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Ancestor Chapter 9: The Cave & The Sword

Chapter 9 of Ancestor.

Xaine stood with his back to a thick tree, his training sword drawn. He was alone, the four of them split up to take advantage of the cover in the woods. They had located the cave earlier that day from a sparse trail of ash that Corey had spotted. It was left by Xaine’s father, Barrek, as he left their camp in the early hours of the morning before the trainees had awoken. Corey had proven very adept at following the trail when several times the others thought they had lost it. He would often see a very small amount of ash or some other sign that indicated the direction Barrek had taken. Eventually, they came across another veteran and by, what can only be considered, pure luck were unnoticed. This more than anything confirmed that they were close to the cave. Skirting around the veteran, they were able to continue their course and find the cave. It was guarded by only one guard, which made the others assume the rest were on sentinel duty as was the veteran they had passed.

So Xaine waited, allowing his fellow trainees to get into a more advantageous position. Feeling as though enough time had passed, he began to sneak looks around the tree. He could see the veteran there pacing back and forth peering into the woods around. The cave mouth was large, at least seven feet tall and nearly ten wide. The cave faced south and had they come from the north it would have seemed to be just a sheer drop. Xaine took in the surroundings to get a good feel for how much space he would have to fight. Though this was Corey’s father, Galvin, they had chosen to have Xaine attack first in the hopes that he would distract him enough for the others to catch him unawares and flank him.

Xaine was waiting now for him to turn and head back the other way. He wanted to get the element of surprise and attack him from behind. He hoped that he might even be able to approach close enough, without being heard, to force a surrender without a fight. Xaine saw his chance, Galvin turned on his heel and headed the other way. Xaine rushed forward as quickly and quietly as possible his sword already drawn. Galvin seemed not to have noticed him and continued to walk on. Xaine raised the blade of his sword intending to touch it to the man’s neck and signify his defeat. With only inches let to close, a sword appeared and blocked his blow. Galvin turned around and immediately attacked. Xaine deflected it and retreated a pace.

The two began circling one another taking in each other's stance and looking for openings. Galvin’s sword blade was a bright blue, the center of the blade covered with gold runes and markings that signified his lineage. It had a long cross guard that ended in round bulbs of metal. The hilt was wrapped in black leather and had silver trim in between the leather.

“I was wondering when one of you might show up, but you know you’re supposed to get everyone here, right? You didn’t expect me to be that easy to take down, did you?”

“We know what we are doing.”

“Ha, ‘we know what we are doing,' you do realize you just gave them away right? I assume you’re here to distract me while the others get in position? You’ve gotta use your head kid. It’s not all about swordsmanship. Though that is quite helpful.”

He lunged forward at Xaine, raining hard fast blows on him. Xaine found it difficult to block especially since Galvin seemed to be striking at absolutely anywhere on his person. In fact, most of the areas attacked wouldn’t even be a finishing blow. Nevertheless, Xaine tried to block them all. Galvin swung a strike at Xaine’s right shoulder. He barely managed to block the blow. The instant the swords touched, sparks shot into the air, and Xaine thought he heard a slight humming noise. Instantly changing direction Galvin swung his sword down towards Xaine’s left leg. Unable to block it in time Xaine attempted to move his leg out of the way unsuccessfully. The second just before impact, however, Galvin had turned the blade sideways and slapped the flat of his sword to Xaine’s calf.

Immediately upon impact, Xaine felt an immense jolt of energy in his body. It felt as if every muscle wanted to violently convulse and refused to take his orders. The sensation knocked the sword from his hands, and he fell to his knees feeling weak. He knew he was defeated and attempted to look up at Galvin, but fell on his side. Once he hit the ground, his eyes moved to where Galvin was and saw his back turned on him. Corey had just run from the forest's edge and into the fight. Isaac soon followed, and Galvin was fighting both at the same time. Xaine tried to regain his composure but only lifted himself feebly and fell once more.

He could hear the fast clangs of the others swords but felt completely helpless himself. He finally willed himself to stand and stumbling reached down to lift his sword back up. The sword seemed immensely heavy, and his hand shook as he lifted it. He looked over to see Corey fall to the ground, stunned as he was, and Galvin turn his full attention to Isaac. As hard as Isaac was fighting, he was losing ground quickly, his back being pushed toward where Xaine was now standing. Similar to the way he had taken down Xaine, a fast blow was heading towards one of Isaac's unguarded extremities. Xaine winced as he knew what was about to happen but opened his eyes in shock as the blade stopped in mid swing. Galvin stood unmoving with the same look of bewilderment on his face.

