The morning air was cool and sweet as it wafted over the marble third story window sill of the Temple of Holy Warriors. As the sun spilled fall’s golden rays down on the Martial Practice yard of the compound, Vassana wondered if the young warriors standing at attention below could smell the sweet smells from Waterdeep’s bakery, the exotic spice being carted to Market Square or the cloying aroma of the Calimport tea being served in her quarters.
“Now my dear. It is most important to remember double turn the stitch as we go under. This is how we begin to add depth to our work. Later we will visit this same spot with some of that new thread, the woolen thread with all that fine fiber from the south.”
The bruise on Vassana’s hip and lower back made sitting on the cold white marble uncomfortable at best. But it was a small price to pay as she waited for the show to begin down on the Practice yard. Every year at this time Cealander, Master of Arms brought all the students of the Holy Order’s Martial Way to the yard for open practice. At best it was a show of mayhem and at its worst was a good look at the young men that would someday be the Order’s bright new vanguard in the world.
Each student was followed by a young Steward of Arms, each in hope that he would be picked up as one of the young warriors personal steward and retainer. Possibly someday being sponsored into the Holy Order by their patron.
“Oh that thread from the south is so fine, but thick enough to really add the depth of field we want in your tapestry. Those folks that trade with the nomads near Calimport really found a way to wealth when trading their goods to your foster father!”
All the student warriors were dressed uniformly in leather armors with heavy helmets. As of yet they were learning warfare and battle skills on the ground. Soon if they graduated this portion of their long training Cealander would send them on to mounted combat training. To say the least, all the students were breathing heavy breaths waiting for a chance to show their prowess, either that or a few were nervous. Vassana quickly picked her targets to watch. The big fellow with broad shoulders standing a head taller than his peers. And. Yes – the lithe, whipcord man that held his two handed wooden sword lightly, even elegantly.
Pulling her cotton bed clothes tighter to protect from the chilling air, Vassana began to wonder why Cealander had not started the practice session.
All the students were arrayed for paired combat. Their stewards were standing eagerly along the Practice yards equine fencing. With swords of strong iron wood, each with one to four rings of heavy metal held in polished wooden sword pinions.
Yet bulky ogrish Cealander stood motionless in the center of the Practice yard. One hand resting on the huge greatsword he often used to honorable combat. Its point buried in the soft earth of the yard.
“Now lady, be sure to tie any loose ends! It’s the first lesson and the last lesson all good women know. It works while sewing and it works in life. A lesson to be learned there my girl!”
Vassana scanned the mammoth Practice yard. Often used to train the warriors of the Holy Order in mounted combat it was fenced by heavy long timbers. Not to waste a chance to fortify their stronghold in the center of Waterdeep the Order had built their yard with the thickest timbers in the unlikely event that they would later be needed as buttress materials in a siege of the compound. Everything had a dual purpose in the compound.
As Vassana shielded her eyes to peer into the rising sun she saw a dismounted Templar opening the far gate. Closing the gate behind him he took two steps into the practice yard. Stopped. And bowed deeply to Cealander. Never returning to his full height, yet not kneeling to a liege. The honorific owed to the Master of Arms of the Order, who in all likelihood had trained the Templar.
“Rise good Senen and await me!”, boomed Cealander in a voice that could surely carry miles outside the walls of the compound and even Waterdeep. “Students begin your forms, open combat – double rings!”
Stewards kicked dirt into the air like new born ponies as they jumped for the heavy two ring wooden practice swords. Cealander had skipped immediately into the latter of the practice forms, calling for one of the heaviest practice swords that was similar to his own heavy great sword. Each ring adding weight to the wooden weapon, and adding danger to its arcing contact.
As each student received his sword into his hands by his steward they roared into action! Those with the fastest steward swung their sword first at their opponent. As stewards completed their task they were forced to drop and roll to avoid the martial conflict of open combat.
“Your foster Father will surely ask for this tapestry to be hung in the grand hall Dear. It’s most important that we work…”
Vassana cut off her once nursemaid, nanny and now protectorate, “ Oh Emesra! Senen has returned home! It’s Senen I see on the Practice yard!.”
“Its most important that we work to the highest level of our skills Vassana. Your foster Father has spent no expense on your education and your up bringing. Don’t forget the gifts you have been given young lady.”, continued Emesra with out acknowledging Vassana’s outburst. Seemingly hypnotized by the sewing project at hand.
