Kylker was still so exhausted from her days of battling that she passed out that evening and only woke when someone knocked on her bedchamber's door. She jumped out of bed and strode over to it. "Yes?"
"Warrior Kylker," Talah called. "Are you ready for breakfast?"
"Just a minute," Kylker called back.
"Take your time, Warrior. I will wait right here for you.”
Kylker turned and strode over to her clothes, hastily dressing and using the privacy before heading out to meet Talah.
"Did you sleep well, Warrior?" Talah asked as she led the way to the dining hall.
"I passed out, Warrior Talah. I think your warriors wore me out," Kylker smiled.
Talah briefly got upset at the thought and then noticed the smile and relaxed posture of the warrior. "They are very anxious to do it again I'm afraid. Personally, I'd like my chance again too.”
Kylker stopped walking and stared at her. "Why?"
Talah was briefly stunned that she hadn't a clue as to how talented she was. "Warrior Kylker, you are an extremely talented warrior and we all wish to learn all we can from you. If you are willing to teach us, that is," Talah added respectfully.
Kylker still just stared at her a minute. "Well, I think that's only because I've been doing it for years.”
"With all due respect Warrior, you aren't older than I am and I've been training since I was nine. It's not all the training. It's your ability to do stuff that the rest of us can't. You were obviously taught by someone very talented as well.”
Kylker nodded, acknowledging that statement. "Yes, my first Master taught me. The more I learned, the less I was punished. It was a strong motivation to do well.”
"I imagine it was," Talah said softly and sadly. "Might I ask what happened to your family?"
"I have no knowledge of my father. He was my mother's master and she was sold before I was born. She died when I was six and I was sent to live in an orphanage," Kylker explained.
"What's an orphanage?"
"A place where children go who don't have parents and no one to care for them.”
"That is where I first learned to fight. I was very small and picked on a lot by the older kids. I survived by watching the older kids fight and copying their moves.”
"You said you're first Master trained you?"
"Yes, I was bought when I was ten, from the people at the orphanage. The Master saw me fight one day and, after beating me for fighting in the first place, he sent me to be trained.”
"Do all world's do that that; sell people?" Talah asked in dismay, unable to comprehend such a life.
"Well, the ones I've been to at least didn't protest it. I was never allowed to see much of those worlds, other than the arenas and my room. But I know some knew I was a slave because my master was offered a purchase price," Kylker explained.
"Than you're first Master sold you to this last one?"
"Yes, he was tired of traveling and fighting and sold me to Master Cornell. Since I had made him lots of money, I took a chance and asked for a contract to win my freedom. He agreed and Master Cornell was supposed to abide by it.”
"He wouldn't have though, would he?"
Kylker shook her head. "He'd told me so often enough. The only way out was death, his or mine.”
Talah was lost in thought after that, still reeling from digesting this information. They arrived at the dining hall and Talah escorted the Warrior to the Queen's side as previously ordered. Talah took her spot on the Queen's other side.
"Did you have a good evening, Warrior Kylker?" Myla asked as they began eating.
"Yes, Your Majesty. I spent it with your warriors.”
Myla laughed. "I hope you didn't wear them out.”
Kylker smiled at her. It had been a long time since she'd heard a genuine laugh and it sounded heavenly. "I think they wore me out.”
"Then I shall have to have a word with them," Myla said sternly. "That cannot be allowed.”
Kylker reached over and laid her hand on the Queen's arm, not thinking. "Please don't. I enjoyed every minute of it.” She realized where her hand was and jerked it away. "Forgive me, Your Majesty.” Kylker held her breath and waited for the outcome of her improper behavior.
Myla reached over and took Kylker's hand. "It is okay, Warrior and no apology necessary except from me. I was teasing you, but I can tell that you are not use to such a thing. I should not have assumed that it would be okay. Forgive me.”
Kylker's mouth had dropped open and she stared at the Queen in shock. Did she just ask to be forgiven? By me? A lowly slave? The Queen's hand squeezing hers brought her back to the present.
"Warrior Kylker, I cannot tell you how much I regret everything that has happened to you in the past to make you so afraid of me. I will not ever harm you or let anyone else do so. You are as free to talk to me and touch me as any of my warriors are. You are free, Kylker. I guess I will just have to keep reminding you of that until it sinks in.” Myla smiled at the astonished look on Kylker's face and just patted her hand as she took in her words. "It will become easier as time passes.”
Kylker took a little more time to look around as she ate and realized that the dining hall wasn't as packed as it had been the night before.
