Their skirmish with the troops of Malquent was the first of
many before summer. As the days grew longer and hotter, the battles were also
getting bigger and more vicious. Taru was now over any fears she may have had
about fighting. She sported a few more scars from the fights, but she had not
been seriously hurt in any fight. Her group in the mounted calvary had
sustained very few losses. Hawk had also started bringing archers and foot
soldiers to the fights, and they had not lost a single battle. There had been
one where their losses had been great, but they always came out on top. Nik
reported that Demerita and Rederick were getting frustrated with the losses,
but they were not willing to devote more time or soldiers to putting down the
rebellion. The northern border with Terotmal was once again under contention,
and they had their hands full with those battles.
Hawk warned them against becoming too confident with their
skills in battle, and drilled them even harder. Taru was pulled in three
places, and the days did not have enough hours to contain all she needed to do.
Her lessons with Shet had been moved to the evenings, and they were progressing
well, if slowly. Her training in herbs and medicine filled any time she was not
at the training field. Fighting was not the only thing she was doing there. She
had been working very hard with Loyalty. The stallion was stronger and faster
then Free, but he was stubborn in a way Free was not. Trying to work with the
black stallion was testing her patience. Hawk kept preaching patience, but Taru
was so busy patience was the last thing she had at the moment.
Summer came and went, and soon Taru had been in the rebel
camp for a year. Time had moved so quickly that it did not feel like a year,
but Jaki was much better at time keeping then she was, and told her it was a
Jaki had wanted to do something to celebrate her one-year
anniversary, but Taru had convinced her that she was too busy for a party.
Sleep had been peaceful if only because she was too tired to dream. She fell
into bed each night and was forced from sleep by a hand shaking her in the
morning. She had never had such a busy schedule, even when she had been living
in the Compound, but there was a freedom here that had been lacking there. She
had so many things that she needed to do that she really could pick and choose
what to do each day. She had mandatory meetings for the formation practices,
but other then that she was free to schedule her days however she wanted.
She had been working very hard with Shet, as she wanted to
be able to contribute to the battles more then she was now. She was an ok
fighter, but she was by no means excellent. The others were much better, and
she had found herself in tough situations more then a few times on the
battlefield. She wanted to be able to use her elemental abilities offensively
to help with the fighting. Her tactical ability was not very good and so she
wanted to discuss options with Shet. She was sure that in some of the old
books, there were descriptions of how mages had helped in battles. She didn’t
want to have to read them herself either.
Shet, how did mages
fight, back in the old days? She asked him that night, after a discussion
of how to combine fire and air.
“Well there were lots of ways, only the most powerful mages
could use their powers offensively, but many could do minor things to help out.
Any mage skilled in earth could help create cover for troops, or make the ground
where the enemy had to come from treacherous. One gifted in air could make it
cold or hot depending on what was needed. Those gifted with fire could help in
the obvious ways, the same for those able to control water.”
Well, that is all
interesting, but I was wondering more what I could do to help in fights. I can
control fire and air very well, and earth to a degree. I’m not quiet enough to
be a scout, so my earth gift isn’t used much, but there has to be something you
can teach me that will help with battles.
“I have been discussing this with Hawk, but so far because
you are the only one truly skilled in these things, we think it would be too
dangerous. As soon as word got back to Rederick or Demerita found out we were
using a mage, they would do everything in their power to kill you. If we had
more then one with powers they might think twice about coming after us, but as
it is, we just think it’s too dangerous right now. You can still train and
improve your skills, and someday we will have a use for them.”
Taru nodded in understanding. Right now the rebels were
nothing more then a nuisance to Malaquent. They were keeping to themselves,
except to try and rescue more people from the Compound. Tertomal was more of an
active issue for Demerita to worry about. The country to the north was pushing
to get more land, as the desert country was desperate for any viable water
sources they could get. An organized and trained army was a much bigger threat
then a small group of rebels. What Demerita failed to see was that his troops
were being overwhelmed whenever they engaged the rebels. His loss of troops was
massive when compared to the losses sustained by the rebel forces. Also, the
active fighting had brought the attention of the rebellion to many more people
in the Compound, and they were having some people seek them out. It was
worrisome at first, as Dayn and Alye were worried about spies, but with Hali
around they didn’t have any real concerns. Hail could read the truth of any
statement, and Alye and Dayn had come up with a very specific set of questions
to test any new recruits.