It took a moment for Xaine to notice the other blade resting on Galvin's shoulder. Behind Galvin stood Kara. Unnoticed by the other four fighters, she had crept up to Galvin and ended the fight. Galvin was the first to speak.

“Wow, color me impressed, these three made enough noise to wake a camp but you really got me. Well done Kara.” His sword was already gone, back to wherever weapons wait to be summoned.

Galvin then smiled at Corey and Xaine, he apparently found their staggering quite amusing. He eventually helped Corey stand and walk while Isaac helped Xaine. Galvin treated the match as if he had been finished and allowed them to enter the cave. Inside torches were lit showing the vast cavern entrance. The ground sloped in front of them, and the cave seemingly stretched on forever. As they looked around, they saw various natural features like stalactites and moss and lichen reaching inside the cave. Then they saw something unnatural, on the walls all around the opening and far into the cave were scribblings. Upon closer inspection, they could see the names of hundreds of people. A voice suddenly spoke from further along the cave path. They all started as none of them had noticed him standing there.

“Galvin notify the others.”

“Yes, sir.”

They all looked back at Galvin, who stepped just outside of the cave. His sword appeared in his hand once more, and he pointed the tip it of it into the air. His surroundings seemed to darken then a sudden blinding light and deafening bang filled the cavern as lightning struck his blade. Having difficulty hearing and seeing now, they assumed Galvin joined them once more. Isaac shouted either in frustration or not understanding the volume of his own voice.

“Either of you could have warned us ya know!”

They did not hear the ensuing chuckles, though, the captain raised his voice to address them.

“Keep your eyes closed for a few moments to let them readjust. The others will be here shortly.”

One by one the veterans filed into the cave and stood by their trainees. The captain spoke up again once everyone was assembled.

“Great work, all of you, of course, you all have some room for growth, but you’ve rightly earned where you stand. Welcome to Kreila cave, also known as the Cave of Warriors. All jobs are important, but the warrior is what sets our people apart. The magic that imbues our weapons is the most powerful among all the races. It is that power that keeps the balance. The power that you will wield. The power of our ancestors. This cave bears the names of the warriors who came before you. You have earned your right to stand with us. And today you earn your right to be named of among these in this cave. The elves may have their elements, the dwarves may have their armor, but we have our ancestors! And today you will forever be remembered as a warrior of Kreila.”

Like before, the veterans in charge of their trainees showed them what to do and where to do it. Once they had all finished, they were all congratulated again and told that the real training could now begin. And so it did. The next two weeks were filled with grueling training day after day. They would spar numerous times almost every day then work on various skills that a warrior should know. They worked on survival techniques, moving silently, fighting and maneuvering on horseback, and various knots. Some were given extra training in some fields while others received minimal training in things they already seemed adept at. Kara, for instance, needed little instruction on moving silently while Corey seemed to be the only one to be trained in organization and why it’s important.

As the days moved on, one by one the trainees began to receive their ancestral weapons and thus learned how it was that they ‘would know’ when it was done. The first time it happened startled the other trainees. Sometime around midnight they were all woken by the pained sounds of Isaac. A slight light emitted from his tent. Xaine went to see if he was ok, but his father stopped him and directed him back to his own tent. When asked about it the next morning, Isaac had shown them his arm. The runes that were once drawn in red and had faded were now shown in new pink on his arm like that of a bad sunburn.

So Isaac, Corey, and Kara had all obtained their weapons and Xaine was still waiting for his. He could not imagine how his would be taking so long, even taking longer than both Corey’s sword and shield. Seeing everyone else go through the process of the runes being burned on their arms only added to his anxiety. Would it really hurt as bad as it sounded? He also had the slight, though irrational he knew, fear that maybe it had been a mistake, and he wouldn’t get a weapon at all. As each got their weapon, they started a new step in training. They were set about trying to find out what powers the weapons had bestowed to their new wielders. It was a slow and difficult process and nobody as of yet had discovered exactly what their new weapons were capable of.

Xaine, however, was still training in basic sword technique with his father trying put his ancestral weapon out of his mind- which seemed impossible as he watched all of the veterans and other trainees using theirs. He noted strangely enough though that Corey had somehow become a worse swordsman than he had been previous. He was constantly losing balance and allowing attacks on himself. Occasionally, he would be lucky in his flailings to steady himself and block a blow with his shield. He kept blaming the missteps on his shield and attempted multiple times to fight without it, but Galvin would not allow it.

