Pain throbbed through Byron with every breath. The ache of old bruises blended into the agony of fresh welts. Ragged breaths made his body tremble. His waster trembled in a shaky grip. Sweat had pasted his tunic to his chest like a skin. In contrast, the Maestro was still, sword and buckler poised in casual grace.

“Again”, Maethius Maestro intoned.

The maestro’s wooden blade began to move through the beginnings of the drill of the day. With deceptive speed, the waster cut the air lazily while Byron and Maethius stepped in rehearsed steps. All Byron needed to do was score a hit on the maestro and this pain would end for today.

The drill be damned!, thought Byron. Instead of dipping his sword into The Fool, Byron pushed his waster into The Wheel, knocking Maethius’ blade away. Byron wasted no time and stepped into a half lunge, waster thrusting at Maethius’ body.

The Maestro reacted with the skill of a sword master. He rolled with the thrust and wrapped his buckler arm around both of Byron’s arms. Maethius made a quick snap of his arms and calmly broke Byron’s right elbow.

The old aches went unnoticed in the wake of this new injury. The feeling was awful. His arm below the elbow hung limp, the waster falling out of his hand. There was no sensation there either. Nothing…yet the joint itself cried in agony.

Maethius released Byron’s arms. Byron sank to his knees, cradling his useless arm. Tears burned down his cheeks, gasp of pain racked his body.

“I will see you flogged for this!”, said Byron. “No House will have you when I am through with you!”

Maethius turned and loomed over Byron.

“I think Elizabeth Reina will see this as an object lesson in failure. One, you failed the assigned drill utterly. Two, you failed even to win when you changed the conditions. And three, you have failed to make me remotely concerned with your surprise.”

“Now, see if you can make it Zoya Voodez without failing that as well.”

Maethius heaved his waster and buckler into the far corner of the salle and stalked away. When the Maestro reached the door, he turned his head once last time.

“You may leave for the healer after you have seen to the equipment or I will see you flogged, you insolent whelp.”