The Red Hand Part 12
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twelve Preparations
After meeting The Reint I was allowed to wash up. They gave me a choice of the main pool area or I could have some water brought to me to bathe in private. Not wanting to swim nude with the lizards, I opted for the second choice. They filled up a weird rock formation with water for me. It was like my own private bathtub. As I bathed I thought about my choice to help them. I was scared but it needed to be done and maybe I could find a way home. Over the next few days my training started, Tenth taught me combat. We started out a bit rocky as Tenth doesn’t have the temperament to be a teacher nor I to be her student. When I wasn’t training with her I was with Maebh. The old woman had me trying with the crystal sword forming again. I’ve actuality made some progress. I’ve been able to form somewhat of a small blade. She’s crafted a new one. Since my old one got left behind in the city. The crystals used for weapons were rare here. The ones used for lighting are a lower grade, not useful for weapons but she’d managed to scrounge some up. She was also working on a project that she wouldn’t tell me about no matter how much I whine.
The old woman managed to concoct a potion that lets me communicate with Tenth’s people. It involved a smelly broth that she whipped up. The broth was then soaked up by a root and left to set for a couple days. She said it was absorbing the essence of the language in the air. Not sure if I believe that, though. I then had to eat the damn root, all of it in one sitting and it tasted disgusting. But after a little nausea and a feeling of lightheadedness for the rest of the day, I woke up the next morning being able to understand them and they in turn could now understand me. It’s made staying here a hell of a lot easier.
I’m sitting outside with Wolfie. They don’t care for feeding him that much. I guess they think he’s dangerous and a waste of food. So I’ve been feeding him with my share of food. Maebh has chipped in with some of her share too. He’s been living in the caves up here that are part of the rock formation. This has become my favorite part of my daily routine. I like the peace out here. Plus spending time with Wolfie. They have guards out here. Hidden in some of the caves and crevices. They haven't given us any trouble so far. For his part Wolfie has steered clear of them. Yesterday finally I worked up the courage to try and pet him. I was surprised when he let me. He sat beside me, his head resting on his paws as I pet his back.
Tenth comes out. She’s standing near the entrance.
“Serena! Your needed inside.” She calls out.
Damn. It’s a little early for our daily training. Thought I still had some time to myself. I look at Wolfie. “Well, guess I’m going back in. See you later boy. And stay out of trouble.”
He whines and I pat him on the back before getting up. I walk back to the waiting Tenth.
“I’m surprised that thing hasn’t made a meal out of you.” She says.
“What’s up sis?” I’ve been calling her that since she called me her little sister. Despite the fact we don’t see eye to eye on well…Everything, I think we’ve grown closer since I got here.
“Maebh has something to show us.”
Maybe she’s finally going to revel her big project. Hallie has been spending all her time with Maebh. I can only guess she’s been helping her with her secret project. We head down into the tunnel to see what the old lady has in store for us.
Maebh sat at the flat large rock in the center of her room. The old woman has turned it in to a work station. She has all manner of junk spread out on it. She’s tinkering with something hidden by the junk. Hallie floats behind her. Maebh looks up from her work. She smiles.
“Just a minute or two more.” The old woman’s voice was in our heads. “Almost done.”
She fidgets around with whatever it is. Her frustration growing. She knocks some stuff off the rock. I start to smile and turn away. Not wanting to embarrass her. Tenth just stands there patiently waiting. I notice the old woman’s staff propped up in the corner of the room. The one she used to try to protect during that sandstorm. It looks like a few of the crystals are missing from it. After a few minutes pass there’s a loud click. The old woman sighs.
“I think it’s ready. Tenth would you come over here?”
Tenth walks over and Maebh holds up a metal glove. There are crystals embedded on the back of it. She slips it over Tenth’s hand.
“I built it to act in the same manner as my staff. Hold your hand up in front of you and concentrate my child.”
Tenth does as she’s told. The familiar humming starts. The crystals begin to light up. Energy crackles around the glove. A shaft of energy emerges from the glowing crystals.
