No Talent For The Sword
I exit my cart and tie my horse to the stables. I lock all the doors, after grabbing my bag and hanging it off of my shoulder. I walk through the stables, all the servants take looks at me, but not a single one of them attempts to stop me. About 12 or 13 in total. Time it would take to kill them all? Six seconds at most.
I walk into an open courtyard in front of a huge mansion. Nothing I haven’t seen before though. As I walk towards the entrance, I find a maid standing there to meet me. She’s noticeably on guard, and passing glances at the swords on my hip.
She isn’t experienced but she’s still different from the others. It would probably take longer than two seconds to kill her alone. If she was pushed to her limit, she could be a rather effective swordsman. This waste of potential is really clawing at the aura of calm I try desperately to maintain.
“Sir, welcome to Amber manor. What is your business here today?” She says to me in a stern voice. She clearly recognizes me as a threat.
“My name is Wolstan Norsl. I come from our capital on a summons from Duchess Amber. I’m here to serve as a sword instructor for Lilith Amber.”
The maid looks noticeably more nervous.
“I… I haven’t heard of that.”
“It’s not my fault that the Duchess is tightlipped to a fault. I have the letter here, if you need it. If that isn’t enough, you can go ask the Duchess herself, if you’d like.”
“No, I’ve heard of you. This situation does sound quite believable as well. I’ll take you to Lady Lilith.”
Hm? My judgment was off. She opens the door to the manor and I follow her inside. She still has her guard up around me, I can tell. She has her back turned, but is remaining constantly vigilant of my presence. She doesn’t have a weapon on her though, as far as I can tell. She’d fight me with her teeth and nails if the situation warranted it. I like this girl.
“Has Duchess Amber told you anything about Lilith?”
“No, just to get over here. I did know her back in the day though, so I know she can’t be more than eleven.”
“R- right… Mr. Norsl? Would you like to know anything about her before you meet her?”
“Everything I need to know, I’ll know when I see her. Oh, just Wolstan too, please.”
We keep walking through the manor in silence. Through several halls, and up a flight of stairs. Then we run into two people who aren’t servants. A young looking man, and a little girl I don’t even want to look at. The young man seemed to recognize me immediately.
“Uh! Wolstan! That’s you, right? What are you doing here?” Annei says to me.
“Annei! I’m surprised you recognize me. The last time we saw each other you couldn’t have been more than three or four.”
I look at Annei and I notice a Gift of Magic hanging from his neck. The first non pushover I’ve met since getting here. If we were to fight, I could win, but it wouldn’t be easy. As for time… I prefer not to think about that in fights I’m unsure I’ll win.
“Wolstan,” the maid whispers in my ear. “The girl next to Sir Annei is Lady Lilith.”
Oh… oh no. I look down at her. Tiny body, and one of her eyes is too clouded to be able to see out of. But… that look in her eyes. That’s the look of someone who’s seen death before. Not even Annei has those eyes. She has a Gift of Knowledge too.
Using my skills and my own experience, I can tell. This girl has absolutely no talent for the sword, but is too hard headed to be able to understand that. Whether I train her or not, she’s going to find a way to get around that lack of talent somehow. If she trains hard enough, she might be able to catch up towards those with talent too.
“My name is Lilith Amber,” she begins with the classic Osnye noble greeting. “I believe you are meant to be my sword instructor? I’ll be in your care.”
“What? Lilith! I haven’t heard of this!” Annei yells.
So it looks like Teresa and Lilith knew, but no one else. Which of them was the one who wanted Lilith to train with the sword? Knowing Teresa, and from what I’ve seen of Lilith, it could easily go either way.
“Yes, Lilith. My name is Wolstan Norsl, and I’ll be your instructor. We’ll begin tomorrow. I need to make you a weapon to practice with first.”
“Huh? But we have practice swords already?” Lilith looks confused.
“I won’t be training you in the sword. I will be training you in the halberd. Ready your mind for your training tomorrow.” Is all I say before I leave.
I walk through our training grounds in some of Sister’s old clothes. It’s an open dirt area with training dummies lined up against the wall.
Standing in the middle of it is Wolstan Norsl, my sword instructor. He’s a tall and muscular man, whose face just screams combat experience. I’d be extremely surprised if he wasn’t a veteran. At his right hip are two sword scabbards, one colored black, and one colored white.
In his hands he’s holding onto a halberd made completely out of wood. Its blade is quite detailed, did he really make that by himself in just a day?
“Catch.” He says.
He throws the halberd at me as slow as he could while making sure it still travels far enough to reach me. I go to grab it out of reflex, but I make the grabbing motion way too soon, and it hits my closed knuckles before falling to the ground.
“No depth perception?” He asks.
“Uh, yes…” I say, as I grab the halberd up from the ground.
“Lilith, I’m going to ask you some questions. Answer them as clearly and quickly as possible.”
“What happened to your eye?”
“I was poisoned several weeks ago, this was a side effect.”
“How bad was the poison?”
“I very nearly died.”
“Is that how you got your Gift?”
“What poison was it?”
“Abra, I believe.”
“I see… Why do you want to learn to fight?”
“I want to live.”
“What can you do with your Gift right now?”
“Cut off all pain over my body, and monitor everything that’s happening in it. I’m currently trying to keep both of those running permanently.”
Wolstan lets out a rather mean looking smile, and laughs a bit.
“Oh, oh yeah, you’re definitely going to be a monster in the future.”
I tilt my head a bit at this. Uh, I think that’s good? Probably? It could be his way of saying I have a lot of potential. He’s looking at me with such insane happiness though. No, I have no right to complain. I only have the right to train, and the teacher Mother got for me surely knows best.
“So listen, first thing’s first, how close do you think you are to having both of those working at all times?”
