She came at him again, but this time he was ready. He blocked, spun away and countered with a blow of his own. She expertly blocked and smiled at him. She then began to use harder and more complicated attacks. Twice she nicked his bare chest and blood mingled with sweat ran into the waistband of his breeches. He felt his temper rise, and thinking he saw an opening,
He woke up a minute later, Ki’s mocking smile above him. “You cannot stop thinking even if you are angry. If you forget this, you will die,” she snidely informed him with an arrogant tilt of her head.
Dizzy, Drace rolled up to his knees in time to see her walk away, tossing her
sword to her brother and continuing on to the castle, ending the first lesson.
Drace rested one hand in the dirt, touching the newly forming knot on his forehead with the other. “Shit!” was all he had to say.
Drace entered the armor room by the barracks with a heavy heart. He dreaded today’s lesson, as he had everyday for the past three weeks.
There wasn’t a part of his body that hadn’t seen some sort of abuse except his most personal parts, and it had even been close for those. Today could be the day he’d be gelded, or worse.
Gathering his gear, Drace reflected on the last twenty-one days. With Cearan as his shadow, mornings he schooled horses and the men who rode them. He smiled at that thought. Pride’s exhibit had made an impression on those men, especially Cearan.
Drace’s smile faded as he thought of the afternoon sessions. He was yelled at, poked, punched, and knocked down. His butt had frequent falling miles. By the evening, he was so tired he could barely finish eating.
Yep, he thought as he picked up his sword and headed for the door, I’m really not liking her Ladyship. But I better get it over with. He chuckled
in resignation. Maybe, with any luck she’ll just kill me and end my misery. He sighed deeply and left the armor room, sword and spirits low.
Ki met him on the practice field, a mocking smile on her lips.
The lesson began as all the others, but Drace found he was meeting her sword easier, quicker, and she wasn’t getting the openings as she had been. He felt a touch of confidence return.
After several moments, she stepped back. Drace took that time to catch
Ki gave him a moment then said, “Now, you need to attack like you mean it. Be more aggressive.”
Drace nodded and came forward, sword raised and ready.
For ten minutes she sparred defensively. She took a step back, lowering her sword. “Now mean it.”
Drace came at her harder. Dust billowed around them, and his visibility was lessening.
She stopped again. “Mean it. You are pulling your blows at the last.”
“No, I’m not,” Drace said and came at her again. Metal rang for several minutes more. Ki backed once more, “I will not be kind anymore, my Lord. This is not a play for entertainment. This is real. Again!”
Drace gritted his teeth. She was really pissing him off, but he wasn’t forgetting his very first lesson. Control; keep control, he told himself.
Ki glanced at her brother and Drace attacked, and then realized too late it was a bluff, and felt his temper rise still more.
Suddenly, she dropped her shield. “Drop yours as well,” she instructed. She made a half turn to the left and when he went to drop his shield she whirled and, left handed, punched him in the jaw.
He staggered but didn’t go down. He brushed hair out of his face and stared at her in disbelief. “What the…?”
Ki stalked up to him, dirt and sweat mingled to run from her temples down her cheeks, leaving streaks on her tanned face.
His height was all that kept her from being right in his face when she spoke, heat in her voice, “You will do this as if you mean it. You will drill until you draw blood on me. Do not play anymore. Be aggressive.” Drace fought the urge to take a step back as she continued, “I will not tell you again. Your punishment will be harsh.”