Chapter Thirteen

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The Virenti that I was exposed to was different than that of the past members of the Uthari. Liras altered the training to prepare me for the obstacles that could possibly confront me. In that regard, some of the traditions of the Uthari would not have been appropriate. Of course, he taught me combat in all forms, but he also taught me how to survive on my own, how to set traps for everything from hares to humans, and how to exist in a world that wanted me, the Prince of Panthos, dead.

He constantly tested me, regardless of the time of day or what I was doing. If I was helping my mother cook and he got a blade within five feet of me, I would be punished. The pit was no longer a place I thought of as entertaining. Every day seemed to consist of me fighting either him or Varo, and every day I left bruised and bloodied. As disheartening as it was, I knew that to possess the skill to one day challenge the Vint, to challenge my father, I would need to be the best.

It surprised me that I made it out of there without any lasting injuries, for I would have had less bruises from jumping off of a small cliff and tumbling to the bottom. Though I do not believe Liras had anything but my best intentions in mind during all of it, I cannot help but think that at least part of him had to enjoy beating me to a pulp each and every day.

Time seemed to whisk by during the Virenti and before I knew it I passed my eleventh and then twelfth nameday. By that time my body was carved out of wood. I no longer bruised as easy, and most of my skin was so tough that scrapes and bruises were more difficult to come by. I could fight longer, harder, and more precise than I ever thought possible. At this point in my life, I stood about five feet tall, and earned peculiar glances by anyone that happened to see me. Southerners, by their breed, were not large beings. We were generally shorter—smaller, but blessed with incredible agility and quickness. The northerners towered over us since the ancients sailed from across the sea, at least as far as anyone can remember. I, being the product of both the north and the south, almost matched the height of most southern men at just twelve years. In appearance, however, I still looked unmistakably like a Panthosi. I suppose that that is how I learned to understand why people looked at me so. Liras had first brought it to my attention one day in the yard.

“There will be times in life when your size, strength, and overall physique will be your enemy, Kareth. You must learn to disguise it, to blend in with everyone else. Someday you will wander the north, despite mine and your mother’s efforts to the contrary, and you will be as large as a northern knight, but as odd to the eye as an ox amongst goats.” It was an everyday occurrence, those bouts of wisdom from my cousin.

My size did prove to assist in fighting, because despite being slightly larger than average, I had lost no quickness or agility. I was lean and lithe, and, at that point, could wield the Uthari sabres better than most alive.

By the end of our training fights both Liras and Varo would be dripping with sweat, and I generally caught their flesh at least a number of times, leaving them flushed red and stinging. For some reason, Liras was intent on me learning how to use not only the short swords and sabres, but to take a run at the broadsword as well. I had never held a broadsword to that point, but when he pulled out the large blade I was immediately caught off guard by the blue hue that emanated from the steel.

“This is a Sword of the Isles. It is an extremely rare, exceedingly strong form of steel,” Liras told me as I looked over the blade. “It is indestructible and will always keep a blade. You will never have to sharpen this sword; you will never have to worry about it fracturing in a fight. It can be melted down and reformed, but no one alive today knows how to duplicate the material.”

I ran my finger over the edge and watched as the cut opened and seeping blood slowly ran out of the small laceration.

“It is also the sharpest metal there is,” he added while shaking his head, his version of a smile creeping onto his face.

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