She had been able to explain her issue to Shet, but he had been unable to help her with it. He was glad that he finally understood
her problem with his lessons, and she could tell that he was relieved her failure as not because of his teaching methods.
He knew of someone in the camp, who could help her out, but she was currently busy, so he had put her lessons on hold until
Seina could help her. That left her with her lessons in fighting, and not much else to do. She didn’t want to have a
lot of chores, but she didn’t sit around well. Jaki talked to one of her teachers, and surprised Taru with lessons in
the various plants and herbs that could be used in healing. Because there wasn’t any real reading involved in these
lessons, Taru found she did quite well, and Jaki’s teacher, Devon, decided to add them to her schedule.
Although the camp didn’t have the rigid schedules of the Compound, everyone was expected to learn something that would
help them add to the camp’s running or to the overall efforts of the rebellion. There weren’t many spies or special
positions like that, but Taru didn’t mind not having an important job. She heard all the gossip of course, and they
were all told exactly what was going on, but Taru didn’t want anything to do with the direct fighting of Malaquent.
The further she was from that country the happier she was. Nothing good could come from going there.
Most of the people in the camp were working on improving their fighting skills, and if they had an ability, improving it to
the highest point they could. Taru had also been told by Nik and Hawk that she would start having lessons with a group, as
she had effectively caught up in most areas, and was doing very well in the hand-to-hand and the equestrian combat. Nik was
very pleased with her skills on a horse, and even her clumsy strikes and blocks managed to look better when she was in a saddle.
She could have sworn that it was because her brain didn’t have to worry about her feet, that the horse under her did
most of the work, and she only had to worry about the enemy and the weapon, but Nik said this was usually more of a problem
then a benefit. You had to be able to truly control the horse, and Taru as capable of that.
She was pleased that she as good at a few things, and that she could even help out in some areas, like with the herbs. Shet
had talked to her about taking her herbal knowledge and using it in her mage training. Certain ointments and potions could
only be made using innate magical skills. Shet found it odd that Taru was so good with plants when her elemental abilities
were with air and fire, and he quietly talked to Dayn about it. Taru was not told, but Shet thought that Taru might be able
to become the first fully trained mage of their small army. Even he was not fully trained, as he did not have the required
control over all the elements. He had read about mages with this power, but had never met one. Even the mages of Malaquent
were mostly skilled in one or two elements at most. He only hoped that Taru would be able to master reading so she could come
to her full potential.
It was well into winter before Taru had time to meet with Seina, but in the end the old woman had been able to help her with
reading, at least to a degree. She was still very slow, and it took her many times before she would ever understand something
completely, but she wasn’t the dismal failure that she had been before. Her lessons with Shet were interesting now,
in that they mostly just discussed what mage gift was. There was no real practical application, and Taru wondered why this
was. Shet had told her that she was not ready for any practical lessons yet, but Taru didn’t see how she couldn’t
be, she’d been learning this stuff for months, and her two elements she had been learning for most of her life. Her
control over fire and air were very strong now, even without any real practical lessons from Shet. When she thought of that
perhaps his talking about theory was working, even if she didn’t want to admit it.
She was pleased with another thing, because of the necessity to talk with Shet at their lessons, she was forced to work on
her mental speech, and was pleased that it was coming along quite well. She had had enough control to be able to form questions,
and even to whisper and shout if she needed to. It wasn’t easy by any means, but when she talked to Alye and Dayn she
realized that she shouldn’t have the gift at all. In fact, she was the first person that had come to the camp who had
a gift in two different areas. Alye had asked her if she knew anything about her birth, and if perhaps her disability had
been apparent from the beginning, but Taru knew nothing. Her parents hadn’t spoken to her about her problem, and they
tried to keep it as quiet as possible, as they knew the mandate for all children like her. They were supposed to send her
off to the Compound as soon as they realized something, but Taru remembered a man coming to their small fishing village, and
taking her away. She had found out later from one of her instructors that her parents had been hanged for their defiance of
the government. She had shed no tears for her parents, because at that time they were nothing to her but distant memory.
Time in the camp, Taru found, was not like time in Malaquent. There bells had counted every moment, and you were expected
to be a certain place at all times. Even sleep was timed, and limited to a certain amount. Here in the camp time wasn’t
something most people worried about. Yes there were places you were supposed to be, but if you were a little late you weren’t
beaten or punished, and the days blurred into months and soon Taru found that she had been living there for almost half a
year. Nik had come and gone twice in that time, and each time he brought back information that was neither good nor bad for
the rebels. Apparently Demerita was not happy that they were there, but had no plans to find them or get rid of them. Taru
thought this was rather stupid on his part, as in the time she had been there they had brought another dozen people to the
camp. Their numbers were growing quickly, and her lessons with Hawk showed just how good an army they were becoming.
