Chapter Twenty-One

The thought of going to training suddenly filled Daniela with a sense of anxiety.  She could tell Garrett knew something was wrong from the look in his eyes, but that wasn’t the part that scared her.  It was the thrill she got from the thought of Garrett knowing her true identity.  She could not reveal herself, Daniela knew that, but there was something inside her that wished Garrett knew.

Mentally slapping herself for having such thoughts, Daniela strode outside and onto the training ground where some of her fellow soldiers were waiting.  A few were grouped together but the rest stood alone, not looking at or speaking to anyone.  Daniela hardly noticed the other people around her, remaining in her own little world, her left hand stroking the pommel of the practice sword that hung from her hip.

“Right then gentlemen,” Garrett said, catching everyone’s attention and snapping Daniela out of her trance.  “Let the training begin.”

Daniela allowed herself to be put in the lines of soldiers, not realising until the last minute that she was at the front for everyone to see.  Butterflies grew in her stomach and her palms began to sweat. What if I mess it up?  She asked herself, looking around at the men who surrounded her.

“Everyone follow me,” Garrett called from in front of the lines of soldiers and began to lead them in the exercises they had begun the day before.  Daniela was surprised by how easily her muscles remembered the moves that she had been taught, each one flowing more smoothly into the next.

“Nice to see that some of you have remembered what you have been taught,” Garrett commented once they had been through the cycle of movements seven or eight times.  “Let’s see if you can handle something a little more complex.”  His eyes scanned the lines of men, finally coming to rest on one figure.  “Danny,” he said.  “Step forward.”

With trembling legs, Daniela stepped out of line and in front of Captain Garrett.  She prayed that he wouldn’t do anything to humiliate her in front of the rest of the troops.

“Don’t look so nervous,” he whispered, just loudly enough for Daniela to hear.  “I’m not going to hurt you.”  Garrett turned to face the rest of the men.  “Danny and I will demonstrate a new, more complex move which will need a great deal of practice to master.  Watch closely.  Hold up your sword,” he said to Daniela, who obeyed instantly.  “Now block my blow.”  Her arm swung upwards to meet Garrett’s sword as it came down towards her.  “And again.”  She did the same to a blow to her right.  “Again.”  Another swing, this time towards her torso, and she stumbled backwards as the blows came faster and stronger.  Before she knew it, Daniela was blocking Garrett’s blows instinctively.  As soon as she realised this Garrett’s pattern changed and within seconds her sword was out of her hand, flying through the air to be caught skillfully by the Captain.

“Disarming your opponent in this way can lead to a much swifter victory.  In battle, you cannot afford to spend an unnecessary amount of time defeating one opponent.  There may be hundreds more running straight towards you.  You must always look forwards.”

Garrett gave Daniela a small smile as he handed her back her sword and she stepped backwards into her space in the line.

“Now, follow my movements,” Garrett ordered and the process of mirroring the Captain’s strokes began again.

By the time the men were allowed to break for their midday meal, Daniela’s muscles were aching again and she felt like she was about to collapse.  But something made her stay on her feet and she walked slowly towards her Captain.

“Sir,” she said, making Garrett turn to face her.

“What can I do for you, Danny?”

“You said yesterday that if I needed help with any extra training I could come to you.”

“Yes I did,” Garrett agreed.  “You have a natural ability with the sword, Danny.  I don’t think you need my help.”

“But I want to get better,” Daniela insisted.  “And I don’t think that’s going to happen if I continue as I am.  Please will you help me?”  She looked up at Garrett, her stomach tied in knots, unsure of what his reply would be.

“I can’t possibly say no to such enthusiasm.  But it’s not going to be easy.  Meet me two hours before breakfast in the training yard and bring your practice sword.”

“Thank you so much, sir,” Daniela replied, fighting to conceal the smile that was threatening to spread across her lips.  “I hope you won’t regret this.”

“I’m sure I won’t,” Garrett replied, a warm smile on his face.  “I’ll see you later.”

“Yes, see you later, sir.”  Daniela hurried off, the aching in her muscles suddenly bothering her less.  She didn’t know why she had asked for extra training, it was doubtful as to whether her body could handle it, but that thought hadn’t even entered Daniela’s mind. If I become a better fighter faster than the others then I may be allowed out to the front before training is officially over, she told herself. Then I’ll be able to see Felix. She smiled to herself. Yes, I’m doing this for Felix.

The End

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