Friday, August 21, 2015

Small John IV

"You have a shield. Use it!" Morrison's eyes were fixed on Karl as he fought against Graham. Graham had the upper hand as he was already an experienced soldier. Karl didn't have an easy time trying to dodge or block the oncoming blows.
    Small John couldn't blame him not wanting to get hit. He was still nursing his own aching shoulder after having taken a beating from Hugh, another trained soldier. Unlike Karl, he had made use of his shield, but Hugh's blows were so hard that his arm was still numb. Karl probably didn't want to end up the same way.
    "That's enough." Morrison stepped between the two fighters. He stepped up to Karl and grabbed the rim of his shield and tugged it upward into the right position. "Hold it like this. If an Orc tries to hit you, block it. You'll live longer."
    With a slap on the shoulder Morrison sent Karl back into the ranks. "Graham, well done. If you still got some fight in you, I've got someone who needs another round." His eyes wandered across the new recruits and settled on Small John.
    He had to be kidding. Small John was sick and tired of being beaten. He wanted to learn and get better. He wanted to become one of the best who could fight several Orcs at once, but that future looked dim. He felt weak and small compared to the soldier's like Hugh, who still had a big grin plastered on his face. He didn't move from the ranks.
    "John, you don't want to train?" The Guardian's jaw clenched as he ground his teeth. "Well, that's too bad, because the Orcs are coming, if you want them to or not. So get up here and fight! You still have a lot to learn and Graham's going to teach you."
    Small John suppressed an indignant sigh and tried not to wince as he rolled his shoulders. No reason to show them more weakness. He picked up his practice sword and shield, then went to face Graham. The soldier was smiling. Unlike Hugh's, it looked like a genuine friendly smile.
    "You're tired. Let's pretend you're in a battle. You've survived several clashes, but now you're losing strength. You might lose your life, but for now you still have to fight." Graham dropped his shield to the ground and looked toward Morrison. The Guardian nodded. "Come on, drop it. You'll have less protection, but more energy to wield your sword. What's the use in battering your shield anyway? We already saw earlier that you can use it."
    Was that a complement? Small John dropped his own shield and tightened his grip on the sword. Graham slashed the air diagonally in front of him. "I'm going to attack you like this. One stroke to your left followed by one to your right. Parry them."
    Small John let out a deep breath. He had expected Graham to just come at him the way Hugh had done, but he was actually taking time to teach him something. Morrison had turned his back to them and was talking to Karl. The pressure of the Guardian watching faded and he tried to prepare.
    When the first blow came Small John lifted his sword and stumbled backward from the impact. He kept his sword up and dug in his heels to prepare for the second attack. Graham swung his blade at his right, but not the way he had shown. His blow didn't connect with Small John's block, it came from the side and hammered into his ribs.
    Small John doubled over and gasped in pain. He was down on one knee, holding his side. What was that for? He tried to catch his breath. "I thought you were going to swing diagonally."
    Graham held out a hand. "I also told you to parry and not to hold up your sword to block the blow you knew was coming. You need to learn to trust your instincts and act upon what you see and not what you are told. An Orc would have taken the chance just like I did, but he would have hit a lot harder."
    Small John grasped the offered hand and was pulled back onto his feet. "An Orc wouldn't have told me how he would attack."
    "True, but you need to learn what to expect in battle, not what to expect int the training yard." Graham took a few steps back and went into a defensive stance. "Now you're also going to have to work on your footing. My first strike almost knocked you down. That can't happen in battle or you're dead. Attack me the way I attacked you and you'll see what I mean."
    "Alright." Small John shook his shoulders to loosen them up and suppressed the ache in his ribs. He strode toward the soldier and swung his sword diagonally at Graham's left. It was blocked. He didn't even budge.
    Small John could still feel his arm shaking from the clash of steel, but he drew his sword back and attacked Graham's side horizontally, the way he had done to Small John. Graham easily blocked the blade and took a side step, his own sword swinging at Small John's head. It was more instinct than anything else that allowed him to stop the oncoming blow. He was breathing hard, waiting for the next attack to come, but Graham had already taken a step back.
    "Good job. Lesson learned." Graham looked to Morrison, who had stopped training Karl and had watched the whole fight.
    Morrison's brooding stare was focused on him. The corners of his lips slid upward in a hint of a smile. "Yes, good job. Now do it again."

