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The next morning Dylan and Terran eyed the approaching swordmaster with wary expressions. He was carrying four wooden pieces that resembled swords in their design, but were blunt.
Terran gulped and Dylan shifted from foot to foot – half in anxiety and half in anticipation. For the first time in his life, he was not thinking of the logic or analyzing facts and figures. He was doing something impulsive and risky.
It was an exciting feeling.
His brother’s distress wasn’t lost on him though. As obsessed as Terran was with fantasy and fiction, it was one thing to love all things about it and another to be able to physically become like the heroes of your imagination.
Dylan could feel Terran’s worry that he wouldn’t be able to do this. Despite the King’s instruction the previous night, the brothers were still novices at blocking off the bond they shared and emotions still filtered through strongly most of the time. Like now. Dylan put a hand on Terran’s forearm and squeezed his support.
“Dylan, Terran,” King Menkin said from their right. “This is Carlin, the swordmaster. He has trained the best of our warriors in sword-fighting with two blades; which is what most Oran practice.”
Reaching out, Carlin handed each boy one practice sword, which drew confused stares from the brothers. “I thought you said two?” Dylan said as he held the heavy wood in his hand and adjusted his grip until it felt right. Carlin was watching him closely as he did it.
The King chose to answer. “It is best for a beginner to start with one sword. If the talent is there, they can progress to two and then to live steel.”
He glanced at Carlin as the elder Oran shifted his gaze to Terran – who was fidgeting with the practice blade in his hand, but who had not tried to settle it into a comfortable position like his brother.
The two Oran met each others gazes and silently communicated. Carlin reached out and adjusted Terran’s grip himself and the boy looked up at him and blinked, then nodded and muttered, “Thanks.”
Dylan waited for the Oran to adjust his grip too, but was surprised when the swordmaster simply gave it a cursory inspection and left it alone.
Terran didn’t miss it and frowned.
Another thing Dylan was going to be better at.
Jealousy flared up in the dark-haired boy, but he was bound and determined to hide it from his brother – and with some strong concentration, he felt he had succeeded. He didn’t want Dylan to know how he was feeling, after all.
Soon, Carlin was directing them through simple maneuvers against no opponent and it was quickly apparent that Dylan was a natural. Without being told, he let his body relax and the techniques flowed easily.
For Terran, it was difficult to get his arm to obey his mind. And even when it did, his feet seemed to have a mind of their own as well. He knew what he had to do, but his
body seemed unwilling to listen.
It was frustrating to be stopped, adjusted and then allowed to go time and time again, but Terran wasn’t one to give in so easily – unless it was something his brother told him to do. He found he always seemed to obey Dylan.
The hours stretched into days of practice, and still, Terran was not showing much sign of improvement. Sure, he could take on a few of the less skilled Oran, but he was not much competition for the intermediates and a far cry from the advanced.
Dylan, on the other hand, had practically soared through all the levels until he was really only challenged by Carlin. It was the talk of the training field – this young Dreamer from Earth who had taken to sword-play like a fish to water.
One afternoon, Terran flopped onto his bed in the brothers’ guest room and twisted until he was facing away from his brother and staring out the balcony opening.
He could hear Dylan stripping his sweaty clothes behind him. Finally, a weight settled on his bed and Dylan nudged him in the back of the shoulder.
“What’s the matter with you?” the blond said. “You were so excited about adventure before, now all you do is mope around. Isn’t this what you wanted?”
Terran huffed. “No.”
Sighing, Terran turned over and looked at his brother, who was wearing a sleeveless tunic after the long afternoon of training. “You don’t get it, do you?” He said testily. “You didn’t want an adventure; you didn’t even want to believe this was real. And look at you. You’re the champion swordsman and at some point you’ll be leading the Oran to victories.” He shook his head. “Me? I’ll be hiding in the back since my skills are so atrocious.”
Dylan didn’t need a twin-bond to hear the jealousy and upset in Terran’s response. He frowned. “I don’t want to lead an army, Terran,” he said. “I’m sorry you don’t seem to have sword-fighting as a talent, but you really didn’t expect it, did you? I mean, you know how you were back home. It takes a lot of coordination…”
Terran bristled. “So you didn’t think I could from the start,” he said angrily. “Why didn’t you just say so and save me all this trouble? Why didn’t any of you? I’m sure it was noticeable from the first moment when Carlin had to adjust my hand to hold the practice sword.”
Realizing that the argument was about to escalate, Dylan stood up from the bed and backed away.
“I’m sorry, Terran,” he said. “Sorry that this isn’t working out the way you had hoped. But I’m not sorry that I’m good at sword-fighting. And I’m not going to apologize for it, either. You need to find your talent because I’m sick of feeling your frustration and your disappointment over our bond.”
He added: “You need to get over this fantasy hero thing you have going on, Terran. This isn’t some novel or movie. It’s real. It’s not just some adventure for you to enjoy, it’s peoples’ lives. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but I had to face it when it became apparent we weren’t going home.”
He turned sharply on his heel and exited the room, leaving Terran to ponder his brother’s words. Was he really being that superficial? Did he really want the fantasy hero status, and was he putting that ahead of helping the people of Karne?
“I’m … such … an … idiot,” he said pointedly. Shaking his head, he stood up and squashed his ruffled hair down. “And starting tomorrow, no more feeling sorry for myself; I’m going to find a way to help these people, even if it’s not something so flashy and heroic as a weapon.”
Terran put aside his childish fantasies and stalked out the door.
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