another bowl for himself and poured another helping, then sat down to eat. Looking up at Sil after she’d shown him her weapon. He knew well about dirty fighting and the ex thief spoke. “I’m well aware of killing in nasty ways, Emir taught me well. I was a thief and my usual methods of fighting won’t fit the knight’s code of honor I think. But that doesn’t mean I can’t use some of my old skills creatively right?” He smirked mischievously and spoke again, “Only thing is once I learn to wear armor I guess I’m gonna have to learn to move in it. And all that heavy stuff really slows you down I’m told. I’ve been so used to being able to move with little resistance, that’s what keeps a thief alive; good ol’ agility.”

    While the others talked, Ciprian sipped on a tin cup of broth and gathered up the equipment he and Cian would need for training. He had been provided with a pair of wooden practice swords, which was what they would use for now.

    When he finished his cup of broth, he headed back over to the cookfire where the rest of the party was gathered. Cian hadn’t finished his broth yet. “Well, I see nothing wrong with using your old skills ‘creatively’,” Ciprian said with a wink. “We’re going to need those skills for this mission,” he added, a little more seriously. Looking up at Silemria, he wanted to make sure she intended to stay with them. She only hinted at joining them the night before. “Well, madam Silemria, what do you say to joining us? I could pay you as a mercenary, or we can go our seperate ways.”

    “Thank you,” Xian said to both Cian and Kylia in turn. He started to eat slowly, better to take his time and avoid getting an unnecessary cramp from food intake. The ex-farmer took in the smell of the food. Earlier in his life the smell and vapors would be sustinence enough for him, and old habits were hard to break. He almost forgot about the actual food, and chuckled as he found the food the food hadn’t disappeared yet. With slight amusement, he returned to eating.

    “You’re welcome.” Kylia gave Xian a light nod in reply. She was busy at the moment, talking to her horse. Pulling out her remaining remedies and poisons, she seemed to be taking stock of what she needed to procure and what she had to make more.

    “Cian, how would you like to polish those skills before you need them? I would like to see how proficient you are, I could even help you learn a few more tricks to use on your old master,” she asked him as she looked over to him. Armor was a hindrance to her and obviously him at times. Though he could benefit from all the knowledge he could gain, it was something that she was hesitant in the past to let go to another.

    Cian grinned at Cip’s comment and immediately ate more heartily, quickly finishing his bowl of broth then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand the boy looked up at his mentor and spoke, “You’re great Cip. You know, I think Emir would choke if he knew his favorite student of thievery was training to become a knight. He always...always said I’d be nothing more than a street rat. I always tried my best to prove him wrong, and I intend to keep doing that and see him brought to justice.” The boy laughed then looked at Cip, “Ha! I’m even starting to sound the part.”

    The boy looked at Kylia and smiled, his grey eyes looked at her closely as if he were taking an appraisal of the young woman, then he spoke, “I’d like that. I really would. I need to polish up my skills a bit before we encounter Emir...he’s a dangerous man. A former member of the ‘Twelve Daggers’. I know a bit about his past, but only in pieces and not his time as an assassin. Anything you can teach me would be great. And thank you Kylia.”

    Xian wasn’t listening to intently, but his brows furrowed. “Shouldn’t the boy be learning how not to use old skills, but how to learn more honorable skills?” The unintelligent mercenary shrugged. “I’m not one to complain about sword skills, mine are essentially farming skills put to weapon practice. Good for breaking ground more than breaking guard, but good enough for someone with my strength.” Xian sighed. “It’s like an old saying someone I knew said: ‘the farmer’s battle is to protect the crop to feed the people, while the knight’s battle is to protect the people that feed the land’. Or something along those lines.”

    “Xian, my father was a knight. Had he also been skilled as a thief, my family might still live. I truly believe that. I see nothing wrong with Cian still using his old skills when there is no other options. As long as their used to just and honorable means, then there should be no problems,” Kylia replied calmly to Xian. She was still a long way from atoning for her past. She let some of her emotion show however, her voice seemed strained with some sadness as she spoke of her father. Kylia knew Xian was right, but part of her also felt relying solely on the skills of a knight was not enough. Her father had been example, she wanted Cian to realize these skills were a last resort, when no skill a knight possessed could help.

