Copyright 2015 Kelly St Clare
The next morning the men eat in sullen silence. After eating, Crystal directs me through a set of worn double doors I haven’t been allowed through yet. One of the doors is too big for the frame and doesn’t fully close.
The girl leading me has a red tinge to her blonde hair. She’s pretty, and the shortest Bruma I’ve seen since being taking hostage from Osolis. I think she’d only be about fifteen or so. This is how old the others think I am, too. I haven’t corrected them.
I push through the doors and see there is a gymnasium, as they call it, inside which is twice the size of the one I’ve been training in. A quarter of the room is littered with stone weights, bars and pulley systems. Mats covers another quarter. The remaining half is largely cleared space, but there is a built up stone ring down one end. It’s as large as the round meeting tables in the King’s castle. But this ring has walls around which are two times my height.
Shard and Avalanche head for the opposite end, as far away from me as possible. I get the message.
The three of us begin our warm up. Shard and Avalanche jog back and forth in the clear space. I go through a warm up sequence of Aquins on the mats, getting faster and faster. I stop when sweat is rolling down the side of my face. Usually my veil would be soaked by now and I would have the smell of stale sweet a finger-width from my face. I’d discovered it was just one of the perks of not having it on anymore.
“Where are those three fools?” Alzona barks at Crystal. I’d be running if I was Crystal. Having all of Alzona’s attention is a little terrifying. Unlike Crystal, she’s normal height for a Bruma woman, which puts her at the same height as most of the men here. Her nose is crooked and her features are sharp, just like her tongue. She’s not beautiful, but she is so striking it takes a while to realise it.
Crystal gives Alzona a dry look and ignores her request, going over to her seat to traul through a stack of papers instead. I think she helps Alzona with the running of the compound, though no one has confirmed this. No one has confirmed anything, so it’s not unusual. Alzona smiles a little at the girls retreating back and turns to the rest of us.
“You lot can start. We’ll do the ring first,” she says. “Newbie, watch and learn.”
Shard and Avalanche move into the ring. Avalanche closes the heavy door behind him with a loud grating noise and faces Shard across the ring.
“Ring the bell and please go and tell the others if they aren’t in here in two minutes they can pack their bags and get the fuck out.” Alzona yells over her shoulder.
The bell rings.