I was up before sun, swinging the practice sword at the log in the yard. It was the same log that Tagaern had been whittling down the day before and the practice sword was horribly unbalanced from being beaten and bent repeatedly. Subtle corrections with the blade while practicing my follow-through had been annoyingly difficult due to its condition. I'm sure that some could claim that wielding Silah was making me soft. But, no, I didn't consider having a good weapon as a matter of weakness, but of efficiency. Each strike let me bleed off some of that annoyance.
I could feel Silah wandering in and out of the range of our bond. She was taking her time, gathering breakfast, moving to and fro. This was giving me practice at compensating for, gods forbid, if I were ever to lose her in battle. It was a contingency, and as contingencies go, I had always leaned more toward being a pessimist. The repeated rush and ache of our bond being tested was very distracting, and I couldn't afford being caught off guard.
Duncan had frustrated me with our earlier exercises. He demanded that I try to push Silah back. It was clear that she could, on a whim, push me where ever she wanted me. Worrying thoughts were wedged in my head about the power she could wield over me. And it was something that I couldn't shake. But we had an understanding, at least, I hoped that we did. This stress, and the jabs from my friends about not being a veteran from the war that took my early life from me, had driven me to come out here early, slashing at a log with this ridiculous beaten blade.
I was stripped to the waist, sweat standing out on my arms, shoulders, and dripping from my face. The log and the blade's conditions had progressively worsened. This blade would need some tending to after this. It was barely recognizable from when I started. I hoped Duncan had a another or, at least, a quality blacksmith to right these wrongs.
Silah approached from behind, I could tell as she moved back in range of my bond. I did an overhead swing and lodged the blade into the standing end, watching the sword vibrate with the blow and turned toward Silah.
I sputtered as she withdrew the bucket. I fumed, glaring at her.
"You looked like you needed to cool off." She said with an unreadable expression, glancing past me to the abused blade that was still twitching from my strike.
I sneered at her, feeling genuine anger, then broke eye contact. She wasn't the focus of this frustration, even with how hard she sometimes tried to be.
A smile crept across her lips and I melted inside as she gazed at me with affection.
"I brought breakfast." She tilted her head and motioned toward the plates on the table. "Sit, eat with me."
I wicked the excess water off of my shoulders and arms then shook the remaining moisture from my hair. I moved over to the table and sat across from Silah. It was a light spread: overcooked eggs in a pool of butter, a steaming meat mash, and a few stale chunks of bread. I looked up at her with a pleading expression.
"It's hard to find good help these days." I said, poking at the nearly burned egg and the shapeless mass of meat.
"Do you like it?" She beamed and I attempted a weak smile in response.
"Sure, it looks... good?" I said weakly.
"Doesn't it? I watched him cook it. I am sure I could do that." Silah said, her eyes sparkled with excitement as she spoke.
"Uh, so, who cooked this?" I looked up at her, bemused.
"Harvey! That sickly looking Elven boy." She said with a smile.
I gave her a sidelong look, then glanced around to make sure no one was in earshot as she said this. I didn't remember a Harvey, but then I remembered who I was dealing with.
"Ah, Harney. I wouldn't learn from him. He, uh, isn't the best cook." I grimaced at the meal.
"He did seem a little distracted, but he was the only not working on anything." A thoughtful look crossed her face as she spoke, "This place is very busy in the morning."
I split the stale bread and hollowed it out with my fingers. I squashed the meat and egg together, pressing it into the stale husk and biting through. It wasn't ideal, but I'd make due.
"The others have started to wake up. I saw Brimm come down earlier, he was speaking with that … new guy." She said, with her brow furrowed while trying to recollect.
It was unfortunate, whatever made her forget between her bonds seemed to have forever damaged her recall of names.
Well, who knows? Maybe she had always been like this? I grinned to myself as I thought it.
There was silence as I bit through the pathetic, goo filled meal. Finding the meat was partially raw, but also crunching through a stray egg shell. I set the husk down on the plate and pushed it away.
"I'm not really hungry." I gave a long disappointed look at the meal.