    She looked to Cian next and replied to him, “You’re welcome Cian, though Xian is right about a knight’s duty. Will you swear an oath to me, only to use what you learn when it is the only thing left in a situation? Facing an assassin is more dangerous than any other enemy, perhaps we should all learn something of his past as well. It may give us an idea of where he will be found, and where he will run to.” Her face was serious about the skills, and she had to bring herself to using her own skills against humans. Even if they were slavers, she still could not do much against anything that was not a demon.

    “No offense, but I believe you are full of shit,” Xian spat. “Knights need honour, not cheap tricks. If your father died as a knight there was no honour lost, if he fought with the skills of a thief and still lost, then you couldn’t say that. He’d be a cheat, and as a cheat he would be disgraced. Life matters a lot, but honour is a thing that exhalts you in the eyes of your peers, and honour outlives the person who held it.” Xian downed the last of his soup and wiped his mouth with his grimy hand. “At least your father died instead of abandoning you to work off his debt.”

    Ciprian overheard the conversation between Xian and Kylia and shook his head. Kylia’s offer to train Cian in assassin’s skills bothered him, and Xian was absolutely right. The knight stepped behind Cian and placed his hands on the boy’s shoulder. “Xian is right, Kylia. For Cian to learn those skills would be dishonorable when he becomes a knight. He already knows how to fight as a thief, but now I must teach him to fight like a knight. The Holy Knights of Valis are the most honorable knights in all of Lodoss, and for Cian to further enhance his more dishonorable skills would only lose him favor in Falis’ eyes,” Ciprian explained. “Now Cian, let’s get to practice.”

    “Sure thing, I could use a bit of exercise right now,” Cian replied to Ciprian.

    Kylia’s response was sharp and swift, almost like she was holding back anger. They had no idea how her parents died, or that her father was truly a good man. Her voice sounded really strained right now, almost like she hated when she got like this. “He died in chains, stripped of honor and respect at the hands of demons. Hw can you say that the fact he died was comforting? I watched them die before my eyes, killed because I tried to escape at their urging. I can’t begin to realize how hard life must have been on you Xian, but do you even realize what I experienced?” She choked back her anger and hung her head a little, resting it on the neck of her horse. She seemed to have some humility in her life.

    “The knights of Valis are truly noble Ciprian, so if you need somebody to handle the shadow work, I will until this is over. Cian you are going to become a knight. I spoke in error and you need to focus on your training. Forgive me for that, and for yelling at all of you. I just find it difficult to deal with certain memories, I know none of you knew that until now.” She was still angry and hurting, but knowing that they were released from their suffering was always a solace. Hopefully they would forgive her for this, she hid alot of her past for this reason alone.

    Xian took to his feet. “At least you have the assurance of his death!” the bulky mercenary yelled. “My parents may be alive somewhere, starting over, having another family.” He couldn’t control his voice. “You think just ’cuz you saw your parents die that...that gives you the right to whine about your past? That’s bullshit!” He glared at her through tear soaked eyes. “My parents wanted me dead since my birth! They used me as bait for forest predators until I was too old and strong for the wolves to want to attack. Then they put me to work in the fields, giving me no food or water until the earth was tilled. I was treated like a common animal, and then to show how much they loved me they threw me away with the farm and left me for a different sort of wolves. Tax collectors, debts that they hadn’t paid, and I was evicted from my own home. Pushed to the streets I joined the militia to go fight in the invasion of Marmo but I got washed off the ship in the midst of a storm and washed ashore!”

    Xian caught a hold of his anger and sat down. “Sorry,” he stated in the direction of Sil and Cip. “There was no reason for me to yell.”

    “Eesh, ya both ’ave some nasty wounds there,” the female mercenary said, watching the start of what looked to be a fight. Well, she had wounds too, but she wasn’t about to bare them so openly. She was a fighter for hire, not supposed to be a friend, despite any fondness she felt. “Well, theres the thing. Can’t use most of ’is old skills. Sneakin’ around, stabbin’ in the back, and ta run away, eh?”

    Approaching Ciprian, she looked him over. “Thieves are suppose ta be perceptive. Take yer master, for example. Can’t stab ’im in the back. But think; when he is in full armor, where are the weakest points? Where does he lack it? Might be the only trick ya can use from yer old life, so I suggest ya use it well.”

