The command was not shouted nor screamed yet it was as authoratative as any voice could get and Falina struggled to her feet, groaning at the bumps and bruises which sent pain shooting through her body with every movement.
Brushing away the honey-brown hair that had fallen into her face, she took a moment to catch her breath, her gaze moving around the enclosed vale that had been their home for the past three days.
Mountains closed in about them and they had reached it through a series of cavern passages that she doubted a rat could have maneuvered and yet Bahl seemed to have no trouble in finding the direction there.
A small three room hut sat in the middle of the valley and provisions had been stocked as if someone knew they were coming. Bahl had refused to answer any of her questions stating that it was enough that it was here and then he had closed up completely on the subject.
Bahl's command caused her head to snap up and she looked at him. He neither smiled nor frowned but nodded his head.
"It is not paying attention that will cost you your life," He said in a tone one would use to report what they had for breakfast and she bristled at the thought that it sounded as if he wouldn't care if she died or not as long as it wasn't too inconvient for him.
He tapped her leg with his staff and she winced as pain shot up her leg from the gentle touch.
"Your stance is still off. Too wide or not wide enough and someone can sweep your legs easily."
Something he had done repeatedly in the last hour of her training.
"And bend your knees. You can't move on stiff legs."
She bit back a retort that her legs wouldn't be stiff if he wouldn't work her until every muscle screamed in agony.
"Now." He said and she tried not to sigh as she knew what was coming next. "Again."
With that she and her impromtu instructor raised their staffs and the clashing of them rang through the wooded vale as sweat poured from her forehead and into her eyes the more of an effort she put in to staving off his attacks.
He was quick and her muscles were not as quick to respond as she would have liked. For a few moments Falina managed to meet him blow for blow. Then as she was raising for another blow, he feinted and she found herself with her legs once more swept from under her, the world frozen for a moment as it tilted and she came down on her back, the wind knocked from her.
Laying there, she closed her eyes, refusing to get up and trying to catch her breath.
Behind her eyelids the last week played out once again as it always did when she was too exhausted to keep a reign on her active mind.
Vivid flashes of being held by Bahl while she sobbed in his arms, then a sudden queeziness in her stomach as the stench of death reached through her veil of misery and she was pulling away and rushing to the nearby bushes, landing on her knees and emptying the contents of her stomach onto the ground.
Falina had vomited for what seemed like an eternity then, sat back, gasping for air and groaning in complete physical misery. Trying to push back the flashback of exaclty what she had done, the madness that had come over her, her mind searched for something else to focus on and landed on...her mother.
The thought that her mother had voluntarily led this kind of life, going into battle and taking the life of other beings stirred her stomach up again and in an instant she was back on her knees, her stomach clenching as it began to ach from the sharp contractions.
Then, just as she thought it was over, a picture of Bahl dispatching the hobbs with ease and little remorse entered a back door of her mind and, unprepared, the urge to vomit increased until she was dry heaving and seeing red on the edge of her vision.
An hour later she was back in the saddle again, her head bowed, her body still covered in the gore and blood of the hob she had killed. The smell had been strong and her stomach still clenched at it but she had nothing left to empty from her stomach and so she simply rode on in misery.
When Bahl found a lake and insisted she take a bath, she did so, at first mechanically like a golem called forth to walk the world in a jerky, puppet-like fashion. Then, when the blood began to be clensed from her body, she began to scrub her skin with an intensity and compulsion that made it red, raw and bleeding. It took Bahl threatening to come into the lake and drag her out naked as the day she was born before she would stop and leave the water to don clean clothes.
After that, she rode in silence, her mood a depressive cloud over the group until she realized that they had left the road and were heading deep into the forest surrounding them.
"Where are we going?" She had asked dully.
"Where we will not be disturbed while I train you."
"Train...train for what?"
She had stopped her horse and glared at his back as he kept on riding.
"Survival? You mean train me to kill, don't you? Like you...and...and my mother..."
Bahl and reined in his mount and half-way turned in the saddle.
"I mean I am going to train you to survive. If we are to have any hope of doing what we must do than you have to at least know the basics of self-defense. If not, I may as well kill you myself and save the trouble of trying to protect you."
Falina felt something struggling to assert itself in her overwhelmed brain and she sat up straighter, glaring at Bahl.
"I never asked you to protect me. If you remember correctly I was dragged into this quite against my will and without my consent. I neither want nor need training from you."
Bahl had turned his mount around and rode back so that they wree face to face.
"You may not want it, Lady Falina, but you do need it. And at this moment, I am not interested in what you want but what will end this mission in success."
Turning he had started back toward the forest and, she would find out later, the cavern passage that led to the vale.
Outraged, she had opened her mouth, closed it, and then opened it again. Feeling like a fish out of water, she had snapped it shut and urged her mount after his before she became lost without his guidance.
Falina groaned and opened her eyes, focusing on the large form of Bahl standing over her, waiting for her compliance and, damned the man, not sweating in the least.
With a heart-felt groan, she rolled over and pushed herself up again, staggering to her feet and getting into position.
Gods but she was hating this!