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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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Rule One: Avoid the Pointy End (Swordswinging for Dummies)

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If one were to think about it logically, dawn was probably the least intelligent time to hold training sessions.  Not only were the useless meat-sacks not awake enough to hold a sword, there was always one dumb bastard who thought he or she could show up late without repercussion.  Sergeant Beleo Ronas was not one for logic, though.  The session was at dawn for one simple reason: everybody knew training sessions were held at dawn.  The Sarge was not a big man by any stretch of the imagination.  Standing six feet tall, there were plenty of men bigger than him.  However, there were very few in the Band as old as him.  At 47, Sergeant Ronas was one of those things that wise warriors feared: a veteran front-liner.  He was also the go-to man when it came to breaking the new flesh in.  His methods ranged from the classic to the unorthodox, and the results showed the effects of his abilities.  People he trained reacted better in odd situations than most.  He had also personally trained one of the most deadly men to ever be part of the Band, the former commander Mehrin 'Deathwatch' Mahrvon.

 

The field was set.  Beleo had commandeered one of the sand-covered training areas near the westernmost wall, setting out a few weighted training weapons ranging from rapiers to shortswords to an oversized claymore.  No matter what kind of sword a trainee felt comfortable with, there would be a replica of it on that table; the arrival of bizarre weapons made sure that training replicas were always made for them.

 

Sergeant Ronas walked to the far end of the laid-out training weapons, where he picked up his own custom-made training weapon: a heavy two-hander like the ones favored by heavy infantry in his home nation of Shienar.  The blade was heavily notched, and the leather-bound hilt was stained with sweat and blood; training did not always go easy for either him or his students, and the weapon showed it.  Taking a moment to shrug out of his rough-spun coat, Beleo swung the weapon a few times, loosening up a bit while his students appeared, one by one.  Directing them to the assembled weapons without a word, he continued working and waiting.

 

OOC: Post your arrivals, selecting a weapon, and waiting for Beleo to start the lesson.  I'll get things going as soon as I have a few victims.  Just a reminder, your WS range from 2-5 right now (I would have sent you the number).  Sergeant Beleo is 17, so don't think you'll be an equal match in the event he decides to use one of you as a demonstration spar (which might be possible; I'm not sure yet myself what all will happen in this lesson).

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Elynde took time tying her hair back out of her face. She much preferred to have it down but since there was a training session that morning, having loose hair flying around for someone to grab wasn't the best idea. She was still impressed at how organised this place appeared to be. Considering she'd only arrived the previous night, being assigned training already was fast work. Not that she minded being awake so early. She'd always risen before sun up, it had been the nature of her jobs thus far, and she'd barely slept anyway. Whether it was excitement or apprehension she hadn't yet decided.

 

Running a hand over her scalp to smoothe down stray hairs, she strode purposefully across the training grounds following the directions she'd been given, her eyes scanning the area till she found what she sought. An older man working out in a quiet, sand covered area fitted the description of Sergeant Ronas and Elynde changed direction towards him. No-one else was about yet and she thanked the Light for her early rising habits. Being late would not have been a good start and she suspected that here, as with the merchants' caravans, a woman would have to work twice as hard to prove her right to be there. Her eyes hardened further at the thought as determination stiffened her spine. She had no intention of leaving.

 

She came to a quiet halt within the Sergeant's line of vision not wishing to distract him from his moves. To her surprise, he said nothing, merely directing her to a solid looking table, a few steps away covered in a variety of weapons, with the slightest nod of his head. Elynde took her time looking them over. There was a mind boggling array of replicas sitting there and she hefted one or two that looked a suitable length. In the end, rather than take a risk, she settled on a short sword similar to the one she'd arrived with. It felt familiar in her grasp and of a compatible weight, the leather hilt soft under her fingers. Deceptively so, as she knew to her own detriment. A good work out would cause calluses on the hands no matter how a sword first appeared.

 

Having made her choice, she stood patiently, watching the Sergeant carefully as she waited for the other trainees to arrive. He was patently a veteran fighter judging by his skill and control, which was only to be expected of someone in charge of training. His weapon looked like a natural extension of himself, a sure sign of experience and ability. A little taller than herself but not overly so, she noted, wondering just how bad this session was going to be and how many bruises she'd be sporting at the end of it.

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Saira had been unable to sleep much the previous night, both her nervousness at meeting an Army she had previously only heard of in rumors, joining said Army and finding out her home coutry had been liberated from the Shadow had taken its toll on her night rest. She wasn't one to complain about it though, the news had been nothing but good.

 

Still, Jaem mentioned sending a group of scouts and light cavalry into the Borderlands. From what she guessed (though 'hoped' would have been a better description), they probably would be heading into Kandor first to assess the situation there. And so, she was determined to be a part of that group.

