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The Rising Star - Chapter 10: Sire`s Training

by Alexshaw 

Posted: 24 June 2006
Word Count: 3368

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Before the dawn light had risen over the House of Bright Souls on Sire's second day, Raven was already at his bedside, prodding him awake with his stick.

"Up!" he barked. "You have two minutes to shower and dress."
This time, Sire was ready for it. He had only snatched a few hours sleep, due to nerves and excitement, but he was no longer tired. This place invigorated him, and now that he had a purpose and a deadline, he was able to move with determined speed.

He dressed in light robes and joined Raven in the corridor. They jogged to the great central training hall, a room Sire had passed yesterday but not entered. It was a wide courtyard paved with springy boards. At the centre of the room stood a tall, copper-skinned man with long dark hair, braided in a similar way to Raven's, a solemn, handsome face and striking eyes. He was dressed in animal hide breeches and light leather boots, with unusual bracelets and a necklace of wood, bone and feathers. He looked to be in his early thirties, but the fire in his eyes reminded Sire of his mother's ageless demeanour. He possessed a powerful elegance and the air of a warrior surrounded him. Sire noticed he was holding four short bamboo rods.

Raven hurried him in and bowed to the stranger. The man bowed back and looked at Sire.

"This is Adamant Fox, my first student," Raven said. "He is a matchless fighter and he will help you find your untapped abilities." Sire nodded. He had seen this man at dinner the day before, sitting alone in a corner. As far as Sire could tell, he rarely spoke.

Raven gestured for them all to sit. "We have no time for gentle lessons any more," he said. "Your soul suggests you have a depth of life experience that is unparalleled in any of my students. I cannot actually teach you anything new. All I can do is help you to unlock the doors one by one and remember what you already know."

Sire panicked a little. This was an enormous amount of pressure, exactly what he'd always hated about his lineage, but this was no time to resist it. Certain things had to be done. He would just have to accept it as best he could.

"Fox and I are capable of things that can't be explained with the science taught by Zeus," Raven said carefully. "You told me your mother knew of similar powers exhibited by your bloodline and I believe you are capable of things even I cannot do. But you have to drop all your limitations. Accept that you have this power and it will be yours." He stood up and took two of the rods from Fox and handed them to Sire.

"I've never done this before," Sire admitted. "I've practised martial arts, but I never used them against somebody who knew what they were doing."
"You never did in this life," said Raven. "Forget what you learned; the skill is in you already. Now fight Fox until one of you is beaten." He stepped back swiftly and took up a place against the wall to observe.

Sire's heart skipped a beat. Fox was readying a stance, hefting his sticks. Sire dropped back and did his best to remember some appropriate movements. Positions and manoeuvres flooded to the surface of his mind in the form of diagrams, which he attempted to imitate with his body. They locked gazes with one another, gauging for weakness in resolve. The air around them crackled. Suddenly Fox attacked, there was a flurry of movement and in a moment, Sire was on the ground with a stick to his temple.

"Again," said Raven. "You're thinking too hard."

Once again they fought and once again, Sire was tossed down, harder this time. He also received a painful rap on his knuckles. Fox frowned and waved Sire back up again. He was lightning fast and attacked without anger. He had a similar presence to Raven and, now that Sire thought about it, Hades. Sire caught himself thinking about the man who had ruined everything for him in the midst of the third duel. A burst of anger shot through him and he nimbly sidestepped one of Fox's blows, nearly getting the drop on him before Fox ably countered once again.

The battle went on for two hours. Sire was more exhausted than he had ever been in his life. His body was bruised and battered, and still Fox showed no signs of weakness or fatigue. After one particularly lengthy exchange, Sire leaned against the wall, panting. He did seem to be getting better and was being hit less as the day went on, but this could simply be because he was growing more wary of Fox's attacks.

Raven passed him a bottle of cool water and a damp cloth for his bleeding knuckles. "I know this hurts, but we almost have to beat the sense out of you so that you can remember who you truly are. Just let go of what you think you know; it's not helping you. Channel your true experience."

Sire took a gulp of water and steadied his breathing, ignoring the exhaustion that washed over him. He had been in fights before, but each time it was against thugs or guards; never true warriors. His moves, his stances; everything he thought he could rely on, he could see now, were useless against somebody who lived and breathed combat. He walked back towards Fox, who twirled his sticks in readiness.

