As they exited the portal Lee, Trinity and Rotar stopped and waited. “You could have told us it was raining” Lee said as he and Trinity pulled their cloak over their heads.
“I would have had I known it was raining” smiled Rotar, as he too, pulled on his hood, to cover up from the rain drops the size of acorns. “Come on,” he said “Let’s get moving before the rain slacks. It will cover any noise, and hide any sign we ever passed.”
The three started off, Rotar in the lead and they wound their way in a large circle, headed up and around a hill. Trinity was silent as she trudged along behind Rotar, and Lee was constantly looking around, and behind, while falling back several yards at times, to listen for any signs of being followed.
About a half mile from the portal they paused in the forest, under the thick canopy which slowed the rain some. Rotar had blended into the dim light, up against a huge tree trunk, and was listening intently, as he was sure he heard something nearby. Lee had stopped about three feet behind Trinity, who was leaning against a different tree, seemingly intently listening, but with her eyes closed and head hung down a little. Lee recognized the pose as one of concentration, and slipped silently, closer on the wet leaves covered ground, moving painstakingly slowly until he speak quietly to her. “Whatever has your interest,” he said, “it appears Rotar has also heard, let’s just relax and see if either of you can find anything, don’t speak, just nod if you understand.”
Trinity had been concentrating on trying to find the sound, so she almost jumped out of her skin when her uncle’s hand touched her shoulder, to alert her quietly as he approached from behind. Once she caught her wits, she nodded almost imperceptibly that she understood.
Lee became hyper-vigilant now, with both Rotar and Trinity possibly hearing something which his partially, deafened ears did not catch. They all stood, melded against the trunks of the ancient trees, as the last of the light faded, and the rain slowed to a drizzle and drips, still listening, seemingly not sure if they should move yet. Rotar ever so slowly started to draw his sword, he was positive that someone or something was approaching . Lee could see Rotar drawing his sword and again put his hand on Trinitys shoulder “Stay here!” he whispered and then slowly faded off into the darkness back the way they had come a bit before.
Trinity kept perfectly still against the tree, and saw Rotar slip off into the brush, with the darkness leaving her alone in the pitch black forest. She suddenly noticed movement in the brush, off to the side of where they had been walking, She could not see if it was Rotar or Lee, or what. The sounds and motions were coming this way, slowly, as if someone was sneaking along and stopping every step, or so. Trinity pressed herself back against the tree more, in an attempt to blend into it and try and remain unnoticed. Then she saw them. Three very big figures coming out into the path from the bushes, and one of them within a couple feet of where she was standing, with it’s back to her. She could hear them speaking to each other, “I tell you they were right around here, I heard them before they stopped,” said the one.
“Yer hearin’ things! They were farther up the trail, I tell ya,” said another. Suddenly, as the three were debating, an arrow struck one in the head, dropping it instantly.
As the other two stared in disbelief, Rotar appeared, sword drawn and Woosh! Down went the second one, while the third stumbled backwards, past Trinity and onto the ground. Rotar moved on to engage the second one, while he still off balance and trying to regain his footing. A heated battle, with swords clanging together, ensued. Rotar parried a sword blow, and quickly reversed his sword angle, chopping off the sword hand of his opponent, then suddenly spinning around to his left and decapitating the creature. Then the third one which had fallen, swiped at Rotar’s leg, striking his shin guard with it’s sword, and the force of the blow knocked Rotar off his feet. Before the last assailant could follow up, another arrow flew into the creature’s chest, flattening it back to the ground.
Lee appeared seconds later, and immediately moving to check on Rotar, who was still on the ground. “I’m fine” Rotar said, “The guard stopped the worst of the blow,”
Lee knelt down and said “Still, we can stop that bleeding, and wrap it up to prevent it getting infected.”As Lee was pulling off his backpack to get insta-clot, and a bandage, he said “It’s ok, Trinity you can move now, kiddo”.
