Hidden Blade: Chr. 9
Aramir patted Narmo's neck and grinned back. He had ridden through the course four times in different patterns before the class had finished. Alaith had been very pleased to see Narmo finally behave for someone, and Aramir himself was pleased that he had been able to ride the courses so successfully. "Yes it was," he agreed. "Scyelë looked wonderful. Are his gaits as smooth as they look?"
The Elf nodded. "How come you ride without tack?" he wondered as they led their horses back to the stable.
Aramir rolled his black eyes. "Mainly because my father didn't own any tack. He really couldn't afford any, and the only reason he had a horse was because it was a gift from a friend. He taught me to ride without tack, and I never bothered to use it. I don't think I ever have."
Kellian gave him a mock scowl. "So you're saying if you had had tack, you would have used it? So much for Elven tradition."
Aramir snorted, then laughed. "I don't think I'll answer that," he declared.
They put their horses in their stalls and brushed them quickly, then headed back to the small dining hall for lunch. After a small meal, the students grabbed their weapons and headed for the large field for practice with Chatol. The beautiful Elven woman was waiting for them with a slight smile on her fair face, her form held erect and proud. Aramir glanced around and saw impressed looks upon many of the male student's faces. He was rather glad to note that Kellian was polishing one of his knives, rather than staring at Chatol.
They gathered around her, and after a brief introduction to what they would be doing that day, they began. Aramir was ready to learn to catch a knife, as he had seen her do, but when he asked, she only laughed and told him he had to be patient.
"Easy for her to say," Kellian grumbled. "She told me the same thing months ago."
Chatol's laughter caused them both to spin around in embarrassment. "If you two truly want to know," she began with a wry smile. "That trick is not taught in your classes. When you have become accomplished enough, it will be natural for you, but we do not teach it, as many of the students simply are not advanced enough. Not even all of the Itir can do it. It requires exceptionally quick reflexes and skill with the eyes to follow the speed. If you become an Itir, you may learn it, but I forbid you from trying it yourselves now." She raised her eyebrows at them and smiled, then turned away.
"Darn," Aramir muttered.
"Darn darn," Kellian agreed. "There goes my 'try it some night in secret' idea.
Aramir chuckled, then turned his attention back to the target at the end of the field.
"Alright everyone!" Chatol called to the class. "Good job today, you are all doing very well. You must be practicing." She winked. "Because you do not have sword today, there will be weapons inspection tonight at sundown in the ring. Class is dismissed."
Several of the students groaned at Chatol's last announcement, but most simply nodded and headed out of the ring. Aramir turned to Kellian and awaited an explanation, although he though he had a pretty good guess as to what weapons inspection was.
"It's just what it sounds like," Kellian said. "They check them to make sure we are keeping them clean and in good condition. And since we do not have class, we can go clean them up now."
Aramir nodded and turned to leave the ring. He was stopped suddenly by a hand on his shoulder. He spun around and found himself face-to-face with Janst.
The young man thrust his sword into Aramir's hand. "Here," he said. "Since you made me drop it, I'm sure you won't mind cleaning it for me. I want to be able to see my face in it when you are done." Janst smirked and turned away from Aramir.
Kellian opened his mouth in protest, but Aramir cut him off. "Wait!" he called to Janst. He waited until the young man had turned around, then held Janst's sword up and spat on the blade. He wiped it off carefully with his tunic, creating a shining spot amidst the rest of the dusty blade, then handed the sword back to Janst. "There you are. Not big enough to see your head in, but then again, no blade is big enough for that." With that, he turned on his heel and headed out of the field, leaving Janst standing there, staring after him in shock and fury.
"Wow," Kellian panted, shaking with silent laughter as they left the field. "You are an excellent judge of character, Aramir."
Aramir grinned. "Thank you, but you knew that already."
"I did?" the Elf asked.
"Yes, by my excellent choice in roommates."
Kellian burst into laughter. "Good point!" he cried, putting his arm
around Aramir's shoulders. "Come on, let's go!"
They spent the remainder of the afternoon in their room, carefully cleaning their weapons until they shone. They compared weapons while they cleaned, exchanging tales of where they had acquired them, or how they had made them. Kellian was especially impressed by Aramir's Elven knives, which he looked over with an expert's eye. They admired each other's bows, sharing techniques and troubles they had run across while crafting them. When they were satisfied that their weapons were spotless, they brought them out to the ring for inspection. All of the students passed, even Janst, which clearly disappointed Kellian. When the inspection was over, they headed back to their rooms.
Kellian peered out the window as he propped his sword in the corner. "Hungry?" he asked.
Aramir nodded. "Starving."
"Want to go into the city tonight?" Kellian invited.
"Are we allowed to do that?" Aramir asked, surprised.
Kellian nodded, then saw the look upon Aramir's face. "No, we really are," he assured his friend with a laugh. "They don't mind, as long as we stop at the gate and tell them where we are going. Sometimes all of the students go to eat together. How about it?"
