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Of Swords and Sons


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"So you need a guard for your merchandise? I guess I'm available for that."


The merchant sitting across from Mehrin smiled. "Glad to hear it. To be honest, you're the fifth person with whom I've spoken about this little bit of business, and none of the others would even come close to it." With a small chuckle, he added, "To be even more honest, I didn't think you'd even see me, given who you-"


Mehrin held up his hand. "Don't even go there," he grumbled. "I know who I am; I doubt that there's anybody in Cairhien who doesn't know who I am. That doesn't change the fact that I work my way in this world like anybody else in this tavern."


"Of course. Forgive me."


"There's nothing to forgive. I'm just sick of everybody making me out to be some sort of hero. I did what I had to do, and I still do what I have to do."


"That makes sense," the merchant responded. After a brief moment, he added, "Now, the catch." Mehrin rolled his eyes. Of course there's a catch. There is always a catch. Why do I do this to myself? "Although the main part of your job will be the defense of my caravan, there is a secondary task for which you will be responsible." The merchant stopped to take a deep breath before continuing. "I have a son. Absolutely wonderful boy, means the entire world to me. I admit that I have probably even spoiled him a bit. He wants to be taught how to use a sword." Leaning in conspiratorially, the merchant added, "Too many stories, if you asked me."


With a sigh, Mehrin replied, "I can deal with kids who want to learn how to swing a sword. You need to know, though, that I'm a hard teacher, and your son will be bruised and bleeding at times. Are you willing to see your son like that?"


The merchant looked worried. It was no surprise to Mehrin, though. Most parents felt the same way about anybody treating their child in such a way. The man finally nodded in assent. "I understand. Truth is, I can't imagine it being any worse than what he already does to himself. He's a bit... errr.... clumsy."


Mehrin nodded, "Just so long as you- wait, what?"




Why, oh why do I let myself get dragged into things like this? Mehrin wondered for the fiftieth time since he had risen. The merchant train had assembled, and Mehrin had introduced himself to the three full-time guards. They seemed indifferent to him; Mehrin had the distinct impression that the three had seen their share of hired guards come and go. He hoped that that was not an omen of things to come.


Mehrin stowed his gear on the back of one of the wagons. Stowing his long black leather coat, he donned a short-sleeved chain mail shirt and a black vest. Over this, he slung his belted bandolier and back scabbard. The belt held one heavy belt knife and three smaller ones, his whip, and his flamberge hung from the back scabbard. Atop this, Mehrin wore his wide-brimmed hat.


He was adjusting the straps on the bandolier when he heard the merchant calling. With a deep breath, Mehrin prepared to meet his own personal nightmare student.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Rodan all but bounced next to his dad on the way to meet his legendary warrior. Last night, his dad had told him he would be going with the train to deliver a case of goods to a customer in Kandor. Kandor!! He was going to the Borderlands! Where all the legendary warriors of old were born and they were still fighting Trollocs and other Shadowspawn!


"come along boy, mind your feet." his father called when he tripped for the seventh time over some imaginary pebble on his path. Rodan hurried up to his father side and bumped in to the older man as he had miscalculated the distance. "Mind your manners when we meet Master Marhvon, son. He's not the type to be triffled with and you best not forget it." Rodan looked at his dad whose voice had taken on an edge the boy was unused to. But then he dismissed it and the broad grin that had been plastered on his face since last night returned in an instant. Mehrin Marhvon... The Legend himself! And he, Rodan Steppen, was going to be trained by him! Oh boy, oh boy! He couldn't wait to show the Blademaster his moves. No one had told him that Mehrin was a Blademaster, but to Rodan there was no doubt. He had to be.


They rounded the corner and his father's wagons were standing in row. The usual guards were standing around, attempting to look impressive but Rodan's eyes instantly went to the man who needed no such attempts. His breath caught. It was one thing to hear the stories and imagine how it was like, but quite another to actually see a legend in the flesh. Unaware of his bouncing about, the two approached the man who turned upon his father's call.


"Master Marhvon, may I introduce you to my son, Rodan Steppen. Rodan, this is Master Marhvon who will accompany you on your journey North. You are to obey his commands and follow his lead in all things. Deliver the good to the house of Serian immediately upon your arrival and don't forget to convey my well wishes to the family."


Rodan only heard half of what his father had said, too busy trying to appear mature and failing miserably. It was too much, he couldn't hold on. He grabbed the Blademaster's hand and pumped it up and down, smiling from ear to ear.


"It is so nice to meet you, Blademaster! When will we begin our training? I will not fail you, I promise! Do you have many scars? I bet that hurt! But maybe not for you? I'm sure you never even noticed the wounds, did you? Is it true you slayed five trollocs with your one hand tied behind your back? We will have so much fun!"


Suddenly he felt himself flying through the air and before he could figure out what happend, landed head first in the drinking through of the horses. Spluttering in all directions, he scrambled out of the through.


"Boy, if you're to live through the first day, you better learn to hold your tongue immediately." The voice was soft, silent, yet Rodan shrunk away from it. There was no emotion in that voice. None. He glanced at his father, who stood wringing his hands, worry on his face as clear as the sunlight. Rodan hurriedly stood up, dripping water all over the place and nodded at the same time as he tried to swallow his fear. Bad idea, as it launched him straight in to a coughing fit that left him gasping for air while his face turned a crimson red.


All around him people were laughing at the scene and even a few of the guards from the wagons were snickering.

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Dreyik couldn't help but laugh as the boy flew into the trough. Though normally jovial it had been the first time Dreyik had laughed in a while. It had been a long road from Murandy...from his parents death. From Murandy he traveled to Camelyn where he had served in Mercenary group but their disregard for law and human life meant a bad parting of ways. From there he had joined on as a merchant's guard for his current employer joining along to bring payment back from a shipment that they had brought to Camelyn. It had been a good trek without incident. Now they were heading to Kandor with the merchant's son and this Mehrin. Anyone who knew anything about fighting could tell the man was dangerous but something told Dreyik that the man seemed broken or torn about something. And that this boy was going to try his patience which in itself would be worth the journey.


Dreyik walked over to the boy and helped him reassemble himself. "Well Rodan you should be very impressed with yourself. You just proved to be the first boy who could fly." He said ruffling the boy's hair. "Don't worry," Dreyik said looking back to the Merchant smiling. "your boy is in great hands. Mehrin just thought he was thirsty." "Master Mehrin," Dreyik said walking over to the man arms draped up over his head resting along his bladed quarterstaff before setting into the ground beside him and extending his hand to the man. "My name is Dreyik Zantos, pleasure to meet you. And please my landing in the through would be much less graceful then young Master Rodan's." Dreyik flashed his most sincere smile at the man. Hoping to defuse any tension that there might be.


"Do you have a plan for the route we will take to Kandor my friend?" Dreyik has waiting to gauge the man's reaction.

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Mehrin eyed the guard's hand for a moment before taking it. He was about as tall as Mehrin was, and he held himself like he knew something of how to use the pig-sticker that he was carrying. He still had much to learn, though, if that smile was anything by which to judge. "Glad you could join us," Mehrin said. "I'm not sure of the route that we're taking to Kandor, though I assume it'll be by the main roads. The caravan leader probably knows more about it, though." Glancing back at the boy, Mehrin nodded to the man. "Excuse me, but I must tend to the boy for a moment. We'll talk later."


