Ignoring a bruised hip and aching lower back, Vassana hurriedly pulled on the steel greaves that were hidden with her armor cache in the stables adjacent to the Martial Practice yard.
Adjusting straps and buckles she reviewed the previous training session in mind as Celander had taught her long ago. Preparation was as strong a weapon as any sword. The Master of Arms had not held back, but had found several ways past her defense to strike her twice during their last open combat practice. The bigger ogrish man had shown suprising agility as he dropped low under her guard to score. Vassana wouldn’t judge the man again.
She had known her teacher for too long to make that mistake again.
Everything began the day that her foster father, and Lord of the Holy Order of Knights came to Esmera with a commission for a tapestry. Vassana had already started lessons in reading and writing, was touching on history and poetry. Yet her foster father thought even as child Vassana must train harder to over come her background. Train harder to be accepted as a well raised and noble lady. For other women of Waterdeep were born of nobility, Vassana was to learn it.
Esmera had been kind that day to explain to the child Vassana that the tapestry was a epic work. That like her fledgling academic education, the tapestry would take 6 to 10 years of learning and effort to complete. For Vassana it was at first like a prison sentence. She did not feel the way of the noble woman, but felt the draw to be avenger for her long dead parents, brother and sister. Parents and family that she had no memory , knew no history of.
On the night of the Tapestry commission Vassana had entered the Practice yard below her quarters. Late at night, as the sleeping quarters and offices of the compound were shuttered. She picked up the long ringless wooden sword of a Student of the Martial way and began swinging it. Swinging it at her worries, her fears swinging at the expectations of the kindest man in her life. The sweat of a laborer, of a warrior stained her night clothes as she fought imaginary foes – never letting the sword drop.
Until the scary and frightening Celander had stepped from the shadows as silently as a ghost. Towering over her like a treant from the blessed grove of Druids. He bent low while saying kindly, “My Lady, hold the weapon like this.” Adjusting her hands, he added, “Watch my feet and hands and follow my movements, this is the first form of the Sword.”
Vassana was too stunned to move.
“Vassana, watch my feet and hands, and follow my movements, this is the first form of the Sword.”, repeated Cealander as he duplicated the simple parry and thrust.
Vassana followed his lead. But an old fear with new meaning was welling up in her. What would her foster father do, what would he think. Her path in the world was planned and set like the shining marble of the Temple of Holy Order. Unmoving and eternal.
The pair worked on the form for several minutes until Vassana had proved it was within her grasp. Cealander whispered a quick command, “Stand at Attention!”
Vassana aped the boys she had watched on the Practice yard and stood stiff as a board, sword held above her waist as Cealander whispered in muffled tones, “Lady you are no longer on this Practice yard, you now are my student.” “I have watched you at your dance lessons, at reading and history – and have judged you worthy this night to learn theMartial way.”
In a quivering voice Vassana interrupted, “but… Sir, my foster father will not allow..”
And was immediately stopped in mid sentence, “Silence when at attention till asked for a reply!”
“Vassana, I have traveled with your foster father for more than thirty years as his comrade in arms, in battles and crusades that few men survived.” “We share a bond that can not be broken.” “Yes, I understand his plans for you. You are the child that all the honorable Knight Errants of the Order would wish to have. You are chaste, and goodly and representative of the beauty we vow to protect and fight for.” “You are the flower in our garden of Martial life, to be protected, gifted and cherished.”
“But girl, I owe no fealty to any other but our Lord on High. For him I have sworn to judge those that come to serve him as Holy Paladins of the Order.” “I have sworn by sword and oath to teach his ways, to be his hand of judgement on this Practice yard.” “I judge thee fit to train in the Martial ways. You WILL be here every night as the moon rises over the stables, this WILL be our time for training. You WILL not reveal our training unless asked about it, as I feel no compunction to reveal my students rigors to my leader. As for myself. I will not lie if asked.” “You WILL continue all that is asked of you by your teachers and foster father.”
“Take care of your sword Student, you are dismissed till the morrow.” And with that Cealander turned briskly on his heel and disappeared once again into the shadows.
Vassana checked her greaves once more before pulling on the heavy leather boots waiting under the curry table. The tapestry was now 6 years in the making, and Esmera had announced that it was nearly completed. Vassana also hoped this was the night of her training in which she would judged much like the male students the morning before. The morning in which Senen had chosen a untested steward as his own.
Standing, Vassana checked her battle gear for rattles and tell tale noise before throwing the doors to the stable open and entering the darkness of the practice yard.
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