Darkest Star, Brightest Shadow

There are some times in life where even the brightest of stars can become so dark and corrupt, that they are unstoppable. It is at this time of peril that a nobody, an insignificant little shadow, must step up to face the enemy. Umbra. Umbra must step up, and become the brightest of all shadows...

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13. Training

Umbra heard a rustling in the trees. He turned, blade at the ready, to see Aquila trapsing through the trees, now with a sword and a bow. Umbra lowered his sword, and smiled.

"Both of you, step forwards with drawn swords. Leave your bows down here, for you will not need them in this fight. Your opponent... is me." Thorn spoke. It took Umbra a few seconds to realise what she was saying. He was going to fight Thorn? Instantly, an image of Umbra and Aquila lying on the dirt, beaten, embarassed, shocked. This was a fight they could not win.

 

Three hours later, Thorn inspected her trainees, both of them lying on the floor with a ninjato at their throats.

"Well, you HAVE got better this morning. And, in all fairness, I have spent my whole life training. But Umbra, your skills are coming along very nicely. You have a lot of potential. And Aquila, although your skills lie in healing, you are good with the sword. I shall bless you with a five minute break whilst I set up your next training excersise. Now then, off you go. Go sit in the shade of the shelter." she told them. Thankful, Umbra and Aquila wearily stumbled into the shelter, every one of their bones aching.

"She is good with blades." Umbra muttered, still exhaling deeply.

"Very good." Aquila agreed between gasps of breath, letting himself crumple onto the bedding inside the shelter. Nodding, Umbra collapsed onto his back, spluttering for breath. They were silent for the next few minutes, both panting heavily. Then finally, Umbra sat up, thinking only of the assassin and her skilled movements with the ninjato.

"I wonder how long we'll be stuck here for." Aquila said quietly. Umbra didn't reply for a few moments. Then, finally,

"Hopefully not. It's kinda scary to think that we could be stuck here for ages." Umbra replied, keeping his tone quiet.

"This morning, Thorn went to check the barrier. She said it could only be broken by a powerful force from the outside, no human force, nor elven, but the force of an elemental creature. Such as an incredibly powerful air griffin. Or a dragon. But most couldn't do it. Only a small handful of dragons would be able to smash this barrier." Aquila said gravely. Then, the assassin called out softly, summoning them outside. Half-refreshed, the boys crawled from the shelter, joining Thorn outside. She had carved targets into the trees with knives.

"Now then, bows at the ready. Try to hit the centre of the target, however. Not, UMBRA, the outer rings." Thorn instructed. Umbra looked down sheepishly. Thorn told them where to stand; Umbra, at the back of the clearing so that the targets were further away; and Aquila, in the centre of the clearing to give him a better chance. They both notched an arrow, feeling the assassin's eyes locked onto them as they shot. Umbra, as Thorn suspected, hit the centre. Aquila, whose posture was not quite perfect, hit the ring next to the centre. Thorn busied herself correcting Aquila's posture while Umbra shot again.

 

Later, much later, when the warming sun had dissapeared, Thorn decided that her students deserved a break. Food. Her mouth watered at the thought of it - she had not eaten proper meat in the last few days. Just small bites which she had managed to get whilst keeping Umbra safe. But the thought of rich, sweet flavoured deer... Thorn would have to hunt. For the last hour, they had returned to swordplay. Both were newly exhausted, both with a ninjato pointed at their throat - again. But, despite her skill, Thorn could not help but marvel at Umbra's potential. She had actually had to put effort into her fighting. Effort! On just one boy.

"Well done. Your skills have improved again. Now, stay here and have a rest while I hunt for your lunch. Actually, you could put a fire on for when I come back. Though the goblins might spot it, I don't think it makes much difference. They probably already know where we are. Just call if you need me, okay?" Thorn said, already sheathing her ninjato, and holding out a hand to Aquila and Umbra, who were by now completely tired and slightly grumpy. Umbra, however, admired the assassin's harsh training. It was the reason that Umbra would become skilled. Both of them took the assassin's hands, and let her haul them to their feet.

"Ugh... You are a very mean assassin." Aquila muttered, sheathing his sword and exhaling deeply. Umbra laughed.

"Cruel to be kind." Umbra smiled, also sheathing his blade. "Now, let's get that fire made. Then, we can sit down and relax."

"Relax?" Thorn smirked, a glint in her eye. "No, you shall be cooking while I relax." she said with a mischievious tone to her voice. And then, she darted over to the trees, and disapeared. Umbra watched her go, and then sat down on the log, joined by Aquila.

"Any idea how to make a fire?" the healer asked. Umbra shrugged.

"No idea." he replied. "I am useless at making fire."

 

A while later, a fire pit had been prepeared, and Aquila was trying to light a fire with some spear heads that he had found in the clearing, dropped by goblins.

"Yes!" he cried. "I've got a flame!" Umbra looked over from his growing pile of firewood. Thorn, mildly interested, glanced up from the deer she was skinning.

"That's nice for you. Now build it up so we can cook the meat." Thorn demanded, looking back to the deer. Her knife cleanly sliced the deerskin off of the poor creatures body. Umbra, busy dragging firewood back from the forrest, looked briefly at Thorn. She was doing her job with such skill, but did not really seem to be focusing much on what she was doing. The assassin seemed lost in thought. Umbra looked away as he turned back to the forrest to find more wood.

 

I wait for the gaurdian to announce that I have lost, but no. He does not say the words that I dread! There is still a way to help Umbra! I lift my head weakly, blasting a sphere of air - crackling with electrical power - into the gaurdian's mouth. A roar of agony echoed through the entirity of the lava falls, bouncing off the walls and piercing my eardrums. The gaurdian's deadly claws sliced deeper into my flesh, drawing yet more blood. Screeching, I thrashed out, and somehow managed to break free. I let power surge through me. I had to end this - now. Beating my wings, I let the power go crazy. The gaurdian collapses as the beam of air and lightning strikes him. For a second, I think he is dead, but then his tail starts twitching. Wincing, the gaurdian moves his head to look at me. Weak. Defeaten.

"You win." he speaks. "And as your prize, I shall open the portal to you, with just one request. That you let me accompany you, for I see that our futures are linked. I am a useful ally." he says, letting healiling powers revive my strength - and also his. I consider the options briefly. He is powerful, and seems trustworthy. His healing powers only worked here, but that hardly mattered. Taking a deep breath, I answer.

"Yes." I speak slowly, carefully. "You may come..."

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