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This dude is the head of the Palace Guard, and he has the dubious honor of training new pages in swordsmanship. As you'd expect from someone named Sklaw, he's "a hard-bitten old mercenary with a patch over his missing eye" (5.176). He talks as nice as he looks, berating the newbie pages at every opportunity. Alanna gets singled out for special treatment because she's so tiny: "She was clumsy; she was lazy…She was a midget; she had been dropped on her head at birth" (5.182).
However, despite all the verbal abuse, Sklaw's an effective teacher. Duke Gareth remarks to him that he manages to "turn out creditable swordsmen—every time" (5.178). Make that credible swordswomen—although, in Alanna's case, Sklaw is aware that Alanna did the bulk of the work in her own training: "'Twas the lad Trebond, and he did it all by himself" (6.288).
Good on Sklaw for recognizing what is and is not his own work.