Rubbing the back of his hand, Mehrin walked to where the boy- Rodan- was apparently trying to cough a trough of water out of his body. It took little effort to keep him on his feet, though he stayed hunched over, trying desperately to catch his breath again. The redness in his face, however, did not come solely from a lack of air. So what if the boy was embarrassed? Within twenty seconds, he had demonstrated the amazing ability to speak rapidly without drawing a breath. Based on what I'm seeing, he does indeed need to breathe, Mehrin thought. "Deep breaths, boy. That water's for the horses, not you," Mehrin grumbled. The few who were close enough to hear Mehrin sniggered, but he ignored them and waited for the boy.


When Rodan was finally breathing with some small degree of normalcy, Mehrin began. Adopting the mannerisms he had used as a drill sergeant, Mehrin said, "Now, boy, there are some issues that you and I must set straight here and now. First of all, I am not a blademaster. I have never stood before a council, nor have I slain a blademaster. I respect the long years that blademasters must train to get that title and goofy-looking sword, though, so I do not assume the title." Mehrin's voice was cold and void of any emotion. It was also quiet; Mehrin found that a soft voice often meant that people would have to strain to hear, which meant that they would be more likely to listen. "Second, I am not here to be a storyteller, though I'm sure that there will be one or two stories told during our time together. However, they will be told on my own time, at my leisure, not by your request." Mehrin paused to let the point settle, then said, "Finally, that little slap is more gentle than I will be with you in our training sessions, if you choose to continue with this farce. From what I've seen of you, you will be going to bed every night so covered in bruises that you will hardly sleep from the pain. You will then be roused early every morning to run or perform some other exhausting task at my discretion, just so we can add new bruises on top of your old ones every night. It will not be pleasant. It will not be fun. You will come to hate the sound of my voice. That is how this will be." Turning back towards the boy's father, he added, "Think about that for a moment."


Leaving Rodan to his deliberations, Mehrin joined Master Steppen. "Was that really necessary, Master Mahrvon? He was just excited to meet you."


Mehrin shrugged. "I wasn't lying when I said that that would be the the most gentle I would be with him on this trip. I didn't expect that to happen so soon, though, and I apologize for doing it in front of you. I know how it feels to stand helpless while somebody does- does something to your child." Laying his hand on the merchant's shoulder, Mehrin added, "What I will do to your son will not be pleasant for him; I warned you of this already. However, what I do will cause him no permanent injury, and I won't treat him as harshly as I would an enlisted soldier." After a moment, Mehrin added, "I also had to establish that I was not at his beck and call. Do you understand?"


The merchant still looked upset, but he nodded. "Just be careful with Rodan, please. He's more precious to me than anything else in this world."


Mehrin nodded. "I will."


With that, Mehrin returned to loom over the boy. "So, boy, you've heard my terms. What say you?" Rodan looked around Mehrin at his father. Mehrin leaned into the boy's face and growled, "This is not your father's decision to make. You're, what, fifteen? It's time for you to make some choices for yourself. Do you want this, and all it entails?"


The boy looked back at Mehrin nervously, as if he was about to bolt. Finally, though, he nodded.


Mehrin grinned, causing the scar across his left eye to pull rather hideously. "Good. Now, there's a bag of rocks on one of the carts that has your name all over it..."





The merchant train driven off to the side of the road, where they ringed the wagons and prepared a fire for the night. A few of the drivers found instruments, and a general atmosphere of relaxation began to permeate the camp. Mehrin found Rodan leaning against one of the wagon wheels, looking absolutely miserable. Mehrin had made him carry a sack of stones all day, and occasionally he sent the boy running laps around the moving caravan. He had eventually collapsed from exhaustion, which was when Mehrin finally had mercy on the boy. "Mercy" in Mehrin's mind meant being thrown bodily onto the back of a wagon. Mehrin stood over the boy for a moment, looking at him. His eyes were closed, as if to shut out the world, and his arms and legs were trembling. After tripping over his own feet several times and falling with the sack of stones on his back, it was no wonder that he was in such a state.


It would be an absolute bastard who would make this boy work any more today, Mehrin thought as he examined the bucket of water that he had just retrieved from a nearby stream...


After a couple minutes of sputtering gasping, Mehrin and the now-dripping Rodan left the circle of wagons. Once they were clear, Mehrin tossed the boy a wooden sword, much like the cross-shaped swords that the merchant guards carried. With all the grace Mehrin expected from the boy, it bounced off his forehead, then dropped to the ground. "Pick it up," Mehrin growled. As the boy complied, Mehrin turned away and shed his vest and chainmail shirt, exposing a torso that was nearly as much scar tissue as it was regular skin. As he shed the layers, Mehrin continued speaking. "Today, I have probably caused you more physical anguish than you've ever experienced in your life. Now is your chance to get back at me." Turning around, Mehrin hefted a wooden sword similar to the one that Rodan held. "I won't hit you, but you'd better do your damnedest to hit me, boy." Setting himself in a comfortable, almost leisurely position, Mehrin waved towards the boy and said, "Whenever you're ready."

Edited by Quibby
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Rodan stood there, dripping water and lost as to what to do while all around him the people were chuckling and some laughing out loud without even trying to disguise their myrth. One of the Guards his father had employed on his last trip to Caemlyn came over to help straighten the kid and his friendly and good natured approach brought a cheeky grin back to Rodan's face. It quickly dissapeared again as the warrior stepped up, but he only gave him instructions on how to breath. The red on his face deepened again as sniggers went up at Merhin's words again, but Rodan could not take his eyes off the man.


Not a Blademaster? Rodan didn't believe it, but for once showed sense enough to keep his mouth shut. A flicker had past over the man's face and Rodan hadn't missed it. Was that pain? Yes, yes it was. There was something more going on here than simple humbleness. Instantly the young man's heart went out to the old veteran, but again and quite uncharacteristic of him, he kept his mouth shut. Then the man's words came through and he gulped, almost sending himself in to another stupper. This didn't sound like it was going to be much fun at all. Surely the man was exaggerating. His spirit lifted slightly. Yeah, that must be it. He's putting on a harsher front for the benefit of the crowd. Rodan knew men did that sometimes. After all, a man's image and reputation were as much a part of his warrior identity as his actual skills with a blade. So he nodded at the right time and tried to look suitably abashed but couldn't stop a slight smile to seep through as Mehrin went to talk to his father.


When Mehrin returned and asked if he still wanted this, Rodan took a moment to still his enthusiasm and nodded. Next thing he knew, he was stumbling alongside the wagons, with a bag of rocks on his back. What was the use of wagons if he had to carry these things? His face took a real beating that day, as it came in close contact with the floor more on that one day than it ever had in his life. And that was saying something. For Rodan, bless his heart, had a talent for falling, tripping, stumbling and hopping more than he had for walking.


By the time they stopped he was utterly exhausted. All thought of smiles and laughter and grand futures were gone from his mind and he readily welcomed the dark embrace of unconciousness as his body collapsed where it stood. He didn't even notice that he was thrown on one of the carts. Pain in every muscle, along in quite a few he didn't even know he had, welcomed him when he opened his eyes and Mehrin stood over him. The man's face was a chisled rock. But Rodan saw that same pain in the eyes that he had seen before. That is, after he was done with yet another coughing fit, this time from being wakened by a stream of ice cold water.


