Tents were built and wood gathered for fires before long. Torin, having been satisfied, then ordered the company back to training. Xaine had met a lot of new people during this training as they had been purposely switching parties to help get used to each other and each other’s unique abilities. The training had actually been proving quite useful as many had formed large training groups, complimenting each other to beat the opposing groups.
As was instructed many of the groups were formed randomly, the warriors were supposed either pick an opponent to fight or silently observe those already fighting until they feel they can jump in and help one side or the other and today the training continued.
Xaine was having difficulty finding the right group this time as he walked around the camp observing different parties in combat. The groups would get bigger and bigger until someone landed a killing blow, then the dead would switch to a new group or wait for the one they were in to start over. Xaine had been watching several of the fighting groups until he finally saw something interesting.
It appeared that while fighting in his own group one of older warriors was also keeping an eye on a neighboring group. There was another warrior who seemed around his age and both were fighting exceptionally. Xaine figured they were very senior and seasoned veterans. The man who was watching the other suddenly left his group, swinging his spear at another who dodged it expertly. Xaine continued to watch them.
The first man thrust his spear at him again and he blocked with his double sword- spinning it fast end over end like a staff. The man with the double sword smiled and the two men began to circle each other.
“Here comes another one,” Said Torin, somewhat startling Xaine.
He looked back and, sure enough, saw another man walking up to him carrying an even stranger weapon that the man with the double sword. It looked like two thick black metal rods attached connected in the middle by a chain. The ends of which were covered in gold.
This wasn’t the first time Xaine had seen such a strange weapon. There were many others he had never known existed until he began training with the whole of Kreila’s warriors. He was so used to the straight sword he and his father had the other weapons seemed completely foreign.
“What is that he’s using?” Xaine asked Torin.
“He calls them a Nunchaku,” Torin said.
“So you’ve seen it before? Does did our blacksmith really make all these weapons?” Xaine asked.
“I have seen it before, but only a few times. The way he uses them is unreal. And yes our blacksmith did make most of them, but I don’t know about his. Ya know not everyone that lives in Kreila now was actually born there.”
“Oh yeah, I guess so. I didn’t think about it that way.”
The man with the nunchaku was apparently very experienced as well, as he joined the other two with seemingly no effort. This seemed almost more impressive than the other two’s fighting, as his weapon had such a short reach in comparison. Torin patted Xaine on the back and left him to watching.
Xaine was then surprised to see Torin walk up to the small group and summon his hammer.
“Oh you think you can keep up with the big boys do you, Torin?” Said the man with the Spear.
“I’ll try my luck today, gotta improve somehow, Felix,” Torin Replied.
“You can fight with me Torin,” interjected the man with the double sword.
“Thanks, Jericho,” Torin Said.
Xaine walked closer but didn’t join the fray, he and several others had begun to make a circle to watch the fight. Xaine assumed the men had never fought together before, but quickly doubted himself. The men were either old friends or were so adept at reading each others body language that Xaine couldn’t tell the difference.
Xaine watched as Torin took a step forward and swung his war hammer at the man with the nunchaku, Jericho followed him closely behind. The man dodged Torin’s blow and Felix swung his spearhead at Torin who ducked. Immediately, Jericho stepped forward swinging his double sword over Torin’s back knocking the spear out of the way and spinning the other end of his weapon at Felix.
Felix stepped back, dodging and thrusting his spear at Jericho. The thrust was blocked, by an upward swing from Torin’s hammer as he stood up and Jericho simultaneously blocked a blow from the nunchaku. The man used the momentum of the parry to swing one end of the nunchaku around one side of Jericho’s double sword. Grabbing both ends of the nunchaku he yanked the other man’s weapon down.
Jericho quickly lifted the other end of his double sword and spun the end out of the nunchaku. He continued the spin and brought the other end of the blade down on his opponent. A spearhead shot in front him and blocked his attack from landing on the other man.The four men broke apart and began to circle each other again looking for openings.
