It has been a few weeks now, since Devon entered Syrana’s hometown Meru for the first time. And in the past week, Devon had to learn many new behaviours, like local etiquette, proper clothing, the local food and their most of all the foreign language. He also got a first glimpse of what his new army could look like by walking around and witnessing some fighting practice. Devon as well practised his skills in fighting. Every day offers new experiences and news in this city – Devon’s new home for the time being. Devon also figured out that the leader of this city, Sneferu, is observing him with content - but he never shows a sign that he trusts him more than he did at the first day.

(With the loud, enchanted vocals of a singer who resides in a high golden tower, the city awakes to a new day. The sun is about to dawn; a beautiful warm light paints the city Meru in golden and reddish colour tunes. Birds are singing and as the vocalist finishes his daily morning ritual, Devon awakes slowly from his sleep.)

Devon: (moves slowly, but already awaken. A few servants are getting inside his room after he rang a bell. They knock and enter his room, carrying his usual dress and a bowl with fresh water. Devon washes the last rests of his sleep away and gets dressed. After their work is done, the servants bow to their guest and leave the room again. Devon walks to the window and smells the air.) Hmmmm… a new day. Warm and sunny, as usual. I suppose, I will try to find this training place Syrana told me about… (he clenches his fist.) My old body could need some practise as well.

(Devon walks out of his room, closes the door and roams over the large corridors. On the first day of his arrival here, he’d have gotten lost in these vast corridors and ways; but after some weeks, he already knows the palace quite well. But that is it - he knows the palace and less of Meru itself. He goes down the last stairs and enters the main hall. Like before, he bows and ducks under the statue of Akba; since he knows, that he is being observed quite all the time - even if he cannot see anyone - he tries to obey all the common behaviours. This also includes bowing and greeting everyone in the palace he meets; he keeps eye contact and moves his head and hands in the way Syrana teached him to do. Devon is now in the main entrance of the palace.)

Devon: (looks around; eventually finds a guardian at the entrance and walks over to him. He bows, and the guard bows himself.) Greetings. I have a question… can you tell me, if Syrana has been here a while ago or where I can find her?

Guard: Lady Syrana went to training grounds like usual at the sunrise, sir.

Devon: Hm... this really fits because I was about to ask where I can find these training grounds. I would like to get an impression of how the warriors are being trained... I'm already aware of one training ground behind the palace, right in this direction. (he points with his finger.) But can you tell me, if there are more facilities here?

Guard: Training camp? For that you have to go outside the walls it is over there (points at the small gate in the wall.) Right through it is a bridge, but you must have permission to go through it.

Devon: (follows the designated direction with his eyes.) Alright... and where can I get that permission?

Guard: From Lord Sneferu himself.

Devon: (bows.) Thank you for your assistance. I shall talk to Lord Sneferu then. (turns and moves deeper inside the palace right on the way leading to the throne room. The doors are closes and two guards are standing next to it. Devon greets them.) I would like to talk to Lord Sneferu.

Guard on the side: (looks at Devon from feet to head and knocks the door delicately, opens the door and puts head inside asking something then returns back and opens one door wing.)

Devon: (bows and makes a hand gestures showing appreciation. Then he moves inside the throne room. Even from the far distance, he can see the old lord sitting on his throne-like chair, though it is not that high. Many other guards and various people are gathering in that room, but Sneferu seems to have time for a fast talk.) Lord Sneferu... (Devon makes a hand gesture showing respect and proper greeting.) I greet you.

Sneferu: (bows with head.) We greet you Devon... what is all about?

Devon: (places himself before Sneferu with some respectful distance.) A guardian in the main entrance hall told me, there is a training camp outside the main wall. I would very much like to check the training procedures and the warriors there. Though I already saw many of your brave men training in the backyard facility, I am curious to see this camp as well. I am now here to ask for your permission to see that camp.

Sneferu: (strokes his chin.) So you want to see our soldiers...right? Might be a good idea... (stands up and takes his walking stick and guest of the stairs carefully using Devon's shoulder as a holder without asking and ignoring rest of the people.) I see that again for myself...

