Next morning a mist was hanging around the hills and, even though it was early Ringmore had insisted that he begin to teach Haylie to use the Ventura sword properly, not merely wave it around attempting to hit anything like they do in movies, no, he was to teach her proper swordplay; to expect the unexpected to get inside your enemy's mindset feel their sword, preferably before it penetrates the fabric of your shirt.
“Now remember use a high guard like this” Ringmore held his sword up high above his head and Haylie tried to copy.
“You mean like this?”
“That’s it, now try attacking it should be much easier now” Haylie swung round the mighty sword but as she did, she was engulfed in a white flash and she saw the sudden image of a woman standing beside a small brown door surrounded by rocks and brilliant green grass, and then it was gone, just as quickly as it had appeared. As she came out of the vision she fell back onto the grass damp with morning dew from the mist hanging around them. Elera ran out from her tent to help Ringmore bring Haylie to her feet.
“Haylie? What happened? What did you see?” Elera panted, her eyes unblinking and frantic.
“I saw a girl, a girl with red hair and green-brown eyes; she was standing outside a small door in a green hill, she looked almost regal and she wore a dark purple, embroidered dress”
“That sounds like Killga to me, we need to find her before she's captured like the others from her village” Elera exclaimed.
“And from what I’ve heard she’s a dab hand with a sword, not your average lady!” Ringmore declared. Elera spent the next few minutes urging Haylie to remember more of the vision so she could roughly work out where Killga might be hiding. When she felt she had remembered every last detail her poor, tired mind could muster Haylie confessed to Elera that, that was it.
“I’m sorry Elera, there’s just no more, I can only tell you what the vision showed me, nothing more.”
“Well I guess I can’t ask anything more of you, I think I can piece together this broken puzzle with what you have given me, thank you, and I think Ringmore is trying to grab your attention Hay, looks like its back to training for you” She smiled and waved Haylie off to Ringmore who was waiting impatiently, patting his sword against his thigh.
“Reddy to pick up where we left off?”
“I think so” She answered nervously.
“Hmm good” Suddenly Ringmore swung wildly for Haylie's head. She just managed to react in time, blocking his attack with her sword and swinging his away from her.
“What are you doing?” She exclaimed thoroughly shocked, she glanced back over her shoulder at Elera but she was ignoring the pair of them attempting to work with the information Haylie had given her.
“You need to be prepared for unexpected attacks, from friend or foe” He informed her.
“But why would you or another friend attack me if we’re on the same side?” She asked confused, still recovering from her ‘unexpected attack.’
“It was often one of Merdock's great pleasures to take over the minds of his enemies and turn them on each other, forcing brother against brother, disposing of people at will. Good people, people who had done nothing but defend what they believed in.” Haylie thought he had lost his focus on what they were doing and that he seemed lost in some old memory.
“Ringmore?” She was concerned that the subject had caught him off balance and he had gone further into his memories than he had anticipated.
“What? Oh I’m fine; I just mean that you need to be prepared for any attack, wherever it may come form; as we move closer to Medlock's fortress where his power is strongest. Now shall we continue and I’ll show you some tricks I’ve learnt over the years that might keep you alive for more than a few minutes in a battle!”
They spent several long hours practicing, Ringmore teaching Haylie tricks and tactics ranging from how to stand and salute your opponent in a formal duel, to how to dodge a Brankel’s second head while trying to cut the first one off, after disturbing its nest. It didn’t take too long before they were exhausted to the point where they were utterly out of breath and their tummies were groaning and creaking with hunger.
“Come on Ringmore I’m bushed and I know you are to; I’m starving I really need to eat and I think I’m losing weight with all this walking and fighting practice!” She groaned along with the rest of her body and they both laughed when she wrapped her arms around her stomach to see if any weight had been lost.
Whilst they ate, drank and replenished their energy stores Elera revealed to them where she though Killga might be.
“Using the information Haylie provided I managed to find a location that matched her descriptions,” she pointed to her map rolled out on the olive grass, to a small section populated mostly by trees, grass and a small stream but somewhere in the middle of these were several small bumps in the map, “this is the Louare, and this,” she indicated the bumps, “is Impton, it’s a small town close to Veriton but it’s not inhabited by humans and the like.”
“Who is it populated by?” Haylie asked intrigued, Elera and Ringmore exchanged sly looks.
“That doesn’t matter but we should get a move on soon: we shouldn't linger in an open space like this for too long” Elera reminded them, "even with my protective enchantments around us."
Ringmore now sitting on a full stomach, wanted to resume Haylie’s training but Elera had other ideas.
“Don't you think you should be teaching her to ride Dracon?”
“Not yet we, we still have more to go through with sword play.”#
"But the prophesy?"
“Look Elera I know I’m suppose to be your savior and I know that in all your prophesy the hero rides into battle astride a mighty beast, but, I’m telling you now, no matter how safe you try and tell me it is and how much you try to persuade me, there is no way I’m mounting him," She looked up at Dracon, "no offense"
"None taken" He said with one of his majestic bows, that he still insisted upon indulging Haylie with.
"I think I’ll stick with Garrano thanks, she's as finer horse as any and a reel companion to me"
After the conversation was over Haylie found a quiet place to sit and relax, in the bows of a tall old oak tree; she had scaled the relatively short base of the trunk and hauled herself onto a sizable branch that curved up to the sky from the tree, forming a nice comfortable seat. But Elera was almost never tired she was standing practicing some sort of spell with some water and steam, and from her vantage point Haylie watched her practice and Ringmore pack up the tents and supplies. After a while Elera decided it was time to press on so Haylie climbed down from her tree and helped pack the last things into the hot leather saddle bags. After they had finished packing up the camp and Elera had whisked away any trace of them being there, Haylie clambered up onto her saddle, feeling comforted by Garrano’s steady heart beat beneath her and followed the others past the old watch tower, while Dracon shot into the air like an arrow from a bow and flew overhead.
“So what are we doing now exactly?” Asked Ringmore
“We are riding to the Louare valley to search for Killga, then I have a feeling we should ride to the Silverline Forest to see if we can do anything about Merdocks men who are cutting down the forest to scatter the last pockets of free peoples, now that Haylie has become a master swordsman” Elera answered.