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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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Sam

Enter the Drakon

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No tea so far today, not one cup. He was too excited. Drak’s training was complete, or at least the specific instruction that Bobby was able to give him. Now all Drak required was time to hone his skills and gain experience. Training about The Pauper was not a fair simulation of the real thing and Bobby was intentionally keeping his recruits away from danger until they were ready. Drak was.

 

Not only was Drak excited for his student, who had done everything asked of him and more, but that he himself could now get his hands dirty. He intended to spar Drak himself. There were things you could learn about your opponent in combat that you never would by sitting on the side-line and watching. Bobby was sick of watching.

 

The hour was late in the afternoon, the hottest time of day where the crew would be most pleased to take some down time to hide in whatever shade they could find.  The perfect opportunity for Bobby and Drak to have the type of training session Bobby could really sink his teeth into.

 

Months passed since their last raid but the crew were loyal enough, being given provisions and coin from other means than simple piracy. They were not yet restless as Bobby but then he was probably the worst pirate of them all, with the possible exception of John. Ah, once Drak felt the exhilaration of the high wind and the hoisted colours, when the blood of any sailor sang . . . maybe he would live out his long life as a pirate.

 

Now, where would Drak be, taking into account that he had not mingled much with the rest of the crew? Sleeping, no doubt. Dread lords were solitary creatures, they did not congregate so much as join together for a specific purpose and then disperse. Still, they could pretend to be human at least.

 

Drak was awake when he entered the crew quarters, whether he had been awake before he came near, or if his presence alerted him, he did not know. Paranoia and suspicion were not always bad characteristics to have on a raker that was filled with Darkfriends and dread lords, and Mr. Sweeper. The three mixed painfully from time to time.

 

“Are you ready for your final exam, Drak?” His answer was a nod. “Excellent. Shall we? Bring that delightful katana, would you? You are going to want it.” As the two of them made their way to the deck, Bobby found his anticipation rising. There were few things he enjoyed in life more than the sea and swords and he sorely lacked people with whom he might hones his skill. True, all of his crew were proficient, but they did not receive nearly the same dedicated training the temporary recruits did and certainly not as much as Drak.

 

Bobby removed his navy frockcoat and placed it to one side. Beneath it he wore his simple doublet and white blouse. Drak was looking at him curiously, not quite certain where this lesson may be heading. Wondering, maybe, why for his final lesson they were to do something they had never done before. Bobby opened a long, thin casket and withdrew a plain, unadorned sabre before raising the hilt to his forehead in a timeless salute. “Shall we?”

 

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Drak was stretched out in his bunk, in that blissful state of half-sleep that comes only on those rare leisurely days when the weather is warm and there’s nothing to do but relax. At least he was until boots sounded on the ladder. Only one person on board wore boots: the Captain.

 

He turned his head to see the afore-mentioned boots, then the legs, torso and finally the head of the Captain as he descended into the crew’s quarters for the first time Drak could remember since being on board. The Captain doesn’t come down here; when he wants one of us, he summons and we go to him. I wonder if something is wrong… the thoughts flashed through Drak’s head in an instant. The Captain’s eyes found his without any trouble, and the words that came out of his mouth were the last the young dreadlord expected.

 

“Are you ready for your final exam, Drak?” With a nod, Drak answered. “Excellent. Shall we? Bring that delightful katana, would you? You are going to want it.” Flipping his feet over the edge of the bed, Drak wasted no time in following the Captain. He sounds excited. I wonder what he’s got in store for me this time… With an unbelieving laugh for some of the methods the Captain had put him through, Drak hurried up to the deck, not bothering to put on a shirt, and bringing only the katana in its sheath. The loose-fitting, thin linen pants he had been napping in were more than sufficient for keeping his modesty in tact. Not that any member of the crew has any left. And nobody wore shoes.

 

He found the Captain in an open space on the edge of the deck, calmly removing his coat. What is going on? Drak thought, the confusion surely painted on his face.

 

Captain Bobby opened a thin, well-crafted wooden box and pulled out a sword, causing even more uncertainty in Drak’s mind. Am I supposed to use that now? But he didn’t have time to voice any of his questions before the Captain turned, saluted with the sword, and asked, “Shall we?”

 

Everything finally clicked in his mind, like one of those metal puzzles the blacksmiths’ made, and Drak realized what was about to happen. Gah! My mouth is dry. Stuttering just a bit before he forced himself to be calm by assuming the Void, Drak answered. “S-sure. Er. Of course, Captain.” His words growing firmer as he tried to push past the nerves. What if I screw up? Even worse, what if I hurt him? Blood and ashes! He’s the Captain!