Trinity had watched the quick and brutal battle unfolding within feet of her. She actually wasn’t idle, either. She had drawn the two blades she was given by her uncle, and was trying to figure out how to help, when it was suddenly over. As she was moving forward to help Lee with Rotar, she saw movement on the trail. She was hearing her uncle say it was ok to move, as she realized what she was seeing on the trail, was another of those things that had attacked her Aunt Elena and her back at the house, and it was aiming an arrow at either Rotar or Lee!
Without thinking, and falling back on her practice with swords and knives, Trinity flung a blade towards it, the black steel cutting through the air, without so much as a warning glint, while striking the assassin’s bow string, severing it with its blade, as it slid past, with the knife sinking into the creature’s chest. The Wrack had a look of surprise on its face, as it fell over dead.
Lee and Rotar both dove to opposite sides, as they heard the assassin’s bow string ‘TWANG!’ as it was severed. Trinity stepped out of the shadow of the tree, a bit shaken, but with enough teenage spunk to say in a shaky voice, “It’s ok! You can move now,” to both of them.
Lee glanced at Trinity, then the dead assassin, and resumed bandaging Rotar’s leg, “Nice job, Kiddo,” he said dryly.
Rotar nodded, “Really nice, and thank you. I’m sure we never saw him until you impaled him, and with Tryaks? This is a new alliance that I have not heard of”.
Lee helped him up, glancing at Trinity, who was even in the darkness, a bit pale. and he said to Rotar, “Give me a minute to check on the kid.”
He walked over, and sat down across from Trinity. “You ok, Kiddo? What you did was necessary, do not ever think otherwise. You saved Rotar and, or me, and I for one, am very thankful”.
Trinity looked at him and nodded, “It’s just not like a game, it’s for real. I really did that,” she said with a bit of bewilderment.
“Yes, Kiddo, and I’m sorry you had to. Remember it. Taking life, no matter what the reason, should be hard. But, if it’s to protect someone, it should be done quickly, and with no hesitation, Ok?” asked Lee, “Just like you did.” He assured her.
Trinity paused and looked at the dead assassin, and again nodded, “Ok, I promise, but can you get my knife? I don’t think I’m ready for that yet”.
Lee chuckled a little, “This one time, Kiddo, after that you’re on your own”.
Shortly after, all three resumed their path, Rotar a little slower, and with a limp, but still leading the way. They arrived at the boulder without further incident, and Rotar led the way down, and entered after making sure there was no sign that they could be followed. They quickly entered, going through a series of doors, and trap rooms, until exiting into the chamber, at the tunnel end.
Once there, they were met by Falan, who was up and around already, and two of the staff guards. “Glad to see you up and around, Falan” said Lee, “Hopefully, you can avoid falling from high places in the future!” he laughed.
“Thank you, Bevan” Falan responded, “I agree, I do not want to go through that again! I have bruises on my bruises,” he said. Who do we have here?” Falan asked, looking at Trinity, who was standing beside her Uncle Lee, still with her cloak hood pulled on.
Lee said “Can we discuss this someplace more quiet?”
Falan nodded immediately, “Yes!” and then quickly in a more subdued voice, added “Follow me, I have your quarters ready for you, we can talk there”.
Lee, Trinity, Rotar and Falan all walked through the winding passages, and flickering candle light. As they walked, Lee, Falan and Rotar talked in hushed voices, Lee explaining who Trinity was, but nothing more on why he brought her. Falan revealed what little he found about Trendar, while Trinity looked at dark murals on the walls. Their figures danced in the dim candlelight. She could see that each painting was a person or two, and as they passed a certain one, she stopped for a second, the face looked familiar. She quickly sped to catch up with the others, as they turned a corner, and entered a wide room with doors on both sides.
Falan led into one, as they all followed him in to the quarters for Lee, “Of course, young lady, I will get quarters for you prepared through that door!” he pointed to an interior door. “It locks on the other side, and also has a door to the hall” said Falan, as two guards left to go prepare the room.
