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The lesson of the morning

Posted on Tue Jan 5th, 2021 @ 6:47am by Captain Rhenora Kaylen

Mission: Healing of Minds
Location: Bajor

The bell rang before the light of dawn made its way through filtered branches and drawn shutters. The Bajoran woman shifted uncomfortably on the woven mattress, attempting to appease the aching of her tired body but failing miserably. Her mind was troubled, replaying the events of the day previously over and over with random permutations that never ended well. She rose and attempted to stretch, wincing as the movement pulled on muscles tight from the day before. She was getting too old for manual labour yet the Brotherhood had many in their ranks much senior to her years yet still working the fields and disciplining their bodies. She wondered if she was getting soft, or had led too much of a privileged life on a Starship for the last 25 years. Had she lost touch with herself?

There wasn’t a muscle that didn’t protest as she joined the orderly line for morning exercise before prayers, struggling to wake her mind without the stimulus of caffeine or food. Once more mats were placed neatly on the floor and the Brotherhood stood patiently waiting for the session to begin. There was complete silence in the room, only the distant chirping of an early rising bird could be heard. Then it began.

It was an odd combination between Aikido / Karate and Tai Chi, taking the founding principles of all three and forming their own unique methodology. Rhenora had some experience with the ancient Earth martial arts whilst she had been stationed on Earth and during her time at the Academy, and this was similar. A combination of movements, combined with specific breathing techniques to unify body and mind. Whilst not rigorous it was certainly strenuous, her legs beginning to strain not far into the session. The Brotherhood however went through the movements with ease, the only sound being the light shifting of feet and the forceful exhale of breath. Rhenora followed as best she could, mimicking the movement, following with the breath often a moment too late.

The gruelling session was followed by a simple meal of stewed grain. The Brotherhood were orderly in everything they did, managing to get the whole thing done with uttering a word. Where they on a vow of silence for some reason or did speaking lower them in the eyes of the Prophets? The rebellious nature in Rhenora would have shouted at the top of her lungs had she not been so tired, sore and mostly broken in spirit. Perhaps that was what they were attempting to achieve - to break her spirit, rid her mind of all thoughts of self and entitlement and reduce her to the base level of being - just being. The bowl resembled something they’d survived on during the Occupation, whatever grain was available boiled in water and left to reduce until it formed a thick slop. It smelt terrible and tasted worse, but it was nourishment in the most primitive sense.

After the meals were done and bowls were stacked Rhenora was led to the scullery, where a mountain of dishes and general food preparation awaited her. This would be her task for the morning, cleaning, scrubbing and preparing vegetables. She couldn’t refuse, yet she had no desire to have her hands elbow deep in diluted gruel either. It was another lesson, another way to make her more subservient to the Prophets, less inclined to listen to her own will and do things her way. She almost sighed before shoving that thought back from where it came from, thankful the utilitarian tunics they wore had short sleeves when she shoved her blistered hands into the hot water. The wince as the heat stung the tender palms from yesterday's field work couldn’t be hidden. ‘Harden up princess’ she thought to herself, seeing no alternative other than enduring the morning. One dish at a time, one pot at a time, one damned vegetable at a time.

Once the dishes were done and the pots clean, the vegetables were washed and trimmed, peeled and sliced ready for whatever dish the Brotherhood’s cook had designed. Her gut began to sink when no such cook arrived. Surely she wasn’t expected to cook the meal for the entire Order herself? There was that word again - surely. Did they even have a midday meal? She looked through the open kitchen, looking for a meal list, a recipe book, something, anything to work with. Besides the door on a parchment that looked to be as old as the bell in the courtyard was a small run sheet in ancient Bajoran script. Her ancient Bajoran was rusty but she got the general gist of the list. 0600 breakfast, 1800 dinner. Two meals a day, prayers before and after, exercise early morning, field work in the afternoon, personal reflection in the evening. Now she had some idea of what was coming up. Stowing the now prepared vegetables she headed out to the fields, grabbing a few tools on the way. No one questioned her, no one guided her. She had to find her own way and discover her own path within the framework they had provided.