“Now imagine the energy as a flat shield in front of you. Shape it with your thoughts.”
The energy shaft ripples and starts to flatten out forming a rounded disk above the glove.
The old woman looks at me. “Throw something at her.”
I look around the old woman’s room. I see an old book sitting on a table. I pick it up and hurl it at the energy barrier. It hits, causing the energy to ripple before falling to the floor.
“Cool.” I say.
Strained Tenth lets the shield dissipate.
Maebh reaches down and picks the book up off the floor. Dusting it off.
“Did you have to use this? It’s very old.”
“Sorry. Nice glove though.” I say.
“Thank you. It’s a gauntlet. I thought it would be useful on your mission.”
“Yes. It will be most useful. It takes a lot of Oth to power it.” Tenth says.
Tenth takes the gauntlet off. She offers it to me to try. I promptly decline. I have enough trouble getting the sword to work.
“Serena, it’s time for your exercises. Let us go.” says Tenth. She turns to Maebh. “If there is nothing else?”
“No. I won’t keep you from your training. I’ll see you both later.”
We leave. Great, training with Tenth…my least favorite part of the day next to waking up. We go to the warrior training area that’s set up. Racks of weapons line the sides of the area. These guys have never heard of safety mats. So when I go down I have only sand to cushion me. Tenth isn’t one to pull punches. When she hits or throws you its full force. I have a patchwork of bruises and cuts from our training so far. I could bitch and moan till I got out of it I’m sure. But I need this. Back in the city I was useless. If we’re going back there, I’m going to be ready. If that means being sore and beat up, well I’ll heal. And I’ll be the better for it. Besides, I’m waiting for the chance to best Tenth in one of our sparring matches. It hasn’t happened yet. I’m getting close. But when it does I’m going to be insufferably pleased with myself.
We take our stances. These guys have developed their own type of Martial arts. Bakkagon they call it. It’s very graceful and from the matches I’ve watched them have here, it can get brutal. I’ve seen a few of them get a hurt. But the motto around here seems to be “survive or die.” There’s no real in-between with these lizards.
Tenth comes at me and I get a decent block in. I try to grab her arm to flip her, but she turns the move around and grabs me in an arm lock.
“Yield little sister?” She asks me.
The pain going through my arm and shoulder burns like hot blades. There was no way I was letting her win another round. I could hear it in her voice. She knows she’s won. I don’t think so. She’s fighting barefoot. I on the other hand am not. I stomp down on her closest foot. My dirty trick catches her unaware and she lets out a gasp of pain. Letting go of my arm. I back off. Giving me some distance.
“Sorry.” I say.
“Don’t be. Use every advantage. I was foolish to not count on that.”
We spar for a while longer. I get a few good moves in, but our match ends like they all have so far. Tenth standing over me in victory. Although this time I let myself get a little distracted. Half way through our match someone had entered and stood in the shadows watching us. From time to time my eyes would dart over there, trying to make out who it was. Tenth used my distraction for a fairly easy win.
Panting and sweaty I kneel there.
“You became unfocused” says Tenth. Lecturing me. She’s gotten good at that.
“A little hard to concentrate. With our audience there.” I answer. The loss stung me. I was sure I’d get her this time.
Our watcher steps from the shadows. A male lizard. His skin a very light, almost white. He’s a little taller than Tenth and quite muscular. He’s bare chested. Only wearing a pair of loose fitting pants.
“Your pupil perceived me there. You did not?” He says.
“Brother. I was busy teaching Serena. I did not see you enter.”
He folds his arms over his chest. “Then perhaps your student has taught you something?”
I stand up. Tenth’s usual composure appears a little shaken.
“Serena. This is my hatchling brother Seventh.” She says. Her voice a little softer than usual. As if she wanted to fade into the air.
I’ve never seen her so unsure of herself.
“Hello.” I say. But he ignores me.
“You go easy on this soft skin.” Seventh says. “I think you’ve been around it too long.”
“Hey! I’m right here dude!”
