Taru froze as the pure white creature stalked even closer to her, and sniffed her.
“You stink.” Hawk turned from her then, and walked towards the small building he had come from only moments earlier.
“You can walk right?” The comment was thrown over his shoulder as he gracefully slipped through the still open
door. Taru paused a moment, but figured it would probably be worse if she didn’t follow him. She forced her leaden legs
to move her forward, and found herself in the small building. The walls were lined with mirrors on one side, and the ground
was a soft sand spread smooth. There was a huge rack of weapons lining the far wall, and Taru saw things there she didn’t
even know how to use. In the compound they were taught swordplay, archery, hand-to-hand combat, and basic moves with a spear
if they were physically able. Taru had been horrible at all of them. The sword didn’t feel right in her hand, it felt
slow and ungainly, the spear even more so, she was not graceful enough to move with it properly, and the archery was a mess
as well. She could pull a very heavy bow, but her accuracy was pathetic. Hand-to-hand combat was the only area where she didn’t
fail outright, and even there she was well below her peers.
Hawk paced in front of the mirrors as she took in the room. It was not all that different from the training building at the
Compound, but was much smaller. He gave her a moment to observe, but he knew he would have issues with this one. Dayn had
explained of course, but Hawk had no time for Taru’s issues. She needed to be able to work with the Cheveyos that lived
in the camp, and she needed to be able to defend herself when the time came. He was glad to make sure she could do both. Hawk
didn’t bother worrying about people’s feelings, Cheveyo and human alike.
“I don’t have time to let you work through your issues with Cheveyos. If I did, I’d be more then happy to,
but as it stands your life is more important then your feelings right now. Because of how the army of Malaquent is set up,
you will more then likely have to fight a Cheveyo at some point. I will teach you everything you need to survive. Nikkaron
will be joining us in later sessions to help you with the human aspects of fighting.” Hawk watched Taru very carefully
and noticed that she was relaxing slightly. He hoped this wouldn’t bee too tough.
Taru listened to Hawk speak, and found it strange that she wasn’t as nervous as she thought she would be. However, when
he leapt at her, she froze and felt the mass of fur slam her to the ground. She curled herself into a defensive ball and prayed
it would be over quickly. When she felt nothing after the initial hit, she glanced out of her hands, and saw that Hawk was
standing three feet away looking at her.
“Get up.” Hawk was not one to mince words, and he had no time for the girl’s issues. She had to be able
to protect herself if she was attacked. It had also been 2 months since she had been freed from the Compound, and she needed
to get over her fear. Hawk honestly didn’t understand why she was still having issues, but he figured it was a human
thing. “Up! Now!”
Taru pulled herself warily to her feet. She knew intellectually that Hawk wasn’t going to kill her, but her body wouldn’t
cooperate with her brain. She stood shaking on legs she would have sworn were made of noodles. She glared at Hawk with as
much anger as she could pull out of the fear that clouded her mind. He tensed, and her body reacted immediately, she took
a step backwards and found the wall was blocking any further movement.
“You need to pay attention to your surroundings. Failure to do so will get you killed.” He moved aside then, and
motioned her to the center of the ring. “What weapons did you handle before?” Taru didn’t know if he expected
a spoken answer, but decided that if he did he would have to ask for one. She pointed at a sword along the wall, and then
a spear sitting in the corner. She glanced around for a bow, but didn’t see one in the building, so she mimed firing
one. She shrugged and hoped that he had gotten the message.
“Good. Basic, but good.” He padded swiftly over to the rack of weapons, and pulled a wooden practice sword out.
Grasping it in his teeth he indicated that he wanted Taru to take it. She had to admit that having a weapon made her feel
much more secure, even if it was only a wooden one. “I want you to block my attack. I’ll go slow to start. Stay
on your feet.”
Hawk then proceeded to show her that even with a weapon she was no match for him. Time after time he leapt at her, and again
and again she found herself on the ground looking up at Hawk’s smiling muzzle. Anger began to replace her fear, as she
got tired of being dumped on her butt. She began to lash our harder and harder at the leaping creature, and that just seemed
to make him grin more. Finally she had enough, threw down the sword and stood there glaring at him.
What do you want? She shouted at him in the only way she could. He barked a laugh, and sighed.
“Just that. You can go now.” He turned from her then and walked through a small door at the back of the building.
Taru was completely bewildered now. This Cheveyo wasn’t mean he was insane. She watched his dual tails as they bobbed
out of view and shook her head. She had learned absolutely nothing today, and she was sore and angry, and wanted to beat something.
She picked up the wooden sword then, and moved over to one of the practice dummies. The wooden caricatures of humans and Cheveyos
stood there mocking her, and she huffed noiselessly in anger at them. She brought up the sword and started moving slowly through
the movements she had been taught. She moved faster each time she completed a grouping, until she missed altogether. She pulled
back panting, and noticed that tears were mixing with the sweat running down her face.
