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Skipping Stones

Firie's picture

She was five, and it was too heavy.

It was an old shield, battered and dented, thick wooden boards banded and edged with steel, and nearly as tall as she was. It was solid enough that she had trouble lifting it, even with both hands on the grip, and it left a furrow in the red dirt of the practice field as she dragged it along. Old was good, though, she would get in less trouble for taking it than if she touched one of the shiny beaten steel ones.

 

Less trouble wasn’t none, and she was only halfway across the yard before they spotted her.

 

Hey! Hey child, stop there!”

 

She peeked over the shield to see Master Ordlay bearing down on her from the duel ring, scowling. The family arms master always scowled, but this time he was putting effort into it, and coming right towards her. This, she thought, was exactly what shields were for. She wrapped both arms through the straps and leaned her shoulder forward against the shield, ready for a charge…

 

Having the shield grabbed and yanked upward was not something she was braced for. She hung on, arms crossed behind the straps, tips of her shoes barely scuffing at the ground. The arms master gave the shield a shake, trying to dislodge her. She yelped in protest but held tight, refusing to give up after dragging it this far.

 

“Get off of that,” he growled at her. “This is not a toy, and you shouldn’t be playing with it.” Her feet swung in the air as he yanked harder at the shield, dragging her along with it. Even with only one hand, he was strong enough to jolt her back and forth in the air, each shake jarring her shoulders and making the leather straps dig into her arms. She bit back a cry at the cut of the straps, and kicked at his legs, feet clanking harmlessly off his shin guards.

 

“Ease up, Master. She’s just a kid.”

 

Master Ordlay glowered down at her, and then let the shield drop. She nearly toppled forward onto her face, pulled along by its weight anchored to her arms, but planted her heels and tilted it back upright before it could fall. Once steady, she looked past the arms master to see Kerecsen jogging up to them. Her eldest brother’s armor still seemed neatly polished and bright, even under the generous coat of dust from the practice ring. She liked the sound it made when he walked. It seemed clearer than other armor, more like ringing than clanking, she thought. Almost musical, like a bell. She would not let him catch her sniffling.

 

He was panting when he caught up to them, but he grinned down at her anyway, planting the point of his tall kite shield into the dirt and leaning casually with one arm across the top. “So, pip, what’re you doing to make the Master’s life more difficult today?”

 

The arms master snorted. “This is my duty, young lord. She’ll know better than to play in the armory before this lesson’s over.”

 

“Oh, do brighten up. It’s just a shield, she won’t hurt herself with it.” Kerecsen reached over, and flicked one finger at her nose. She swatted it away, and nearly lost her balance again, the shield pulling her forward. After a brief struggle to stabilize, she looked down. Her shield was rounded, so she couldn’t plant it into the dirt like his, but she could still rest one arm across the top… almost. She had to stand on her toes in order to reach.

 

Master Ordlay turned his glower toward her brother, silent for a moment. Then he lunged, one foot lashing out, slamming into the center of Kerecsen’s shield and shoving hard. Kerecsen staggered, letting one foot slide back and dropping to that knee, the point of his shield digging in and helping halt his slide. Master Ordlay snorted again, but gave a grudging nod to his form. “I’ve taught you well enough to do damage with a shield. If she goes down a hill with that on her arm, or it falls over on her, she’ll break the arm or worse. That’s if she doesn’t try dragging a sword around next time instead.” 

 

She scowled over the top of the shield, up at the arms master. “I’m not playing! I’m going to learn to fight!”

 

Her brother laughed, pulling himself up to his feet. “You, pip? Sure you don’t want to learn to ride, or bead fancy necklaces? A battered old shield like that’s hardly a thing for a pretty girl.”

 

She scowled harder, feeling the heat rising in her cheeks, and she stomped one foot in the dirt. “Yes! Who cares about stupid necklaces and ponies! I want to fight!”

 

“Hmf. Not with that, you’re not.” Master Ordlay was beside her, scowling down. “Can’t lift it, can’t turn it quick enough, can’t react properly.” He kicked out again, knocking the shield away from her, and it pulled her down into the dirt along with it. “Stick to necklaces and ponies, child. Maybe your father will have me teach you archery in a few years.” He yanked the shield out from under her as she spluttered, and turned, walking back toward the dueling field.

 

He got about twenty paces before a clod of red dirt struck the back of his armor, bursting in a puff of dust.

 

Snarling, he spun back to see her digging up another handful of dirt, glaring defiantly back at him. “Fine! If you want a lesson that badly, the first thing to learn is when you can’t win a fight!” The arms master moved with frightening speed, practice sword lashing out in a swift arc – 

 

- and clanging off the sleek, polished surface of her brother’s kite shield, as he slid between the two.

 

“I said ease off, Master. Father won’t like it if she attends dinner tonight striped with bruises.”

 

Teeth gritted, growling, Master Ordlay shoved against the shield, pushing Kerecsen back another step. “He’ll accept it. He’s given me full authority on this field, and you will respect it.”

 

Another clod of red dirt burst against the side of the arms master’s head. She stuck her tongue out at him. “Nhya!”

 

Kerecsen bit back a laugh. “Fine, then. Consider it an exercise for me. She can throw as much dirt at you as she likes, and if you can get past me, you can stop her. Well?” He shoved forward with his shield, pushing the arms master away again, and stepped sideways to stand between the two. “Call it an active defense drill.” His armor rang with each step, shield gleaming through the dust. “C’mon, pip. Get ‘em.”

Comments

Rhianon's picture

((nice to see a bit of

((nice to see a bit of Firie's past :D 

Jormund's picture

((Loved it. Always good to

((Loved it. Always good to share a little pieces of the past of our characters. It really helps a lot for nderstanding their feelings and opinions on different matters)) 

"When there is a will there is a way"

"Lead? Me? Nope, no no no no. Bad things happen when I lead. People die and I appear somewhere in Horde territory... with no pants!"