Curious Walls

"Let's run away together, Izzy!" I don't understand how my best friend Maybel can shout and whisper at the same time. She says it's all about diction. I think she listens to her flute instructor too much. That's the sort of thing he says. I smiled half-heartedly at May. She was always so enthusiastic.

"He's your finance. It's not that big a deal. This would be the first time you've ever backed down from a challenge. If I didn't know better I would say marriage is softening you already." I responded. That might have been to close to the truth, because May's face went bright red, and she glowered in my general direction.

"But why do you have to fight him?" May moaned. I see she's in top whining form today. May can really whine with the best.

"It's not a fight. Mr. Silas is going to teach me to sword-fight, Quite kind of him, really." I said. May rolled her eyes.

"Bastard's just looking for a good excuse to shove a sword in your and call it an accident." May predicted gloomily. I shook my head softly.

"He does not seem the type. I believe if Mr. Silas wanted me dead, I would not be here talking with you." I tried to reassure my childhood friend., but she did not want to be.

"He's such a jerk." She said loudly. Reflexively I turned around, and saw him starring at us. I tried to read some kind of emotion in his look, but this man continued to pierce me with his gaze. I turned away from him.

"Do not speak ill of those you don't know and more importantly those who can read lips." I advised. May stuck out her tongue at me. I laughed.

She's a wonderful girl, once you get to know her.

"I believe you have a flute lesson?" I goaded. May rolled her eyes.

"I'd rather stay and watch." She grumbled. I raised an eyebrow. She rolled her eyes.

"Fine, fine, going Mother." But May appeared distracted, her slit-like pupils dancing about. I had no doubt she would be watching us. May hugged me, careful to lean over my shoulder and make a nasty face at Silas. Then she about-faced and flounced out. I smiled indulgently and rubbed my temples. Now for the fun part.

May's murdering finance threw me a wooden sword and I missed grabbing it. I reddened when I bent to pick it up. Why had he thrown the sword short? Was he trying to insult or embarrass me? Or did he have poor dept perception? Weakness.

I threw the wooden stick into the air and caught it halfway down the blade. I eyed it. It was weighted, just like a butter churn on the farm. I thanked the gods I was good with my hands, or I would have dropped it. Silas raised an eyebrow.

"Shall we?" He lowered his body and sprang at me. I couldn't see him move. . .

"Perhaps we could practice stance and whatnot, first?" I murmured. My little sword flip was nothing to Mr. Sila's skill. My teacher shook his head.

"I think not. You lied. You must have handled a sword before now." He pointed to my left hand. I gaped. Unconsciously I had moved my hand down and tilted the stick horizontally to block Silas' attack. I dropped my wooden stick and stepped away from the man before me.

'How did I. . .' I was in shock. I had never held anything more threatening than a axe, and had never thought of using it for more than chopping logs. When did I become an expert at sword-fighting? He could my arms know something my brain did not? Silas growled and thrust his own wooden sword at me.

"Oh no you don't! I will have a duel." I peered at him. His black hair was pulled back into a severe ponytail and his silver-gray eyes were burning with an intense fire. Whatever Silas' problem was, it had just become my fault. I gulped. Silas was not someone I wanted mad at me. I shook my head 'no', and Silas hissed with displeasure.

"If you wish for a duel, we should use true weapons." I explained and pointed to a cabinet full of various sharp and pointy things. They looked rather intimidating, but something like respect crossed my opponent's visage.

"As you wish." He flipped around, reached for the stick I dropped and threw them in a corner. He turned to me, then opened the cabinet with a flourish. He offered me swords. I bobbed my head and felt like saying something along the lines of 'You do me much honor' but decided against it. The last thing I needed was to slide into Silas' overly heroic though process.

Instead I walked over and pretended I knew what I was doing. I picked up swords at random and measured their weight as best I could on the fly. Now that I had started down this particular path, I couldn't turn back and admit to Silas I hadn't an ice cream cone's chance in Hell of surviving in a duel against anyone who could * hold * a sword properly.

I reached for another sword, only to notice it wasn't just another sword. It was a completely different make compared to the others. It was thick and broad and slightly curved. After studying it, I determined this was the tool for me. It was made to chop bone and wood alike. An all-purpose sword for hardy individuals who could swing it's ungainly weight about. This was my sword. It felt like I could really use it to chop trees and pretend that was what I was doing if I actually hit Silas. Best of all, it fit in my hand. I walked back to the center of the room and waited. Silas choose a long, thin blade that looked harder than diamonds. Just like him, it was as difficult to handle as it was to avoid.

I blinked.

Where was all this information coming from? I had a wealth of knowledge about swords locked in my head.

Like I had been born with it. I shook my head to clear it and watched as a strip of my corn-gold hair escaped it's tight ponytail. I would have to get it cut soon.

Silas placed himself across from me, bowed his head in concentration then muttered,

"Start." He threw himself backwards and started circling me. I wish I had thought of that. A flicker to my right, I raised my sword instinctively, and head the rewarding tinkle of metal sliding against each other.

Tinkle?

He was still testing me! I flung to the left and saw a flash of shining metal where my torso had been.

I jumped backwards and gasped. He could have pierced my stomach with that attack! I could be dead!

May was right about him . . . My eyes narrowed and I prepared to fight to kill. That pause was all Silas needed. He charged me and in a burst of speed I brought my own sword up to block his near the hilt.