“When you are settled, Lee, we can meet in the great hall,” said Rotar.
As they departed, a couple minutes later, there was a knock on the inner door, Lee opening it cautiously, and one of the guards said, “The young lady’s room is ready, if anything else is needed, do not hesitate to ask, as there are guards in the hall”.
The last statement caught Lee’s interest, “Excuse me, Sergeant,” he said “There were no guards in the halls last week, may I ask what changed?”
The guard replied, “Several small incidents make the higher ups think there are security issues, so we are doubling the guards and taking precautions to protect the secret chamber, the library, and the Premier’s family,” with that he left, silently closing the door behind him.
Later, Lee and Trinity sat at a small table, and he started to say something, but Trinity uncommonly interrupted, “Did you see the painting in the hall? The ones on the way here to our rooms?” She asked.
“I did see them, but I did not pay attention to them. Why do you ask?” he responded.
“There was one, with a man’s face, wearing like a hooded cloak like a monk, you know the kind?” Lee nodded yes, “I didn’t look long because I didn’t want to get left behind but something about it I swear I’ve seen before!” Trinity declared.
“That’s very strange, Kiddo, are you sure?” Lee asked.
“I’m sure it caught my attention, as someone I have seen before yes, but it was pretty dark in there,” she replied.
“Do you think you can find it again?” Lee asked. to which Trinity nodded, yes.
“Yes. I can! It’s seven pictures back down the hall” she asserted.
“Come on,” Lee said!as he got up, and they both headed out the door, and into the open space.
“We were wondering if it would be alright to go back down the hall a bit, and look at the paintings?” Lee inquired of the Sergeant.
“Certainly, and if you need to know anything, let me know. Just remember to keep the lowest part of the ceiling on your right, and you will wind up back here,” said the guard.
Lee and Trinity thanked him, and strolled down the hall from whence they had originally come. Lee was looking at the paintings and Trinity had gone ahead a bit and stopped, and she looked completely dumbfounded. Lee walked up and saw her expression, and before looking at the painting said, “What’s up?” He looked up as he asked his niece, and saw the mural was a painting of a field with several knights riding across it.
“I don’t understand,” said Trinity going to the next, and then the next painting. “This can’t be! These are not what I saw on the way in!”
Lee studied the paintings and said, “I do not doubt you, Kiddo, something is weird here. Let’s go back, and see what we can learn,” said Lee. They made their way back, and Lee stopped and asked the Sergeant about the paintings, and saw the man frown and he looked a bit intimidated as he answered, “I’ve been told they were painted long ago, by wizards and sages. Back before such folk were put out of the fortress, for trying to influence decisions made by the Premiers. I don’t look at them much, they always seem to change. Do not laugh! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. One minute a tree or lake scene, the next a battle”. The guard shifted on his feet nervously, “I do not speak around them, I feel they are watching and listening. I know it’s a wild tale, but that’s my feeling about the paintings on the eastern tunnel wall,” he said.
Lee thanked the guard, and he and Trinity retired to their lodgings for a bit.
“Ok, so what did we learn?” asked Lee. “You see a painting of someone that looked familiar. We go back, and the painting is no longer there, or has been swapped out. Why?” he asked.
Trinity looked thoughtful, but puzzled, and shook her head, “I wish I could place what looked so familiar about it, but I only glanced at it. Maybe tomorrow will give me us some more clues, as we get to see more of the fortress. We are going to see more, aren’t we?” She asked.
Lee nodded in the affirmative, “Yes, we are, I want to see as much as we can. We need to know what goes on here and why, before we can make a decision on how to act. Are you still up for this? It’s going to get very boring for you, if I am stuck with the Premier and his family,” he replied.
Trinity nodded, “Yes, I’m ready and want to help figure this out. I’m sure I can help in some way,” she replied, “Can we go outside in open space? I’d like to practice outdoors, but privately, if I can?” she asked.
