Shang Fox eyed Tenar over with a calculating eye. She stared into his face, and then looked at the floor. Eventually Shang Fox seemed to reach a decision. He looked up to her parents.
Her parents immediately broke into smiles. Tenar herself grinned, and turned to her parents, her gold-brown eyes dancing.
"Please? May I?"
Her father nodded. Tenar felt happier than she had ever been before. She was going to the school of the Shang warriors!!
Tenar walked into the main pavilion, closely following Shang Fox. He was making her his chosen warrior, and so he had brought her with him to the training grounds where she would learn all of the arts of fighting.
Tenar followed Shang Fox to a pair of rooms. He pointed to the door of one of them.
"That's yours. You will be there for your whole stay here. Here's the key."
Tenar took the heavy iron key, and eagerly thrust it into the lock. She turned it smoothly, and opened her door. She walked into her room, and Shang Fox glanced in approvingly, and them walked into his room next door.
Tenar shut her door, leant her glaive against the wall, and walked across the plain room to her bed. There was one window in the wall opposite the door, a bed, some draws and a table and one chair. The room itself was very plain, painted white, with a wood floor.
Once she had taken in her new home, Tenar looked to her pack. She quickly opened it, and started to arrange her room. There was a knock on the door. Tenar opened it. Shang Fox, or Thom as she should call him, was outside.
"Do you want to stay here or go and practise?"
Tenar though for a moment. "I'd like to get my room sorted out."
Thom grinned, making his face look a few years younger. He walked of down the corridor towards the way to the practise grounds.
Tenar closed her door, and put her key on the small table. Then she set about unpacking. She removed her hairbrush and mirror, glancing at herself. She brushed her hair vigorously, and then checked her appearance. Satisfied, she put them next to her bed on a small box. Then she dug back into her rucksack.
She looked around her room, checking everything was in place. Smiling to herself, she looked out of the window. The training grounds and the countryside beyond met her eyes.
She jumped. There was a heavy knocking on the door.
Thom walked in, closing the door behind her. He glanced at her glaive; it was a long pole with a sharp blade on the top, similar to that of a knife. He had seen her fight with it. She was quite good at it. She was also good with the pair of single-bladed swords that she wore on her belt.
"The first years are selecting their sponsors in a few minutes. I better take you down, since you don't know the way."
Tenar turned, and grinned, showing white teeth. "Okay."
"You wont need those swords you know. If you need anything it would be a small knife, not a sword."
Tenar glanced down at her swords. Reluctantly she removed her belt, leaving her knife in her boot. Then she followed Thom, carefully locking her door behind her.
She followed him down a maze of passages into a small hall; it looked like it was meant for training. There was already a small gathering of trainees and novices like her there. She joined the first years, and saw Thom walk over to a small knot of people dressed in black that showed they were master Shang warriors like him. They each had a picture on their front in gold. It was totally unlike her own uniform, which was a bright red shirt and soft leather breeches. The trainees were wearing the same as her, but they wore grey shirts.
A master walked over to the group of novices an trainees. His hair was grey streaked with white. There was a gold wolf on his chest.
That's who he must be, thought Tenar, .
He was indeed. After he had told them that much, he looked at the new first years sternly. "I want you to say your names when I point to you. Then we'll find you a sponsor."
He pointed to a small boy near Tenar. "Simon Ironarm."
"Anyone?" said to the trainees. A blond haired youth put his hand up. "Thank you, Stephen Icefern."
As the pair walked slightly away from the others, pointed to the next person. And son it went on. Eventually Tenar was pointed at.
"Tenar Goldflame," she said clearly.
Three hands slowly raised themselves. Shang Wolf turned to Tenar. "You're popular." He said, grinning. Then, looking back at the trainees, he decided on one of the boys. "Liam Greenwing. You can be Miss Popular's sponsor."
There was a groan from the other two boys as Liam walked over to the paired off people. Tenar walked over there as well.
"As you probably heard I am Liam Greenwing," he said. Tenar grinned, looking at her new sponsor carefully.
He was quite tall for his age of about 16, and had short ginger hair. His eyes were what attracted the attention. They changed colour depending on his feelings. They varied from blue-green to pale green.