Taru didn’t have much time to meet the new people in the
camp, but one night when she arrived at her lesson with Shet, there was a young
boy already waiting there. She looked around, but Shet hadn’t showed up yet, so
she took her seat and opened the book she was currently reading. It was a huge
tome discussing working with all the elements at once. Even though Taru didn’t
have any real ability with water yet, Shet wanted to get her prepared in case
she ever did get control of the fourth element. She tried not to make eye
contact with the boy, no matter how far she had come here at the camp; she was
still very shy around new people. Shet arrived only a few minutes later and
smiled at both of the people in the room. It was a funny sight; both of his
students were buried in their respective books, and were doing their best to
ignore each other.
“Ah, good you’re both here. Taru, this is Samm, Samm this is
Taru.” He pretended that they were not doing their best to ignore the existence
of the other. “Samm is a powerful water controller, and I was hoping that he
would be able to help you with control of it. Samm, Taru has at least moderate
control of the other three elements, and so she should be able to help you with
Samm was a skinny boy with dirty blonde hair the fell to his
shoulders. His eyes were a muddy brown, and he was all around unremarkable.
Taru figured he couldn’t be more then 11 or 12, a good 4 years younger then
her. She nodded out of respect, but didn’t make any move to speak to him. Her
main reason for this was because she didn’t know if he would be ok with mental
speech. It was obvious that he had not been in the rebel camp for very long,
the twitchiness that was a trademark of time spent in the Compound was still
apparent. He smiled shyly at her, and she returned it with a smile of her own.
Shet sighed, and they both jumped and looked at him.
“Ok you two, enough circling, Taru say hi, Samm will be ok.
Samm, Taru can’t speak out loud, she’s going to speak mentally, but it’s not a
bad thing ok?” He didn’t have time for these two to deal with their intense
shyness. He needed to get to work because if Nik’s information was right, they
were going to need all the advantage they could get.
Hi Samm, it’s nice to
meet you. How long have you been here at the camp? She figured that it was
her job to go first, simply because she was older, and much more comfortable
after over a year away from the Compound. The boy seemed uncomfortable, but
didn’t voice it.
“Nice to meet you as well.” Now that introductions were
over, Shet pulled them over to the large table and asked them to demonstrate
their skills. Taru went first simply because she had three things to show. The
fire was easy, she focused on the wick of the candle sitting in front of her,
and it exploded into flame. Shet glanced her way; she had much better control
then that. She smirked and Shet shook his head, of course she would be showing
off. She then pulled a draft from the window and directed it towards the flame,
snuffing it almost as easily as she had lit it. Her skill with earth was not
enough yet to control it without touch, so she gently put her hand into a pot
of dirt Shet kept around for practice, and asked it to form into a ball. She
had to focus very carefully, and it was slightly draining, but in the end the
individual pieces joined themselves into a tight ball in the palm of her hand.
Samm seemed impressed, but when he brought his hands
together and produced a clean stream of water from thin air, Taru was the one
that was impressed. It had taken her an entire year of intense one-on-one
training with Shet to be able to do what she just did. Here was a boy who had
only had training in the compound, and had serious control over his element.
Shet was not surprised, but he had that depth of control over air. Fire was her
strongest element, but she didn’t think she could draw it from nothing like
Samm appeared to with water. She had to focus on each individual piece of air,
and cause them to heat until something like a wick caught fire. When she
thought about it, her control over fire was mostly because of her control over
air. She hadn’t thought about it that way before, but now that she did, she saw
how her control over earth could lead to a control over water.
Shet! I just realized
something, my control over fire and air are almost the same thing. If I can
just figure out how to pull water from earth I’m sure I could work with it as
well! Shet smiled, and Taru realized that this was why he had asked Samm
here tonight. He knew that his training was going nowhere fast, and he had to
do something to wake her up and get her to understand her gift. The books had
had been forcing on her, had tried to explain this idea that in reality all the
elements were connected to each other, but Taru had been focused on their
offensive application that she had ignored the deeper message in the words.
Her lessons were much more fruitful after that. Because she
had such powerful control over air, she focused on that element the most.
Shet’s experience with the element allowed him to help her more with it as
well. She was working on being able to pull the water that naturally filled the
air. It was tedious, and it exhausted her after a while, but she had been able
to fill her palm with droplets that were one by one pulled from the air. She
always slept well after her lessons now, and she appreciated the exhaustion
that provided her with undisturbed sleep.
