Luke walked into the large courtyard in the centre of the Bladesmasters' Academy. Here, the greatest swordsmen of Cymeria were trained under the watchful eye of veteran soldiers. They were schooled in various areas: some to the longsword, others to the claymore, and some were taught in the use of more exotic weapons, like the swordstaff and the katana.
Luke was here to see Jonathon Powys, a man known also as 'The Hound', due to his dogged relentlessness. He was directed to the centre, where the gravely injured knight from the King's meeting was practising with a heavily used longsword.
'Sir Powys?' asked Luke.
'Aye lad, that'd be me.' replied Powys, sheathing his sword. 'You'd be that lad that Jorzen's taken under his wing, wouldn't you?'
Luke merely nodded.
'Ah, he's a good man. They wanted to throw me out of service after I got hit by that Demonfyr. Bloody marauding git met his end on Jorzen's sword. He got me this place. It's not like proper service, but it keeps me going through the pain and the taunts.'
'Taunts?' asked Luke.
There was a sudden explosion of mocking laughter. 'Hey Droopface, glad to see you've found someone lower than you to talk with!'
Luke spun around to see a thick set youth with short hair as black as the night sky, his eyes of so dark brown they were almost black. He swaggered on, surrounded by his skinhead cronies who laughed syncophantically with him.
'Magnus Ursalis', muttered Powys, 'if his father wasn't one of the king's cronies, I'd do him an injury, I'll tell you that now. They call him "The Bear", because he's a muscle-headed moron. Anyway, lad, we'd best be to your training.'
He passed Luke a padded jacket and a helmet, along with a wooden longsword. 'Jorzen seems to think this'll be the best area for you to go into, and I trust his judgement.'
The following two hours were the most intensive of Luke's life, as he learnt to handle the weighty weapon, to attack and parry, and to shift his stance, all under the unwavering eye of his tutor. By the end, Luke felt as if all the energy had been drained from him. His arms were limp and sore, and his legs felt weak and were prone to wobbling. When Powys called an end, Luke collapsed gratefully to the sandy floor, gasping for breath.
'That was impressive work, young 'un.' said Powys. 'As you're making good progress, I'll see you in two days time for another session.'
Luke groaned and rolled over on the sand.