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The clattering sound of horses’ hooves on cobble stone roads mixed with the chatter of a market place at midday. Fruit and vegetable vendors were selling their various produce, from their portable stands. The talk of butchers and bakers flew into the streets from established shops. The smithies and woodshops and dress shops were open for business, men and women alike moving in and out of the various establishments. The mages and charm sellers were busy as well. At the center of the market road was a large fountain, which children splashed in and played while the parents worked.
Off from the fountain square, lead various roads, many of which were unused. After the market road, the three other famous roads was the one that lead up the city hill, to the governor’s house, the road that lined with temples to the various gods, and the third road leading down to the sea, where the trading ships docked and unloaded. Along the road up the city hill was where all the learning establishments were. It was up this road that a young man walked alone, amid the crowds of people heading to their various destinations.
He was a man in his very early twenties, just sporting the beginnings of a beard, as he hadn’t been able to shave on his journey. His hair was a dark chocolate color, kept tidy enough to satisfy the old ladies at home, but no more than that. His skin was a light mahogany color, after his journey to the city, having traveled through the late spring. His eyes were a dark gray color that rarely drew people’s attention. He was tall, easily six feet, and although he had a thin frame, his body was cords of muscle. He wore a simple olive colored cotton tunic and brown pants. At his belt, hung a sword in its sheath, this being the only visible weapons he carried. Around his throat hung a ruby on a chain, strange markings etched into the gem.
He was halfway along the upward road when he turned onto a side road. He followed this for a little while until he came to a large estate, tall, white walls surrounding the entire property. Large wooden doors were left slightly open, showing that passersby were allowed to enter. The man took this invitation and strode into the courtyard of the estate.
The courtyard was filled with teenage boys dressed in the garb of those in combat training. The boys were centered in the middle of the dirt yard. Adults watched from along the walls and from the porch of the school estate, judging the boys and their abilities. All of the adults were men. Some were the boys’ teachers, seeing how they had improved in their fighting abilities. Some were fathers, wanting to view their sons in glory. And some were men looking for new apprentices for their particular trades.
The man had entered the courtyard and another man instantly came up to him, a smile on his face. This man was older, in his early forties, his black hair beginning to thin and gray. His face was wide and open, though his eyes were the color of night and were as alert as an owl’s.
“Master Jodek,” the elder man said, approaching the younger. “It is an honor to have you here. I am Master Timeda, in charge of this facility.”
Master Jodek smiled. “I have heard much of your school Master Timeda, and of the young ones you teach. I have heard only the best send their sons here and only the best come out.”
Master Timeda smiled and led Master Jodek over to the porch, to talk in the shade. As they strode around the courtyard, Master Jodek was able to get a better view of the young men at the center of the yard and of their opponent, who at that moment kicked young one man in the stomach, hard enough to knock him down.
“Who is the one the boys are fighting?” Master Jodek inquired.
Master Timeda grinned. “That is Miss Kayvana Lidetna.”
Master Jodek eyed the elder man, sternly. “Miss?”
At that point, Kayvana tossed one of the boys, who had tried to get her from behind, over her shoulder, throwing him into the ground. The boy groaned in pain and did not get up. Another boy came in to take his turn against the girl. He threw a punch at her, which she easily dodged by dropping onto the ground. Sweeping her leg around, she knocked the boy out from under his feet and was instantly standing again to face her next opponent.
Jodek raised an eyebrow as he watched. “She’s good.”
Timeda chuckled. “Good? She’s one of the best fighters I’ve ever seen. She’s quick, nimble, agile. And what’s more, no expects someone like her to know so much about street fighting.”
Kayvana was landing a heavy kick to the next teen’s abdomen, with enough force to send him flying into the courtyard’s wall. Jodek now got a better look at the girl.
She was tall, he guessed about his height, and lean. There was no extra of her, and what there was, Jodek suspected was muscle, though he wasn’t able to see clearly. Her sun burnt hair was in a long braid down her back, which she now used as a sort of whip, twisting her head away and back again at her opponent. Her skin was a tanned color and her face was alive and alert. When she turned her face in his direction, Jodek saw that her eyes were a piercing bluish-white color that reminded him of lightning.
“Where’d she learn?” he asked Timeda, not taking his eyes off the young woman.
“Never says, though I’ve asked her plenty of times. My guess would be from some of the temple priestesses. The first thing a priestess of this city learns is how to defend herself from the scum of this world. From what I’ve been able to hear, Kayvana once had a close call with some thugs and some novices were luckily there to help. She’s been a friend of the priestesses ever since.”
“What’s she doing here then?”
Timeda sighed. “I try to teach these boys how to fight and protect what’s important to them and to respect each other. That message gets through, but it sometimes comes with a price. When some of the boys are rumored to be spreading trouble with the women of this city, no matter what their social status, Kayvana comes in and gives the boys a lesson. Shows them that the women of this city are to be respected just like the men. Getting their butts kicked by her is a better lesson than I can give. And she knows some techniques that I’ve never even seen.”
Jodek nodded, as Kayvana jumped off the ground and flipped in the air to land on the shoulders of her last opponent. She pushed off him, thus shoving him into the ground, and giving her enough momentum to flip in the air again and land on her feet with grace. She looked around steadily. All the boys in uniforms were either on the ground or just beginning to rise, groaning and wincing in pain.
“I certainly hope you all got the message,” she called to them, her voice ringing clear and crisp. “Or you can all expect another battering session tomorrow. Understand?”
No one answered. She didn’t expect one and didn’t need one. She came up towards Master Timeda, small smile on her lips.
Timeda stepped forward. “I believe they’ll behave now, Kayvana. Thank you so much for your instruction.”
“My pleasure. Though I wish, I didn’t have to. The people of this city deserve the same respect as that of noblemen, whether male or female, rich or poor. It disgusts me when the upper class forgets that.”
Timeda nodded, understanding. “The lower class is lucky to have you, especially the women. It’s an honor to have you here, Miss Lidetna,” he finished, giving her a slight bow.
Kayvana smiled warmly and bowed in return. When she straightened, she turned her attention to Master Jodek. As she passed him to leave the courtyard, she said softly to him, “I would hide that ruby pendant of yours, if I were you.”
Jodek raised an eyebrow at her. “Why would I do that?”
“I would hide it, unless, of course, you want the entire city to know that a Kenkatzui Master is looking for an apprentice. Now, I might be wrong, but I highly doubt that’s what you want.” And with that, she strode out of the courtyard and back into the city streets.
Jodek looked after her, wondering just how far those lightning eyes of hers could see.