His spirit lifted rapidly when it dawned on him that he was going to train with the sword. Rubbing quickly on the spot the wooden sword had met his forehead, he picked it up and assumed, what he called, the Warrior Stance. Which meant that he stood there, legs far too wide spread, elbows locked in a ridiculous angle and sword pointing straight forward. Well, straight was perhaps not the right term. The day of carrying stones and running circles had turned the boy's muscles to jelly. So the sword was swaying every which way but straight. Up and down, left and right, the thing just wouldn't stay put!


"Now is your chance to get back at me", the rumbling voice of Mehrin said. "You better do your dambedest to hit me, boy."


With his most ferocious Warcry, Rodan launched himself at the man, lifting his sword high in to the air, which caused his disobedient arm to overreach and him lose his balance as his feet were moving forward and his upper body was trying to back away. The result was that he landed, quite hard, on his back. Scrambling up before the man could say a word, he jabbed the sword forward, hoping to hit something.

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Dreyik couldn't help but laugh though not where the boy could hear it. That boy had two left feet...and maybe two left hands as well. He had the balance of a Trollic on a high rope. From the look of things Mehrin was obviously gauging what the boy had learned so far, which by the looks of things was nothing at all. But the kid had determination and a good teacher. The first thing the kid would need to do though was learn how to balance. "Set your feet before your strike." Dreyik mentioned quietly as he walked by the boy. And sat by the fire. He sat down and began to sharpen the blades on the ends of his quarterstaff. Watching intently both the boy and Mehrin. That man knew what he was doing even though Dreyik could tell the other guards just thought he was tormenting the boy.


"Perhaps if we have the time Master Mehrin you could show me a move or two. I've always admired swordsmanship though I haven't quite be able to pick it up myself." Dreyik said casually. "I'd hate to not be sharp if we are attacked along the road to Kandor." Dreyik could see the boys light up briefly though exhaustion was taking its toll. Dreyik just shook his head as he could tell that the excitement was to see Master Mehrin in action but then again so was Dreyik. Dreyik remembered something that his father had told him. "Always learn from better fighters if you yourself want to become better." Dreyik had always believed that his father was one of if not the best he had every seen....Dreyik thought Mehrin may put that assumption to the test.


Dreyik hauled out his lute and began playing quietly. The lute always relaxed him as his father used to play for him for timing while he was training. But Dreyik always played his mother's favorite song. It reminded it of her and of better days...Hopefully Dreyik thought there will be better days ahead.

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Rodan's attack proved to be painful to watch. The boy really knew nothing of combat; given his time around merchants and their guards, Mehrin expected something more than the botched swing and the feeble thrust that followed.


All of this occurred to Mehrin after he disarmed the boy with a quick flick of his practice sword.


Grounding the tip of the blade, Mehrin stood quiet for a moment, watching the riot of emotions on the boy's face. Then he said, "That was bad. I won't mince words. You obviously don't know the first thing about fighting: your stance is wrong, your coordination is non-existent, you move like you're swatting madly at flies, wild and uncontrolled." Again, Mehrin paused, watching the boy as he took the criticism. Don't dishearten him, man! He is trying. Let him learn something, then let him decide if he's cut out for this. Mehrin silenced the voice with a quick shake of his head, then he stepped close to the boy. Using the sword as a lever, he began adjusting Rodan's stance until he stood square, his feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Then, lowering his voice to a whisper, he added, "Don't set out to impress me, boy. I know your capabilities and limitations, and I will do my best to correct them to some extent during our time together. You will be mocked, and I will say exactly what I think. Take my words in the spirit that they're meant, and you will probably only hate me instead of loathing me."


Stepping away, Mehrin said out loud, "Concentrate on how your body feels right now. Feel how your weight settles through your whole body. Remember it. If I'm going to teach you how to swing a sword without cutting off your own head, I'll first have to teach you how to stand, then how to walk." Without looking, Mehrin gestured towards Dreyik, beckoning him to join him. The lute music cut away, and Mehrin heard the man rising. "Bring that quarterstaff of yours. We're going to give the boy a demonstration." To Rodan, Mehrin said, "You are not to move from this position. Make sure to shift your feet occasionally so you don't pass out."


A few quick strides took Mehrin back towards the wagons where he had left his shirt and weapons. When he returned, he was carrying his flamberge. The weapon was an intimidating sight: from point to pommel it nearly rose to Mehrin's shoulders, with a curved crossbar and a vicious crescent moon-shaped pair of spikes just below a long, wavy blade. "You don't wish to be rusty, should trouble arise? We can see to that." Mehrin stretched his arms above his head and added, "If nothing else, you may pick up some things, too. Boy, I want you to watch carefully what we do. Observe how we move our feet and shift our balance. This is probably going to be far beyond what you can do, but it will give you an image." The words were addressed to Rodan, but Mehrin's brown eyes never left Dreyik's face. Mehrin gave the flamberge a lazy spin, letting it come to rest on his shoulder.


"Dreyik, I have to see exactly what you can do, so don't hold back. Your one standing order for this duel: kill me. I have some experience with a quarterstaff. I'll be able to see what you're doing, and I'll be able to give you some advice." With a feral grin, Mehrin added, "And I'm serious about killing me."


It had been a long time since Mehrin had faced a man who could even come close to him. Likely, it would have to be somebody Tower-trained. The thoughts did not come arrogantly, but as fact. Not since Amon Turamber, the Undercommander of the Band, had he been challenged in a straight-up fight. His desire for the other man to try to kill him was genuine, though he expected that he would not do so. Any way it went, Mehrin would gain valuable insight into the man's abilities.


Still grinning, Mehrin began to circle the clearing. "Whenever you're ready."

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Dreyik set the lute down and met the man's stare. Mehrin's eyes burned with intensity. Carefully setting the lute back in its case Dreyik stood up and removed his shirt. "Your one standing order for this duel: kill me." Well Dreyik thought there's no chance of that happening but hopefully he won't be disappointed. Stabbing the Bladed Quarterstaff in the ground Dreyik reached down and grabbed some dirt and rubbed it in his hands. They were sweating...not with fear but intispation. Mehrin's weapon was imposing and a like size to Dreyik's own. The grin and Mehrin's face was a little unsettling but Dreyik matched with own of his own though his were never meant for the same purpose. Dreyik spared a galnce over to Rodan and he was itching with excitemnt and exhaustion. he was going to get to see Mehrin in action for the first time...


Mehrin hadn't moved and stood ready. Dreyik stood up and pulled his weapon from the ground. Dreyik asumed his stance and nodded to Mehrin that he was ready. And in the blink of an eye launched into his attack, faking a verticl strike Dreyik then reveresed and tried a sweep to knock Mehrin over but his flamberge was there to meet the strike and Mehrin extended a kick into Dreyik's gut knocking him backwards. Dreyik allowed the momenteum to take him over and turned it into a roll and sprang back to his feet. And began a straightfoward series of attacks. It felt good to engage in sparring with someone except that Dreyik had never fought against anybody this good. The 2 weapons smashed together as both men began to work into a rythem. Though Dreyik was no longer on the offensive but the defensive. It was taking everything to try to keep Mehrin's weapon from hitting him. It seemed like hours but in reality and only been a few minutes and Dreyik knew that Mehrin was holding back, gauging him...seeing his worth.



