Learning the Hard Way

by CarpenterAnt

"Alright, try again." I grunted in response. I was becoming seriously doubtful of ever getting this right. Again I held up the thin shaft of metal and concentrated. At the end of the rod a small spark of radiant light appeared. I let out a breath holding on to my concentration. Keeping the rod steady I began to push my fixation a little further from the end. The spark began to elongate forming a glowing line almost a half inch in length.

Janice smiled. "Very good. Now look at me." I took my eyes off the rod and glanced over at Janice. When I looked back the spark was gone. I swore. "It's alright. You did well. It takes time to learn to do it while under distraction. That's all for today. You have weapons practice to get to." I grinned at this. Dashing from the room, I ran up the short flight of steps, bursting out into the sunlight filling the courtyard.

I made a quick stop in my room to grab my gear. Still struggling into the Hardened leather armor on my way to the Training ground, I rounded a corner and ran right into a thrown punch. As my head stopped spinning I looked up at my attacker. "Hey, Kelan, what's the big idea?" The other young man grinned down at me as he offered his hand. "Next time, look before you leap." I grinned as I accepted the offered hand. "Good one. Never even saw it coming."

We made our way to the Training room, a gigantic chamber with a high stone ceiling and walls lined with tables containing all manner of weapons. It was illuminated by a half dozen large globes that gave off a soft yellow light. At the center of the room the shadowy form of Redener stood surrounded by the other pupils. "So you've decided to grace us with your presence." Walking or more like floating over to one of the far tables, he beckoned us over to it.

On the highly polished surface of the table there sat row after row of leather gauntlets. "These will be your introduction to Kamasi weaponry. From this table you will choose a pair of gloves." We did as instructed. Kellan chose a pair dyed a dark green. They were a good fit, coming up to about his mid-forearm. They seemed very like him. I on the other hand didn't go for anything quite that dramatic. Looking over the selection I chose a close fitting pair of gloves which came back just over the wrist. They had been dyed a dark blue, almost the same color as my Kamasi robes.

Redener studied our choices with interest before smiling and telling us a little of the history of each set. It seemed Kellan's set had once belonged to the royal family. Redener seemed to think it a fitting choice. My gloves on the other hand were made, it seemed, by an apprentice to one of the great masters, a fellow named Huil. "These gauntlets both offer the wearer different advantages. Kellan's pair were designed along the offensive line, while yours, David, offer defensive enhancements."

For the next three hours we practiced the commands to activate the powers over, and over, until we could do it perfectly. Kellan's gauntlets had quite a few different enchantments on them, the ones he learned first would speed up a hit to devastating effectiveness. As far as I could see my gloves had only one enchantment on them, and to activate it required great concentration and perfect hand placement. The final result was well worth the effort as the magical field formed for the first time. It was nearly indestructible and could withstand almost any amount of punishment. It even deflected a massive electrical attack that Redener brought to bear against it.

I remember the gloves did feel slightly warmer after that test, but at the time I was too tired to think much of it. As the others left Redener finally gave us one of his closely guarded smiles of approval. "You both did very well today, of all the students I have had in this time and in the past you two are among the most promising. That will be all for today, but I expect to see you both tomorrow morning for more specialized training. Sleep well." With that he faded from view.

Kellan and I both looked at each other with a grin. Removing my gloves, I put them back on the table before leaving. Returning to my room I quickly changed out of the sweaty garments I had been wearing and donned clean clothes for the evening meal. I happened to glance at the mirror as I left the room only to be rooted in place with shock. There tucked in my belt were the gloves I knew I had left in the training room. Pulling the gloves from my belt I studied them intently. The markings were exactly the same; in fact they had to be the same gloves.

