Slayer - Part 2
Training with Cleaver was real hard, but I reckoned it would be worth it. It was a good year until he let me hold my first sword and I was unable to hide my smile. By now I must’ve had my fourteenth birthday, but who was really counting, anyways? Instead of years, Cleaver measured muscle size, speed and strength. The old man was a gruff sort, to the point he seemed unloving and cold. But I caught the look of pride in his eyes when I made unexpected progress and that was enough for me. Way I sees it, he avoided actually feeling stuff, ‘coz I figured he had done all that a long time ago and vowed never to again.
“Have you ever loved someone?” I asked Cleaver as my arm shook with the weight of the sword. The challenge for today was to hold the sword for as long as I could and after a while, I was becoming bored, desperately wanting to slice it through the air in a wild arc.
Cleaver sat on a tree stump, his eyes fixed on me, ready to punish if my sword lowered. “Aye.”
I stared at him. “Who did you love?”
Cleaver took a deep breath. “The only thing you need to love now is your sword. Keep it that way and you’ll never break, never waiver and always win.”
My arm began to cramp and I felt the weight of the broadsword increase. Sweat ran down my face and I took deep breaths, bringing my mind to focus on the task. “Is that why you don’t love?”
“Because you broke once and lost?” I smiled cruelly, enjoying the look of uncertainty on my master’s face. But my mind had wandered and the sword lowered. Before I knew what was happening, Cleaver was on me, sweeping my leg away and knocking the sword from my hand. Landing heavily on my back, the air was forced from me and I lay gasping, looking up into the angry face of Cleaver.
“You broke,” he said, pulling me up. We looked at each other for a few moments until I was no longer able to hold his stare. Without needing to be told, I picked the sword up and held it in my sore arms, deepening my stance and clearing my mind. When sun came down, I never wanted to hold a sword again.
Only next day Cleaver had me up at dawn, holding the sword out until I was no longer able to. The muscles in my arms screamed at me and I wanted to scream back, but I kept my gaze ahead and focussed. The sword was my arm, I told myself. It is part of me, and I am part of it. I cannot lose the sword in the same way I cannot lose my arm. These days would go on until I was able to stand holding the sword without a single shake in my arm from dawn to dusk.
“Now you are ready to fight,” Cleaver said, taking the sword from me. He disappeared into the hut and left me in the forest with the shadows darkening around me. I tensed my arm, new muscles bulging down my forearm. When I went to bed later that night, I dreamt of my Ma and Pa for the first time in ages. Waking, I found myself crying, but unable to recall what the dream was about. When Cleaver came into my room, I quickly wiped the tears and pretended to sleep.
“Come, Little Slayer. Now it’s time you learnt how to fight.”
For months Cleaver taught me how to use my sword to block various basic attacks. “We repeat these moves until you can do them without thinking about it,” Cleaver told me. It was boring, but as time went by the moves became as natural as breathing. Between this, Cleaver had me doing more running and lifting work, turning my body into a deadly machine. Slash, block, slash, block. The clang of metal on metal became music that grew faster and faster and the months sped by. When I reckoned I must be fifteen, we changed my training to attack. My sword flew through the air to be parried by Cleaver. We danced this metal dance through the day, swapping from attack to defense. Cleaver shouted to keep my stance strong, or hold my sword tighter. Once I slipped through his defense and cut his arm, but he told me to ignore it and continue. But my eyes were fixed on the blood trickling down his arm and I remembered my Ma bleeding to death on top of me. I threw the sword down and walked away.
“Where are you going?” Cleaver called.
I ignored him and hurried through the forest, my mind filled with images of Dragon’s Spit. Was it really two years ago that I wandered lost and bare foot through this forest? I don’t know how I found my way after all this time, but I came out right by the river that ran through Dragon’s Spit. The sun was bright, shining through the ruined remains and a gentle breeze blew overgrown weeds. I’m not sure how to describe things: it was like a twisted version of how things were. As I wandered between the ruined remains, I noticed there were no bodies.
“I buried them,” Cleaver said from behind. “The night you came to me, I came here, but there were no survivors.”
I turned to him. “This is just a memory,” I said. “It’s not my home.” I looked around, noticing the mounds where bodies had been buried. “I wonder where you buried my Ma and Pa?”
Cleaver shrugged. “Didn’t know anyone from here.”
“Why did they kill everyone?”
“Maybe one day you’ll have your answer.”
The sun began to sink and shadows spread across the land. That was the last time I saw my village. Cleaver was my only family now.