The first time Renarin hit Kaladin in the face with his spear, he almost turned tail and sprinted out of the chasms.
“It’s fine,” Kaladin said, rubbing his nose. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
Neither, of course, was Renarin, which was the whole problem. He’d had some excuse, at least, when Kaladin was demonstrating spear forms. (Renarin wanted to get it right, that was all. He hardly even noticed that Kaladin was shirtless.)
Now, though, Kaladin was just marching through the ranks of bridgemen—plus an obviously out of place prince—and Renarin had no reason to track his progress instead of keeping his eyes on his spear, which kept wanting to fly out of his hands each time he swung it.
He’d fumbled it, caught it, and flipped it upright—just as Kaladin walked past, eyeing one of the men from the old Bridge Six.
Kaladin waved off his continued apologies and moved on. Renarin took a deep breath, willed his hands to stop shaking—right, like it was that easy—and started again.
His eyes wandered almost at once.
The sun was hot, even in the depths of the chasms (Renarin had come for the spear, not to spend more time with Kaladin), and the bridgemen had all removed their shirts, like Kaladin. Even Renarin (because of the heat, not in hopes that Kaladin would notice. There was nothing to notice; Renarin didn’t have half the muscles of the slightest bridgeman.
(Kaladin didn’t look, anyway.)
Kaladin drifted out of Renarin’s line of sight and, sighing, Renarin forced his mind back to the two-part attack Kaladin had demonstrated. How had he made it look so easy? Renarin put his feet in the right position, held the spear just so, and mimicked Kaladin’s motions, and still the spear wavered and dipped off to the side.
Renarin was even worse with a spear than he was with a sword, but he would not give up. Especially not with Kaladin watching. (Was he watching?)
Another repetition ended with his practice spear clattering to the ground. Renarin groaned, but picked it up and reset himself.
“Try relaxing your forward hand.”
Renarin yelped at the voice in his ear and went rigid, spinning—
His wooden spearhead caught Kaladin over the eye.
“Stormfather!” Renarin dropped his spear. He reached out, then caught himself and pulled his hands against his stomach, fingers twisting, itching for his box, for a length of rope, anything. “Stormfather,” he said again, more a moan this time, because he’d spotted a line of blood running down the side of Kaladin’s face. Now his stomach was as restless as his fingers, and Kaladin was going to hate him forever for hitting him—twice! Oh, storms! Kaladin was—
Renarin frowned, and risked a glance at Kaladin’s face. He couldn’t be hearing that right.
No, Kaladin was laughing.
Kaladin cleared his throat, bent to pick up Renarin’s spear. When he straightened, his face was composed once more, though there was a smile twitching to be let out.
Let that be a lesson to everyone,” Kaladin said, turning a full circle to take in the rest of the bridgemen. “Never sneak up on a man with a weapon in his hand. Learning to fight is about reflexes and muscle memory, and reflexes don’t care if it’s your favorite uncle sneaking up behind you.”
Renarin kept his head down as Kaladin’s turn brought him full circle, but he felt the weight of Kaladin’s gaze. It lingered on Renarin no more and no less than it did on anyone else.
Renarin couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not.
Teft wandered over after training, while Renarin was buttoning up his shirt. He almost wished he could be like the bridgemen, who flung their shirts over their shoulders and climbed out of the chasms bare-chested.
It would be less stifling that way, at least, but Renarin didn’t want to try explaining that to his father—or his brother.
“Don’t worry,” Teft said.
Renarin raised an eyebrow at the man. Teft might look and sound tough enough to weather a highstorm, but he’d never been anything but kind to Renarin.
Almost too kind. The man seemed to think Renarin could do no wrong, and Renarin hadn’t figured out yet if it was because he was a prince or because he was Bridge Four. (Sort of.) “I hit him in the face. Twice.”
Teft snorted. “Kal’s had worse than that, lad.”
Renarin turned away. He knew he hadn’t really hurt Kaladin—he didn’t have nearly the skill for that. Honestly, he might have felt better if he had hurt Kaladin. At least then it might spark more respect than pity.
Kaladin was always the last to leave the chasms. He lingered by the ladder now, sending a questioning look toward Teft and Renarin. Teft waved him off.
“That’s not what I meant, anyway.”
“Mm?” Renarin’s fingers stilled on his buttons as he watched Kaladin talking with the men crowding around the ladder.
“He can be thick, sometimes, but he’ll come around eventually.”
Renarin went cold, then hot all over, and snapped his head around to gape at Teft. “Wh-what?”
Teft only laughed and clapped a hand on Renarin’s shoulder. “Like I said. No reason to worry.”