Vassana almost fell out the open window as she looked down on Senen. Dressed in the pristine white tabard of the Knight Templar Errants he seemingly glowed with the radiance of the Holy. So Cealander was waiting for Senen! Who by had mastered the skills of the Martial Practice yard and left the security of the Holy Order’s compound to garner wisdom wandering the world outside. Bringing light and judgement to those peoples of Toril who lived in darkness. A Templar Knight Errant! The most admired of the Order – and it was well known that Senen had no squire or steward!
Every man on the Practice yard knew that.
Each student must be thinking this was their chance to squire for a well known and respected Knight Templar. For all students must at one time squire to a Templar to join their ranks in full.
The yard was a scene of mayhem and battle.
Open combat meant once your foe was vanquished or surrendered a combatant could move on to join another battle. The last man standing was the most skilled or most survivable. Now a few minutes into the combat session a few of the students were already sprawled on the ground, either struck dumb by non lethal blows or exhausted from wielding the heavy two ring swords. The remaining students had shifted the battle closer and closer to Senen’s side of the Practice yard. In hopes of being seen. Soon the battle would engulf him also.
“Is there something going on out there? Well disregard it. Like I was saying, the scene of Gladus battling the Green Dragon is not just lore, but true. You foster Father was trained by Gladus..”, droned Emesra.
As the broad shouldered young student downed his third foe, he turned to watch the others in battle. Not resting, but obviously gauging his foes and working a strategem. A moment later he barked an order to the air, “Three rings!” His steward hopped to his feet, grabbed an extremely heavy wooden sword and dived onto the practice field. The broad shouldered student grabbed the sword from the steward knocking him to the ground and proceeded with heavy feet to the center of the melee. Swinging with arcing strokes at feet legs and hands. As stewards raced to their warriors with replacements for broken or lost swords, they too were knocked senseless, hobbled or knocked unconscious by the broad shouldered students march towards Senen.
Nearest Senen stood the lithe whipcord student. Two fellow students propped against the fencing of the yard. Bleeding and bruised, they watched as the lithe student fought a third, Seemingly dancing with is two ring sword as he battled his foe. As feint met slash his two ring sword broke in half with a loud crack. Without hesitation the lithe warrior dipped rolled and tripped his opponent up with the remainder of his wooden sword and applied a kick to his foe’s head stunning him. Dropping the broken practice sword he then drug his fallen comrade to the fence line and propped him up. Standing he yelled, “Three rings!” to his steward.
The Practice yard was littered with the groaning bodies of students and stewards. Stewards that were none to eager to enter the field of combat after taking several strong strikes from practice swords. With no leather armors to protect them, they were to feel the sting of a sword blow for weeks. Yet the lithe man’s skinny steward ran to the weapons pinioned in his rack and pulled his three ring sword free and tumbled into the practice yard.
Running straight to the lithe man with determination in his eyes.
Only to run afoul of the broad shouldered student.
Seeing his most successful foe unarmed. The student warrior acted on impulse to deny his foe a weapon and stuck the skinny steward a blow to the chest, knocking the delicate teen onto his back some three horse lengths away. The three ring sword flee even further.
Vassana gasped, knowing the steward was surely dead from a unprotected blow to the chest.
The lithe student broke his battle stance and ran towards the fallen steward, unarmed and growling in a fury. But instead of aiding the fallen steward, he turned and tumbled into his foe fists pumping and dodged away quickly.
The two remaining students turned their attention to the scene and marched together to down the behemoth student – only to find one of the pair cut down with a heavy stroke that shattered his defense. Alone and out matched the single remaining armed student turned to the lithe man, knelt and handed his sword hilt first to the lithe man, “I judge thee my better and to you I owe my sword and my faith. Lower this tall man”
Then removed himself from the field of battle.
Seeing his lithe foe rearmed the broad shouldered brute surged forward like a avalanche, slamming blows into the dancers defenses with great strength – and hearty gusto. Vassana writhed in her window seat, matching foot steps and defensive parries with the lithe man. Her hands, bone white from holding a sword of her own, twitched with each blow as she concentrated on the tableau below her. As the stronger warrior pushed his foe back toward the fence line – and Senen. Until with a mighty over head slash the brute smashed his wooden sword through the lithe mans defense and shattered his three ring sword on the lighter mans.
