Hidden Blade: Chr. 23
"Aramir?" Kellian asked in a surprised tone as he sat up.
"Good morning, Kell," Aramir greeted sheepishly. After nearly a week of ignoring his best friend, Aramir suddenly wondered whether Kellian even wanted to talk to him. "I, uh, well-" Aramir shifted uncomfortably from side to side "-I thought I'd just come by and...and apologize." He sighed and sat down on Kellian's bed. The Elf watched him curiously. "I'm sorry, Kell. I've been a terrible friend this last week."
Kellian broke in before Aramir could continue. "Ar, you haven't been a terrible friend. You've been in mourning; you've been upset. Yes, I've missed you, but I'm not angry with you. I know how much you loved your mother." The Itir smiled with sad sympathy.
Aramir returned the smile, relieved. "Thanks."
"I will admit that I was a bit worried, though," Kellian conceded. "You seemed so strange. Upset, but it was different than that."
"Yes," Aramir agreed. "Lee talked some sense into me. I think I'll be alright now." He didn't say anything else. Kellian already knew, Aramir was sure of it.
Silence prevailed for several minutes as the two lay on Kellian's bed, staring at the ceiling in a state of happiness and relief. Aramir's eyes drifted about, picking out small details in the room. It was strange, he thought, how he had never noticed them before now. Or perhaps he had, but had forgotten them.
"Did Lee tell you the news?" Kellian asked finally.
"No. What news?" Aramir sat up, curious.
"Well, you know that Chatol left for the Havens, and Kaelith has...well, been thinking of the same thing. So Lee wants to start another class."
Aramir's eyes widened eagerly. "Of trainees?"
"Mmm hmm." Kellian nodded. "If everything goes to plan, and King Arodan approves, we'll start finding recruits in a few days."
"That's wonderful!" Aramir exclaimed. Finally he would have something exciting, something occupying, to take his mind off of his mother's death. He doubted he'd ever truly stop mourning, but this would help him. He smiled. "Why don't we beat them to it and start looking now. I'm suddenly hungry."
"So we're going to look for promising fighters in The Golden Eye?" Kellian asked, half-grinning.
"What better place than a tavern?" Aramir returned. "You could start a fight, and then..."
"And then Dar would kick me out and tell me to find somewhere else to eat."
"Like he did last month, right?
"Ri-" Kellian stopped and then laughed. "Come on," he said, snatching his cloak from the end of his bed. "We'll plan that fight on the way."
Not two weeks later, a class had been formed, and it's attendees consisted of the first four students the Itir had been able to find, having spent the past two weeks searching for promising young men and women.
Aramir had almost forgotten that the first day of training was today, and his reminder came in the form of a sharp rap upon his door early in the morning. Too early.
"Come in," he mumbled as he struggled to sit up. He wiped the sleep form his eyes in time to see Lee enter the room. In contrast to Aramir, the Itir Captain looked wide awake.
"Good morning, Aramir," Lee greeted with a smile.
"Ugh," was all Aramir could manage.
Lee laughed. "That's what I thought when I woke up this morning. Do you remember having to rise this early every day when you were training?"
Aramir nodded, grinning ruefully. "I seem to remember someone telling us that it would be so every day when we became Itir. Ha!"
Lee grinned. "Yes, but it was such a relief learning you didn't have to get up this early, right? Oh, and you won't need that."
Aramir paused in the middle of pulling a heavy tunic over his head. "Lee, it's the middle of the winter. I think I might."
The Captain shrugged. "Alright, but you might get a bit warm."
"Warm? Watching four students sword-fighting is going to make me warm?"
Lee's grin widened. "Watching won't. Teaching might, though."
His comment caught Aramir just as the young man was trying to remove his tunic. Startled, Aramir found himself completely entangled in the dark fabric. "Teaching?!" he managed as he struggled with the tunic.
"If you're interested. Who better to teach sword than you, Aramir?"
"But I...I'm...but Lee, you're much better than I am, and..." Victorious over the tunic, Aramir tossed it onto his bed.
"Much better? Perhaps a little better, but certainly not much. If you don't want to do it, however, I understand."
"No!" Aramir burst out, eyes wide. "I mean yes, yes, I'd love to." He grinned. "So what do I do?"
The Captain beckoned for him to follow. "Come, I'll tell you on the way."
The two Itir made their way out of the palace and through the frigid winter air to the ring. As they walked, Lee explained to Aramir what his job was going to entail, gesticulating eagerly and with an enthusiasm that was catching, even so early in the morning. Aramir listened carefully, taking in Lee's suggestions and storing them in his head for later use. They picked their way along with care, moving through the darkness towards the ring.
"Well, I think that's all. Any questions?" Lee finished when he was satisfied that Aramir had been well informed about his new job.
"Just one. Are you sure it's actually morning?"
Lee laughed and stared up at the sky. The stars were still high and overhead, but on the horizon the first light of the sun was daring to show its face, a golden glow over the hills. "I think it is, somewhere," the captain confided, smiling.
Aramir and Lee entered the ring where four nervous-looking trainees waited, clustered together near the centre. Hearing the two Itir come into the ring, they all turned as one to observe, anxiety painted on their faces.
Aramir bit back a laugh. "Did we look like that?" he whispered to Lee.