“From what I gather, Kiddo, we can go anyplace we want, and I know they have several places for sword practice, solitary or with partners. I’ll make sure you are granted access in the morning, till then, off to bed. I need to think and rest myself”, answered her Uncle Lee.
“Goodnight,” saluted Trinity, and went into her quarters.
Lee went over the events of the past few days, and tried to see a pattern which would help him figure the best course of action, for them to take. “It is obvious that Elena will have to come through the portal, and to the fortress,” thought Lee, “but there are still many questions to be answered first, like when? Is it safe? How long would it take? Who comes with her? Can the war be ended just by her sitting in some seat? And reading the correct verses?” Lee laid back on his bunk, arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling, and fell asleep pondering these and many more questions.
Lee was awakened by a tap at his door. He got up and answered, to find a servant with breakfast for him and Trinity.
“Should I wake the young lady by her door sir, or is leaving it here ok?” asked the servant.
“Here is fine, and thank you!” Lee replied, taking the large breakfast tray full of fruits, bread, eggs and thick slices of bacon. Before Lee ate, or woke Trinity, he showered, dressed in his woodsman’s outfit, and then tapped on the adjoining door calling out “If you’re hungry, Kiddo, you better hop to it before I eat everything!”
He heard muttering and grumbling about it being so early, and walked off laughing to himself. Trinity came out shortly, and sat and ate some breakfast.
“Take your time. I have to meet Rotar and Falan this morning, and make a few arrangements. It will only take 30-40 minutes, I reckon, then I’ll come back and we can take you to where you can practice. Now don’t forget, I will need you later to poke around the outer chamber hall, while I am talking to the Premier,” said Lee.
“Ok, Unc, that will give me time to do a few things I need to do, but I will be here when you come back,” replied Trinity.
Lee reminded her, “Don’t go far, Kiddo, until we get a better feel for the place. It’s easy to get turned around in here,” as he was walking out the door, closing it behind him.
Trinity waited till Lee was gone, ate a few more pieces of fruit and bacon, and then went to her room, showered and got dressed, to include her knives and cloak, then she headed out the door. She smiled at the guard, as she walked past him, on her way back to the pictures on the wall in the passage. Once there, Trinity leaned against the opposite wall, and stared at the painting she was sure was the one that caught her attention at first, and she waited.
It suddenly dawned on her what the painting was; a dim lit room, with what looked like a throne made from tree roots coming up out of the ground and wall. There was a woman, dressed in shiny green leather armor, sparkling in the candle light and glowing with some other sort of light, while she held two blades, one dripping blood, the other blade parrying a sword blade, as she fought with two big creatures. There were others fighting in the chamber, but Trinity’s eyes were drawn to the woman, who looked remarkably like someone she knew well. The woman looked like her Aunt Elena, and there was a young girl on the throne, she had her eyes closed, and looked limp, as if she was sleeping, but there was a red glow emitting from her, and the throne around her. There was a book in her lap, with pages open. Trinity was stunned to see that the girl in the chair looked like her sister ‘Lena, or her twin! Trinity was stunned! She was suddenly snapped out of her staring, however, startled by a voice out of the dark hallway, farther down, “Hello, I see the paintings interest you,” the voice said, “Allow me to tell you about them, if I may”.
Trinity was instantly on alert, something about the voice made her sense of danger alarms ring in her head, and she slid a hand up behind her, gripping one of her blades, the movement hidden under her cloak.
“Oh, Hi, I did not see you or hear you walking up? Where did you come from? and who are you?” she asked cautiously.
“I am Trendar,” the voice replied, as the figure moved closer up the hall, “My apologies for being silent. It’s a habit I learned long ago, and I still find myself doing it,” he said.
Trinity knew something was off about this person, her senses told her that, but she was willing to listen to what he had to say about the painting. “The painting!!???” Her mine was screaming at her inwardly. It had changed to a different scene! Now it looked like monks, or at least people dressed like them, were being forced out of the fortress by armed men.
