Disclaimer: I don't own Narnia or any characters you may recognize from the books or the movies, I wish I did but I don't... I also don't own the Narnian Calendar. It belongs to Elecktrum who was kind enough to let me borrow it for my story. Her own stories are awesome and you should go read them too.
Disclaimer #2: The USPS Motto is not mine, I just gleefully borrowed it to adapt for this chapter.
Summary: Not all shields look as we expected... Not all shields are physical...
17 Stormfall 1001
"I don't see why I need to train with a shield. All it does is throw me off balance."
The look my mentor gave me pretty much confirmed my own suspicion that my protests were in vain. Apparently, I was going to learn to use a shield even if it killed me. Of course, after escaping Werewolves and one very insane sorcerer, I guess he thought it should be obvious why I needed to learn how to use a shield. And, I thought it was just as obvious why I didn't need to train with something that I would never use.
If there was one thing I have learned since being invited to stay in Narnia just over two months ago, it was that arguing with a Centaur is pretty much a study in futility. Did it stop me from trying? No. This would explain why I was standing in the armory trying to convince General Oreius that the past two weeks of added shield training had been a waste of time. It wasn't going well.
"Katerina Alambiel, when you have learned to hold and use the shield properly it will no longer throw you off balance, and since the only way to learn to use it properly means training, you will train with a shield until I say otherwise." With that, the good general handed me the shield and left the armory. I assumed that meant I was expected to shut up, suit up, and get my little self down to training yard.
I finally got into my new armor and reluctantly picked up my shield. I left the armory and tried not to sigh when I realized winter was well and truly on us with the clouds promising snow sometime today or tonight and my breath forming white puffs. Did I mention that training takes place before sunup? It's cold, it's dark, and I was sleep-deprived from a nightmare. Did any of that matter to Oreius? Nope, he apparently had a motto similar to the United States Postal Service: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stay this Centaur's regimen of training (inducing groans from his students)." Okay to be fair, he didn't know I was sleep-deprived if only because Sherket had recently stopped being a consistent babysitter over me at night and couldn't tattle on me.
Did my sleep deprivation have any bearing on what happened that day in training? Possibly. I was still fiddling with the shield straps trying to tighten it a little more when I entered the training courtyard. The kings, Peter and Edmund, were there and already dueling each other under the watchful eyes of the Faun Captain Cletus, while Oreius was waiting for me at the opposite end of the courtyard. I pulled Chrysaor, the sword of Esti, from its sheath and crossed the courtyard to stand in front of the Centaur. Since my normal movements had grown rather klutzy since the new torture of carrying a heavy chunk of metal on my arm had been introduced, I congratulated myself on drawing Chrysaor smoothly this time. Of course, as soon as I did so, I immediately had to go on the defensive as Oreius slashed his two swords down at me. I automatically dodged to the side, earning myself a growled instruction to "Use your shield!"
Resisting the urge to growl right back, I forced myself to raise my shield and strike with Chrysaor at the same time, which was difficult considering the fact that I prefer to hold Chrysaor with both hands. Oreius easily blocked my strike with one sword and slammed his other sword against my shield with enough force that I staggered back a step. He gave me that look I was quickly learning meant I was going to be sore when he finally released me from training and I braced myself just in time to receive another heavy hit across the shield. Amazingly, I didn't stumble that time, I slid instead...not really an improvement, by the way.
Now I may have gained enough weight to be allowed to train again, but that meant absolutely nothing when a fully armored adult Centaur male was pushing me back as if I were an overgrown ragdoll. I finally managed to dig in with the toes of my boots and Oreius paused his advance for a split second, which was all I needed to bring Chrysaor up to knock one of his swords away from me while I dropped into a slight crouch. If Oreius wanted me to use my shield, then that was exactly what I planned to do. After all, he never exactly specified how I was supposed to use my shield. I wasn't vindictive, just highly motivated...okay, maybe I was a tiny bit vindictive. Dropping into the crouch had allowed me to creep inside Oreius' reach, so I hopped back up and slammed my shield against his sword right where his fingers were wrapped around the pommel.
