“Now you lucky people,” Garrett said to the untrained soldiers, “are going to be under my supervision throughout your training process. Now I’ve heard that I’m getting a reputation as a bit of a soft touch,” his eyes landed on Daniela, “but I can tell you now that during training I am your commander. Not your friend or your comrade. You do whatever I tell you and without question. Do you understand?”
There was a general mumbling of agreement from the men assembled.
“Yes sir?” Garrett asked.
“Yes sir,” the men replied.
“Good. Now before I start training you, you should know what real fighting looks like. Then you’ll have something to aim for.” He signaled to Ian to come over, sword in hand. Garrett drew his sword and faced his second-in-command. “When you are practicing you will always salute your opponent like so.” He nodded his head as his sword came up so the tip was near his face. Ian did the same. “You take up the fighting stance,” he said, standing sideways to Ian, his right foot in front of his left. “En Garde.”
With a movement quick as lightning both swords attacked each other, almost as if they were alive and Garrett and Ian were just their means of expressing themselves. The two soldiers moved swiftly as their blades met time and again. Daniela watched in amazement as Garrett swung at Ian’s head, his blade coming up to meet it and bringing the two men hilt to hilt. Here Ian had the upper hand because he was taller.
The strain of keeping the two blades connected was beginning to show on Garrett’s face as he pushed Ian away. His arms were screaming at him to stop but he swung again at his opponent, his muscles remembering years of training as he aimed his sword first at Ian’s left side, then his right.
The whole training ground was watching now as the two men danced around each other, their feet appearing to move flawlessly and with very little effort. But both Ian and Garrett blocked the onlookers out, focusing only on their opponent and their blade.
Ian watched Garrett’s chest muscles as they circled each other, both breathing heavily, trying to see if he would give away his next move. The Captain lunged at Ian without any warning, his sword connecting with Ian’s. A quick flick of the wrist and Ian’s sword went flying, landing in front of the group of untrained soldiers.
“Well fought,” Ian gasped. “You’ve been practicing since I last dueled with you.”
“It has been a while,” Garrett replied also breathing heavily. “I hope you didn’t think I was sitting around all day waiting for something to happen. Not after you beat me last time we fought.”
“It looks like I’m going to have to improve to keep up with you.”
“Indeed you will,” Garrett replied before swinging around dramatically to face the men watching them with mouths open. “This is your first lesson,” he announced. “Here on the practice courts you are a graceful loser because it is what is expected of you as honest warriors, but on the battlefield losing is not an option. You make one mistake and it could cost you your life. The skills I am going to teach you should keep you alive when you are faced with an advancing army.
“I’m telling you now it’s not easy. Your body is going to ache in places you didn’t think you had and by the time I’m finished with you you’re going to be battered, bruised and scarred but at least I’ll be happy in the knowledge that when we are called to the frontline you will be able to defend your homeland with honour and push the enemy out of Varall. Are you with me?”
An enthusiastic shout was the response from the men and even Daniela found herself swept up in the display of support the men were showing for their leader. Garrett had something, Daniela could see it. She didn’t know what it was, but he certainly had it.
“Put down your swords,” Garrett ordered. “We won’t be doing any fighting today.”
There were murmurs of confusion running through the men but they obeyed the Captain none-the-less.
“Fighting takes courage, strength, stamina and skill. Now I can see you have courage in abundance but the other three we’ll have to work on. We’ll begin with your stamina.”
Garrett proceeded to split his group in two, not responding when Daniela smiled at him, only gesturing for her to stand on the right. She felt a slight stab of hurt in her stomach as she silently obeyed. She thought Garrett liked her. He had been friendly enough at breakfast so why was he ignoring her now? Had it been an act to gain the support of his men?
Daniela knew she was overanalyzing the Captain’s actions but at the she didn’t care. He was one of the few people who had been nice to her and she wanted him to be on her side. She knew it was irrational and she shouldn’t feel so strongly but she couldn’t help it. Something inside was saying ‘who cares what you should do, do whatyouwant.’
“Now you lot,” Garrett pointed to Daniela’s group, “are with me. The rest of you are with my deputy, Ian. If any of you step out of line then I will know about it. But right now we’re going for a run. And to make it a little more competitive, the group who can run the furthest and make it back here by midday can eat while the others see to the horses. My team head east, Ian’s team head west.”