"Now, you are ready to learn the art of combat. When you will turn 18 years old, you will be able to choose your Clan or continue as lone Warriors. Clans are spread around the planet: each one of them holds unique ancient powers that descend from the essence of God themselves" he continued, explaining in detail what would be the future steps for their warrior lives.
An expression of disbelief lit up Dag's face: he never heard about Clans, even studying books about Skjold when he was on Earth.
"Perhaps it is something that belongs only to the Viking's planet" he thought.
Arne turned to Taya and whispered some incomprehensible word in her ears, then, without a goodbye, he left the Arena.
"So… the novices received the Berserkr's official Mark and are now ready to start their true training " Taya stated, looking at them with a satisfied air, even if she didn't like Dag's behavior towards Arne.
"Today, it won't be me to teach but one of you, that proved herself to be a talented warrior and a good leader, despite her age" she continued, walking to the center.
The door behind the Arena opened and a Gridd walked out, leaving Dag open-mouthed.
He completely forgot about her, even if Asa told him that she was about to become an important Shieldmaiden.
While he stared at her with a questioned face, she walked towards Taya, positioned at the center of the Arena.
"Good morning brothers and sisters! Today's lesson will be about using both axe and sword, as I usually do when I fight. I'll try to teach you some of the basis of the dual-wield combat" Gridd said loudly, holding an axe in her right hand and a sword in her left one.
Suddenly Dag and all his comrades noticed that they weren't made of wood: they were real, steel weapons.
"First of all, your legs and feet need to stay right in this position, to stabilize your balance and enhancing both of your arms precision…" she started, showing to everybody the combat position she improved while training at the Arena and with her mother, that told her some about her unique combat style.
The lesson continued until the afternoon when Taya took back the lead of the apprentices.
At the end of the training session, Dag had learned how to nimbly move and fight with dual weapons, performing a good lunge with the sword, as well as dodge fast blows by spinning on his center of gravity, thanks to his arms used as a counterweight.
He really enjoyed that combat style, with which he could fully express his starting skills, mostly based on light attacks.
"Today's lesson is over. See you tomorrow" Taya stated, dismissing her novice warriors.
Dag moved closer to Gridd, while she was cleaning the dust on the blade of her sword, that was so shiny that reflected her face.
"So, the youngest Shieldmaiden Master of all Jernhest is my step sister…" he said, trying to be kind, congratulating her.
"I'm not a Skjaldmaer yet. I'm working on it" Gridd answered, without taking her eyes off the blade.
After a few seconds of silence, during which Dag didn't know how to keep on talking, Gridd broke the ice for the second time: "What are you fighting for?"
He was surprised by that question, thinking about the fact that a selfish and independent girl as Gridd, could ask him such a thing.
"I just feel this is the right thing to do… I really don't know why… probably because when I'll grow up, being a strong warrior, I will be able to know more about my true parents, somehow… and also because I want to learn how to defend myself! What about you? What's your reason?" Dag asked in an innocent tone.
"This is none of your business" Gridd answered coldly, then stood up, grabbed both of her weapons, and walked away, to the main entrance of the Arena.
Dag followed her, yelling: "Is Eirik coming to get us a ride home? I'm starving!"
Gridd didn't answer, keeping walking on her way.
"Okay, I take that as a no" he replied, imagining the real reason behind his sister's question.
After putting his wooden sword back in its place, he followed her, walking fast.
At that moment, he figured that Freydis, who was slightly behind them, was looking at him and he reciprocated her gaze: her face expressed the pain due to the mark, but also gratitude.
He smiled, then greeted her with his hand and she did the same.
On their way home, the two siblings arrived at the bottom of the hill when Gridd changed direction, diverting from the main road.
"Where are you going?" Dag asked, trying to keep up with her.
"I know a shortcut, just follow me and stop asking."
After a bunch of bushes and small trees, a rocky wall appeared before them: she moved some vegetation branches from its surface, uncovering a climbing path.
They easily climbed the steep wall and found themselves on the top of the hill, in a small wood.
Under the amazement of Dag, through the trees, it was possible to see the house.
"Wow, cool! It took much less time to get here!" he exclaimed, happy to know a brand new road to get home.
From that position, they could see the inside of the farmhouse, noticing a dim light probably coming from the fireplace, and without hesitation, they get out of the wood, finally arriving home.
"How old are you Gridd?" Dag asked out of nowhere, before entering the door, walking next to his sister.
"I'll be 15 next month. Why are you asking?"
"I'd like to be a warrior like you. You were great today, I liked so much your combat skills, you're so strong!" he replied, looking at her with his shiny eyes.
Gridd looked at him and for the first time since they met, she smiled.
"Thank you, Dag."
"Will you choose a Clan when you will be 18 years old, right?" he asked again, smiling.
"Yes, I think so, but I don't know which one yet… my mother…our mother was in the Sons Of Freya. Maybe I will join them in Hevnen, it's not so far from here" Gridd answered.
"The Sons Of Freya… so… the Clan that takes its power from the Goddess, right?" he continued naively, marveling at any new thing he was learning.
"Yeah, that's it."
When they arrived in front of the entrance, Gridd opened the door and together they entered the farmhouse.
In the main room, Asa was sitting on a chair, next to the chimney, sewing a small leather jacket.
"Hi, mother" Gridd greeted, with her usual careless tone.
"Hi!" Dag added, happy to see his mother again.
"Hey, my children! How was your day?" she answered, looking at them and trying to guess something from their faces, happy to see Dag safe and sound.
"Gridd is a very talented master! She taught us lots of combat hints and movements" Dag exclaimed, still excited, miming the movements he practiced during his training.
"Really? Did you give your first lesson today?" Asa asked, smiling at Gridd.
"Yes, today was my first day as a 'teacher'. Master Taya allowed me to take her place for a little while" she answered without losing her composure.
"This is good news, I knew you'd achieve your goal! Nice job! Oh, look here, I sewed up a new jacket for you, Dag… if you want to be a fighter, you'll need good armor! I think something like this may be a good start" the white-haired woman continued, showing her tailoring work.
"For me?" Dag said, feeling happy and thinking that until that moment, nobody ever made such a beautiful thing for him, except for Hiro, that once made a swan-shaped origami as a gift for him, using a book's sheet.
"Thank you! I like it!"
Dag tried on the jacket and it suited perfectly: it was a lightweight but strong sleeveless leather jacket with a little bird engraved by hand at the waist, with open wings and a dual tail.
"It's a Swallow, our family's symbol. When I was a young warrior like you two, my Clan's comrades used to call me Asa, 'the Deadly Swallow', because of my quickness on the battlefield" she explained with a nostalgic tone.
"It's just beautiful, I'm not used to receiving gifts… I don't know what to say" Dag thanked, touching with his fingers the relief embroidery.
"No need to say anything, just wear and use it! It's alright!" she answered, touching her little son's chest, satisfied with her work.
"I'd like to know much about your past as a warrior, about your battles…" he continued.
Asa smiled again and answered: "we'll have enough time to talk about me… now, let's focus on your present, boy! You need to become a warrior now!"
While they were talking, they heard noises of a horse from the outside.
After a few seconds, Eirik and Stein entered the house, returning from the city.
"Hey, guys! Here you are, how are you doing?" Stein asked, placing a leather bag on the floor, next to the fireplace.
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