Plans for Battle
Varran let out a groan of annoyance. His army’s new recruits weren’t getting the hang of swinging the sword properly. He had no idea whether they actually hoped to become soldiers, because at this rate, they weren’t good enough to be stable hands. He watched time after time, the young men swing and jab and clash swords together, but none of them were fighting how he’d told them to.
They weren’t in stance properly, their arms were all over the place, and they stumbled around under the heavy weight of the armour, fighting its bulk instead of using its weight to make their sword strokes heavier. They flailed about as if afraid of their opponents, even though none of them was going on the offensive.
“Rule Number One in fighting,” Varran yelled for the umpteenth time, his voice hoarse from having to repeat all his orders, “never show your fear to the enemy, if you do, they’ll spot it, and then they’ll know your weakness! Rule Number Two, always go on the offensive! If you catch them off guard you’ll have the upper hand! Rule Number Three……..” This went on for and hours, and Varran was becoming tired of trying to drum into their thick brains what they were supposed to be doing. He was getting more and more wound up, every little mistake, every false move, every lapse of concentration, it was sending him mad! Suddenly a cry of shock and a thud resounded in Varran’s ears. He whirled round to see a man, pale faced and blonde haired, sitting bewildered on the floor. His training companion began to laugh. This was the last straw. They had been useless at every single thing Varran had tried to teach them. They hadn’t listened, got everything wrong, now one of them had fallen over, and they found it funny!
“IDIOTS” Varran screamed, “Do you know how much danger you’ll put yourself in if you did that in a battle? You’d be dead! For god’s sake can't you get this into you thick skulls? You are joining an army not going dancing! Do I have to do everything myself?” With this he walked up to the fallen man’s training partner. He snatched the sword angrily and jabbed it in the fallen man’s direction. “Get up!” he ordered. The man scrambled to his feet, looking slightly scared. Varran took a closer look at him. He was young, a little over twenty. “Fighting stance,” Varran yelled, and the man did as he was told. A gasp went round as everyone realised Varran was about to teach them something important, or at least demonstrate his fighting skills. The man readied himself for an onslaught. Varran paused for a moment, and then rushed at him, sword ready to strike. He didn’t even give the man time to move. Varran’s blade ran smoothly from one side of his stomach to the other, cutting a clean line into his flesh. The man managed a gasp before doubling over and staggering backwards. Blood seeped across his belly into the bottom of his tunic and breeches. The man’s knees gave way and he fell face first into the dirt. For a while no-one moved. Stunned silence filled the air. After a pause several of the soldiers who always accompanied Varran rushed forward. The picked the corpse up by the shoulders and dragged it's limp form away from the crowd. A sickening pool of blood was left on the floor where the body had been. Still nobody moved, they were frozen in shock. Several men began to think twice about coming to join the army, but bit their tongues. They all now saw what kind of a man Varran was, ruthless. Varran smiled evilly, his ‘demonstration’ had had the desired impact.
“In a real fight, they’ll give you less of a chance than I did,” he hissed, to a now attentatively listening crowd, “Don’t make mistakes like falling over! It could you your lives and us the battle! Now continue training.”
The men slowly turned back to their sparring partners. They all kept in mind the price they would pay if Varran took a disliking to them. Their progress was infinitely better, and not one of them dared let their concentration lapse. The blood on the floor was enough of a reminder.
When he was sure they were all working properly, Varran returned to his vantage point at the head of the line of fighters. He grinned maliciously to himself. His thirst for bloodshed had finally been quenched, and he’d taught the new recruits a lesson in doing so. He had a feeling his day was going rather well.
Kitara was sat in Dinnen’s living room, opposite Lady Savva. She was retelling the story of the night Erret was attacked. The High Magicians had thought it better just to ask Kitara about what happened, rather than make her relive it for a second time. Even though spoken accounts of events were never as accurate, they felt it was too much to put Kitara through it so vividly again. Lady Savva had been chosen for the job, although, she wore the High Magicians headband, which allowed her fellows to see and hear what was happening and to communicate to Kitara through her.