Dreyik knew he had to try something as Mehrin's strike knocked Dreyik's weapon up and sweeping around caught him in the back knocking the wind out of him. Again Dreyik allowed the momentum to carry and he rolled and instead this time he butted his Quartstaff into the ground and pushed off of it using his body as a weapon and landed a kick off of Mehrin's face that probably would have knocked a normal man half sensleless. But Mehrin's smile just widened and Dreyik knew things were about to go very badly for him...

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Mehrin saw the kick coming, and it took an effort of will to avoid sidestepping the attack. There was no point in destroying the self-esteem of the other man. Truth be told, it was taking a lot of Mehrin's concentration to avoid exploiting the holes in Dreyik's defenses in a quick and permanent manner. The blow landed, and it hurt, but Mehrin forced himself to grin despite the pain. Then, whirling the massive flamberge like it was coming to life, Mehrin advanced.


"Now, Rodan, I want you to pay attention to what's happening," Mehrin said calmly, his voice oddly still and clear for a man whirling several pounds of steel in his hands. The blurring steel suddenly swept up in a heavy blow that caused Dreyik to stagger briefly. As Mehrin knew he would, Dreyik recovered almost instantly. "See how his stance and sense of balance allows him to recover from such an unbalancing strike? It is part of why stance is so important." Mehrin attacked again, a quick flurry that forced Dreyik into a whirling defense. Shifting his hands on the weapon, Mehrin turned the flamberge and hooked the haft of Dreyik's quarterstaff, giving it a good tug. The man held gamely to his weapon. "Again, his footwork is paying off. A less experienced man would be on the ground right about now." Fighting the urge to plunge the vicious spike on the pommel of his flamberge into Dreyik's face, Mehrin disengaged and shifted away, circling around the other man.


"Footwork and balance are key to any weapon that you can use, Rodan. However, there are other factors that can play into combat." Dreyik chose that moment to attack, striking at Mehrin with a quick downward slash. Mehrin casually brought the blade of his sword up to intercept the strike, watching as the blade gradually slowed as it bounced between the waves on the flamberge. Mehrin smiled, then punched Dreyik in the face across the crossed weapons. "Always have a trick left to play. There is no such thing as honor in a real fight."


Mehrin stepped away, giving Dreyik a moment to collect himself, then advanced again when Dreyik looked ready. With a grin, Mehrin commenced the attack with a horizontal strike into an angled slash into a forward thrust. Dreyik dodged to Mehrin's left, striking back with the bladed staff. Snapping the flamberge vertical, Mehrin pivoted on his heel, catching the strike against his blade, then driving his elbow in between Dreyik's shoulders. Dreyik staggered, then turned the momentum into another kick. Mehrin caught his foot and said, "Tricks rarely work in combat twice, Rodan." Letting his foot drop back to the ground, Mehrin swung his blade in a figure-eight pattern, then set himself in a ready stance. He was not sweating yet.

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OOC" Fighting the urge to plunge the vicious spike on the pommel of his flamberge into Dreyik's face...YES!!! AWESOME!!!



Spitting the blood out from his mouth Dreyik started circling Mehrin...Light Illuminate me he was good and not fighting at his fullest. Dreyik knew that he was not going to get the better of this tilt but that wouldn't stop him from trying. As in all fights you had to use your strengths to your advantage and not play against your opponents. Mehrin had the strength, skill and experience advantages without doubt. Dreyik knew he had to use his speed and agility and go against the fact that Mehrin was always at least 2 steps ahead of him. Dreyik fainted left with a low strike which Mehrin easily blocked, then reversing his grip on the staff Dreyik pivoted around and brought his blade up trying to knock Mehrin's blade up and following through with a kick to his mid section. Mehrin had anticipated his move and arched his blade and moved to the side and hit Dreyik's ribs with the flat of his weapon as his kick glanced harmlessly off the side of him. As Dreyik winced he rolled back and nipped up to his feet. He then launched into an all out attack no matter what he did. Arching, sweeping straight or feint Mehrin had the answer. Dreyik had taken some solid hits and knew he'd be sore tomorrow but still that didn't deter him.


Mehrin was explaining the fight to the boy and still fending Dreyik off. He didn't even appear to be sweating though the sweat was starting to pore down Dreyik though he wasn't tired. He had been on the battlefield before and had trained with some very good fighters but none at Mehrin's level. Dreyik knew he could learn things and as they engaged he made sure that he wasn't making the same mistakes. Trying to shore up openings Mehrin had hit before or not to try things that weren't working a second time. Their weapons clashed...the only other sound was Mehrin talking to the boy. The rest of the group were just watching. Dreyik tried to attack at a relentless pace mixing up attacks, trying feints even using some jumps and spins but Mehrin's weapon and he were one. Dreyik launched into another attack lunging forward then at the last second planting his blade between Mehrins feet for a trip and rolling foward to use it as a trip though the move did knock Mehrin slightly off balance the flat of Mehrin's weapon hit him squarely on the back knocking him to the ground.


After a quick moment Dreyik got up as Mehrin stepped back and again took his stance. "Perhaps I should be listening as to you along with Rodan Master Mehrin." Dreyik said smiling "nothing short of you having a heart attack is going to work for me." Dreyik smiled and grabbed some more dirt the ground and rubbed his hands together. He planted his feet and waited. "Are you ready for your beating to continue Master Mehrin?" Dreyik said playfully. But that grin on Mehrin's face removed the humor from Dreyik's words....that and the fact Dreyik and landed one hit while his own body bore many...

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"Actually," Mehrin said, grounding the tip of his blade and leaning on the cross guard, "I was going to give you a break. You're obviously not green, otherwise this would have ended very poorly for you." Allowing a touch of lightness to enter his voice, Mehrin continued, "You fight very well, and I think you would be an asset to any army that would accept you. I think I can give you a few tips to help you overall, though." Returning his gaze back to Rodan, Mehrin said, "Now, I hope you were paying attention to what was happening, and not just watching the two idiots with sharp objects trying to kill each other."


Donning his shirt and carrying his flamberge, Mehrin returned to the main fire, where a basic meal of dried meat, cheese, and hard biscuits was being passed out. He accepted a helping of the meal- I really hope that this isn't the best chow that we're going to get on this bloody hike- and found himself a comfortable place to sit. Mehrin laid the flamberge across his lap and examined the blade while he ate. The edge had held well, and was possibly sharp enough to cut the meat that Mehrin was attempting to chew, with little success. "Did I die and go back to an army?" he asked himself quietly.


Motion. Instinctively, Mehrin glanced up as Rodan and Dreyik returned to the rest of the group. Muscles that had never been consciously triggered relaxed. Not a threat. He waved them over to join him, then returned his attention to the meal. He was not sure, but there was a distinct possibility that he had fractured one of his teeth while trying to bite into his biscuit.

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Rodan had stood the entire time on the spot Mehrin had put him on and while his body swayed from side to side with exhaustion, he couldn't keep his eyes off the two men in action. Every word Mehrin said embedded itself in to his skull and he could hear them reverberate as though an inner voice was repeating them over and over. Paying close attention to Dreyik's feet, as Mehrin instructed, the boy gained a new respect for the merchant guard. Sure, the man was no match to Mehrin, but he did manage to hit him a few times! That was pretty darn impressive in Rodan's view. The movements were really fast in the boy's eyes, so it took him all he could do to keep up. No one was laughing, smirking or even grinning anymore, as the other guards were standing around the two men, watching.


Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, as instructed, Rodan nodded as Mehrin explained the importance of balance and stance. He could see how Dreyik twisted and shifted his feet, independantly from each other, and how that prevented him from being knocked over. The ground was littered with pebles, twigs and small rocks, which so easily trip Rodan on an average day just during walking. His heart sank as the realisation of how little he actually knew started to dawn on him. But Mehrin's voice was there again and his spirits lifted again. The man was still teaching him, so perhaps that meant he wasn't a complete lost cause after all. Surely he wouldn't take the time for this if he thought Rodan didn't have any potential?


The good hearted boy cried out almost when Mehrin hit Dreyik's face in what seemed to be a very foul move. Where was the honor in that?! Legendary Warriors were honorable men! That was low! But then, just as though the man had read his mind, Mehrin spoke about there being no honor in fighting. Rodan found that hard to believe, but wisely kept his mouth shut. He didn't even realise he had cast an agry look at the warrior but he started to cheer for Dreyik more and more as the man kept his ground. It was no use, however, there seemed to be no besting this stranger. Rodan's heart went out to Dreyik, but he felt better when he saw the man, bloody face and all, smile and extend a hand to Mehrin. Maybe he wasn't hurt too badly.


As Mehrin put an end to the fight and moved towards the cooking area to get something to eat, Rodan quickly went to Dreyik to see if he was really ok. The man smiled and slapped the boy on the shoulder telling him he had gotten hurt more during training by his own father and that Mehrin had held back quite a bit. Rodan found that hard to believe, looking at the man, but Dreyik had now earned a place in the boy's heart and respect. So he wasn't about to question him. Dreyik checked his quarterstaff and went to one of the closeby wagons to use the water in one of the barrels to clean his face and hands a little and Rodan didn't leave his side.


"You managed to hit him a few times, Dreyik! That was so brilliant of you!" Rodan's voice was full of admiration and loyalty, "That kick he did was really low, though. I didn't know warriors used such dishonorable tactics. You never hear about that in the stories." As they approached the eating area, they intended to take their meal away from the warrior, thinking that he would want to be alone, but he motioned them forward. Rodan, still overwhelmed by his newfound respect and admiration for Dreyik felt a bit torn in the middle. At the one hand you had this incredible warrior, willing to teach him, a simple merchant's son, how to fight. And on the other hand you had his father's merchant guard, who had stood his ground and received a rather dirty treatment, as the boy saw it, from this man he so readily idolised.


But Dreyik smiled and nodded respectfully to Mehrin and pushed Rodan ahead of him to join the man at his dinner. Well, what passed for dinner to the guards. Rodan eyed Mehrin but didn't speak. He was still upset over how he treated poor Dreyik, no matter if the latter himself had no issues with it at all.

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As Dreyik washed the blood and dirt from himself he smiled to himself. Rodan was upset at the punches and kicks thrown during his and Mehrin's sparring. But hopefully he had listened to Mehrin. That man knew fighting and without doubt killing like very few others Dreyik had known. Mehrin would make a fighter of the boy he knew it. Throwing his shirt on he watched as Rodan came over to him, "You managed to hit him a few times, Dreyik! That was so brilliant of you!" "That kick he did was really low, though. I didn't know warriors used such dishonorable tactics. You never hear about that in the stories.". Dreyik could help but like the boy. He was so enthusiastic full of life and youthful thinking. "You will learn much from Master Mehrin, Rodan, we both will. But remember one thing in an actual fight my boy your opponents are trying to kill you...you must be ready for anything and to do anything." Now you look famished and so am I" Dreyik said playfully pushing the boy ahead of him after Mehrin's waved them over to eat with them. The meal was horrible but Dreyik was used to such meals though he was sure the biscuits capable of passing as rocks.


Sitting down eating his meal he looked over at Rodan and could see the exhaustion in his eyes but he was trying to hide it. "Hopefully Master Rodan you realized the importance of Master Mehrin's lesson on footwork and balance cause without mastering those traits a fighter's life is a short thing." Glancing up at Mehrin he said "That's a very impressive weapon Master Mehrin, are you versed with most weapons?" Dreyik knew the man was or had been Military but Dreyik was one to respects one's privacy and anything Mehrin wanted to share he would when and if he wanted to. Dreyik was starting to like the man. He could tell he was in a wounded soul but he showed the boy affection in his own way. And he didn't strike Dreyik as the type of person that was in this just for the money. Dreyik picked up his lute and he started playing it quietly waiting to see where the answers to his questions would lead them, if anywhere. For the first time in awhile Dreyik felt comfortable...and keeping his memories of his past away with more then a smile.

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Mehrin shifted to make more room for Drayik, when he joined him. When they were seated comfortably enough, Mehrin began to work the leather with a rag and some tallow. The oil from the fat kept the leather from cracking or becoming brittle. It would take quite a bit of punishment to cause it any real damage. Being used to solitude, it took Mehrin a moment to realize that Drayik was addressing him. "That's a very impressive weapon Master Mehrin, are you versed with most weapons?" The question asked, Drayik resumed playing his lute.


Mehrin shrugged and replied, "I've used a fair few, though I wouldn't say that I'm well-versed in any of them. I can use a club, but only because I had to learn in order to learn my own weapon. Same with the battleaxe, the quarterstaff, the lance, and the broadsword." Mehrin smiled in recollection. "Back in the Band, I used to spar with people using those weapons so that I could get a feel for how they worked. Usually resulted in me being bruised and battered by the end of a session, but they taught me several valuable things about using my own." Mehrin lifted the flamberge and watched the flames dance in the reflective blade. "They also taught me limitations that other weapons have. Means I know what kind of counters and attacks work best against several weapons."


Pausing for a moment, Mehrin let his thoughts drift alongside the flickering flames. When he spoke again, he was a bit quieter. "This blade is relatively new to me, though it moves and dances like my last sword. Close to ten years I had that sword, and we knew each other well." Smiling, Mehrin set the flamberge across his knees again. "This one was made for me, though, and we know it."


During the course of the conversation, Mehrin had noticed that something was wrong. Rodan had taken to brooding, for some reason. He was avoiding meeting Mehrin's eyes. It was... well, weird. Based on what Mehrin had seen from the boy, there should have been no break between questions. Instead, he was sitting quietly. He could have been mistaken, but Mehrin thought that he detected a note of sullenness in the boy.


Mehrin hated sullenness. Sure, you do. Next thing, you'll be saying how it is wrong to be alone all the time. Damn brain, always getting in the way.


Clearing his throat, Mehrin said, "Okay, now here's the deal. I'm going to ask each of you a question. First to answer gets the pleasure of being the first to answer." Glancing at the boy briefly, Mehrin turned his attention fully on Drayik. "Where did you get that weapon? I've seen one before, but I thought that it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing." The question asked, Mehrin turned back to Rodan. "As for you... What is the problem?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Where did you get that weapon? I've seen one before, but I thought that it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing." Asked Mehrin Dreyik paused before answering, his thoughts drifting back to his childhood training and one of the few memories of his grandfather and his quarterstaff. The memories of his grandfather were painful like those of his parents. All of which had died in service to their King...Dreyik would be the first of his line in 5 generations that wouldn't. His throat suddenly becoming dry as he responded.


