Callindra was dazzled by the array of weaponry laid out on the table where she had expected to find breakfast. She had slept hard and awakened feeling tired but not nearly as exhausted as she was afraid she would be. The sounds of metal on metal had brought her out of sleep and she had assumed Glarian was setting out bowls of porridge.
Instead of tin spoons and wooden bowls of oatmeal she saw a dozen or so polished steel swords. They ranged from a straight and slender toothpick with a basket hilt to a wide double edged blade with sturdy crosstrees.
“Where did you get all these?” She asked.
“I’ve kept them for a long time.” Glarian said, “These are all blades I tried before I found the style that fit me. Today you will do the same. How are your hands feeling?”
Callindra had forgotten about her injuries in spite of the wrapping on her palms. She carefully took the linen bandages off and was shocked to see the skin underneath was unbroken. Wordlessly, she showed him her palms.
“Good, I’m glad to see the Brightstar balm works as well even after all these years. Jordah hasn’t forsaken me yet.” He said with a smile, “Now then, why don’t you choose a blade and try it out.”
She looked at the swords, hefted one or two and finally picked one up that was just over a pace long, had a straight, narrow blade with slightly curved crosstrees and a hilt long enough for her to hold with both hands. She tested the balance and nodded in satisfaction.
“I like this one. It’s light enough for me to swing but feels like it has a good backbone.” She flicked the blade and it rang, a bright cheerful sound. “He has a good voice too.”
Glarian nodded, “Very well, bring it outside and let us begin our morning meditation.”
“Where is the sheath?” Callindra asked, “I don’t see sheaths for any of these swords.”
“I don’t have sheaths for them. You’ll just have to carry it for now.” He said, “It will give you the chance to get used to the balance.”
She followed him into the courtyard and sat to perform the first Korumn with him. As she breathed, the sword began to tremble on her lap, singing with the Power that coursed through her during the exercise. When she finished and opened her eyes, Glarian was looking at her with furrowed brow.
“I’m not certain that sword will be able to survive the second Korumn; look how it is reacting already.”
The sword was trembling violently, the tip moving nearly a hand span. Callindra stood up and whipped the blade as she had read a sword fighter might do to shake an opponent’s blood off the end. When her arm and sword were fully extended the vibration ceased completely and the sword silenced itself.
“I think it will be just fine Master, he’s flexible enough to handle it for a little while. If I’m careful I think it will be OK.”
Before he could stop her, she began the second Korumn. The blade quivered and sang but just as she had hoped, it held together. When Callindra finished, the whisper of wind that calmly dispersed from the tip of the sword seemed anticlimactic. She didn’t feel like a cored apple this time though, in fact she felt absolutely energized even though her left leg throbbed from the effort.
“Wow, that was amazing! Is that how it always is?” Glarian was watching her carefully, a mixture of pride and apprehension on his face.
“Yes, these exercises are intended to make you ready for the day and that includes a feeling of exuberance. Shall we begin the day’s training?”
He led her a short distance to a small meadow. There was a large pile of wood sitting next to a flat stone.
“I want you to split this wood; however you must not hit the stone. Hitting the stone would damage the blade. Allow me to demonstrate, pay close attention.” He lifted a section of tree trunk onto the stone, took a step back and drew his sword.
She watched him lift the six foot blade over his head and bring it down with a savage motion, stopping just above the wood, which shuddered and split in half with a sharp crack.
“What just happened?” She asked, “Could you show me again?”
Without saying anything he put one of the halves back on the stone. She intuitively schooled her mind and started to see the other world he had exposed her to. The weave gathered in an orderly and precise fashion around his body, in through his nose and trickled down the blade of his sword from his fingertips. When he stopped the sword over the wood, this time she saw the magic continue to move, slicing it in half.
“Wind! It’s wind! Of course, I should have guessed, ‘Master of the North Wind’ isn’t just a Title is it?” Her voice was tinged with awe, “You really are the master of the winds aren’t you?”
Glarian nodded in satisfaction, “Split it all. You’ll need to continue to perfect your control if you don’t want to keep shattering swords.” He set a water skin and small basket on the ground and turned back towards the house leaving her to complete the task.
Her first try accomplished nothing. On her second try she managed to slam the sword far enough into the wood that getting it out was a ten minute endeavor. She sighed and blew her hair out of her face. This was going to be harder than she thought.
Glarian watched his apprentice from a hilltop. The task he had set her to was nearly impossible without proper training but he had to push her harder than normal. Maybe she could find a way to cut some corners and teach herself. He had to rely on her innate creativity to tame and shape the incredible power that swirled just beneath her skin.
With her first few swings she appeared to have forgotten what her task was and merely waved her sword at the wood or got it stuck in it. After a moment she stopped and stood quietly in the Ready Stance. Her shoulders relaxed and Glarian could see the Weave begin to circle around her. When she raised her sword over her head even at this distance he could feel wind rush past his face towards her.