 

With one smooth motion, Drak drew his sword and tossed aside its sheath in the sword form Unfolding the Fan. “You’re wish is my command, Captain.”

 

Here goes nothing, his thought admitted with much less confidence, before skittering away on the Void.

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"The void, is it? Pity. Still, if you must fight me with that glazed look in your eyes, have at it!" Bobby led with a probing feint, a quick thrust to the midsection. The voided Drak moved his blade to intercept. Good. Retracting his blade and stepping back at the same time, the Captain stopped short of engaging, thrusting again, this time to the right. When Drak's blade swung diagonally to the right, Bobby reversed his grip, stepped forward and pulled his blade in a horizontal swipe to the left. No particular reason other than just because.

 

The problem with the katana was that it possessed no crossguard. If it had, Drak could have raised his elbow and trapped the horizontally aimed Sabre with it; as it was all that happened was his raised the sabre so that it went over Drak's knuckles, and twisted his wrist so the flat of the blade thumped lightly into Drak's arm. Not to mention maintaining an angle thati f Drak decided to counter by slashing forward his blade would stop upon his sabre's circular guard. Drak's tenseness could be seen through the shelter of the void. As the duel wore on he would feel more at ease and fight with the best of his ability.

 

"That is one to me. You're nervous. Loosen up. Lose that Shai'tan-forsaken void of yours and strike. You know how. I remember teaching you! If you promise not to try and kill me, I promise I won't try and kill you. Fair enough? Excellent. Now, again"

 

The captain took a more defensive posture and waited.

 

OOC: Sorry it's so small, I didn't want to take too much advantage of your absence, figured I could get away with that as you were nervous and reckon it's your turn.

 

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OOC: this post is short, and it sucks. but i was stuck a bit, and i thought you could get things rolling. at least, that is my hope.  8)

 

Releasing the Void, Drak grounded his sword point and looked at the Captain. He is right, the young Dreadlord thought to himself. Not about the Void, but about being nervous. I DO need to loosen up. He has taught me well, and I am making a fool out of not only myself, but of him too. I either give it my all, or it’s not worth doing.

 

Coming to the obvious conclusion seemed to focus his mind. Like a wolf that had picked out which elk to stalk, he resumed the Void. Drak saluted his mentor and Captain before speaking, the lack of emotions in the Void making his voice sound cold, but the Captain had more than earned his respect.

 

“Let us begin again, shall we. Your terms are more than fair, and I won’t let you down this time.”

 

A simple nod from the Captain said all that needed to be said, and the second round of the duel began with a blur.

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A blur as far as Drak was concerned but not a blur to the Captain, who wasn’t nervous and hallucinating. No, actually, he could see fine. And what he saw was a nervous Drak still not using the ability Bobby knew he had developed. Telling Drak this repeatedly would only cause rash action on his part, and Bobby didn’t want this enjoyable spar to end on a bad note. He would wait for Drak to relax on his own.

 

Many who used foils, rapiers and sabres used the lunge as an offensive manoeuvre. That was fine. They found something that worked for them and he wasn’t going to argue. However, from personal experience he found the lunge, or thrust, to be very similar to Heron Wading in the Rushes, leaving the user open to painful counter-attack. The ‘thrusts’ that Bobby threw at Drak were the sword equivalent of a pugilist’s jab, to keep him off balance and from mounting an offensive.

 

Foot-work was another essential key to any spar or real-simulation training battle. The confines on a ship were tight and often there was very little room to manoeuvre, which made crucial steps that much more important. One wrong move and you were trapped against a box or gunwale and there wasn’t a lot you could do then other than count the minutes.  If you were smart you could influence where the opponent placed his feet as well, which he was also doing to Drak. He would keep the conflict under his authority until Drak figured out a way to get change the situation.

 

The swords blazed in the sunlight, twanging with metallic chimes each time they connected. And they connected often. The katana was a well-made weapon. Versatile, strong and sharpened to a degree that Bobby could only call, “bloody stupid.” One of these times Drak was going to drop it and lose all of his fingers trying to pick it up. It was a blessing that the weapon had only one edge.

 

On the other hand he had seen many people trained in the use of the weapon more familiar with a bamboo training lathe. It had some strange sounding name, which wasn’t actually why he was thinking about it. He was thinking about it because this training lathe weighed next to nothing and the blade itself was heavier. It sometimes led to the wielder believing his self faster than he was. Not Drak, though, Bobby made sure of that.