"My grandfather was master of the quarterstaff he began showing me it was I was but a child. My father disagreed saying he wanted me to use the sword. But the staff felt right to me. My grandfather was killed in battle when I was 10. He was up against 3 men and had felled them all so he thought but one of the men he thought he had killed wasn't quite dead...I guess the man and rocks on his head and stabbed my grandfather in the back." Dreyik took a breath. "When my father had come back from the battle he told me the story and asked for my staff. About a week later he came back with it and the staff had 2 blades on its ends. He said the staff is your weapon but make sure it always does the job its intended to when in combat."


Dreyik was lost in thought for a moment before smiling. "So after that I began training with the bladed quarterstaff. My father was a very practical man. Always finding solutions to mistakes or problems I guess. Hopefully along our trip here me and Master Rodan," Dreyik said putting his arm around the boy "Will continue to learn from you so we can do the same, Master Mehrin." Looking at Rodan he smiled again and said. "The most important thing you need to remember Master Rodan is that in real combat the only thing that matters is staying alive and defending what's right...no matter how that's achieved." He hoped that that would soothe Rodan's notion of honorable combat...he needed to know that it wouldn't matter if he was dead or failed to help his cause or comrades.

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The boy remained sullen through the entirety of Mehrin's and Drayik's conversation. It was strange to hear the boy go so silent, especially with two fighters holding such a conversation in his presence. What is troubling him? I can't help if he won't talk to me, Mehrin thought. Why do you care? another part of Mehrin's consciousness asked. He is a starstruck fool who will probably never amount to anything. You're just going to get him killed. Mehrin sighed. Sometimes, he wondered if he was actually losing his mind, or whether his thoughts were merely presented to him in such an argumentative style. It never bothered him, but it sometimes seemed odd. After a few more minutes of conversation, Mehrin bid Drayik and Rodan good evening. He had drawn first watch.




There were men and women screaming and shouting. Mehrin found himself in the middle of a battlefield, fire raining down from the sky around him. Men and women were fighting and dying all around him. Cutting through all of the sound, though, was the sound of a child screaming: "DADDY! HELP!"


It did not seem like he had moved, but Mehrin found himself in the middle of a copse of trees, turning in slow circles. This was the direction from where he had heard the- Motion. Swift as thought, Mehrin found his sword in his hand. There was a sense of familiarity to the weapon. Once more, Mehrin was able to admire the claymore that had been given to him so long ago by a master of the craft. It had served him well for years. Mehrin could feel the sting of tears in the corners of his eyes as he examined the mark of Orin Malon on the blade.


Motion. Mehrin immediately set off in pursuit.


Pursuit was nothing less than a nightmare. Racing through the forest, Mehrin passed scene after scene of his most painful memories. Here was the battle at Bandar Eban. Friends had died, and they paraded past him, each giving him a sullen look. Kuro Ketsukei came last. "You should be here with us," she hissed hatefully.


Then there came the Trollocs. In the midst of them, a woman screamed in agony. "Mehrin! You do be responsible for this!" A break in the wall of twisted forms revealed honey-haired Anya, run through with a spit and being turned slowly over a fire. "No, Anya! It wasn't-" The vision faded, leaving Mehrin with the image of a pair of hard, unforgiving blue eyes.




A cold voice came from behind him. "Yes, 'daddy.' And like an idiot, you ran off to find her, and damn the consequences." A slender woman strode through the forest and confronted Mehrin angrily. Drea. "You were willing to surrender everything for that girl. You left the Band in shambles. You let my family, the only people I had left in the world, be murdered before my eyes! And me!" Drea raised her arms. From wrist to elbow they were cut. "Look what you left for me!"


Mehrin fell to his knees, sobbing painfully. "No, love! I never... I didn't... No!"


A small hand rested on his shoulder. "Daddy? Why are you crying?"


Mehrin smiled and reached to take his daughter's hand. "Renalie! I've been searching so-" Under his touch, his daughter's hand crumbled away to nothing. Mehrin turned in shock, then started back in revulsion. It was Renalie as he had last seen her, but with a year of decay upon her. What was left of his little girl was a shambling corpse. It was too much. In despair and horror, Mehrin screamed.


In the trees, just before Mehrin blacked out, he heard laughter. "I win."


Mehrin started awake with a shout, disturbing the sleep of several merchants and guards around him. It was early morning, about two hours before sunup. With muttered apologies, Mehrin took his whip and flamberge and returned to the clearing that they had used the night before. Striking flint to steel, Mehrin started a small fire, then began his daily dance. The flamberge began to dance in Mehrin's hands, moving in circles and wide arcs, with Mehrin controlling the powerful momentum of the weapon. Such work was relaxing, and it was soingrained in Mehrin that he did not feel right if he had not gone through his morning exercises. This would take the better part of the two hours before dawn. Letting go of thought- In Mehrin's mind, a faint echoing "Daddy!"- Mehrin threw himself into the exercise.


OOC: We'll work in some training before the caravan takes off, then move to the second night pretty quickly.

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Dreyik had been startled by Mehrin's scream. It had been Dreyik's watch. He watched as Mehrin got up. The man had been tossing and turning in his sleep. The man had nightmares...most warriors who had taken life, seen the horrors of the battlefield did, but this was different the way the man acted, spoke, his mannerisms. He had had a troubled past and unless Dreyik missed his guess the man lost something dear to him. Dreyik understood the pain of loss, of how hard it was to cope...the anger, blame, grief, depression guilt. A tumult of emotions that threatened to overwhelm you and to destroy the very fabric of your being. Everyone deals with it in different ways. Some people go insane, some hide in a bottle for the rest of their days, some can cope and some need to find something to fill the void or to find forgiveness or vengeance. To each their own but it pained Dreyik to see others hurting and Mehrin didn't strike him as the type that would talk about it.


Dreyik was about to wake the next guard for his turn but he hesitated. He watched as Mehrin started a fire and began going through his motions. He watched the warrior. Watched how he pivoted his feet while in an attack sequence, watched how fluidly he switched the grip of his weapon between attack and defense. The man was a weapon and Dreyik knew he could learn a lot from him.


Dreyik waited for about an hour then walked over the Mehrin. He was in a zone going through the motions of his routine. Dreyik began to loosen himself up a bit and walked around to approach Mehrin's line of sight. "Good morning Master Mehrin. Dreyik was going to say something but decided not too, I had trouble sleeping those biscuits are tearing through my stomach and I fear for when they pass through it`. I was wondering if I could entice you into a bit of sparring I`d love to pick up some more pointers if you don`t mind.`


Perhaps Dreyik thought some sparring would help the man clear his mind.

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Working the flamberge had the effect of calming Mehrin.. The few Warders that he had met referred to something called the Flame and the Void, or the Oneness, or one of many other names for the same thing. From what he gathered, it was a calmness that was completely void of emotion or anything except distant, disconnected thought. Mehrin had tried it once, long ago, and it had its uses... if one was a blademaster. Mehrin had tried it, and he could not function within the Void. Mehrin used emotion as the force that drove his actions, that sharpened his senses to the point that he had once been accused of predicting the future.


Mehrin became aware of Drayik the second that he had moved within his sensory range, and he had dismissed him just as quickly. Continuing his dance, Mehrin concentrated on driving himself harder than he usually did. The air began to steadily hum as the flamberge completed arc after arc, and Mehrin began to move to the music of the flamberge. Feeding his dance with the eternal pain that had become his entire existence, Mehrin fought the air, fought enemies long gone, fought the pain that drove his every motion.