 

Unfortunately, all she knew from sword combat was what she had seen while her brothers and father were sparring, and had little experience in the field herself. Stifling a yawn, she followed another person there, making her way over to the weapons that were set out for trainees to choose from. Her hand hovered above a scimitar, before opting for a lighter blade, a short sword, similar to what the other trainee had picked. Only one for now, she couldn't afford to divide her attention between two hands without making a complete idiot out of herself, knowing she barely had the basic movements under control.

 

She looked at the Sergeant, not really spotting the signs that he was a veteran fighter, though there were some similarities in the way he and her father were holding themselves. The blade he held looked rather heavy, and she made a mental note not to try and block a full swing. She didn't come here for flying lessons after all, and judging by how the weapon looked it didn't appear forgiving either.

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Guest Kedomat

Danus walked into the camp following his guide. He had been surprised to learn the location of the Bands base of operations. Everything looked well ordered and the air held the almost palpable feel of readiness.

 

After a few words of greeting, the guide directed Danus towards a sand-covered training area. Training was about to begin and if Danus intended on being put to use, then he had better attend.

 

The training ground held three. Two other recruits held practice swords, but the other, a leathery figure, dominated the sand. Danus had seen the likes before. Tough, beyond question and unless he guessed wrong, demanding. In short, a veteran soldier.

 

The older man did not speak as Danus approached. Dropping his pack beside the long table, Danus regarded the weapons. The majority were the oversized cleavers that most brutes refered to as swords. His eyes swept across the rapier and he picked it up. This one will do nicely. Now if I can find... ah there we are. Danus retrieved the dagger from the other end of the table.   

 

Danus was far from new to the sword and this was not his first experience with an army, but sometimes prundence declared that you followed the order of things. He was not here to make waves. He took a place beside the other recruits.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sergeant Ronas watched impassively as the last recruit surveyed the weapons, eventually settling on a rapier and a dagger in the off-hand.  A pretty boy, then, he thought before moving down the line to the next recruit.  The other two had chosen short swords, good weapons for grunts.  The first, though, had taken some time about it, looking as if she'd wanted to pick up another weapon as well.  An effective technique, but hard to master and easy to defeat until mastered.  The first arrival, though... the way she held the weapon in her hand showed that she had more than a bit of experience with the weapon.  Not a total loss, then.

 

"Right then, introductions.  I am Sergeant Beleo Ronas, Thunder Battalion, and you are just three more sorry excuses for fighters that I get to pummel into something that'll do well catching the enemy's arrows for me."  No point coddling them; chances were that they would be dead in the next battle, as it always was.  "I'm going to assume that none of you worthless sacks of dung know anything about that piece of steel that you're holding.

 

"These are swords.  You kill people with them.  In battle.  Are you following so far?"  Condescending was always a good way to start.  It picked out the ones with the tempers.  If the temper was right, they could be molded into proper berserkers.    "At your level of aptitude- dead walking- there are only two rules that you really need to know about the sword.  Rule number one: the pointy end goes into the sorry bastard you're fighting.  Rule number two: avoid the pointy end.  Someday these rules will be reworked so that rule two becomes rule one, but since your only concern is distracting the enemy while the real fighters do the job, we find it works better if you somehow manage to entangle your corpse with the other guy's.  It gives us real fighters one less thing to worry about.

 

"Now, before we actually get on with this, I want you to tell me what rules there are in a fight."  These answers would tell quite a bit about the new flesh.

 

OOC: Post your answers, post your reactions, post attacking the sergeant if you want.  It'll all be worked in, no matter what you do.

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Saira remained silent during the explanation the sergeant had given them all. She didn't much enjoy the way it was being told, but a hint of annoyance in the man's voice told her that he had given this lesson more often than he had cared to count, and more than likely had been giving them since before she was born.

 

Still, she wasn't going to complain either way. She had come here believing she had a job to do, and Kandor, though free, wouldn't be safe if the Borderlands were still in turmoil. She had a need, she had a purpose, she had a goal... And it'd take more than being treated like an ignorant brat to make her back down. Gathering her resolve, she answered in a clear and steady tone.

 

- "There are none. You fight, people die, and assuming they won't do something to stay alive is something you can't afford to do."

 

At least, she believed she overheard her father say that once. Though backing up her words would most likely take far more effort than just speaking them right then, she wasn't planning to back down from trying to either.

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Guest Kedomat

Sergeant Ronas behaved as Danus believed he would. Bluster and the tearing down to build up. This had not been his first speech and by the resigned set to the sergeant's shoulders it would not be the last.

 

The girl who somewhat resembled a boy had spoken first. She held a tight grip on her temper, but Danus could hear the undercurrent. He smiled, inside of course, a smile would set the sergeant off before he could blink.

