Here you'll find
This collection of snippets takes you to meet a young man called Daynar at the very beginning of his military career.
When the latest batch of new recruits arrived and joined the pandemonium that was the training grounds at Oberrell Castle, Noras barely registered the fact.
Not that he had any reason to, either. He was still young himself but no more wet behind the ears. He was an adult who'd been there for a few years already, had his circle of buddies to train and drink and hang out and chase maids with, he'd even seen some action during a brief campaign to Kheless in the south. There really was no point in paying any special attention to the youngsters. If there were any that would deserve to be noticed, he'd notice them when the time was ripe.
Thus he had no idea that something that was about to change his life was already there, in the castle, because it didn't make too much noise of itself. It was the mouthy ones that would catch your eye, the ones who hid their uncertainty behind loud talk and bragging. Next you'd notice the really shy ones, poor beggars who tried to hide behind others in the vain hope that nobody would pay attention and were inevitably singled out either for special training, bullying, or both.
Between the two extremes was the colorless mass without names or faces. Some of them were destined to remain that way, while others would eventually develop something of a personality or some special skill to set them apart from the rest. That took time, though, and since Noras was not in need of new friends, he didn't look twice in their direction.
That was why the youngsters had already spent a few months in the castle before Noras first noticed the boy. It was one of the days when they were training with the swords, and the stern middle-aged warrior who served as the Swordmaster had told that his group would be doing pairs drills with the latest arrivals. This was nothing unusual, it was useful practice for both parties: it demonstrated to the young ones how much they still had to learn, and it reminded the older ones that even a vastly less experienced adversary might still prove dangerous out of sheer determination and dumb luck.
As the Swordmaster called out the designated pairs, Noras let his gaze sweep over the group of boys standing opposite him and his companions. The names told him nothing but he kept his eyes open, and when the name Daynar was heard, one particular dark head jerked up in response. Their eyes met and the boy nodded. Noras acknowledge the greeting with a nod as well, then studied his opponent for a few moments to make sure he'd recognize him from now on. This was a good opportunity to learn how to tell at least one of the newcomers apart from the rest.
The boy, Daynar, was tall but not unusually so. He had strong build and lanky, long limbs that suggested he was going to grow still a little taller, although it was unlikely that he'd ever look Noras in the eye without tilting his head back. He also had a pleasant, handsome face, something Noras made a mental note of: with those looks, Daynar would yet become stiff competition in the sometimes bloody fight for the favors of the castle's females.
The first pair was called forward and Noras turned his mind back to the practice. There'd be time enough to worry about unpleasantly good-looking newcomers later, now he wanted to concentrate on just watching.
The Swordmaster was his usual grim, stone-faced self, but by this time Noras had learned that the rock wasn't always completely solid. If one knew what to look for, and looked closely, it was still possible to gauge some useful hints from it. That was why, during drills like this, he usually tried to position himself so that he could watch both the currently sparring pair and the Swordmaster at the same time.
Suddenly he noticed something else: the dark youngster, Daynar, was apparently doing exactly the same. The boy wasn't fiddling with the hilt of his sword nor whispering with others beside him. His dark eyebrows were crunched together in concentration, and when the younger one of the fighters made a blatant mistake, his gaze darted towards their instructor. No mistaking about it, he was focusing hard on the drill.
Sharp boy, Noras thought, interest somewhat piqued. Most of the newcomers tended to live their first several months in mortal fear of all their instructors, especially the Swordmaster, before they got settled in the routine and fearful awe was replaced by respect. By the same token, this particular boy should've been nervously waiting for his own turn under the all-seeing glare of the Swordmaster, but clearly that wasn't the case.
At last it was their turn. Noras stepped to the designated sparring area and saw that Daynar didn't dawdle in responding to the call. With a metallic hiss he pulled his practice sword from its sheath and waited for the signal.
It didn't take many moments before Noras had decided that the boy was promising. Not spectacular, no, but considering how recently he'd started training, his swordsmanship sure was impressive. His command of his body was surprisingly good for someone so young and still growing ĘC and he had a very quick eye and head for strategy. Not only did the little bastard notice Noras' greatest weakness, his damnably slow footwork, he also managed to capitalize on it and landed a smarting poke in Noras' side.
When the drill ended and the Swordmaster took their performances apart, Noras was biting his tongue to keep his expression in check. His dented pride hurt at least as much as the pain radiating from his side as he returned to the sidelines to watch the next drill, but to his surprise he noticed that instead of joining his own group again, Daynar was standing just a few steps away from him.
The boy noticed Noras looking at him and inched closer.
"Sorry," he said under his breath. "Should've pulled back earlier."
Noras eyed him suspiciously. Surely the lad wasn't rubbing in the fact that he'd succeeded in landing a hit against a much more experienced opponent? There was no hint of a smirk, though, and Noras decided to be generous.
"It's all right," he said. "I think you got quite a blow in return, too."
"Hurts like hell," Daynar admitted, casually shifting his weight still a little more on the right leg.
Noras felt his lips pulling into a smile. He didn't quite understand why it happened, though, because the boy was even more handsome like this, his face flushed and thick dark hair tousled, and it wasn't a good idea to make friends with such a looker. Daynar was bound to be competition, Daynar had just caused the Swordmaster to give him yet another thorough chewing for his sloppy footwork, and yet here he was smiling at the boy.
Daynar offered him a little grin in return.
"You're good," Noras said, wondering why it didn't come through clenched teeth.
"Thank you. That's what I want to be."
Noras cocked an eyebrow, taken aback by the response. "That was frank!"
"Why shouldn't ĘC"
The Swordmaster shot them a brief glare and they quickly fell silent.