"Are you're still upset about last night?" She looked at the meal I pushed away, then looked back at me with concern.
I looked at her with confusion, glancing at her sympathetic look and the food I just pushed away and smirked.
"No, that food isn't good. I can wait for someone who can cook." I said with some amusement.
"Yeah? What about that." She nodded toward the bent blade jammed into the head of the log.
I looked down, at my hands on the table. I, again, realized that I hadn't given her enough credit at reading my moods. It was hard to know when she was innocent or just playing innocent. Usually it was around human experience that she seemed to be wholly unaware, and I was a poor guide for that kind of experience.
"Duncan's training," I sighed, "With you. It's been eye opening."
She smiled kindly at that, but didn't comment. I was uncomfortable with this because it was basically me pitching my will against hers, and failing repeatedly. It seemed that when I was in combat, I was always fighting on two fronts.
"And…?" She prompted.
"I'm trying to have a normal conversation. You mentioned that we don't have normal conversations, but you're making this very difficult." Her annoyed eyes burrowed into me.
At least she was trying? I thought.
"He's teaching me to keep my own mind when I need to," I said, trying a diplomatic approach, "But I can't. Your influence is too strong."
A restrained smile crept across her face and she reached forward and cupped her hands over mine.
"I adore you." She said, looking into my eyes, "I do feel that you are holding yourself back. You have great potential."
I smiled, feeling sheepish while a rosy warmth spread through my skin.
She continued, "You are not just a body for me to will around. We are together. I may get … passionate in battle, but I have never forced you forward."
I grimaced, feeling that I remembered things differently, but it had been true. She had only urged me on with words, not forcing me forward. I shuddered, just knowing it was a possibility made me anxious.
"Remember, I'm on your side. You need to trust me." She looked up at me with her fathomless honey-brown eyes, her hand still placed on mine.
I sighed, and smiled. She had a way of righting me when I was listing.
"And, don't mind, Siggy and the others." Her eyes were intent, "The war is a part of every inch of you. That, and your time with Dunnam."
"Duncan?" I corrected while chuckling quietly, spoiling the gravity of her message.
She shrugged, her brow pulling into a adorable little furrow.
The dining room had been stirring with activity as the sun rose. The smells from the kitchen wafted out into the yard, reminding me of the poor breakfast from just earlier. I moved to the well and drew the bucket for another dousing. Silah stepped forward with a smile on her face with her hands out, reached toward the bucket.
"Nope," I held the bucket back from her, "I'll do it this time."
"Oh, come now. This is something you clearly need help with." She gave a mock pout.
I grimaced at her then turned my back to her and poured the water over my head. Giving me another chance to shake off the aches from the last few days of rigorous training. After wicking off, pulling my hair back, and tying it off with a strap of leather, I joined Silah and we walked together toward the dining area.
The others emerged from their respective rooms, flowing out into the yard under the newly cresting sun. Everyone was strapped down with their gear, prepared for the trip out with the guard. Tagaern seemed fresh after the night, but there was a perpetual weariness tucked behind his eyes.
"We could go without the guards. There hasn't been an Orc on the road for weeks, from what I've heard." Floki said absently, looking over the courtyard, looking for the guards.
We walked to the front entrance, where I could see them off. Next stop was Dowry for all of us, but I had more work to do with Duncan before I joined them. The gate was open, looking out over the plains to the West.
"What is that?" Floki said.
I followed his gaze and saw a flatbed wagon bucking and weaving down the road as fast as the horses could carry it. The driver and passenger were panicked, holding on tight to keep from being unseated.
A dark shape lanced from the sky and thudded into the back of the driver, violently bursting through his chest. The wagon veered off the road, the wheels fracturing from the force. The whinnies from the hurt horses rang out thinly over the fields. I was stunned, I reached absently toward Silah as the scene played out.
"Duncan! We have trouble!" I shouted over my shoulder, and—glancing at the others, who were similarly agape. With a thought, she changed into her greatsword form and I began to sprint toward the scene.
(Get to know Akeron.)