‘Assignments,’ Jason said as they ate a light breakfast. Mathew grinned. ‘Brad and Allen, I want you to go south, down river.’ The two men nodded consent. ‘Jess and Kevin, I need you to go north, up river.’ They too nodded. ‘Mathew and I will head east. Keep your eyes and ears open. There are other scouts out there, some of ours and some of theirs. Follow and don’t engage unless absolutely necessary.’ He then turned to Mike. ‘Mike, I need you to continue teaching Sarah how to use her sword. Practice by the river to cover the sound.
‘Certainly Phoenix,’ Mike grinned as he looked at Sarah. She suddenly hoped she remembered everything Brad had taught her. Jason rose, as did the other men and they all set off. Sarah and Mike finished setting up camp. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked as he handed her his canteen.
Sarah took a swig of the water. ‘Ready as I’ll ever be.’
‘To the water then,’ he said and Sarah followed him to where the water rushed by. He turned and faced her. ‘Draw your weapon!’
Sarah did so, and she soon learned that Mike’s philosophy was that a good offence made a good defense. Not only that but he was ruthless in his training. Sarah found herself exhausted by the end of each day. Thankfully after the first few days the soreness eased to a dull ache. On the plus side, she thought, on the seventh day, she’d never been in better shape. She was practicing handling the sword when Jess and Allen come back to camp. Sarah stopped and informed them Mike had gone hunting for dinner. Jess decided to help so he went off in the direction Sarah indicated. Allen watched him recede then looked at Sarah.
‘Let’s see how good you’ve gotten,’ Allen smiled as he unsheathed his sword.
‘Five and seven days isn’t much for training,’ Sarah said, but she brought her sword into a guard position anyway. ‘Shouldn’t we,’ she started to say, but Allen attacked. Go to the river, she finished in thought as she concentrated on fending him off. As they fought, Sarah found her self-defense lessons kicking in; still she was barely holding her own. She didn’t even notice that their clashing swords had brought Mike and Jess back.
Allen’s stance shifted, and she felt as though he was easing up. Then she noticed they had an audience. Great, she thought, swearing silently to herself. Allen definitely had stamina and skill on his side. Sarah had only managed to put him on the defensive a couple times. Her next block with the dagger removed it from her hand. This time she swore out loud and Allen smiled. So he was trying to disarm her, and she had no clue how to disarm him. That was just great, she thought, trying to renew her vigor, just great.
But now Sarah had a hand free. If she could just grapple him, she might be able to do something. Come on, she thought at him, come just a little closer. She was close to surrendering, when he finally came in. His sword and dagger twisted her blade out of her hand at the same time Sarah took hold of Allen’s arm and flipped him on to his back. She let the momentum of her move drop her to the ground as well, so she ended sitting next to Allen. Allen was off the ground in an instance, his defensive stance relaxing when he saw Sarah sitting.
‘Sorry,’ she said massaging her wrist, ‘I don’t know if my last move was fair.’ Damn, being disarmed hurt, she thought.
‘In a duel or joust, no’ Jason said, stepping forward, ‘but all is fair in war, and it is good to see you can defend yourself, even if your sword knowledge is not complete. I think that since Allen is in charge of the next camp he should teach you how to disarm your opponent. Now I want reports.’ As the men gave their reports, Sarah prepared dinner.