Devon: (carefully helps the old lord; he could easily break him in half, since Sneferu's weight might be equal to one of Devon's thighs.) I am grateful for your decision, my lord. (in the very first days, Devon hated to call anyone else but himself "lord" - but after some time and many of Syrana's lessons, he learned to take his place here. He is just a guest, not a lord anymore.) Alright... (with taking Sneferu's arm and giving him support to walk, they both leave the room.)

Sneferu: (makes a claming gesture on guards and he leads Devon outside where guards bow low before him, and he walks to the small gate. Without him even putting an effort to talk to anybody, the guards are pulling the door up and lower down the bridge, which leads to the training camps.)

Devon: (walks with Sneferu over the small bridge and reaches the camp. From far, he can already hear fighting noises, like screams and weapon clashes.) My god... this is bigger, than the other training room! (he makes big eyes.)

Sneferu: Elites train there... those here are for the common warriors. (they walk over a wall of some sort that they can see everything from above. The whole camp is a hell of a round striped tents surrounded partially with another wall, and between them there are big free spaces for trainings with varied types of weapons. Under the wall are placed shooting targets, and whole row of Reptilians is shooting to them from weirdly build bows, little farer others train with dummies and train machines, others spar, practising with spears, swords. It could appear chaotic, but actually everything is well organized and trainers walk between their pupils and give them pointers sometimes they scream.)

Devon: (for quite some minutes, he just gazes around and watches the warriors practising. He tried to count them, but he always loses the supervision; but it must be many hundreds. Devon leans against a stone, crossing his arms before his chest and looking seriously interested. He also dreams about the first battles, he will wage with these warriors. Finally, he moves his body downwards the hill and towards a Reptilian warrior, who looks like he’d be in charge of the training here or at least in this special corner of the camp. It is a very tall Reptilian, almost equal to Devon himself. He is wearing many scars and an old, but very light appearing battle armour on his body. As Devon closes, he seems to give his command to another warrior next him. Devon greets the warrior.) Good day… (to calm the warrior’s suspicious eyes, Devon is pointing to Sneferu.) I am general Devon and wanted to… inspect this camp.

Trainer: (bows to Sneferu; then with his head to Dev and looks at him carefully.) I am captain Urdia, royal visit is always a honour your majesty. (bows at Sneferu again.) Feel free to do so.

Sneferu: (smirks and watches the archers.)

Devon: (smiles and looks around.) Well... where shall I start? How many warriors are training here?

Urdia: At this stationary... around 1000 right now... another 400 are on field trip like we like to call it.

Devon: (holds his chin.) Incredible... that is quite a number. And what kind of exercises do you have here... mostly close combat, I see. What about these archers?

Urdia: Every warrior gets training with bow and throwing weapons, they train in shifts

Devon: Does every shift has it's own trainer, or are there many more?

Urdia: We have trainers from everything to squish from those conscripts what is the best, then they are moved places where there will be most use of them...not everyone is a good archer or good swordsman.

Sneferu: We are trying to make them quite cosmopolitan, general, but we are not afraid of specializations...

Devon: I agree. This sounds very logical. Hmmm... very well. I suppose, here are different levels of elite warriors... or do we have here only the best of the best?

Urdia: Those who are the best are taken to elite training.

Devon: How about a presentation? Could we watch a sparring duel between some of the best?

Urdia: (watches Sneferu, who nods in acknowledgement and finds himself a barrel to sit. Urdia screams some names and two young warriors come to him and salute.)

Devon: (focuses the warriors closely.) Alright… (he does not think so high of them, since they don’t look pretty special.) Good, what will the show us?

(The warriors are equipped with scimitar like wooden swords; so it is kinda obvious what kind of fight they will perform.)

Urdia: Standard medium sword. (blinks.) My favourite, if you ask me.

Devon: Mine, too. (smiles.) Okay, fight!