Trendar looked at the painting, and then the young woman, “Ah, the reckoning. This was when the wizards and sages finally overstepped their bounds, and were forced out into the wilds,” he explained. “It was a bad time for all, but the wizards and sages more than most, unable to find food or shelter, as it was winter, most wandered and were lost forever. Too bad really, they were not all bad and had uses, but paranoid men make powerful enemies. Funny you should stop at this particular painting, Young Lady, For it is called the “telling” painting, you have undoubtedly seen that it changes, they all do. But this painting when it changes, only reveals truths. It is said that it shows who is true, who is false, and reveals past and future events. Have you seen anything interesting in it?” He turned to face her, his voice changing to a bit more urgent tone, and Trinity at once recognized the man in front of her, as the same man she saw in the painting on the way in.
Trinity answered hesitantly, “Not really, it’s just interesting in the fact that I’m an artist myself, and seeing different styles interests me”.
Trendar looked at her for a few seconds more in silence, and her hand gripped her blade handle tighter, but then he said, “My apologies, I never got your name, it’s so rare we have visitors here, and I tend to ramble without thinking,” he said with expectation.
Trinity said, “My name is Trinity, I came with Lee, and we are friends of Rotar and Falan, and I do not wish to be rude, but I am late getting back. Thank you for explaining the painting, it was interesting,” Trinity turned, and walked back up the hall not looking back, but could feel his eyes staring at her, until she rounded the corner. Trendar glanced at the painting, then back down the hall as he retraced his steps until he came to a candle, pulled its handle and slipped inside the passage that opened.
Trinity went back to her room, and locked the hall door. She was a bit mad at herself, because she realized she was actually frightened for a few minutes. “I just need to go practice, and work on some things, that’s all,” she griped as she began to calm herself and focus on what she saw, and what she was told.
As Lee was returning, he came back up the same hall, and heard a voice like Trendar’s, so he stopped and waited in the shadows around the corner, listening.
“You will do as you are commanded! Take this vial, and pour it in the Royal Family’s noon drink! Now go! And you can be thankful I do not think of some other punishment for your family’s past failures!”.
Lee heard a muttered, “Yes, Cailleach,” and then heard footsteps approaching, so he slipped back down the hall to an intersection, and ducked in one. A couple seconds later a figure passed, and Lee followed it up the passage and as it entered the dining hall, the figure passed a guard and smiled “Almost time to eat, Eh?”
Lee recognized him as a cook’s assistant, as he went into the kitchen, Lee quickly grabbed the guard, “Listen, that guy is going to poison the Royal Family! Summon help! And hurry! We must catch him in the act so we can find out who sent him!” he urged.
The guard looked a bit concerned, but had seen Lee before with the Royal Family and also Rotar and Falan, so he pulled a cord to summon his Sergeant, who immediately came in from another room. All was explained, and Lee and the Sergeant watched the cook’s assistant through one of the serving slots, and so far he was unable to get to the drink dispenser, the guard was sent to fetch the royal guards, and bumped into Rotar instead, he was filled in, and hurried to the dining hall, as the guard continued. Rotar joined the Sergeant and Lee, and they all soon saw cook’s assistant take a blue bottle out of his waist band, glancing around surreptitiously. As he approached the drinks, Rotar, the Sergeant and Lee all three, burst in the room, and grabbed him before he could pour the contents into the drinks!
Several minutes later in a side room, the assistant was bound secure in a chair, and was being questioned by the Premier, and his Chief of Security. Lee left to go meet with Trinity, and tell her all of what had occurred, and apologize for taking longer than expected. But, as he was leaving, he again saw Trendar slipping away down the hall. Moving very much as if he did not want to be noticed, causing Lee to remember the voice he heard. Could the voice he heard have been Trendar?