Finally after a very tiring day, Xaine had lain down to bed and drifted into a restful sleep. Sleep seemed to come easy as most days they were completely worn out. However, Xaine was awoken early in the morning by a searing pain in his right arm. The markings previously drawn were glowing brightly all the way up to his shoulder.The pain was real but with the being burned alive by the Phoenix, it seemed not nearly as bad as it could have been. He managed to keep himself quiet except for a painful groan. He studied his markings. This was the first time he had seen them since the Phoenix burned away his flesh, and it triggered the memory that something was different about them. But now they just looked the same as they were when they had been drawn. He wondered vaguely what could have been different when he saw them before but came up short.

He then wondered as the searing continued, if he should tell anyone or wait until the morning, but as he thought it he could feel his energy draining. It was like the marks burning into his flesh were draining the energy from his body. The pain came again and again in waves until finally he couldn’t stay awake any longer and drifted back off.

The next morning he awoke groggily and still not ready for the day. After a couple of moments, he recalled what had happened the night before and shot up suddenly wide awake and examined his arm. There they were, the markings he had had painted on his skin were now burned bright pink into his arm. His weapon was finally finished and ready to be summoned. He would finally be able to begin the training to find out what secrets his weapon held. Xaine could hear the Captain order Galvin to wake the trainees for the day. Xaine just went about his daily routine and wrote in his record for the day then promptly got ready and moved outside his tent to wait for the other trainees to finish their writings. If they ever took too long, Galvin would coax them along as he was close to doing but the rest emerged from their tents waiting for permission to get breakfast.

Xaine stood looking at the other trainees arms and incidentally their markings. Isaac’s burns were already beginning to heal and were hard to make out from where he stood. And as usual, it was Isaac who spoke first. He looked up and pointed at Xaine, or more specifically his arm.

“Hey, you got your weapon! When did that happen? You didn’t make a peep last night.”

Xaine smiled. “Just happened a few hours ago and I wouldn’t say I didn’t make a peep, it hurt pretty bad.”

“Well, I certainly didn’t hear anything. I feel kind of childish after wailing like I did.” Corey added.

“Well you had two to come in that must have been a good deal more painful.”

Corey shrugged, and the conversation essentially dropped, Kara having nothing to add which was also usual. They were almost immediately dismissed for breakfast after their conversation. Xaine filled his plate with what was available from the breakfast made by whichever veteran was in charge of it that day. Once full, he found a place near the fire and sat next to his father. Purposely sitting on Barrek’s left side as to make it easy to spot his burn marks. Xaine sat, and his father greeted him he could see his eyes glance at his arm clearly not expecting to find anything then away and quickly back again. He smiled at Xaine and patted him on his back looking almost as excited as Xaine felt.

“It’s finally ready! I knew it had to be any day now. What took so long, I have no idea but then again I’m a warrior, not a blacksmith. Tell you what, I’ll be right back I’m going to let the captain know. You finish up quickly, and we can get started early today.”

Xaine nodded and started to cram his food down. Barrek took one more large bite, chewed and swallowed, then got up and moved toward the captain. Xaine continued to eat his meal quickly and trailed his father with his eyes. He saw him walk over to the captain have a brief conversation. It looked like the captain congratulated him and then the conversation was over. Barrek returned as Xaine was finishing the last couple bites of his meal. They cleaned their plates together and stowed them away then moved to the place where they had been doing their previous training.

“Okay, are you ready to summon it?”

“Definitely… Now how exactly do I do that?”

“First hold your hand out like this, this particular part isn’t exactly necessary but it’s always easier the first time this way. Then you need to focus on the runes in your palm and focus on the weapon. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately it’s always hardest the first time you do it, especially since you can’t exactly picture the real thing in your mind yet.”

Xaine followed the instruction his father gave him. He held his hand out as he had first seen it done when he fought Torrin and now as his father was doing. He tried to focus hard on the markings on his palm and the weapon he wanted to call. He pictured a sword like the ones he had been using with some runes on it. At first nothing happened then the markings on his palm began to glow and horribly itch. The itching sensation made him lose concentration and glow disappeared. He vigorously scratched his palm.

“That’s why they were always scratching so much. A lot of help that does to the burns!”

Barrek chuckled.

“The itching will stop happening after a while. But that was a really good first try you almost had it there. Just try to ignore the urge to scratch until it comes this time.”

After finally satiating his itch he put his hand out to try again. He closed his eyes and tried very hard to keep focused. He pushed all other things from his mind but the runes and his sword. He tried as hard as he could to visualize the two meeting. The intense itching began again, and he tried to distract himself by imagining the glow of the runes in his hand. Thus focusing on the same spot, but on a different aspect. A moment later he felt the smooth leather of a hilt and closed his fingers around it. He opened his eyes and brought his closed hand in front of him.