“Come on in, Xaine, We could use a third,” Torin said. “I don’t think I’m giving Jericho a balanced team against Felix and Po here.”
Xaine opened his mouth to protest and squeezed his fist anxiously. It was then that he realized he had already summoned his weapon. He must have done it subconsciously while he was watching. He knew he wanted to join in, but thought he’d stand no chance. But as a couple of the other men glanced over at him he couldn’t resist.
Xaine moved into the circle of men next to Torin. He felt so excited and nervous at the same time. He didn’t want to make the first move and instead waited. It didn’t take very long. This time, Jericho moved forward to strike at Po, but when parried used the momentum to swing blade faster at Felix.
Felix parried and at the same time, Torin swung his hammer at Po who bounced backward, hopping lightly from foot to foot. He swung his weapon very quickly at Torin. This seemed to have little effect on his hammer which he used to parry multiple times. Felix and Jericho crossed weapons again and Xaine took the initiative. He thrust his sword forward through at the cross point.
Felix thrust his spear down, tightening the space between his and Jerichos weapon, attempting to trap Xaine’s sword and pull it from his hand. Xaine dropped to a knee, turned his blade flat against the spear and swung it towards the owner’s hands. Felix moved his hand up toward the sword confusing Xaine for a moment, but he then realized he was trying to shorten the space from his hands to the tip of the spear. Once he did so, he flipped the spear end over end avoiding Xaine’s blade at the last minute, and tried to pin his sword to the ground with the blunt end of his spear.
There was a clank of metal on metal as Jericho’s blade end stopped the spear blow. Xaine thrust off of the ground back to standing position, jabbing his sword further at Felix’ body. Felix flipped the spear back the other way parrying Xaine’s attack as he stepped back.
“You’re pretty quick kid. I’m impressed,” Felix said smiling.
Xaine felt the rush of combat flow through him and his nervousness all but left him. He stepped back as Jericho advanced on Felix. Xaine could hear Torin’s hammer deflect several blows from Po’s nunchaku and he turned to assist him. Xaine’s excitement seemed to swell and diminish at the same time. Po swung his weapon so quickly and so erratically that Xaine had a very hard time following him. It seemed like it took Po almost no effort at all to block his attacks while still attacking Torin.
He swung the weapon at Torin who parried it away from Xaine giving him an opening. The minuscule amount of time it took him to thrust his sword at him the weapon was in Po’s other hand blocking his sword with a back swing then it was back to being swung at Torin.
Xaine held back for a brief moment waiting to strike for the exact moment Po’s weapon connected with Torin’s and quickly struck at Po’s legs. A loud clang and Xaine nearly losing grip of his weapon, told him Po had blocked him once again. And this time, in the brief moment he was prone, Po struck at him. But luckily, Torin blocked the attack, swinging over Xaine’s head.
Xaine switched gears once again to help Jericho but as he was turning he saw Po hit Torin’s hammer handle near his hand causing him to nearly drop it. Torin was open for just a moment and Po downward strike was sure to hit him. Xaine had already stepped away and knew his sword would not reach. Refusing to quit, he swung anyway and a shot a shockwave at the nunchaku, knocking them away from Torin.
Po held on to them but stumbled slightly.
“Ho ho, you're first to use a power kid,” Felix shouted. “Now it’s fair game.”
Xaine took the chance he had already made for himself, and shot another shockwave at Po’s feet, knocking him on his back. Xaine suddenly had a very large shadow stretch in front of himself as something extremely bright lit the ground from behind him. He could hear the spear clang on Jericho’s sword as Jericho stepped backward away from Felix swinging his double sword high behind him.
The blade of the double sword barely touched Torin’s hammer at the top of his strike, then Jericho quickly moved back to Xaine, giving him backup from Felix. Xaine looked back at Felix to see a blindingly bright light and quickly averted his gaze back at Torin stepping, hopefully, out of Felix’ range.