Myla noticed her confusion and gaze. “Most families prefer to have breakfast in their homes before work. Normally the only meal the community shares is dinner.”
“Thank you,” Kylker returned
“Please ask whatever questions you have warrior. I am more than happy to respond to them,” Myla offered.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Myla gave her time to eat before speaking again. “What are your plans for the day, Warrior?”
Kylker turned toward the Queen, not quite meeting her direct gaze. “Warrior Talah invited me to spend the day with her and your warriors, if that is okay?”
“Perfectly,” Myla smiled. “When I am free I would like to join you if I may?”
Kylker just stared at her. Why would the Queen ask her permission? She was Queen. “With all due respect, Your Majesty, you can do as you please with or without my consent.”
Myla just continued to smile at Kylker. “Some royalty may do that, but I try not to impose where I am not welcomed.”
“I doubt there is a place you aren't welcomed,” Kylker commented and then gasped because she had looked up and realized what a brilliant smile the Queen was giving her. Kylker was enchanted not only by her smile but by the twinkle in the green eyes as they watched her. She realized she was staring and dropped her head. “Forgive me,” she whispered.
“For what?” Myla demanded, softly. “Making a comment?” Myla slowly reached over and placed a finger under Kylker's chin, lifting her face. “You are free to make any comments you like to me, Warrior Kylker, even if I don't like them.”
Kylker couldn't help but give a little grin at the mischievous gleam in the Queen's eyes. “Thank you.”
“Now, let's pretend I am like Talah and you can talk to me without the royalty issue getting in the way. Okay?”
Kylker stared at her a minute and realized that the Queen was serious. She let out a relieved breath and smiled. “I'd like that,” she whispered.
“Me too,” Myla agreed as she sat back.” So what are you two doing today, anything in particular?”
“Well, Warrior Talah wants me to show her some more fighting techniques and to give her some input on training the younger warriors,” Kylker replied.
“Excellent. My warriors are very lucky that you came along,” Myla commented. She didn't miss the flush on Kylker's face or her slight withdrawal at the comment. Praise was obviously not something the warrior was accustomed to which made the queen even more determined to praise her as often as possible. It didn't take much to figure out that she was slowly falling for the warrior.
“Would you like to warm up with a couple of my warriors first, Kylker, or see the younger ones at work?” Talah asked as she led the way to the training grounds.
“Could we see the young ones first?”
“How many are there?”
“There are eight at the moment,” Talah explained. “Most are between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. The oldest will be apprenticed soon as junior warriors. The youngest is only ten. She's an exception though. Most young ones come around twelve, but Syrai has exceptional skills already and since she's an orphan, was sent to us early.”
They had reached the training grounds and Talah showed Kylker where she could wait. Kylker had a seat on a bench as Talah headed out onto the grounds.
Talah rounded up her next in command and made her request. The youngest warriors were gathered up and brought over to where Kylker was seated. They split up into pairs and ran there practice bouts. Talah sat by Kylker and watched the youngest of her warriors perform.
Kylker picked out Syrai immediately. Not only was she the smallest, by at least a head but she was by far the exceptional fighter in the group. The youngster she was paired with couldn't manage to get close to her. Kylker watched as the blonde head bobbed and the small body weaved around her opponent.
“What do you think, Kylker?”
“You were right. She is exceptional. Could I possibly see how she fairs against one of your advanced warrior?”
“Of course.” Talah stood and strode over to her second-in-command and filled her in. They called for Sonya to assist them. Talah joined Kylker as Sonya and Syrai paired off.
“Sonya is probably slightly less adept than Carmie, my second,” Talah informed them as they watched the pair.
Sonya was definitely the better fighter, but Syrai held her own and managed to get quite a few shots in also. Kylker was impressed with her speed and agility and saw a lot of herself in Syrai, not just in looks and size, but in her fighting style as well.
“There is only so much more we can teach her,” Talah stated. “You, on the other hand, have much to teach us all.”
Kylker was quiet for a moment, seemingly intent on watching the pair. “Do you really think it's that simple?”
Talah knew what the warrior was referring to. “Yes, Kylker. It is that simple. You are a free woman. You can stay or you can go, but I personally, would love to have you as a fellow warrior. I can vouch the same for the rest of my warriors.”
Kylker was again overwhelmed by the sentiment. She'd never been welcomed anywhere, not even as a child. She'd always been a burden and then a slave. She'd only been valuable the last six years or so because of how well she could fight. She knew that's what Talah also saw but Kylker got the feeling that wasn't the only reason this time.