While Tenar was looking at Liam, Liam was also looking at Tenar. He saw a tallish girl of about 13, with brown hair that had a peculiar red - gold tint to it. She had a friendly smile revealing white teeth and her eyes were also gold-brown. Her skin was like his; it was light brown. She must be a Chormalan like him.
The last few novices were paired off, and then everyone was sent on their way.
"Do you want me to show you around?"
Tenar grinned. "Yes please. I fell rather lost at the moment."
Liam laughed. "Come on."
He guided her down one of two corridors.
"Where are you from?" Tenar asked, curious about Liam.
"I came from Chiang. It is south from here. And you?"
"Yamat. Know where that is?"
Liam shook his head.
"It is a few miles west of here. Near the Great Forest."
"Oh. There. I know where this is. I went there once to visit my uncle. Stefan?"
Tenar thought for a moment. "No, I don't think I know him."
They arrived at a junction.
A strange voice called out from the shadows. "It's a novice!"
Liam stood back slightly. Tenar did the same.
"Go back to your hellhole, Ribekah Scaarlett," said Liam.
A girl and two boys walked out of the shadows. They looked a few years older than Liam. The girl, who must have been Ribekah, flicked some blonde hair back behind her ear. "What about my brothers? Can they come?" she asked mockingly. The two boys behind her sniggered.
"No, they can go to the pigsty," replied Liam.
The elder of the two boys stopped sniggering and massaged his knuckles, staring evilly at Liam.
He does look like a pig, thought Tenar. Maybe a blonde haired pig, but definitely a pig. She though about how they had been trained for years in fighting, whereas she hadn't. But they didn't know that she had been reckoned to be one of the fastest Shang Fox had seen ever. That was definitely to her advantage. She started listening to the conversation again.
"You shouldn't beat up novices. Especially since they haven't been here even one day."
"Well, that means we'll have to beat you up instead," the girl replied, and hit Liam in the stomach. Liam lashed out like a blur and tried to trip the girl up, but she flipped backwards and landed on her feet, to kick Liam in the stomach. He slammed up against the wall, and as she pelted him with kicks he dodged them. The brothers saw Tenar, and came after her.
She quickly thought about her position. The youngest was at least a year older than her, and both were of a much heavier build. She backed off down a passage and they followed like bulldogs. Suddenly she whipped around and kicked the larger one full in the face. He reeled backwards from the surprise, before coming forward once more. As she blocked the kicks and punches from the brothers, she saw Liam was down, lying on the floor. Ribekah walked over to join her brothers. She was even faster than them, and Tenar found herself getting hit more and more.
Risking another glance at Liam, she saw him signalling to her to get down. A fist hit her in the face and she fell onto her back. She proceeded to get kicked.
She heard a roar, and Liam arrived. The brothers flew down the corridor, crunched into the wall, and slid slowly to the floor. Ribekah, seeing that she had no help from her younger brothers, ran to see to them.
Liam pulled Tenar to her feet.
"Come on, let's go before they get up again, otherwise we will get the largest beating imaginable."
Tenar nodded, and limped off with Liam down the opposite corridor, turned the corner, and were out of sight of their attackers.
Liam pointed back towards Ribekah and her brothers. "Ribekah, Alex and Haran are bad news. Bullies, the lot of them. Unfortunately, they are very good fighters as well."
Tenar could see that much. Changing the subject slightly, she asked Liam "Wasn't there one person who told on some bullies and then no one would talk to them so they left?"
Liam nodded. "That was a few years ago now. When he told on this gang of four or so, no one would talk to him, as it is the unspoken law among us that no one tells on someone else. Ever."
Tenar nodded. "What are the useful excuses for these then?" she said, pointing to her cuts and split lip.
Liam grinned; his eye was rapidly turning black. "Just say you fell down. Keep saying it, and in the end they just give up."
Tenar was about to answer when a large bell boomed through the building.
"Food." Liam stated, smiling.
Tenar grinned. She was starving. "Which way?" she asked, reaching another junction.
Liam took her sleeve. "Come on, follow me."
Avalon Publication July 2000