He looked back just in time to see Torin’s hammer come down at Po, but something seemed to thrust Po sideways toward Xaine and Jericho out of the way of Torin’s hammer. The hammer hit the ground with an incredible force that he knew Torin didn’t have. It left a small crater a few feet across and kicking a large amount of dirt and dust in the air.
“What in the world does your power do? Make things heavier?” Felix shouted.
Xaine turned back to the blinding light and shot a shockwave powerful enough, he hoped, to knock Felix off his feet. He heard something thud as Jericho disappeared into the blinding light which quickly disappeared as well.
Xaine could now see Jericho standing over Felix, signifying a death blow. The light that disappeared must have been coming from his spear which he had unsummoned.
“Xaine, look out! ” Torin yelled.
Xaine turned just in time to see a long black staff with a gold tip being swung at his head. He ducked just barely in time and felt the weapon sweep his hair. Jericho held his double sword vertically in front him himself to block but the staff somehow completely avoided it. Xaine finally noticed that the staff wasn’t a staff at all, as the nunchaku shortened back to normal length.
Xaine sent another shockwave at Po’s feet but Po was ready for it this time and jumped over it. He then spun and swung his nunchaku sideways. This time, the part he was holding stretched out longer and Torin barely blocked it with his hammer hilt. This, however, seemed to be exactly what Po wanted as the chain connecting to the other end wrapped around the hilt handle and stretched out as well.
Torin ducked and Po caught the other end of his nunchaku. Immediately both side’s shrunk back to normal length taking Torin’s entangled hammer with it. The hammer disappeared as Torin unsummoned it. But before he could summon it again Po, swung an end at Torin and stopped it with his other hand just before it hit Torin’s head. Torin was out of the match.
Jericho took the opportunity to swing his double sword at Po, just barely missing. Po stepped back and swung his weapon downward in front of him. Xaine couldn’t understand why at first since Jericho was not there. But the end of the nunchaku lengthened in the air coming down at Xaine. He put the flat end of his sword on his other palm and blocked the long staff-like nunchaku.
It clanged against his sword and stayed there. Suddenly the weapon seemed to get incredibly heavy and Xaine fell to his Knees. He had never shot a shock wave from the flat of his sword before but tried anyway. Having so much weight pressed down on him, he tried to shoot as powerful of a shock wave as he could.
The force that left his blade was so strong his feet dug into the dirt and dust shot up all around him. The staff was lifted slightly but Xaine saw his folly too late. It merely bounced a few feet in the air and fell back down on him. He completely lost his stance and fell on his back when the weight struck. But it did not follow through.
Jericho had distracted Po enough that Po retracted the staff barely after it had hit Xaine sword again. For a brief moment, Xaine wondered if he even dared to stand back up. But he got up off his back and tried to go and assist Jericho. The two were exchanging blows so quickly that Xaine doubted he’d even know when to strike. Xaine ducked another cross attack from Po’s extended nunchaku and the idea hit him.
He could fight long range. He had always understood that his shock waves were thrown from his sword but he only tried to use them long or mid range when he was in a pinch. He watched them intently waiting for a moment when he could send a shockwave at Po without hitting Jericho.
Xaine saw Jericho briefly glance at him as if asking him to do something but Xaine wasn’t sure what. Jericho then positioned himself directly between Po and Xaine confusing Xaine even further. Was he wanting him to back out of the fight? A moment passed and Xaine realized what he had done.
He blocked Po’s view of Xaine to distract him. Xaine watched Jericho’s footwork for any sign that he would move out of the way. He saw the opening with just barely enough time and sent a heavy shockwave at Po. The man was knocked backward off his feet, but as he was falling, he grabbed both ends of the nunchaku. One in each hand. Then tucked his legs under him.
He rolled backward onto his shoulders the moment he hit the ground and raised the nunchaku above his head. The two ends extended and thrust him back up off the ground and onto his feet. He ducked Jericho’s attack and swung his weapon at Jericho’s feet, tripping him. Jericho lost hold of his double sword and unsummoned it.
