Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Derry's Wedding



Chapter  18

The Fair Discovering of Her Way

After his sleepless night, Derry was distinctly out of sorts when he reached the orchard just after first light. His head ached, and he was irritated not to find Geoffrey already waiting for him, despite the fact that it was still nearly dark.

"You're late," he snapped at his squire when the boy arrived perhaps five minutes later. "Punctuality is a very important quality in a squire, Geoffrey. Can you not remember me saying that?"

Geoff blinked in surprise at the curt tone and critical words, but he wisely chose to say only, "I'm sorry, m'lord. I'll try to do better in future."

Unable to find fault with either answer or tone, Derry only nodded and turned sharply toward the East. "Let's begin, then." Geoffrey moved beside him to assume the ready stance.

It was not a good session. Derry found fault with each movement and position. Geoffrey was close to tears when San Te spoke from behind them. When he had arrived neither could have said, but he rose from the bench as they both turned to face him.

"It is enough for today, Sing Hi," the Master said quietly. "End your student's lesson so that we may begin your own."

Derry didn't need to see the slight frown on San Te's usually calm face to know he had been censured. He bowed to the Master and brought the session to a close with the ritual bow to the East. Geoffrey left gratefully after making his own obeisance to San Te, and Derry stood with his head lowered in shame, expecting a further reprimand from the Master for his over-harsh treatment of the boy. He was almost afraid to meet San Te's eyes when the small man came to stand before him.

"You are troubled, Sing Hi." His voice was compassionate yet firm.

"Yes. Master, but that's no reason to take it out on the boy."

"You see that. That is good. Now, what is the next thing that you see?"

"That's the trouble, Master. The next thing I see is the hopelessness of the situation. How do I overcome my–my need for a woman's love that is not mine to have?"

"Is it not? Are you certain of that?"

"She is promised to another man."

"She is promised? Or a promise has been made on her behalf?"

"It's the same thing."

"Is it indeed? Do you think this is her own desire, then?"

"That doesn't matter, does it? It's a question of honor."

"Where does honor lie, Sing Hi? Is it honorable to assume you know a thing is true without asking those most closely involved?"

"Well, no, but--"

"Would you condemn a man to die on rumor alone?"

"Of course not. But I saw--"

"What did you see?"

"I saw them together, in the garden, in the moonlight, talking--"

"Of what?"

"I don't know. I–I couldn't hear them."

"Are you then so certain they spoke of anything apart from mutual friends or the weather or the defense of the passes?"

"Why would they talk of things like that in the garden?"

San Te sighed softly. "Perhaps they, too, did not care to be stared at in the hall and kept under the eye of one whose presence is–shall we say–unsettling?"

Derry was surprised by the tone of amusement. The Master went on, "I have known the lady a very long time, Sing Hi. She is no more or less agreeable now than she has ever been."

Derry nodded slowly in acceptance of that possibility. "Well, I–I suppose you're right. But I still don't know what to do, Master. What should I say, and to whom? What would you do?"

The small man smiled slightly. "That is not the question, Sing Hi, for I am not involved in the disturbance of emotions that has unbalanced you so. Each person must find his or her own Way."

"But are you not my teacher? Will you not guide me?"

"I can only teach you how to seek the Way, my pupil. I cannot lead you through it."

"I don't understand."

"You must seek your answer in your own heart, Sean. You must discover your own Way. I have told you before that each person finds a separate Way. Only this can I tell you: You must know your own desires, and you must seek to balance those desires against necessities and possibilities in each situation. When you find that balance, your Way will become clear, and you will know what you must do to overcome each obstruction. There will always be obstacles; the Way is never easy. You must overcome them in the manner that seems best to you. But if you seek and find balance first within yourself, then you will succeed." San Te waited a moment to make sure Derry would think about it, then sent him to eat and ponder the lesson.

When he arrived at the armory yard after his scant meal, Derry was still thinking of San Te's admonition to seek the balance of his desires against the necessity of honorable behavior and the possibility that Dacia did not wish to marry Sextus Arilan. He had not expected to find Dacia there waiting for him, dressed in her training clothes.

"Teacher." Her bow and her voice were respectful, student to teacher.

"Shan Ji," He also bowed, then let his resolve to be civil slip. "Are you certain you wish to learn today, in light of your bridegroom's arrival only yesterday?"

Her voice was polite, if cool. "I wish to finish what I have begun, yes, if you will consent to teach me."

"Very well, then. We worked yesterday on the basic blocks and kicks. We will begin today by reviewing what you have learned, and if you are ready, we will begin combining the blocks and kicks into combinations. If I feel you are ready, we will finish by showing you a few sweep techniques."