The sun drew high overhead, causing Rhenora to pause in the planting of some new crop to wipe her brow on the short sleeve of her tunic. Why was it that no-one else seemed to be affected by the heat and hard work?

Just as she felt she was getting in the groove a hand on her shoulder snapped her attention back to the present. She’d been in a daydream about some fantastical discovery the Liberty was probably making without her, how the crew adored Savar and how she would never set foot on the deckplates of her beloved ship again. A curse was half bitten off and half swallowed, remembering the Brotherhood’s fondness of silent contemplation.

“Come” The older monk said simply then turned and left without waiting for her, expecting her to be obedient and follow. Once again shoving her frustration aside she stowed her tools and hurried after, trying not to wince as her soft feet protested being without shoes yet again.

She was led to the large room that housed both prayers, meals and exercise and given little warning when he that was leading her turned into he that whipped her legs out from underneath her and landed her flat on her back.

“ You resist our ways” He said simply as she sputtered and picked herself up from the floor. Not knowing whether she should defend herself verbally or physically she opted for a defensive posture and a tempered tongue.

“ I am trying” She said carefully, shadowing the movements so he couldn’t blindside her again.

“Yet you still resist, you fight the routine, you mutter your words under your breath, you do not deserve our compassion” He stepped with lightning pace to her right side and floored her again before she knew what was going on.

“ I just got here!” She protested, unable to bite back the urge to defend her dignity and her reputation. But what was a reputation amongst a group of religious clerics?

“ You are not deserving. Defend yourself, or leave us. Prove to us you want to be here, not driven here by the desire of your concubine.” The words were spat with a disgust that would have made a sailor almost shiver. The emotion that washed over her was a mix of shame and frustration, mixed with a healthy dose of anger. Who was he to say she wasn’t worthy or trying? What had she done that had been so wrong?

“ How dare you call Remal a concubine” The words matched the previous tone and the dance continued. Her muscles ached but she fought the urge to let her guard down. She centred her weight and her breath, using the oxygen to fuel her body and her anger. Step, counterstep, breathe, step, parry. Savar’s recent training sessions had built muscle memory and some level of endurance that she wasn’t aware she had. All she had to do was switch off her head and let her gut and instinct guide her. Trust your instincts, trust who you are. Her movements became more fluid, graceful and light yet maintaining the ability to turn deadly at a moment’s notice. She would not go on the attack here, she would wait - wait for an opening, wait for an error.
Defend, step, breathe, step, watch, wait, guard. Savar’s instructions rang in her head, fuelling her flagging confidence.

She hit the deck twice more, each time missing the parry by the barest of margins. He refused to help her up, refused to wait for her as she rose and recentred herself and seemed determined to keep her on the back foot. She would have to change tactics and go on the offensive before her energy ran out entirely.

“ Prove to the Prophets you deserve to be here” He spat, taunting her, goading her to move too fast, to move without judgement or consideration.

“” She breathed back, channelling the emotion into energy. The more he taunted her, the calmer she became to the point of almost blocking out his voice entirely. She focused on his solar plexus, that small point on the chest that moved before anything else did. The tiniest shift began there, a change of direction, a movement of the hands - it all started there.

Sweat dripped from the both of them as they duelled, each refusing to yield. Finally Rhenora summonsed the guts to go forward on the offensive. Her footwork was light and effective, her body moving as one with her mind. She feinted low and struck high, the heel of her palm driving his shoulder backwards whilst her hand gripped his wrist and levered him into a submissive posture. Her breath was rapid, and for a moment the only movement was the filling and emptying of lungs.

“ Well done” He said as she loosened her grip and he rose once more, tugging his tunic back into position. He turned on his heel and left without another word, leaving the bewildered Captain in his wake. She was most likely supposed to reflect on the experience and glean some enlightenment from it but that would come later. First, she needed to reconcile her feelings. She’d been too easily goaded, too easily taunted. Once she’d blocked the words out she’d become more centred and more focused. She needed to look internally for her guidance and trust her instincts. That was the lesson.


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