I followed The Owl down the stairway. He paused at the room at the bottom and said, “Clearing the dust to hide your passage was a good idea. I almost didn’t check this building, except that the dust here wasn’t as thick as it was in other places.”
I made a face and said, “I tried to cross without disturbing the dust but couldn’t.”
“Let me show you.”
He leaped across the room, only touching down once – on the point of his toe – before leaping again. It was quick, silent, graceful, and amazing. The one disturbance of the dust had been filled in by the wind of his passing when he leaped the second time.
He stood at the entrance to the building, the light behind him giving him an aura.
“Just use the wind to lift you and sweep up with your trailing foot.”
Yeah right. I backed up and took as much of a running start as I could, calling the wind to me. It caught me as I leapt and carried me further than I’d anticipated. I plowed into The Owl, knocking him back to the street.
He looked angry, but I couldn’t help laughing as I crawled off of him.
“Yeah, yeah, control,” I said, smothering my laughter and offered him a hand up, which he took to my surprise.
He didn’t comment but lead me back to the Loyalists’ camp in silence and with stealth. I did my best to copy him.
We went into a building that looked completely unstable. Once over the pile of rubble at the entrance, I found several mules, two horses, and the bird/horse stabled. The bird/horse had curled his hay bed up into a nest and sat, legs tucked under it, napping. The Owl chirped at it and it opened a glassy black eye in response. I examined the horses – both brown with black manes and tails. Neither were my horse, Rand the Second. He opened a trap door and disappeared down a ladder before I could ask him where Rheanan and my horse were. I hurried to catch up.
The ladder ended in a rounded tunnel that had a ditch in the center. It smelled faintly.
“What was this?”
“Refuse collection tunnel. The ancients put it under the street instead of in it.”
The Owl nodded. We followed the tunnel for several minutes and climbed a ladder up into a complete room with most of a roof. Several men and women grappled or spared with blunted weapons. Uri saw me and raised a hand. His father, Olmar, grinned at me.
He didn’t speak, but shook my hand with vigor. He thumped his heart and put a fond arm around Uri’s shoulders. I nodded understanding. They moved off and resumed their practice.
The Owl whispered in my ear, “we will start with grappling and footwork. Tomorrow or the day after, you will start with weapons.”
He lead me to a clear space and gestured for me to copy his movements. I spent the next hour moving my feet in a square. Then he stopped and snapped his fingers once, softly.
The others gathered around and he pointed at Uri and another, much larger and older man with bulging muscles.
The crowd made a ring and the two faced off.
I grabbed at The Owl’s arm. Uri was going to get pounded. Did The Owl want me to intervene again with magic? There was a hole in the roof, so the wind could get in, and Zat hovered, invisible, overhead.
The Owl shook off my hand, put a finger to his lips to indicate silence, and gestured for the two to start.
My anger returned. I almost trusted him again. Storm god’s nads, how could he make me watch this? And Olmar too?