Thursday, October 14, 2010

359 - A Ghost of a Shadow of a Wraith

I wouldn’t have minded if he asked me more questions after Chevenga left… I’d given him permission.  But he seemed to have gotten what he needed.

Once I could actually turn my head when I wanted to, I did.  Kallijas was still just watching.  How could a man be so comfortable in silence?  “How can you be so comfortable sitting in silence?”  Oh Hayel, I said that out loud? 

“It’s easy enough, if you are comfortable with yourself.  Once I leave I’m absolutely sure Skorsas will be here to see you to your room… or someone he will have assigned to that.” I was able to nod.  “I won’t ask you any more questions, other than casual ones.  Sheng said once that he always felt ripped open by truth-drug, so I shall act as if it is the same with you.”

“I’m… all right…”

“That’s good.  So…” He rose.  “I will see you tomorrow for training.”  It wasn’t a question.

“Yes… ser.”

“Kallijas.  I’ve given you use of my name, lad,” he reminded me gently.

“Thank… you, Kallijas.”  He nodded, and let himself out.  I wanted a swim.  I wanted to soak myself in the hot water.  As I came out of the drug more and more I could feel the knots crawl into my guts once more, the tightness all over my body.  I sat up and felt my shoulder muscles tighten up once more.  A servant knocked and peeked in.

“I…” I’d been going to say I could walk but changed my mind.  “I could use some assistance.”

“Of course, ser.”

He put my arm over his shoulder and helped me to my room like a drunken friend.  “Ser. We’ll see to you, not to worry.”

“Thank you. I need to be up in time to train with Ser Itrean tomorrow morning… I’m sorry to ask—“

“No, no, ser. We’ll see you up and about.”  My head hit the pillow and I was asleep almost before the door closed behind him.


I was nervous in entirely different a way the next morning.  The slate was cold and damp on my bare feet and I watched Kallijas adjust one of his glove cuffs before turning toward me, his eyes looking very deep into me, even more intent than other training sessions.  Of course.  This time he was looking to know me… as a possible Imperator.

“We’ll begin with a warm up, of course.”

“Yes, ser.”  I was terrified I would see him disappointed.  Even in his questioning of me, I was learning about him and he just got more and more impressive as I got to know the man.  Even as we began, me struggling to match him in form and number of exercises, I felt like a pup, a cub, bumbling around after a big hunting cat or great gray wolf.  And I wanted so much to be like him, to be like what he glowed of.

Chevenga had been the first person to show me that glory.  He was like that but he was Yeoli and on some level strange and in a sense above me and out of my reach.  What Kallijas showed me was the best of my own people, an image that resonated in me down to my bones, something I could attain.

The snap and precision that I struggled with from the beginning seemed to be in his breath and his balance, it seemed to live in his soul.  I wanted that so much I’d struggle after it, if it killed me. I yearned after what he showed me and I strove to reach for the place he lived, under Aras’s eyes, in glory.

The exercises were all familiar but the way he ran me through them was somehow different.  More intense, definitely testing.  Not just training.  Testing.  When he struck, when I blocked I felt the shock through my whole body. It was a full bead of the most intense workout I had ever had.

I was dripping with perspiration now. I was up in a still push-up postion but not hating, at all.  A perfect circle of sweat fell off my nose and marked the slate. The others training across the roof were distant clatter in my ears.  I was so tired I wanted to collapse but wouldn’t let myself.  He was perfectly in the same position beside me and if he could do it without even breathing hard, so could I.  He sprang up.  It was so fast I didn’t really see how, but he was on his feet faster than I could say it and said.  “True steel, now.  Quickly.”

I tried to jump up and managed to stagger over to the sword rack.  The Imperial sword settled into my hand in a way I had never felt before, sinking into my fist as if it where part of me.  “Ser!”

I pulled the sword up to salute and he answered me with his steel and the world went strange; strange as if the quality of light around Kallijas changed.  My breath became like a bubble around me and it was as if he became the centre of my attention.  Is this what he feels all the time? That thought was enough to knock me out of that state and I took a deep breath and reached for it again as his sword came down into the first position.