"Good morning, Master Mehrin." The voice brought Mehrin back to reality, where he began to recognize the little things that he didn't notice in the midst of his training. His muscles hurt, his breathing ragged, and he was soaked in sweat. Without a thought, he completed another circuit with the flamberge, then drove the blade into the ground and leaned against the crossguard. "I had trouble sleeping; those biscuits are tearing through my stomach and I fear for when they pass through it. I was wondering if I could entice you into a bit of sparring I`d love to pick up some more pointers if you don`t mind."


It took Mehrin a moment to fully recognize what Drayik had said; his mind was still a bit muddled with unbridled emotion. When his head cleared, Mehrin simply nodded. As Drayik positioned himself to begin, Mehrin continued to lean against his flamberge. The man had a desire to learn, which was a good thing. Mehrin would not begrudge anybody the opportunity to better themselves- Apparently, this also includes boys who can barely stand on their own, he thought- and the man showed signs that he would become a force to be reckoned with, if he received the proper training.


Drayik was looking at Mehrin, probably waiting for him to set himself for the spar. Mehrin nodded at the man, encouraging him to begin. After a moment's hesitation, Drayik began circling Mehrin, who continued to stand his ground. If Mehrin had read the man correctly, he knew that Drayik would not begin to attack until Mehrin did; after last night's spar, he probably expected some sort of trick from Mehrin. He sighed. Too bad, really. He had planned to simply disarm him if he had attacked.


Pulling the flamberge out of the ground, Mehrin circled with Drayik for a moment, examining his actions. He was decent, moving well enough that there were few openings to exploit there. Then I'll test his limits with the weapon, Mehrin thought. Immediately, Mehrin closed the distance between himself and Drayik, his flamberge battering at the other man's defenses. Hopefully an opening would appear that Mehrin could teach the man to close.

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For a man Mehrin's size and a weapon nearly the same he moved very fast. It was all Dreyik could do to try and keep the weapon from touching him. The ringing sound of the weapons clashing was a soothing rhythm in Dreyik's head. It was all defensive and after what seemed like forever though in reality it had only been a few minutes sweat was rolling down Dreyik's head and back. His muscles tensing with every clash. Mehrin began pushing just a little harder and when Dreyik tried a feint Mehrin knocked the Quarterstaff up and using the flat of the blade struck Dreyik in the ribs knocking the wind from him momentarily.


"Again." Mehrin said "And this time don't overextend your strikes when facing someone better or whose weapon is of a near size."


Dreyik nodded to the man. He was very skilled and a man of few words but Dreyik knew that Mehrin knew what he was talking about. And again set his feet. Mehrin motioned for him to begin. Dreyik slowly approached and at the last second spun, pivoting on his right foot bringing the blade whipping around at a blurring speed but Mehrin reversed his grip and spun the other way sweeping Dreyik's feet from under him as the bladed quarterstaff swung harmlessly over his head as Dreyik was falling he planted his staff into the ground and manged to flip back keeping his feet in a most impressive move but as soon as he landed Mehrin's blade was at his neck.


"It's easier to recover if you go with the momentum instead of against it." Mehrin simply stated. "Again."


And on it went back and forth. Mehrin still not going at his fullest, was still increasing his tempo. Every time Mehrin's blade, foot. fist hit Mehrin he pointed out the mistake and told Dreyik to go again. Both men had lost track of time and the sweat was pouring from them. Dreyik was learning alot and only twice and never a third time did Dreyik make the same mistake or left the same opening.


Unbeknownst to both men Rodan and the others were watching them intently. As they stopped again after Mehrin and caught Dreyik's staff and hit him with an elbow one of the guards sung out that breakfast was ready. Smiling Dreyik nodded to the man and thanked Mehrin. He walked over to grab some water to wash himself up. He threw his shirt on and headed over to grab a bite.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Rodan sat down as far from Mehrin as possible and nodded curtly when Dreyik said he hoped the boy had listened carefully to the warrior's instructions. His mind was troubled though. The physical hardship he'd endured so far would not have tempered his enthusiasm in the slightest, but seeing the dishonorable manner in which Mehrin had fought truly upset the boy despite Dreyik's attempted explanations. All of the stories said heros were honorable to a fault. In the most difficult, tough and desperate situations, their honor was plain to see for all even on to death. When his dad had told him who he would be travelling with, Rodan had been filled with a joy that almost burst his chest open. How many times in a man's life does a dream really come true? He knew he was clumsy, but he always felt that with the right teacher, a hero teacher, he could overcome his clumsiness. And here was a hero, straight out of the stories! And all the hopes and dreams he'd had his entire life suddenly burst to life. And then Mehrin stamped on them during that sparring match. He didn't meet Mehrin's eyes when he asked what was wrong, nor did he answer straight away. Instead he kept his eyes in his bowl and ate slowely, trying to make sense of the turmoil within him. His body ached in more places than he cared to count but he barely took note of it. So deeply disturbed was the boy. He barely heard anything from the conversation between the two men and left for his sleeping pallet without a word.


Morning came much too quickly to Rodan's opinion and he sat up instantly regretting the move. His body was stiff top to bottom. He recalled the day before, still somewhat disturbed, but then the sound of sparring reached him and, as boys will be, curiosity took a hold of him and he grunted as he moved towards his teacher and his sparring mate. Watching the two again, Robin couldn't help but get excited all over again. Mehrin truly was magnificent to watch. He'd still not forgiven him that foul move from yesterday, but a child's mind is a flexible one and Dreyik himself had been nothing but praise and respect for the warrior, even after the threatment he'd gotten. Rodan started to tell himself that it was probably all part of some training scheme but that in real battle, Mehrin wouldn't be so ... commonplace.


As the two men put a stop to their sparring, Rodan's belly loudly announced it's readiness for sustenance. Red faced, he hurried after Dreyik to get some food.

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Mehrin ignored the crowd that had gathered to watch him and Dreyik spar. Instead, he retrieved his leather tankard from his belongings and poured a mugful of water over himself, then drank another. With that done, he finally scanned the crowd. There, in the back, was Rodan. He had obviously caught part of the sparring session, and he was making his way after Dreyik, probably towards breakfast. Shrugging into his chainmail shirt, Mehrin followed after the pair.


Breakfast was a light affair- a little bit of bread and cheese- and Mehrin was grateful for that. He seldom ate large meals during any sort of march, out of a force of habit. People who ate too much moved slower than those who barely ate enough. Mehrin would take any advantage that he could in a fight. Mehrin pursued Dreyik and Rodan, giving both a nod as he sat down with them. The boy offered no reply. Wonder what I did to irritate him? Mehrin thought as he ate, chewing slowly in order to get as much taste out of the food as he could. The bread was still chewable, and the cheese was actually pretty good. Better than military fare, for certain.


The silence and tension was starting to become unbearable. With a deep sigh, Mehrin turned his attention to the boy. "I have all sorts of fun planned for you today, but first, we need to clear the air between us. I did something to irritate you, and now you're acting like I'm the worst person on this road. Let's start with what I did, then we'll discuss how I can fix it."