 

"There may be general guidelines, but every fight is different. The severity, the circumstances everything can change at the drop of a hat. I believe that you should never get caught flat footed and never pull your sword unless you are ready to use it."

 

Danus was not sure if that was what the man wanted. He very well might have wanted any answer as an excuse to rip the recruits apart. What ever the sergeant wanted, Danus believed what he had said. 

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Just as she was beginning to think this would be a solo training session after all, other recruits began to arrive.  The woman looked relatively inexperienced though the the man seemed to know one end of a sword from the other. No-one else appeared and as they'd gathered their choice of weapons, the Sergeant began to speak.

 

Elynde's eyes hardened at the tone though she recognised the sound of an oft repeated speech when she heard it. She'd been her own boss for so long that she knew taking that derision and condescension from another was not going to sit well. She was here to learn though and this man was one who could teach, who knew more than she did, so she gritted her teeth and listened, allowing no other outward sign of her inner thoughts, deliberately relaxing her posture.

 

"Now, before we actually get on with this, I want you to tell me what rules there are in a fight," the Sergeant asked eyeing each of them in turn.

 

Elynde waited, allowing the others to speak first. The woman sounded like she was repeating by rote, rather than experience. She tilted her head when they'd finished and spoke shortly.

 

"No rules. Kill or be killed."

 

Most fights were short and viscious. You did what you must in order to be the one who walked away alive. She had no intention of being anything other than the survivor and that was that.

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"It must be so nice to have all the answers to all the questions, you three," Sergeant Ronas said sarcastically.  "Well, the only ones that are even close to right are the two wenches.  I can almost believe the gray-haired one, but she sounds like she doesn't really know what she's talking about.  As for the pretty boy here... well, let's just say that that's about as far from the point as it gets.  Once you're in the middle of battle, there are no rules whatsoever.  It isn't even kill or be killed at that point.  It's just kill and die."

 

Stepping closer to the three, Sergeant Ronas said, "Alright then, I want you to show me how you would hold those things if it were a straight-on fight.  Swing 'em around a bit, show me what you can do, and we'll move on from there."

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Guest Kedomat

Pretty boy? So that is how he sees me. I can use that. Danus slashed a few times through the air getting a feel for his blade. The dagger he held firm in his off-hand.

 

"By your leave sergeant." Danus flourished a deep bow. Temper temper. Get a hold of your self.

 

Danus began to stab and parry in the classic fencing style. Every now and then the dagger would be brought in under a parry. The sergeant did not seem to be impressed, but most were not until the dagger found its way inbetween their ribs.

 

 

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Saira bit her lip, trying not to let the man provoke her. Though he was careful to hide it, he did admit she had gotten the question right. Unfortunately, he had also noticed that she wasn't all that secure as she appeared to be.

 

She watched as one of the recruits stepped forward, and went through some fighting forms. Watching his movements, she tried to recall how her own father and brothers moved when they sparred, hoping to find some kind of common ground she wouldn't trip over her own feet on. Shooting Elynde a look asking her to wish her luck, she walked forward once Danus stepped back again.

 

The forms she went through weren't so much as forms. She kept her stance low, her blade raised in front of her. She went through a couple of sidestepping manoevers, moving the hilt of the weapon to block and parry attacks from the sides while keeping the tip fixed on an imaginary opponent in front of her. After one such sidestep, she lunged forwards, pausing for a second before rising up again to give Ronas a small bow.

 

While it was true that she seemed to have copied a lot off of Danus' forms, and felt as if she had been using the short sword as a long dagger, she still had a feeling she hadn't done that bad of a job. The low stance had helped in keeping her balance, as well as reduce the amount of potential openings -- and with her level of skill, there were bound to be a lot of them -- her form let through.

 

Taking a deep breath, she looked at Elynde again, silently wishing her luck as it was now her turn to show her moves... And hopefully not get chewed out about them too bad at the end of them.

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Wenches? Well at least he isn't addressing us as ladies I suppose.

 

Elynde had to suppress a smile at the thought. No-one in their right mind would mistake her for a lady. As the first recruit finished his moves, she looked him over a second time with slightly more interest, appreciating the danger his dagger could pose to the unwary if they focused overly much on the rapier. An intriguing combination but not one she'd place money on if the opponent had a longer reach and a heavier weapon.

 

Still... with speed and accuracy... the thought trailed away as the woman beside her moved forward, shooting an almost beseeching glance in Elynde's direction. She knows little of swords that one. The woman's moves were hesitant and choppy. One good blow and the blade would be out of her hands.

 

She transferred her attention to the Sergeant, noting the impassive expression on his face as he watched the displays from the recruits and wondering how many of those he'd taught had learned enough to survive over the years.