Xaine touched his sword to Po’s shoulder at the same time Po signified the killing blow to Jericho. Xaine had taken the moment he had when Po was knocked back to flank him. He had technically won the match but felt no victory in it.
“Ha, good job kid. I almost forgot about you,” Po spoke for the first time. “Never waste an opening.”
Po helped Jericho to his feet. Both men breathing heavily. “I haven’t had a match like that in a long time,” said Jericho.
The rest of the training continued in like manner though none of the fights Xaine got in were quite as intense as that one was. Still, Xaine could tell he had earned recognition from many of the warriors who watched the fight or heard about it. He found himself saying many times that he was lucky and most of the time was protected by the others in the fight. He was glad to have fought with them all and to be included but still considered himself far below their level.
Once the night was over all of the warriors went to bed once again with that feeling of exhaustion. Being part of the leader’s group, Xaine usually went to bed later than most of the company. It was during those times that he always noticed Nab was nowhere to be found. He considered following him but was too tired and needed rest.
Another day of travel and training had passed and Xaine found himself observing more than fighting. The day wore on and eventually it was once again time for sleep. Xaine had just gotten up from the fire circle when he saw a shadowy figure walking out of the edge of the clearing. He could tell by the posture that it was Nab.
Having been less tired that day, he decided to at least go to the edge of the clearing and see if he could spot where he was headed. He made his way quietly through camp to where he spotted Nab’s figure disappear into the darkness. He couldn’t understand where Nab was going or how he could even see. He peered into the dark woods and could barely see a few tree trunks in.
He tilted his head sideways and strained his ears to listen for any sound at all. He could hear leaves and sticks cracking faintly in the distance and took a step further into the darkness. He found himself traveling farther and farther from the camp, taking light and controlled steps, just following the noise. Once he could barely see the camp, the noise vanished.
Xaine knew this meant he was either very close to where Nab had stopped for the night or Nab had begun to be very careful not to make any more noise. Xaine listened for several more moments but no sound came again. He wanted so much to find out why Nab had always left camp at night. What was he up to?
Was it that he just didn’t feel welcome? Xaine could hardly believe that as even he had begun to take somewhat of a liking to him. Was he actually up to something like Xaine had originally thought? Finally deciding that he would most likely get lost if he went any further into the pitch black woods, he headed back for camp.
He hardly had expected to find out where Nab was going if the trackers couldn’t do so when they were back in Kreila, nevertheless he was hopeful that maybe Nab would get careless. Once Xaine got back to camp he found Torin waiting for him at the edge.
“Lost him didn’t you?” He said smirking.
“I didn’t expect to actually be able to follow him all the way out there. Just thought I would try just in case.” Xaine replied.
“I told you, he’s very tricky to keep track of. But if he was going to do something he probably would have done it by now, don’t you think?”
“I suppose so, “ said Xaine.
The two bade each other goodnight and left to their individual tents.
Two more days passed and they traveled most of the day and trained the rest like they had before. Many of the warriors were improving and beginning to get familiar with the other warriors. Not only were they working better with people they had trained with already, but they were improving their ability to read and figure out the situations like the experienced veterans had done.
Another day passed, and Xaine became aware that Nab seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable. And as time went on and they got closer to their target, it seemed to get worse. He didn’t understand what was bothering him but on some occasions, he also saw him talking to Torin and stopped abruptly when Xaine approached.
Was Nab getting nervous or scared perhaps? Xaine was not the only one to notice either. Ailee began asking about him as well and tried to see if Xaine knew anything about what was clearly going on.
“You don’t think he’s becoming afraid to fight the darkgons do you?” Xaine asked.
“I doubt it unless he’s really all talk. He was the biggest help in convincing your town that we needed to fight them. If he backed out now he would be much more of a coward than I pegged him to be.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking as well.”