Her days were more regulated now, mornings consisted of
formation drills, working with the horses always made her days start on a high
note. Loyalty was coming along well. He was coming to respect her, which she
found to be an important part of any relationship with a horse. Free was the
perfect mount, but there was something about Loyalty’s personality that made
her want to work with the large black horse. Formation drills were long, but
she didn’t get bored simply because Hawk liked to throw things at them to test
their readiness. He would randomly leap at horses, or have a helper make sure
their shields were held properly by shooting blunt arrows at them. After
formation she ate breakfast with Hali and Jaki, and now Samm had taken to
joining them. He never spoke, but he seemed to enjoy the lively conversation of
Jaki and Hali. Taru still didn’t speak much around him, because he was clearly
nervous about it, but she would speak to Jaki and the older girl would pass on
Afternoons were filled with boring tasks. She cleaned the stables,
or helped with the laundry, or repairing clothing. Everyone in the camp was
assigned chores like these, simply because they needed to be done. She didn’t
particularly like the chores, but she understood their need. They were only
assigned tasks that they could easily complete and that they didn’t hate. Taru
for example was never asked to help with the cooking, as she not only hated it,
but she was also horrible at it. Jaki was never asked to do anything very
physically demanding, and Hali wasn’t asked to sew or fix anything. These
chores usually took her until it was time for lunch, when once again she would
talk with Hali and Jaki, and sometimes a few other people.
After lunch she was either working with Loyalty, or she was
fighting with Nik, if he was around. He was away a lot lately, and some of her
lessons were with Hawk. She found it very interesting to fight with the
Cheveyo, as his lack of fingers and hands gave him a huge disadvantage. Her
grappling and other skills were getting better, and sometimes she could even
beat him, unless he used his teeth. He never bit her to break skin, but she
would end up sporting bruises from his massive jaws. She also had to learn to
modify some of her skills to work on a Cheveyo. The joint locks in particular.
With four legs to worry about, joint locks weren’t always useful, and even when
they worked, they had to be modified to cause the right level of pain.
Strangulation and choking were still about the same with Cheveyos as with
humans, but the fur did sometimes get in the way. After whatever physical
activity she did in the afternoon she drug herself to the bathing pool, and
then dinner. Nights were her time to work with Shet and now Samm.
The only time this schedule was changed was when they were
forced into an engagement with the Malaquent soldiers. Alye and Dayn still did
not want to actively start things with the soldiers, but at times they would
get too close to their camp. The rebels always made a point to only engage on
Malaquent soil, but sometimes the soldiers would push into Buenasha’s borders.
The skirmishes had remained small so far, but all of the older members of the
camp were worried that if they did have a larger battle they would have an
issue with the government of Buenasha. They were thinking of making a trip to
the capital in order to discuss this with the current monarch, Eamonie. Taru
was interested in going, but she knew that it was unlikely.
Alye however had other ideas. She wanted to bring a small
group with her, but she needed at least a little protection. She also knew that
women were grated more respect by the rulers of Buenasha, so she needed an all
woman entourage. Taru, Hali, and five other people Taru didn’t really know were
selected. Taru for her ability with the elements, Hali for the obvious reasons,
and the other five were chosen for either their fighting ability or simply
their loyalty to the rebellion. Taru was worried about being away from the
camp, but she was also very excited about this journey. It would be the first time
she had left the camp other then to go fight. She also struggled with the
choice of which horse to bring with her. Free would be the obvious choice as he
was much better trained, but she didn’t want to leave Loyalty for however long
the journey would be.
She spoke with Hawk about it, and was surprised to find that
there would be a female Cheveyo coming with them. It was Dayn’s old unit mate,
Calm Sea. This would be the first time in a long time that Taru would have to
share space with a Cheveyo other then Hawk. She was very glad that Hawk warned
her about it, so that she wasn’t surprised by it on the journey. He told her
that Loyalty would be a better choice, as Free hadn’t had as much experience
being around Cheveyos. He knew Hawk, but his training had been lacking in the
area of other Cheveyos. Loyalty, being raised in the Compound would have had a
lot more experience being calm around the wolf-like creatures. Taru thanked
him, and went off to think about what a new Cheveyo being with the group would mean
for her in particular.