Concentrating on his opponent's soul, Sire looked at who Fox really was and a shining indigo light began to emerge, illuminating his immense strength and presence. Sire began to see certain patterns in Fox's movements and the way his body was responding to the fight. As the next round began, a strange calm took hold of Sire; he forgot the pain and frustration and allowed his opponent to flow around him. On one level he had learned the pre-movements that told when and where Fox was about to strike, but on another, he was almost seeing them happen beforehand. His own sticks, previously unfamiliar and awkward, now finally seemed like extensions of himself and he began to block and counter with speed and grace. A thrill rushed through Sire as he reached out for this elusive skill. He knew this. They had had this fight before and he knew how to win.

The world slowed to a crawl as in reality Sire began to move like lightning, parrying and dodging Fox's redoubled attack. Sire whirled around behind him and caught the man off guard, tripping Fox up and spinning him through the air. Fox was surprised, but far from beaten, and he used his own concentration to fight even faster. Whilst in the air he became a tornado of kicks and blows that Sire rushed to meet. His confidence was coming from somewhere deep within, a strong and sure place that he had never reached before. Sire felt the true fighter in him emerging to meet his opponent. For a moment they were suspended in space, matching each other with surgical precision, raining blows against one another, until with an almighty heave, Sire struck out with all his might and propelled Fox across the room and into the far wall.

The world returned to normal speed. Sire dropped back to the ground as Fox flipped off the wall and landed lightly on his feet, staring at Sire in surprise. He drew himself up and bowed. Sire returned the gesture.

Raven smiled. "As I told you, Sire, you just had to remember." Sire nodded and sank to the ground, utterly spent. "I think it's time for breakfast," said his teacher.

As they sat in the breakfast hall, eating bacon, eggs, fruit and cereal, Sire attempted to massage feeling back into his fingers.

Raven leaned in and said quietly, "Now that you know how widely your soul spreads out, can you sense the auras of the rest of my students?" Sire nodded. "Is it different to how you would usually feel in a crowded room?"

"I don't feel them pressing in around me. I'm happy to be here."

"I think you were using your aura to block people out," said Raven. "It's quite understandable, but a better way is to retract your soul inside yourself so that you don't feel so uncomfortable around regular people."
Sire grinned. "Already done it. Just as you were saying the words."

Raven seemed impressed. "Can you still feel us?" he asked.

"I know you're all there, but I feel less exposed."

"I think you're putting up barriers already," said his teacher. "That's good, but don't get stuck like that or you won't be able to feel anything." Sire allowed himself to relax a little more, but did not let his aura spread out as it had previously. "I have noticed a very strong defensive nature to your aura. Tell me, how many times have you been seriously injured?"

"Never," said Sire.

"But have you been in situations where you should have been?"


"Then it may be that your aura is channelling itself into a shield. A layer of protection around your whole body that cushions you from harm."

"Well, it certainly didn't stop me getting beaten half to death back there," grinned Sire, glancing at Fox.

"I can only assume Fox's equally adept powers of attack may have counteracted your shield abilities," said Raven, thoughtfully. "Or maybe it is an automatic shield, engaging only when your life is directly threatened. Either way, it appears that your instinct to push away aggression may have led to you living such a lonely existence. We shall look into your aura and see what can be done with it to improve your skills, and also how to let them subside. The key factor, of course, is control. Now eat up, we must move on."

Sire bolted his food and took a draught of a sweet glucose drink in order to coax some energy back into his body.


Raven led Sire and Fox down narrow corridors and winding staircases. There were so many steps that Sire lost count, and soon daylight was forgotten and they were moving along the hollowed out stone of a series of tunnels, far older than the building above. Eventually Raven beckoned them into a small, dry cave, lit by candles and a glowing fire-rock in the centre of the floor. The walls were adorned with tribal paintings, great images of animals and spirits chasing each other left and right in complex tapestries stretching up to the ceiling.

"Do you have a question?" Raven asked. Sire had been holding this back since Raven had first spoken of the untapped abilities he might have.

"What other super-powers have your students displayed?" Sire asked.

