Champion of the light, p.25
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       Champion of the Light, p.25

           David Castleton
 

  Chapter Twenty Four

  That afternoon Andrew practiced again with Finor. He was a very exacting instructor. He would not move on to the next move until Andrew mastered the preceding one to perfection.

  "I would rather fight a man who has practiced a thousand moves one time, then a man who has practiced one move a thousand times," Finor often said.

  Andrew spent much of his free time playing with Finor's daughter, Cenefore, though Finor disapproved, saying that Cenefore should spend more time studying so she should grow up to be a proper elf.

  At times Teltibane gave Andrew random bits of advice that he couldn't seem to understand.

  "Even a thin stick can serve as an impregnable shield, if wielded right."

  "If the way under is blocked, then you must go over."

  "Where there is no path, forge one where there isn't."

  Andrew could not make heads or tails of these cryptic words, but he locked them away in his memory all the same, trusting that he would one day understand.

 

  One evening, Andrew was walking on the second floor of the castle, when he heard a loud humming sound coming from behind a closed door. It sounded like fifty refrigerators humming together. His curiosity got the better of him as he pushed the door open a crack to peek inside.

  The room was circular in shape. There was a circle of pillars in every color surrounding its center.

  In the middle stood Teltibane. His head was thrown back, and his eyes were closed. Fanned out behind him was his long white hair.

  "Hissssss."

  A cloud of smoky mist stretched out from each of the pillars that surrounded the center of the room, towards Teltibane's outstretched fingers. The colored tendrils of smoke were all bright and vivid. All but one. Blue's.

  Blue's mist was dark and murky, as if cast in shadow.

  Andrew stared at the spectacle, wondering what it all meant. Then the humming sound got lower, and the tendrils of mist receded into the pillars as the noise stopped completely.

  Teltibane lowered his hands, and opened his eyes. "Hello Andrew."

  Andrew jumped. He didn't think that he could be seen from behind the door. Had he disturbed some sort of mystic ritual?

  "This is my Color Sensing Room. I use it to measure the vitality and stability of the Colors. Blue's has been darkening, fading, for some time now. He will surely declare war on Green soon. Andrew." Teltibane turned to look him straight in the eye, and began to speak with urgency. "You must train harder! You must train well! It breaks me to place so heavy a burden on such young shoulders. But you have been Chosen. There can be no other! So much depends on you. Now, promise me that you will push yourself to do all that you are capable of doing."

  "Okay," said Andrew. "I promise."

  "Thank you, Andrew. The young are more suited for the task. Becoming a true Champion is as much in the mind and spirit as it is in the strength and physical ability. One must have the right mindset, or the Light will have little effect. Younger minds are more receptive to change. If one is not actually young himself, then he must at least be young of mind."

  Teltibane gave Andrew a sad smile.

  "Now, you get a good night's sleep. If you defeat Kiara in two out of three tomorrow, we may move on to other things."

  "Yes sir," Andrew made to go to his room.

  "And Andrew?"

  "Yes?"

  "Good luck! May the Light lead you."

 

  The next three days found Andrew occasionally beating Kiara in a match, but never in best of three. Andrew read Martial Arts Illuminated every night, devouring its words and diagrams like a starving man devours food.

  The book had a multifarious collection of moves and techniques. Everything from expert tips on the best way to throw a 'basic' punch, to advanced yoga breathing techniques, to complex kicks and throws.

  Mr. Ososaka had travelled far and wide, both on Earth and in the Color Realms, seeking out the masters, and including the cream of their knowledge in his book.

  Andrew woke early every morning to limber up with stretches and exercises. Every day he hoped would be the day when he finally bested Kiara. But her immense strength and vast knowledge would always defeat him.

  Finally one day, Andrew's studying payed off. He bested Kiara in two out of three in the first set, and in three out of three in the second. The spectators cheered. Their Champion had his first victory.