Aramir grinned. "Sounds good to me. Let's go."
They changed quickly, and Aramir noted that, just as Kellian had said, all of his clothes were now marked by the insignia for trainees, and then left the training centre. Once again they were given a password and made to swear that they would not reveal it, and then they were in the city. Kellian led Aramir through the streets, eyes dancing eagerly as he bounded ahead of his friend. Occasionally he would pause and wave or smile at a passerby, but mostly he kept up a steady stream of conversation with Aramir.
They were 'almost there', according to Kellian, when three young women approached them, smiling sweetly.
"Good evening Kellian," one of them said with a giggle, and the other two joined in.
The Elf shot Aramir a look, then returned the woman's greeting, smiling sweetly. Aramir eyed them carefully, trying to look inconspicuous. They were obviously noblewomen, judging by their fancy clothes and easy, flirting manners. Noblewomen had always rather annoyed Aramir, especially ones like these.
"And who is this?" one of them asked, sidling up to Aramir and playing with the laces on his shirt. She slid her free hand around his waist and ran her hand across his back.
Aramir smiled uncomfortably, wishing she would take her hands off of him.
"This is Aramir Nárëgond, a very good friend." Kellian winked at Aramir. "He was just accepted to train yesterday. Aramir, this is Sëlune, Alorë, and Fiona."
"Congratulations Aramir," the young woman called Sëlune purred, leaning into him. Her long, raven coloured hair fell down her back, framing her pale, exquisite face. She was quite beautiful, and even more annoying.
"Thank you," Aramir returned as courteously as he could. He took her hand and gently but firmly pulled it off of his waist. She didn't seem to mind, but when Aramir tried to pull his hand free, she would not let go. He sighed inwardly and rolled his eyes.
He glanced over at Kellian, who had somehow managed to detach himself from one of the other women. The Elf saw his look and gave him a teasing smile. "Well, my ladies, you will have to excuse us. We are supposed to meet one of the Itir in ten minutes, and we cannot keep him waiting."
Reluctantly, Sëlune released Aramir's hand. She smiled sweetly at him. "It was very nice meeting you Aramir," she said, batting her eyelashes at him before turning away. She and her two companions bid them a final farewell, and then walked slowly away, giggling loudly.
Aramir waited until they were well out of hearing range before turning to Kellian. "I don't even want to know!" he declared.
The Elf burst into laughter and began walking. Aramir followed behind, eyes darting around cautiously. He was not particularly looking forward to meeting anyone else. Kellian continued laughing all of the way to the Golden Eye, the tavern where he was taking Aramir. They sat down at a table in the back of the room, and Kellian took a deep breath.
"If you could only have seen your face when she..." he trailed off and laughed hysterically again.
Aramir crossed his arms over his chest, then grinned and began to laugh himself. They laughed so hard that when a serving girl came to take their orders, they could barely breathe. They managed to order some food before reverting back to uncontrollable laughter. Finally they were able to calm down and talk in normal tones.
"You sure you don't want to know?" Kellian asked with a snort of amusement as he ate.
"Ah, might as well tell me," Aramir said as he sipped his ale, eyes darting around the tavern with interest. Before tonight, he had been in exactly two taverns in his near-century of life. He either ate at his home or with some of his friends at one of their houses. The bustle of the tavern was completely new to him, but he found he enjoyed it greatly. The Golden Eye was average-sized, neither large nor small, but well-lit and clean. The patrons were mostly merchants, but there were some peasants and even a few nobles, and all seemed to be treated in the same manner. In one corner of the room, a minstrel sat with a small lyre, playing softly. His music floated across the room in an upbeat, excited tune.
Aramir smiled and turned back to Kellian. "So?" he asked.
"So if you could have seen your face," the Elf said, laughing again.
"Kel-li-an," Aramir moaned exasperatedly.
"Sorry, sorry. That was Alorë, Sëlune, and Fiona. You'll meet the others soon, I'm sure."
"Others?" Aramir groaned.
Kellian chuckled. "Every so often they come and watch us practice, giggle, flirt, you know... They never tire of watching a group of young men training."
Aramir nodded. "I get it, you needn't go on."
Kellian chuckled. "They annoy Fia to death."
Aramir had to laugh. Fiarfen, the only woman trainee of the group, was down to earth and friendly, reminding Aramir of his sister. And while Fia was not unattractive, she certainly did not possess the finesse of the noblewomen. "I'll be annoyed along with her."
"And me," Kellian added. "Most of us just humour them, like we did outside. A few of the students are more...friendly, if you will."
Aramir rolled his eyes and continued to eat. "You should have warned me in advance," he scolded the Elf.
Kellian laughed again. "No, it was more fun watching your face."
"Hmph," Aramir muttered good-naturedly, swatting at his friend, and went back to his food.