We clashed back and forth with only the first inch or so of our blades and I was forced to dodge away from the tip of Silas' sword. This was what Silas had been waiting for. His blade was much longer than mine, and he could cut me down with it's point while I held the other end captive.

I was sick of fighting defensively, I had to distract him.

I threw my weight forward onto my sword and while Silas was still reeling from shock I leaped backwards.

Finally, control!

Before my opponent could do more than lower his sword in defense I was attacking him.

I swung the blunt side of my sword, the inside of it's slight curve around and under Silas' defense. The tip of my blade flashed centimeters from his nose. I smiled at him.

He growled and flung himself to his right (he sword was in his left hand) and prepared to roll away.

I was too fast for him. My left foot tripped him and grabbed his sword hand with my left hand, forcing his weapon to the ground.

Now, at last, he was defenseless.

My smile widened to a full-fledged psychopath grin at the prospect of spilling blood. My sword was flung behind me with my right hand, prepared to swing at Silas and slit his fine throat. My opponent.

Ah, the blood that would fall . . .

I gasped and dropped my blade, practically threw it away from me, backing away from Silas. My hands shook and I stared at them. What had come over me?

Now that I no longer left threatened, I allowed myself to feel, and discovered my legs could no longer support me. I collapsed into a kneeling position, still staring at me hands. How could I have almost . . . What else could I do?

Silas raised an eyebrow at me, walked over and offered me a hand up, looking sulky.

And I looked back at him. Really looked. Silas' hair had come out of his ponytail and it streamed around him like a cloak of the blackest night. His silver-gray orbs shone like far-off planets and his catlike pupils were far to wide from exerting himself. His gently curving face was surprisingly feminine. He reminded me of . . . I don't know, but whoever it was, she was * gorgeous *. Silas ahemed, and I blushed. I was so rude. Before Silas could remove his hand, I hoisted myself up, getting a rather close-up view of Sila's magnificent eyes before we both backed away. I was gratified to know I wasn't the only one blushing when we jumped apart.

Still somewhat solemn about my sub-conscious talents, I wiped sweat from my brow and fetched my sword. Disturbed by how comfortable it felt there, I quickly put it back where Silas told me to.

We seemed to have reached an agreement about our little duel. Neither of us wanted to talk about it, therefore it didn't exist. I didn't want to pick up a sword ever again, and Silas was upset about losing, from what I could tell. At least, he was angry about something.

After our blades were safely locked away, forever I hope, Silas finally noticed the state of disarray his hair was in. Angrily he huffed and shook his head in disgust.

"You have quite a way with words." I said. Silas turned his head towards me so fast I thought he would get whiplash. After assessing my words, he barked out a laugh.

"And you are one surprise after another." Silas smirked. Again, he was testing me, and I rose to the challenge without thought.

"You were testing me, in everything you did." I responded. "It would have been unfair to myself and to you to hold anything back." I finished. Silas nodded. I think I'd shocked him one too many times today. Inside his eyes I saw a flicker of something like trust. Did I deserve it? Then again, I realized with a start, I trusted him too.

He offered me his hand, and I shook it, immensely proud of the friend I had made today.

Perhaps friend isn't the right word. Friends care a great deal about each other, but Silas respected and trusted me. I knew Silas would never lie to me, thought judging by what I knew about him it was more than likely he would just ignore questions he didn't want to answer. While I had hoped we could be friends, I was glad enough for is trust. It was more than I had planned on after he got angry with me.

While still overjoyed, the sore muscles in my arm and wrist made themselves known. My hand and the lower part of my arm cramped up, and I held it as best I could, breathing slowly. The was embarrassing.

What had I expected? I'd just clashed blades with a man who practiced his techniques daily. For fun, or whatever passes for fun when your Silas. Said man raised a sculpted eyebrow. I wish he wouldn't do that. It accents his eyes and my brain keeps trying to imagine him in a dress.

"You have never fought seriously with a sword before." That was a statement, not a question. I avoided mentioning I hadn't really fought anyone seriously since I was eleven. I was too fast for most kids and always got picked on. I simply nodded and continued to try stretching my hand. This was going to hurt in the morning. Silas absorbed this information with his usual flare, or should I say lack of?

Suddenly I felt a warm hand on my own, and I blinked up at Silas. He was rubbing the kinks out of my hand, and I think I started purring. It did feel good.

***

Before you say a word, I could have backed up and away from Silas at any time I wanted. I just thought he should be allowed to clear his conscience. He felt bad about forcing me to fight, and he had obviously done this often enough before to his own arms.

Why else would this feel so good? Oh bugger off you. I don't have to explain myself.

***

When Silas finished, my cramp was a only a faint buzz and my hand was quivering, but for a different reason altogether. Silas said nothing, but I felt in his debt. what could i do to help him? My gaze slid to his hair.

"Let me braid it?" Silas' eyes widened a fraction, but he nodded anyway. I walked behind him and separated his hair into three chords. Against my will I leaned in and inhaled. Silas smelled tough, like leather and starch. And underneath that, vanilla. He was an odd blend of masculine and feminine scents.

Silas ahemed again, I smiled in spite of myself and started braiding. It was barely noticeable, but Silas relaxed just a little while I worked. When I finished braiding I tied his hair together with a strip of cloth (from my shirt, it was old anyway) and pet the tail softly before letting the braid fall. Silas had really long, beautiful hair. The object of my musing turned to face me and smiled softly. My heart melted a little.

"Izzy!" May glomped me.