Lords of Freedom is an exciting new novel including adventure, realistic action, surprising insights, and a touch of romance. Enjoy a new chapter every week. Prior chapters can be found here.
Lords of Freedom—Chapter 10—Tactics
Training of one kind or another filled most days for Xan. Much of that training focused on protecting one individual. Mock battles were staged nearly every day, demonstrating how quickly a large number of attackers could overwhelm and defeat them.
Jartan reminded them often, in the face of frustration when they were trounced, that the additional power and equipment promised by Sekhmet would come, but only when they reached the peak of their natural abilities.
Jartan ordered additional attackers and defenders in the ongoing battles, and eventually, they found the practical maximum number of defenders was seven. With that number, they consistently held off forces more than double their number.
Hour after hour, day in and day out, Jartan drilled on tactics—the most efficient and effective strategy to keep Red out of dangerous situations and even avoid battles if possible. As well, methods of limiting Red’s exposure to the blue attackers were practiced, along with when to attack, and when to retreat. There was also training on how to detect and defend against stealthy assassins. Fighting on the battlefield was one thing; avoiding an arrow in the back when there was no open fighting was entirely another.
One day near the beginning of the year, Jartan called everyone to order, before embarking on tactical exercises. He carried with him a large parchment which he held up for all to see.
“For tactical purposes, we need to have a system of measurement that is universally understandable,” he began. “Since Thoth is a king of measurement, he could instruct us in many sophisticated and elegant measurement systems, but he has approved a very simple one for our tactical purposes that can be easily understood and incorporated.”
All eyes focused on the parchment.
Cubit = Elbow to fingertip
Long Pace = 2 cubits
Mile = 1760 paces
Half Mile = 880 paces
Quarter Mile = 440 paces
“We will use this simple system related to all weapons and tactical planning and also teach it to those we train and defend,” Jartan concluded.
Xan was presented with a four-and-a-half cubit staff that day. To his surprise, it was longer than his old one and he wondered why the shift now? He was proficient already with the shorter staff.
When he questioned Jartan, the trainer smiled knowingly. “It will be months before you master this staff and fully integrate it into your fighting patterns. Be patient and determined. There is nothing I do without good reason. Trust me on this, and one day you will see exactly what I mean and understand the why of today.”
Xan scowled, but only briefly. He trusted Jartan and his judgment implicitly and determined he would see and understand in weeks, rather than months. Jartan was teaching him a whole new fighting system and referred to it as a path or way of breathing, thinking, moving, and being. He called it Dō.
Jartan’s training also required footwork, balance, and the use of arms, hands, legs, and feet. It required what seemed like endless repetition of movement patterns. It included strikes, chops, punches, stabs, thrusts, and slashes with the hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
Xan was proficient in all these things by now. Incorporating a different staff as an extension of his limbs was merely the next step on the ladder he climbed. This fighting system, Jartan called Bō.
“Once you master the art of Bō and learn to merge it with the practice of Dō, you could defeat as many as ten men on your own,” Jartan told him.
Xan widened his eyes. “How could that be?”
Jartan inclined his head. “Master Dō and Bō; then you will see.”
Sheba also received training from Jartan. Her natural tendency was to bite and claw an enemy to death, but the adept trainer taught her that the main object was to quickly stop the attack, not necessarily kill the enemy. He taught her to attack two or three opponents at the same time by using all four paws and mouth. As she perfected such techniques it was amazing to watch her twist in the air, knock down three attackers at once, and land on her feet.
One morning, Fredrik informed Xan that there would be no training exercises that day. Sekhmet would preside over a special ceremony of empowerment in the Hall of Truth. Accordingly, Xan dressed in formal attire and was pleasantly surprised to find Solomon waiting for him in the boat with Sheba at his side.
“Solomon?” Xan queried, clasping his mentor’s hand.
“Today marks a landmark in your training. Sheba and I will accompany you across the lake and into the Hall of Truth.”
Sheba purred, low and loud in her throat; then she sprang lightly into the boat. Xan noted that it barely rocked, demonstrating her prowess now—her mastery of Jartan’s instruction.
Jartan himself met them at the dock, nodding at Sheba’s graceful exit. The great cat yawned, fangs gleaming, as though acknowledging as much.
Xan stepped off the boat next, shook Jartan’s hand, and then stepped back as Solomon joined him. He also shook Jartan’s hand then the three of them followed Sheba to the Hall of Truth.
Thoth and Ma’at were seated already, in the room where Xan had first arrived…as Juel. Thinking how much he had learned since then, he nodded his head, as both gods stood.
“Welcome,” Thoth smiled. “Please, be seated.”
Ma’at sounded the gong, and moments later the grand doors opened. Sekhmet strode in, also dressed formally, with her hair twisted up atop her head.
Taking center stage, she intoned: “Alexandros, you are now approaching the summit of your natural abilities and the time has come to endow you with enhanced weapons and armor.”
From the table, she picked up a wood-grained staff. “This is your new staff. It is four and a half cubits long, composed of wood, and is the perfect weight for walking and fighting. In addition to its natural elements, it has been infused with cosmic energy, rendering it unbreakable. In the future, we plan to endow you and this staff with additional powers.”
Looking directly into Xan’s eyes Sekhmet continued, “In a mortal world there will be death. The question is, who will die, the victim or the violator? Always remember, your duty is to protect the victim. Used wisely, this staff and your other weapons will help you defeat many enemies.”
“How do issues of defense and death apply to Sheba?”
“Sheba is not human. She is by nature a predator that must kill in order to live. She is judged by a different standard than you. Part of the reason she has been chosen to be your protector is that she will value your life above all others. No human, including you, is authorized to judge or rebuke her in matters of life and death, and you are not responsible for her choices.”
After that explanation, Sekhmet handed Xan a hand axe, long knife, and short knife. “These weapons are like the ones you have carried for years. They have also been made indestructible and will always maintain a sharp edge in honor of your performance in the hidden canyon. The handle of the long knife and one end of the staff have been crafted so that they will snap together to form an unbreakable and perfectly balanced spear.”
Finally, she handed Xan a set of clothes that looked like they were made from light soft leather but were surprisingly hard in some places. “In order to fulfill your mission without giving away too much or infringing upon freedom, it is vital that you be mortal, subject to pain and death. However, your missions will be so uniquely dangerous that extra protection is needed. Therefore, this subtle armor is designed to be worn under your normal clothing and will help will defect any blow, weapon, or projectile. Here is an armored head-covering to wear when danger dictates, along with reinforced boots and gloves, to protect your hands and feet.”
Turning to Sheba she said, “Despite your great skill, speed, and strength, you are vulnerable to a sword, spear, or arrow. You will be in battles where such weapons will be employed against you and you will die if not protected, yet you must also be mortal.
“Visible armor would not suit you, so from this time forth you will be surrounded by cosmic armor which neither you nor anyone else will be able to see or feel. It will not inhibit you in any way. You will be able to touch and be touched but it has been linked with enough intelligence to detect and deflect most weapons and projectiles. Also, it will filter out poisons from food, air, or water.”
Sheba did not like the idea of being surrounded by anything and she projected: No armor.
“Then the day will come when Xan will die because you will not be there to protect him,” Sekhmet said sadly.
Sheba looked distressed, shivered, twitched her tail, and projected her acceptance of the armor.
All present smiled and Sekhmet brought the ceremony to a close.
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