Chapter 14-Training Begins
It had been two weeks since Lenitia’s death and Draco’s return. Jenny had proposed the idea of training with swords to Harry, who agreed that it would help and the two of them asked the Rangers about it. The Rangers agreed and the plan was formed that on the first of March, when Bridge would go back to Newtech to visit his sick grandmother on her birthday, he would also get a selection of training swords and bows and arrows.
It was now the first Saturday of March and the D.A. was out on the Quidditch Pitch. The D.A. stood in the centre of the pitch facing the Rangers, who had taken off their robes and were wearing their normal S.P.D. uniforms. Syd stepped forward, one of the S.P.D. training swords gleaming in her hand.
“Even though you all will be given the choice between swordsmanship and archery, we feel it would be best if you all knew the basics skills with a sword to protect yourself,” she explained, pacing back and forth in front of the group. She stopped and looked over her shoulder at Sky and nodded. “Sky is an apprentice level swordsman. Before we begin, he and I will give you a demonstration using these blunt blades.”
Sky stepped forward, another training sword in his hand. The two moved in front of each other, and bowed. When they straightened up, they both raised their swords and they met with a clang at eye level. They then shifted their bodies and had the swords meet once more just above the grass of the pitch. Syd gave a small nod and the two then began to circle each other, their eyes not moving from their opponent as they slowly glided in a circle on the grass, swords raised in a defensive position.
Then before anyone observing could blink, they rushed forward and the swords met with a clang. Syd pressed forward, forcing Sky back a few feet and into a defensive position. Syd rushed forward so quickly that Sky was only just able to raise his sword up in time to block her attack. Sky then pushed her back and spun around with his sword to attack. She met this attack with equal force and pushed him back once more.
These constant and forceful attacks continued. For a few moments, neither of them seemed to be gaining the upper hand, until Syd saw her opening and went for it. It happened so quickly that Sky never saw it coming. After having Syd pushed him back once more, he began to bring his sword back up to attack. Syd went down and her blade hit him in the side with such force all his breath was knocked out of him. His sword was knocked out of his hand and landed several feet away as he fell to his knees, the tip of Syd’s sword press against his neck. “Dead.”
“Well of course I’m dead. I’ve never been able to beat you,” Sky replied sarcastically as Syd removed the sword from his neck and offered him her hand to help him up.
“So we’re going to be learning how to protect ourselves from attacks like that?” asked Dean, who was in awe at the demonstration he had just seen.
“Basically,” Syd replied with a small shrug. There was a thud on the ground in the rear of the group and they turned to see that Neville had passed out and was lying on the grass, Luna kneeling on the ground next to him, bending over his unconscious form.
“I think a Flagnort got him," she announced to the group.
“Anyway,” began Syd, before anyone could ask what a Flagnort was. “Before we begin teaching you the basics, Bridge is going to give an archery demonstration. If he hits the centre, it will turn green.”
Bridge grinned in excitement as he turned around so he now had his back to the group, his bow in his right hand and a quiver of arrows slung over his shoulder. On the far end of the pitch underneath the goal posts behind the Rangers sat a single target, the red bulls-eye almost winking at them in the sunlight.
With his left hand, he reached back and pulled a single arrow from the quiver. He brought the arrow to his bow in front of him pointing down, and nocked the arrow. He then raised the loaded bow up to eye level, pulled back on the string where it was parallel with his chin and released. With a ‘twang’ the arrow was released and flew through the air. A few seconds of total silence as the group watched the target. With a small and distant ‘plunk’, the bull’s-eye turned green. The crowd of about fifty in the Quidditch Pitch cheered and patted a grinning Bridge on the back.
“Now, everyone take a practice sword and line up in lines with ten feet between you and the next person,” explained Syd, as Z went over to the stands and brought over a large bag full of training swords. As people moved forward to get a sword, Syd notice that Neville was still passed out. She sighed and rolled her eyes. “And someone pour some water on Neville to wake him up.”
The training continued in the same fashion for the next month. Every evening after dinner, when there was no Quidditch or choir practice, the D.A. meet in the Room of Requirement and line up to train for an hour or two. On the weekends, time providing, they would practice down on the field. The entire group learned the basics of using a sword, but while some decided to focus on the sword, others discovered they were more proficient with the bow.
