At the age of thirteen, Gabriel had been introduced to Lear, the temples weapons master. When Gabriel questioned as to why the temple needed a weapons master, he was told that in due time he would see. He had spent a month caring for the weapons, sharpening blades, replacing worn axe handles, he even took a turn at hammering out the dents in the armor.
After that first month, Cailin stopped showing up, his other duties calling him in a “direction that is different from yours, Gabriel.” Gabriel had been full of questions when told this, but the only answer that anyone would give him to his queries was “in due time.” The day after he had parted with Cailin, Gabriel begun his real training. He was loaded on a wagon full of weapons, many of which looked like ones he had worked on, some still needed attention, armor, and watermelons. It was early morning, and his breath plumed out before him in the chill fall air.
“Are we trading the melons, master?” He had asked Lear, who smiled and shook his head.
“No, today we will begin your training as a warrior of The One. Cailin has prepared you spiritually, although there is much more to learn, and now it is time for me to train you physically. Father Meinos will be along later to begin your mental preperations.”
“A warrior? You mean like one of the Paladins?” He had only ever seen two Paladins before, once shortly after he had been released from the quarantine, and the second time had been when he was ten. The man had come in wounded, a large gash in his abdomen, the chainmail that he wore hanging raggedly, torn open like a flour sack, leaking its precious contents on to the ground around it. He had been in the care of the priests, Atwans attending to him daily for a month before Gabriel had seen him again. The man, who was called Renault had been a shell of his former self after the injury, but had taken to training in the yard with Lear, and sometimes even Cailin would come in and the two would wrestle. There were times when Renault even swung the hammer and helped Gabriel repair armor. They got along well, but Gabriel always sensed that there was something that Renault was holding back, he never spoke of battles or conquests. Just of his faith and the places he had visited. Four months after coming in wounded, Renault had left the temple, thanking everyone profusely and telling Gabriel that he hoped to see him again.
“Aye, that I do,” Lear said, pulling the reins on the pair of asses that led the cart. They had stopped in a large clearing, the ground paved with square bricks, a perimeter of large pine trees hiding the rest of the world from view. Lear tied the asses to a post and upended a large clay jar of water into a nearby trough. “Brush them down while I get the rest of this ready,” he told Gabriel.
Gabriel did as he was told, his mind wandering back to the Paladin, Renault as he went about the menial task. Renault had let slip once that he hunted things. Gabriel had pressed for more information, only to be met with a variation of the same phrase. “If The One Wills it, you will know in time.” Gabriel had finished unfolding a blanket and draping it over the first donkey when Lear called out to him.
“Come on son.”
“One moment,” he had replied, “I am just covering the asses.” After covering the second one with a similarly unrolled blanket, Gabriel went to where Lear was standing. In front of Lear sat a wooden log, up on one end, a large watermelon sitting on it’s top.
“Take this blade and chop the melon in two.” He handed Gabriel one of the worn blades, a short blade, about twenty inches long, which Gabriel took and hefted, trying to find the balance. “That’s a good start, let me give you a hand though, you are holding it wrong.” He adjusted Gabriel’s grip on the handle, and stepped back. “Go ahead.”
Gabriel swung the blade with all his might and connected. Kind of. The blade skittered harmlessly off the rind of the melon, leaving a small dent, but no visible break in the thick skin.
It took another three swings before the sword even bit into the melon, and by that time, Lear had begun to laugh.
“Why did you give me such a dull blade when there are sharper ones in the cart?” Gabriel asked, his irritation showing on his face.
“That is the first lesson to be learned, and many do not pick it up for until far later in the day. The last Paladin I trained,” a dark cloud momentarily crossed his face, as a long dormant thought crossed his mind, “well, it took him two hours of chipping away at the damned melon before it finally split in two. He was a stubborn one.”
“Ok, so the lesson is to always use a sharp sword?”
“Not quite, well, kind of.” Lear took the dull blade from Gabriel and handed him one of the sharper blades out of the bed of the cart. “Now try.”
Gabriel grabbed the hilt like he had been shown and swung the sword, the blade biting deep into the melon. Another two strikes and two halves fell to the ground.
“The lesson, Gabriel,” Lear began, resting his hand upon the shoulder of the boy, “Is to always keep your blade sharp. You will not carry around a dozen blades to pick and choose from, so always take care of your weapons. One well placed swing of a sharp blade could mean the difference between life and death.