“And then, Dinnen found me, the rest you already know.” Kitara sighed as she finished her tale. Her voice was hoarse and quiet; her mood was deflated, even speaking about what happened made her feel sad.
“Thank you, Kitara,” said Lady Savva after a moment, “What you have told us will prove useful I think. At least we know for sure now that Varran is indeed leading the armies. We had a suspicion, but it hadn’t been confirmed up till now. No doubt the attack on Erret was just to show off his skills as a general. Also I find it interesting that he didn’t notice you.”
“Notice me?” Kitara asked solemnly.
“Yes,” Lady Savva replied, “Varran was found by the Black Lord at a young age, and his potential as a magician was soon realised. The Black Lord felt his strength, and he is strong, his power is much akin to yours I think. He’s been with the Black Lord many years, and it surprises me the Black Lord has no taught Varran how to sense for power……,” here she trailed off into thought. Kitara also was thinking. How did the High Magicians know so much about Varran? Is it possible that he was related to one of them? Kitara shook her head, no-one who was raised aside people as noble and as wise as the High Magicians could be like that. Kitara sighed, it was just too confusing. Lady Savva rose, recapturing Kitara’s attention.
“I have to go now and discuss this with the others; they may have some ideas of their own on this matter.” Kitara nodded and followed Lady Savva out. Just as she was about to close the door Lady Savva turned and spoke again,
“Do not dwell on the past, instead look to the bright future. One in which I am hoping you will one day become wise and strong, you have great potential Kitara.” Kitara smiled embarrassedly,
“Thank you,” she said.
“One last thing,” Lady Savva continued, “Lord Ranel has never had an apprentice before. We’ve never needed to ask him. Keep this in mind. Also, it may be useful for you to know that his past was, well, not ideal. The nightmares have never left him. He’s very withdrawn and doesn’t talk much usually. The display you saw from him yesterday probably accounted for most of the words he speaks in a year. Also, it isn’t easy to convince him you’re trustworthy, but if he does trust you, that’s a rarity and it would be wise not to betray him. He’ll be hard on you at first I think, but he’s a good man, just, try to understand that he’s, well, troubled.” She nodded meaningfully and turned. “Good luck,” she murmured as she left. Kitara had little time to take in what she had said, for as Lady Savva turned one way down the street, a figure hooded and cloaked in dark grey, turned in from the other. Kitara now realised why Lady Savva had said ‘good luck.’
“Hello Kitara,” said Lord Ranel, his voice was quiet, unsure almost
“Hello,” Kitara replied. There was a moment of awkward silence, and the Lord Ranel held out a package to Kitara.
“I’ve got you some proper robes now,” he said. Kitara took them and unfolded the paper. Dark grey, woollen robes, much like Lord Ranel’s own, were tucked neatly inside.
“I got you the same colour as me seeing as you’re going to be my apprentice,” he said. Kitara was shocked, she barely knew him yet he’d already bought something for her, besides, all the robes she’s seen were really expensive.
“Thank you Lord Ranel,” she replied, a grateful smile on her face.
“Please, my name is Lorkan,” he answered, “I hate all these formalities…..”
“Lorkan Ranel,” Kitara mused, trying out the sound on her lips, “It's nice.” Lorkan looked a little hesitant, as if he was unsure how Kitara was going to react, but he smiled slightly. Kitara realised that maybe he wasn’t the mean, head-strong, aggressive man she’d taken him for yesterday. The way he’d always kept his hood up made Kitara think that he was perhaps worried that people who had seen his face might somehow use this to harm him. Maybe his aggressiveness yesterday was some form of self protection, to hide his insecurities. Maybe he was just wary, because of happened in his past, Kitara mused on this until Lorkan cut her thoughts by speaking.
“I would like to start your training as soon as possible,” he announced. She nodded,
“That’s probably a good idea,” she agreed.
“Good,” Lorkan said, sounding relieved, “Maybe if I come by tomorrow and then we can go to my house. I've got a lot of books there on Cavralian and magical history. I'm afraid I’ll have to start simple, I'm not too sure how to do this, I’ve never had a student before.” Kitara nodded once more,
“Lady Savva told me.” Lorkan raised his eyebrows, and awkward expression crossed his face. “But I’ve never had any magical training before, so it will be new to both of us, besides Lady Savva also said you were definitely up to the job,” Kitara said quickly. Lorkan relaxed.