 

The woman bowed to Ronas and stepped back. My turn then. Elynde slowed her breathing and moved out onto the empty circle of sand, taking up a standard guard stance, her weight evenly balanced just as she'd been taught. She did nothing fancy or unusual, her skill wasn't up to that and she knew it. Simplicity was better than over reaching your own ability. All that had mattered in her training thus far was to be able to hit your target and not get hit yourself... or at a minimum, not fatally.

 

Slash low to high, reverse, block, thrust, parry, keep the blade moving.... Elynde slid through her usual basic practice moves with a flexible but firm grip on the hilt, feeling her muscles loosen up with the exercise. Finally, returning to a guard stance, she came to a halt and moved back to her earlier place and awaited the scathing remarks that were sure to follow.

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After watching the three go through their motions, Sergeant Ronas took a moment to think through what he'd seen.  All three of them had at least held a blade before, which was a good thing; it would save him some trouble when it came time to actually teaching them anything.  "First thing's first, very informative, all three of you.  You've at least held a blade before.  Judging by what I saw, the dark-haired wench could probably beat either of you in her sleep, though she's not exactly a blademaster, either.  Been in a few duels, have we?"  Though the question was addressed to the dark-haired girl, Sergeant Ronas did not wait for an answer.  Turning his attention to the silver-haired girl, he said, "This one here probably had a relative in an army somewhere or something.  She can quote typical front-line rhetoric well enough, but your sword-swinging is haphazard at best."  Turning to the young man, Sergeant Ronas had to fight back the urge to say something biting.  He normally took an instant dislike to at least one student, and this one seemed to be it this time.  "Which leads us to the pretty boy here..."  So much for acting polite.  "You might have had some training, but from the look of you, you've let it all go to seed.  And that toothpick of yours?  Ha!  I sure hope you're with the Scouts or something, boy, because the first time you take a strike from a real sword with something like that, you're crowmeat.  Too bad Captain Gesparion got himself channeled to death a couple months ago; he'd have shown you a thing or two with that thing, make no mistake."

 

Beleo had to take a moment to drive the memories of crippled Aldar Gesparion out of his mind.  He hadn't been very old when he was maimed, but he'd sure learned how to use those little toothpick swords.  However, that was not important to this discussion.  "Now, if we're all better-acquainted with our issues, we'll get started.  I'll face off with the dark-haired wench, and the silver-haired wench can beat on the pretty boy for a little bit.  Work slowly, one person on offense and one on defense, then trade up.  The point is to learn how best to swing that thing you're holding, as well as how to block against an opponent's attack.  Pretty boy, lose the dagger for now; there'll be plenty of time to learn how to use it later."  With that, Sergeant Ronas stepped into the ring across the dark-haired girl.  "I'll do my best not to crack your head open, and you do your best to keep it from happening," he said, bringing the sword around in a slow arch aimed at the middle of her skull.

 

OOC: Okay, each of you write a series on offense and a series on defense.

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OOC: Copost between Kedomat and myself. Enjoy! ^^

 

IC:

 

Danus walked over to the table of weapons and replaced the dagger. While close to his pack, he removed his coat and placed it inside. The sergeant and the older woman had moved away. He returned to his partner.

 

"Hello. My name is Danus Haslin. I am from Mayene and it is a pleasure to meet you." Danus smiled and gave her a deep bow. Danus glanced towards the sergeant and gave the girl another smile. "You hold your temper well."

 

-----

 

Saira was suddenly relieved she hadn't managed to give off a better impression, hearing that the dark haired girl was to spar the sergeant himself. Still, she didn't want to allow herself to be distracted from her training, and she doubted the sergeant wouldn't want her ignoring his orders either. Following Danus to the table, she traded the short sword for a latched training model that would undoubtedly be more suited for sparring than the metal model she had been using.

 

As the person that would be her opponent aproached. He was older than she was, and slightly taller as well. As he introduced himself, she returned the bow he gave her with a small one of her own, habitually touching hilt and heart as was common in the Borderlands. She also pretended not to hear his comment about her temper, shrugging it off as she introduced herself.

 

- "Hi, i'm Saira Fujimura, from Kandor. Pleasure to meet you as well. Umm... What do you want to start out with?"

 

-----

 

Danus liked her instantly. She seemed strong-willed, but not full of her self.

 

"I suppose we should just try to hit each other." Danus said. "You can start if you like. I will need to learn to deflect the larger weapons blows."

 

Danus readied himself, standing sideways.

 

"Let us start slow so we don't hurt each other too much."

 

-----

 

Saira nodded, and peeked over to the other pair to copy the dark haired woman's stance. Looking back at Danus, she noticed he had slipped into a stance of his own, the look on his face telling her that he was prepared. She felt somewhat reassured as she looked at her weapon, knowing it wasn't lethal unless her opponent did something very, very stupid. And then, she charged.