(After a signal by Urdia, the two warriors go into attack position and move towards each other. First, they seem to analyse the next possible move of the opponent; then, with a sudden strike, one warrior strafes to his partner and swings his sword through the air. A very fast and jet well trained fight gets on; blades are clanging, dust is spread around as both warriors move in circles. Of course, nobody wants to hurt the other one - but the fight is no less intense, after all. Devon and the rest are watching the fight with passion and a bit excitement. Urdia seems to be proud; he closely observes the fighting techniques for mistakes in movement and action. After some endless appearing movements - the fight itself took only a few minutes - one warrior gets the upper hand and beats his opponent down. But when the obvious victor wants to finish his "enemy", the warrior on the ground leaps forward and hits his partner against the knees, so that he falls himself. Now, the other warrior got the upper hand again.)

Sneferu: (observes the fighters carefully and with amusement nodding with his head.)

Urdia: (keeps arms crossed on height of his chest ad observes them with stone face analysing all their moves.)

(Finally, the warrior who fell first strikes against the blade of his opponent and the sword shoots through the air; landing somewhere behind Devon, who had to duck a bit because of the flying blade. With the opponent now on the ground and defenceless, Urdia ends the fight.)

Urdia: Very good... but not good enough! Swords are not umbrellas and you are not Tymir virgins to spat yourself with them... get back to work!!! (both warriors salute and return to their training field.) Youngsters, you can't be nice to them or they start to think Akba knows what...

Sneferu: This other one was really good, I guess he may be good for elite soon...

Devon: (claps his hands and moves to Urdia.) Very good... bravo. I can say, it was most exciting... and very impressive! I am very pleased, that I don't have to look for a skilled trainer to train those young men - since we really got a good one here! (touches Urdia respectfully on the shoulder.) Thank you for the presentation. I am looking forward to see those warriors in battle.

Sneferu: And maybe you would show us something general... some show of western arts.

Urdia: I would gladly try out something new... if your majesty allows.

Sneferu: Why not Urdia... I always watch your fights with pleasure.

Urdia: (bows really low.) You honour me way too much sire.

Devon: Well... (hesitates a moment, then responds self confidently.) of course! It'd be my pleasure, as well. (bows to both of them.) Who am I supposed to fight...?

Urdia: (slightly bows to Devon.) Me.

Devon: (he kinda was afraid of that, but it is not visible from his behaviour.) Very well... (bows a little bit to Urdia. Then he uncovers his sword, which Syrana gave him in the palace a few weeks ago. It is a light weapon, which is quite easy to handle. And since he is very strong, even the smallest blade could turn into a horrible and deadly weapon. Devon holds his sword before his chest; his typical defensive and starting position. Awaiting Urdia's first move.)

Urdia: With all respect, I would prefer to use fake swords in this case... we don't want a blood spill here, do we?

Devon: (smiles; sorta released.) I agree. Thought we both might know, how to handle blades... this is a good idea. (rams his sword inside the ground behind him and gets off his cape.)

Urdia: (points at the provisional tent, where training weapon stands are.) Please choose whatever you like... I have mine. (he really holds a fake scimitar for all the time and he uses it as a pointer and just thing to hold.)

Sneferu: This is going to be interesting. (nests himself on his barrel.)

Devon: (takes a wooden weapon, which fakes a bastard sword in some way. It is light, but yet very large.) Alright, that is it. (checks his weapon, swings it some times in the air and gets into a fighting position.)

Urdia: (takes a fighting pose, which is typical for Meru style of fighting, and waits for Sneferu’s signal to start.)

Sneferu: (observes them then claps his hands and Urdia begins to strike with such haste, that it is difficult to defend.)

Devon: (quickly blocks the strike with the edge of his sword; he even had to jump back a meter, since Urdia attacked with a heavy blast. Devon starts to concentrate; he didn't thought this could be so difficult.) Good... you asked for rain - you shall get storm! (jumping from one foot to the other, he circles around Urdia - hoping, that he will lose some stamina. For now, Devon needs to analyse his opponent - not to underestimate him.)

