I slept really well that night. When the early morning light hit my face, I had sort of forgotten about the day before. I had forgotten about Captain, forgotten about Baruka…
I breathed in the fresh mountain air and listened to the sound of the birds singing in the forest around us. I was at peace for the first time in a long time, but then I remembered. As soon as I opened my eyes, I remembered because my eye was sore and swollen still. I pit formed in my stomach, but I had no idea how I was supposed to get to Baruka without Captain finding out.
Loina was sitting there, watching me. What did she want? She looked concerned, but I was not sure why. She fed me and then took me outside the village wall- out the back gate where they kept livestock in a clearing surrounded by fences.
There was a group of men there: more Baruk look-alikes. They were tall, muscular guys with those same mustaches! Loina introduced us, then asked one of them if I could stay to train with them.
“Train with us? This little guy?” they mocked. They weren’t wrong! Compared to them, I looked like I might snap if the breeze was strong enough! Loina insisted, suggesting that if they did not help her out, she could make life very unpleasant for them.
“Why should she care?” I wondered, but the first thing their leader did was to grab my ax and chuckle.
“What is this? Are you going to gather some wood for us?” they all laughed.
“It was my father’s,” I explained, but he had already given it back. Then he noticed the dagger in my boot. This intrigued him.
“Where did you get that?”
“Baruka gave it to me,” I explained. The men then looked at each other like I had said something important.
“Well, then, let’s teach you how to use it,” he said. “I’m Henry, and this is Osten. Let’s get you a real ax and see what you can do!”
It turned out I could do very little, but that was okay. An ax isn’t that complicated to use. You just jab at the person. Jab! Jab! Jab! Yes, like… well, now, what are you doing under the table? Get back up! Okay, then, where was I? Oh, yeah! JAB! JAB! JAB!
You have to control it, not pull it back too far, or you’ll leave yourself open. So that is what I did all that day. I jabbed. Then I jabbed. Then I jabbed even more until my arm was about to fall off! I was invited to Osten’s for dinner, and we had a blast. I woke up on his floor the next day, and we just went back to it: JAB!
When I needed a break, they showed me some of their own weapons. Then talk of Baruk’s sword came up. How had Captain gotten it? I knew, but I did not know what they knew if you know
what I mean! I said I wasn’t sure, but then they suggested that Baruk had given it to Captain as a sign of his engagement to Baruka as it was a family heirloom! Who knew that was a thing? It was like a dowry or something to them, and it meant that, at least as far as they knew, that Baruk must have given his blessing for the union to proceed.
I wondered that night if that was Baruk’s intention when he told me to bring the weapon here. It was odd to recall that little tent I had met him in and to try to imagine him now in the village laughing with his family. He wasn’t anyone important, as far as I knew, so what was I missing? Did he mean that Baruka and I ought to marry? What had I done in giving that sword to Captain?