Lee went in his room, closed the door behind him and knocked on Trinity’s door, which she immediately opened, “Oh my gosh! I got stuff to tell you, Uncle Lee!!” she exclaimed.
Lee held a hand over her mouth for a second and whispered “Not here,” and then said in a normal voice, “I apologize for being late. I got held up longer than expected, the good news is that you and I both have free reign of the entire fortress, without escort. Now if you are ready, we can go and I’ll show you the practice area”.
“Oh, it’s ok! I got a couple things done while you were away, and yes, I’m ready! I need to practice, and feel some sun on me!”, responded Trinity in her normal sunny manner.
They left the room through Trinity’s door, and Lee led her through several winding turns and twists, explaining along the way, “They built it this way to confuse any enemy that might get inside. They could wander for hours if they did not know the correct way,” as they exited a door into a courtyard, which had several practice dummies, along with swords, spears, shields, bows and other weapons in racks around the perimeter.
Lee went and sat in an alcove to give her space, and only occasionally glanced up to see how she was progressing. Lee was joined by a Treslander, he had not met, who introduced himself as Jondar, the head instructor for new recruits, in service of the Premier. Lee took an immediate liking to the friendly, confidant way Jondar spoke and held himself. He was watching Trinity spin and strike a dummy in the thighs, with two practice mid length blades, and then tuck and roll backwards, springing up and twisting and then stabbing a different dummy in the chest, while slinging her other blade into the chest of a third. “That young lady has talent!” he remarked, “Are all taught how to fight like that where you are from?” he asked, and then quickly said, “Wait don’t answer! I do not want you to think I’m prying, or gathering information!” he quickly interjected.
Lee smiled, “It’s ok! I spoke to Rotar and Falan, who both trust you, so I think I can trust you, as well. The answer is, I’m not sure how many are. Each family raises their children how they see fit. Some teach them to be strong, and show them how to take care of themselves, some don’t. Others, like that young lady, her parents taught her both how to be a girl, and also how to defend herself, but I believe as far as her blade skills, she has taught herself those”.
Jondar was even more impressed when he heard that she was self taught, “No formal training at all?? That’s amazing.” he said in amazement. “She moves like some of the ancient fighters we have in legend, back when there were supposedly dragons, and such, if you believe in those things,” he continued. “Do you think she would take a bit of instruction from an old teacher like me? I’ve spotted a ‘tell’ before she attacks”
Lee replied, “The dip of the blade towards her center? I saw it too, and to answer your question, I do not know, let’s ask. Trinity?” he said loud enough to get her attention, “Come meet a friend when you can spare a moment!”
Trinity went through her practice routine quick but efficiently, feeling her muscles work and limber up, as she attacked and parred from different angles and sides. She mentally worked on speed, but accuracy in the blows, striking vital joints and nerve bundles, to incapacitate or disarm before striking a killing blow. She took a short break to go over by her Uncle Lee and meet this “friend” greeting him with a simple “Hi”and quick wave to the stranger, as she plopped into an adjacent chair.
Lee introduced her, “Trinity, this is Jondar, he is a friend of Rotar and Falan, and he is also the head blade instructor for the Premier’s recruits.” Jondar stood and bowed, arm across his chest, as he was introduced, “At your service, my lady! You have an abundance of talent with a blade, and Lee tells me you are self taught! That’s incredible,” Jondar greeted her energetically.
Trinity flush from the exertion of the training said, “Well, thank you! It’s nice to meet you, and yes, Sir. I learned all I know by teaching myself, trial and error,” she shrugged. Trinity poured a glass of water from the jug on the table, and was drinking as Lee said, “Jondar has spotted something in your attack, that it it was noticed by a combatant early enough, may lead to you getting the short end of the stick,” to which Trinity raised an eyebrow as she was drinking.
Jondar offered, “Not a critique, just an observation from years of watching, and teaching. If you would allow me to show you, I think with your ability, you would correct it pretty quickly”.