“Ok then,” he smiled, “Until tomorrow I guess?”
“Tomorrow,” replied Kitara and watched him as he left. She sighed. She was going to have to tread carefully. Not because he had a temper, but because he was so vulnerable. Despite his stony exterior, Kitara now saw that she had been allowed to see him without his façade up. What she had seen was the real insecure him, and from what Lady Savva had said, it was rare for him to even give trusting a new person a chance. Kitara had to be careful not to abuse that trust, or lose it forever. She closed the door and turned. Tallissa stood behind her, looking enquiringly.
“Who was that?” she asked, “I didn’t recognise the voice.” Kitara smiled, how long had Tallissa been listening?
“Lork….I mean Lord Ranel,” Kitara replied. Tallissa raised her eyebrows. For a moment she was speechless, then she sighed and shrugged her shoulders,
“What did he want?” she said, “It's not like him to make house calls. It's not like him to make any calls actually!”
“Oh,” Kitara answered, “He came to tell me that he wants to start my training tomorrow, also, he gave me these.” She held up the robes he had brought so Tallissa could see. Tallissa gasped,
“Let me see those!” she said. Kitara handed them over. Tallissa turned them over and then back again, her eyes gleaming.
“These are fantastic! The material comes all the way from Jerred! It's really expensive, how on earth did he pay for these? They must be brand new! They’re amazing quality, my god he’s generous!” Tallissa carried on talking as she went into the living room to show Dorn and Coren. Kitara was very surprised; she’d known the robes were beautiful but Jerred? That was all the way the other end of Myrraea! Jerred-made fabrics were the most expensive anywhere! Why would Lorkan buy these just for her?
“He didn’t,” Kitara murmured defiantly to herself, “They’re just ones he bought for himself that he never got round to wearing and now they’re too small. He’s just giving them to me because he can't have them anymore.” She nodded, “That’s it, that’s why he gave them too me.” She nodded again and followed Tallissa, who had now gone into the dining room.
The robes were laid out on the table, with Dorn, Coren and Tallissa around them, looking gob smacked. Everyone looked up when Kitara entered.
“Someone’s got a fan!” Dorn teased.
“Stop it,” Tallissa sighed, “He was just being nice.” Coren rolled his eyes,
“Mum, Lord Ranel is never nice. He’s never anything, he just sits and sulks in the corner, he doesn’t speak at all, he drives me crazy.” Dorn nodded,
“He could socialise but you know he just doesn’t.” Tallissa sighed,
“That said,” she replied, “Kitara is going to be his apprentice, he has to start building a few bridges. It's probably just a friendly gesture, still,” she paused, “He shouldn’t have spent so much money.” Dorn murmured his agreement. Coren just frowned,
“I don’t trust him,” he said defiantly, “I reckon he’s just some creepy old man that’s into Kitara.” Kitara blushed and grimaced at the same time. Tallissa gave Coren a disapproving look.
“You haven’t got a clue really have you?” she sighed, “Lord Ranel is by no means old. He’s barely 23. He hasn’t had it easy either, it's hardly his fault that he’s so withdrawn, you would be if you went through the ordeal he had to!”
“Oh yeah?” Coren snapped, “Enlighten me, because I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about!”
“That is nobody’s business but Lord Ranel’s, I will not tell you.” Coren snarled,
“Don’t lecture me on it then!” he shouted and stormed out. Everyone stood quiet for a moment, and they heard the door bang as Coren left the house. After a while Tallissa sighed,
“That boy,” she groaned, shaking her head.
“What does Coren have against Lorkan?” Kitara asked. Dorn and Tallissa looked puzzled.
“I mean, erm, Lord Ranel?” Kitara corrected herself. Dorn laughed,
“On first name terms are we?” he grinned, Kitara blushed again. Tallissa gave Dorn a warning look. “Well,” Dorn continued, “he’s never really had a problem up till now; I think he’s just a bit raw that’s all.”
