The Difference Between the Sword and the Knife
Yearling planted a wooden post into the ground and Zacharion had Sihaya attack it time and again with a variety of weapons. They also had her spar against them, individually and both at once. In both cases, Zacharion pressed her firmly and Yearling pressed her fiercely, showing her how to deal with the often unfavorable conditions put before her. They also used their gifts from the Sun and the Moon to soothe the pains of body and mind while facilitating the comprehension of lessons, accelerating what ordinarily would take years into weeks.
Meanwhile, the boys would take turns investigating the area about their camp. Yearling, in particular, hunted regularly to provide for the three of them. The waters nearby provided what game could not, so the three lived simply but well enough for their needs. The three quickly developed the skills in Sihaya that she needed, polishing those of the boys in doing so.
After one session, in the evening, Sihaya smiled as she bit into a piece of venison. Then she turned to Zacharion and said “Are you pleased with your sword?”
“No,” he said, “but I am rather pleased with my knife.”
Sihaya looked at him, puzzled. “Am I not to be your weapon?”
Zacharion smiled. “A sword is excellent on the defense. Its length is that of a man’s arm, and with the proper balance it is a light and powerful extension of that arm. A warrior can block blows with ease, warding away death, and then once his assailants are over-extended he strikes. Yes, he may kill them, but more important is to drive them away.
A knife is different. It is short and while one can learn to defend while using it, it is instead the case that using a knife requires a mode of aggression one need not have with a sword. If one seeks to fight with a knife, one must commit wholeheartedly to the strike- he must kill in his heart before he ever kills with his hand. They are made with different intentions behind their use; you must master this.”
Sihaya paused in her eating to take in Zacharion’s words.
“What of the spear and other weapons?” she asked, curious.
“The spear is a pole with a blade on its tip. Like the sword, it is a weapon one uses first and foremost to defend- principally, oneself. Staves are used in a similar manner to spears when used with two hands, using reach and leverage to wear away opponents until they can strike and then—again—it is to drive them away or compel submission, not to kill. Killing is, at best, secondary as it is with swords. The same is true of clubs and axes, as these are tools first.
The knife is not these things. One has to commit to the kill before driving it home, because to strike that blow and be effective one has to risk all. This is not so with other war-making tools. Those are tools for fighting. The knife is a tool for killing, and that makes all of the difference.”
Yearling, also sitting at that fire, nodded his concurrence.
“One does not take up the bow or spear to kill. They fight with such things, but it is enough to wound a foe and either capture or drive off that foe. When one draws his knife and intends to use it, he must intend to kill and only kill with it or he will fail against his foe every time. If the foe is armed, then he must use cunning to get past those arms. If armored, he must strike past it somehow and that also takes cunning. Heart and hand must be devoted to the slaying without question, for nothing else will do.”
Sihaya recalled the bruises sustained when she hesitated and let either of the boys smite her with slim branches acting as training weapons, or throw her to the ground, or grapple her into a hold she could not break.
“With our aide, you’ve come a long way in a short period of time.” Zacharion said, “Yet there is more to master. You have the hands, but not yet the mind or heart.”
“You must learn to forge your love into the knife within yourself.” Yearling said, “A woman’s will to kill comes most fierce from defense of family, and in that task we can only guide you- you must do this work yourself.”
Sihaya looked upon the two she had come to trust with more than her life, and she saw that they—who, like she, was not yet of age—had already killed at least once in exactly the manner that she now learned. They carried knives, had killed with those knives, and not in self-defense; her father, by comparison, had trained her only to fight and from the same premise of defense. She knew to defeat an opponent, though she had slain them in recent days, but this was something else. She was a nascent warrior- they were killers, manslayers, stalkers, the very threat she learned to combat.
“Why would you want a woman to be as you are?”
“When you next see your mother,” Yearling said, “ask her. ‘Keela of the Knife’ is not purely due to her use of knives as a healer.”
Sihaya was about to object, when Zacharion waved her off saying “Not now. Confront her when the time comes, and not before. Trust that I know what needs to be done and why, for when you must act you shall- without hesitation.”
“Sleep on it, sister.” Yearling.
“Tomorrow, we go into the ruins. We’ve tarried here long enough.” Zacharion said, “It is time to move on.”