Walking over to a bookshelf, I placed the gloves under a heavy tome. Not taking my eyes off the book and its strange contents, I left the room. I was halfway down the hallway before I again felt my side and cursed as again I felt the glove there. I stormed down the hallway and banged on Kelan's door just as he opened it himself. "Hey David, what's up? You look excited about something." I stepped into the room. "Where are the gloves you were using today?" Kelan was slightly confused by this unexpected question. "There on the table." Looking over where he gestured I recognized the green leather of his gauntlets. "Is something wrong?" Kelan seemed perplexed. Shaking my head we both left to join the evening mess.

As I sat down at the long bench in the well lit mess hall I felt at my waist. Nothing was there. There were few people here, all sitting in small groups. Kelan had gone to join one of them. I reached for the crystal I wore around my neck. Concentrating I imagined a doorway being opened. Janice appeared next to me. "So how did it go?" I smiled. "Well enough I suppose. We finally got to try out some actual Kamasi-made items." Janice grinned. "Which ones?" I was about to answer when a commotion started down at the group Kelan had joined. Looking over at my friend, I noticed the look of pure bewilderment on his face as he held up his gauntlets. The same gauntlets he had left in his room. "Well, those to be specific."

Again I reached for my waist. This time I felt the soft leather that I was pretty sure would be there. Taking the gloves out and placing them on the table, I looked at Janice. "Would you mind explaining this?" Janice stared back, her eyes laughing. "What's to explain, They like you." I grimaced. "Please explain that." "Well, the gloves on the table in the Training area belonged to Kamasi that died a long time ago. When you first used them, they bonded to you."

"So what you're saying is I'm stuck with them until I die?" I didn't know whether to be upset or not. "Unless someone else with your consent activates them. Then the gloves will transfer to the new user. In this way a master can pass down his possesions to his pupils. I remember these gloves. They will serve you well in the future."

Lying in bed that night, I contemplated my future. As always my mind returned to the mysterious vision I had during my rite of passage. The final words of the chant still haunted me. To find the keep, the Forge, Metamor.....Metamor. The name was strange, and yet I felt it held a great significance for me. Sitting up, I gazed out the window at the night sky. It was so peaceful right now. The moon was slowly setting. I looked closer at the moon. There was a shadow near the horizon that shouldn't have been there. With a start, I realized that it was spreading into the sky. Leaping to my feet, I flung on some clothes, strapped on my armor, and headed to the outer walls. As the door closed behind me the gloves, lying forgotten on the table, faded from view.

Reaching the armory, I grabbed my short sword and a brassard for my sword arm. I also took one of the leather helms off the rack and raced for the guard house. Kelan was already there. He too was wearing armor and a helm, but instead of a sword he held a large mace. He also was wearing his gauntlets. I realized I had left mine behind. Looking down to my waist, I was relieved to see that they had indeed come along for the ride. Putting them on quickly, I went over to Kelan. "So how does it look?" Kelan seemed worried. " It's a large contingent of lutins, heavily armed and quite a few shamans are with them." I nodded. "So what are our orders?"

Kelan frowned. "We are going to attack. All of us together should be able to do a lot of damage. The others have also received basics in Kamasi weaponry." Kelan held up his mace. On its surface was a weaving pattern of runes. "This is Hujin, an Armor-reaver. You choose your weapons over at the table." Walking over I found a large selection of weaponry of all types. Redener appeared. "I would suggest this one." He indicated a light throwing dagger. "What are its capabilities?" Redener smiled. "The dagger is called Koru, it has enhancements to speed, power, accuracy, and is almost unbreakable. They are always activated so you don't have to invoke them." Trusting his experience I took the dagger and sheath and hung them at my belt.

Returning to Kelan we proceeded to the briefing room. There Redener again joined us. Pointing to a large map on the wall he indicated the relative position of the Lutin encampment. "The only way for them to approach Ravendark from this position is to move through this canyon, it is narrow and dangerous to move an army through. But they are trusting in surprise. Our plan is to set up a series of watchtowers along the ridgeline and strengthen the fortifications at the exit of the canyon. The end of the canyon is a sheer cliff and stretched between the two sides is a high stone wall. It is here that we will hold them. You have all learned the basics of your new abilities. I wish there was time for you to expand on this start, but you will have to learn as you go. Good luck to you all. Kelan, a word with you."