With a flourish the lithe dancer took two steps back and entered a defensive stance.
The brute screamed, “Four rings!” as his steward ran onto the nearly empty field with heavy sword used by training masters. A cold fog of breath billowing from his mouth and nose.
Grasping the huge sword in both hands it looked heavy, even when being wielded by such a large man. Almost immediately he took too huge steps forward and brought it smashing down at the lithe student. Who side stepped the over swung blow and stuck the bigger man two times in the side.
The blows seemed to have no effect, as the larger man swung his massively weighted sword around once again so quickly it was blinding.
“It was a over stroke on purposed!”, marveled Vassana. “He took damage to…”
But before Vassana could finish her thought, the big man completed his stroke. Striking the lithe mans sword with a hammering blow it shattered into splinters showering Senen with the resulting shower of wood.
The blow was so strong that it continued through and struck the massive wooden rails of the fence line knocking them to the ground in a roaring pile.
With a show of unbridled strength the brute reversed the huge wooden sword and punched the lithe man in the chest with the pommel of his weapon sending him prone on his back and gasping for breath.
Standing unmoving Senen did not attempt to stop the huge student from stepping forward and charging the fallen combatant. With four ring sword held high over head the larger student aimed for the lithe student as he attempted to roll to his feet.
Vassana saw the end of the battle near, and the defenseless student was sure to suffer a horribly painful fate. His ability to dodge and his tactic of flight and return left the bigger man little choice. He had to remove him from the field - or fight him again once he recovered.
Vassana’s side ached with the thought of a practice sword blow. And begged for the voice of Cealander or Senen to boom across the yard.
As the bigger student was beginning his downward stroke, the Practice yard was filled with the scream, “Three rings Sir!” as the skinny near dead steward stood wobbling in front of his fallen partner and student Knight. Somehow he had managed to get to his feet, grab a sword from the pinion rack and drag it to his fallen comrade.
Only to find himself at the scene of the bigger students end stroke. Raising the three ring sword up before him the skinny breathless steward braced himself to protect his student Knight.
As the mighty four ring sword was about to meet the shaking defense of the wounded steward, a bright blade gleaming with light. The Holy Light of the Order appeared out of the morning sun. Ended the stroke of the wooden sword as it met the blade of Senen’s Holy sword and was hewn in half.
At precisely the same time, as if on que. Celander bellowed, “ENOUGH! Students regain your composure, stewards to your positions.” “Senen fix that fence!”
Without a word of protest Senen removed his tabard and beautiful mithril gauntlets and tossed them to the ground as he began to do the work of laborer of the compound. As he began the students that were able watched him closely and with awe, for Senen’s reputation had preceeded him, and the show of prowess with his sword had been inspiring.
Last to stand and gather their wits about them was the lithe young student and his wheezing skinny steward, who had fallen to one knee with the effort of holding the three ring wooden sword. Yet no student or steward watched them as they rose. All watched Senen, hoping beyond hope that the Templar that was not to prideful to accept any order from his teacher would choose them to be his squire and student.
Vassana watched the pair rise however, and saw the greater lesson of the day. Neither strength or agility or even pride are as important to the Order as honor and duty. She beamed as the skinny steward rose once again to his feet and turned and placed the sword in the lithe students hand, completing his sworn task.
Then fell back to one knee as his student turned to return to his position on the yard - sword in hand.
As Senen replaced the last of the timbers he turned to the yard, and the poor steward.
As the two met eyes, Senen said calmly, “Up with you boy, and grab my grounded gear. We have a pony to buy and some traveling gear for a steward.” Looking up for a moment in Vassana’s direction smiling, he turned and left the Practice yard.
“Well Vassana my love, “ whispered Emesra warmly against Vassana neck “That big lout Cealander seems to have broken his lads again.”
Startled Vassana had not even known Emesra had left the tapestry project and joined her. Putting her hands over Emesra’s she whispered to herself, “But Emesra, that was not to be a lad’s job.” surpressing a sob of hurt. She watched the skinny boy follow Senen.
“Back to your studies Vassana, the great hall is waiting for your tapestry.” “The practice yard in not the realm of noble ladies as your foster Father has raised you.” “Leave the brutes to their play and let us work on finer things!”
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