Trinity looked at her uncle and then Jondar and grinned gamely, “I’m always willing to learn more! So, yes! Please show me what it is, and I will try and work on it.”
Jondar stood and smiled, “Good! That’s the spirit I wish we had more of around here!”as he walked to a rack drawing a practice sword, and a very short knife. Lee noticed Jondar had a very slight limp, that he would later learn was one of many injuries the highly decorated soldier had obtained in battle, before he was made chief instructor.
Lee watched the scene as the two squared off. “You have speed and flexibility on your side, said Jondar, “Use it to your advantage. Most here fight with short swords, and they may be lighter, but they also take time to change direction. In a battle, tenths of seconds can mean the difference in being cut or not”.
Lee admired Jondar instructing Trinity as they sparred. He could instantly tell this man was a very good teacher, and knew how to impart the wisdom if the student was willing to learn.
Trinity was warily sizing up Jondar, as they circled. He was a big man and yet moved lightly on his feet, always seemingly in balance. She did pick up on the slight limp and stored that in her head. She suddenly made a move to attack, feinting to the left side, and seeing the normal reaction of Jondar’s sword starting to move, but she instead stopped that attack, and spun her whole body around, bringing both swords around to the right side. To her surprise, Jondar had moved back out of her reach, and she missed striking him at all. Astutely, instead of leaving herself open for attack, she followed through the spin, diving and rolling and then springing back up on her feet, before he could adjust his attack.
“Splendid!” Jondar exclaimed. “Ok, now face me, and attack. Let me see if I can show you the small thing I saw”.
Trinity faced him with one sword held low and the other angled up, and across her body, as she watched for an opening. She saw him lean his weight on the side of the limp, and she lunged, at which point he swept her sword out and away from his body with his sword. Then swiftly pulled her past him, striking her side with the short knife, as she tumbled and rolled back up again, facing him with speed.
Jondar smiled at her, and nodded “Again,”and again Trinity tried to attack him, and each time, it was as if he knew what she was going to do, before she did it. Trinity was not getting frustrated, but she was getting confused as to how he could know, and finally, Jondar said, “I have to hand it to you, young lady, you have struck me more times in this short match, than I can remember being struck in months of teaching, but now let’s take a break, and then I will show you what I found”.
They both returned to the table by Lee, and sat and drank an abundance of cool refreshing water. “How was that, Kiddo?” Lee asked.
Trinity drank her water, and said “Confusing! I mean it seemed like every attack I tried, he knew I was coming!”
Lee asked “So, what does that tell you?”
Trinity just shook her head, “I have no idea!”
“Allow me to explain if I may,” Jondar said. Lee and I noticed something when you were practicing, which did two things for me. One told me that Lee is a very observant person, for it was very very subtle, and two, told me when you were going to attack”.
Trinity again looked confused, “I don’t understand? What is it I do that tells you I’m going to attack??” She asked exasperatedly.
“Easier to show you. One more demonstration?” Jondar asked.
Trinity exclaimed “Yes!” getting up and following Jondar to a practice dummy.
“Put your guards up like you are going to attack, and hold them there,” said Jondar. Lee was curious how he was going to demonstrate such a subtle move to Trinity, as it’s barely perceptible. Jondar watched Trinity move to one of her guard poses, and he took two thin pointed rods, and stuck them at the points of the swords, and Trinity started to move, “No, don’t move. Hold that guard position!” Jondar said. Trinity resumed the position and Jondar moved behind her, and said “Now, when you are ready, attack, but don’t knock my pointers over”.
Trinity tried several different guard positions, and each time she set up, Jondar would put the pointers at the ends of her blades, and each time she attacked, she would knock one or the other, or both over as her attack started. “Do you see it yet?” Jondar asked, “It’s very subtle, but it’s there on every attack,” and Trinity started to see what he meant. Her blades moved almost imperceptibly, as she started her attack.
