Word count: 800 (2 to 7 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Into My Shadow | Note: Fantasy races (common), magic, post-apocalyptic setting
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Radiant Dance of Year 1: Shrouded Era
Not as bright as it once was, the summer sun still burned its way through the smog surrounding them to warm Loren’s skin. Maybe it would feel different when she was out there for real, not training in some course hastily set up next to the runners’ base.
Her braid swung out behind her as she leapt over the simple fence in her path, using that momentum to roll over her shoulder beneath the next fence after it. Loren barely cleared that when a training staff came down from her right flank. Raising her wooden shield, it caught the blow in her stead with enough force to ripple down her arm. She pushed off from her crouched position to stand and force the staff away—which shouldn’t have worked half as well as it did. He was going easy on her and they both knew it.
No one asked him to.
He stepped into a wide, bracing stance, and narrowed green eyes at her as he squared his shoulders. If she struck, he was ready for it. And she was ready for that. Human men were generally muscular, well-built, and sturdy. Nothing like dwarves, but a far cry from elves like Loren. But she knew how to leverage her lithe build in her favor over his staunch one. That skill was years in the making by then. He jolted the staff’s end towards her to break her guard, Loren parried that end aside to make an opening, and he spun the other end of the staff up at her head. Ducking again, she jabbed her sparring sword upward towards his chest. With his relatively tall height for a human, that could be enough to stagger him, even without the rules of their training leaving him “wounded” by the blow.
All that, and it was the soft-tipped arrow zipping by her to bounce off his chest that took him out of their mock run.
“Loren,” her trainee-in-arms called out, only barely looking out from behind his cover. Dwarves were hardy, but he knew better than to stand out in the open even if he could take the hit. As one of the defenders in their crew, that was more her job anyway.
With a sharp nod, she darted across the small field to his hedge.
“Thanks,” she offered and he smiled, knocking another arrow.
“They are.” Noyo, of course. As one of the first runners in Brook Mills, they helped prepare others for the transformed world. That was only two months ago now. It felt longer. They weren’t the most capable runner, according to the village, but they were the best teacher. Patient but firm, they were both realistic and encouraging in their lessons. The townspeople would have to agree to disagree with Loren on the first part.
Noyo waited on the porch, still decorated from the building’s days as an inn, and sand fell through an hourglass next to them on a weathered handrail.
“Wait—” Too late, Loren reached for him as his path sent him tumbling into one the shallow pitfall traps the trained runners set up. Shallow for her, anyway. She could just barely meet his worried gaze, brows knit and forehead smeared with dirt from his fall.
He’d never make it out of there alone. Glancing up to the hourglass, Loren couldn’t make out how much time was left. Not a good sign. The third trainee had gone ahead from the very beginning, and she was already waiting at the end goal, tossing a magic ball of light back and forth in her hands as she waited. Loren frowned at her. If anyone deserved to fall into a ditch, it was that woman.
“I’ll get you out.” Grabbing some rope left on the ground as part of the mock wreckage they could find out there, Loren tied a quick knot, familiar from so much repetition, and tossed the rope down to him. Reaching down, she explained the first step. “The bow.”
He wasted no time passing that up, then climbing his way up as she stood guard. No one was left to threaten them, but that wasn’t the point of this test. She had to prove herself a good runner in all circumstances. So Loren would defend him until he was safe, and the fence post anchored him much better than she ever could.
“Thanks,” he breathed, taking his bow from her.
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