~ * ~
Kissre woke to the feel of a knife blade creasing her throat. Just below her ear. Her eyes flicked open, her body stiffened. It was dark, but a hint of light indicated pre-dawn. "Up, Kissre," a well-known voice demanded in whispered tones. "Up, now."
"Quillon? There are at least three candlemarks before we leave."
"Quiet. You'll wake everyone. Up, laze-about. It's time to earn your keep. You need practice." He pushed her with a rough hand and laid a practice shield and sword next to her sleep roll.
Fudge stood next to him, head cocking side to side, looking down at Kissre in soundless interest. Staggering as she rose, Kissre dressed and followed Quillon. In a field not far from the camp, he ordered her to put Fudge at stay. Then he started the session. After her time with the Cygnese army, she thought her body recovered. Quillon showed her the truth. Within a trice he had found her weak spots and hammered mercilessly on them till she could no longer keep her guard up against his attack. Agility and timing failed at each assault. Quillon's wood practice blade pounded bruises onto her flesh. His buckler caught her and she fell.
"You call yourself security? You sleep so soundly an assassin can get a knife to your throat. You're out of breath before starting practice. Your left side is so weak and stiff you can't hold a buckler properly. You limp like a crone, and seem to have forgotten every defense you ever knew. How good are you at attack?" Kissre didn't answer the gloating, taunting voice. She couldn't. Her burning lungs demanded air more than her pride needed to protest Quillon's denunciation. "It's too late to get someone else, so I'll have to ensure you are capable of carrying out your duty."
Unable to move with his sword point held at her throat, Kissre groaned and collapsed. Quillon laughed. "Yes, you know what to expect. Put your weapons down. You need to build your strength. A short run would be a good beginning. If you can run."
~ * ~
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