“Am I actually ever going to learn to fight?” asked Racieus, as he waited, eyes covered. Over the last several weeks, Racieus had been subjected to a variety of exercises, none of which had to do with hand to hand combat.
During one of them, Lieran set up a small course using sticks and branches, each of which required Racieus to do a different kind movement. One such section was shaped like a ladder, and Racieus had to shuffle from side to side, advancing “up” the ladder one rung at a time. The first few times, the assassin allowed Racieus to put both feet in the square as he shuffled. Then he was limited to only one foot in at a time, which required him to time his shuffling and fall into a sort of rhythm. Following that, Lieran had made him shuffle backwards. While most were mind-numbingly boring, Racieus had to admit that each activity so far had had some kind of point to it; be it conditioning, or strength building, or other physical improvements, until the current one.
This one seemed the most pointless of them of all. For this activity, Lieran allowed Racieus to look at the living room for fifteen seconds. After that time, Racieus would be blindfolded and Lieran would quietly make a small adjustment or two, and then have Racieus try to spot it. The halfling, who had been looking forward to learning how to fight, had quickly grown tired of the exercise.
“Remove the blindfold Racieus” Lieran commanded.
With a sigh, Racieus complied. “What is the point of this Lieran. I don’t see how it correlates in the slightest.”
“That is why I am the teacher. Now, what did I change?”
Lieran wouldn’t tell Racieus all of the changes he had made before on, only what he had correctly spotted. This made it especially difficult, because Racieus was never sure whether he was spotting a change that had just been made, or a change that he had missed in the previous try, and was only now noticing.
“You moved… the stool?” said Racieus uncertainly.
“Are you asking me? Or telling me?”
“Telling you. You moved the stool.”
The assassin smiled, “Good. In which direction?”
The halfling’s shoulders sagged, “I don’t know! It just looked out of place! What difference does it make?”
Waving a finger, the assassin said “It makes all the difference Racieus. Now, which. Direction. Did it. Move?”
Racieus glared at Lieran who had spoken to him like that on purpose. He knew that it annoyed the halfling, and used it often, “as a motivator” he had said, and “a training tool” for part of being a warrior was learning how to focus and not let emotion take control.
“Left, and towards the fireplace” the halfling answered tersely.
“No. Racieus, are you even paying attention?”
“No! I’m not! Are you even planning to actual train me?”
Lieran’s visage hardened, and Racieus instantly knew had crossed the line.
“Come here halfling” Lieran said, his voice too calm. Racieus complied, hopping off the stool he had been sitting on, and moving over to stand in front of the assassin. “Blindfold please.” Racieus, gave it to him.
“Thank you. I’m going to put this on, and you are going to help me demonstrate the purpose of the activity. A purpose that so obviously alludes you, otherwise you would not dare to disqualify it as training.” The assassin untied the blindfold, and retied it snugly around his eyes.
“Now attack me” he said.
Eager for the chance to take out some of his anger at as his teacher, on his teacher, Racieus smiled grimly, and rushed right in; and promptly found himself lying on the floor, courtesy of Lieran’s fist.
“The purpose of this lesson is many-fold foolish halfling” quipped the assassin. “Since you wish to rush right into fighting, allow me to demonstrate what would happen if I allowed you to do so. Attack me again.”
Racieus, taken off-guard Lieran’s accuracy and proficiency while blindfolded, took a moment to collect himself, then tried again, moving more quietly this time, in the way that only halflings, and certain elves, could. He went to swing, and again was promptly knocked to the floor. Not even waiting for Lieran to make another comment, Racieus leapt up and ran at his tutor, fury taking control.
And to his shock and surprise, Lieran skipped to the side, and vaulted over one of the chairs, but he didn’t stop there. The assassin ran at Racieus, reaching a hand our to grab a stool and then hurl it directly at the halfling. Racieus ducked and rolled forward, hoping to trip Lieran up, but the assassin, with actions that defied his apparent blindness, jumped over the halfling, spun around, and caught hold of his foot.
Bringing the halfling uncomfortably close, Lieran spoke sternly to his student. “That halfling, is the point of these exercises. Answer me now, what skill did I use, other than those that I have already attempted to teach you? None. You can have all the skill in the world, but that does not make you a competent warrior. A true warrior is focused, he is always aware, spotting even the most unobtrusive details, and using them to exploit his opponent.”
“He knows that sight is only a small part of combat, and that just because someone takes that from him, does not make him weaker. If anything, he is stronger because of it. Hearing, smelling, and feeling are infinitely more important than seeing. If your sense are attuned, then sight becomes a convenience, but never a necessity.”
“I expect you, and you expect it of yourself I think, to become more than just a warrior. Assassins take combat, and they turn it into an art. Something hypnotizing and beautiful. And if you become an assassin, the night, the dark, will be your ally, and you must know how to operate in it, and use it to your advantage. If you had truly grasped all the lessons that I have tried to teach you up til now, not only should you have been able to beat me, or at least hold your own, but you would be among the finest warriors on Teranore. That is the point of this training. You are dismissed.”
“What?” Racieus asked, something in the assassin’s tone making him suspect the worst.
“It is time for you to leave. I have upheld my end of the bargain, and let you go now with a clear conscience.”
“But you haven’t-”
“Haven’t I?” Lieran practically shouted, ripping the blindfold off and looking Racieus in the eye. “The deal was that I would teach you halfling, and teach you I have. The choice to learn what I taught was yours to make. Now leave me, or the choice to die will be yours as well.”
And with that, Lieran stood and calmly left the house.
Racieus didn’t know how long he stood staring at the door, after Lieran left. He didn’t what he had expected, but certainly nothing like what had actually happened. Thinking about what Lieran had said before he took his exit, Racieus cursed.
The assassin was right.
But the halfling had chosen the right moment to listen. He still didn’t have any belongings whatsoever, and simply opened the door, and left.
Days later, the halfling, weak with hunger and exhausted to the point of collapsing, reached the gates of Shanbydder.