Gaelus let out a shout as he snapped a simple chopping motion with the wooden blade in his hand.  This was his 59th swing, and as with the other 58 it was clumsy and too fast. Fast swings weren’t bad but drills were supposed to show control, but Gaelus couldn’t handle the unwieldy weapon.

The instructor growled and stormed over to Gaelus.  “Why am I not surprised to find you out of rhythm? I’ll beat the skill into you if I have to.  Now swing.”

With no choice, he swung and the instructor’s whip struck his back.  “Too high. Again.” For the next hour, Gaelus swung over and over. Each time another welt was added to his back.  His vision went black at the edges and his chest heaved. Even the other students, who like him watched beatings and executions to prepare them for battle, looked a bit pale.


The beating stopped and the instructor stepped in front of him and his icy eyes cut into Gaelus.  “Tomorrow is final testing to become guards. As you know guards for his majesty may wield any blade so pick your best.  Some of us might be better off saying they were too weak from a beating to compete. After all, you can only try out once,”  he looked up at the cadets and yelled, “Dismissed!”

As Gaelus dragged himself toward the gate the instructor grabbed his arm “I gave you an out boy.  The beating was severe enough that you can go home without shame. I suggest you take it,” Gaelus nodded and slowly walked out.  When finally alone he stood up straight and jogged the 5 miles to the dorm he stayed at.

Everyone knew he was bad with a blade.  It was a running joke. He was amazing with the spear, halberd and bow. That could get him a position as a mercenary as frontline rabble in wartime.  A King’s guard required a blade, It was tradition. Gaelus smiled as he entered his room. He peeled the bloody shirt off, the new cuts blending with the massive scarring already on its back.  The skin looked like the scales of a dragon.

Gaelus then opened the trunk at the end of his bed and pulled out an oiled pine box around 4 feet long.  He looked inside and smiled. Tomorrow would be fun, he decided.

The next day the instructor frowned as Gaelus strode proudly into the tournament area wearing his thick leather armor.  He would not receive metal armor unless he was chosen for the guard. He was the first to arrive and carried the pine box with him.

“Where’s your blade, boy?”  the instructor yelled.

“In the box,” Gaelus answered

The instructor didn’t think any decent blade would fit in there but decided if the boy wanted to commit suicide why the hell would he stop him.  The others were filing in, surprised to see Gaelus. The boy was usually reserved, trying to blend in. Today people realized how tall he truly was.  His leathers were a suit of fine, properly fit boiled boarhide that allowed his massive arms to show more strength than one might expect. His usual leathers were floppy and didn’t fit right.

After everyone entered the instructor announced the first match would be between Gaelus and Fredrick.  Fredrick was top of the class and ruthless. The other boys knew Gaelus would be maimed or killed. They were so sure no one bet on the match as was usual.  Fredrick stepped into the circle, a wide, heavy bastard sword held easily in his left hand. “Maybe using my off hand will make the match more fun,” the other students laughed.

Gaelus stepped into the circle holding a long, thin blade.  Everyone pointed and laughed. Gaelus just smiled. These people had a lesson to learn and he was the one to teach it.  After the clamor died down the instructor reminded them matches would last until one was found no longer able to fight or they surrendered,  Both nodded and got into combat stances.

Fredrick spread his feet shoulder width apart and held the sword at ready horizontal to his body.  Gaelus spread his legs further, bouncing on his loose knees. He stood sideways, blade forward. His arm was bent and seemed too relaxed.  No one knew what to make of it.

Fredrick shook his head and charged.  He swung his blade in a wide arc, knowing the other boy could never block it.  Gaelus didn’t try and block, instead stepping back and pushing down on the incoming blade with his strange sword, forcing Fredrick’s sword into the dirt.  Gaelus stepped in and struck two quick stabs to the other boy’s shoulders.

“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for today, “ Gaelus said in a booming voice “I’ve been wanting to teach all you fools “  he paused to sidestep a half sword thrust from Fredrick, and answering with a quick flicking strike on the wrist. “As I was saying you fools a lesson.  I can outperform every one of your awkward and heavy blades.”

After his speech he got serious.  Gaelus slid in under Fredrick’s guard and thrust his blade through the boy’s leg dropping him on one knee.  Fredrick could even raise his sword in time to block the flurry of blows all over his body. “I could kill you right now,”  Gaelus said casually as he slashed a cut into Fredrick’s cheek. “I suppose you are wondering what happened,” another stab to Fredrick’s bicep “you see, I grew up as a slave on a ship but we mutinied and I was freed.”

Fredrick thrust at Gaelus who slapped the inside of Fredrick’s arm, shocking the blade from his hand.  “On a ship these big hacking blades are impractical, so I was taught to use a quick, precise blade to puncture the vitals of a foe.”

Fredrick on one knee and weaponless glared at Gaelus.  The instructor was about to call the match when Fredrick yelled “You lying ass.  That pigsticker could never kill a man. If you can kill with it, prove it,” a wicked grin crossed his face.

“Ok” said Gaelus and casually ran his blade between the other boy’s ribs on each side.  He then crouched down and watched as Fredrick drowned in his own blood. Even the instructor paled at this. Gaelus stepped out of the circle and stood silently.  The other boys went as far away as they could.

Testing matches lasted the rest of the day but Gaelus didn’t fight another match.  Each boy set to challenge him would glance at Fredrick and withdraw. As the victor, he got first pick of positions open “I would like to be a guard to Baron Wyvern,” Gaelus said simply.  It was a high paying position but not that glamorous.

“So you were out for the money then?” the instructor said, a little disappointed.

“That’s certainly what it looks like,” Gaelus responded.  As he walked away he grinned. He now had access to the Baron without fighting through his army.  He would make the man pay for what he did to his crew,

Published by Robert C Hartwell

I live in Northeastern Vermont in the US. I am currently working towards becoming an author. I am the proud father of two great kids.

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