 

She was starting out slow, as the two of them had agreed on, though she kept her motions as fluid as possible, trying to end every attack in the starting position of the next one. Her balance still needed to much work to pull it off fast enough to actually be useful in combat, but practising never hurt... Well, most of the time. While she only held one sword, her being lefthanded could give her a slight edge sparring with Danus -- one she believed she'd be needing for when it was her turn to be on the defensive.

 

-----

 

Danus defended against Saira's attacks. The young woman seemed to be somewhat hesitant at first, but as the minutes passed she gained more and more confidence. Danus hoped that he would do as well when the tables were turned.

 

"You are doing well." Danus said. "Watch your foot work, don't trip yourself."

 

The young man practiced turning the heavier blade away from his body. The important part was to use the other weapon's momentum against itself. Danus attempted to gain better position after each parry slipping around and away from his opponent.

 

She continued the attack. The motion of her sword becoming more fluid. They added a little speed and after a few moments, Danus missed turning an attack aside and felt the slap of a blade against his skin. He nodded and smiled.

 

"That was good." He said, "Would you like to switch now?"

 

-----

 

Saira yelped as her blade managed to connect. She had become lost in the movements, and clearing her mind had had a calming influence on her in more ways than one. Still, the crack of the latched sticks against Danus' arm was a sound she hadn't expected to hear, and she almost lost her balance as she returned to the present.

 

Still a bit fazed, she nodded quickly in response to Danus' offer to switch, and retook the stance she had previously taken, her eyes fixed on the older man's weapon. She knew his shorter blade would be faster than hers, but before she cleared her mind of thoughts she couldn't help but hope she wouldn't be getting hit much...

 

-----

 

Danus held his practice blade parallel to the ground. When Saira was ready, he stepped forward in a thrust. Danus attacked in short quick bursts. Without the the blade in his off-hand, the young man had to try to make every swipe of his blade count.

 

"So why are you here?" Danus asked. He tried to concentrate on continuing to move and finding an opening. "You are young and unless I have misread my maps, far from home."

 

They began slow and started to build up speed again. Danus continued to circle and then change direction. He would allow space to widen between the two and then dash back in to close the gap.

 

Danus  glanced past Saira towards the Sergeant and the other trainee. They were engrossed in the training. I wonder how hard he is being on her. Danus missed a step and brought his attention back to the fight at hand.

 

-----

 

Despite her best efforts to stand her ground, Saira couldn't help but be forced to fall back. While she knew Danus was going easy on her from when she compared his current speed to when he was on the defensive, she still lacked the necessary reflexes and expertise when it came to defending against attacks. She noticed that Danus had glanced past her, and winced. For him to be able to afford taking his eyes off of her... she wasn't that bad, was she?

 

-----

 

The pair continued sparring for quite a while. Sweat beaded on both of their foreheads. Danus did not know how Saira felt, but his arms were growing tired from the practice and sore from multiple missed parrys.

 

-----

 

Saira tried to ignore the soreness of her muscles and wrists from the continuous pattern of attacks Danus was throwing against her. Welts stung on her ribs and arms from the hits that had snaked their way past her weakening defenses, and she had started to wield her training sword with both hands now, fearing she might lose her grip on the weapon otherwise.

 

After another sharp crack of wood on wood, she lowered her sword until its tip was resting on the grass, waving one of her hands to call a time-out. She was breathing heavily now, gasping for air in an attempt to recover enough of her stamina before the Sergeant would end his spar and move on to the next assignment. She doubted she'd be able to make it on time, but that didn't stop her from trying to anyway.

 

Guess her held back temper ended up being good for something, at least ^^;

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"Been in a few duels have we?" Elynde spat on the ground beside her, not bothering to reply. It was a plainly rhetorical question and one that was irrelevant. A few duels was an understatement and with her duelling daggers in hand, she was equal to, and frequently better than, most opponents. She'd been born to that. A sword was something else, something she was still not wholly comfortable with, feeling unbalanced more often than not.

 

Elynde kept a close watch on the Sergeant as he faced off against her. Here we go, she thought with no small amount of resignation. She'd suspected this was going to happen having seen how the other recruits handled their weapons.

 

"I'll do my best not to crack your head open, and you do your best to keep it from happening."

 

He was stronger than her by a considerable margin, as many enemies likely would be. She knew her speed and flexibility were her advantage when fighting. Women could just move and bend in ways that men could not. For now, however, it was not battle but training and, on his words, Ronas brought his sword around in a slow arc towards her head. Elynde's blade rose to block, slightly tilted to deflect rather than stop the full force of the blow,yet still she could feel the jarring in her wrist bones. His blade never slowed, slipping smoothly into a strike at her right side. She stepped lightly to her left, turning a little as she parried and brought herself back to a circling guard position, eyeing him carefully to judge where the next attack would fall.

