Tenar jerked awake. Where am I? she thought, getting annoyed with the bell that had
woken her up. She remembered, and her eyes lit up with excitement. She quickly got up
and started to get dressed, glad that the bell had at last stopped. It had a habit of giving
her a headache. Looking out of the window she could se it was going to be a warm sticky
day. She didn't like them. Sighing, she pulled on her boots and put her knife in her boot.
There was a knock on the door.
Yawning, she unlocked and opened it. It was Thom. "Ready?"
"Not quite," she responded, brushing her hair until it looked a bit better in her mirror. She
yawned again and then smiled at him. "Now I am."
"Come on then."
She took her key and locked the door behind her. He led her towards the practice
grounds. She felt pleased; she had recognised some of the turns in the passages.
She emerged to find Gemma and Liam waiting for her.
"Hi," she said sleepily.
"Hi!" Tenar glared at Gemma. She was too cheerful for the morning.
Liam saw her glare and grinned. "She is annoying sometimes isn't she?"
Gemma stuck her tongue out at Liam. Liam laughed.
"Come on then."
The three of them walked over to a group of people. When they got there, they saw
Shang Wolf was already there.
"Right," he said, "Novices on my right and Trainees on my left."
Tenar went to his right. She saw Simon there, and moved to talk to him. Glancing
around the group she saw older novices who had obviously come a few years ago. Some
of them looked old enough to be in with the Trainees. Simon saw where she was looking.
"We have to stay in this group for three years until we are sixteen like Liam and Stephen."
"Why can't we be in their group?" she asked, meaning Liam, Gemma, Stephen and Brian
Simon shrugged. "Because we can't fight as well as them, and aren't old enough."
"Yes, I know, but?? I don't know," she replied, seeing there was no point to the
argument. Glancing around, she saw someone she recognised in her group. "Oh no."
"What?" asked Simon, turning to look.
"Alex. He is still a novice."
"Is he the one that did that?" asked Simon, pointing to her black eye.
Tenar grinned. "Yep. One day he is definitely going to pay for that."
Simon grinned too. "Just tell me if you ever need help collecting payment, and I would be
"I might ask you sometime."
"Quiet!" bellowed Shang Wolf. Both groups jumped slightly and there was silence.
"That's better," he commented. "Right. Trainees, you will be doing axes first."
Tenar could see Stephen rejoicing out of the corner of her eye. She grinned. Stephen saw
her looking at him, and grinned. Tenar laughed quietly at him; he couldn't stop grinning
from ear to ear.
"Novices! You will be doing hand-to-hand combat with Shang Cheetah."
Simon looked at his hands, and sighed. He had never been very good at hand-to-hand
combat. Weapons were his thing.
The Trainees walked off with Shang Wolf at their head. The Novices were wondering
what to do when a figure in black dropped out of the second floor window, and landed
gracefully, before quickly standing up. Lots of people looked impressed.
"I'm Shang Cheetah," the blonde haired woman said. "I am going to be teaching all you
new ones throws, landings and fighting techniques. Some day you will have to fight
without a weapon, and so, unlike knights in the lands across the sea, you will learn
hand-to-hand combat. And that's what I am best at. Right, lets go." She beckoned to the
group and started walking towards the practise halls. The older members of the group
knew where they were going, and so they walked ahead. Simon caught up with Shang
"Why did you come out of the window?"
Shang Cheetah grinned. "It's quicker."
The hours flew by. Tenar quickly got the hang of what they were taught by Shang
Cheetah, and then was taken by her into the practice ground to be taught the glaive. An
hour after that she practised archery and then fighting with axes. By the time it was
lunchtime she was worn out. She sat down with Simon, and started to eat quickly and
hungrily. Glancing at Simon, she saw that he was doing the same.
Liam, Brian and Gemma walked over and sat down opposite them. They didn't look tired
"What have you been doing all morning? Relaxing?" she asked Stephen dryly.
Stephen laughed. "No, of course not. Why?"
Simon, doing an impression of Stephen, said in a squeaky voice "Ooh, I'm so happy and
I'm not tired at all."
Stephen kicked Simon's foot, and Simon shut up, grinning.
"How do you manage to stay so cheerful?" asked Tenar. "Tell me the secret, and I will be
your friend for ever more!"
"I thought you already were our friend," commented Liam.
"That's past the point!"
Liam grinned. "Have to get used to it. Well, think about the two hours of lessons we
have after this. Now those are tiring."
Tenar gasped. "Two more hours?"
Simon put his head in his hands.
"And then one more hour of practice, and then free time," added Gemma.
"Can I just die on the spot?" asked Simon.
Meals finished, the Trainees and the Novices went to their separate lessons. Tenar and
Simon had reading and writing for an hour, and then geography. Tenar quite liked the
lessons as it was very relaxed and people could go at their own pace. As everyone had
come from small villages across the country no one except the master could read or write.
Tenar and Simon quite liked learning that. But geography was boring. Tenar had to
elbow Simon regularly to stop him from falling asleep. But eventually the lesson ended,
and they almost danced back out of the slightly stuffy classroom.
They wandered down to the practice grounds and were surprised to find they were having
this last hour with the Trainees. Tenar and Simon immediately walked over to Gemma,
Liam, Brian and Stephen.
"What are we doing?"
"The glaive," replied Gemma.
"Your time to shine, little'un," said Stephen, grinning.
Tenar glared at him. "What happens if I don't want to show off?"
"You will be noticed by Shang Wolf, you know. He can see genius from a mile away,"
Liam pointed out.
"What's that?" asked a person behind them. "I heard my name being mentioned."
