Brandon Cornwell

Blacksmith, Woodsmith, and Wordsmith

Excerpt from Rising Thunder Vol. I


10th Waxing Sap Moon, Year 4304

Elias stood in the circle of stones, awkward and too tall, even as young as he was. He was already as large as a fully grown soldier, and more muscular than most of the elven men in the city. Today, the young elf training him was to show the council what Elias had learned over the last four years, to see if he had progressed enough to move on to a more advanced trainer, and take on a first year student himself. Every year for the last three years, he’d been denied and sent back to learn the first year material again, his ineptitude blamed on his freakish size.

His trainer, a young, skilled elf named Ayluin, stood across the ring, scowling. He made no secret of the fact that he hated Elias, and while his actions were always subtle, he went out of his way to make Elias’s life miserable. Such bullying was subtly ignored by the elders of his city, though whether through apathy or shared prejudice was unclear. Elias could not figure why… he looked up to Ayluin, and did his best to learn the drills and forms, despite his large size and general lack of agility. Now it was time to show what he had learned during the last four years of drilling.

These exercises were done with wooden swords, wasters, so as to protect the students from injury while training. Three magistrates stood around the circle to observe the bout. One of them turned to Elias. “Are you ready?”

Elias nodded, and the magistrate turned to Ayluin. “Are you ready?”

Ayluin’s eyes never left Elias. “Yes.”

“Then fight. We will be the judge of whether or not the student has learned sufficiently to advance.”

The two boys stepped towards each other, Elias’s steps measured and even, Ayluin striding forward as if this were a task that he simply wanted to finish as soon as possible. The space between them rapidly closed, and Ayluin struck first, hard and high, to the left. Elias blocked it with his blade, barely recovering in time to cover his head from the swipe from the right. Ayluin pressed Elias back until Elias misjudged a swing, and took a solid strike to the stomach.

“Ayluin wins the first round.” The magistrate turned to Ayluin, who was smirking slightly. “Remember that the failure of the student is the failure of the teacher. Return to your sides.”

Ayluin’s smirk was replaced by a scowl, and a murderous glare at Elias. The boys returned to their respective sides, Elias doing his best not to hunch over. Ayluin was swinging hard, harder than usual. He always did on these tests. Elias was aware that older boy was trying to make him fail, and didn’t know why. Discouraged, he steeled himself to just making it through the test.

“Proceed.” The magistrate’s voice called out over the ring. Peripherally, Elias could see other young elves, male and female, taking their tests in adjacent rings, flurries of activity almost distracting him. Ayluin closed on him swiftly, and Elias focused more on defending himself, blocking the strikes that the other boy was throwing at him. Ayluin set his jaw and redoubled his efforts. Splinters flew from the wasters from his onslaught, Elias blocking most of the strikes, his larger size giving him a bit more reach than the other boy had. However, he wasn’t as skilled, and over-reached again, putting himself in harm’s way. Ayluin’s waster found its mark on the back of Elias’s hand, making him almost drop his weapon. Instinctively, Elias grabbed ahold of Ayluin’s other hand with his own, and struck back while the older boy was surprised, catching him under the arm with a solid strike to the ribs, driving the breath from him.

Ayluin jerked his hand free and staggered back, holding on to his ribs, staring at Elias in anger and surprise. The magistrate’s voice rang out over the ring. “Elias wins the second round. Return to your sides.” Ayluin narrowed his eyes, and stalked back to his side, pacing in the dirt inside the ring, waiting for the next round to begin.

Elias was angry now. Ayluin didn’t need to hurt him. He didn’t need to swing this hard, he just needed to spar, to let Elias show if he knew what he needed to know to advance in his training. He didn’t need to humiliate Elias in front of the elders. Elias stood firm, narrowing his eyes himself, glaring across the ring. The corners of his mouth turned down. Ayluin was smaller than he was, despite being almost fifty years older. The leather wrapping the handle creaked under his grip as he gritted his teeth.

The magistrate looked between the boys, and, after a slight pause, looked to Ayluin and nodded. “Proceed.”

Ayluin started across the ring, stalking towards Elias. Elias gripped his waster in his aching right hand, and broke out into a sprint. Ayluin sidestepped, swinging hard for Elias’s head, but his weapon found only wood as Elias blocked hard, sending the other boy’s sword rebounding wide. Elias pressed his advantage, using his strength to push the other boy back step by step, forcing him to block instead of attack. The anger and spite in Ayluin’s eyes started to evaporate, being replaced by fear.

Elias felt something rise up inside of himself, a white hot fury, born from his years of abuse at the hands of this cowering wretch before him, and he pressed harder. He was vaguely aware of someone calling his name, but the red haze that clouded his vision and the thundering in his ears left absolutely no room for anything else in his perception beyond Ayluin. With both hands gripping the handle of his waster, he drove his advantage home.

The other boy swung hard for Elias’s head, and Elias blocked the strike savagely. The sound of splintering wood barely filtered through his haze just as he saw Ayluin raise his waster above his head for a hard two handed downward strike. Elias took the moment and drove the point of his waster into the boy’s solar plexus just as Ayluin brought his weapon down on Elias’s skull. There was an explosion of light and pain, then darkness.