The man squared up to Ned. Judging by the scars around his forearms, the old soldier was proven in battle. He roared and leapt toward Ned, who ducked and walked to one side. Turning to face the soldier, Ned’s breathing was even and he remained alert and light on his feet. Other soldiers and recruits stopped what they were doing to watch.
“Think you’re a swordsman do you?” The old soldier snarled, passing his wooden sword from one hand to the other.
They moved around, measuring each other up. The man feinted to close the distance and bring his wooden sword crashing toward the recruit’s neck. Ned blocked it and pushed his opponent aside. The sword fell from the man’s grasp, landing on the stoney ground. Ned kicked it aside. The old soldier backed away and drew a short steel sword from behind his back and grinned. Ned came to a halt.
“We’re meant to be training here… not killing them!!” A soldier called out.
“I’ve got you now, you little peasant,” Ned’s adversary growled.
He strolled forward, cutting the air expertly. With the sword in his right hand, the man slashed at Ned and spun around, while switching the sword to his left hand. This technique fooled all but the most skilled swordsmen. Slashing the sword at Ned’s stomach, he intended to teach the rest of the men a valuable lesson in how to kill. But Ned had already moved to his right and leapt upwards. As steel sliced thin air, Ned bought the handle of his wooden sword crashing down on the man’s temple. He collapsed, unconscious.
The crowd watched in astonishment. Little was known of Ned’s background. But he could fight. That much was sure. As Gobba’s face dropped, two seasoned soldiers clapped. The recruits broke into applause and Gobba slunk away. The training continued and Ned proved skilled with the sword, surpassing even the most experienced soldiers. Gobba stared jealously on. When Ned was ordered to try the bow, he could shoot straighter than even the gentlemen who spent their days hunting deer. Ned was ordered to fight with the short sword.
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