The next morning, as soon as we had finished with the lawn and were about to set out to go hunting for rodents Beetle told me to wait a moment and went around to the side of the house with the tool cabinet, returning a little while later with a small sack that seemed to contain a few things. Then with a wink that made me very suspicious of his motives he proceeded down the path and through the city as normal until we had reached the grasslands that was our normal hunting ground.
"Since you cannot catch your own dinner as you are, we are going to have to make you faster and the only way to do that is with hammers." I stared at him with incredulity painted across my face for a moment before he began to laugh at me. "I thought that you were joking when you said that before," I said to him in shock, "How can you possibly intend to use hammers to make me go faster?" Continuing to laugh he upended the sack and two small sledgehammers fell out and onto the ground. As soon as I heard the thump and saw the indentations in the grass I realized that like all the other tools as our master's house it had been enchanted to be extraordinarily heavy, each hammer looked like one that would normally weigh around ten pounds but would likely be closer to seventy or more.
When Beetle saw the look of recognition on my face as I realized that these were similar to the other tools we used at our master's house, he adopted a wicked grin and shook the sack one final time dislodging some rope that he had been holding through the cloth in order to conceal it and suddenly it clicked into place. I almost wanted to cry while my mentor strapped hammers to my feet and told me to run around while he hunted. Taking a single step was more effort than I care to admit, and I could hardly be said to lumber along as opposed to the running that Beetle had instructed me to do. In any event, it was far to early for me to think I could run with the extra weight. Once Beetle had finished hunting, stopping a few moments early so he could free me from the hammers we headed back.
That evening we did not have to cut down trees again, so we practiced with the daggers again. This time Beetle again strapped the hammers to my feet. "NO FAIR!" I yelled at him when he approached me with the hammers before our dagger practice. "I can barely keep you from beating me senseless with these stupid heavy daggers normally and now you want me to do it while I can't move?!" I was certain that Beetle was taking an opportunity to vent some frustrations by hitting me extra in the name of training, but he quickly dismissed my concerns saying simply "If you cannot move it means you need stronger legs. If you cannot defend yourself because you cannot move it means you need stronger arms and better skills. Neither of these things will be corrected without effort."
After that he proceeded to come at me with his own weighted dagger from the tool cabinet and I soon had all that I could do just trying to keep him from breaking my ribs or cracking my head with his dagger. They may be blunted but it still hurts like heck to take a hit from one at greater than sixty pounds of weight, it was like getting hit with an edged battering ram. Needless to say, that by the time he allowed me to stop again I had once more collapsed from exhaustion and he once again wandered off to make our dinner. At first, I lay there resting as I normally would have but then when the delicious smell of cooking meat came drifting to my nose, I realized something important. Beetle had not untied the hammers from my feet.
I fumbled with the knots with my hands trying to get them off, but the knots were too tight, and I couldn't even get them to loosen. Once again Beetle had displayed a greater than normal amount of strength so casually that it seemed like it was not so great a feat. Starving, sore, and exhausted I had to drag myself to his campfire while still wearing the hammers attached to my feet. By the time I got there I was frustrated on top of my other feelings and dropped into a head beside him grabbing a skewer and hardly looking at what kind of rodent was on it, probably a gopher or something.
As I ate Beetle finally untied the hammers from my feet, freeing me. "From now on you will wear these hammers anytime we go to the grasslands and anytime we chop trees or practice with daggers", he said casually to me as if discussing the weather, "in this way your leg strength will increase and hopefully by the time Silvan decides that I have outlived my usefulness you will be fast enough to feed yourself at least." I looked at Beetle with mixed emotions on my face. On the one hand I wanted to be able to provide for myself once Beetle was gone, and I was quickly losing any illusions that anything, but bad things were going to happen for us. On the other hand, I certainly did not want to put in any additional effort when my life was already hard enough just dealing with the heavy tools and the mood swings of our mercurial elf master.
We didn't do any more talking that evening as Beetle took care of hiding the remains of our dinner and we headed back to the dark basement that was our sleeping quarters. When we got there, Teka was once again there ahead of us, it seemed that outside of his trips to the arena he did not leave the basement. Minge was also there ahead of us this time as well although to say that she was there was a stretch when one looked at her vacant eyes and realized that she was doing everything she could to escape the reality of her situation.
That night, after I should by rights have been asleep, I heard Minge begin to cry quietly for the first time in several days. I should have felt glad that she seemed to be more aware but there was something chilling about the way her sobs sounded that night.