"Try to think of it in terms more subtle than physically manifested 'super' abilities," said Raven. "We are speaking of ancient beings here, who possess deeply buried talents that may only display themselves in an inconspicuous manner. However, to sate your curiosity, I have indeed known great healers and those who could kill with a touch. I have encountered brilliant minds capable of telepathy or telekinesis, and even those with such alarming charisma that they could bend entire populations to their will. We are limited only by our own comprehension of power. I certainly have not yet discovered everything I can do. One thing I am certain of, however; the rules of physics no longer apply when you are dealing with an individual of this nature.

"And that leads us sharply to my next point. I have told you so far of the Bright Ones, but in nature there are always equals and opposites, and I fear that what I am about to say will of great importance to you." His tone had taken on a gravity and intensity that made Sire sit up and strain to see his expressions in the flickering firelight. Fox still said nothing, but studied Sire for his reactions.

"Those that I speak now of are dark and malevolent, and the most powerful beings in our solar system. They are ageless, wise beyond comprehension and impossible to defeat. I believe these demons of the highest order number precisely eleven, and in reality, they are in charge. Zeus is nothing but the next corrupt government through which they can manipulate an entire civilisation. Throughout Mankind's history they have sat far away in the background, playing us against each other in a cosmic chess match, as nations and planets rise and fall in the never-ending cycle of peace and war. They hold the status quo in place and they will not allow anything to upset their game. I tell you this as a warning." He looked Sire straight in the eye. "Do not attempt to act against their wishes or you will be destroyed, as your whole family was."

"Master Raven, forgive me, but what is this House, if not a training camp for people who might upset this order?" Sire asked.

"This is a school," replied Raven firmly. "I teach, and I bring us together so that we may all learn to survive and find others like ourselves in this world, but I will not see my students risk their lives for something so foolish as an ideology." His voice faltered a little. "I learned long ago what happens to those who resist the will of the Eleven."
Sire shuddered. This man seemed so powerful and so wise - what could possibly scare him? He glanced at Fox, whose head was bowed.

"Being in possession of a particularly bright soul does not mean you are obliged to change things in a major way," said Raven. "Though the brightest of us invariably leave the world changed from how they found it, whether for better or worse. They may be politicians, scientists, prophets; they may affect millions, or they could be doctors, teachers or lawmen, subtly affecting the world with their influence, like the ripples of the butterfly effect. When you reduce it to the simplest terms, everybody has a choice to make in life. It doesn't matter how bright your soul is, you can either choose to help others or help yourself."

Sire sat back. After all these years of being told he had a tremendous destiny to fulfil, and that he would one day be a king and effect massive social changes, to find himself freed of that obligation made him feel oddly empty.

Sire turned back to see Fox remove a small tin from his robes and move closer to the dark wall beside him. He flipped the lid to reveal a selection of paint and ink. He began to add to the painting of a group of hunters stalking a beast, dipping his hand into the ink and carefully forming flowing lines on the wall with his fingers. Sire watched him silently, fascinated, as a figure began to take shape. It was a man, blue lines arcing forth from his body, carrying a sword in his hand. He had joined the hunt. Sire swelled with pride. He might not end up being king, but he had found people like him, whom he could call family.


"Now," said Raven after quiet had descended on the group for some moments. "I believe it is time to decide the form of our quest. I must commune with the Great Spirits. They will show us the way."

What followed was dream-like. The fire glowed and Raven broke open jars filled with pungent herbs. The little cave filled with curling trails of aromatic smoke and Raven began to chant in a low and guttural manner. Sire drifted, half unconscious, and heard whispers in his head as images began to enter his mind, a dark citadel, chains and a great, shadowy beast, which stretched out its wings and roared. Finally as Sire was waking, he saw the face of a beautiful young woman he did not recognise. The imagery rushed away, buried under iron, stone and earth. The embers of the fire glowed and Raven was looking hard at Fox.

"I know where we have to go," he said quietly. "This will be your final test." They stared at each other for some moments, until Fox got up and left.

"What was that about?" Sire asked.

"When I came to this planet two decades ago, I was drawn to a secluded valley many hundreds of leagues from here," said Raven. "I found Fox roaming wild. He had lost his entire tribe and was in the grip of a bloodlust I have never seen before or since in one so young. His family had been slaughtered by a clan of vicious Orcs that lived in that territory." Sire felt a stab of pain for the boy.

"It is this cursed valley that we must journey to in just a few more days. The Great Spirits tell me this will be important for all of us. I have no idea what we will find there, but as you saw, there is a Dragon within. Someone is being held against their will."

Sire thought of the woman in the fire, and his resolve was set. This was to be a rescue and he would not fail her.