“I’m capable of keeping them both running even when I’m focusing on something else. They stop when I sleep though. I also don't think I'm able to sense my body with enough detail to be able to live without pain safely.”
“Yes, that would be a concern… Alright, so as soon as you’re done with that, we’re using your Gift to get around your biggest weakness: That defective eye of yours.”
“Yes, of course. Do you have anything in mind? Brother’s in charge of training with my Gift, so you’ll have to talk to him about it.”
“I have a few ideas, and as for Annei, it’ll be better for your development if your teachers are sharing information, so I’ll definitely talk my ideas over with him, to see what’ll work best for you. Now, onto today’s training, do you know why I put you with a halberd instead of a sword?”
“It’s because of your second biggest weakness. Your small body.”
“Sir, I’m 8. That won’t be the case for long.”
“I’m afraid you’re wrong about that.”
Eh, what? I’m wrong about that? I’m not going to grow? What would keep that from happening, and how would he even know that?
“You seem confused, allow me to explain. You see, I have skills capable of sensing how much potential someone has. And as your potential is now, you’re likely not going to get much bigger. You drank a fatal dose of abra while your body was still developing. That’s a symptom of that.
You’ll probably gain a few inches during puberty, but you’ll still be short by normal standards. Short enough it impairs your reach with a sword. That isn’t a bad thing though, there are workarounds for that, and I could be wrong. It’s rare, but it happens.”
Stunted growth is a symptom of abra? More permanent damage to my body? My left eye wasn’t enough? Continue the conversation now, or else I’ll get angry.
“So… limited reach. The halberd is meant to help with this?”
“Yes. With the assistance of skills, you should be able to swing it around fast enough to cause significant damage. Combine that with the Gift of Knowledge, and it will definitely be devastating.
Now, a lot to do with the halberd relies on knowing how far away your enemy is. That’s why our priority with your Gift will either be getting your depth perception back or finding something else that you can accurately gauge distance with.”
“I see, and we won’t be starting with that until I have both of my current spells running constantly?”
“Yes, for now though we’ll focus on getting the basic movements down, and securing a couple of skills that will help you fight with it. I’ll be speaking with your brother to find out when’s a good time for you to figure out how to gauge distance.”
I start holding my halberd out in the way I think I’m supposed to be holding it.
“Alright then, I’m ready to start.”
Wolstan walks up to me and starts moving my arms and legs. Adjusting my stance to how it should be.
“Unless you’re left handed, switch your arms around, your dominant hand should be behind your non-dominant one.”
I switch my arms around like Wolstan tells me. I keep adjusting my stance like how Wolstan’s pulling me until he finally backs off.
“Alright, this is a middle guard. There’s a whole bunch of different guards you can take, and you’ll be learning all the major ones, but we’re starting with this for now. We’re not doing anything too difficult in the beginning, just basic thrusts. Now lunge it forward.”
I grip on to the halberd, take a step forward and push it forward in a stabbing motion. Even I can tell it isn’t exactly straight.
“Not perfect, but it can work. Keep doing that, and don’t lose your footing. Try to keep it in a straight line.”
I pull back the halberd, and thrust it forward again. Like Wolstan told me, I try to keep my footing how he put it. I do this again, and again, trying to keep my thrusts straighter and straighter each time I do it.
“Lilith, I should’ve asked this earlier, but you seem stronger than I was expecting. Why is that?”
“My Gift doesn’t lend itself to combat… so I asked Brother to teach me normal magic. I’ve been learning earth manipulation.” I say through pants as I continue to thrust the halberd.
“Right, that would do it. How far are you along in that?”
“I can pull a bit of dirt into the air. Other than blinding opponents, it isn’t very useful.”
“I’d like to keep you learning magic if possible.”
“Alright, that’s enough.”
I stop thrusting the halberd, and let my arm muscles rest for a bit. I try my best to keep holding onto it.
“That thing’s made entirely out of wood, the real thing is going to be a lot heavier. We’ll be using your earth magic training as strength and endurance training as well.”
“Here, while you’re tired we’ll get down how you’re meant to walk. You don’t need the halberd for this.”
“Yes sir.” I say as I drop the halberd and walk up next to him.
“Alright, take the stance with your legs, like this. Notice how your left leg is in front?”
“Yes, now if you need to cover a lot of distance, walking or running normally is fine, but when you’re right in front of an enemy, you’re going to want to keep your leading leg in front. We do this by taking half steps. Make sure whether it’s forward or backward, your right leg always remains behind your left. Watch.”
Wolstan walks by putting his right leg just behind his left, then taking a full step with his left, before repeating the process. I follow him by copying the way he walks.
“Yeah, yeah, just like that. This isn’t that hard to get down. Now remember you’re going to be holding your halberd up while you’re doing this.”
“Now backwards. If you need to back up, you’re going to have to do the opposite in order to keep your leading leg in front. Now do as I do.”
I pay close attention to the way that Wolstan walks. He puts his left foot backwards just in front of his right, takes a full backwards step with his right, then repeats the process. I copy it the best I can while looking in front of me.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine. We’ll practice a bit of this while you’re holding onto the halberd later, but it won’t take long. This isn’t really that hard.”
“Yes sir. My arms are fine now, can we get back to practice thrusts?”
“Have you done any practice with your brother yet?”
“No sir. We were about to leave to train when you showed up.”
“Right. Start training with your Gift and earth magic now. You’ll want to keep your stamina up for earth magic training. I’ll start thinking about how fast I’ll make your curriculum.”
“Yes sir, I’ll go find Brother immediately.”
I leave Wolstan to go looking for Brother in the mansion. It’s only my first day really, and I already feel really prepared for the future. Wolstan might have been a bit scary looking at first, but he’s clearly an excellent teacher. I’ll have to thank Mother later for securing him.