I was completely and utterly bored. I usually was since I rarely had anything to do except talk with Grenya or help with chores. My “nursemaid” was not the best of companions. All she ever talked about was the “dark shadow” and I was quite sure she was crazy.
Grenya was old, I could tell that much from her graying skin, folded over with wrinkles, and her stooped posture. But other than that I knew surprisingly little about my nursemaid considering she had taken care of me my entire life.
Now I had proof she was crazy. I had just come back from bathing in a spring in another part of the cave when I heard her talking to the wall. The odd thing was, the cave wall didn’t look the same as before. It was darker and it rippled when I looked closer. Nonetheless she was having a conversation with a wall.
“Please let me go. I won’t say a word.” She was on her knees groveling before the shadow wall.
“No. You still have to teach the child to hunt and care for herself.” As amazing as it seemed the wall was speaking. Perhaps I was losing my mind as well.
“No! No! Please.” She was begging and my heart went out to her.
“I am watching you. Do not make me control you. We both know how unpleasant that is.”
“Of course my lord.”
“And stop warning her, you know the punishment.” Grenya cringed.
“Now go back to your duties.”
And the shadow was gone. I stood rooted to the spot trying to process what I had just heard. Grenya got back to her feet and looked at me. She did not speak, merely took my hand and led me to another cave.
Torches dimly lighted this one. All around the walls were different types of swords, bows, maces, axes, knives, and an assortment of other weapons I could not name. Most of the weapons were in bad repair, crusted with rust, blood, and other things I did not want to know about.
Grenya immediately set to work cleaning the weapons and I followed suit. After they were all clean she set up a wooden target at one end of the room. Then she named all the weapons for me and promised we would learn their origins later.
“First you will learn to fight with a sword.” She said as she lifted one down from the rack. It was long and light. She taught me the correct stance first. After she was confident I had learned all of the fighting positions she showed me some simple blocks. I practiced them over and over. Each time she corrected me a bit. After she was sure I knew them she left me alone to practice.
I didn’t. My attention kept wandering to a bow on the rack in front of me. After a while I knew I wouldn’ be able to concentrate on the sword any longer.
I picked up the bow. It was tall, made of pale wood. If I stood it on its tip it was almost as tall as me. There was a qquiver of arrows on the shelf next to it. I picked one up and set it to my bow. Even though I had never held a bow before I felt that this was the correct way to use one. I aimed at the target. I shot and hit the edge. It wasn’t good but it was a start. I kept practicing until Grenya came back.
“I believe I told you to practice with the sword,” she said calmly.
“Yes, well I didn’t. The bow felt better anyway. And look I have improved.” I gesturedtoward the target; a group of arrows was clustered at its center.
“Very well if milady wishes to learn the bow instead of the sword, she may.” I smiled at her.
“Thank you Grenya.”
“Your welcome milady.”
Since then I practiced every day. I moved my target farther away each day until one day it would go no farther. The cave wasn’t long enough. I asked Grenya about this.
“I have a better place for you to practice milady.” She said with a knowing smile.
The next day I came upon one of her talks with the shadow wall.
“My lord she is ready.”
“You are not to run away during your time outside.” That held my attention. I had never been outside the cave, though Grenya had explained it to me many times before. I often pestered her about it.
“Never my lord.”
Bring her to me.” Grenya looked up at me. She had tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry milady,” she sobbed. She dragged me over to the wall. Her grip was strong, like a posessed person’s. The wall loomed up in front of me. And then I remembered a dream from my childhood. The dark shadow reaching for me. And I screamed. Part of the shadow detached itself from the wall and came toward me. I was frozen in my fear. The dark hand reached for me. It hovered above my chest for a moment and then plunged inside. The cold inside me was unbearable. Icy fingers tore at my heart. And then it released its grip.