Still, Xaine was happy for the time alone. Between his duties to help his father prepare, the funeral ceremony and Ailee"s constant complaints, the silence of early morning was welcoming. Xaine rose from his bed and before even packing when to wash up.
Xaine stood at the sink, his face and hands still dripping, and stared into the mirror that hung above it. Once again he took a long moment to search his face and take in all his features.
"Hi brother, it"s been a while. I"ve been away from home for a little bit. Training and everything. We finally got my sword to do something but not sure what it is yet. So I still have no idea what my power will be. I wish you were here. Sometimes it"s just hard by myself. I mean I have dad, but you know what I mean." Xaine chuckled to himself.
"Had a funeral for the captain yesterday. Those kind of things always remind me of you. Sorry to associate you that way; I hope I can figure this stuff out. I don"t know if you can but I could use some help with my power. I just want to make you and dad proud. I want to properly honor our line. Anything you can do would help. I miss you."
Xaine left the mirror and made his way back to his room to finish getting ready for the journey. He gathered anything extra he would need that he didn"t have last time and replaced anything he"d lost. The rest was still not unpacked and lay at the foot of his bed.
Xaine took out his record and recorded his thoughts, feelings, and experiences since he last wrote. Once finished, he repacked the record and unpacked his grandfather's then lounged on his bed to read. He was nearly finished with the book, however, he knew he was not really finished with the whole thing. As soon as Xaine finished scanning the last page the book would reset to the next part. Xaine was only almost finished with the first volume of what encompassed his grandfather"s life.
Lying on his back Xaine positioned the book on his knees and opened it. He felt he was beginning to understand his grandfather at least a little. That was until he thought about how long this whole record must be. It also made him wonder if he needed to know who he was to begin with or if he had changed so much by end that the beginning made no difference.
Still all Xaine could do was continue on reading and learning. At least his record was becoming more interesting Xaine thought. He had even begun to really admire his grandfather for some of the hard choices he had already made so early in his life. He had also begun to find similarities between the two of them.
Though it was not expressly written, Xaine could see that one of the reasons his grandfather tried to be a warrior was the same as himself. He really cared for those around him. He knew and read about a lot of mistakes that his grandfather made and just when he seemed to be disappointed in him he would find a moment where he shined. A moment where he was proud to be a descendant of the old warrior.
It was for those reasons, Xaine thought, that he was beginning to manifest his power. And the fact that he had begun to manifest his power made him even more interested in the record. In all the struggles and frustration with his training this was something he felt he was doing right.
Not for the first time, curiosity came to Xaine. He wondered if he was just now finding his power and he had to barely have scratched the surface of his grandfather's record, did that mean his power could become that much more powerful? He shook the thought off again as it seemed silly to think of such things when he still didn"t even know what his power was.
Xaine glanced up out his window to check the sky. Many less stars were visible now meaning dawn was coming. Xaine closed up the book, packed it in his pack and gathered the rest of his things.
Xaine met Barrek in the front room of the house, both packed and ready to go. They looked over each other's packs for second confirmation that they had packed everything they needed. When they were both satisfied they picked up their gear and turned to leave when a loud knock sounded at their door.
Barrek was a little surprised and seemed not to hear Xaine muttering to himself about how impatient that girl was. They opened the door and there she stood in front of her shaggy hoofed horse fully tacked and ready to leave. Xaine noticed that Ailee had even taken the time to twist parts of her red hair into intricate braids. Was she up as early as I was? He sighed inwardly.
"We"re just leaving," Xaine said in what he hoped was not an exasperated tone.
"Need help with anything?" She asked seemingly kindly. Xaine knew, however, it was only because she would do anything to leave sooner.
"Sure you can help me tack Saber if you want. He"s still a little touchy if he doesn"t know you"re behind him so don"t get kicked," Xaine replied.
The three made their way to the back where they kept Saber and Geranium. Ailee did indeed help the process by tag teaming Saber and getting the all the gear secured faster. Saber still being young still took just as much time to get tacked by two people as it took just Barrek to tack Geranium.
Xaine and Barrek mounted and Ailee opened and closed the gate for them. She then mounted her horse.
"We"ll meet the party at the northwest end of town. We will be leaving from there," Barrek said.
The other two nodded and followed behind him. Xaine looked around then back up to Ailee.
"Where"s you smelly little friend?" He asked.
