"Choose your blade."
Midnight watched as three young boys took out several swords from a wooden chest, laying them at her feet. She stared at the blades, unable to make up her mind. Before she'd come to this world, she hadn't even seen a sword, and now she had to choose one to fight with. What if she picked the wrong one?
"Oi, now why don't you tell the girl that any sword is a good sword?"
Much to Valrya's dislike, Arragus had decided to join them in Midnight's first fighting exercise. She'd been happy at first. At least it wasn't just her and her Patron. But then she realized how much more intimidating the presence of a skilled warrior was. Arragus smiled and waved at her.
"I thought you weren't coming," Valrya spoke in her usual, cold manner.
"Ah, yes, but only because you didn't invite me, see?" the Centaur replied, smiling. He looked at Midnight and laughed heartily. "Don't worry, this is the only time I'll meddle with your practice..." he said when Valrya looked like she was about to protest. "Okay, kid," Arragus went on, turning to Midnight, "the thing about blades is, it doesn't matter what it looks like. Heavy, light, curvy, straight, it really makes no difference. At least not this early in your training." He laughed and Midnight felt slightly embarrassed and naïve for not knowing this. But the Centaur just bent and picked up a plain-looking sword. "Here you go. Straight and just heavy enough."
He handed her the sword and galloped back to the edge of the clearing, leaving Midnight at Valrya's mercy. This wasn't much to hope for, she realized, as the Fairy landed her first blow, knocking Midnight clean off her feet.
The woman muttered angrily as she picked her off with just one hand.
‘I'll be dead by midday' Midnight thought to herself, ducking another blow. As she got ready to strike back, Valrya stopped her. "No, no, no!" she barked, and grabbed the hilt of Midnight's sword. "This is not a stick," she muttered angrily, like she was talking to an infant.
"I don't know how to use a sword, I've never had to before," the words came out of Midnight's mouth in an angry tone of voice, before she even had time to think about stopping herself. A part of her expected Valrya to get angry, but the woman just shot her an icy glare.
"A true Fairy has sword-fighting in their blood. All you have to do is follow...your...instinct!" she grunted, striking again with her blade. Taken by surprise, Midnight squeezed the hilt of her sword so tight she could feel her nails cutting into her skin. And then, the same exhilarating feeling swept through her body like a fresh gust of wind, as it did when she was fighting Aiden. Her body arched and, within seconds, she jumped in the air, missing the blade by just a fraction of a second. Unprepared for the miss, Valrya stumbled forward, collapsing face first into the ground. For a moment, the whole clearing was quiet. Much to her surprise, Midnight noticed that, lying there on the ground and scrambling to get up, the Faerie Patron looked a lot like her, whenever she tripped and stumbled over her own two feet. But only for a second, before Valrya got up, her face red and her lips shaking.
"Well...I suppose you're not completely useless after all." She swayed her sword back and forth, drawing circles around Midnight. The closer she got, the wilder her expression became, until her light eyes looked almost transparent. Midnight squeezed the hilt of her sword again, not sure what she was supposed to do. Valrya's blade shone in the bright light as she raised it above her head. Midnight felt her heart beating its way half out of her chest as she prepared for the strike. She parried the blow, lifting her sword as high in front of her as she humanly could, swinging it aimlessly, but just far enough to catch the incoming blade.
The two swords collided with a force so great it threw both Midnight and Valrya onto their backs. Suddenly, a lot of people were running to them, yelling out their names.
"Oi!" Midnight heard the familiar strong voice call out to her. Arragus shook her shoulders, but she just slurred. "Well I'll be damned. Come on then...up you go!" he said, lifting her off the ground.
A few boys were struggling to carry Valrya behind them. The woman looked unconscious and pale. Midnight tried to lift her head, but it felt like an enormous rock was tied around her neck. She gave up and rested against Arragus's shoulder.
"No, no, no!" an unfamiliar female voice cried. "Set them down on the grass, on the grass now, please!"
Arragus lay Midnight down gently and left her to the attention of the strange woman as he tended to Valrya. She felt her head being pushed from side to side, and suddenly her caretaker forced a bottle into her mouth. The substance inside it rolled down her throat, making her cough. It had an unpleasant sour taste and it burned as it hit her stomach. She opened her eyes, gasping for air.
"Ah, there we go," the woman spoke again, delighted. She jotted something down on a piece of paper and rolled it under her sleeve. "Yarrow," she said simply, as if Midnight was supposed to know what that was, then pulled out a second bottle and handed it to Arragus.
"I told you already, I'm fine!" Valrya mumbled, struggling to get up and refusing any help from anyone. She swallowed the burning liquid Arragus handed her and shook her head in disgust. "I think...I think the lesson is over for now," she said after the pain in her stomach stopped and then she pushed past the group, wobbling her way back to the castle, followed by the woman and the group of boys.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you..." Arragus said when Midnight bent to pick up the two swords.
Arragus looked at her for a moment. His mouth opened twice, like he was about to say something, but every time he just looked at the swords and sighed again.
"Well..." he shifted his weight uncomfortably on his hind legs. Midnight felt unsure of what to say. She had never seen Arragus behave so unnaturally. She didn't understand. Finally, the Centaur seemed to make up his mind. "Do you want to see my home?"
The words were so different from what Midnight had expected; she stared at Arragus wordlessly.
"We should...we should go there now," the Patron said, oblivious to Midnight's reaction. He hoisted her onto his back with the swing of an arm and leaped forward into the forest.