She swiped her face with her sleeve, and finally noticed that Hawk was sitting in the corner watching. She wheeled around
and attempted to vaporize him with her gaze. She should have been glad that there was a Cheveyo that she wasn’t deathly
afraid of, but blinding anger wasn’t a much more useful emotion in the grand scheme of things. She very deliberately
put the sword in the rack with the others like it, and walked towards the door.
“Now that you’ve gotten that out of the way, maybe we can get some real work done.” Hawk stopped her, as
she was about to leave. She turned back towards him and she knew the question she couldn’t ask was written all over
“You needed to be angry. Anger doesn’t allow any place for teaching, but it leaves a nice hole that can be filled
with something more useful.” He remained seated and saw that she was considering walking out anyways. When she turned
and walked back towards him, Hawk couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
The training went slightly better after that, but Taru was still not very good at any of the movements with a weapon. Hawk
tried to be a little more gentle then his normal teaching style, but he could tell that he had a lot of work ahead of him.
When Jaki returned to help Taru find her way back to her room, Hawk simply nodded to her, and left. Taru had a very hard time
understating the Cheveyo. First off, she had never seen one that looked like him before. There was some variety in the way
that Cheveyos looked, but Hawk had a strange second tail, and he was much more shaggy then any of the Compound’s Cheveyos.
Blue Sky had been all sleek lines and muscle, Hawk was clearly just as strong, if not stronger, but his strength was much
less refined. Taru decided to ask someone about it, but didn’t want to hear Jaki’s extended answer. She would
ask Shet tomorrow when she had her lesson with him.
Her lessons with Shet were going about as well as her fighting lesson with Hawk had gone today. Shet was nice, and she did
like him, but he didn’t understand her issues with reading. She could read, she just had a hard time making the letters
on the page congeal into words for her. She had no problem with individual letters, and if she was shown a word she would
recognize it later, but new words were horrible. Unfortunately the reading Shet expected her to do was riddled with new words.
She spent so much time trying to focus on each new word that she would inevitably forget what she had read before and have
to go back again and again. The lessons were making her feel stupid and useless. She thought she had hidden her frustration
well, but Shet had confronted her last time they had met. He knew that she wasn’t getting things, but he didn’t
Explaining to him what it was like for her to attempt reading didn’t work very well either, and trying to write it out
worked even less well. The first problem was that her handwriting was horrible, and the second was that the same issue with
reading popped up when she had to write. She had left that lesson frustrated and swearing to herself that she would never
go back. Now that she had experienced true frustration with the fighting lesson, the prospect of learning from Shet seemed
like a wonderful alternative. She sighed, causing Jaki to look over at her and smile. Taru still didn’t understand how
Jaki was so happy all the time. She knew that for Jaki to even walk around the camp, it required at least twice as much effort
as everyone else, but she always had a smile on her face and a nice thing to say to everyone.
“I’m guessing Hawk ran you through the paces. If you want to bathe before dinner, I could show you the best place
to do it.” Jaki offered when she got a good look a Taru’s soaked shirt. Taru nodded, and smiled. She knew she
was not being good company, and she really wondered why Jaki put up with her moodiness, but she was not one to question good
fortune. Jaki showed her a small path that led deeper into the forest then she had been before, and after a very short walk
the trees opened up a little to reveal a small pool of water lined with rocks.
“This place is only really for the women. A few of the men come here, but they tend to wash closer to the camp. Any
time you want to come here that’s fine, it’s considered part of the camp.” Jaki informed her. Taru thanked
her and looked at the clear water of the pool. She hadn’t bathed properly for a long time, cloth baths and a bucket
of water dumped over her head had seen her through the past two months, but she had not felt truly clean for a long time.
She glanced at Jaki, even knowing that the other woman had seen all of the various scars that adorned her body now, she was
uncomfortable stripping in front of her. She moved towards the largest rock that was jutting up next to the water. She slowly
pulled her sodden shirt over her head, and toed her boots off of her feet. She knew her back presented quite the sight. She
could still feel the healing pull of the latticework of scars. She didn’t notice it as much when wearing clothing, but
whenever her back was exposed to the air, the strange sensation was almost maddening.
“I’m gonna go look for some late season berries, I’ll be back in a little.” Jaki called out to her,
and Taru was very pleased that it was clear she wanted to be alone. She stripped off the last of her clothing, quickly soaking
the cloth and then laying it out on the rock as she slipped into the cold pool. Her skin numbed quickly, and soon the water
was soothing the ache that had been building since she had finished with Hawk. She let her mind go completely blank while
she soaked and enjoyed letting her body be cleansed. She would have stayed there forever, but she knew that Jaki was coming
back. Thankfully her clothing had dried, and she slipped into it quickly, and hauled her boots back on. She only had to wait
a moment for Jaki to come back from her berry hunting, and smirked, there was berry juice smeared on her tan colored pants.
Jaki followed Taru’s eyes to the purple stains on her pants and grinned back. They walked in uncommon silence back to
the main building for dinner.
Onto Chapter 4