Hidden Blade: Chr. 4

"Aramir! Psst, Aramir!"

Aramir rolled over in his bed, willing himself to go back to sleep. "Go away," he muttered to whomever it was that was calling his name.

"Aramir! Wake up!" the voice said again.

Giving in, Aramir opened his eyes. He jumped in surprise to see an Elven face peering down at him. "Kellian!" he cried.

The Elf raised an eyebrow. "Who were you expecting, Lee?" he asked.

"Not you," Aramir responded, sitting up and shaking his head. "I guess it wasn't all just a dream. What time is it?"

"About three hours before sunrise, I'd say."

"Nope, not a dream. I sleep in in my dreams."

Kellian chuckled and turned away from Aramir. He pulled on his tunic and brushed his hair behind his pointed ears. Aramir pulled himself out of the bed and shook the dizziness away. He silently thanked Lee for making his tests this afternoon; he didn't think he could even hold a sword right now. Half in a daze, he pulled on his spare pair of clothes and strapped on his weapons. He brushed his hair by way of raking his hand through it several times. No one here would care if his hair were brushed anyway. Last, but most importantly, he checked his tunic for the little bottle of ointment. Satisfied that it was there, he turned to Kellian.

"Ready to go?" the Elf asked.
"I guess," Aramir said with a shrug. "How do you function this early every morning?"

Kellian laughed. "You get used to it after a few months," he joked. He led Aramir out of the lodgings and through the fields. They followed the path along the edges of the fields towards the ring. As the walked, several other students caught up to them. Most greeted Kellian enthusiastically and continued on, although Aramir noticed one young man glare openly at his Elven friend. Kellian didn't seem to mind. They reached the ring and made their way to the centre. Aramir stopped at the wall and leaned against it, ready to watch. Kellian was halfway to the middle of the ring before he noticed that Aramir was no longer beside him.

He spun around. "Aren't you coming?" he asked.

Aramir shook his head. "I'm not an official trainee. I'll just watch."

Kellian opened his mouth to protest, but was cut off by Lee coming up behind Aramir.

"Good morning everyone!" Lee called.

An excited buzz went through the students at his greeting. Aramir raised his eyebrows, a bit confused as to why Lee's appearance was such a source of excitement.

"Good morning Aramir. I see Kellian didn't scare you away." Lee chuckled.

Aramir grinned. "No, quite the contrary."

Lee laughed, brown eyes dancing. "I'm glad to hear you've gotten on so well. You are welcome to join us if you wish, or you may simply watch."

Aramir lowered his eyes to the ground and blushed. "I think I'll just watch for now," he told the Captain.

Lee nodded. "If you change your mind, come on in." He leapt over the wall and walked into the group of students. They backed away respectfully, allowing him plenty of room to get through, not that he needed it. Watching, Aramir decided that class under his instruction was rare.

Lee began speaking to the class, but Aramir was too busy watching the class to pay much attention to him. His eyes strayed yet again back and forth through the students, then came to rest on a dark-haired young man slightly behind Lee- the one that had glared at Kellian earlier. His hair fell slightly past his shoulders, framing his narrow face. His eyes were dark as well, and they darted around the group as if the young man was nervous about something. Occasionally his eyes would rest on one of the students momentarily, and then continue their surveying of the class. Once they fell upon Aramir, who saw a distinct look of disdain on his face.

"Alright, lets go!" Lee concluded, then turned and led the way out of the ring. Aramir moved out of the way, nervously avoiding the stares of the students. Kellian, the last one out of the ring, seized his friend's tunic and dragged him along.

"Lee is teaching sword today," he said excitedly.

Aramir nodded slowly. "And..." he prompted.

"And Lee almost never teaches class! Sometimes he watches, but he never teaches." The Elf danced around excitedly, clutching Aramir's tunic.

"Alright, alright. Let go of me," Aramir muttered with a grin.

The students entered the field and headed for the centre, where the well-worn fighting circle was. Wanting a better view than that from the edge, Aramir followed them partway, then stood uncomfortably in the open field.

Kellian shoved him forward. "Come on Aramir," he pleaded. "At least stand where you can see. You don't have to fight."

Having no choice, Aramir let Kellian push him towards the students.

They stood off to one side, facing Lee, who stood in the middle, sword out. Kellian drew his own sword and twirled it a few times, as did most of the students. Aramir kept his own sword sheathed, not wanting to give anyone the idea that he wanted to join in.

