This is another of those scenes that wouldn’t let go, that had to be written. Something about how Damien was trained, and how he thinks. He is about age 12 here.


Bellarmée was there when Damien came back from retrieving his knives from the target. “What happened with those last five?” he asked. “I’ve never seen you that far off your mark.”

“I wasn’t off my mark, m’ser,” Damien replied. “I added those points.”

“You added them? Why?”

Damien laid out the knives, ready to practice again. “They are additional points of vulnerability that are lacking on the target,” he explained. “So I added them.”

“Points… of vulnerability?” Bellarmée frowned. “What do you mean?”

Damien pointed to the target, indicating each as he spoke. “Brachial arteries, femoral arteries, groin.” He looked back at Bellarmée, pointing again. “Shoulder joints, hip joints, to incapacitate. The others, to kill. That was the point of this exercise, wasn’t it?”

“When…” Bellarmée cleared his throat. “When did you realize these were points on the human body?”

“The first time you placed the target, m’ser.” Damien looked back at him, and pointed once again. “The center line isn’t straight, from throat to diaphragm, because the heart is offset somewhat to the left. Nothing else made sense.”

“You never said anything.”

Damien looked up at him, his pale eyes sober and sad. “What was there to say, m’ser?” he said. “I know what you are training me for.”

There was a long silence, and then Bellarmée sighed, his head tipped back as if looking at his stars. “For what it’s worth, boy,” he said quietly, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Damien answered, his voice equally quiet. “It’s for what she’s worth.”

After a moment, Bellarmée nodded. “Aye.”

* * *