They left the line for food, plates full. Liam stopped, looked around for a moment at the long rough wooden tables and benches, and then seemed to Tenar to see someone. He started walking purposely towards the end of one of the tables.
Two people at the end of that table moved sideways, making room for Liam and Tenar. As soon as Liam reached the table, he sat in the gap and greeted everyone. Tenar sat down next to him. She was greeted by everyone.
"Are you a novice?" asked a black haired girl.
Tenar nodded. "Only got here today, and I'm already lost!"
The girl laughed, and then turned to Liam. "I thought you were meant to be showing her around as you are her sponsor."
The girl looked at him questioningly. Liam relented. "Met Ribekah and her brothers."
"Ah," said a dark-skinned boy next to Liam. "That explains the cuts."
"Anyway," said Liam, "Tenar, this is Gemma Bluerose," pointing to the dark haired, blue eyed girl, "and this is Brian Lionsclaw," pointing at the dark-skinned youth.
"Hi," she said shyly.
"What might your full name be?" asked Brian.
"Well, certainly suits you," said Brian, grinning. Then, addressing Liam, he said, "You've got a nice one there."
Liam grinned. "She was very popular with the other boys."
Brian looked at her.
"Well, I can see why."
Tenar blushed slightly.
"No need to be embarrassed or shy of him," said Gemma, "he is always like this."
Tenar grinned, just as more people walked over. Room was made for them, and the trainee and the novice sat down.
"Hi everybody," said the very tall blonde haired youth. "Let me introduce Simon Ironarm."
Everyone introduced themselves, including Tenar. Simon looked shyer than she had been.
Simon's sponsor looked at Tenar. "You're the one everyone wanted to sponsor, aren't you?"
"Not everyone??p;quot; said Tenar, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
"Well, I am Stephen Icefern, and you are Tenar Goldflame."
"How did you??mp;quot;
"I remember these things, especially if they are connected to a beautiful girl," he said, grinning.
Tenar blushed again. She wished they would stop complimenting her; they were embarrassing her. She set to eating her food so she wouldn't have to answer.
Gemma elbowed Stephen. "You should know better, you know."
Stephen grinned evilly at her. "My nature I'm afraid."
"Honestly!" Gemma replied, making Tenar look up. "Men!"
Tenar grinned, and swallowed her food. "You're right there."
Gemma laughed. Conversations started up and down the table that they were sitting at.
Stephen suddenly had an idea.
"Liam. Have you taken Tenar to the Armoury yet?"
"Nope. I haven't taken her anywhere. We had an encounter with Ribekah, Alex and Haran. Hence the bruises and cuts.
"Should have guessed. I passed Haran going to the hospital wing; he had a broken nose."
"Well, should we go around together after this?"
Stephen asked Simon if he wanted to. Simon replied that he would.
"Tenar?" asked Simon.
"And we could see how you fight."
Tenar nodded. "Fine by me."
Stephen grinned. He liked Tenar, but then, who wouldn't?
The meal finished, Stephen, Liam, Gemma, Simon, Brian and Tenar walked out of the double doors at the end of the dining hall, and took them to the armoury. As they stepped in, Tenar gasped in wonder; Simon was looking around him with his mouth hanging open. The other four, pleased by the reaction, grinned at each other. They remembered when they were like this. Tenar looked about her at racks of glaives, spears and pikes. There was a case with sword in it, and many other weapons she had never seen before. There was a door in the far wall that was open, and through that she could see armour and helmets, and trappings for horses. She turned to Liam.
"It's amazing! Why is it all here?"
Liam smiled. "When a Shang warrior becomes a master he selects his best weapon as his master weapon, and selects one from this armoury. If they are the most powerful warriors and are allowed to call themselves after a mythical beast like a dragon or a phoenix and then they select a weapon from the small armoury behind the locked door on the left."
Tenar eyed the door with interest. She walked up to it, and looked for a lock. There wasn't one. I'm going to select a weapon from that room she thought.
"I would like to get my weapon from there," said Liam.
Gemma nodded in agreement, looking at that closed door.
Simon walked over to Liam.
"What weapon would you select?"
"Probably knives. I'm best with them."
"I'll say!" interrupted Stephen. "Simon, he is one of the fastest knife fighters that the instructors have ever seen."
"Well, you are excellent with the axe," Liam retorted.
Stephen smiled. "What are you good with?" he asked Tenar.
"Shang swords and the glaive," she replied.
Gemma grinned. "I'm best with a sword. Come on. Lets go outside and see how you two are with your weapons."
Tenar shrugged. "Okay by me."
They walked into the practice grounds after guiding Simon and Tenar to their weapons store so that they could get wooden weapons. They were not allowed to use real ones.
"Who will fight first?" asked Gemma.
Stephen asked Tenar, and she agreed. They walked out into the practice area, leaving everyone else sitting on the face. Tenar gripped her quarterstaff, and looked at Stephen. She imagined that the staff was a glaive and that there was a sharp blade on the top. She readied herself.
Once someone shouted go, they started circling each other. Stephen reckoned that this would be easy; she hadn't even started training. Before he knew it, her staff hit his right side. Tenar knew he was thinking about something else for a moment, but as she withdrew her staff, Stephen swung at her. She blocked it and brought her staff in a downward blow to his head, but he quickly blocked it. Remembering what her father had taught her, she withdrew quickly and attacked his legs. He jumped over the staff, and jabbed at her stomach. She dodged. She was getting the feel of the staff back now, and she suddenly sped up.