    “More wounds that I’d care to recall, and that is why I’d rather not. Please don’t think I am selfish, it’s just that I feel responsible for their deaths,” she replied to Sil and everybody after listening to Xian’s past and realizing he had been through just as much. Now she had to try and fix this situation before it got worse. Looking Xian in the eye her head was tilted upwards, she had few words to say. “I can’t say anything to help the past, but look where you are now. You have your life and freedom still, but what they did truly was cruel. Can you accept my apology? I never meant to get you angry like that...” She was trying to speak as little as possible, this confession gave her even more respect for the strong mercenary. Though she was still a little upset, she was trying to remain calm.

    Carianna hung silent, flinching at every shout. By the time Xian was done, the priestess looked like she was about to burst into tears. They all had such horrible pasts. During the first year of her priestess training, she heard so many sob stories and, for every person, she cried with them. Even today, she showed how she cared for others by crying for them and sharing their pain. It wasn’t something she did on purpose, though. It simply brought tears to her eyes. Part of it was her own history which sent her to sleep crying for so many nights.

    Sitting next to Sil, Cari whimpered quietly. Xian was so harsh and Kylia tragic. No one seemed to be getting along. In her temple, no one argued as they did. No one trained in fighting and no one competed for who had the worst history. Could they not be happier for those who did not suffer and more respectful of those whose fates were worse than their own? Why did they feel this need to vindicate themselves by feeling like they were treated worse by existence?

    Giving a light tap on the back of Carianna, Silemria glanced at Xian and Kylia, one that provided a look that said ‘you idiots’. “If we’re all done playin’ the ‘my past is worse than yers’ game...” She gave a light wave as Cip and Cian went to train. “Get some ground rules out of the way. We probably all have somethin’ we have that can give us some angst. Never met a person a person who isn’t a soldier who didn’t pick up a weapon fer one reason or another. But whatever your reasons may be...”

    She ran her unbandaged finger across her neck, and in obvious reference. “Cut it. Those reasons are yer own. Next time I ’ear either of ya talkin’ about such things, and bickerin’ over it, I’ll settle it meself and beat both of yer asses ta Alecrast and back fer being such fools.” Sitting down next to the priestess, she gave a light sigh, continuing to stroke Carianna’s back. She wasn’t much into comforting someone, after all. “Do I make meself crystal clear on that subject?”

    Xian nodded. He wasn’t too fond of being threatened, even if Sil had her reasons. He didn’t respond to Kylia’s appology either, there was no point. She had watched her parents die, and in his opinion, that would be far better than not knowing their fate.

    Carianna sighed at Sil’s touch. The Rada priestess didn’t make much of a move for anything. She bit her lip and wiped her tears off quickly, hoping no one would see them. “I’m alright,” she said quietly, looking up with a pathetic looking smile. It was a weak attempt to look realistically comforted, but it was all she had and she was trying.

* * *

    Cian thought about the tirade of shouting and pain he’d just heard. He wanted nothing more than to concentrate on anything other than bad memories than possible. The boy took his practice sword then moved out into the area where Cip indicated and stood at the ready still trying to figure out the proper way to hold the thing. “I’m ready when you are Cip. So... what first?”

    Ciprian paused to see Cian’s stance and the way he held the sword. “Just hold still for a moment, Cian,” Ciprian said and walked over to the boy. He saw that he was holding it left hand over right, though it should be right over left. “Which hand do you write with? Err...well, the hand you do things with the most?”

    Cian tried to hold the weapon as Cip showed him; it was different than wielding a dagger. This required both hands and more concentration. When Cip inquired about his use of which hand before the other, the boy thought a moment then spoke. “Oh, my left hand. I’m better with it than my right. I just seem to use it more.” He tried to get his footing right and waited for Cip’s next instruction.

    “Huh, well, then you have that right,” Cip replied, surprised to know Cian was left handed. It was rare. “Just hold it like that, left hand over right so you lead with your strongest hand.”

    The knight looked over Cian’s stance again, the boy was way too tense. Suddenly, Cip batted the practice sword with his own, knocking it out of Cian’s hands. “You’re holding it too tightly. You need to be relaxed so you can follow the motion of the blade as it moves. If you’re tense, the sword moves you, you want to be the one who moves the sword. Keep your body at ease so you can move more fluidly. Now, pick the sword back up.”

    Cian picked the sword back up and held it again taking his stance once again, the boy worked it over in his mind trying to keep in focus everything Cip told him. The tenseness from before was gone, mostly. And the former thief watched his grip on the practice blade and made sure it wasn’t as tightly held and gave Cip a nod. He was ready to try again.

