Monday, May 6, 2019

123 - “Learning Art, Learning Life” - Korr - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!


A damp and almost cold wind rushed through the open spaces in the bell tower, blowing across Korr and his blanket. Korr was used to being uncomfortable. His height, and his gangly and clumsy frame, had always made it difficult to fit into places, like beds, doorways, and bell towers.

In the dormitory of the academy where he had grown up, there had been more room than this, but the reedy and spindly mattresses were still never quite long enough for his legs or his head. The fact that he had been crowded into a room with a half dozen other disciples did not make it any more livable.

Korr had struggled to learn the motions and forms of the art. Where other, even younger students advanced much more quickly, his body didn’t respond as naturally to the quickness and delicate motions it required. He remembered extra hours of practice in the stone-floored courtyard, sparring with other disciples. They had been patient with him, but he never got close to their skill level. Many times, he ended up with his back painfully flat on the hard stones, staring up to the clouds in the sky. Sometimes, when they would practice after evening meals and meditations, he would end up looking at the stars like he did now. In any case, he always seemed to be on the losing end of the throw.

The others were quick to laugh at his position, but also quick to give him a hand up to try again. The master said that even if he wasn’t learning to fight, he was learning how to live.

When he had begun growing into a young man, after thirteen or fourteen winters, the master and a few of the older disciples had talked to him. It was a night he remembered well. They had been in the meditation hall, one dark winter evening. The large open space was lit by a central fire in a large pit, and dozens of candles glowing around the perimeter of the room. All of the disciples had ended their meditations and stood to leave. Korr had remained, eyes closed, head bowed, with his face to the fire, struggling to clear his troubles from his mind.

He heard the brushing of robes and opened his eyes to see three of the older, most skilled students sitting near him, bowing their heads. They all wore their daily white meditation robes, and they glowed with a bit of yellow gold in the candle light.

Korr glanced from one face to another in the quiet dim. The smell of smoke and candle wax filled the hall. He wondered why they were here. I must be in some kind of trouble.

In a moment, the master stepped into his view, also in white. He was an old man, with very long and thin white hair, and a long beard. Korr had seen him on the sparring floor, however, and knew of his prowess. His seemingly frail arms moved without effort, and the disciples he opposed twisted and tossed around him as he breezed between them, leaving them all flat on the floor. Korr knew he would never be at the master’s level.

The master clapped twice, quickly, and all of the disciples there looked to him at the signal.

“Maan Korr is your brother. He is diligent and his effort is constant and true.” The master said. Korr didn’t smile, even with the compliment, because he sensed there was more coming. “But he struggles to learn the forms and the movements of the art. Even some of the simpler motions are beyond his grasp.”

Korr’s dropped his head. He knew what was coming. He was not keeping up. He would be sent away. The silence in the room, sparked only by the crackling of the fire, hung heavy on his shoulders.

“What are his weaknesses?” the master asked.

The others hesitated, unsure. Finally, one of them spoke. “He is not so nimble.”

“His movements aren’t quick enough.”

“He tries, but he doesn’t execute properly.”

“He struggles to keep his balance.”

Then it was quiet. Korr bowed his head low to the floor, partly to show deference, and partly to hide himself.

The master continued, “And what are his strengths?”

This question surprised Korr at first. Even though, in practice, the master always showed the things the disciples did right and wrong, he had not expected this.

“His arms and legs are strong.”

“That’s true! When he does land a hit, you know you’ve been hit!” A ripple of laughter went through them. Korr raised his head, confused. The others were looking at him, smiling. He wondered if they were mocking him, but they didn’t seem to be. The master stepped in front of him and got down on his knees.

He said, “So, what can be done? What has to change?”

Korr looked around in wonder. What was going on? What would happen to him?

One of the other disciples raised her finger and suggested, “We could practice with him more.”

Another said, “We could help him with his forms!” Others nodded.

The old master shook his head. “He already practices more than anyone else. That hasn’t helped.”

Once again, the hall fell silent. Korr felt a cold wind blow down from the smoke vent in the ceiling. He wanted to pull his robes more tightly around him, but he didn't dare move.

A motion from his right. Another disciple raised a finger with hesitation, but didn’t speak.

The master noticed and nodded to him. The boy cleared his throat and finally bowed his head. “Master, you have taught us that we should find the weakness of our opponents, right? That we should shape the art of the fight to those weaknesses, right?” The master nodded and the student continued, “What if we were to shape the art to Korr’s strengths?”

The master stood and clapped his hands twice again. Korr looked up as the master smiled and nodded. Korr suddenly saw that this is where the master had wanted the discussion to go all along. He looked at his fellow disciples in wonder and disbelief.

“This will be a difficult task. You will be creating a new art, a new style. You four will begin in the morning. You will work with strength and stability instead of quickness and balance. You will all learn much in the process.” He stepped away, his robes flowing, and glanced back at Korr with a nod.

Korr had immediately bowed low, this time with deep gratitude and relief. His eyes had dripped tears onto the wooden floor as his friends patted his shoulders and left.

Korr lay back on the wooden floor of the bell tower, with his fingers laced behind his head. He breathed deep, staring out of the window spaces and savoring the chilly breeze blowing through them.


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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