I had literally just closed the door after Nicohl Messonar had left, when the disembodied voice announced that Vena Remontar had arrived. I am sure that the two must have passed in the hall, though I was not fortunate enough to witness it.
“Are you ready?” asked Vena Remontar. “Wear your swords.”
I strapped my weapons belt on below my tabard and carefully sheathed my swords in their new holders. In spite of the fact that the swords were uncounted years older than the sheaths, they fit perfectly. We started out the door, and down the hallway. It was the first time I had been out of Norar Remontar’s apartment since I had arrived, and it felt good.
“We need to stop here first,” said Vena Remontar, as we stepped off the escalator onto the fifth floor.
The lower floors had much higher ceilings and seemed more spacious than those of the upper floors. Here were located restaurants, shops, and other facilities used by the people in the building. We entered through an open doorway to find a large gymnasium. There were two young girls; I would have thought them about ten years of age, practicing their swordsmanship in a haphazard manner, at the far end of the room. As they noticed us, they stopped to stare at me and giggle.
“I wish to see if the title of swordsman that Norar Remontar laid upon you is warranted,” the female knight said.
She drew her long sword and I followed suit. We nodded respectfully to one another. Then with a skill and speed born of battle, Vena Remontar charged at me, bringing her blade down directly toward my face. I raised my own to block the stroke, and just as quickly she swung two more blows. The only thing I could do was take the offensive, so as I blocked the third blow, I swung my weapon on around in a great arc toward her side. The woman was off balance from her attack, so the only way she could block the arc of weapon, was to turn her back on me, and swing her blade outward to meet mine. I expected that this would offer me a chance to attack her back, but it didn’t. As soon as she had done so, she tucked and rolled forward, spinning as she rose to face me. This was a brilliant maneuver and would have put several yards between us, but I wasn’t ready to let up. Using my gravity-enhanced strength, I jumped forward, almost landing on top of her. Vena Remontar thrust quickly several times. I blocked those attacks and countered.
“Not bad, thus far,” she said.
As I said this, I swung down. I knew that were we really engaged in battle, her sword would have glowed with power, and sliced through the mundane metal of my own, but for now, the soul was asleep, and we were on equal terms. Actually, I had an advantage of superior strength. She blocked my swing, but was unprepared for the added power, and it knocked her from her feet. Without hesitation, she swung toward my knees. I jumped up, and the blade passed harmlessly below me. The young knight rolled to her feet.
I could see by the half smile on her lips that she was enjoying herself. With a flick of her left wrist so quick that I almost didn’t see it, she whipped her short sword from its sheath and grasped it like a dagger. I chopped down with my blade in an attempt to catch her off balance, but she wasn’t off balance. She blocked my blow with the shorter blade and began to attack with the longer. Then she attacked with both swords, forcing me to defend, and I am sure, hoping to wear me down. Unable to attack for the moment, I began to leap quickly to either side, and then to the back, forcing her to chase me. I knew that it was I who would be able to wear her down first, and after several dozen parries, I could see in her eyes that she was coming to the same realization.
Here was the advantage I needed. I rained a series of blows at her head, and then swung with power at her side. Like she had before, Vena Remontar spun around with her back to me and swung her sword, tip down, outward to meet mine. I expected to have a quick shot at her exposed back and left side, but even as she blocked my attack, she drove her short sword, in her left hand, straight back under her arm, and into my stomach.
“Umph!” I grunted in surprise. I expected that I had been cut through, but the tip of her sword merely pricked my skin.
Vena Remontar wiped the tiny drop of blood from her sword tip onto her tabard, and then sheathed her sword. With the drawing of first blood, the contest was over.
“I’m satisfied,” she said. “I thought that perhaps Norar Remontar was being overly generous. But you are quite skilled.”