  Kiara attempted her signature roundhouse kick—the one that had sent Andrew soaring so many times in the past—many times that day. Each time, Andrew responded differently. Once he ducked, and countered with a low sweeping kick of his own, toppling her to the floor. Another he blocked with his forearm, and followed with a mid-level kick to her midsection. And he found other ways to counter as well. As his knowledge broadened, his fight improved.

  "Splendid," said Teltibane. He waved his arm, and a gold band appeared on the upper arm of Andrew's gi. "You have advanced in rank. Much of the remainder of your training will be with me now."

  Andrew felt a deep sense of accomplishment run through him. His first victory.

  "I knew you could do it," said Greybeard. He winked. "Just don't go too hard on Kiara now, all right?"

 

  They went for lunch, a spread of delectable salads and vegetable juice.

  "I have found some astonishing bits of information in various ancient Dwarvish books that I have come across in Tondlen's library," said Greybeard. "Dwarvish historians all wonder, why didn't Thesnulg the Stout come to his nephew Barglin Bloodfist's aid at the Battle of the Orange River? He certainly had the manpower and supplies needed to help his nephew and avert the massacre of Barglin's dwarves at the hands of the second Ries Elf Triumvirate that ensued."

  "Yes indeed," said Teltibane. "That question has puzzled many a historian for centuries, dwarf, elf, and man alike. What did you find?"

  "By the account of a dwarf soldier who was there at the time, the crafty Elf Lord Snarfax captured a trusted advisor of Barglin's, Ragskund son of Gagskund. He then bewitched him to ride to Thesnulg with a message that all was well, and his assistance would not be needed! Thesnulg didn't doubt the word of the trusted Ragskund, hence the direly needed aid was never sent."

  "That certainly explains the mystery," said Finor.

  "What else did you find of interest?" asked Kiara.

  Greybeard smiled. "Listen to this. The puzzle of the golden goblets of Turan King. You are familiar?"

  "Turan King had no children," said Finor. "He had three identical exquisite goblets created, each with an exact height and weight, and with perfectly precise proportions. They were covered with intricate designs, and impossible to replicate. He then had the goblets hidden throughout his Realm, in places where only the boldest of dwarves dare venture. Turan's Realm was to be divided between the finders of the cups. If only one was found, there would be only one King. If all three were found, his Realm would be split into three."

  "But four golden goblets were found!" said Kiara. "All exactly the same. Proportions, designs, weight, everything!"

  "Yet Turan had them made in a way that they would be impossible to duplicate. He even enchanted them to be impervious to a replicating charm. But still four were found, and the Realm was divided in four," said Teltibane.

  "Aye," said Greybeard. "That is the great mystery of Turan's Goblets. But there is another, much lesser known mystery, concerning one Blundlop, son of Guldop. Blundlop was the Royal Smith in the court of Turan King. It was he who was originally commissioned to fashion the goblets to Turan's preferences. He had a very good job, working in the employ of the King. One that afforded him much comfort. And after Turan's death, he was retained in the service of the new King."

  Greybeard took a large bite of salad. "Exactly one year after Turan's death, Blundlop retired. He quit, and moved far away, never to be heard of again by the dwarves of Turan's Realm, where he had lived all his life."
r />   He took a long swig of carrot juice. "Years later, a dwarf named Nelck wrote a book on the history of Turan King, his times and his wars. She investigated the enigma of the golden goblets for her book, determined to find the truth. Nelck thought it very strange that Blundlop retire at the height of his career, when he had so much going for him. Perhaps it had something to do with the mystery of the cups. She searched high and low for him. It took her ten long years to track him down, for he had long since changed his name and identity. When she finally caught up with him, what she found was an old and sickly dwarf, but one who was living like a king, with every luxury imaginable. After some pressure, Blundlop the Smith confessed. It was he who had surreptitiously fashioned the fourth cup, thereby breaking his oath to his King. But what was his motive?"

  "Yes, what did he have to gain?" Andrew asked.