Over the next few days, Sire was indeed pushed beyond the limits of his abilities. He fought Fox over and over again with a variety of weapons and fighting styles. Eventually he faced Raven himself, who was surprisingly agile, wielding his staff with incredible force for one so aged. He learned the greater tenets of spiritual physics with Raven, making great progress until he was able to sense ghosts the moment they entered the room, and through regular communing sessions he was beginning to learn how to understand their unusual manner of speaking directly into his head.

He pushed himself to his physical limit and worked hard at harnessing his aura into a dynamo of energy allowing him to run faster, jump higher and perform acrobatic feats he would never have dreamed himself capable of.

He spent time with the other students, joining in their conversations shyly at first, but with growing confidence as he learned with them and their tutors. He crammed in knowledge of philosophy, psychology, literature, art and history that he had never had access to before and spent many hours getting to know Tiger, who was rapidly becoming his closest friend there. The boy was easy-going and quick-witted and they sparred verbally throughout their sessions on the climbing wall, the tennis court and in the video arcade.

Sire found himself thinking of Bridget many times in the quieter hours. This made no sense to him, as he was constantly engaged by brilliant young women who seemed interested in him. If he was going to insist on thinking of someone else in a romantic manner, surely it should be Leonora? But there was just something about Bridget that kept her in his thoughts. He prayed to whatever Gods were out there for her safety, wherever she was.

He meditated often and spoke with Bill at night, learning of wraiths and demons, how to set up shields so that he could sleep, and also how to fend them off if they persisted. When he finally crawled into bed each night, he fell into blissful, exhausted slumber within moments.


All this time, Raven watched him with a wary eye. The boy was showing the potential to be the best student he had ever had, but something about him worried the old man. He did not look like somebody who could just disappear and stay off the radar of the Eleven. Raven also kept his attention on Fox. His oldest student and his newest would likely soon be tested in ways neither of them could truly prepare for. Raven hoped he could help them at any cost and dreaded the day he would have to say goodbye to Sire and allow him to fend for himself.

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Comments by other Members

toshi at 09:57 on 26 June 2006  Report this post
HI Alex

I really like the idea of the eleven demons causing trouble for humanity since time began. That explains a lot! This was a very good idea with a lot of potential, which leads me wanting to learn more about them and will provide interesting plot dimensions.

I fear you skipped over Sire's training rather quickly. I know how you feel about this, wanting to get onto the main story, conscious that the book is overly long already for what publishers require (is it?) and feeling that the training part will not necessarily add anything. However it was really quick, especially when you say that he made greater friends with Tiger. Couldn't you put in at least a few conversations to show this? I also feel that there should have been at least one scene with just Fox and Sire getting to know each other etc. if they are to team up in the future.

On the whole I think therefore this section needs expanding. The alternative might be to cut it out entirely and insert a paragraph from raven's point of view at the start of their setting off on their quest or whatever section comes next saying that Sire seems fully trained but he's still worried about him.

"Now," said Raven after quiet had descended on the group for some moments. "I believe it is time to decide the form of our quest. I must commune with the Great Spirits. They will show us the way."

I wasn't aware there was a group with Sire at this moment and had forgotten he was in a cave etc. so it might be a good idea to expand on this paragraph to reorient the reader after the ideas introduced in the last section.

A couple of typos:

"and I fear that what I am about to say will of great importance to you."

will be of great importance

"that I speak now of are dark and malevolent"

speak of now

I am very dubious about the "orc". I won't say anymore about that, but I'd cut it quick if I were you...

Hope that you are having success with the agents!

Best wishes

Alexshaw at 23:13 on 26 June 2006  Report this post
Thanks Tosh

I do think there could be a little more about Sire's training, but in all actuality this is a literary montage and the specifics of his deepening relatyionships with those around him probably don't need as much attention as you might think. the whole book is an expanding journey.

Why would you remove the "Orc"? has the term been trademarked? Are they not core Fantasy creatures? This is something I definitely need to know about because these beings feature fairly heavily in the overall story.

