- Episode 15 -
"We must be ready," Mal's voice was clear and resolute as he stood across from Camden in the morning sun. He had replaced his thick oaken cane with a sturdy steel blade and wore the stern face of a Knight once more.
"If someone has managed to locate the Vault then we have to be prepared. They may look for you two to reclaim what you now hold, and even if they do not we have a duty to make sure the Vault's guardians still defend it." Mal had roused them from bed just before dawn, every it the old veteran knight ready to put his charges through their paces.
"Attack me," He ordered Camden who was still trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes and stifle a yawn. "But all I have is this dagger, that really doesn't seem fair," Camden protested. "Boy, I have served the realm for many years and there are a few simple truths I can tell you. For one, nobody every waited for me to get a equal footing or arm myself before they attacked me. Two, you have at your disposal more weapons than that you wield in your hand. You have a mind in your skull, breath in you, and a beating heart. Make use of everything you have - use your arms, fists, feet, everything. Don't limit your options to only think of the weapon in your grasp, to do so is foolish. But you also should not discount what you carry; I have seen them before. That blade was borne before you by a worthy friend, he died most unfortunately when we placed the guardians in the Vault. It is more than an equal for any sword you will find and I don't think he ever even found it's full potential. We had decided to leave him with it both to honor him and to ensure it never fell into wicked hands."
"Now, I don't like wasting time or repeating myself - strike at me!" This time Camden reluctantly charged forward and thrusted straight ahead at Mal's middle. The cunning and experienced knight only waited for him to close the distance between them before he spun with a grin. With a pivot he twisted his own arm at the elbow and angled his blade down. The two shafts of forged steel sang as the connected and the force startled Camden driving him to the side. He had to fight to regain his footing as well as halt himself, his momentum threatening to continue to carry him forward.
"Defend," roared Mal as he raised his sword to arc downward toward his student's unprotected back. Camden had little time to even think of how to react and instead had to resort to pure instinctive reflex. He twisted swiftly and threw his left arm up to try and block the blow only realizing at the last second that it was a sword that now moved towards his forearm, not a club or some such. The only thing that stood between his tender flesh and cold steel was a simple leather band with a dull silver stud. Camden couldn't hide the panic from his face and even as Mal pulled the blow to a halt he knew it was likely to at the least leave a nasty cut upon the boy.
But instead of seeing blood flow a blue arc flashed to life with a pale flicker that stopped the oncoming assault. The impact deflected Mal's old blade to the side almost as readily as thick strong shield of worked steel. Luck truly had blessed these two young orphans indeed! He made sure to note to himself how Camden had reacted to the attack, it had been some time since he had seen anyone that young with such good reflexes. With further training he might one day be able to hone the boy into a worthy knight himself.
"Very good," he congratulated Camden without dropping his serious demeanor. "There are some old pells out behind the house, go back there and practice striking at them and I will come check on you shortly. You need to get used to swinging that blade of yours some."
"But what are you going to do?" Camden asked impulsively. "Don't question me boy, go on and get to work, now!" Mal barked with every ounce of authoritative tone he could muster. The result was always the same, even now after all these years; Camden took off as fast as his feet could carry him to obey.
Mal waited a few breaths to make sure the lad was well out of earshot before he allowed himself a quick chuckle. "Now," he told himself decisively, "to check on the lass and prepare her." That was going to be both more difficult of a task in itself but also just as important. Because if he wasn't mistaken what she was carrying now was the very key to an ancient magic few dared wield. It was powerful enough that it could unlock the Vault itself but it required a pure heart. Supposedly the legends had said it was a gift given freely from a Unicorn to a repay an act of kindness made by a benevolent traveler.
Hopefully she could unlock it's secrets to help them keep it safe until they could return it to the Vault. And if anything had happened to the guardians of the Vault then it alone might be the last chance to reseal it permanently. There simply was too much at risk to even chance anything else being removed.