Tlisli* jumped up from lunch and reached for her backpack. Azzesh had again provided an excellent meal, cooked quickly and yet tasty and well seasoned. There was more meat than Tlisli would have preferred, but she would never think of mentioning that to Azzesh.
The reason she had jumped up and reached for her backpack was that Azzesh had gotten up and was reaching for her own pack. Tlisli had learned to respond quickly when Azzesh wanted something done, and one thing Azzesh never permitted was wasting time on the trail. And while Azzesh was neither like the smothering discipline of her childhood, nor like the brutality of the grand-emperor’s people, she could make life uncomfortable. Tlisli was convinced that she had been tripped several times, had stumbled into a couple of trees, and even fallen into a large thorn bush because she had managed to put the Tlazil in a bad mood.
It was two days since her conversation with Azzesh regarding the sword she had found (see Tlisli and the Tlazil – I). Azzesh hadn’t discussed it, nor had she said she was taking the sword, but she had stuffed it in her own pack, and Tlisli hadn’t objected.
“What are you putting on your pack for?” asked Azzesh.
“I thought we were leaving,” replied Tlisli, puzzled.
“No. It is now time for you to learn to use this sword of yours.”
“Mine?” said Tlisli. “I thought you said I didn’t deserve it.”
“I don’t think you do, but the gods are more gracious than I. They have given it to you.”
“I found it,” said Tlisli looking down, and downcast at the same time.
“The gods are gracious,” said Azzesh, “But they give gifts that require our efforts. Do you think you found this sword on your own? Do you think you survived on your own? No! The gods brought you here. The gods let you find the sword. The gods helped you survive. That is surely the only reason I don’t eat you for dinner.” Azzesh paused. “Well, that, and the fact that you would be stringy and doubtless bland in flavor. But with Nistl roots and seasoned with serriss, doubtless even you would be edible.”
She held out the sword. “Take it and prepare to defend yourself.”
Azzesh immediately grabbed a stick that Tlisli hadn’t noticed and began to attack without any warning or instruction. Tlisli tried to block her attacks, but she was largely unsuccessful. It seemed that wherever she moved the sword, Azzesh’s stick was coming at her somewhere else. She was being poked or hit every few seconds, though the blows were not that heavy.
Suddenly Azzesh swung hard, and as had been the case nearly every time, Tlisli was trying to parry a blow somewhere else, one that never came. She staggered back, startled by the pain.
“What did you do that for?” Tlisli asked.
“To motivate you.”
“But that hurt!” Tlisli was still rubbing her side.
“And had I been swinging a sword, you would now be in two parts, quite ready for me to cook for dinner.”
“I thought the main point of a sword was to attack the other person.”
“And what did you expect to do to keep from getting chopped in half yourself?”
“Use a shield.”
“Shield?” asked Azzesh, looking around dramatically. “What shield?”
“Well, I imagine I would get one.”
“And if someone tried to kill you before you got a shield?”
“No, small human. You have to learn to defend yourself. Your sword is designed for it. Do you feel how light it is?”
“I thought it was a bit light, but then what do I know?”
“Wisdom at last!” exclaimed Azzesh. “Exactly the right answer, no matter how depressing. What do you know indeed?”
“But why is the sword light?” Tlisli was so used to being insulted that she hardly noticed.
“It was built of a special metal. I don’t know any craftsmen these days who know how to make it, but it is harder than our ordinary steel and lighter at the same time.”
“So what does that mean about the sword. I know it is easier to carry and to swing.”
“True, but that is both a blessing and a curse. You can wield it more quickly and with less strength, but then your blows may be less effective. It is, in fact, intended for someone who plans to use it for defense as much or more than for attack. There are other features such as the guard on the hilt that suggest the same thing.”
With that, Azzesh swung the stick again, and hit Tlisli on the other side before she had even raised the sword. By now she knew better than to complain and simply tried to get her sword into position as quickly as she could.t
To be continued … next episode – Ambushed!
*This is part of the continuing story of Tlisli. It is obviously a work of fiction, and anything that resembles anything in the real world is purely accidental. I am finally resuming this series after more than a year’s break. I am also trying to return to the original plan of short episodes. (Return to Top)