A Tale of Two Knights

Training camp

((All characters in this story belong to James A. Cunnings, do not use in any form without asking me, please.))

It was the first day of summer, sunlight fading and the insects buzzing in the air had finally relented. It was just after his brother's birthday. Cole watched his brother from a distance. Jager was seven, and leaving soon to be trained to be an Arknight for their country. Cole was soon to be six, and he couldn't imagine a day where he would be more proud then when he left the house he was born in to train to be a knight. It was hard to tell the pair of them apart. They were about the same height and weight. Same hair color, but Jager had green eyes, where Cole had light blue. The only real difference between them so far, besides the older one being just the slightest bit taller. He could see the carriage that had been sent from the camps to receive his older brother. Black, with fancy gold painting around the edges, but not drawn by horses, drawn by some strange exotic lizard creatures that made little noise with their feet with three wickedly curved talons on the hard packed parched dirt road. Cole sighed as his brothers silhouette vanished from its place in front of the setting sun. One more year before he could go. Cole slowly turned from the green hill where he had been watching Jager from over the wall, and walked with heavy feet back to the Daniel's estate. Cole's next year would move slow, and easy, Playing with his one year old little brother, Tomas. Jager's however, would be one of the hardest.

With wondering green eyes, he watched the creature pulling the heavy carriage. The boy was there with one other person, a recruiter, told so by the white fist embroidered over his left breast on the black silk of the uniform. Plainly for show, silk ripped too easily to be used in any real fight. Jager knew that, even though he was seven. It was the sword that had him in real interest. The boy turned from the beast of burden, and sat, frowning at the bronze sword hilt. As a recruiter, the man was in peak shape, probably a very good swordsman as well, after all, he had to be there to show parents what exactly there was to offer in the training camp. His parents had already provided the funding for the best program, Jager welled with excitement as he remembered the rumors, and he was supposed to be training under a full-blooded demon. In truth, the boy was a bit scared, but more excited; a real demon. By the time the carriage stopped for the night, the excitement had worn off.

Jager sighed, it had been five days of mostly uneventful travel, they had passed through two towns, stopping at the last to freshen up and stretch his legs, the wyrm, which was pulling the carriage had caused a slight ruckus, the townspeople had been convinced that it was a demon, and his escort had assured the town that demons didn't look like that. Jager looked out the window, turned towards north, the direction they had been traveling, and his eyes opened wide as he saw the camp. Rows and rows of tents, perfectly aligned and exactly the same, lots of wide-open space, and hundreds of people bustling about, even at that late hour. Even at that range, Jager could hear the sounds of wooden practice blades crashing together, and metal on metal for the older students, teachers, and the actual soldiers. Jager grinned. He couldn't wait, he was going to achieve his dream, he was going to be a knight.

In five minutes, they had finally arrived at the camp, Jager hopped out, looking around, at everything, trying to take it all in so he could never forget it. He stopped as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Glancing up to the owner of the hand. The man was blade thin, with a slight muscle tone. He had pale skin that looked to never have seen a day in the sun, and platinum blonde hair, with brilliant green eyes that seemed to gather the miniscule light from the distant campfires. He was tall, probably over six and a half feet, but just barely, and he was only wearing white silk pants. Jagerís eyes widened, instinctively, he knew that this was his instructor, a full blooded demon.

"Ah, so you know already, you have good natural instincts boy. You'll do well once you get a grip on things here. You're the Daniels boy right, Jager." He said congenially, and as Jager nodded, the instructor continued. "Well, You're in my course, the hardest, we don't usually accept new recruits directly into my program, but I follow my orders. I'm going to take it easily on you, but only at first, the second week will be the hardest week ever. Are you sure that you want to try this course first." Jager frowned slightly, at the words, and then he nodded fiercely, his eyes flashing with determination. The man chuckled.

"I am D'jin Metan, you will refer to me as Instructor Metan and nothing else. A bit of advice boy, keep your fire; you'll need it more than anything here. Last thing, you won't be coddled here, you're not in your plush manor, you're in the military now. Follow me." The instructors voice had hardened slightly, and the sudden change made Jager jump. He followed without talking.

He followed the demon quickly, not wanting to get lost as the instructor briskly explained the layout of the camp. Weapons were stacked neatly in the center of the camp, and he was not to touch those yet unless there was a dire emergency. Training grounds lay on the outskirts of the camp, but only for the soldiers and advanced recruits, he was to train only with wooden practice swords and bundled lathes, and in the middle of the camp. He'd be paired with a more advanced partner, who'd show him the works and help him a bit, and with that, he almost walked into D'jin as the man stopped.

"This will be your partner, Samiel Howell, the prince of Nadelle, but here, he's just a glorified recruit, till he makes officer." D'jin said, leading him to a kid just three years older. Samiel had a more defined body; a deep tan and a hardened look to him, odd for someone a bare ten years old. His hands were wrapped in white cloth, tightly, and it snaked up his left arm instead of stopping at his wrist like it did on the right. He was wearing a sleeveless black shirt, some type of altered silk from the look of it. His pants were black, and made of the same material, but he had a brilliant crimson sash wrapped around his waist. He had a thick wooden sword in his right hand, meant to represent a long sword from the look of it.

"H-Hello.." Jager stuttered out, and D'jin chuckled, patting the kid on his head, and rustling his hair, the boy looked up. D'jin gave an encouraging smile, and then walked over to whisper something in Samiel's ear. The kidís eyes widened, and then he nodded, murmuring a yes sir. Jager frowned, as afterwards, D'jin walked off.

"Okay rookie, lets see what you got.." Samiel muttered, tossing the stick towards Jager. Jager grinned as he snatched the thing out of mid air, twisting it around into the proper stance. Two hands on the hilt, the sword at a angle from his chest, left foot forward, with left hand over right. The two handed style that he had learned from the captain of the guards at his estate, Jager had forgotten what it was called.