“Raw?” Kitara said. Dorn nodded,
“Yeah,” he agreed, “I think Coren’s jealous of ‘Lorkan’ now that he’s given you a present which is more than he could ever afford.” Tallissa rolled her eyes.
“Please Dorn, use Lord Ranel’s proper name, Kitara’s on first name terms not you.” Dorn smiled,
“Yes mother,” he sighed, then turned to Kitara. He grinned. Kitara shivered, was there truth in his mockery? Tallissa tutted and shook her head in exasperation. Taking one last look at the robes Lorkan had given Kitara, she went back upstairs. Dorn finished grinning and went into the kitchen to make himself lunch. Kitara sat wearily in the living room. Her mind was spinning, not only had she just found out that Coren probably liked her, after only two days, but she now knew he was jealous of Lorkan for a reason that seemed quite simple. But what astonished her most was Lorkan’s age. From the way he acted, all oppressive and gloomy, right down to the way he walked, head bowed, one arm raised to his stomach, the other dangling, and long, slow steps, all lent themselves to a much older man. For him to be 23 seemed an impossible truth. The sound of a door opening roused Kitara’s attention. At first, she thought it might have been Coren, returning from wherever he’d been to sulk, but as a slightly taller and bulkier man’s silhouette appeared in the hall, Kitara realised it was Dinnen. She rose eagerly from her chair. Dinnen smiled as she approached him.
“I suppose you want to know whether I have any news?” Dinnen asked. Kitara nodded,
“Is there anything?” she replied. Dinnen chuckled,
“Let me see, the High Lords wanted me to discuss in more detail how I ‘found’ you. Also they wanted me to let you know that they have booked you several sessions at the university, for combat training. Most of the apprentice magicians go there, so it won’t be a class all to yourself. I'm sorry to say that in the past the combat training was optional, but lately with the Black Lord about……everyone has to do it now.” Kitara nodded, she had an awkward feeling in the pit of her stomach. On one hand, Kitara was happy that she would have time with other people her age, to learn like a normal student, on the other, she began to feel worried. What if she couldn’t control her powers, and she messed up? What if she wasn’t liked, and didn’t fit in? What if the High Magicians had been wrong all along, and she was the worst magician of them all? All these thoughts flashed through her mind in an instant. Dinnen saw the doubt in her eyes. He leant forward and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “It’ll be fine, besides you don’t start for another couple of weeks, and that gives you enough time to get to know Lord Ranel and settle in.”
“She already knows him pretty well,” Dorn grinned as he walked past, “Her and Lorkan are best buds already.” Dorn disappeared up the stairs, laughing to himself. Dinnen looked at Kitara his eyebrows raised. Kitara blushed.
“Lorkan?” Dinnen said, “He really has tried to get along hasn’t he? I thought I’d never see the day when Lord Ranel holds his bare wrist out and then gives a complete stranger the knife…..” Dinnen looked genuinely shocked, “Oh well,” he sighed, “People change, at least, try to anyway. Just don’t take the blade too eagerly, and don’t try to make a cut!” He looked pointedly at Kitara, as if she was supposed to understand his metaphor. She shook her head in agreement, then turned and went upstairs. She lay on her bed and sighed. Despite it being only a couple of hours pat midday, she fell right to sleep, her mind was exhausted.
The Black Lord handed his plans for attack to his messenger who was at the door. They would be taken down to Varran, who could begin preparations. Despite his ‘slip-up’ whilst attacking Erret, the Black Lord had confidence in him as a general. He knew how to control and run an army, and there was no doubt about his magical abilities. However one thing troubled the Black Lord, aside from the duties Varran had as a general, the Black Lord had given him a task which involved a lot more secrecy and care. It wasn’t that the Black Lord doubted Varran’s ability to do it, but he wondered whether, after such a long time, Varran might react badly to seeing his brother again, he hoped that Varran would be able to carry out his task, but he wasn’t so sure what emotions would raise themselves at the critical moment. He would just have to have faith, and wait and see.
(A/N) Please review! Id relli appreciate it as I need all the help I can get!