"Oh Nyla is around somewhere. She likes to explore the area and hunt alone when I"m in town. She"s not much for crowds, but she"ll catch up to us," Ailee replied.
The rest of the way to the town"s edge was mostly silent until they were approaching the meeting place. It was much noisier than they had expected.
"I thought we were only bringing a small group with us? Did the elders change their mind?" Ailee asked hopeful.
"No I very much doubt that," replied Barrek.
When they finally had a clear path they could see large group of people waiting. They were talking and laughing, some complaining about how early and cold it was. Xaine recognized a few of the voices and soon matched them to their faces when they were close enough. It was Xaine"s training party. Had they come to see them off?
"Barrek! There you are! We nearly thought you decided not to go," said Galvin.
"What are you all doing here?" Barrek asked.
"Well we came to congratulate you on your promotion since we probably won"t see you for some time. We are also heading back out to the training grounds and as the new second I had a request to run by you, Captain" Galvin said with a smile.
"Oh I nearly forgot with everything going on. And what is your request?"
"Well you"re headed to Clearig I assume and we are headed back out to finish training for the new warriors. I thought it might be advantageous for us to travel with you as far as it is practical and then part ways farther north. This way Xaine can train some more with the other trainees and they with him. It would also give us a chance to get used to the new chain of command."
Barrek nodded and was silent for a moment. He seemed to be mulling the idea over in his head.
"Permission granted. I think it could be a good opportunity to see where everyone is at as well. But I want your word that the trainees get the same training as they would without the detour."
Galvin nodded and smiled. He then relayed the instructions to the trainees and their trainers, then Barrek called the company to move.
They had left early and had a long way to travel so it was hours before they finally stopped for the day. Most everyone was exhausted and thankful the rest. Even Ailee seemed pleased but Xaine knew it was less because they were about to rest and more that they had traveled for so long that day. In fact it was so long that many were beginning to think that Barrek forgot he was in command and even Xaine debated suggesting to him that they stop.
When they finally stopped Xaine was thankful. He was only getting more tired and was hoping to get time to train before they all went to bed. As it was Xaine would have to train in part by firelight since the sun began to sink into the horizon. It took about an hour to get the camp fully setup which was pretty fast, considering they had about a dozen individual tents to set up and build fire"s enough for them all.
Once Xaine had finished setting himself up he went to brush Saber. He was waiting for his father to call him to training as the others had already done. But time passed and Xaine was beginning to wonder if they were even going to train that day at all.
"Xaine, let"s get to it."
Excited, Xaine nodded and followed his father to the area they would be training in. He led Xaine to a large circle he had made with lines in the dirt and various rocks and logs from around the area. Once they reached the center Barrek turned to speak again.
"We"re going to do it a little differently this time. This time, on top of trying to catch me at a vital point or disarming me, you will also have to worry about the circle. If either of us steps out of it, we fail."
Xaine looked at it and thought for a moment. What practical use was that? Barrek seemed to catch his quizzical expression and spoke again.
"You"ll recall it"s similar to when you took your trial, however this circle is much smaller than the platform you stood on. Now, why don"t you tell me why this would be a good idea for training."
Xaine thought for a moment and remembered the raised platform he was tried on. He also remembered how he was almost tricked into walking off of it and another thought struck him.
"I suppose you may have to fight in dangerous areas, like a cliff or something else high where falling could kill or injure you." While he spoke another thought came to him and Barrek looked expectantly for him to add it. "... Or in tight spaces like inside a house."
"Very good," Barrek nodded, satisfied. "Lastly, Xaine, I expect you to manifest your power tonight."
"Do you really think I"m that close?" Xaine asked.
Barrek shook his head. "Don"t misunderstand me. I"m not saying I think it will happen tonight, I am saying your assignment for tonight is to manifest your power. It"s time we knew what it was and what to work with."
"But how am I supposed to know how to do this? I"ve never done it before."
Barrek held up a hand. "No Xaine, no excuses. You"ve trained for long enough and you"ve had plenty of time to read your grandfather's record. The only thing holding you back now is you. You"ve been chosen to be a warrior for your people. Now it"s time to step up and take the responsibility. This is coming from your father and your commanding officer, understood?"
"Yes; Sir" Xaine probably didn"t have to add sir but did it to sting his father for reminding him about being his commander.