  "He made a deal with the finder of the fourth cup, Grynkle son of Vynkle. The goblet and the Kingship, in exchange for twenty percent of the tax gold that Grynkle would collect as ruler. Then he retired, moved far away, and lived off the ill-gotten tax money for the rest of his life."

  "Wow," said Finor. "Who would suspect that one of the King's personal servants would break his oath of loyalty like that?"

  "What happened next?" Andrew asked.

  "Blundlop was remorseful in his old age for the crimes he had committed against his King and his people. Much of his cut of the tax money had been invested over the years, with him not being able to spend even a fraction of the tremendous amount on himself. He wrote all of his considerable assets to Nelck the historian, and instructed her to return it to the dwarves that he had stolen it from."

  Greybeard took a big forkful of slig salad.

  "And then what happened?" asked Andrew.

  "Blundlop died, with no relatives. Nelck saw to it that he got a proper dwarvish burial. The wealth of Blundlop filled many a wagon. Nelck hired no less than six armed guards to escort her back to Turan's Realm."

  "So did it all work out in the end?" Kiara asked. "Was the money returned to its rightful owners? Was Grynkle removed from the throne?"

  "Alas, no. Nelck and her entourage were accosted by Lenowin and his bandits, on the road. The guards were killed. The treasure seized. And Nelck returned home just as she had come: with nothing but her unfinished book and the clothes on her back. Her original account of Turan's history now resides in the Library of the Seeker. It was never finished, due to various sicknesses that plagued Nelck for much of her later life. The hunt to find Blundlop took a big toll on her health."

  "What happened to Grynkle?" Finor asked.

  "Grynkle ruled a fourth of Turan's Realm for the rest of his life, and his son after him. Without the tax money, Nelck had no proof of her story. Suspicion was equal on all four of the finders."

  "Money can sway even the best of men. Especially large amounts of it," said Kiara.

  "Real history doesn't always have a happy ending," Teltibane remarked. "Thank you Ganvian, for solving some of Dwarvish history's greatest riddles for us. Now, back to the present. Andrew, you have proven that you can fight on a high level. Finor has been going in order until now, starting from the basics, and working upwards from there. From now on he will be instructing you in more advanced techniques. King Blue fights with a staff, so there will be a special focus on stick-fighting, something that you will find to require considerable skill. And, tomorrow morning you will be training and sparring with me."

  "Okay," said Andrew. "It's great to move on."

  "Good. Off to the training room you go."

  Andrew and Finor started to practice with the six foot bo staff. They went through stance, proper grip, basic strikes, spinning and figure eight techniques.

  That night Andrew joined the castle workers in their customary singing on the third floor, read a bit of Martial Arts Illuminated, and retired early. Tomorrow was his first match with Teltibane. He would be tested against the old master.

  The next morning Andrew ate and went to the courtyard in front of the castle. They bowed, and the fight began.

  Teltibane embodied the perfection of martial arts. Light on his feet, relaxed, smooth, fluid; flowing from one move to the next with ease and grace. Andrew thought that he gave new meaning to the term martial 'art.'

  Andrew had learnt by now that in the martial arts, sometimes one must follow the lead of his intellect, and other times one must allow his instincts to take control. Teltibane understood how to strike the perfect balance between the two. The result was stunning.

  It was more than a week before Andrew was able to claim his first victory against the ancient virtuoso. But the whole time he was learning and absorbing from the way Teltibane moved, soaking in his superb style.

  Once, Andrew attempted a highly advanced move that he found in Martial Arts Illuminated during a match between him and the old master. But Teltibane read the move with such ease, that Andrew wondered aloud where he had gone wrong.

  "I knew Mr. Ososaka," said Teltibane. "In fact, I taught him that move, for inclusion in his book. Of course he knew me under a different name then..."

  So Andrew was training with a master who was on such a high level that other masters learnt from him. Cool.

  Andrew also studied the art of stick fighting hard.

  "The staff is an extension of you," Finor taught. "You think, it moves. No intermission. No delay."

 
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