As the majority of the room began to mill about talking, Kelan stepped closer to the hazy form. He looked different somehow. No more was he the arrogant impulsive child I had known. He now moved with an air of reserve and competance. He seemed older, more mature. I found the change encouraging. He was taking this seriously, deadly seriously in fact. As was right.

As the spectral form vanished Kelan seemed slightly uncertain. He motioned me over. "David, the army wouldn't wait. They are already on their way to the Bulwark. We have no choice but to join them as soon as may be. They should have waited." Kelan was worried about this. "We can be ready to leave by mid-morning. It will take that long to get all the supplies together. We can't go with just our weapons." I tried to be a voice of reason.

Kelan was adamant. "We can't just stay here and wait. Get provisions for us and six others. We will go on ahead while the rest prepare." I nodded once and Kelan walked away to find the other six who would be best to take with us. I trotted over to the Butteries and ordered eight packs loaded with food and water enough for five days. By the time the others arrived they were ready. Shrugging into the leather straps the others look frightened but resolute. I had to keep reminding myself that after all none of us was over twenty. Kelan was the oldest and he was only twenty one. Of the others I only knew four of them. Fredic, a green of House Cornim, and Gorith, a Yellow of House Jiref. We all had gauntlets of Kamasi make and we had all just acquired weaponry of the same.

"Gorith, Fredic, I see someone thought to bring entertainment on this little hunt. Will you both be preforming seperately or together?" Jiref laughed at the jibe, and Fredic made a show of mock indignation. They were both part of a traveling carnival before the war and they made that fateful journey with us. "Well, somebody at least is taking the farm boy back up to his own country." I smiled at the counter. We would have a time on this trip. These two were my closest friends besides Kelan.

We waited for the darkest hour of the night and then were off. Following the army was not difficult. They left a wide swath of earth beaten by horse hoofs and wagon wheels. "We should be able to catch them up in a day." Kelan had shouted across the howl of the wind as our horses sped across the plain. We traveled on until the foggy sunrise, then we rested for an hour before again making a bid to reach the army.

As the day wore away and we still saw no sign of the army we began to get worried. We hastened our speed and shortened our rests. As we came over the next rise, we halted in a defeated silence. There before us was a plain littered with bodies of both men and horses. And here and there among them a burned wagon. The army would not reach the wall to fight. And they would never return to Ravendark either. The ground was stained red with the blood of friends. In the midst of the carnage we found clear signs. Giants, maybe ten of them and many, many lutins. One giant would never harm another soul and neither would many lutins. They had been left to rot by their fellows. The carrion fowl had been busy on the battlefield. Everywhere we looked was some new atrocity.

We wandered in a daze. All around us was death. Many of these people I had known, some had been friends. I felt a rage blaze inside him. I felt it hotly searing at my mind, compelling me to strike out at something, anything. I forced down the impulse. I waited fighting the anger. Letting its fire die, and allowing it to harden into the steel of resolve. I looked up to see Kelan standing over another of our group, Kieva who was cradling a still, bloody form. Even from here I could see the resemblence between the two. These two had been brothers. Again the anger flared and again I forced it down.

For most of the rest of the day we laboured. Using what tools we found in the burned wagons we dug a mass grave. Into it we placed all the remains of the Oulteran Army. However Kieva dug a lone grave, with his own hands and laid his brother to rest alone.

Kelan took a deep breath. "We must push on, and hold the wall until help arrives." Before we continued he sent two of our number that I didn't know back along our path to bring news to Ravendark. And we continued, now only six. That night we halted and made camp. We would no longer travel in the dark. We were now in no hurry to reach the canyon. We each took turns at watch and only twice were there any noises other than the sounds of the wild we had become enured to. They were roaring sounds, but from a distance. And they were never repeated.

My watch is over. I sleep and I dream.