Urdia: (follows after Devon and does not let him to take a brake, his sword dances in circles almost like he was teasing him with it.)

Devon: (circling and jumping around is getting on his nerves; apparently, Urdia is not getting tired. Devon must change strategy. He moves with his side and shoulder towards Urdia - it looks like he'd not really see him. Quickly, Devon performs a twist - he turns to the other direction and a very fast and hard strike of his sword shoots through the air and hits Urdia's weapon with much power. Devon repeats this strike in the other direction, as well.)

Urdia: (makes a duck and sword flies over his head and with wavy move with his wrist he puts scimitar to Devon's chest and keeping himself on low legs.)

Devon: (he blocks the strike, which was supposed to pinch his heart. With Urdia being quite too small for him right now, Devon must do something else. He tries full power! Devon jumps over Urdia, rolls on the ground towards him and tries to attack him from behind. Devon's fighting style is apparently way different, from Urdia's or the warrior Kalhai, who Devon had to fight before. The fight goes on faster and harder; it is not very elegantly, how Devon fights. His style is quite "barbaric" and harsh; he cuts, strikes, hits with his weapon. He kicks and punches and stomps over the muddy and dusty ground like a dozer. Devon now tries to get all his muscle power and body weight inside his wooden blade and strikes as relentless as he can.)

Urdia: (seeming to have real fun with this fight, he swings with sword like with whip so he does also with his body by ducking and parrying the hits avoiding them like a snake, but in some moment he totally uses situation and gets as low as he can and makes a circle with his body and tips Devon's legs causing him to fall on the ground.)

Devon: (rolls over and jumps on his feet again; but when he fell, he somehow hurt his shoulder a bit. With his sword in the other hand now, Devon tries to get the very quick Urdia... but with less success. Too fast to meet the eye, Urdia is behind Devon and make one simple strike. Devon, due to his weaker arm, loses his weapon which flies to the ground. But Devon smiles and spreads his arms away.) I suppose... (panting hard.) you win.

Sneferu: Really interesting.

Devon: (holds his shoulder.) I fell badly... but it is okay. Nothing serious.

Syrana: (leans with elbows against the wall railing and looks at everything from above.)

Sneferu: (strokes his chin thinking.)

Devon: (watches Sneferu and then Urdia.) Well, in a fight for life I'd fight even with all limbs broken. When I was fighting against this Norss, Kalhai was his name, I really had to... well... it was different. Urdia, your style is quite magnificent... very fast and... I was not able to follow your moves. Impressive.

Urdia: Thank you. It was really a pleasure to cross blades with you, finally some new challenge.

Sneferu: Urdia usually leaves a lot of souvenirs after himself... even during a sparring, you have them less than normally, I would see... good job.

Devon: (a true and relieved smile runs over his face. He bows to Sneferu as low as he can. Finally, he finds himself getting attention.) I thank you, my highness!

Sneferu: (smirks.)

Urdia: Train with us here, and can add something to your style.

Devon: I will gladly come back to this proposal. Thank you, Urdia. (bows and moves to Sneferu.) Mylord, I don't know who you feel but... the fight made me hungry a little. (smiles and seems to turn red for that simple, yet important pledge.) I'd like to return to the palace... do you need assistance?

Sneferu: I won't refuse. (gets of from the barrel and cracks with his spinal loudly when he stretches himself.)

Devon: (rubs his shoulder and moves to Sneferu to help him walking like before.) Good... let's go back then. (gets his cloak, which he put off before the fight and supports Sneferu's walk.)

Syrana: (waits for them at the wall.) Impressive Devon.

Sneferu: Hehehehe... ah, there you are, I was wondering where do you stalk.

Devon: (spots her with gleaming eyes.) Oh, Lady Syrana... good day. I didn't know, you were here. Thank you... (smiles and moves his head.) Well, I didn't won... but I learned quite a great deal about your warriors here. They will prove themselves worthy and honourable, I can tell you!

Syrana: I told you, you won't be disappointment. But our opponents are no worse then what you saw and experienced.

