Chapter 56

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Will had progressed much in his blade training since first joining with the Guardians. And Lyra had begun to teach him the Paladin secret of casting without the use of his scepter. Which was much harder to learn.

"It is hard for someone who has spent their entire life using a staff or a scepter to cast spells to learn not to use it. I learned at a younger age but I have seen men older than you learn. We will start simple." She held her hand out. "Give me your scepter."

"What?"

"Give me your scepter."

Will was reluctant to part with it. It had been passed from father to son for generations. It was perhaps the length of his arm and could be easily hidden under his brown cloak with straps that easily came away. It was simple and uncolored with Druid runes specific to his clan carved into the wood. A single blue stone was set at the end where his spells would manifest.

"I can't begin to teach you until you are willing to let go," Lyra said.

"How can you even teach me when you channel through your sword?"

"I don't channel through my sword. I channel through my body. It just looks like I'm channeling through my sword."

Will looked back at his scepter and reluctantly placed it into her waiting palm. She took several steps back and held her hands out with the scepter lain across her palms.

"Now take it with your magic from there."

Will stared at his scepter and willed it to him.

"Staring at it will not make it jump from my hands to yours. Clear your mind. See the scepter in your hands."

Will tried again, taking a deep breath like his father had taught him and exhaled slowly. He did this several times before his mind was clear. Then he reached out and tried again. With no results. He tried several times.

"You're trying too hard. What is your most natural spell?"

"Upheaval of Earth."

"What do you do before you cast Upheaval?"

"It just comes naturally to me. I only have to think it and direct my thoughts to it."

"Do that."

Will cleared his mind again and did as she suggested. The scepter rocked in her hands. He did this several more times before it sailed out of her hands. Only his quick reflexes kept it from hitting him in the face.

Lyra smiled as she walked towards him. "Good. Very good. Now do it again."


~~~


Lyra thought that Will was progressing quickly. No one outside of the Paladins had ever been taught what she was teaching the Druid. Yes, it had been taught to her, but she ended up joining them. Will she knew would not be joining them as she was the last Paladin. Or was she? Most days she no longer considered herself a Paladin but a Guardian. The rest of the time, she considered herself both. She needed to decide which she was or if she could actually be both. Aiden was sparring with him, Will having graduated to the longsword. Lyra noticed that he was as good with the sword as he was with the dagger. Her thoughts went back to her own mentor, Mathros. She touched the Flame pendant he'd given her. The man had been like a father to her. He'd pushed her and defended her. He praised her and reprimanded her. And she missed him dearly. But the greatest lesson he ever taught her was how to hold onto her inner strength when everything around her was hopeless. A lesson she had instinctively grasped when Kyrie had threatened Aiden. She had a stray thought. What if she was knocked out of the battle? Badly wounded or unable to use her magic? She thought of the ambush outside of Atevora. She'd very nearly been knocked out of commission and that was before the others knew about the extent of her power. The others depended on her magic. If she was felled, they would have to rely on Lex, Kara, and Will. And the women weren't as strong as Will. He had been the only one wanting to learn the arcane warrior abilities. She needed to know if he would have the strength to be relied upon. Mathros' lesson returned to her mind.

Lyra stood and went over to them. "Aiden."

The two men stopped. Lyra drew her sword and Aiden nodded. It had been months since she'd started training Will in the arcane abilities. Now she would see how far he'd progressed in both steel and magic. She nodded at him. He took a defensive stance. She attacked and saw how well he could defend. Lyra started out slow and gradually quickened her attacks. Will would switch to attack and she defense. She was pleased with his sword ability. Now was time to truly test him. She let her full strength out on him.

"Channel your magic into your might!"

Will was barely defending himself. She slipped past it and laid the blade next to his neck.

"You're dead. Use your magic to aid your strength and defense." She backed away and held her sword defensively. This time, Will attacked. And again she defeated him. "Again!" They continued to do this, the others having forgotten their own tasks to watch intently. "Use your magic! Use it to aid your strength!"

"I can't!"

"You can! Now do it!" Lyra laid him flat on his back. Will was getting frustrated. She knew he was trying.

"I can't! I'm not as strong as you are!"

"Are you going to rely on me at all times? You cannot always rely on me!" Lyra purposely turned her back on him. And as she thought he would, Will went for her back. She quickly spun around and the blade crashed loudly against hers. She pushed him back and jogged several paces back. "I am down, either badly wounded or dead." She rushed towards him and brought her sword down. It clashed against his. "Arlan's men have us highly outnumbered. It looks hopeless. You do not have my magic to rely on. You do not have Lex, Kara, or Grace to aid you. The others are badly wounded, dead or dying." Their swords clashed against each other again. Lyra channeled some of her magic into her strength. "You are all that stands between us and Arlan's men. You are the only hope we have. Only you! Not me. Not Aiden. Not Neve or Saren or Lex or Kara. Only you. What will you do? Will you tell them that you can't? Will you tell them that you are not powerful enough to keep them from dying?" Lyra shoved Will back and the Druid stumbled. "Will you tell them that you are too afraid to try!"

Will charged forward, anger in his golden eyes. That was what she wanted to see.

"Will you let them die because I am not here to push you forward or give you the strength you desperately need? Will you let them fall because I am not here to use my Paladin sword spells to save everyone and kill our enemy? Will you fail your cause?"

Their blades locked and Lyra could feel the tingle of magical energy in the air. With a cry, Will shoved his blade forward and Lyra felt herself hit with a blast of energy that caused her to stumble backward and lose her footing. She fell and a moment later, Will's foot was on her wrist and the tip of his blade against her throat. She heard the others gasp.

"Now you're dead." The anger was still in Will's eyes when she suddenly smiled her lopsided smile. It threw him off and the anger flickered and died. He took a step back and then offered his hand to the Paladin.

She took it and he helped her to her feet. "That was what I was looking for."

"Was that a test?"

"In a way. The Paladins use that scenario to determine if a spellcaster has what it takes to be a Paladin. You passed."

"Wait," Will rubbed a temple. "You just performed a Paladin test on me?"

"I've done that test hundreds of times and never once have I been knocked on my ass."

"Congratulations," Neve called. "Someone has finally kicked Lyra's ass."

Thisbrought laughter from the others.

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