Mark of the Shadow Part 17: Learnin
“Steady,” came the voice next to my ear. Rolph reached out from behind and lifted my arm. “Don’t let your arm drop,” he continued.
I was holding an Adams revolver. Was the smallest gun Rolph owned I guessed. Didn’t seam to small to me. My small hands had a hard time fitting around the whole grip.
Rolph was teachin me how to stand with my body sideways, and the gun straight out. Course this was only one way of doing it. Depends on the situation Rolph said.
“Dreadful creations. Conflicts are nothing but men hiding, and screaming now. The chivalry of combat has been lost,” mused Cezary.
“We didn’t ask you to watch,” said Rolph.
I’d been standing there for a good five minutes struggling to keep the gun out. It felt like a rock was bein pushed down onto my arm by some invisible creature. The pain grew too much and I dropped my arm.
“What happened?” asked Rolph.
“I,” I said exasperated, “I just couldn’t hold it up anymore. I’m sorry.”
“No need to be sorry we’ll try again later. Now,” he said giving me a wry look, “since your arms are tired, how bout we work legs. Bessie!”
Bessie, the horse came trotting round from the stream where she’d been spending her day. Rolph lead me up to her and lifted me on top.
“Now, you’ve ridden before so your legs should be getting stronger, ya?”
I nodded weakly.
“Haha, well now you have to steer Bessie on your own.”
I shifted my legs feeling the coarse fibbers move under me. I gripped her black, thick maine tightly remembering how deadly a fall could be, especially once moving.
“Remember don’t make her do anything she don’t want to do. Nudge don’t push understand?”
“I think. Why ain’t we using a saddle again?”
“Makes it easier. Now ride down to that tree,” he pointed to a large birch 20 yards away, “and back.”
Rolph gave Bessie a good smack on the back and she went running. I leaned forward and hugged onto her neck. Good thing Bessie knew it was me or she may not a been so kind for the gesture. We covered the ground fast as those warm storms used to come and go. ‘Fore I knew it we were at the tree and I was yelling at Bessie to stop. She didn’t stop. I resorted to pulling on her mane but that didn’t seem to help much either. Finally, as we passed the tree I grabbed Bessie’s head and covered her great auburn eyes. She got the message and we lurched to a trot.
I’d watched Rolph; I knew to kick with my left leg to make her swivel that way, it’s just I could barely feel my legs after that ride and I guess I couldn’t kick hard enough.
Rolph and Cezary were talking bout something and laughing. Good to see they were getting along now.
I leaned down and whispered into Bessie’s ear.
“Go to Rolph mrs. Bessie,” I said.
Bessie shook her head and knocked it against mine giving me a nice ringing sound in my ears, but she followed my directions well enough. Slowly she made her way over to Rolph though she made sure to stop and eat some greens on the way.
“I see you made it safe although not as quick as I might hope,” said Rolph upon my return.
“It wern’t as safe as I woulda like’d it either,” I said as Rolph helped me down.
The day continued with Cezary cooking meals for us in between his research while Rolph taught me what he deemed as necessary skills.
He taught me how to start a fire with flint and lock. He taught me how to bandage a new wound, bullet or otherwise with one’s clothes. He promised he’d show me some plants that you could use to heal wounds too, but he hadn’t found any around these woods.
Take the knife. That’s what he said to me the third morning of our training. It was as long as my arm and looked sharp enough to cut straight through a tree.
I took the knife.
“I don’t just gota stand here with the knife do I?” I asked.
He chuckled, “No, though it might help. No here hold it like this,” he said adjusting the knife in my hand so that my pointer finger rested on top of the carved grip. “Now hold it tight, but not too tight, you wan’t to feel loose with the knife without ever losing control of it. Remember your holding your life or your enemy’s in your hand.
Rolph pulled a shorter curved blade from his pack and lifted it up into a fighting stance.
“I figure the best way to learn is to just start.”
I lunged forward awkwardly. I didn’t want to actually cut him, but my apprehension gave him the upper hand. He sidestepped easily, then grabbed my arm twisting so white hot pain shot through it. I screamed and dropped the knife with a clang as it hit rock. My feeling of defeat was replaced by fear as Rolph’s knife closed around my neck. The blade was clearly meant to fit snuggly around someone’s neck, but it was too large to fit well around mine. It would still do the job frighteningly fast.
“Never doubt your enemy. You can never feel compassion for him, because if he’s smart he won’t feel the same for you.”
“Maybe I should practice on dummies then?” I said.
“Maybe, let’s try again.”
I picked up the weapon slowly feeling it through my numb fingers. I passed the knife to my left hand and shook out my hand. I tried to surprise him by swinging with my left arm just then, but he was quick and our blades locked. His blade caught on the serrated edge of mine and I tried to pull away. I’m a 10 year old girl and as such I don’t posses the strength to outmatch Rolph. The knife was ripped out of my hand. It landed some 20 feet away in the dirt. I dove down into the dirt, underneath Rolph hoping my size would give me an advantage. I wasn’t fast enough and his boot clapped down onto my back and crushed my lungs expelling my reserves of oxygen. I coughed and wheezed in only the way a panicked person can sucking in dry dirt.
The weight grew heavier and I started to cry. I heard a swift slice and felt the hair on my back being pulled away. Rolph’s boot lifted up and I rolled over in relief.
“You don’t need this hair,” said Rolph holding up a large swath of my hair. He tossed it into a bush.
I was too destroyed to care at the moment. I spent the next minute coughing up dirt and gasping for breath. Just when breathing got a bit easier Rolph picked me up and said, “Again.”