She was using too much, but if he interrupted her now it might be worse. Callindra brought the sword down slowly, as though making sure of her target and tapped the firewood. An explosion of wind in a perfectly straight line cut a razor sharp fissure through the center of the meadow, flowers, blades of grass, stones and anything else that got in its way was sliced neatly into two pieces. The firewood, however, was still in one piece.
The string of curses she let loose must have come from her time in the keep, or else maybe from one of the new books he’d just brought home. Either way they were colorful enough to make him raise an eyebrow. Interesting vocabulary for a slip of a girl; he wondered how old she really was. When he’d asked before she claimed to be sixteen but if she was over twelve when he pulled her out of the woods he’d be surprised.
“Strange choice for an apprentice Glarian.” He whirled, Sakar half out of her sheath and found himself staring up at a massive hammer. “Hand off the hilt or else I will smash your head like a grape.”
Glarian followed the hammer down to the hand that was holding it which was connected to an arm the size of a modest tree trunk. “Thaeran, they let you out? I thought Lord Edlras locked you up and threw away the key.”
“I have you to thank for that, The Order sprung me when you started stirring up trouble again.” The huge man smiled, “They even let me test for Master again. You’re speaking to Hammermaster Thaeran.”
“Congratulations, surely they didn’t spring you for nothing though?” Thaeran had betrayed a mission, assassinated a crown prince he was supposed to have been protecting and been caught red handed.
“Of course there’s a catch, I have to keep an eye on you. My hammer is the only weapon in existence that you can’t break. We know all about your aversion to killing, so they figured I was the best bet for keeping you in line.”
There was also the fact that Thaeran was an Earth mage and his powers were physically stronger than any other member of The Order and that Earth opposed Wind diametrically but Glarian didn’t mention those.
“So what are their terms?” He asked, knowing he wouldn’t like the answer.
“You are to stop training this girl immediately, surrender your Title to the next challenger and turn yourself in for breaking your oath.” Thaeran said with a satisfied smile. Glarian had been the leader of the internal investigation that had revealed his treachery and sent him to prison for his crimes.
“Do you know what will happen to her if she stops learning?” Glarian asked gliding closer, “She will destroy herself and likely take anyone or anything that’s in the area with her. You look at her and see a girl trying to learn to wield magic, but I see a girl fighting for survival.”
Thaeran laughed, “I don’t much care Glarian, it’s your fault she started learning so her death will be on your head.” He shifted his grip on the hammer that he still had poised overhead and in that moment Glarian sprang forward, slamming his shoulder into the other man’s chest.
Thaeran stumbled back, but before he could recover, Glarian had swept Sakar from her sheath and called the Weave to his aid. The blunted tip of the sword whistled through the air, first to the four points of the compass and then to tap Thaeran gently between the eyes. “You will report back that you believe I am breaking Oath but that you cannot prove it yet. You will feed them useless scraps of information to string them along and keep them from sending backup. You will tell me the moment they send another to replace you. You will not do violence unto myself or my apprentice.”
The spell was completed with the fourth command and Glarian held his blade at the ready, just in case the big man somehow managed to withstand his magic. Thaeran shook his head as though trying to clear it, then shouldered his hammer and trudged off in a seemingly random direction.
“If they’d sent someone a little more adept I would have been on the losing end of that encounter. It’s a good thing I have made a little bit of a name for myself shattering weapons; they’re hesitant to send their most capable and instead release criminals to do their dirty work.” He muttered to himself.
Looking back at the meadow where he had left Callindra, Glarian frowned. “I’ve been pushing her but I need to push harder, we’re running out of time. I didn’t expect them to react so quickly but I guess breaking all those weapons made them angry.”
A black butterfly floated down and landed on the tip of Sakar with a distinct clink of metal touching metal. Glarian felt a tremor of Power rush through his blade and Belach’s voice came from the steel insect.
“I’m bringing her sword in two weeks. Had to burn some time in the forge but after speaking with her yesterday I decided it needed to be done sooner rather than later. I’d bring it today but the damn thing’s taking an ungodly long time to cool and that’s the only part I can’t rush. Have a care, they let Thaeran out to come get your title. He brought that monster Darangar in to make sure it was ready to smash whatever stood in his way and of course I had no choice but to inspect him.”
The butterfly flexed metal wings and soared on unseen thermals, spiraling high into the air. Glarian sat on a large, flat stone and leaned Sakar against his shoulder. So he had Named his hammer. Darangar, was that ‘Soul Crusher’ in Dwarven? He thought so.
Glarian looked back at his disciple, she had a stack of kindling piled in a neat row on the left side of the stump. He blinked and looked again. Callindra was more than halfway done with the wood he’d left her and working quickly through what remained. She had actually managed to gain control over the Weave, even though she was using an old sword he’d only kept for sentimental reasons. He grinned, this was going to be a lot of fun. The Order was in for a big surprise.
“We just might make it. It’s a slim chance but I’m betting on your skills Belach. By the icy gales of Njordi, if there’s any chance of this working the sword you send her must be absolutely perfect.”