Glad you like the idea of The Eleven. I wanted to craft an enemy that was nigh-on untouchable and even unnamable. these are not things that will go away if you hit them hard enough. They do not posess the ability to see things in the small scale so individual human lives are just blinks in time for them. That's the sort of thing that really scares me.


toshi at 10:00 on 27 June 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex

To me Orc springs directly from LOTR, with all the connotations that go with it. I looked it up in the dictionary, and apparently it derives from sea monsters (orca) and presumably has something to do with killer whales (?) Although Orcs do features in quite a lot of fantasy now, it seems to me that all that is based on Tolkien's popularisation (creative usage) of the word, and that it is used in fantasy that either directly relates to LOTR or does not mind being a spin off of that.

So the choice is yours, but you could just use a different word meaning the same thing - like goblin, demon, ghoul, ogre, or make up a name like "Trollock" (as in The Wheel of Time) or "Cavewight" (as in Thomas Covenant books).

If you have access to the full version of the OED you might look orc up, as it will tell you if it had any meaning in fantasy before Tolkien used it.

Of course I could be wrong! See what Nelly thinks.

Best wishes

Alexshaw at 21:14 on 27 June 2006  Report this post
No, Tolkien did start the whole Orc cavalcade off, but mine are more inspired by the images of multiple Orc pile-ups as seen in all the Warhammer imagery.

Orcs are engrained in our collective fantasy unconscious as the foot-soldiers of the dark side, but I think mine are more of a link to a primeval world, a dark reflection of primitive man and the border point between Fantasy and Sci-Fi.

I'll leave them as they are until you guys get to the end of the book. If you still don't think they have been used in a way that requires them to be Orcs then I will look into changing them, but I've looked into all the other fantasy creatures and none even come close to what these beings are.

Which is Orcs. Just whisper the word to yourself... "Orcs"

Scary isn't it?

toshi at 13:48 on 04 July 2006  Report this post
HI Alex

I have just been in the process of editing the early chapters of The Dancers, and I found your comments on chapter 1 from back in February! Sorry I never thanked you then for reading and giving me your comments on it. I have edited chapters 1-3 now and hope to finish editing chapters 4-15 in the next week. I'm looking forward to moving onto something new...

Best wishes

Alexshaw at 17:06 on 06 July 2006  Report this post

I WILL now read your edited first few chapters and give you some feedback. i have been incredibly selfish. Now I have the time though. Same for Nelly.


Nelly at 20:06 on 06 July 2006  Report this post
Hi Alexshaw,
Finally got around to reading through this chapter. How do you think the story is progressing, is it still the same idea you started with or has it moved into other tangents and possibilities? Quite a number of different aspects of your story are introduced in this chapter. The reader is literally bombarded with information about spiritual combat, the Eleven, Sire’s increasing powers and how to communicate with the dead. So much so, this has a rushed feel to it and I think you may need to spread out some of what is explained here.
Raven needs to be developed more. At present he acts as little more than a plot device, explaining chunks of the story, but not really showing much in the way of his own persona. You do explain that he is passionate about the school and scared of the Eleven. But this is something that Raven tells us. I would like to see you describe some of his thoughts into his actions (if that makes sense).
Also you cover a couple of Sire’s insecurities, the pressure he feels from being ‘the chosen one’ he contemplates and overcomes in one para, and his feelings for Brigit are touched upon more as an afterthought.
I think you can expand on this chapter, quite significantly.
With the mention of Orcs, and looking at others comments, I would say they are out of place in the story that you have presented so far. In addition, there’re not original, their very inclusion draws unhealthy parallels with other authors. Something you will want to avoid when dealing with agents and publishers etc.
I hope it’s not too much, remember just my opinion.


Patsy at 14:44 on 09 September 2006  Report this post
Hi Alexshaw,

I'm so sorry I seem to have missed this chapter! :( I guess I thought I had already read it, but I discovered I was wrong.

Loved this section. It's great to see Sire come into his powers a bit at last. And you have given the nature of their abilities a very interesting and logical mold, leaving yourself a lot of room to expand on their powers :)

I love the idea of the dragon, and the secluded valley where he must go. Love the idea of the girl being kept by the dragon as well! You have given us so much to look forward to in this chapter -- the end was great where he will not be able to hide from these 11 evil beings for long -- despite what he thinks to be true, you can sense the coming war -- great hook! :)

Things to consider:

until with an almighty heave, Sire struck out with all his might and propelled Fox across the room and into the far wall.

might and almighty -- perhaps change one? like might to strength.

and I fear that what I am about to say will of great importance to you."

...what I am about to say will (be) of great importance...

More please :)

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