The Rebel's Heart: Part Four
The pirate Krawk from the day before spoke to all the pets in a loud voice.
“Good morning, recruits. Today we will learn the basics of our Engraved Broad Swords and our Leaf Shields. So that we may use these and not hurt each other, Fyora herself has blessed these so that they may not be used to harm anybody in the camp using them for practice. However, if it hits you, it may very well leave quite a bruise. Keep that in mind when using your sword. Your shield is stronger than it may appear. Although it is light, it is strong and durable. Illusen has blessed these and they can soften the impact of any blow. Now, each cabin will have an instructor who will bunk with you. That is whom the eleventh bunk in each cabin is for. Treat your instructors with the respect that they deserve. Many of your instructors come straight from the King’s own guard.”
Amaretta couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped from her mouth. Luckily for her, everybody thought that it was shock, not fear. Only those from the castle would recognize Amaretta, and she feared that one of the instructors might figure out who she was.
“And as a special treat for the recruits who pass our basic levels, Jeran will be here to help teach the advanced classes. He, along with a few other knights, may even pick a few of our most advanced recruits and turn them into knights. Now, go to your cabin and meet your instructor. Your instructors will take it from there. Oh, and your instructor will call you by your number, not by your name. Please keep that in mind and do not feel offended when the instructors identify you with a number. Now go and start practicing.”
Amaretta and Darena walked and spoke together for a short time.
“Oh dear. I hope that nobody will recognize either of us. I’m more easily recognized than you!”
“That’s true, Darena, but you are more common than I am. Please do not take offense to that. I mean only that you are a Shadow Zafara, and I am a mixture of a Spotted Uni and a Royal Uni. I guess that’s what happens when your father is Royal and your mother is Spotted. Anyway, I stand out just a bit more because I do look a bit like a Royal Uni, even without all my royal garb. I fear more that I will be recognized than that you will.”
“Perhaps you are right. Either way, we must be careful and make sure that we keep our identities a secret. I have to go to my cabin now, and so do you. Good luck with your training!”
Amaretta grinned. “I’d wish you good luck, but given how you were trained at the castle, I highly doubt that you’ll need it.”
As they walked their separate ways, each could hear the other laughing and doing their best to have a great time despite their constant fear of exposure.
“Good morning, recruits. My name is Qualinda. As you call can see, I am a Pirate Eyrie. I grew up in Shenkuu. Now you may wonder why I’m telling you all of this. I’m telling you these things because every year, a few recruits get into fights about pirates and ninjas. Ninjas are believed to have originated in Shenkuu, and pirates from Krawk Island. You could even say that I’m part ninja and part pirate if you wanted to. Ninjas and pirates are not comparable. They each have their faults and advantages. There will be no fighting about pirates and ninjas. Are we clear?”
The ten pets circled around the pirate Eyrie all cried out at the same time, “Yes.”
“Good. Now, who of you here has experience in the Battledome, or any fighting at all? And no, fighting with siblings does not count.”
None of the pets from Amaretta’s cabin, cabin 49, had any experience.
“None of you. Well, that’s okay. After all, with practice, you’ll all be fine. Now, each of you pick up your swords and shields. You will start out practicing simple maneuvers with your bunkmates. I will not tell you what to do; that is up to you. I will help you learn how to move like you’d like to, but I will not make you practice in any certain way. Now, go and practice in the field behind the cabin. I’ll be watching you, and if you need any help, just call me over.”
Amaretta was teamed up with a ghost JubJub. As she grabbed her sword and shield, she approached the JubJub.
“Hey, my number is 648. And I’m not trying to be mean, but I can’t help wondering how you’re going to hold your shield and sword. That and wouldn’t my sword go right though you?”
“Great, I’m stuck practicing and sharing a bunk bed with the dullest pet within a 324 mile radius. Look, JubJubs can hold objects just like everybody else. And yes, the sword would go right through me. Hello, I’m a ghost! Of course it won’t hurt me! I’m guessing someone here is taking remedial classes.”
Amaretta was shocked that this little JubJub was so mean, but she disregarded it as annoyance at hearing questions like that all the time.
“Okay. Anyway, what types of moves would you like to try out?”
The JubJub rolled its eyes. “Look, Princess, you’re obviously here because your parents didn’t want you around the house. If you’re afraid that you’re going to chip some of your hoof polish, then you really shouldn’t be around here. I’m here to train and defend my family from Darigan and his forces. You’re probably just here to have fun playing dress-up. This camp is serious, and I don’t appreciate that I have to share the same cabin, let alone the same air, with someone as slow as you are. I’m going to practice with myself, and you’re probably going to go sit on some rock and admire yourself with a mirror. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to practice.”