Stephen was surprised when the blows suddenly became faster and thicker. He blocked every blow, but he was defending, and defending wouldn't win. Desperately he thrust his staff under hers. She pushed her staff down, knocking it out of the way. Stephen withdrew his staff and stopped another blow.
Tenar saw she was slowly winning, but she wanted to get it over and done with. She decided to end the fight. She feigned a strike at his head, and Stephen went to block it. Instead she brought the staff down and hooked it between Stephen's ankles. She twisted and Stephen collapsed onto the ground. Like a flash she had her staff at his neck.
Clapping came from the fence. Tenar took her staff in her left hand and helped Stephen up.
"I underestimated you," said Stephen. "Where did you learn to fight like that?"
"My father taught me, but I practised so much that I could beat him soon before I came away."
"You father must be good."
Tenar grinned. Stephen was shaking his hand; she had hit it with her staff in the fighting. Stephen yelped as he got bad pins and needles.
"If there's one thing I hate, it is pins and needles," he muttered. Tenar laughed.
Liam wanted to fight Simon with wooden warhammers. Simon was best with them but Liam found them slightly cumbersome. Tenar sat back on the fence to watch. Stephen sat beside her. "How good are you with other weapons?"
"Not very," Tenar replied, "We couldn't afford any other weapons. The swords were handed down and my father didn't like them, so I used them. And the glaives are pretty cheap to buy."
Stephen nodded. "Now, if we had been fighting with axes then I would have shown you something."
Tenar grinned. "I'm sure you would."
She was watching the fight before her. Simon was blocking fast, but it was clear Liam had the upper hand. He was a blur, and seemed to be attacking all sides at once.
"Which one?" asked Gemma.
Stephen laughed. "He is good at almost everything is Liam."
"That is what you looked like," commented Gemma. Tenar blushed slightly from the compliment.
"Gemma? Would you fight me afterwards?" asked Brian.
"I fight you all of the time." Gemma replied.
"And one day I might just beat you." Brian remarked. "It's all good practise."
As Tenar watched Liam suddenly darted sideways and put his sword point on Simon's chest. Simon stopped and grinned at Liam. He said something that they couldn't hear, and Liam laughed. Then Simon and Liam walked over, and Simon collapsed on the grass.
"He's too fast for me."
Liam grinned and sat in the place that Gemma vacated. Gemma wandered over to Brian with a quarterstaff.
"Come on then."
Brian grinned at her, and then picked up his own. They walked over to where the others had been fighting, and started.
"Gemma is excellent," commented Tenar, "You can't see her because she moves too fast.??phen grinned. "Even faster than Liam, you mean?"
Tenar nodded. "Yep."
Liam looked at her, eyes a deep blue-green and sparkling with laughter.
"You looked like that, miss I-must-compliment-everybody."
Tenar glared at him. "Well, I'm just saying what I think, Mr I'm-good-at-everything!"
Liam laughed, and ruffled her hair.
"Stop that!" said Stephen. "Her hair looked nicer before you ruffled it."
Tenar looked at him. He looked back questioningly. "What?" he said, "I just said what I think??p;quot; mimicking her last comment. She grinned. He carried on. "I just think that??"
Tenar had pushed him off the low fence. Stephen was sitting on the grass frowning at Tenar. The he grinned and pulled her down as well. Liam and Simon were laughing at Stephen and Tenar's faces. Tenar and Stephen looked at each other, making a silent agreement.
Liam was laughing hysterically when he found himself sitting on the ground with them. He looked slightly confused as he was suddenly lying on the ground staring at the sky, and then caught Stefan and Tenar's eyes. They all collapsed in hysterics. Tenar couldn't stop laughing, Stephan had his head in his hands and Liam was still lying on the ground laughing. Gemma and Brian walked over and exchanged puzzled looks. Simon explained what had happened. Gemma giggled, and pulled Liam and Tenar to his feet. Brian pulled Stephen up and Tenar promptly pushed him back down again. Stephen stood up and stared into Tenar's eyes. She collapsed in laughter; Stephen was frowning and at the same time trying not to laugh. He gave up, and started laughing again. Liam had just calmed down when Simon made a face at him. He started laughing again.
"Gemma!" called Simon.
"It's easy to make them laugh. Watch!"
Tenar bit her lip to stop herself from laughing anymore because she was getting a stomachache from laughing too much. Simon walked up to her.
She was off again. Simon saw her face and started laughing too. Gemma was getting fed up of this. As she was about to start getting a bit annoyed, Brian started to laugh as well. She rounded on him, but he was pointing at three figures walking across the practice grounds away from the hospital wing. They were all blonde haired, but looked a bit the worse for wear, rather like Tenar and Liam were. Liam, Tenar Simon and Stephen looked around at the figures, and then started laughing. Ribekah, Haran and Alex glared at them, stared at Liam and Tenar icily, and then retreated to their rooms. A large boom sounded through the building and the grounds.
"Have to get to bed," said Gemma. The group of friends walked inside, put back the wooden weapons they had borrowed, and walked off to their rooms. Tomorrow Tenar and Simon were going to start training.
Avalon Publication (September 2000)