When it came to skill, there was no way on the earthsphere that I was fit to polish his boots, but I tried.  I threw my heart out onto my blade in a way I never had before.  Only with him did I trust enough, and our steel rang sweetly, kissing, hissing, sliding…I could feel the steel like the air before lightning, like sunlight, but only for fractions of a moment, less than a heartbeat long. He showed me the Fields of Honour for eye-blinks at a time, as if I gazed through his open heart to the God Aras himself.

I couldn’t sustain it and it was so odd…he pushed me as hard as 2nd Amitzas but there was no hatred in it.  No pain, no harshness, no ugliness.  It was just…love.  If you had told me, even a single year ago, that one of the two best warriors in the world was showing me that his fighting strength was love, I would have scoffed.  It was love.

 I struggled to attain what he showed me… strained to connect with the glory he showed me because rather than whip me on, drive me like an animal, it was as though he reached a hand back to help me.  I didn’t want to stop, weaving, exhausted, and Kallijas gently reached through my defenses and laid the tip of his sword against my neck.  I could see it coming; it seemed slow, but I couldn’t move fast enough to even begin to block.  “Touch,” he said and I stepped back grinning.

If this was a ghost of a shadow of a wraith of what he and Chevenga shared… no wonder they had fallen in love with each other.  No wonder.  It was like watching Chevenga doing the Ten Tens. It was like prayer.  It echoed the glory in the Imperial Chapel.

My smile felt as though it reached all the way through me, cradling my heart.  “Thank you, Kallijas.  Thank you, ser.”  My respect welled up and I would have fallen to my knees, but I had the sword in my fist so would not.  “Thank you.”

He stepped back as well, a small smile on his face, and saluted me before sheathing his blade.  The others training on the roof, the mixed darya semanakraseye and the Imperial Elite, I realized, where very aware of what we were doing, wondering why Itrean was hammering so intently on this fessas youth.  “Minis,” he said so only I could hear him.  “I will be your Regent.”

I was covered in sweat, I’d bitten my lip when he’d thrown me once and I’d landed hard, and my vision was uncertain I was so tired, ready to fall down where I stood, but couldn’t stop smiling.  Chevenga and Kallijas… Both of them would be with me, in my bid to become Imperator.  It was as if every glass instrument in the Temple was sounding inside my chest, a thunderous chorus that I didn’t have the strength to try and suppress. “You honour me, ser.  I hope we shall do well together.”

He nodded. “Indeed.”


  1. Okay, I've always wondered this, and now's an appropriate time to ask.

    How in Hayel is a left-handed paladin even possible?

    I'm left-handed. In order to survive to maturity in a sword-hand world without being killed by doors or scissors or swords or bloody crosswalks designed for righties, one must develop a certain deviosity of spirit. When following the rules will kill you sooner or later, and will severely disadvantage you until it does (I'm looking at you, every writing system in the world except for one developed in a country where no one is allowed to be lefty!), you naturally develop a certain disrespect for those rules and by extension for the Authority who put them there. Lefties are, in my experience observing my kind, questioners, doubters, and sneaks. These people do not have the makings of paladins.

    So how does it happen? This is a story worth telling. Might you consider composing a slim volume when the current megatome is done?

  2. Heh. Thus arises the myth of the 'sinister' side as opposed to the 'dexterous' side.

    Handedness raises the hackles of a society that is violently polarized. Speaking personally, my sons are left handed and I have always believed myself to be strongly right handed. But I remember choosing my handedness. I believe Tristan [my oldest] did as well. I have had at least one therapist postulate that I am a 'suppressed' left hander.

    And recently handedness has been changed in a mature brain with heavy duty magnetic fields. So... yes.. possibly.

  3. Oh I loved this fight scene even if it was sparring, there is so much happening here and Minis is just to the point where he can catch glimpse of it where before he would have been blind. I'm glad that 2nd Amitzas didn't ruin him for being able to find joy or beauty in sword-work. And yes this is so how Kallijas would really want to get Minis's true measure, is this the first time they've gone steel together?

  4. Yes, Blue this is the first time they used live steel. Kallijas wouldn't against a student at Minis's stage, just for training. This was his final test.