Oh, Mothers, help me. Phenyx rolled his eyes as Kyran swung the blade at his head. Instead, her sword caught the edge of his cloak. She missed me and I didn’t even have to move.
The breeze that blew toward them from the Island of the Fighting Mother was warm, and the sun beat down overhead. They had been working on the sand since dawn, Kyran swinging her blade awkwardly and Phenyx pointing out what she did right and what she did wrong.
Well, at least what she did wrong.
She’s tall for a Soul Seer female. He waited for her to catch her breath, watching her chest heave beneath her silk robes. Her skin was lighter than the other Soul Seers he had seen, but she had the almond-shaped eyes. Black…unusual. I’ve only ever seen the crystal blue. Of course, it’s been about a hundred years since I saw a Soul Seer at all.
“Ready,” she looked up toward his face and nodded.
He smirked at her. “Try not to swing so much like a girl.”
Kyran narrowed her eyes. “Like a human girl, or a giant salamander-thing girl?”
“A human girl. And we aren’t ‘giant salamander-things.’ We are the Andria,” he scowled at her and frowned since the deep hood of his cloak hid his eyes. Although the cloak was necessary to protect his moist skin from the direct sun, he knew it also made him appear larger than he was.
“Not to get technical on you or anything,” Kyran swung and missed him again, “but you are a giant salamander.”
“Well, then, technically, you can’t swing like a ‘giant salamander’ girl because Andrian females aren’t allowed to touch weapons,” Phenyx finally had to step aside as the blade whizzed toward his shoulder. “And technically you’re from a group of healers and pacifists, so you shouldn’t be touching a weapon, anyway.” He watched her drop the sword tip in the sand. “Of course, that also might explain why you’re so bad at it.”
“What?!” Kyran glared at him, strands of her black hair sticking to her sweat-dampened face. “Take that back!” She let go of the sword and pushed him with both hands.
Phenyx stumbled back a couple of steps, suppressing a chuckle. She’s definitely got enough attitude for sword-fighting. She just needs to figure out the actual sword part. He slowly drew his katana. “Let me walk you through some of the basics. Come here.” He led them farther along the beach where the stretch of sand was wide enough for them to move side by side without interfering with the other’s motions. He spared a glance east across the water at the ragged shoreline of the other island. Down near the southern tip was the Andrian cave village, the place he had called home until the Diamyo, the clan leader, forced him to leave. Phenyx focused on his sword and Kyran to quell the memories that stirred.
“Like this,” he demonstrated a series of moves. It was the most basic kata he knew, the sword kata taught to the youngest Andrian boys when they received their first bokken. His short sword, the wakizashi, bounced familiarly against his leg as he moved through motions that were as familiar as breathing.
He finished and looked at her. “Your turn.”
She raised one eyebrow. “I’m supposed to just do that now? After seeing it one time?”
Phenyx exhaled. “Do it with me, then.”
Kyran gripped her sword with both hands, a satisfied smile tugging at her lips.
Andrian girls are the same. There’s never any point in telling them ‘no.’ They smirk and pout and giggle and look at you with their big eyes until your brain shuts off and you do what they want anyway. He showed Kyran the first move. She struggled to hold her sword level, the muscles in her arms trembling. Her weapon had the curved blade of the katana, shorter than his but still longer than his wakizashi.
Phenyx lowered his blade and straightened. “I think your sword is too heavy for you. Here,” he pulled his wakizashi from his belt and held out the hilt. “Try this.”
Kyran shook her head. “No. I’ll practice with mine.”
“But you’re not going to get the motions right. You won’t impress anyone with your blade sagging.” He waited for her to get the joke.
Her face didn’t even flirt with a smile. Instead she scowled. “This is my sword,” she flushed and looked away. “It chose me,” she said quietly, shrugging.
I can’t stand the way she drops those little details and then stops talking, as if I’m either supposed to have it all figured out or spend my day asking questions. He looked at her closely, her black braid mussed, loose strands sticking to her face and neck. So uncertain. She would have run away from me if I hadn’t promised to teach her how to use that sword. I wish she would actually listen to me, though.
Phenyx slid the wakizashi into its sheath and nodded. “Okay, you can use your sword, but I won’t go easy on you.” He moved the sleeves of her robe and lifted her arms until the slightly curved blade stretched in the correct position for the first kata move. “Now get your feet in place.”
“Tuck your butt in.”
She tightened her belly button.
“Straighten your back leg.”
She flexed her leg straight and the sword sagged.
Oh, Mothers, she needs so much training. And real fighting clothes. And…Phenyx looked at the lonely determination on her face. …a friend. He hid his face in the shadow of his cloak. I’m a terrible friend. Why me?
But he knew why. As he worked her through the motions—showing her and then correcting her posture, adjusting the position of her feet, perfecting the angle of the blade—the light within him ebbed and flowed in response to the darkness within her. They were two parts of the same energy, two halves of a whole. A balance in this world. He knew even before he left the Andrian caves that he would find her and teach her how to fight. He had wanted to bring her to Andria to train among the other warriors, to learn more than just sword fighting. It had been that argument with the Diamyo that had earned him his banishment.
The old warrior thought I was being selfish. Phenyx slipped into his memories as he watched Kyran slowly work her way through the kata. I’ll bring her to him and maybe then he’ll see that I didn’t have a choice.
He stopped Kyran as she swung the blade out too wide. “No, like this,” he tucked her elbow closer to her ribs. “Your sword is not your enemy. Keep it closer to you. More like a…lover.”
At the last word, Kyran’s eyes flashed blue, the stone on her hilt answering with its own crystal light. Phenyx felt her darkness flare, and her sword split into two identical blades. He swore as she gripped one katana in each hand, her knuckles turning white from her grip. She charged him fast enough that he lost his footing and fell back into the sand.
Phenyx held up his own sword to block her attack, her movements precise and deadly. His hood slipped back, the sun on her blades blinding his golden eyes. The tip of one pressed into the flesh below his chin and the tip of the other pointed at his breastbone.
Damn little details.
Anybody have any art they could add to this? I’d love to have some. Send it in!