She was astounded that anyone could notice it, as it was such a minute move, “How on earth did you see that?” she asked both of them. “I had no idea I was even doing it”.
Jondar answered “Any time you can watch a possible opponent, you should look for weakness, your ‘tell’ was the only thing I could see that would give me an advantage. Now that you know of it, you can work to eliminate it”.
Trinity practiced several hours more, while Lee and Jondar talked about old tales, both here and on the other side of the portal. They talked about weapons, and wars, and soldiers, and Lee learned that there was a legend of an archer, “the Bevan” who would bring several chosen people through the portal. There would be a huge battle, and the fortress would be breached, but in the end, the words would be spoken, and the planet would heal itself, swallowing up the evil.
Jondar eventually got up to leave, and said “I, with your permission, will send an outfit for her to her room. She needs leather protection while here. It can be worn under her cloak, as it is often done, and she deserves it. Anyone that can get through my defenses that many times, deserves a prize”.
Lee stood and shook his hand, and Jondar said “There are stories of another female warrior with skills such as your niece Trinity’s, but she has not been seen in a long time. I’ll have the leather made after that fashion, it suits her,” and with the warrior left, and Lee stared at his back, and then at Trinity, thoughtfully as she was finishing up decapitating a dummy with a swiping blow, and a giggle “Whoops!”
Later that evening, Lee and Trinity were discussing the days events, and she told him everything that happened earlier, to include meeting that “creepy” Trendar person, and swearing it was his face in the painting, and that she had seen him before, back at home but how that’s possible, she really could not say. There was a knock at the door, and Lee answered, and was handed a package of clothes as he smiled, “That was fast, Jondar!”he said out loud, as he turned to Trinity, “These are for you! Seems you impressed the instructor. He felt you needed leather armor and an outfit while you are here”.
Trinity took the bundle and said “Seriously? Not really my style to wear leather.”
Lee laughed, “I said I’d give it to you, I did not say you would wear it”. They talked a few more minutes, and then each retired for the night.
Early the next morning after breakfast, Lee and Trinity headed to the great hall. Lee did not chide her for wearing the leather armor vest, dark tan, slightly reddish in color, adorned with black round discs made to stop sharp objects, shin guards and forearm guards, that were given to her by Jondar, but he did ask “Why the change of mind about the outfit, “Kiddo?”
“Not really sure. It’s funny, I thought it was too small, but now it fits like perfect. Will take a little getting used to, but it’s light, and my cloak covers it. Besides, it reminds me of the one I saw in the painting, to be honest, except that one was green”.
“We are going to the great hall I told you about. I’ll be stuck talking with the Premier, so while I’m in there, you look around, especially at that mural. See what you can find,” Lee said. Lee and Trinity both were surprised, that when they passed a guard, he would snap to attention upon seeing the outfit she was wearing. “Looks like that suit must represent something special, Kiddo!” Lee joked.
As they entered the great hall, the two Premier guards snapped to attention, and Rotar and Falan both bowed with their arms across their chests, “Welcome, Lee and Trinity! I see you are wearing the armor of the ‘Lost Defenders’. It has been ages since Jondar awarded that to anyone! Besides showing a warriors prowess, it means you show great skill, and the willingness to learn. In the fortress you can come and go as you please, and answer to only the Premier, if he so needs,” said Rotar with respect in his voice. “And Bevan, your catching of the traitor has lead to many other spies being found out, and we are still looking for the others, you too, of course have free passage in, and to and from, the fortress. We are in your debt, but now we must go and make plans with the Premier. Come, Lee and you also, Trinity if you wish,” he said.
“Thank you, no” answered Trinity, “I think I would rather stay and look at the paintings, and see what else I can find of interest, if that’s, Ok?”
“As you wish, my lady, ring any bell you see anywhere, if you need anything at all,” replied Rotar.
As they turned to go, Lee looked at Trinity and said in almost a whisper, “Stay on your guard, and out of mischief,” and he followed them into the other chamber.