Visar gave a quick check of himself in the mirror. He had had his hair cut short; long hair could get in the way. He was clean shaven. Couldn't hurt to impress the lady blademasters. He was dressed relatively lightly for the weather, but oddly enough despite his southern heritage he did not mind the chilly air. His dagger was in place on his right; his sword was secure and sharp on the left. He was as ready as he would ever be, he thought.
Yet why do I feel so nervous and afraid about this? It's not as if the thought of being killed by the sword bothered me so much before. Yet if I fail this test, I really could be killed. Would my death break Rasheta's spirit? Or has she already made preparations in case the bond snaps?
Visar shook his head. Thinking of dying or of hurting Rasheta was not going to help. He had to think positive thoughts, right? He was going to become a blademaster, and now only five people, only one or two of them he knew from the Tower, were in his way. Think of them as obstacles to overcome. Judges to impress. Swordsmen to defeat if necessary.
He glanced out the window, the early morning sky just beginning to lighten. He should get going. They would not tolerate him being late, even though he did not have to go too far to arrive at the prescribed location. Even so, he took the stairs deliberately one at a time. If he tripped and broke a leg falling down the Tower stairs, he would never forgive himself. Warders were supposed to be the leading example of poise and gracefulness. Clumsy mediocrity was not an option.
He arrived at the small field with almost an hour to spare. Only one of the blademasters had already arrived. The other four were on their way. Visar stood at ease near the one, but the thoughts racing through his mind were nothing close to a semblance of ease. He did not attempt to carry on a conversation, feeling as if any sort of casualness would detract to the solemnity of the judging. Where were the others? What if they would not show? Then there would not even be a review, and he would have to find another fifth person all over again.
But surely enough, the other four did arrive by the time the hour had passed. Everyone was on time, and everyone looked somewhat awake. The Circle surrounded him, as was custom, and waited for his opening remarks.
"I, Visar Falmaien, entrust this Circle to d-determine my worthiness for the heron mark, in whatever m-manner they d-deem necessary. I am ready." He cursed himself at stuttering, an old habit he had been trying to break, but the meaning of his words was understood. Who could really not be nervous having five master swordsmen surrounding you, each of them analyzing you as if you were their next prey to slaughter?
Visar sunk slightly into a relaxed stance of readiness, but did not yet draw his blade, as he did not know whom he might face. To do so before they told him to begin could result in a perceived infraction, and then he might have five blademasters to deal with instead of the customary one. And that would have meant certain death, he knew. No one fought against five trained swordsmen and lived unscathed, certainly not against blademasters. That was material for myths and legends. He waited for their reply, his heart beating like the fluttering wings of a hummingbird.
How would they test him? Would they ask him to perform certain forms? Would they ask for demonstrations of technique? Would they get it over with and have one of them challenge him to a duel? The suspense was almost killing him, even as he fought to achieve the Oneness in his mind.
Heart of the Heron, atn Thera, OTA
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