Monday, August 3, 2015

Kruzz V

Kruzz opened his eyes. He was in a shaman's hut. Herbs were burning next to him. His vision blurred as he moved his head. He wanted to get up, but he didn't know how to tell his body to do so. Someone sat next to him on his right.    "Hey there little grunt." Dax's voice was strong and reassuring, but also worried.
    "What happened? Why am I here?" Kruzz tried to lift this head and focus on Dax, but he didn't have the strength for it. His right hand pressed against the slab of rock he was lying on. He didn't even feel his left hand and thus couldn't manage to push himself up into a sitting position..
    "Calm down, Kruzz. You need to rest. Just lay still. Try to sleep some more."
    He gave up and lay down. He didn't have the strength he needed. "I feel like I've been sleeping for too long. What happened?" Kruzz slowly lifted his right hand to rub at his eyes. He still couldn't move his left.
    "You killed a big creature on your Hunt." Dax smiled.
    Memories slowly started to resurface. He remembered the fight. He could feel the pain in his left arm, where the creature had cut a deep gash... Kruzz turned his head to look down at where his left arm should be. All he could see was the shoulder and a bit of his arm ending in a stump.
    Now he remembered the screaming as they cut into him. He wanted to shout out in horror as the realization set in. Dax put a hand on Kruzz's right shoulder and squeezed.
    "I know, my friend. I know it is hard to take."
    Kruzz shifted to get the older Orc's hand off of him. "How could you know? Did you lose a limb?" Tears came to his eyes unbidden. He wanted to get up and scream, throw a tantrum, but he didn't have the energy for it.
    Dax lowered his gaze and let his hand drop away. "No. I haven't experienced what you are going through, but I hoped I could help you gather strength in this hard time."
    Kruzz turned his head to his left, away from Dax. His lips pressed together in an act of silence. He didn't want to see anyone at the moment, but now all he saw was his stump, so he shut his eyes.
    A rustling came from behind him as someone entered the hut.
    "Hey there, Kruzz. You're awake!" Grim's rumbling voice awoke something within him. Lately, Kruzz had been telling himself how he wanted to be just as good a fighter as Grim. As strong and as fearless. That could never be now.
    Why did this happen? What would they be able to do about it? Nothing!
    Kruzz opened his eyes and turned to the two of them. "Go away! I want to be alone." Tears leaked down his cheeks as he snarled at his friends. They couldn't help him. No one could.
    "Now look here, Kruzz." Grim grabbed a hold of his shoulder. The one that still had an arm attached to it. "Things may look bad now, but as soon as you've recovered and the shaman says you can get up. You and me, we can spar and work on fighting with one arm. I'll teach you all I know. You're a grunt now and you should learn to fight like one." His tusks rose up hopefully.
    Kruzz sniffed and turned his head away from his friends, looking straight at the ceiling. Under his breath he said, "what's the point."
    "Maybe we should let him rest some more. Give him some time." Dax sighed and got up from his seat.
    "You said that he needs to know that..." Grim turned on Dax.
    "Yes, but he needs some time to digest this first. Let him rest and we'll come back soon." Dax started to move toward the hut's flap.
    Grim smiled down at him. "You'll see. Once you have your strength back we'll still make a warrior out of you. It'll just take some more training."
    "What's the point!" Kruzz yelled. "Stop wasting your time with me and leave."
    "But..." Grim's tusks sank and his shoulders fell.
    "Get out!" Kruzz's throat burned and all the energy he had was drained out of him. He just wanted to be alone. Be alone and sleep. Forever.
    "We better go." He could see Dax out of the corner of his eye, coming back to lead Grim out of the hut.
    "I tried. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I thought I could make him look forward to training. You know? Now though, I don't know if I'll be able to get through to him. What if he never lets us help him?" Grim's voice trailed off as they walked further away, leaving Kruzz alone.
    Broken and alone.