For being my friend. (:
The training ground at the palace was almost never empty, especially when training fresh recruits. Aerys picked her way through the sweaty bodies. The men and women on the training grounds didn’t call out a greeting to the Princess—it was a belief instilled by Volgaris, the newly-dead king, that a soldier is the equal of his liege on the battlefield—and also on the training ground.
Aerys had taken her new sword, which her brother Astrael had given her last Yule. She hadn’t named it yet, but it was a beautiful sword, and she was aching to give it a swing.
“Beautiful blade, is it not?”
Quentin Quarren stood in front of her. Quentin was a Cerian swordsmaster who was in charge of Aerys’ training when she was young. Quentin didn’t believe in using large weapons to ensure a victor, making him a building block of fighting women’s units in Lunamorn. Volgaris had reinstated the traditional customs of women fighting with men in hand-to-hand combat, not as mounted archers or snipers. Quentin taught the smiths in the palace to create lighter weapons like rapiers—light but needle-sharp. Lunamorn was, after all, a “barbaric” country, something Volgaris himself had said. It was necessary to break away from tradition and to have other options open in regards to weapons and fighting methods. Aerys felt overwhelmed by the memories of her father that were rushing in.
Aerys smiled wryly, shaking her head a bit to clear it. Quentin, having come from a relatively “civilized” Ceria, had never gotten used to the informality of life at the Lunamorn court.
“Yes it is, Quentin,” Aerys said as Quentin eyed her blade speculatively.
“A bout to clear the cobwebs from your head, yes?” Quentin looked sternly at her, and Aerys felt the wild desire to giggle. Hysteria, she supposed. Trust Quentin to know just what she needed to recover from the meeting with Volgaris’ advisers. <i>My advisers now,</i> she thought ruefully.
“If you insist.” Aerys flexed her arm and took a deep breath in. Detachment from one’s emotions was a thing Volgaris had told Aerys that she needed to have, whether in battle or in a diplomatic situation.
As Quentin bowed to her, Aerys bowed back. That was another uncommon thing about Quentin—he taught Aerys to respect her enemy. She had argued that in the heat of war, no one was going to be bowing. She had been seven then, intent on killing and maiming every enemy of Lunamorn that would come along her path.
“Princess, every man or woman is the Goddess’ child, are they not? War is not the game you think it is… and so we respect every man we meet on the battlefield for his courage, for his gumption in fighting for those he loves.”
How young she had been then! As Quentin and Aerys circled each other, feet careful on the ground (no fancy footwork for any of them!), Aerys thought that it was nigh impossible to think that her enemies worshipped the Goddess, too, and were under her rule.
In an outpouring of rage, she did one thing Quentin had thought he had cured of her.She made the first move. “Lunamorn!” Aerys stabbed at Quentin’s right side—as a left-handed person, she was forever searching for an opponent’s weak side. In this particular fight, Quentin had left his right side unguarded.
Or so she thought. Quentin deftly parried her stroke away from him, steel ringing against steel, the song of their swords singing out as if in chorus with the noise of the training ground.
“I know, Quentin,” Aerys muttered irritably in a voice that failed to escape the Cerian’s sharp hearing. “Never make the first move.”
Quentin just smiled his enigmatic smile and continued circling around her. Aerys gritted her teeth. Curse smug, middle-aged Cerians who never make the first move in sword fights! She steamed in frustration, waiting for that accursed old man to—