"Everyone does at some point in time," Lee said by way of an answer. His eyes sparkled with amusement. "Good morning!" he greeted the four in his usual, friendly tone.
They returned his greeting timidly, eyes lowered out of respect, or fear, Aramir thought.
As the two Itir approached the cluster, Aramir got his first good look at the four since he had seen them take their initial tests. There were two girls and two boys, all with dark hair, and none of them older than eighteen, if Aramir was any judge of age. The tallest was, amusingly, a girl with hazel eyes and hair that was drawn into a bun at the back of her head, who also looked to be the oldest. And yet...
"They look so young," Aramir murmured to himself.
Lee nodded. "Aye, but you saw them fight. They all exhibit great promise as fighters."
Aramir nodded back in agreement, but the conversation ceased when they halted in front of the students.
"Welcome," Lee said, nodding to each in turn, "to the first day of your training as potential Itir. My name is Lee Merin, and I am the Captain of the Itir.
"Now I see you've all brought all of your weapons. For the first week we'll be taking it easy on you, which means you will train in only two out of the three main weapons. This will get you used to training every day and give you a feel for what we will expect of you. If, after this week is over, you feel that you no longer wish to train, or are unable to meet our demands, we will understand perfectly. You needn't be afraid to approach me or another the Itir for any reason; we are happy to answer your questions.
"Now, your first class will be sword. Generally, I do not teach classes, but you may see me watching every now and then, more to make the teacher nervous than the students."
Aramir snorted and Lee grinned, gesturing to the young Itir. "This is Aramir Nárëgond, who will be instructing you in the art of sword-fighting, and though he may tell you otherwise, he is a master swordsman."
Aramir blushed and smiled at the students. His students.
Lee thought for a minute and then finished. "Well, I think I've said everything that needed to be said." He turned to Aramir and added, "If you need me, I'll be up at the palace."
Aramir shot him a teasing glance. "Sleeping, no doubt."
"Right, so if you need me, ask someone else." Lee laughed and left the ring, leaving Aramir and the four trainees alone in the ring.
Aramir watched him go and then turned back to the four, suddenly feeling nervous himself. For a moment he didn't know what to do, and then something inside of him took over, and he forgot his nervousness altogether.
"Well, good morning again, everyone. As Lee said, my name is Aramir, you can also call me Ar if you wish, but chances are if you call me 'sir', I won't answer you. I've heard names floating around for you, but I don't know who is who, so why don't you each tell me your name, your age, and-" He stopped. He had been about to request that they each tell him their race, but suddenly he recalled how uncomfortable that had made him feel. While he doubted that any of them were descendants of Orcs, he still didn't feel right asking. "- and anything else you think I should know," he added instead. He gestured to the girl nearest him. "Why don't you start?"
The two girls were Eyne and Taiverinel, who asked to be called Tai, and the boys were Jac and Cerith. Aramir's estimation of their ages had been correct- Tai, the oldest, was eighteen, and Jac was the youngest at sixteen. None of them had anything else to say, and when they finished, they lowered their heads, shifting from side to side, uncomfortable in Aramir's gaze.
When they had all introduced themselves, Aramir nodded. "Alright then. For the first few days you all might have different identities, depending on how good my memory is, so bear with me and if I get your name wrong, please correct me, unless of course you like your new name." He grinned.
"Alright, then, I think we can start now. Let me say before we even begin that I don't want anyone fooling around in this class. You listen when I give you instructions-I don't want to hear anyone talking when I am. No mock fights, no games, and no teasing the teacher. Understood?"
They all nodded. The anxious looks had turned to expressions of genuine fear. Unable to contain it any longer, Aramir began to laugh. They stared at him like he was mad. "Lighten up, all of you!" he exclaimed, still laughing. "I'm only teasing. Talk to any of the Itir and they'll tell you I broke all of those rules every single day when I was training as an Itir."
He watched the fear begin to drain from their faces. Jac smiled timidly, and Eyne giggled.
"Seriously," Aramir continued, "You are here to learn, to become better fighters, but you're also here to have fun and make new friends. Now, I wasn't kidding when I gave you some of those rules--you do need to pay attention and listen when I give you advice. I don't want anyone getting hurt because they didn't hear me correctly. But, as far as I'm concerned, if you're acting responsibly, you can still have fun practicing."
He gave them a few moments to consider what he had said, and then clapped his hands together. "Alright. Eyne, why don't you and Jac stand here, and Tai and Cerith, you two stand over here-" Aramir positioned the pairs several yards from each other- "and you can begin. What I'd like is to get a basic idea of your abilities, what you can and cannot do, what needs work, and what doesn't. Girls, you are the attackers. Just do some simple attacks and parries, nothing elaborate. Don't try to impress me by attempting things you don't know how to do; all I want is a general idea. Alright, when you are ready."
For several long seconds the four simply stood there, swords out, other weapons set aside, eyeing their opponents nervously. Clearly no one wanted to have Aramir's eyes on them, but once they realized that he was going to stare, regardless, they began.
Aramir walked around the ring, watching the four young men and women from different angles. Lee was right--they may have been young, but all four of them showed promise. He noted things they needed to work on and things they already knew, remembering suddenly the time before he had been an Itir, the times when he had stood in this ring and worked with Kaelith and the others. Aramir smiled to himself. Suddenly the job seemed easy.