Needless to say, my creativity was not very...appreciated...as Oreius willingly demonstrated with an arm-numbing blow against my shield before he followed with a hard strike against Chrysaor. He didn't let up at all as he started hammering me with a barrage of blows and, all too soon, I had lost Chrysaor. Miraculously, I hadn't been "killed" yet so I was still in the game if I could grab Chrysaor again. I held my shield up at an angle and, his swords slid off without my poor arm receiving the full impact for the first time that morning, then I ducked under his backhand stroke and dashed for Chrysaor.
I still hold that I would have been faster if not for the chunk of metal hanging from my left arm. Consequently, I reached Chrysaor and Oreius attacked before I could grab the sword. I was half-crouched with my right hand stretched out to grab Chrysaor when Oreius swung both swords at my head and I barely managed to raise my shield in time to meet the blow. Oreius may have hit my shield a little harder than he meant to or maybe it was the fact that I was in a partial crouch and hadn't time to brace myself or possibly a combination of the two, I still don't know. Whatever the cause, the next thing I knew was that I was flying across the courtyard and, out of habit, I tried to break my fall by throwing my left hand out.
There were two problems with that plan. One, I was wearing a heavy chunk of metal on my left arm. Two, I landed at a weird angle on the only patch of ice present in the entire training yard. At that moment, I could not have hated Murphy more. My gloved hand slid on the ice so I landed with my full weight on my shield arm. As my hand slid on the ice, my arm slid forward in the shield straps so the edge of the shield was resting against my forearm and I could feel the bone cracking as my weight grounded forearm into shield and shield into very, very solid ground. Breathing deeply through my nose, I rolled over onto my back and tried not to scream at the sheer agony radiating from my arm. I closed my eyes and didn't move as I waited for the pain to subside until I no longer wanted to scream bloody murder. It took them a moment to realize that I was actually hurt and not shaking it off like I usually did, but then the clatter of hooves and armor warned me that the four males in the courtyard were running to my side. Taking another deep breath, I managed to open my eyes to see the four of them skidding to a halt around me although I kept my mouth shut since I didn't want to scare them even more by screaming.
Cletus was looking rather pale as he knelt down by my head and reached to carefully unfasten my pitifully loose shield straps. "Don't move, Katerina." I couldn't help thinking that was one of the silliest things you could tell someone who is already on the ground in agony. However, I didn't say this out loud if only because I was preoccupied with hissing in pain when he slid the shield off my arm with Peter's help. I blinked back tears as a new wave of agony washed over me, courtesy of Cletus' removing the shield and then poking my arm. Oreius leaned over to get a better look at my arm and Cletus mercifully stopped his poking as the Faun Captain pronounced solemnly, "I'm afraid it's broken." Well, I could have told them that as soon as I landed on it.
Oreius frowned and I couldn't help wondering what was going through his mind at that moment. He was probably trying to figure out how in the world I managed to break my own arm with my own shield. He wouldn't get any help from me because I lived through it and I still don't know how I achieved that particular feat. He looked from me to Peter and Edmund who were still standing nearly on top of me even though Cletus had already backed away somewhat. Oreius spoke in a clear, no-backtalk-allowed voice as he locked eyes with first Peter and then Edmund. "I will take Katerina Alambiel to Alithia. Wolfsbane, How, continue your lesson with Captain Cletus until he dismisses you." After the two brothers reluctantly walked away, Oreius looked down at me as I was still sprawled on the ground in almost the exact position I had landed. "Can you stand?"
"Of course, I broke my arm not my back." I can be a little grouchy when injured, by the way. Oreius ignored my sarcasm and hauled me to my feet before he guided me with a hand pressed against my back into the armory. I had already learned that I could trust Oreius and I did trust him probably more than anyone else in Narnia, but when he first touched my back, it took every ounce of self-control I had to keep from flinching away. I took a deep breath to calm myself because such a reaction would have prompted questions that I was not ready to answer. Fortunately, Oreius must have assumed my reaction was connected with my known injury as he made me stand still long enough for him to undo the fastenings on my cuirass, which I was able to pull off with one hand, and then he carefully helped me to slide the leather jerkin over my injured arm without too much added pain. I caught a glimpse of something in his eyes that looked suspiciously like guilt but before I could even think of what to say, Oreius hustled me out of the armory and, making sure I kept up by putting his left hand on my right shoulder, he led me to the healer's room used primarily by Alithia.
