Friday, May 12, 2023

Dark Armor: Westrov

The Hall of Swords was dim, its only light coming through the heavy, almost-opaque obsidian that formed one of the Citadel's outer walls. Westrov sometimes hung lamps during training sessions, especially with beginning students, but generally he preferred his students to work with little light. He said it helped them develop a better sense of feel. 

Pallian was no arms-trainer, but as one of Westrov's former arms-trainees, he agreed. 

Still and all, the hall seemed empty. Nobody stood gathered for practice; no weathered figure inspected the racks of weapons or the rows of waiting targets. Westrov was not beside the mirror-wall, moving through one of the many teaching-dances. Nor was he on the mats, practicing the exercises that built strength for lunging, sweeping, and stepping. 

"I'll thank you not to muss my outfit, Arms-Trainer," Pallian said quietly, and turned. "The House of Edrias arrives tonight, and I don't have anything else to change into."

Westrov had been settled in the shadowed corner just behind the doorway. He stopped with one hand extended, then settled back. "You should have checked, Pallian," he said gruffly. "Even if you knew I'd be there. Anticipate your opponent--"

Pallian nodded. "--but always check the terrain. That's what I'm here for."

"Oh?" Westrov was well past his prime, his skin weathered to old leather and his muscles wrapped tight around his bones, with little left to pad them. He maintained his strength and his skills through dedication and willpower, and his position in the court through careful obedience and cautious advice. His hair was gray and thinning, though he cut it so short that it was hard to tell, and an eyepatch covered the thing that had replaced his right eye. 

Not all initiations were subtle, and not all were meant to help.

"I find myself unexpectedly summoned back to the Citadel, and informed that I will be attending father -- as myself -- when the House of Edrias arrives tonight. I am even allowed a new initiation." Pallian paused. "This troubles me, as the last I knew of outside events was that the Black Knight had slain the Champion of Marinul and reclaimed the Spear of the First from the House of Edrias, after which Rebka, Heir of Teregor, was apparently slain by the Shadow of Edrias. Neither my father nor Ravaj has seen fit to enlighten me, and I find myself loathe to ask directly..."

Westrov nodded and offered a congenial smile. "...Especially on the day of your scheduled execution?" 

"Just so."

The older man settled back, momentarily pensive. "I don't believe it's a secret," he said. There was a momentary pause for words left unspoken, and then Westrov said: "There's been an Emissary -- from the Tomb of the First."

And Pallian, feeling the pieces fall into place behind his own eyes, said: "Oh." 

Oh, I should have known. The Champion of Marinul was wedded to the Spear of the First, however briefly, and carried it into battle. If anything would draw their attention, that would. And the emergence of an Emissary is damned near to the only thing that would drive my father to treat peaceably with Edrias. So now we have to figure out how to deal with the Emissary without waking them the rest of the way up.

No wonder he decided not to kill me.

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