Barrek simply nodded and said nothing more. He moved stretched out his hand and summoned his sword. Xaine did the same. He took in deep breaths trying to calm himself. He was mad, and why shouldn"t he be. How was he holding himself back? As much as he hated to admit it, he was frustrated that he was so far behind the others. He took another deep breath.
Barrek quickly stepped forward and struck at Xaine. He barely had time to block and quickly learned this was not like their other sparring matches. Barrek seemed serious now. Xaine barely had time to wonder how he had hidden the speed and intensity that he was now using and if this was indeed his father being serious. Or was there still more underneath?
Once again Xaine quickly learned there was much more his father was holding back. Xaine should have thought of it before, his power. The first sparring session lasted only a few moments as Xaine was barely keeping up with his father"s attack then he used his power and threw Xaine off balance.
The second match barely lasted longer. Xaine felt as though he was getting used to how his father was fighting and keeping up with him. He began pushing him back to the edge of the circle hoping to force him out. Xaine raised his blade ready for the final attack when his father aimed the point of his blade at Xaine"s chest. When Xaine moved to block it their swords did not meet. Barrek, instead of thrusting toward him, pulled the sword away from him. Xaine felt the strange sensation that was Barrek"s power and was pulled out of the ring.
Xaine bent over panting he looked at his father. His anger was starting to subside. Replacing it was admiration and shock. He was amazed and the precision and skill his father used. And the way he used his power on top of it. This was a real warrior.
"Come on Xaine, we don"t have all night."
Xaine caught his breath and stepped back into the ring. He heard voices talking as his did so and turned to see people starting to gather around to watch their matches. He heard someone say "Barrek"s getting serious". Getting, he thought, how much more serious can he get?
Xaine summoned his sword and the third match started. Xaine tried desparately to defend himself against his father's tactics and every now and then was able to strike out again. The two crossed blades again and Barrek spoke.
"Come one Xaine, we aren"t here play around. You wanted to be a warrior, now be one!" He broke the blades apart.
"I"m trying, you"re not really making it easy ya know." Xaine replied.
"Well stop trying and do it! You think a real enemy is going to wait for you to figure it out? No, Xaine it"s up to you to do what you have to when you have to do it. Now show me your power!"
Xain swung and tried to force his power but it didn"t work. His father retaliated and he parried it and struck at his father again. Still nothing came but he did hit harder once again. Barrek stepped back.
"Come on Xaine, they"re watching us. Don"t you dare disappoint them!" Barrek said quietly.
Xaine knew his father wasn"t talking about the spectators around the ring. If he was mad before it was nothing to what he felt now. He was hurt and betrayed. How could his father say something like that. Xaine struck out once, twice, three times quickly attempting to unbalance his father. Finally he gripped the hilt with two hands and swung down at him as hard as he could.
The swords clashed and sparks flew between them. His father"s block barely did anything. So much force came from Xaine"s weapon that Barrek was knocked backward off his feet and out of the ring. He rolled and slid until he finally came to rest against a stump several feet from the outisde of the circle.
Xaine looked on at his father lying on his stomach face turned to the side. He was too frightened at the situation to move.
"Dad?" he said so quietly he wasn"t sure anyone heard.
"Finally!" Barrek groaned. "Wow, that was intense." A few chuckles were heard from the watching trainees and veterans.
Barrek slowly got to his feet, shook his head, and began wiping the copious amounts of dirt off his clothes. He walked back over to the circle and addressed Xaine but didn"t resummon his sword.
"Now we"re getting somewhere. Sorry for what I said by the way but I was trying to push you to do what I knew you could."
Of course he was, Xaine thought. He knew his father would never think of him as a disappointment. But all the same he was caught up in the moment and his father"s plan worked.
"Well it worked, I guess, so no harm done. At least I hope no harm was done? Sorry for; Uh whatever I did there. Are you ok?"
"Xaine I"m fine, don"t worry about hurting me so much when we are sparring. If I get hurt it"s my fault I"m the veteran here, it"s my job to train you and make sure you can hurt me. Or anyone else who is as skilled or more than I am. Well done Xaine. Now we know how to focus your training. Now what did you feel when you did that?"
"Well; I was angry."
"No try to think deeper than that. Anger rarely helps the user to bring out their power and in a lot of cases can hinder it." Barrek glanced at someone on the edge of the circle. Xaine was tempted to see who but didn"t want to break eye contact.
"But then why did you purposely make me angry?" Xaine asked.