    Ciprian batted Cian’s practice sword again with his own, testing Cian’s control. Cian regained control the practice sword and took a stance once again, then prepared to have a go at it again with the knight. The boy tested his grip and tried to remember as he moved warily and thought. Gotta remember my stance...not too tight not too loose. Gotta wait till he moves then try my chance at seeing if I can bat his blade.

    Cian stalked around Cip like a panther watching its prey, only the little panther was little more than a kitten. Cip was the real great cat here, and the boy knew it hoping his speed would make up for his lack of skill. There was just one problem with that plan, Cip was at least as fast as Cian, and that’s when he wore armor. By the fates he’s fast... Every time I move he moves faster.

    Ciprian watched with approval as Cian succeeded in holding onto his sword, but then Cian began to circle him. “Stop,” he commanded. “Don’t make a move in training until I tell you. We need to cover the basics before we get to sparring.”

    Cian stopped, but the boy wasn’t happy with doing so. He was used to using his agility and speed to avoid attacks, but knights trained in an entirely different way than thieves. When a knight couldn’t dodge or use his speed, he had only his skill and strength to rely upon.

    The grey-eyed boy gulped and nodded, then took his stance again. His hands hurt and his arms felt a bit tired, but mostly it was his hands that hurt. Cip tested his grip on the practice sword but the boy had held onto it when the knight batted it the second time. Cian was worried if he could keep hold of the weapon with more strikes like that last one, but he had agreed to do this and Cip wasn’t being mean, he was teaching him the bare basics needed if he ever wanted to follow through and become more than just a knight. “Okay?o moving then. Um?ow...nevermind. I’m ready I can do this.”

* * *

    Carianna sighed as she watched Ciprian teach the young boy how to fight. Of all the things to teach Cian, why war? Hadn’t he suffered enough in his life? Carianna knew what Cian’s life must have been life. She could sympathize with that. Why did Ciprian have to encourage more pain? One could deal with an enemy without killing him. Cian’s old master was a man, like his thugs were. Cari could stamp out his will to fight and they could deliver him to justice. Knowledge of the blade wouldn’t be necessary.

    But there they were, training to kill. Truth be told, Carianna could use a sword, but she knew very little about attacking someone with it. Defense was quite another thing though. She could block almost any sword swing accurately. Carianna shook her head sadly. No words would be able to convince them not to study this. All she could do was minimize the pain that both their enemy and they themselves would cause...

    Ciprian continued Cian’s training for at least an hour. He didn’t want to waste much time, but he covered most of the basics of controlling a sword. Usually squires had a few months to master the basic handling before moving up to actual sparring. Ciprian would have to speed things up. Cian was probably tired by now, and Cip had worked up a bit of a sweat, but he felt invigorated by the early morning exercise. “Alright, that’s all for this morning. We’ll get some more practice tonight. Pack up,” he ordered Cian. He tossed his practice sword and caught it backwards, so the tip was pointed to the ground, then went to his horse.

    “Let’s break camp everyone. We should make it to Khina or Manni tonight if we leave now,” Ciprian announced to his entire company as he walked.

    Cian was greatful for the rest, and the boy moved quickly to pack Cip’s gear and make ready for breaking camp. Being a knight would prove to be a lot harder than he’d barganed for and the boy took a moment to look at the blisters and bruises on his hands he’d gathered from practice. But hard work and difficult life was the norm for Cian and he smiled. It beat stealing on the street to survive and it was a far sight better than running from Emir’s men. He glanced at Cari and smiled then went right to work.

    Finally given the order to pack up and move out, Xian took to his feet. He had nothing to pack, so his job was relatively easy. “Ah’right, let’s go then,” he said, picking up his pack and sword, and falling in behind Ciprian.

    Kylia packed up at the notice as well, making sure not to leave anything behind. “Let’s hope for a smooth trip this time, we’ve had enough surprises for this leg of the journey.” She seemed optimistic they would make it there without trouble, though she knew not to underestimate their enemy at this point.

    Cari was thankful that the lesson in murder was short and, more importantly, over. She didn’t want to think that, after all Cian had seen of suffering and pain, that it was a good thing to cause more. She picked up everything she had, which fit neatly in a small bag, and awaited to leave.

    Once the camp had packed up whatever was left and mounted their horses, they were back on the road. Ciprian led them north, toward the three cities along the edge of the Central Mountains. They would reach the first city of Khina, where they could stay the night, if they had no more troubles on the road.

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