 

Damn the man, his face is like rock and about as easy to read, she shifted her attention to his feet and legs. Changing weight distribution was not so simple as keeping a straight face and it gave her enough warning of the sharp jab aimed at her midriff for her to spin, slapping the sword away. The back and forth continued for what felt like hours rather than the minutes that had passed in reality. Ronas picked the speed up a touch, testing what wit and agility Elynde could muster and though she held her own, a welt on her left leg and another on her right shoulder made her painfully aware of her shortcomings as she wiped sweat out of her eyes.

 

"Change up. Take the offense." Ronas barked the words at her.

 

She was outclassed here but that was a good thing. It meant he could teach her what she wanted to learn. Taking him at his word, Elynde dropped suddenly to a crouch, slashing her weapon horizontally across his thighs.... and almost dropped it as the Sergeant blocked it dead. Allowing the blade to rebound she arced it up his left side aiming for the neck and again the attack was halted with ease. As the session continued, Elynde became ever more aware of her unprotected left side and her unease with a single blade but she pushed on regardless, ignoring aching muscles and increasing tiredness as she focused on not making the same mistakes twice. 

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The dark-haired girl knew something of the blade, at least.  She had not made the mistake that Sergeant Ronas had been expecting, and good for her.  If she had attempted to stop his first swing, the girl would probably be bleeding from a solid blow to her skull, at the very least.  At the worst, she would have been paying a long visit to the medics.  Not important at the moment.  Sergeant Ronas allowed his heavier weapon to drag along the girl's outstretched blade.  His momentum carried the blade in his left hand behind his back and into his right hand, the blow aimed at the girl's right hip.  The blow sent her into a circling guard position.  Not bad.  Definitely a couple duels under her belt.  Something that can be built upon.  The girl was trying to read his facial expression, which amused Sergeant Ronas to no end.  Leading with one's face was one of those little techniques that was beaten out of a soldier in the Shienaran army, and it was far less pleasant than the beating technique that he had employed here.  The neutral expression was not very difficult for Ronas, having had a few decades to perfect it.  She obviously noted that, and her attention shifted to his feet.  About time, girl, he thought wryly.

 

The girl obviously knew the telltale signs of a thrust, as she managed to spin out of the heavy thrust that he threw at her belly, the familiar ring of steel on steel telling him that she'd deflected the blow.  Ronas allowed the momentum of the deflected thrust to carry him forward, cutting the distance between himself and the girl, his blade cutting a lazy circle in the air as he repositioned for another attack.  Feinting with the tip of the blade, the Sergeant punched at the girl's ribs with his left hand, a common tactic which caused her to sidestep.  Oops, he thought.  She'd sidestepped wrong, and the not-so-light blow came immediately afterward, a heavy tap on her shoulder as Sergeant Ronas allowed the blade to fall.  To her credit, she'd managed to get her blade up to deflect, but not fast enough to avoid the blow.  That'll leave a mark, he thought, speeding up his efforts slightly.

 

The end result was two strikes when he finally called out, "Change up.  Take the offense."  The girl wasted no time.  Dropping to a crouch, she tried to strike at his legs.  An effective tactic, had he been at her level, and if he wasn't using a two-handed sword.  Shifting his leg slightly, Sergeant Ronas simply drove the tip of his sword into the sand between his leg and the girl's swing.  The sudden vibrations through the blade told him that she'd struck the weapon, and in a weapon the size of her's those reverberations would be painful.  To her credit, she didn't drop the sword, instead arching up to strike at his neck.  Kicking his blade out of the sand, the Sergeant spun his blade in a wide circle, intersecting with hers and sending it wide.  She knew enough to make the deflected blow into a spinning strike at his belly, which he also blocked. 

 

The two continued for a little bit, the girl still trying to land a blow, the Sergeant deflecting her strikes.  Occasionally, he'd look up to observe the other two in action, though it was nothing too impressive.  They both swung at each other like amateurs.  Everybody else did, too, when they first started.  Many never learned any more finesse; they were often among the first to die in battle.  The few minutes of activity seemed to be more than the three could bear, though, so the Sergeant called a halt to the action.  He wasn't even breathing hard.  "All three of you are weak.  You have no endurance.  It's a bit of an issue, considering that a straight-on battle is going to last more than just a few minutes.  If you don't correct this, you'll die.  From now on, you'll run ten laps along the walls of the Citadel every morning before coming back here to work on your swordsmanship.  We'll meet for four hours a day: one hour in the morning, two at noon, and one in the evening.  Before you bunk down at night, you'll run another five laps along the wall.  Two weeks from now, we'll see what you've learned."  Turning from the group, the Sergeant began collecting his gear.  Almost as an afterthought, he added, "By the way, should either of you two spar with the dark-haired wench, she's pretty wide open on her left side.  Be sure she corrects this; she needs to learn how to use one sword properly before she can go to two."

