Chapter 16: Training for the First Day

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As the last of our group arrived in the first courtyard the second in command arrived with a brutally defected Pygmy man. Not only was he short, but he was devoid of his left hand and three of his toes. It was cruel but this man would be our training dummy. As defected and ugly as though he was, his fighting skills were such to be reckoned with.

"Arm block, leg check, dodge and defend." those were our instructions from the second in command. "Arnaldo, you first!"

Arnaldo walked over, all three of them now at the semicircular stone podium looked incredibly tense. The arm block came first, the pain issued from the impact was clearly seen on Arnaldo's face. Next came the leg check, he caught the Pygmy off centre to his bone and a shot of steering pain rushed across his face, Arnaldo was no better off. The dodge was harder, the Pygmy's height made it incredibly difficult to duck and it was impractical to jump. Arnaldo was finding it harder than he had initially expected. Defence came easier to Arnaldo. With the Pygmy only having one arm, it made putting his present arm behind his back and driving him to the ground so much easier.

Arnaldo had not made an impressive beginning and was required to have a second try after the rest of us had tried our hand at defeating the Pygmy.

The six other men tried their best but none of them seemed to be able to beat the Pygmy at the arm block or dodge, however, five of them had managed to leg check him successfully. As for defence, some of them had it, some of them didn't.

Now it was my turn. I was female; I was last in line. I stepped forward, face to face with the Pygmy. His pitch black eyes burning straight through mine, his breath knocking me in the face bluntly. He was weary and waiting, ready for whatever I was about to throw at him. In order to successfully earn my place beside the rest of my group I would have to go above and beyond anyone's expectations.

I played mind games with him, looking past him, through him, above him and behind him. Flinching my already tense right arm and occasionally pulsing my left. As soon as I felt I had him completely confused I raised my right hand and blocked his return, and blocked him with my left arm after I had retracted my right. I leg checked him and hit him directly on the bone, the crack that was heard was bordering on deafening. Neither of our bones were broken though. For the dodge I took a simple and effective approach, I simply stepped back and to the side. I had been the only one who had successfully dodged him, just by using common sense. Defense was also incredibly easy, I used Arnaldo's method and drove the Pygmy effortlessly to the ground. The second in command was impressed with my skills and I was awarded my place with the rest of my group, I rejoined them and the Pygmy picked himself up off the ground.

Next, we were instructed to go into the streets, under the supervision of guards and the second in command, and pull the carts of selected merchants from one end of the busy trading street to the other. We were to do this several times until we were told to move on to the next exercise. This task was to prove our endurance.

I was grabbed by the arm and was thrown to the cart of an old merchant whose merchandise was of heavy hand-painted Moroccan ceramic vessels. The cart was only marginally lighter than the one I had been forced to pull in the quarry. The streets were crowed with people and trading had begun for the day. Women hung their washing from several windows on various buildings on either side of the street, men and women haggled with merchants and ordered servants and horses and donkeys stood close to their masters dropping dung where they pleased.

I looked north and noticed two other men who were attempting to pull their merchants carts for training. They seemed to be having an easier time than I was. My merchant was looking impatient so I secured the cart and began hauling it up and down the crowded streets, dodging people and globules of dung as we passed.

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