In the early morning light, Thomas jogged along the path that ran beside the Keep. It was cold, and his breath puffed out in a cloud of white with each stride. The ground was hard but still free from snow. He continued through the village and into the forests on the slope of the mountain to the north. He and the other squires and guards trained on the path every day. Half way along the mountain path, a series of obstacles had been constructed to make the most of their conditioning runs.
Thomas bounced over the first low jump made of a log resting on stumps on either side of the path. The ground on the far side of the jump was wet and spongy, but he saw it and jumped far enough that he missed the wet patch.
Panting with exertion, he continued along the path. He jogged around a tree as the path turned to the right. A chest high “roll-over log” set on high stumps cut from trees on either side of the path blocked his way.
He slapped it with his right hand and lifted up to land on it with his chest. Pain flared through his body as his hand, clothing and chest were torn by jagged pieces of sharpened metal hammered into the wood.
He gasped in agony and pushed off of the log. Blood flowed down his chest and from his hand as he landed on his knees and rolled to his back. His left hand grabbed his right as he cradled it against his bleeding chest. The men-at-arms following him on the course put on a burst of speed when they saw him fall to the ground. They pulled their belt knives as they approached and formed a ring around the fallen heir, scanning for any threat.
The corporal leading the guard detail knelt at his side. “My Lord, are you all right? What happened?”
Thomas groaned and raised his hands away from his chest. He was dizzy and felt sick to his stomach. He reluctantly looked at his right hand, not wanting to see the damage.
He stared in amazement. As he watched, the blood flowing from his badly lacerated palm slowed, then stopped, and the cuts began to close. The pain in his chest started to ebb. He lifted his cloak and shirt to see the same thing happening.
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