“Well done! I’m impressed it only took two tries, not to mention you didn’t drop it after it summoned.”

Xaine heard his father but did not look at him, his eyes were focused on the long blade now in his grasp. He examined his new sword. The blade was fully black from hilt to tip. It was double edged and somewhat thinner than a broadsword. The crossguard was silver, and the edges curved up in an ornate design. The hilt was wrapped in dark crimson leather. The bottom of the hilt was the same silver as the crossguard. On both sides of the sword between the two edges were runes running almost hilt to tip. Xaine swung the sword around once or twice. It was incredibly balanced. Xaine knew for sure that this was the nicest sword he had ever held. It was slightly heavier than he was used to, but he knew with training and growth it would become easier to wield.

For the first time since he summoned it, he looked up at his father. Barrek then summoned his weapon. Xaine had seen it before in their training over the last two weeks but now that he had his own he really looked at the sword, and it’s details closely. His father’s sword blade was vermillion with a gold crossguard and black leather hilt. Like his it had runes down the middle between the two edges.

“Well then let’s get started. We are going to spar for a little bit so you can get the feel of the blade itself. Then we will try to draw out its power. Let me know once you’re feeling comfortable with it.”

The two circled each other Xaine sparred with renewed vigor as now something was finally going to be able to change. The sword was a little difficult to handle at first, but Xaine found it quite enjoyable the more he used it. He was able to get more momentum behind the blade, making it harder to recover from parry’s though it was only a slight difference he could see how it would be helpful. They stopped for a moment to get some water and catch their breath.

“So, I think I’m ready to move forward now. With the next step.”

Barrek smiled and once they returned to their place of training he began to give further explanation.

“Alright, Xaine this power that is within your sword is unique to you. It is for you to wield, but it is important that you know it is given to you by your ancestors, more specifically your grandfather Drail. The more that you understand him, the more you understand your blade and your power. It’s more important than ever that you read his record and get to know him. I don’t know how much you have read now, but it is still possible to draw the beginnings of your power out.”

“Okay, so what do we do now?”

“Well, this is the hard part. We have no Idea what your power is, it could be elemental, it could be something only you can see or experience. We will spar some more and this time instead of focusing so much on your technique, you need to try to listen to your instincts. Your grandfather will help you discover and use your power, but you have to listen to him. This can be very difficult in combat, but it often is something that just feels right, something that just comes to you.”

Xaine nodded, he wasn’t exactly sure what his father meant, and he felt like he fought using instincts most of the time already. But he was excited to try.

“Do you think you’re ready to give it a shot?”

Xaine nodded again and swallowed. The two took up their stances and began clashing swords. The rest of the day was spent trying to figure out what power his sword had to no avail. Xaine had tried time and time again to get something to happen and occasionally made desperate attempts ending in failure leaving him open to his father's attacks. His every now and then would repeat that he had to try and feel it to which Xaine kept thinking he was already trying!

Eventually, he gave up rather frustrated wanting to throw the sword after hours of seemingly pointless practice. It was then he realized that he did not know what to do with it when he was done. And he inquired of his father how to send it back.

The next few days all went very similarly with almost nobody figuring out their power. Though Corey’s swordsmanship had at least improved almost back to normal, he was still cursing his new shield. On the fourth day, training was interrupted. A man had come on a small horse. The man himself was small as well Xaine assumed he was a messenger and the prior conditions made him faster. This was confirmed when he handed a scroll to the captain letting him know it was urgent. As was custom, they invited him to have a meal and some water that he accepted graciously. The captain had left him and immediately undid the scroll, he looked at it and frowned. He looked back up at his men as if making a decision.

“Barrek, Xaine, I need a word.”

The two walked up to the captain, and he began to address them.

“I’ve just gotten orders. There’s been a disturbance in a nearby town Clearig. Something is causing travelers to go missing in the forest near the town. There have also been reports of strange noises and attacks in the area. We have orders to investigate as no more men can be spared back home. I am to be going, and I want you to come with.”

“Sir do you think it wise for the first and second in command here to leave?”

“Normally it would be inadvisable but this is only a training camp, and it’s a very safe location. The Phoenix incident is the first in years, and it was extremely unlikely. I think I will have more need of your experience than they will. Also, they said that it is permitted to bring a trainee at our discretion. As I’m bringing you, it would only make sense to bring along Xaine. I will, of course, leave that up to you. We are leaving tonight, so I want your answer within the hour.”

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