“Did you see him arguing with Torin earlier?” She asked Xaine.
“No, did you hear what it was about?”
“Of course, I didn’t, I think if I did we would be having a very different conversation now wouldn’t we?” She said sarcastically.
Xaine smiled and continued to wonder what was happening. Three more days passed and nothing more happened. Nab was constantly disappearing from camp instead of just at night like he was before. Still being unable to track him, Xaine couldn’t help but wonder if Nab was debating leaving the party for good.
It wasn’t until the next day when Xaine, Torin, Nab, Ailee and Galvin met for a leadership meeting in the morning. Galvin had asked a question that made Torin wince.
“Shouldn’t we have found traces of the darkgons by now?” He had asked.
“Well the darkgons didn’t go through here directly according to the map, they are a bit farther up northeast of here, this is just the fastest route there. We are cutting a straight line through here,” Torin indicated on the map.
“But you know we should have met up with the scouts by now,” Nab replied somewhat hotly.
“Look I’ve told you before, the Darkgons have probably moved farther in the direction they were headed and the scouts move with them. It’s very likely that we wouldn’t run into them yet if they moved farther,” Torin replied holding back frustration.
“But when the darkgons moved, they should have sent us another report. If they were farther up that way, then we should have come across the messenger on his way back to our training camp,” replied Nab more irritated.
“Look Nab, the report shows they went this way. We haven’t quite made it there yet and to change direction now would only be delaying our arrival,” Torin said with some finality.
“I’m sorry, I can’t keep quiet any longer we need to go after them and we are going the wrong way!” Nab shouted. “If you can’t get that through your thick skull we will just wander around here aimlessly until we run out of supplies and have to turn back!”
“Fine Nab, I ask you again. What proof do you have? Show me a shred of proof that you know what you’re talking about, show me a darkgon track or anything indicating we are on the wrong trail.” Torin said and waited a few moments. “Anything at all?”
“Look I can’t explain it. I just know, ok!? You said it yourself the darkgons didn’t come through this exact area so I can’t show you any tracks. But mark my words you’re leading these men the wrong way!” Nab shouted back and walked away from the group, fuming.
Torin watched him go and then continued on.
“We should meet up with the scouts any day now. We just need to keep heading this direction and we will be fine,” Torin said and Xaine thought he heard a slight lack of confidence in his tone.
Now that Xaine thought of it, Nab had a point. They should have met with someone by then. Where were the scouts? Was the company really off track or were the scouts possibly... ? Xaine didn’t want to think of the other possibility. But he couldn’t ignore what Nab was saying. But if Nab had no proof what could they do? They can’t just follow someone’s gut feeling to lead them off the path of the report. They would have to continue until they really did run out of supplies or they met up with the scouts.
After traveling and training that night. They still had not met up the anyone from the scouting party. And there were still no signs of darkgons around. Xaine was becoming more nervous now and was suddenly very aware of the amount of supply they had left. What if they did have to turn back? How much more pain and suffering would the darkgons cause before they find somewhere to resupply and get back on track?
Xaine didn’t want to think of it. It was night now and Xaine was leaving the fire to head towards his tent to bed. The firelight died out as dirt was poured on them before the last of the leaders went to their tents. Xaine got in his tent on the edge of the clearing and went to sleep. He found himself woken by a noise in the early hours of the morning.
Most of the men were still asleep including the leadership. Xaine could hear the scraping sound on his tent wall as if someone were running a rock down the side.
“Someone there?” he whispered.
“It’s me,” came Nab’s voice.
“What in the world are you doing to my tent?” Xaine asked.
“Just come outside will you? And be quiet about it.”
Xaine climbed out of the tent and just barely saw Nab disappearing at the edge of camp again behind his tent. He followed a short distance until they were out of the clearing. Nab was waiting for him with his arms crossed, a somewhat nervous look on his face.
“We need to talk,” Nab said.