“Serena.” Tenth says. Her voice taking on its old firmer tone again. “My brother wishes for me to test his capabilities in Bakkagon.”
“No sister. I wish to fight it.”
Me? Is he nuts? “What? You want to fight me? Just ask me. Don’t act like I’m not here.”
He turns to me. “If my life and my sister’s are to be dependent on you out there, I wish to know what you are capable of.”
I could never take him. I have enough trouble with Tenth. But he’s pissed me off with his dismissive attitude. Acting like I’m nothing. Talking down to Tenth.
“Okay I’ll fight you.”
I expect Tenth to try to talk me out of this. Instead it appears she’s beaming with pride. She takes me aside.
“You can’t match his strength. But you are fast.”
“I’m also tired.” I say. “But I’m a little fired up from getting pissed.”
“Good. I’ve showed you how to channel your anger. Don’t grapple with him. Don’t block his strikes. His strength will make those irrelevant in this fight. Go.”
I take a defensive stance. My arms up ready to block. He stands there still, arms at his sides. Daring me to come at him. Instead I dance around him a little. Finally he gets frustrated waiting for me and charges forward. Despite his size he’s as graceful as Tenth. I pull back. Keeping distance between us. I keep this up two more times as he tries to close the gap.
My heart is working overtime. I’m tired but anger is burning in my stomach. Making my heart go all the faster. I need to end this quick.
He comes towards me another time. This time I sprint forward and strike him in the chest. Two hard shots. My hands sting with pain. His scaly skin has cut open my knuckles. I’m momentarily distracted by the sight of my bloody hands. He uses it. Hitting me in the face with a quick elbow jab. The side of my face erupts in pain.
“Keep your guard up!” Tenth yells.
I back off. Focus. I can tend to them later. It’s only a little blood. I may have a cut on my face as well. I feel a hot stinging where he struck me. I hack out a little glob of spit and blood. Hope he didn’t take out a tooth.
Seventh presses his advantage, coming at me. He tries going for an arm lock but I surprise him with a slap to the side of his head. The slap not only shocks him, but I hit his ear as well. He staggers, shaking his head, disoriented. It’s time to press my advantage. I give him a punch in the side. He falls back giving himself some space to recover.
I gulp in some air to my burning lungs and touch the side of my face. I’m defiantly cut. I feel the hot blood and sweat drip down my cheek.
He lets out a roar and closes the gap between us. I dodge to the side and he’s right on top of me. He faked me out. Damn! He grabs my arm and flips me onto the ground. I hit the sand on my back. I let out a silent gasp of pain as the air is forced out of my lungs. My hands clench the sand. Making tight fists. As pain lights up my backside.
“Yield?” He asks me. But I’m unable to answer.
Try as I might I’m unable to form words. I can only gasp for air like a dying fish. If I could speak I’d say. “Fuck you.” He bends down and gets in close to my face.
“Can’t speak? Or unwilling to? There’s no shame in being beaten soft skin.”
I feel the sand in my hands. Yes!
I throw the sand into his eyes. He retreats. Desperately rubbing the sand from his eyes. I’ve recovered enough to pull myself off the ground.
As he’s pawing at his eyes I run at him like a mad bull. Plowing into him full steam. Sending us both down. I punch in him a few times in the face and chest. I hear screaming and realize that it’s coming from me. My eyes water from hot tears.
“Enough! Enough.” Seventh says. “I yield.”
I clamber off him. Feeling a little ashamed from the anger. I’m shaking a little. Tenth comes over.
“Are you done?”
“Y-Yes.” I say hoarsely. “I think so.”
Seventh gets up off the ground. He laughs. “I told you that you had to push her.”
“Her.” Not it like before. He did this on purpose. I ‘m about to lose it again when he puts a hand on my shoulder.
“You did well. But you must control your anger. My sister has a good student.”
He takes his hand off me and goes over to Tenth.
“Good work sister.” He says before leaving.
I can see the pride in Tenth’s eyes and my anger fades away.
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