Sneferu: Unfortunately, yes...

Devon: (thinks.) Hmmm... in that case, we all have to train harder. But for now, I need to train only one muscle... that of my stomach! (laughs.) Join us, if you want... I can't wait for the nice meat and the spics and... hmmmm. (suckles the air.)

Syrana: I shall see what my stomach says when sniffs kitchen smells. (leads them back through the bridge.)

Sneferu: I reminded good old times with weapons. I am like 40 years younger...

Syrana: Then you have under 300 now.

Devon: (laughs again and smiles warmly to Syrana.) They really are a funny couple... but nice and lovely. (he thinks to himself.) Well, that is the spirit of the warrior... it is in our Reptilian blood! We all need and live for battle. Though... when I see Meru, I could easily forget the war. It is quite peaceful... and even if I have been a general of war all my life, I don't want to see this city burning in the heat of war! (they pass the great gate of the palace and soon reaching the dining room, where delicious food will be served soon.)

Sneferu: I am glad with your words general... I build this city from nothing, I wouldn't want to see it perish into nothingness again... but I would burn it myself if there was a need and real threat that dirty human feet will be walking over it's streets!

Devon: (impressed.) You sound like a good leader to me... such devotion and love for the own city is rare in these times. In my lands, every little lord wanted to keep only his own stronghold - no matter, if others needed his help. But at the first sign of danger, they fled and let their people back... helplessly. I don't know about this... I never had to lead a whole city with simple people. It is... (sighs.) way more easy, to be a soldier, ya know? Life seems to be so simple and well structured then...

Sneferu: Pfeeeh! Cowardly effort, gods don't like that, and like good captain who leaves his ship as the last person, good leader will do the same... people are the blood of the kingdom. (keeps his head higher than normal and seems to be drown in his own thoughts again.)

Devon: I cannot disagree... it seems logical. Well, although... a soldier only follows orders and cares for nothing else. But here, I have found that there can be more. (blinks to Syrana, as well.) Syrana... may I ask, where you have been the day? The guardian here told me... you were... practising? How so?

Syrana: Which part of it gives you most problems?

Devon: (looks a bit confused.) Eew... nothing at all. Well, I would just... I never thought you... well... (scratches head.) I'd very much like to see that... in time. I didn't know!

Syrana: You never thought what?

Sneferu: Syrani, are your hands any better? * looks at her over his shoulder while walking*

Devon: Well, never mind. I didn't expected you to... fight, as well. You made more the impression of a skilled leader to me... but with less action. Don't misunderstand... (smiles.) we have great leaders, who cannot handle a sword! But well... this made me just curious. Maybe, even we could train a little... together.

Syrana: Unfortunately they are not better... (smirks.) You think you could handle me?

Devon: (smiles.) I would dare the try...

Sneferu: You are taking a risk then.

Syrana: Grandpa...

Devon: A risk, I am willing to take. It will be... an honour and pleasure.

Syrana: You don't even know what I am doing and you are agreeing just like that?

Devon: Well, I will know it when I see it... (laughs and licks his lips. The curiosity somehow arouses him. He pats his shoulder, which stopped hurting.) After all... it cannot be that bad, like the fight against Urdia. Wow, this really changed my view of things a little bit... but never mind. I'd like to practise with you... in time. Right now, I am too hungry of doing anything! (laughs again.)

Syrana: (raises one eye brow.) All right, I shall put down your curiosity then... when you finish filling your stomach, go to the training room outside. (takes a turn into other hall and after the road stops near some figure of some Reptilian and takes a quick and unexpected hip kick and throws it's head off, which rolls under Devon's feet. Then she just smirks and waves slightly at him before disappearing around the corner.)

Sneferu: (watches behind her then at the stone head.) I didn't like him anyway... (pokes the head with his walking stick.)

Devon: (drops jaw.) Aw... alright then. What have I done? Maybe, I was too fast by giving that agreement... (walks with hanging head to the dining hall.)

Sneferu: I warned you... (chuckles.)