"Well everyone," Lee began. The quiet chatter that had gone through the students ceased. "I'm certain you are all wondering why I am here. And I am terribly sorry to disappoint you, but there is no special reason. Nerin and Kaelith are accompanying Lord Arodan today, and I was the only one available to teach. So here I am. You are all in serious trouble." He raised his sword and smiled wickedly. Aramir and Kellian burst into laughter. Lee winked at them, then continued. "Kaelith has filled me in on what you have been working on-- Rhan's parry --and I must say that I am impressed that you have begun to learn such a complicated pattern."

Aramir was impressed as well. Rhan's parry, named for the man who developed it, was one of the most complicated parries Aramir had ever seen. When done correctly it was amazing to watch, a series of graceful, lightening-quick strikes that should end in the disarming of the opponent. He could do it, but only at extremely slow speeds. Aramir had seen it executed correctly exactly once in his life. He whistled quietly.

Kellian leaned over and hissed in his ear, "Don't sound so impressed. It's impossible. You could fight today and you wouldn't be any worse than any of us."

Aramir rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Aramir," Lee called.

Aramir's head snapped up and he stared at the Captain. "Yes?" he asked nervously. The rest of the students stared at him as though seeing him for the first time.

"Draw your sword and come here." Lee nodded to the spot next to him.

Having no choice and not wanting to embarrass himself, Aramir complied. He drew his sword and twirled it out of habit, placing himself next to Lee and staring questioningly at the Captain.

Lee nodded and turned to the class. "Everyone, this is Aramir Nárëgond. He is taking his tests to train as an Itir this afternoon. In the meantime, he is going to help demonstrate so the rest of you can see the parry. Do you know it?" he asked Aramir.

The young man nodded, running the move through his head.

"Good. I simply want you to attack me, and I will block you using the parry. Whenever you are ready."

Aramir raised his eyebrows. In his opinion, the words 'simply' and 'attack' should not go together concerning Lee. Finally he shrugged, raised his sword and leapt at the Captain. He knew that Lee, as the Captain of the Itir, would be able to do the parry perfectly, so it didn't really matter what he did. He struck in random order, swinging around and striking up and down. Lee blocked him easily, a bright gleam in his eyes. As Aramir had expected, his sword went flying out of his hand as a result of Lee's strike.

There was silence for a moment and Lee smiled.

"Umm, could you do that again?" a student asked. "And slower."

The rest of the class murmured in agreement and the Captain chuckled. "Gladly." He turned to Aramir. "Like I said, you are very quick. I was not expecting you to attack at that speed."

"Sorry," Aramir apologized.

"Don't be," Lee said, raising his sword.

"Yes, do," someone said, stepping forward and handing Aramir his sword.

He grinned and took the weapon, paused a moment, then raised his sword and struck again, much slower this time. Surprisingly, he found that fighting Lee actually helped him learn the parry. He just managed to hold onto his sword when the move was finished, tossing it slightly and then catching it deftly.

Lee nodded. "Now I'm going to attack you."

A nervous look covered Aramir's face and Lee laughed. "Don't worry," he assured the young man. "I won't hurt you."

"Just embarrass me," Aramir retorted, loud enough for everyone to hear him. Kellian chuckled.

Lee leapt forward and struck. Aramir raised his sword to begin the parry, his Elven grace allowing him to twirl slightly to avoid Lee's blade. He blocked from the bottom, left, right, swung around, down, and up again. By the time the parry was over, even at the slow speed, it was all Aramir could do to keep his own sword from flying out of his hand. He brought his sword around in the final swing and caught Lee's hilt, sending the sword sailing out of his hand. He gasped in surprise.

The Captain raised an eyebrow. "Very good young man." He turned to the class. "Alright, now you've seen it, several times. I'd like you to break into pairs and try it-- I'll be walking around and watching. I expect you all to do it as well as Aramir."

Aramir blushed bright red and stared at the ground. He kept his head down until he felt a hand on his shoulder, then looked up at Kellian's grinning face.

"Hey Mr. Showoff," the Elf teased good-naturedly, looking impressed underneath his amusement.

"Hey," Aramir protested. "Lee asked me to help, I didn't volunteer."

Kellian rolled his blue eyes. "Calm down, I was joking. You did great; I don't know what you were worried about. Now come on, I need someone to fight, and I'm certainly not going to fight Lee."

Aramir rolled his black eyes and grinned. "I'll just watch," he mimicked himself. "Alright, if you insist. Attack or block?"

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