 

Drak continued to step where Bobby suggested and refused to engage for any length of time, again a carefully employed striking pattern was to thank. If Drak was not yet aware of what he was doing he soon would be, and Bobby was prepared for the sudden break from formation that would result.

 

Just for the fun of it, Captain Bobby Redpath gave Drak a solid blow to the shin with the flat of his blade and continued to wait.

 

 

 

 

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Drak stepped back, then back again, and yet again. Before long, the Captain had backed him up at least ten paces. While the young Dreadlord was working as hard as he ever had, Captain Bobby seemed to be the epitome of relaxed composure. While Drak was swinging his katana wildly, his motions over-exaggerated by his nervous tension, the more experienced Captain was almost motionless. His only movement at all was the small balanced steps of a skilled swordsman and the subtle, yet swift, flicking of the wrist that held his blade.

 

The touching of steel on steel punctuated the otherwise normal early morning sounds of ship life like some discordant wind chime as Drak constantly strove to catch up to the pace his teacher set. Only when his mentor’s blade once again rapped his body, this time a stinging slap across his shin, did the pieces of the puzzle shift in the young channeler’s mind like a blacksmith’s puzzle.

 

]I have gone about this all wrong, Drak thought in the emptiness of the Void. I am waiting to see what he does and trying to react, rather than forcing him to react to me. He is merely toying with me, like a cat with a mouse. If he hadn’t been safely wrapped in the emotionless of the Void, this notion would have embarrassed the tall Tairen immensely. As things were however, the Captain’s latest lesson simply prompted Drak to recall an earlier one. I am no mouse. I am the wolf at the door in winter.

 

The thought, as distant as it was with the Void shielding him from emotion, lent a new perspective to the young swordsman. With the mental breakthrough, he saw what the Captain had been doing. Herding me toward a corner that would be impossible to escape, like a sheep to slaughter. But I am no sheep.

 

Subtly, almost imperceptibly at first, Drak changed tactic. Instead of retreating straight back to get away from the Captain’s attack, as he had been doing, Drak stepped slightly to the side. A smile might have flashed across the Captain’s face at the change, or it might not have, it was hard to tell, but Drak suspected the Captain immediately understood the tactical change. But regardless, within moments Drak had managed to lead their duel into the open area amidships, away from the corner he had almost marched himself into.

 

Thus far, Drak had been content to merely try and avoid Captain Bobby’s attacks, though at the cost of bruised knuckles, a bruised shin, and very bruised ego at his own lack of composure. But no longer.

 

Drak deflected one of the probing semi-thrusts of the Captain’s blade with Low Wind Rising and rather than retreating as he had so many other times already, instead stepped forward with a quick combination of The Swallow Takes Flight followed by The Swallow Rides the Air, a thrust of his own then a short swiping motion that placed the flat of his blade against the Captain’s neck.

 

Stepping back swiftly, Drak truly smiled for the first time since the Captain had begun this lesson. “That’s one for me. So that still leaves you ahead, 2-1.”

 

Captain Bobby’s smile this time was quite obvious, and Drak had to admit to himself that it was about time he had shown some of what he’d learned. This time, it was Drak who re-initiated the action, though he had learned not to be too aggressive. The Captain was quick, and much more experienced, and too much aggressiveness would leave Drak vulnerable to counter-attack.

 

This time, the two men moved as one, their blades whistling through the air like barely heard promises of vengeance. Each time the metal touched, it was a gentle caress, an odd counterpoint to the deadliness of its meaning. Now that Drak wasn’t holding himself back, the Captain’s swordplay became much more intense. And for the time being the pupil was holding up his end of the bargain.

 

Their feet moved across the deck of The Merry Pauper seemingly in time to some unheard drummer, and then back again. First one man pressed the advantage, until his attack was foiled and countered, then the other.

 

Like something out of a gleeman’s tale, the two swordsmen fought up stairs, atop boxes and barrels, and even at times used the ship’s rigging to either cleverly escape a trap or to spring one. Safely wrapped in the void, Drak was distanced from whatever fatigue his body felt, but the hours of toil he’d put into since boarding the vessel were revealed now. Despite the passing minutes of the fevered sparring, the lean muscles of his body still moved fluidly and with quickness and strength enough to give lie to the sweat that poured from his body. Each man landed strikes to his opponent, with the Captain maintaining an edge. But the student was showing that his teacher’s efforts had been well received.

 

Only vaguely noticed in the back of Drak’s mind was the sun’s climb into the sky and the crew’s climb o various vantage points, as they watched the scene play out in this floating universe amidst the waves.

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