"Oscirian Swordsmanship, interesting.." Samiel's eyes seemed alight, with excitement, instead of the bored look before. "Someone toss me a practice sword!" The boy boomed, and he snatched one out of mid air as it flew to him. Samiel held the blade straight out from his body in his right hand. The left hand was about six inches away from his chest. A very offensive stance. Jager had never seen it before, but there was something about it that screamed caution.

Before the Daniels boy knew it, Samiel had closed the distance, a slash aimed for his ribs, he hardly had time to twist his own blade to block the attack. He pushed back as hard as he could, and took a few steps back to gain room from the older boy. Samiel wasn't letting up, slash after slash, Jager didn't have time to do anything but block. The prince sighed, and shook his head.

"I thought this might be interesting, now I see that you're too young to be any sort of challenge. In a few years, try again." While Samiel had stopped his offensive with the words, Jager took the offensive, or tried. A horizontal slash with all of his strength. A quick movement, and wood met wood, for less than a second, as the training sword was violently jerked out of the younger boys hand by the momentum of his own attack. "No grace at all." Samielís disdainful voice followed him as he fell. Jager didn't look up. His small hands grasped at the grass in his anger. Left to his thoughts as the other boy walked away, Jager Daniels silently swore that he would be the best.

The next days were hard. Worked to the bone every day, and well past nightfall. Thick flavorless gruel served as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Training every day with Samiel, Jager learned quickly, although it felt weird to be using a different style of fighting than he had been raised on. Every day seemed longer, and harder. Pushups, sit-ups, laps, sword drills, muscles screaming for rest, for him to stop. Jager pulled through the first few days by sheer stubbornness. On the fourth day, D'jinn pulled Samiel aside, to speak with him again. The prince's eyes widened at first, but he nodded, looking awed.

If the first four days were hard, the next few were brutal. Everything was doubled, if Jager showed any sign of slowing down, or even looked like he was about to complain, it increased further. The gruel didn't get any better, but it couldn't get worse. His sleeping schedule was becoming erratic, and his poor young body was screaming for rest that never seemed to come. By the time he was allowed to sleep each night, Jager was more than ready, asleep before he hit the covers. What irked him the most though, was that Samiel didn't show any sign of fatigue. In his dreams, he chased after the prince, trying to catch up, but never having a chance, haunted by the older boys smirk. Dreams of a nature, that a seven year old should never have.

Days turned into weeks slowly, following this harsh nature of exercise and training. Jager woke each morning, to the prince, sometimes dreading what was to come afterwards. He caught a cold, but they still trained him. The cold became worse, coughing and hacking, and day after day, Jager was worked to the bone. His cold subsided, and with a renewed vigor, they proceded to run him to the ground. The end of the year was coming up soon. He had been training for months now, almost eleven, and it seemed that the camp was about to turn out a new batch of soldiers, in time for the new recruits to show up. Cole would arrive early, in a few days at the latest, on his birthday. Jager's was in about a month. His little brother would be here before the tournament came.

Jager's hellish training subsided during officerís week. The week the newly minted knights would finally get their uniforms and be officially accepted into the military. Also the week before the grand tournament would be held. The training that was supposed to be going on would be postponed so everyone who wanted to participate would have a chance to catch up on sleep and gain back their strength. Jager grinned finally finding respite. He had been about to walk away from Samiel after a light sword drill, when the prince turned him around with a hand on his shoulder.

"Jager, do you realize that you are the youngest member of D'jinn's trainees?" Jager looked up, meeting the princes eyes. He frowned slightly, puzzled at the frank admiration in the older boys eyes. He nodded slowly.

"Age doesn't matter all that much, does it, I'm keeping up with the class aren't I?" He was unable to supress the alarm in his voice. Jager had been told that if he lagged behind, he would end up in an easier program, meant for someone his age. Samiel chuckled slightly, patting Jager's head affectionately.

"Yeah, you're doing fine, almost top of the class. You make most of the older boys look bad, they just don't seem to have the drive you do despite how old they are. Maybe they are too old. Maybe they don't have the drive that you have because they gave up on their dream. You still want to be an Arknight right? " When Jager nodded, the prince continued. "Don't ever give that dream up, because the second you do, you're going to lose that drive which keeps you a step ahead of everyone else. You're doing a great job, keep it up." The eldest Daniels boys eyes watered slightly, in happiness, but he shoved it back, Crying in this camp meant you were weak, no matter your age. Samiel had been never complimented him during the whole time he trained with the prince. Jager hugged his royal training partner, and noticed a new thing. His arms wrapped all the way around the other boy, easily, and he wasn't as short as he remember. Jager took a step back, and took a good look at himself. His skin was tanned now, and his muscles were visible, no more baby fat despite his age. Callouses on his fingers due to hours of handling wooden practice swords. Jager looked up, and Samiel wasn't as tall as he remembered. The prince seemed to be able to read his mind.

"Yeah, this place does that to you. The food they give you is more than just tasteless slop. It has a few added things in it to make you mature faster, not enough to be dangerous, but enough to help." The prince seperated from the younger male. Jager was about to say something, but a hand on the princes shoulder silenced him. The pale skin contrasted sharply against the ten year old boy's tan. It told Jager exactly who it was without looking to his instructors impressive height. D'jinn pulled the prince away and started talking in whispers, leaving Jager to stand there and wonder. The pair seemed to drift away, leaving the Daniels boy to himself.

Jager waited for fifteen minutes before he decided to go practice. It was second nature now. It felt odd not to push his limits every day. He was about to pick up the practice sword, when he heard a very familiar voice. "Big Brother!!"