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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Testing the Waters 

 Hours later they all met up again in arms training. It was a two hour block of basic instruction or practice that they had elected to take before lunch. All of them were in the beginners group and were presently being heckled by Galatia’s older sisters. The sisters were considered to be assistant instructors because of their skill level. They were not allowed to openly humiliate any member of either house but their veiled insults were thin at best. 

 “Here Gal, let’s see if you can keep from giving yourself another bruise today.” Peace said as she tossed an oak staff to her younger sister. 

Galatia shocked her when she snatched the staff out of the air and spun it around like she had been using it for years. She had taken the insults from them for years and never knew what to do about them… until now. “Care to spar with me Peace?” 

 Peace laughed mockingly at her. “Mom made me promise not to hurt you.” She said dismissively.

“I never gave her any such promise.” Galatia responded. It got the required response. 

Zaria grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?” 

“Getting a little payback.” She said with determination.

“She’s stronger than you and she’s gonna kick your ass.” Zaria said with as much determination.

"Yeah, probably but she’s gonna have a few new bruises too.” She looked at the concerned look in Zaria’s face. “We have to start somewhere, right?”

Zaria acquiesced to the comment and wished her luck. The children formed a circle and Peace and Galatia stepped into the center.

Peace was not expecting any real opposition so she was sloppy… at first. She spun the staff confidently and then swung it in a short maneuver to strike Galatia in the ribs but the blow didn’t land on flesh. Galatia tipped her staff vertically to the ground to block the blow and then brought the tip down on top of Peace’s head. Peace staggered from the not quite fully checked blow.

Peace shook her head to clear the stars and then sent a burning glare at her smirking sister. A shocked gasp went up from the crowd and then the fight started in earnest and the crowd was quick to join in cheering for their favorite combatant. Peace was done with showing off; she was too well trained to discount a strike like that from an otherwise underestimated opponent. She squared her shoulders and assumed an offensive stance while Galatia did the same.

They circled one another for a moment and then Peace struck out. She was still confident that she had more skill than her younger sister and ordinarily she would have been correct… had Gabrielle not awakened with all of her memories intact. Still she had the advantage because Galatia’s body did not have any muscle memory… it barely had any muscle.

Peace swung hard at Galatia’s head, it was deflected but she simply spun and dropped into a crouch and aimed for her sister’s knees. Galatia hopped over the staff and brought her own down once again towards Peace’s head. This time it struck the shoulder instead but it drove Peace to her knees. Galatia backed up to allow Peace to regain her feet and her composure, her anger and her embarrassment were beginning to show.

As the fighting had become intense so had the cheering and other groups were gathering around to see the sisters fight. The Amazon Instructors and Guardians were also drawn to the fight. They pushed their way to the front and formed a proper circle with the staffs that they all carried on the practice field.

Galatia noted the arrival of the Amazons with a certain amount of pride and to show her appreciation for their attention she twirled her staff and spun it behind her back only to retrieve it from just above her shoulder like a sword. She quickly pulled it like that imaginary sword and swung it down towards her opponent. As it came level with Peace’s face she stepped forward and cradled the other end of the staff in her right hand and lightly popped her surprised sister in the forehead. The light blow sent Peace staggering backwards. She had not expected such a move from her younger sister.  

Once again Galatia stepped back and allowed her sister to regain her senses. She brought her staff back to a ready stance and simply stood there waiting to see what Peace would do. Peace had been trained very well but she was being humiliated by her younger sister… and that would not do! She spun her staff quickly and ran towards the waiting Galatia. She brought her staff around and tried every move that she knew to strike her sister and all were parried by Galatia. It was a furious exchange of blows. Each was stronger than the last and with each missed blow Peace became angrier.

Galatia was getting winded. She had the expertise to beat this girl but she had no stamina. If she was going to win she needed to end it quickly. Peace saw the same thing that Galatia realized and pressed her attack. Her blows came faster and she began to strike at her head then her feet then her head then her feet then her side then her feet… she was trying to tire out her opponent and it was working.

Galatia was backing up slowly while her hands and arms fought off her sister. She kept trying to find an advantage but without her quick well trained muscle reflexes she couldn’t capitalize on any advantage that she saw. So she just tried to hold her own and hoped that Peace would have mercy when Galatia eventually missed one of her viscous blows.

Moments later Galatia tripped over a clump of grass and because she was already winded she lost her balance and fell onto her back. Peace let out a victory scream and brought her staff down towards Galatia’s head. Galatia had no strength or time to lift her staff to protect herself. She brought up her arm to protect her face and waited for the blow that would break that protective arm while she tapped the ground with her other hand to indicate defeat and silently asked for mercy.

The blow never came but not because Peace had shown mercy. An Amazon had moved forward and intercepted Peace’s staff with her own. The crash of the two staffs let out such a loud report that it silenced the crowd. It was not forbidden to interfere in a sparring match. But it was unusual. Peace had not heeded the request for quarter and had intended to deliver a truly crippling blow. That was why the Amazon had stepped in and stopped the fight. She would have normally done so for any of the students. Unless the situation warranted the interference and this situation did.  

It had been an Amazon instructor that had stopped the blow. “Peace Rayne you fought well and recognized your opponent’s weakness but you failed to control your emotions in the end. Your blow could have broken your opponent’s arm or worse. That would have been more than unfortunate for you both.”

Peace had pulled her staff back and it was resting by her side with its end planted on the ground. She was angry and trying not to let it show.

The Amazon looked at Galatia who had regained her feet and also had her staff at her side. She was breathing heavily and wiping sweat from her brow. “Galatia Rayne you fought well also. But you picked an odd opponent for your first real sparring match. Your reasons are your own but because we all know about your rivalry with your sisters one can only guess what those reasons were.” She looked the panting girl up and down. “I have an idea that might help you both learn how to control your passions. From now on until I say otherwise, while on this practice field you will spar only with each other, you will train only with each other, you will learn and you will teach only each other. What one knows the other will know; when one fails the other will fail. Do I make myself clear?” Galatia nodded she had hoped for a better outcome. Peace had clearly hoped for better as she was glowering but she did not argue. “Good go have your injuries tended to Peace and go catch your breath Galatia. You both still have the better part of two hours to train together.”

Galatia walked over to the water barrel. She was followed by her friends. “Well that could have gone better.” Zaria said when all but their core group of friends had dispersed.

“Really, I thought that it went pretty well.” They all looked at her like she was nuts. “She’s got bruises… I got winded. Now I can train without quite so much derision from my sisters.” Zaria had to agree there was a certain amount of logic to her words. “We all have to get into shape. I don’t know if that’s why we’re here. But I know as well as you do Zaria that we’re early for a reason.” Again Zaria didn’t argue. “And you girls need to stop playing with dolls and toughen up… if you’re going to help us defeat Alti.” The last comment had its intended affect. The girls all began to talk excitedly and suddenly they all wanted to become great warriors. Galatia would be happy if they didn’t trip on their own swords and impale themselves. 

Zaria smiled at her partner. “Who’s rallying the troops now?” She asked with a smile. Their friends didn’t understand her of course because she had spoken in ancient Greek.