"Xaine, you"re going to have to learn to trust that I know what I"m doing instead of looking for mistakes that I"ve made. But to answer your question sometimes anger can help focus us on the task or as in this case it can bring up other feelings with it. Now think."
And Xaine did. He tried to think of what else he felt during his moment of anger.
"Well I wasn"t afraid of failing anymore I guess. I just wanted to do something and so I did. I didn"t feel as unsure of myself as usual and I stopped thinking that I couldn"t do it yet."
"Ah that makes sense. Your grandfather Drail was a very confident man. He was one to act rather than react. It makes sense that your level of confidence would matter. I think the focus I gave you on your family helped as well. So now we need you to focus on those until you get to the point where it"s second nature like we did with summoning your weapon."
Xaine nodded and thought briefly about it. Remembered how hard it was to summon his sword in the beginning. Now it seemed like nothing. It was second nature to him to just call it whenever he needed it.
"So then, what exactly is my power?" Xaine asked.
"Well I think it"s very similar to mine, well, it"s actually the exact opposite."
"Thank you for being clear, dad, now I got it." Xaine said with a sarcastic smile. Barrek laughed.
"Sorry, what I mean is that my ability allows me to move things and people. More specifically it allows me to pull them towards me. Yours seems to be the opposite of that you seem to be able to push. It often happens that powers have some sort of a link like that in bloodlines. However, I think yours is a little different. With mine I am able to kind of grab hold of what I"m targeting and pull it. Yours though seems more like some sort of force you throw."
"So; Maybe like a shockwave?" Xaine asked.
"Exactly! I think your power is very much like, and may possibly be, a shock wave. But now we know how you can use it. I think we have time for one more round. I want you to focus on your power and use it as much as you can."
"But; I don"t want to throw you out of the ring again like that. You could get hurt."
"Good, that will help you focus on control as well. You have used your abilities in the weaker form by putting more force behind your blade to deliver a heavy strike. So now you will need to control it and use it"s power according to what your situation is. Now let"s go last round."
Xaine hesitated. "Xaine, I told you if I get hurt it"s my fault. I"m no rookie I know what I"m doing and now I know mostly what I"m dealing with as well. Now focus."
Xaine listened to him. He couldn"t completely let go of his worry but after how much skill he had just seen his father use he could let go of most of it. Xaine and his father took their positions and summoned their weapons.
The second the two crossed swords again Xaine"s reluctance was gone. The shock of having used his power was gone or rather it had turned to excitement. Now he could use it on purpose. Now he could experiment with it and get used to it. And the fact that he was excited gave him the confidence he needed.
He was already planning how to try it out. His father swung down. Xaine parried and struck back. His father slapped his sword away with his own. Now! Xaine thought and jumped back a pace out of is father"s reach. He swung his blade down toward one of his father"s legs and tried to use the same feelings as before. He could feel the power being flung from his sword.
His attempt was to knock Barrek"s leg out from under him and unbalance him. The shockwave hit just barely short of it"s target. Xaine would have been disappointed if not for all the dirt that shot up into the air from his attack. It blinded him to where his father was but also blinded his father.
Xaine had nothing left to do but wait until the dust cleared, or did he? Xaine couldn"t see Barrek"s exact location to strike with his sword but then again he now didn"t know to know exactly where he was. He may only need to know his general area.
Xaine swung again feeling that energy thrust off his blade and at his target. Immediately after the invisible wave shot through the dusty air cutting through it. Some of the dust parted in the middle and the rest cleared quickly. At first, Xaine thought he had hit but realized his father was crouching intentionally to dodge such an attack.
"Very smart Xaine. Unfortunately I"ve got a little more experience than you. but we"re going to have to test that range of yours later."
"Why wait?" Said Xaine as he pulled back to swing again.
Xaine planned this time to swing diagonally making it harder to duck out of. Unfortunately Barrek was ready before he could even swing. Xaine was careless and didn"t see that his father"s sword was pointed at his legs. Barrek pulled back and before Xaine could finish his swing he was on his back looking up at the stars.
Barrek was close enough that Xaine didn"t even attempt to get up he just lie there catching his breath until Barrek"s face came into view directly above him.
"Those first couple attacks were very good and very smart. And although you need confidence, don"t get cocky." Barrek said smiling.
Xaine simply smiled back and accepted the hand his father offered to help him back up.