For a moment, Amaretta forgot all about her manners. “Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but I’m here for the same reason that you are. I’m not worried about how I look, but I am worried about the fact that you’re being a jerk to me for no reason at all!”
The JubJub just rolled its eyes again. “Oh my. I feel so bad. How could I be so mean. Oh, I know. Maybe it’s because I’m one of the only pets here who actually cares about my family and who wants to practice! Everybody else is just playing with the weapons and not even trying to train. And by answering your questions, I’m wasting time that I could be using to train! Why don’t you just go and practice with a rock. That would be at about your skill level, and you wouldn’t have to worry about chipping your nail polish.”
With those final words, the JubJub walked off and left the very annoyed Amaretta standing by their bunk.
“Okay, recruits, impress me! You can practice in whatever way you choose, but you must be learning how to use either your sword or your shield. Or, if you’d really like to give it a try, learn how to use the two at once. Now, I am aware that some of you will not get along with your bunkmate. I don’t care. In life, you will be forced to work with people whom you do not get along with. That means that whether you like your bunkmate or not, you will be practicing with him or her. Now go, practice, and have fun!”
Amaretta approached the JubJub. “Look, I don’t know why you’re being so rude, but we’re stuck working together. So I’ll ask again, what types of moves do you want to try?”
“Look, 648, I’m not used to working with others. I guess I can be a bit anti-social.”
“Okay, very. Let’s try to forget about our first conversation. My number is 295. I don’t know about you, but I want to learn how to use my sword and shield at the same time. That will be the most useful.”
“That’s fine with me. How about practicing in that shady spot over there?”
Amaretta and recruit 295 walked to a shady, forested area to get a feeling for their weapons. As the two sparred, it was clear that although Amaretta was mediocre with both her sword and shield, she wasn’t excelling with either one of them. 295, on the other hand, discovered that she was quite skilled with her sword, and only slightly less skilled with her shield.
As the day progressed, Amaretta became increasingly frustrated. Although she had always dreamed of being a knight, she was having difficulty keeping up with her bunkmate. She knew how to use her shield to block 295’s sword, but 295 was quick with her sword and she knew how to use it.
By the end of the day, Amaretta had numerous bruises from 295’s sword. 295 also had a few bruises from Amaretta’s sword, but they were not as abundant as Amaretta’s.
Amaretta was panting as she and 295 approached their cabin.
“You’re really good! I think I’m going to feel these bruises for a while.”
“You weren’t too bad. I mean, it’s true that you weren’t amazing, but at least you’re not clueless with your sword or shield.”
“Ugh, I just want today to be over. I am so tired. I’ve always dreamed of being a knight, but maybe I’m just not cut about to be one.”
“Come on, you really mean to tell me that you never dreamed of being a princess?”
Amaretta laughed. “No, I can’t say that I ever did. I think that it would be more glorious to be a knight than it would be to be a princess. Besides that, I could never be a princess; I could be a knight.”
295 looked at Amaretta. “Oh, I’m not so sure about that. Kidnap the Princess and you could probably pass yourself off as her. I mean, you don’t look exactly like her, but you have the same coloring and you look like she does in the paintings of her. Of course, I get the impression that you couldn’t be conceited like she is.”
Amaretta snickered. “I can just see it now. ‘Daddy, I want a new petpet. Those twenty-eight of them that you bought yesterday are boring now. Go send a servant to get me one.’”
295 laughed. “Maybe you could pass yourself off as the Princess.”
Amaretta shrugged. “Nah. I’d be a knight before I’d be a princess any and every day of the week.”
295 sighed. “Well, I dunno if I could say the same. If I was royalty, I could do so much for the poor around here. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
Amaretta looked at the JubJub curiously. “No, I don’t. What are you talking about?”
“Maybe I’m talking about the fact that while we, the poor and less than elite of this great land, are training for war, the King is up in his castle encouraging all of us to go train and die so that he can stay on the throne. Look around you! This is a nice, forested area. It used to be my home. Not all of it was, but some of it was. I remember that I was playing hide-and-seek with my friends when soldiers came. They told us that the King needed the land immediately. That was about ten years ago. They haven’t used it until now.”
Amaretta looked confused. “I heard that the King just took control of this land because it was being used by thieves. Maybe thieves lied to your parents and stole your land.”
295 rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and maybe the King really did take this land away from my family so that he could let it sit and rot for ten years!”
Amaretta’s look of confusion turned into one of disgust. “What is your problem with the royal family?!”
“What’s yours?! In your eyes they can do no wrong.”
“And in your eyes they can do no good!”
“Why are you protecting them?!”
“Because I’m one of them!”
To be continued...