Derry turned away from her and took a step forward. He heard Dacia come to attention as they bowed together, first to the East, then to San Te. He turned slowly pulling his arms together behind his back. "Shan Ji! Ready stance, HOI!"

Dacia flowed crisply into her ready stance, feet spread apart, hands at her sides. "Kyasah!" she answered strongly, telling Derry she was ready to begin.

They began with the high and midlevel blocks with both hands, and as they worked, he ventured, "Dacia, why did you not tell me you were promised to Sextus Arilan?"

Caught off guard as she stepped back and lifted her right hand to block Derry's overhand chop, Dacia responded, "I am not precisely promised to him."

"Then why did she say you were?"

"Lady Vivienne likes to provoke people."

Derry snorted his feelings about the woman in question. He decided to teach Dacia how to do a basic leg block/sweep maneuver combination. He explained the mechanics of blocking the kick to the groin with the knee brought up to take the

force of the kick on the shin, followed by the drop to a three point stance to use the right leg as a sweep at the attacker’s legs. He demonstrated the block and dropped to both hands and left foot, extending his right leg out in front then bending it quickly at the knee for the sweep.

He had Dacia repeat first the block, then the sweep, then slowly combine the two moves. As she finished, he said, "Let's see what you've learned. Block where I strike." Fitting actions to words, he slowly punched out with the right hand, then the left, switching to the left leg, then the right. He slowly sped up the sequence until they were working quickly though the blocks.

Derry lashed out with a backfist, which Dacia caught in a outside crescent block, bringing them close together. "Well, you might at least have explained the situation a little more clearly!" he said hotly.

"I couldn't! I gave Father and the Council my word." Dacia disengaged as she saw Derry's reverse knifehand coming in low.

She stepped back and blocked it using a wheel block as he spoke. "Then why didn't he tell me himself? It was obvious to everyone how I felt!"

"He's told you repeatedly to keep your distance from me. What did you think he was doing, trying to lure you in by telling you to stay away?"

"Dammit, I thought he was just being a normal overprotective father–especially in light of Helena's behavior!" Derry broke the block and stepped quickly to Dacia's left side, forcing her to turn and hop as he tried a leg sweep.

"Oh, come now, Sean! I'm hardly fifteen! Nor am I the least like Helena," she objected as she landed lightly on her back foot, her front foot coming up on the toes as she assumed a cat-stance.

"Well, no--"

"Though that might be one solution to our problem."

"What might?"

"We could meet in the loft and be sure we were caught--"


She stepped out and assumed a strong stance, legs solidly planted. "Well, it got Helena married, now didn't it?"

"I don't believe I'm hearing this!" Derry's brow furrowed ,and he launched a punching kick combination.

His eyebrows shot up as she blocked it easily and said, "You mean you don't want to have me, Sean?"

"I never said that!" He disengaged and attempted another, more difficult combination. She was getting very good at this.

She blocked it as well, adding, "I'm beginning to wonder, Sean, if you really love me all that much."

"Of course I love you!" he practically yelled at her.

"Well, that's the first time I've heard you say so," Dacia said with a sweet smile. Derry saw a gleam in her eye that made him a little uneasy. He tried a difficult double kick combination, landing behind her as she scuttled out of the way.

He spun quickly, panting, "Well, I'm not the one with another suitor, now am I?"

"True. But thus far I've had no better offer." She assumed a low stance.

Derry sidestepped quickly, throwing a rather lame backfist. "What do you mean?".

She blocked it rather easily, knowing that the time was ripe. She finished the block, augmenting and opening it to grab his hand, thus pinning him into a very awkward position indeed. "You speak of love, not of marriage. Don't you want to marry me, Sean?"

Derry took a half step back, breaking her hold; he stood up with his hands on

hips. His tone was indignant and emphatic. "Of course I want to marry you! Why else would I give a damn about Sextus Arilan if I didn't?"

As he spoke the final word, Dacia dropped into a three point stance and swept his legs out from under him. He hit the ground hard, landing flat on his back. The next thing he knew, Dacia had knelt beside him and kissed him briefly on the lips as he wheezed to get his breath back.

"Very well, I accept, " she said, and before he could get his wits back together and draw in sufficient breath to speak, she had risen quickly, bowed to him with a tiny smile, and gone. Derry was still trying to draw in a deep breath when San Te appeared at his side.

"Sing Hi, I never told you that achieving the balance would be easy. I believe Shan Ji has won this match."

"Aye, Master," Derry managed finally. "In more ways than one, I think."

"Oh, yes. Sing Hi. Oh, yes."



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