The news of the death spread like wild fire. True, it had been provoked, but the resistance needed everyone they had. Layla knew this, and so was not willing to accept provocation as an excuse. Ceri however, seemed to have accepted it, as Durn walked in to the dining hall shortly after she had heard the news. He sat next to Tanya and muttered a few words to her, but mostly seemed to keep himself private. Tanya looked angry with him. Too right, Layla thought.
Layla dropped the sword for the third time and saw Zane's disapproving glance.
"You need to keep your arm more rigid when fending off attacks. You're strong from all you labour; you should be able to do it."
Layla held up the sword again and Zane attacked. She only managed to hold off three hits before she could not longer hold the sword.
"Maybe you should take a break. It's bed time anyway. Go to sleep and we'll start again tomorrow."
She grimaced but nodded as Zane began packing away. Kicking stones that dared pass her path, Layla made her way back to her room and grabbed the cloth she used to dry herself and her nightshirt. Tanya was lying in bed, playing with a dagger. She watched as Layla hurried about in annoyance, but said nothing.
"I'm going to bathe." Layla muttered.
"Enjoy." Tanya replied, still twisting her knife.
There was no sign once more outside the baths, so Layla drew hers and hurried in to the bath. The scars on her back had begun to heal, but they were still aching after her training session. Zane worked her hard, not to strenuously, but he confused her. He was more hands on, and she had no time to learn technique. He threw her right in to the deep end and attacked, expecting her to try and hold him off. She had no idea how, let alone any idea of how to fight back. He had said he thought she would begin to learn, to protect herself automatically, but she had grown so used to having to accept attacks on her person that she did not automatically move to strike, or defend.
The water was warmer than usual, and steam rose up around her comfortingly. It was relaxing. She wished she could stay here sometimes; wished there would never be a war, and that the sorcerer had never come to their land. Perhaps she would have known comfort like this.
"Layla?" Jasper's voice called from outside the cave. "Are you alright?"
She had been in the bath longer than she thought. Pulling herself out of the water she hurriedly dried as she answered him.
"Yes I'm fine. Just finishing."
She slipped her clothes back on and hurried to the exit. Jasper stood there, and gave her a small smile when he saw her.
"Hello Layla. How are you today?"
"Better, thank you. And yourself?"
"Well. How is your training going?" Layla's lips drooped and she cast her eyes to the floor. "That badly?"
"I just can't do anything. I don't know how."
"But that is why Zane is teaching you, so that you learn."
"But I don't understand how to block. He just comes at me, and I can't fight back, I just throw up my sword and hope it stops him."
"But he's shown you how to block?"
"Yes, but I can't think quickly enough..."
"The important thing is to anticipate his move. I- I could teach you if you would like." He looked startled that the words had come out of his mouth.
"Yes. I'd like to see his face when you beat him." He chuckled slightly, and a smile Layla had never seen lit his face. She blushed a little and smiled. It was nice to see a smile on Jasper's face. Then her face fell again. Even he could smile... but hadn't she just been smiling? She realised. Yes, she had smiled. Maybe it was that the scars were no longer painful, or that she was finally settling in, or even the relief her bathe had just given her, but yes, she had managed a smile. And it had been natural. She noticed Jasper looking at her, and blushed again.
"Sorry, I got carried away in thought. I'd be happy if you trained me."
"We would have to work at night. Before bathing probably would be best." Layla thought of how much she had perspired during her training sessions and agreed. "We could do it in the large training room, because no one will be there."
"Alright. Thank you Jasper."
"We'll begin tomorrow. Meet me there as soon as you've finished tidying away. Everyone will be in bed, so we'll be undisturbed."
Layla nodded and shuffled her feet.
"Tomorrow then." She confirmed.
"Yes tomorrow." He repeated, and then watched her as she left and headed back to her room.