Jenny had discovered that working with swords was like a dance, a very dangerous dance, and had found that she was not a very good dancer. While she was able to defend herself for a little bit, she would end up beaten every time. But while she was not a good swordsman, she had taken a liking to the bow and arrow.
Harry on the other hand found that wielding a sword came easily to him, in a similar way that flying was. When he had first taken a practice sword from Z, the weight in his hand seemed natural and when he sparred, his moves were swift and fluid and excelled quickly. It came naturally to him and was soon learning more sophisticated moves from Sky.
Now, it was the third Saturday of April and they had now been training just over a month and a half. The Quidditch Pitch had been split between the two groups; one side was practicing archery and the other was sparring with swords. The archers were lined up horizontally across the field and firing at targets between fifty and one hundred feet away. While on the other side of the Pitch, the group was being split into pairs to spar while Syd walked between them and helped them while watching their progress. It was during this session that Harry found himself set against Sky, who was not nearly as good as Syd but still a very good swordsman.
“Ready?” asked Sky as the two stood near the centre of the Pitch, practice swords in their hands. Harry nodded and the two bowed to each other, a practice the Rangers had explained that Commander Cruger had implied to have the cadets learn to respect their opponents during practice and during battle. And so the two did the customary mark of respect by bowing to each other and then hitting their blades; once up near eye level and then once more down towards the ground before taking defensive positions and beginning to circle each other.
Sky rushed forward and Harry quickly lifted his sword and blocked the attack, the blades meeting with a defiant ‘clang’. With a grunt Harry pushed him back before attacking. And so the fierce and dangerous dance continued. Blocking his opponent and dodging Sky’s attacks with ease, Harry was soon on the offence of this dance. Soon most of the people that were sparring had stopped to watch the fight between Harry and Sky, thought neither of them were aware of the many watching eyes for they keep their focus on the face of their opponent to try and gauge the next move.
What happened next shocked everyone. Sky rushed at Harry once more, only for their blades to meet again before Harry pushed him back with such force that Sky stumbled. While he stumbled Harry whirled around and Sky quickly raised his blade to block Harry’s attack, the edge of Harry’s blade hitting the flat side of Sky’s just above the hilt. With a swift twist of his wrist, Harry sent Sky’s sword flying out of his hand as the tip of Harry’s sword pressed lightly against his defeated opponent’s neck. The entire sparing side of the pitch was silent at what had just happened.
Jenny had just nocked an arrow when she felt a wave of shock roll over her. She lowered the bow in confusion and turned around from the targets to face the other side of the Pitch. She felt her jaw drop. There in the middle of the Pitch stood Harry and Sky, the tip of Harry’s sword up to Sky’s neck. Her lips curled into a smile as she punched the air and broke into a run towards her brother, slinging her bow over her shoulder as she ran.
Harry blinked several times before lowering his sword from Sky’s neck, still in disbelief at what he had just accomplished. Sky stared at him too, panting heavily. Harry lowered the sword to his side and looked around, noticing for the first time that the entire sparing side of the field was staring at them. A yell from the archer’s side of the Pitch on his right made him look around to see Jenny running towards him with a smile on her face, Hermione and the rest of the archers not far behind her.
From his left someone had suddenly collided with him, a someone with long, bright red hair. He looked down to see Ginny smiling up at him, pride shinning in her brown eyes. A laugh from Sky made him look back up at the apprentice swords men to see that Syd now stood next to him, both of them smiling at him. “Looks like Syd’s no longer the only one here that I can expect a butt whopping from.”
At that moment Jenny jumped onto him and Ginny, squeezing them both in a bone crushing hug before releasing them and standing beside Harry. ”Yep. Looks like you got some competition, Syd. Ready to test him yet?”
Test? What test?,
thought Harry in confusion.
A spar against Syd. If you beat her, it means you’re a master level swordsmen. If not, you’re just an apprentice level like Sky.
“We’ll test him next weekend,” replied Syd, smiling at Harry before wrapping an arm around Sky’s waist as the two began to make their way out of the Pitch, meeting up with Bridge and Z on the way out. Harry however was stuck in the middle of the Pitch, the entire D.A. surrounding him, yelling their congratulations at his achievement.