She was now working exclusively with a mounted group. Her ground skills were as good as they were going to get, and for some
reason her inability on her own two feet, didn’t translate to when she was on horseback. She had been moved from Victory
to a stallion named Free. He was larger then Victory had been, but he seemed to be connected to her in a way the mare hadn’t.
Sometimes it felt as if he knew what she was going to do before she did. They were a dangerous pair, and Taru knew that even
Hawk was impressed with them. He had been worried about pairing her with Free, mostly because even Nik had been thrown from
the large bay stallion, but Free didn’t give her any problems.
It was early morning, and the cold morning hair stung her lungs, but she and Free weren’t thinking of anything but the
two riders in front of them. Taru held her lance with a now practiced ease. Hawk had moved her to the light lance a while
ago, and she found she liked the dual weapons of lance and sword. The first rider charged her, and she gently nudged Free,
who took off to meet them. Her lance struck shield perfectly, and whomever she was tilting against was thrown from the saddle.
The second waited rider didn’t wait but charged at her from the side, she wheeled Free, and he reared up, stopping the
charge, and forcing the other horse to swerve. She tossed the shattered lance to the ground and drew her sword, again wheeling
Free to meet the oncoming horse. Swords met in a ringing clash, and her arm vibrated all the way up to her shoulder. Helms
hid the identity of who she was fighting, but the person was very strong, and Taru hoped that she and Free would be able to
get around that.
She gave Free a gentle signal, completely hidden to the casual observer, but he suddenly reared up and lashed out with his
legs. The other rider was again forced to move back, and Taru took this small advantage to race forward and using the flat
of her blade, slapped the flank of the other horse. In a real fight she might instead cut a hamstring, or injure in some other
way, but this was not an enemy. Her slap did what she intended, and the horse spooked, already quite fearful from her previous
attacks. Taru laughed as the rider tried to keep his seat, and waited calmly to see if he could bring his horse under control.
A last buck from the spooked horse threw him however, and he landed in the sand. Taru smirked, and calmly dismounted to walk
over to her opponents removing her helm in the process. The one she had hit with her lance was Yeru, he was a little older
then Taru, and had been in the camp for almost 10 years. He was nursing his shoulder with ice, and Taru smiled an apology
in his direction. The second rider was still pulling himself out of the sand, and Taru offered a hand.
When he was standing before her, Taru realized that this person was much larger then her, and glanced over at Hawk. For the
most part Hawk had been having her fight people her own size, or rather people not too much larger then her. This was something
new. She was even more surprised when her opponent removed his helmet. It was Nik. She stepped back and then leapt at him
and a huge hug. Nik had been away for a long time, and she had no idea he was back.
Nik! When did you get back? Why didn’t you tell me you were back? Does Dayn know you’re back? How was your
trip? Taru stopped the flood of questions and blushed at her actions. Nik just smiled at her.
“Well in order, I got back this morning very early, I didn’t tell you because you were asleep and I knew I would
be seeing you now. Yes Dayn knows I’m back, and my trip was interesting. I’ll tell you more about it tonight at
the meeting.” He gave her another of his blinding smiles, and turned to Hawk. “You didn’t tell me she was
this good Hawk, we’re going to have to move her to another class now.”
Taru was pleased by Nik’s comments, and was also very pleased that he wasn’t unhappy with all of her questions.
He was one of the few people in the camp that Taru really connected with, and she had missed him a lot. There was something
about learning to fight with someone that created a bond that was completely inexplicable. She had even found that she shared
a similar bond to Hawk, no matter how much she hated other Cheveyos, Hawk was a friend to her. Taru had asked Nik about this
once, but he didn’t have an answer for her. He just said it was something that happened. Taru had explained that it
hadn’t happened with any of the instructors or students at the Compound, and Nik had just said that the right environment
was needed. She didn’t think about it much more, but she did like the strange friendships she had gained by fighting
Her stomach rumbled, and Taru smirked at Nik. She tossed her head towards the main building and Nik nodded. They jogged a
quick lap around the ring, and lead their horses around another time to cool them off. They quickly untacked them, and lead
them to their stalls for breakfast. The animals always came first. They then raced playfully off towards the main building,
leaving Hawk shaking his head in amusement.
Onto Chapter 7