Brian turned to Shang Wolf. "She is very good with the glaive, sir."
Shang Wolf looked Tenar up and down. "Hmm. We'll see. Goldflame, you can go first."
Tenar smiled unconvincingly at Shang Wolf, and as he walked away, she glared icily at
Brian. Brian, seeing her glare, said, "Well, if he asks something it pays to answer."
Liam stepped forward to look after Brian. "He's right, you know. If he hadn't have
answered, then we'd all have probably been told off."
Temar opened her mouth to say something in return when a shout came from the front of
Smiling at her friends, she walked over to Shang Wolf. She blushed slightly as she saw
the whole group staring at her. When she heard Alex sniggering, she silently promised
him a bruise or two.
"Well, according to your friends you are excellent with a glaive," Shang Wolf said. "So,
we will put you against our best glaive fighter. Firecloak!"
A bronze-haired girl stepped forward. She must be about the same age as Liam, thought
The girl smiled at her. Tenar smiled back. Shang Wolf stepped backwards.
The two girls brought their glaives to the starting position.
As soon as the word was uttered, the girl was upon her. Tenar blocked blow after blow.
She glanced at Shang Wolf and he was grinning. Alex was standing behind him, smirking.
Seeing this, Tenar felt more determined. 'That does it! No more will they smirk at me!'
Tenar looked at her opponent. She blocked another blow, and swung her glaive at her
chest. The girl jumped backwards, surprised by the sudden offensive. Tenar,
strengthened by the girl's momentary confusion, rained blows onto her, beating the girl
further and further backwards. Then she swung her glaive sideways, and her arms jarred
as her glaive met with the girl's. She quickly changed the blow so that it was aimed for
her head. Tenar's opponent seemed to be struggling, as she wasn't used to Tenar's
swiftness. Tenar saw this, and speeded up even more. She was on the offensive now, and
the person who was making the offensive was the person most likely to win.
Tenar saw the girl's blow too late, and her side suddenly hurt as the glaive came into
contact with it. She heard a whoop from the group, and thought of Alex. She was
determined to wipe that smile from his face. Instead of trying to block that blow, Tenar
turned sideways and thrust her glaive in the gap between her opponent's arm and chest.
Then Tenar pulled it sideways, sending the girl crashing to the ground. Tenar put her
glaive at the girl's throat.
There was clapping. Tenar realised they were clapping her, and suddenly felt very happy.
She helped the girl to her feet, and walked with her to the rest of the group. Shang Wolf
was standing there with his mouth open, and then suddenly he grinned.
"Well done, Goldflame."
Tenar smiled back at him. She thanked Shang Wolf, and while she was walking back to
her friends she glanced at Alex. He was looking very unhappy. Tenar grinned, happy that
she had disappointed her enemy.
"That was great!"
Tenar looked at Stephen. "Thanks."
"That was faster than you fought Stephen!" Gemma pointed out.
"Are you that good without a weapon?" asked Liam.
Tenar shook her head.
"Phew! If you were, I would have to stop you from taking my title somehow!"
Tenar looked at him. "How would you do that?"
Liam shrugged. "Set Ribekah, Alex and Haran on you?"
Tenar laughed. "One day I'm going to be set on them."
Liam looked at her. "Don't bother. You'll just get beaten up. They are much bigger and
more experienced than you."
"I know that. But they're bullies. And that also means they are cowards. I can beat
cowards when I try hard enough."
Everyone else was paying attention to some new moves. Shang Wolf hadn't noticed that
Liam and Tenar weren't paying any attention.
Tenar looked up at Liam, and saw that he was actually concerned.
"If you are going to get them, please ask me to come as well."
"I don't have to be looked after, you know."
"I don't want you to get beaten by them again and again."
"Well, tough. I am going to get beaten by them again and again until I can beat them."
Tenar and Liam turned to face an annoyed Shang Wolf.
"Goldflame, just because you are good with the glaive, doesn't mean you can distract
others. Greenwing, you need to learn this as you are one of the worst people with the
glaive that I know."
With that, Shang Wolf walked back to the front of the group. Liam bit his lip, and
muttered, "He doesn't even watch me fight, and then he criticises me."
Tenar smiled at Liam reassuringly, and then saw Alex smirking. She slowly walked over
to Alex, keeping out of sight of Shang Wolf. Alex didn't see her as she slid her glaive
between his ankles and twisted. He fell over and landed hard on his back, wheezing.
Tenar slipped away from him. Shang Wolf walked over to Alex and told him off for
fooling around. Liam, Gemma, Simon, Brian and Stephen had seen what Tenar had done,
and were trying not to laugh. Tenar got back to them looking very pleased.
Liam looked at Alex slowly standing up and wheezing and at his brother and sister looking
around for someone to blame, and fought with himself to stop himself from trying to
laugh. Ribekah's eyes alighted on Liam, and they narrowed.
Tenar saw Ribekah and was determined to help Liam when Ribekah attacked him, as she
surely would do.
"Everyone get into pairs!"
Tenar stayed next to Liam. Shang Wolf walked over to her. "Goldflame, you and this
lot" he pointed to a few people behind him, "will be taught by me for the glaive. You
already know the things everyone else is being taught."
Tenar sighed, smiled at Liam, and walked off after Shang Wolf's retreating back. Liam
went with Brian. When Liam and Brian started practising, Tenar saw how they fought.
Liam wasn't used to the pole, and she winced as Brian's glaive struck Liam's head. Liam
She silently wished Liam good luck, and turned to Shang Wolf. Then she started
practising the new moves he was showing her.
Avalon Publication (September 2000)