“You have plenty of time to decide, Kylker. No one is rushing you or trying to force you into a decision. Okay?”
Kylker nodded. “Could I start their training even if I decided to leave?”
“Absolutely,” Talah replied, sincerely. “We'd be grateful for any time you could give us”
“Can you give Syrai a rest and then let me work with her a little?”
“Of course. Syrai. Sonya. Hold up,” Talah called, standing up and motioning the pair toward her. “Syrai, this is Warrior Kylker. She will be your next opponent, after you rest,” Talah informed the young girl.
“I don't need a rest, Captain,” Syrai exclaimed.
“Sit, young one!” Talah ordered and pinned Syrai with a stern glare until she'd obeyed.
Talah and Kylker walked over to a nearby room and removed some extra practice swords. They returned to the field. Talah handed one sword to Sonya as she spoke to Syrai. “Up you go, young one. Warrior Kylker is ready.”
Kylker had taken a spot a few feet from the benches and was stretching some before Syrai joined her. “We're going to take it easy. I just want an idea of how you respond to different techniques.” Kylker informed her.
“Yes, Warrior,” Syrai replied softly.
Kylker waited until Syrai was squared away and then attacked her, fairly slowly. She was happy with her counter attack. “Good. Don't let me near you,” Kylker instructed as she backed off and attacked again. This time Syrai's counter attack was a little slow. “Step into that and parry my attack, like this,” Kylker said, showing Syrai how to complete it. Syrai copied her exactly. “Excellent. Let's do it again.”
Talah sat on the bench by Carmie and watched.
“She's an excellent teacher, Capt,” Carmie commented.
“I know. Look how patient she is with Syrai. She's taught her four different moves in five minutes and I bet Syrai remembers them too,” Talah returned.
“OOOH, I like that one,” Carmie said as she watched Kylker actually spring back from Syrai's attack by flipping onto her hands and back to her feet. “Not that I could ever do it.”
Talah laughed with her second. “Me either, but I bet Syrai and the younger ones could learn it.”
“Think she'll stick around to teach?”
“I don't know, but I sure hope so.” Talah knew she had excellent warriors but with Kylker's teaching, they could all be exceptional. They both watched Kylker work with Syrai and were impressed with her patience and the amount of teaching that she accomplished in a short time.
“Alright, young one, let's take a break,” Kylker said. They got some water and sat down to rest. “You have very good technique that I think we can make better with practice.”
“I'm willing to do what you want, Warrior,” Syrai said politely.
“Good. Then lots of stretching and exercises are in your future.” Kylker laughed when Syrai groaned.
“I promise you they will pay off,” Kylker stated.
After a short rest, Kylker ran her through her paces again and was very happy with her quick learning. She repeated the counter attacks as Kylker had taught her during the last session and did them almost perfectly. She stopped her after that and showed her the exercises and stretches she wanted her to work on. She sent her to practice while she returned to Talah.
“I can't believe how much she's learned in such a short amount of time,” Carmie stated as Kylker came to sit with them again. “That's amazing.”
“It's easy for her,” Kylker replied. “That's why she learns it so quickly. It's more natural for her than some of the styles you've been teaching her. I daresay that some others will not learn them at all because they don't come natural to them.”
“That makes perfect sense,” Talah returned. “Hatitia has a very hard time with anything not involving her sword. She'd probably not learn what you were teaching Syrai. They learn much differently and have very different styles.”
“Should we split them up based on those styles and try teaching them like that?” Carmie asked.
“I think that's an excellent idea,” Kylker returned.
“Okay. If you are up for it, Kylker, we'll split them up in groups and each take one. Could you tell by watching them which should be in the group with Syrai?”
“I only saw one other. The redhead,” Kylker pointed out the girl in question.
“Parmica,” Talah supplied. “Yes, I can see her being like Syrai. Then Carmie and I will split the others up and we'll have some mini sessions. That work for both of you?”
They spent the morning before lunch doing just that. Kylker had a wonderful time. Syrai and Hatitia were hard workers and eager to learn. Kylker was surprised a short time later to turn and see the Queen sitting on the bench where they had been sitting earlier, watching them. Kylker watched as Talah jogged over and bowed to the Queen before speaking to her. After a few minutes, she strode over to Kylker.
“The Queen wishes for you to join her for lunch when we break,” Talah informed her.
Kylker nodded and returned to her teaching with thoughts of her upcoming lunch with the Queen prominent in her thoughts.
To Be Continued
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