Chapter 6: Preparation (part three)

“Good, now angle your blade a little bit more. Daggers are fast, but you aren’t going to be able to stop a full straight-on swing from a heavier weapon. Angling your weapon takes some of the impact away, and allows the other weapon to slide off, because you’re not trying to fully stop it, but redirect it. Now if your reflexes are really fast, eventually I can show you a parry more suited for those blades of yours, but it requires perfect timing.”

Lieran rose from his battle crouch, waving his arms in little circles to stretch them out. Racieus also stood, sheathing his daggers and shaking the soreness from himself. “I think that will be all for today halfling. Good work today.”

That was how the assassin had ended their sessions every day for the past three weeks. And every time, Racieus felt a wave of emotions wash over him. Part of him wanted to keep learning and improving, but the other part, the more practical part, was glad to end, before the halfling collapsed from exhaustion. Lieran worked Racieus hard, from sunrise every morning until a little past noon, and while the halfling left feeling drained, and woke up feeling sore, he was learning. The ease with which he picked things up was beginning to make a name for the halfling, and as always, with that name came those who loathed him for it. Specifically Taryn and his gang.

Ever since he won the tournament, and Rcaieus wondered exactly how he had won, whether he had actually gone out and fought, or if he had hid until the very end and took out the last competitor, Taryn was making sure he reminded the halfling of it at every opportunity. And as Racieus left the training hall, it seemed like to today would be no exception.

“Ah look it’s the runt!” taunted Taryn, his group of lookalikes not far behind.

Hands resting easily on his weapons, Racieus retorted, “It’s very cute that you memorized my schedule, so you know when to meet me here, but I’m not interested. That goes for you guys too,” he said, glancing in the direction of the other four boys.

Taryn’s hand moved for his mace, and Racieus tensed, readying himself for a fight. “Will it just be you?” piped up the halfling, “Or will you need backup on this one?” Racieus wasn’t going to swing first, but he would do everything he could to prompt his opponent to make the first move. Fighting was only discouraged, but in the event trouble arose from it, the halfling didn’t want to be seen as the aggressor.

“Is running your mouth the only thing you’re good at runt?” Taryn taunted, and one of his friends continued with the joke, “Well he certainly can’t be running with anything else legs like those,” and the five of them laughed.

Racieus seethed at that, but didn’t let on, instead he kept with his easy stance, and just watched the gang, with an expression that suggested he thought of them as children.

“What’s wrong runt?” asked Taryn, “Not man enough to say anything back? Oh wait!” And again his friends engaged in raucous laughter. “Probably not even big enough to reach my-” Before the thief could finish his taunt, Racieus stepped forward and, thankful for the intensive daily stretching and flexibility training that Lieran had been putting him through, kicked straight up, his leg easily surpassing waist level. Taryn dropped to the floor with a less than masculine scream, and Racieus, already walking away, looked over his shoulder and laughed in derision as Taryn’s friends, weapons in hand, hesitated and ultimately decided to not pursue the small assassin-in-training. Though they mocked him, even they had to appreciate the halfling’s budding skill, and fear the wrath of his tutor. Secretly Racieus was glad of this, both because he had a reputation, and because in all honestly he wasn’t sure if he could take all of them on at once. Definitely one, perhaps two, and if he was lucky three, but not four. He would have to see what the guild master had to say on that.

Early the next morning, Racieus entered the practice room and found it empty. In the last three weeks that had never happened. The halfling didn’t believe he had woken up that early, and Lieran was never late.

“Guildmaster?” the halfling asked anxiously. Was this a test? His tutor hadn’t mentioned anything of the sort, but neither had he informed Racieus of the little demonstration that had occurred on his first day of training, so in truth, the halfling was not surprised, but he was a little nervous. If it was a test however, Racieus was determined not to fail. Slowing his breathing and heart rate down to normal, the halfling focused on his senses. He had committed the layout of the practice area to memory by the end of his first week, and a quick, but thorough, glance revealed nothing to be out of place.

Then he heard the creak. It wasn’t loud by any means, in fact three weeks ago, the halfling wouldn’t even have noticed it, and if he had, he would have dismissed it instantly. Not so now. The young assassin continued to look around as if he hadn’t heard the sound for several more seconds, then bringing out his weapons, the halfling turned quickly, knees bent and ready to move. There was nothing there, but Racieus wasn’t convinced that everything was normal. Something was definitely going on. Thinking back to a “lecture” from Lieran, the halfling recalled a piece of advice, “Predictability makes our job so much easier. If you ever suspect that you are being hunted or tailed, do the unexpected thing. It forces your opponent to either think, and there’s the chance that you’ll throw him off of you.”

It only took the small recruit a moment, before he thought of the most unexpected thing he could do during training time. He left the room. Still thinking quickly, the halfling moved quickly up and down the hallway, extinguishing all the lamps, save the ones on either side of the practice room doors. Then, stepping into the realm of darkness Racieus crouched, and waited. After several minutes of waiting, the halfling was beginning to wonder if he had only imagined the creak, and the subsequent plot by his teacher, but he Lieran still hadn’t shown up, and that served to reconfirm his suspicions. If it was a waiting game his teacher wanted, it was a waiting game he would ge-

A blade touched the front of Racieus’ throat, “Good work halfling, but not quite good enough.”

The End

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