Alithia had tended my wounds after I fought Jannes and she was one of the only two people in all of Narnia who knew of my secret, part of it anyway. Fortunately, they both were the best secret-keepers I had ever met so no one else knew. I rather liked Alithia, although to be honest, I thought she was a lot scarier than Oreius. Her temper could almost rival my own, so even though she was actually on the small side for a Centaur, I'm pretty sure she scared everyone including Oreius. Of course, she was not at all pleased to see Oreius bringing me for her ministrations because of a training accident.
Her chocolate brown hair had fallen in front of her eyes when she looked up at our approach, but that didn't stop her from seeing that Oreius and I weren't there for non-healing business. Alithia's grey eyes darkened as she pushed her hair back then gestured for me to take a seat. Not about to test her patience, I obediently took a seat on the slightly raised cot though I was privately thankful there was a low stool for me to step on otherwise it would have been somewhat uncomfortable to hop up there. Alithia rolled my sleeve up, took one look, and then glared at Oreius who was essentially hovering just out of the healer's way. "Shield training?"
He nodded, "She had a difficult landing after I-"
Alithia cut him off as she pressed her fingers against my arm and I jumped from the pain, giving another hiss as I did so. "After you sent her flying across the courtyard again. She is fortunate not to have broken her neck this time." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Oreius glance from me to my arm then down to the floor and there had definitely been guilt in that glance. I wished Alithia would stop pressing on my arm so I could catch my breath and tell Oreius that he had no reason to feel guilty…this was hardly the first time I had experienced a broken bone in my life. She paused in her administrations to give first him then myself measuring looks before she grabbed bandages and a splint. Then, she continued speaking in a calmer tone as she offered her assessment of my latest injury as she began wrapping my forearm. "Well, Katerina Alambiel, it seems you were fortunate enough to have avoided a bad break. The outer bone of your forearm is cracked just above your wrist, but it should be completely healed in about six weeks. Now, there is to be no more shield training for you, understand?"
She glared at Oreius and I until we nodded then shooed us out of her healing room with my forearm splinted, wrapped, and tucked in a sling that I was not allowed to take off except for when sleeping. Standing in the deserted hallway outside Alithia's healing room, I looked up at Oreius. He was having difficulty hiding the guilt now and I desperately floundered for something to say that would help. "I told you the shield was a bad idea."
I could tell he wasn't expecting me to say that, but then he smirked and shook his head with a sigh. "You, Katerina Alambiel, are the only student I have ever had who broke their arm with their own shield. You're also the only one who can land properly every time except when wearing a shield. But, in this case, I suppose you were right."
I couldn't help the rather large smile that spread across my lips as I realized I had actually won the argument, but I decided to press for some confirmation. "So between my amazing landing skills and Alithia's orders, does this mean I don't have shield training anymore?"
Oreius folded his arms across his chest as he stared down at me, but I was happy to see there was a faint smile tugging at his mouth as he answered. "Considering that Alithia would come after me if I even thought about putting you through more shield training and only Aslan knows what else you would manage to break, yes, Katerina Alambiel you no longer have to train with a shield. And, you are not to attend training for the next two weeks. I don't want you to aggravate your injury and make it worse. Now, go do something with yourself that won't lead to injury."
With that final admonition, we parted ways. I don't know what he did, but I ran into Lucy almost immediately and she insisted on knowing what happened. After I had told her, she asked me why I was so cheerful after being hurt. I leaned forward and whispered, "It might be painful, but it was definitely worth it because I actually won an argument against General Oreius." She giggled and I smiled then we wandered off to meet her siblings for breakfast.
A/N: Please Read and Review! This is a short little story taking place in the sixth month time gap between chapters one and two of A Light in the Darkness: Shadowed. If you haven't read A Light in the Darkness: Awakening and the first three chapters of its sequel Shadowed, I highly recommend you do so as it will help this story make more sense. Of course, if you prefer to give this a whirl by itself, I suppose you can but I can't promise it will make as much sense. For those of you who have read everything in the A Light in the Darkness series, don't worry I haven't forgotten about Revealed, but here's the infamous shield incident. Peace offering until I fix the next chapter of Revealed to my satisfaction, deal? Hope y'all enjoyed it. Click the little button below and let me know what y'all think, especially since this is the first time I've written a story in first person pov.