 

**************

 

"Well, I must say that you three aren't as hopeless as you were two weeks ago, but that doesn't say a whole lot for you."  Sergeant Ronas still didn't use the trainees' names, despite having learned them shortly after their first meeting.  The impersonal approach conveyed as much of a lesson as the training itself: they were disposable.  At their level, they might as well have had targets placed on them.  If they survived to make it to the rank of corporal, they started becoming more human.  Even when they outranked him, as they surely would one day, he'd still refuse to acknowledge them as anything more, no matter how often they pulled rank on him.  "And now, your last assignment before this training session ends.  Soldiers!"  Three privates loped over to the group.  "Ah, right on time," Sergeant Ronas said lightly before turning to the three trainees.  "Don't get greedy, there's one for each of you.  In order for you to pass this course, each of you must defeat your opponent.  First 'killing' blow wins.  Now, these three have been receiving the personal attentions of Captain General Salla Alliatar of the Infantry, so I don't doubt that they know their business.  You may begin when you're ready."

 

OOC:  Pretty straightforward here.  The better the writing, the more likely I am to tag an extra WS point onto the final number (i.e., potential of 2 WS instead of 1 here).

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Saira nodded, slipping into a stance as she tried to recall the lessons about the Void she had seen her father give her brothers back in Kandor. While her control of it was still a bit shaky, it had certainly been enough to help ignore her sore muscles after running the daily pre-training laps, for which she was grateful.

 

From within the calmless the Void brought her, empty of emotions, she heard Ronas give his last assignment. Or at least what would be the last if they managed to pass this test. Had she not been wrapped in the Void as the sergeant commented about the training their opponents had been getting, she would have grinned at seeing one of his tricks. She -- they -- had been made quite aware of the tricks up the old sergeant's sleeve over the course of the past two weeks, and they had not always come out on top, either. That Ronas would have picked more-than-capable adversaries in this last test was something she had been expecting by now.

 

That still didn't make it any easier though, Readying her weapon with both hands, she gave one of the soldiers a brief nod, letting his attack to pull him away from the other two to leave them some room to fight as well.

 

Having sparred with Elynde a number of times during her training, she had adopted some of her weapon style. Rather than trying to block the man's blows, she was deflecting them, something she had found was much more agreeable with her current physical strength. As he charged, she tried to read his movements as he was undoubtedly reading hers, and the Void shook each time their weapons clashed.

 

This continued for a good amount of time, both sides gradually pressing harder as they had started to get a feel for the other's movements. Saira wasn't having the upper hand though, more than once she only managed to dodge an attack at the last moment, and her hands were starting to hurt from the strain on her wrists.

 

She moved forwards again, locking blades with her opponent, putting her strength into it to try and push him off balance. While it was something unexpected, he quickly corrected, pushing her back with a quick shove before making a horizontal slash aimed at her torso. She however couldn't recover her balance on time, and the training sword struck against her upper right arm, sending a jolt of pain up to her shoulder.

 

Saira grimaced, taking the sword up in her left hand only. While her right would be counted as 'out of the fight', she still wasn't intending to give up. Seeing this, her opponent just shrugged, taking up his stance again after seeing Saira didn't want to give up yet.

 

Again, the lunge forwards. Again, the blades locked. However, as he pushed her back again to repeat his technique, she sidestepped, lockign her leg in between his to trip him up, sending the both of them falling on the ground. As soon as she did however, she rolled over, landing her training sword on her opponent's back with a sharp crack.

 

"Heh, yer lucky i landed on my sword there, miss. Still, a win's a win, good match."

 

Grinning, she allowed her opponent to help her up, brushing some grass off of her clothes. While she knew Ronas would have probably winced in disgust after seeing the move she won the spar with, a killing blow was a killing blow no matter how you looked at it. Unless you counted the welt on her arm, anyway. She hoped he wouldn't.

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Guest Kedomat

Danus eyed the two remaining privates. He tried to determine which was the softer of the two, but that was like trying to decide if the hammer or the anvil was softer. Either would have to work. He chose the slightly younger of the two.

 

The two men faced each other across the practice space. Danus readied himself. The man chuckled slightly when Danus took up his stance and laughed out loud when he took in the sword.

 

"Is this a joke?" The private said. "I will break that twig with my first swing."

 

"Then let us begin." Danus flourished a bow. The man chuckled again.

 

"Okay." He said. The man stepped forward and Danus took a few hesitant swings.

 

For the past several weeks, Danus had been training hard. Danus could not bring himself to like the Sergeant, but he had grown to respect him. The only way that the lighter quicker fighter would survive would be to avoid any major blows and strike when it was vital. Sergeant Ronas had beat that into him.

 

The private had begun to press him. Every strike that Danus deflected reverberated throughout his body. The man was even stronger than he looked and more confident. Good.

