The blade shone in the torchlight as it thrust forward, and the boy screamed, running towards the assailant, but he seemed to be moving in slow motion, his feet pounding the cobbled streets far too slowly, and all of a sudden the blade was ripping through flesh, and muscle, and bone, and then the tip reappeared, sliding out of the mother of the child like some sinister serpent, half a second before it twisted, violently. The boy heard a gurgling sound, and he realized it was his mother's breath, her last breath, maybe, and then he realized his hands were warm, and he looked down to see them covered in crimson blood, and holding the sword that had run his mother through with a death grip. He could see the neatly severed head of his father on the ground, and then it rolled over, turning to face him, and the expression on his face was half horrified and half a gleeful grin. “Your fault, son,” it hissed at him, and he finally awoke, bolting to a sitting position in his small bed.
His lithe frame was covered in a sheen of sweat, and he gasped for breath like a fish out of water. Dim sunlight trickled into the small room—barely more than a closet—through the shuttered window, and he knew that, though it was obviously early, he would be getting no more sleep.
He swung his feet over the side of the bed and stood, before his stomach lurched, and he flung open the shudder barely in time. Thick yellow-brown fluid, bitter to the taste, erupted from his mouth, flying towards the ground. Finally, after a small lifetime, it ceased, and he stood there quivering, gripping the window frame with both hands.
He finally returned to his bed, wiping his mouth with a scrap of cloth sitting on the nightstand, next to a half-gone candlestick. He didn't know how long he sat there, but eventually there came a knock at his door, and it opened to reveal the face of his uncle.
“Good, you're already up.” He gestured with his head towards the rest of the house. “Get dressed. You said you wanted to train, now's the time to start.”
The boy nodded, grateful. His uncle hadn't actually agreed to teach him anything, and he hadn't been hopeful. “Thank you.”
“Don't thank me, now. Thank me when your muscles are screaming.” The door shut, and he stood up again, putting on a pair of simple leather leggings and a white wool shirt. He opened the door and walked towards the back yard—a rare commodity in Onegas, capitol city of the Vigilant Empire.
His uncle was already there, wearing a chain shirt over his tunic, putting a steel cap on his head. He nodded his head towards a bench on the far side, and the boy turned his head to see a smaller chain shirt and cap there, as well as an old iron sword.
“Put them on,” his uncle said, and the boy nodded, slipping the uncomfortable metal shirt over what he already wore.
“Aren't we going to use wooden swords first?” he asked, putting the cap on his head. It was too large, nearly obscuring his vision, and uncomfortably heavy.
His uncle turned his head and spat, his saliva thick and brown with chewing tobacco. “No. We didn't use practice weapons in the ISS, and we're not going to use them here. Draw your blade.”
The weapon felt strangely heavy in the boy's hands. “Now what?”
“Now you defend yourself,” his uncle said, drawing his own blade, a shining steel sword with a faint red glow of magic surrounding the blade. “You rethought your position on your name, yet?”
The boy shook his head solemnly, and his uncle thrust forward. It was a slow, deliberate thrust, and even the untrained child easily batted it aside.
“Your parents gave you that name,” he said, circling his small opponent deliberately. “Some would say that you do them a disservice by changing it.”
“Others would say that a man has the right to pick his own name, Uncle Rial,” the boy responded, before he had to hurriedly swing his sword up to block the sweeping blow his uncle executed. He stood there, grunting with exertion, trying in vain to hold his uncle's blade back. Inch by inch, his sword was pushed closer towards him, his uncle obviously not tiring in the least.
With a display of power, his uncle pushed forward all at once. The flat of the boy's dull sword smashed into his face, and had it not caught the edge of the helmet he wore, it surely would have broken his nose. “Even more would say that twelve years old does not make you a man,” Rial said, as his nephew tumbled to the ground. “All the same, you're right. It's your choice to make. Now, get up, 'Stryke'. We're far from done.”