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Rodan chewed his lip. He was starting to feel guilty and Dreyik being all courteous and polite to Mehrin didn't help any. "Well," he started and gulped a few times before daring to continue. And then it all came out in a rush. "You fought dirty yesterday! No hero ever does such dishonorable things in battle. All the stories say so. Dreyik thinks you did him kindly, but I think he wants to keep me from disliking you. My da' told me you were a warrior, a true genuin one. Not like them fools come in to town playing at being some hero from the Horn but when they drank too much the innkeeper tossed them out all by himself so that showed they were no such thing as they claimed. My da's never lied to me! He said you were genuin but no true warrior would do such dishonorable things as you did to Dreyik. And I want to learn but I don't no want to be dishonorable! I know fights are ugly enough without adding that to it. I'm not completely idiotic as some may think!" By the time he stopped to take a breath tears started to run down his cheek to his horror and he slapped his face trying to get rid of them. He couldn't explain with words all the things that had gone through his mind and the brighter mood he'd had earlier all went crashing down again hearing his own voice speak the rambling he's launched at Mehrin. Angry with himself for not being able to say what he meant and anxious of saying more lest he'd start bawling in truth, he pressed his lips shut.

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"Oh. That 'honor' thing again..." Shaking his head, Mehrin made a point to ignore the sudden burst of emotion from Rodan. It always came down to honor. Mehrin remembered the stories himself. Stories of Gaidal Cain and his flashing blades, of Jearom, the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Mehrin remembered the stories of their honor in battle, how they fought valiantly and chivalrously. As a child, Mehrin knew to cheer for them in the stories, because their cause was always just and right.


Years of fighting on the front lines had pounded the notion of 'honor' out of Mehrin.


Mehrin took a deep breath, then said, "Look at me, boy, and listen carefully." Mehrin gave Rodan a moment to collect himself as he tried to put what he was thinking into words. Fighting is so much easier than this.


"I can teach you to fight." After a moment's hesitation, Mehrin added, "Probably." Moving along quickly now... "I can help you learn how to stand, how to move, how to swing a sword. What I cannot teach you is when to swing a sword. That is a lesson you have to learn yourself. I also cannot teach you honor." Leaning back against a wagon wheel, Mehrin let those words hang in the air between him and Rodan. "Pay attention, because this is probably the most important lesson I can teach you. 'Honor' is an idea, and that idea is different from person to person." Gesturing to Dreyik, Mehrin continued, "Master Dreyik will have a completely different idea of honor than you will have, and you will have a very different idea of honor than the merchant guard."


A grim smile crossed Mehrin's face for a moment. "As for me, well... I believe that duels are the place where honor belongs, and then only if I am not involved." The next smile to cross Mehrin's face was somewhat sad. "I can't teach you honor because I fight with practicality. In the melee, you don't hesitate, otherwise you die. I've seen men who never had the chance to learn that lesson." Locking his eyes with Rodan's, Mehrin continued. "My methods may not seem honorable, but they are effective. However, if you feel that my actions are wrong, that I am wrong, then learn. Become a better man than me." Quietly, Mehrin added, "It won't be very difficult."

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Rodan looked at Mehrin and listened and gradually the muscles in his face and neck relaxed and he heard the pain behind the words as Mehrin explained what he could and could not teach him. He wanted to learn to fight. He wanted to be an honorable man. But Mehrin just said he can only teach him how to fight. Maybe. Whatever that means, he thought sourly. He didn't understand why the man couldn't teach him both. His name alone made grown man stand up straighter, puffing their chest out like he did when his da' inspected him when they went to some noble's house to see if he was properly attired and groomed. He'd seen how the men reacted at the slightest look from Mehrin. There was fear, yes. But there was respect too. Surely they wouldn't respect a dishonorable man? They might be rough and not too highly bred, but then neither were he and his da'. Low born folks could still have high principles, his da' always said and Rodan's seen it more 'n once in his young life.


But Mehrin's voice didn't allow for any discussion on the topic, so Rodan swallowed his objections and nodded. Taking a deep breath, the boy opened his mouth to tell the man he understand but instead what came out was...


"Maybe you can teach me more than you realise."

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"If I can teach you to avoid tripping on blades of grass, I will consider that a success," Mehrin said lightly. Then, with an evil grin, Mehrin continued. "Now, as to your work for today, you are going to be riding one of the wagons. I want you to stand at the back of the wagon, facing forward, and continue standing until noon. Every time you fall, you will run laps around the caravan, then start again. Then, at noon, you will be loaded down with weighted packs, and I will expect you to walk at the head of the caravan with me until we stop for the night. I'd enjoy your rest for now. Today will be unpleasant for you..."




Two weeks passed with very little variation. Each morning, Mehrin would do his exercises, then he would spar with Dreyik. Rodan would spend the first part of the day standing in the back of a wagon, and the rest of the day training his endurance. Mehrin was actually impressed with the boy's progress in both. His balance had improved markedly, and he was able to manage the long walk with the weight on his shoulders. He never seemed to become stronger at the walking aspect, but that was probably due to the weight increases that Mehrin had been making. At night, it was weapons training. It was here that Rodan's abilities were slower to respond. The boy had figured out how to stand and how to hold the weapon, but his attacks were still clumsy and he could put up no real defense against even the most basic attacks. Still, the boy kept working, and that was all that Mehrin could ask for.


On the twenty-first day of the journey, the caravan was scouted.


Mehrin was providing encouragement to Rodan, mostly in the form of taunts and typical drill-sergeant insults, when he noticed a poor man walking past the caravan. It was not uncommon to see pedestrians on the road, so Mehrin nearly dismissed the man, but he was always incredibly intent on the contents of each wagon he passed. He was also counting the guards, though that was not difficult to do. The three regular guards, Dreyik, and Mehrin. Not the most threatening number of people, Mehrin knew. Soon, the walker was beyond the caravan and disappearing into the distance. When he was out of sight, Mehrin said to Rodan, "Boy, lesson is done for the day. Take off the weights and stay in the middle of the caravan." The boy made as if to protest, but Mehrin swept past him and walked back among the wagons. "We've just been surveyed by a scout of some kind," he told each of the three guards. "Make sure you're ready to fight; I'll bet my life that we will be met by some bandits in the near future."


Dropping further back in the caravan, Mehrin found Dreyik. "Make sure you're ready. We'll be seeing action soon. I want you to stay with the rest of the guards, if it comes to trouble. They could use an extra hand."


Mehrin walked back up the caravan line and hopped into the back of the wagon with his gear. Out of his bag he pulled a leather armband with a sheathed knife attached to one side and a narrow steel plate attached to the other side. He buckled it around his left arm so that both the knife and the plate ran the length of his arm. He then buckled a second knife onto his belt. One lesson he had learned quickly was that one could never have too many knives. Finally, he donned a pair of fingerless gloves. They did not look like much, but the knuckles on each glove were loaded with lead pellets.


It was never a good idea to give Mehrin the chance to prepare for a fight.


True to Mehrin's suspicions, the ambush came an hour later. Five men stood in the road, four near the front, with the fifth standing further away. Mehrin immediately tagged him as the leader. Movement in his peripheral vision suggested at least two more on the sides of the road. Mehrin also assumed at least three more near the back of the caravan. That meant ten total bandits. There was some good fortune to be seen, though. None of the bandits that Mehrin could see were heavily armored, though they all carried swords. The leader had a shield, too. He was also wearing some halfway-decent ring mail.


"I won't waste my breath taunting you, so let's keep this short. Surrender the caravan, and you all walk away from this alive." The bandit leader's voice sounded lazy, like he had given this speech several times. He sounded as if he expected the order to be obeyed.


Mehrin muttered, "Aw, hell..."

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