 

The long runs along the wall had given Danus time to think about a lot of things. He had worked out a plan for taking on the hulking fighters he knew he must soon face. The weights strapped to his arms were cumbersome at first, but after two weeks of eating, sleeping and training in them, his arms felt lighter than air when he removed them this morning.

 

After having each and every strike turned, even if some were very close, the private was growing angry. He probably thought this fight should be over and wished the lighter man would stop dancing. Any second now. 

 

The private swung a little harder than normal and Danus seized his moment. Rolling under the swing, Danus brought his sword first across the back of the man's knee and then kneeling, put the tip of his blade into the mans lower back, right at the kidneys.

 

The man was startled. Danus looked surprised himself. The shock left the privates face, to be replaced by anger. Danus took a few steps back.

 

"That was not a killing blow." The private said. "We are not finished." The man took a step towards Danus and Sergeant Ronas was between them.

 

"It was a killing blow." The sergeant said. "I think you see that, don't you?"

The man looked from the sergeant to Danus. He smiled.

 

"Of course Sergeant." He said. "Noble victory sir." The private turned and walked away.

 

"He is not happy." Danus said. The sergeant walked away without a word. Danus let the sergeant walk out of ear shot. "It was nice speaking with you as well."

 

Still unliked, maybe more than before, but he had won.

 

"I will take what I can get."

 

 

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The past two weeks had been bone wearying hard work. Not something she was a stranger to but the sheer physical nature of it day after day had taken some getting used to. Of course she’d made it harder on herself as usual. Rather than merely completing the tasks set out, she’d added to the number of laps she was running every evening, gradually increasing them and pushing herself to do better. The effects were salutary, not only improving her stamina but toning her muscles and aiding her breathing.

 

As she stood waiting for their last assignment, Elynde wriggled her toes in her boots. Her feet were badly blistered though finally beginning to heal over as she became accustomed to the constant exercise. Soaking them each night in alcohol had worked wonders, hardening the soles till they were at least no longer agony. That precious little tip had been picked up from another soldier she’d cozened into sparring with her during her first week.

 

Elynde’s eyes lay for a moment on the other trainees. Saira and Danus had proved themselves more than useful too. Taking the Sergeant at his word, they’d battered at her weak left side guard until she took steps to correct the fault. Finally she was beginning to feel that a single blade was comfortable, if not natural.

 

Her head came up focusing on Ronas as his words began to sink in. So, tougher opponents to test our mettle. As it should be. She knew the three of them were too used to each other by now after all their training. This move made sense.

 

Elynde hung back, letting the other two choose their enemies first. Appearing uncertain was a fair enough ruse to put the remaining man off his guard. He’d be more likely to make a mistake if he was over confident. She inclined her chin slightly in acknowledgment, spent a few seconds sizing him up and settled into a relaxed stance. Let him make his move, she thought. I’m not about to dance circles around him.

 

The man lunged suddenly and Elynde blocked, spun to one side and aimed a slash at his rib cage. He parried it easily and swung his slightly heavier blade in an overhand blow at her head. Determined not to be forced onto the defensive, she deflected the power behind it, letting it slide off her own sword and immediately attacked with a thrust to his left thigh. As he tried to stop the strike, she feinted, arcing her weapon up towards his shoulder. Prevented from making her target yet again, Elynde pushed her weight off her back leg and dived into a roll, coming up behind him and landing a strike across the back of his knees as she did so. He wasn’t as slow as he’d appeared though, spinning nimbly and catching her across her hip bone before she could stop the hit altogether.

 

They settled into a rhythm, neither gaining the upper hand but the volley of attacks coming faster from each of them as they sought some opening, some weakness that would give them the final blow. Distantly, she was aware of the sounds of the other fights going on but paid them no heed.

 

“This all you got woman?” the man sneered at her, the expression on his face telling her just what his opinion was of women soldiers, regardless of the Band’s open policy. “Why don’t you go on back to the whore house you came from?” His eyes roved over her in a deliberately suggestive manner.

 

Elynde didn’t stop to reply. She cut visciously at his chest from left to right, forcing him to turn slightly to block and on the back swing inverted her blade, slamming the hilt hard into his ribs. Off balance and patently angered by the turn of events, the man bent as though to ram his head into her stomach and she side stepped neatly, bringing the full weight of the blade down across his shoulder blades. Watching in satisfaction as he landed face first in the sand, Elynde pressed the point of her sword against the base of his neck.

 

“You haven’t seen your mother in a long time it seems, if you’ve forgotten what a whore actually looks like,” she said pleasantly, glancing up at a snort of laughter somewhere to the side but unable to tell from whence it came. She stood back, allowing the man to gain his feet and keeping a reasonable distance as she awaited the verdict.

 

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