In Which the Plot Thickens

Criticism, difficult questions and any perceived problems you have are, as always, welcome.

Nonsequiters are as well, I suppose, but keep the conversation about mudkips to a minimum.

-=-=-=-

Verdan pushed open the door, striding purposefully into the front center of the training gym. Forty young students stood in a loose half circle, wooden training swords in hand.

“Good morning, adepts,” He made sure that word held just the right amount of disdain, “And welcome to advanced sword techniques. I am your mentor, your trainer, your absolute authority for the next four hours.”

Facing the class, he quickly scanned for one particular face. Ahh, there she is. Arkenheart Dawnseeker, his little special assignment.

“The intent of this class is to begin forging you into proper, capable warriors. Compared to what you are about to learn, what you currently know will seem like random, pathetic flailing. In this class, I will not teach you how to fight, but how to destroy. I will not teach you how to fight another in combat, I will teach you how to kill another in combat as fast as possible.”

Drawing his own wooden sword, he continued.

“I will teach you how to disable, dismember and utterly dominate any foe in a matter of seconds. To demonstrate what I mean…” he smiled, “Attack me.”

His students were somewhat surprised. A few uncertain glances, some shuffling of feet. No one outright attacked him. Which was good, of course, attacking a teacher went against every instinct these students had.

“I promise none of you will be hurt, well, fatally anyways. Go on. Someone try and hit me.”

One student gave it a shot, a careful, conservative strike to his belly. Verdan, using his own sword, pushed the student’s aside, quickly stepping past the wooden blades. Using his right foot, he pinned one of the student’s feet to the ground, viciously shoving him with his free arm. The student lost his footing immediately, crashing to the floor.

Releasing his pin, he stepped backwards. “If this were an actual battle, this brave volunteer would currently be suffering from several cracked ribs, a broken leg, and would be in a position where defense against a killing blow would be nearly impossible. Anyone else care to try?”

He searched the faces of his surprised students. “Anyone? Anyone at all?”

Turning to Arkenheart, he pointed his sword at her. “What about you? Care to try your luck against me?”

No time like the present to start his special project.

Arkenheart carefully leveled her sword at him, or at least appeared to. She was holding the blade firm, yet loose enough for a wide range of attacks and defenses to be available. Good, Bloodwrath’s information was correct, she was already skilled with a sword.

She stabbed at him suddenly, thrusting the point of the sword towards him. No sweeping, no cutting, just an outright stab. He deflected her attack easily, but she then grabbed his sword in her free hand, snapping the wooden blade in half with sheer strength. She threw the splintered end at his face, quickly closing to him and throwing a punch at his jaw.

He dodged to the side, slamming the pommel of his broken sword into her hand, the pain causing her to drop her own sword. She charged him then, throwing her body into his.

He almost lost his footing, but shrugging her to the side managed to deflect most of her force. She grabbed his arm as she went past, pulling him after her, using her own weight to drag him. She threw a kick at his opposite leg.

He stumbled, but used that to his advantage before she could. Allowing himself to fall, he lent his momentum to hers, slamming her into the floor with a resounding crack as skull met stone.

He released her, standing, carefully brushing some of the splinters off his vest. Dazed, Arkenheart pulled herself to a seated position. Offering a hand to her, he pulled her to a feet, and nodded his approval to her.

“Excellent, most excellent. Class, it is this kind of fighting I will teach you.”

“But that was a horrible example!” One student objected. “She could not do that to a real sword! The whole fight is moot!”

Verdan shook his head. Inwardly, he smiled. He was always pleased when at least one of his students followed his scripts precisely.

“This is not a standard military class. I will not teach you set maneuvers to use. I will not teach you step by step attacks. I will teach you how to analyze the situation, how to react to changing circumstances, how to use every resource, advantage and weakness at your disposal to completely defeat your opponents.”

Placing his hands behind his back, he began to pace.

“You say, the fight was moot. We were, after all, using wooden swords. But that is exactly the point. We were using wooden swords. The pupil, as I’m sure you noted, used that to her advantage. The same tactic would not be possible if we were using steel weapons, but that is not relevant. We were not using steel weapons, thus any strategy that depends on their use is irrelevant.”

“But-”

“I hardly expect you to understand. Not yet, at least. Know this: in this class, there is no such thing as rules of engagement. Every tactic, every strategy you can think of, is permissible here. There are no limits, no restrictions. Unleash your absolute best and worst, and you will succeed. Limit yourself, and fail.”

Turning to face his class again. “Now, would anyone else like to ‘have a go’, as the saying goes.”

Three students attacked him at once. Simply tripping one, he grabbed another of them, using him as a shield against the third’s attack. Unable to stop her attack in time, the third student brought her sword smashing down on the head of the student Verdan held, knocking the poor elf out cold.

Throwing the unconscious body at her, Verdan quickly overwhelmed her, disarming her and pinning her to the ground.

“Superior numbers does not necessarily mean superior odds, especially against an ‘unarmed’ foe.” He said to the class, again pleased that his scripts were being followed so precisely. Every six months his students did exactly the same thing without ever realizing it. “Superior numbers can be as much a weakness as it can be a strength.”

It was a good first day, overall. Two hours of students attacking him, two hours duelling each other. Four hours of pointing out their flaws in combat and telling them alternatives.

Four hours of surreptitiously watching his special project. She was quick. She was ruthless. Above all, she was uninhibited.

Most students he trained came from wealthy families. Not all nobles, technically, but the majority were still members of rather successful families. This meant most of them came with a certain level of honor. They came with standards, codes of conduct.

These things resulted in restrained combat. Blind spots and weaknesses the students were completely unaware they even had, or even worse, viewed them as strengths.

Slowly but surely, he removed these concepts from them. This was the entire point of his class.

Some grew out of such pointless chivalry swiftly, others took months to drop those tendencies. It wasn’t their fault, really. For most of them such behavior was so strongly ingrained they were not even aware of such limitations.

Not so with this Dawnseeker elf. Those who grew up poor, on the streets, or for whatever reason haven’t lived quite the most peaceful and protected life, did not have such crippling tendencies. At the very least such tendencies were less pronounced.

She was not afraid of any tactic. She retreated when it suited her, took advantage of her opponent’s weaknesses and missteps without hesitation, did not back down from using “cheap” or “dirty” tactics. No honor in combat whatsoever. It was beautiful.

For all intents and purposes, she should not even be in this class. She already knew everything he could possibly teach. Under ordinary circumstances, Bloodwrath never should have even assigned her to his lessons.

He watched her leave after his class was over. She appeared exhausted, but pleased. He had given her little but praise, though he had been careful to not give her too much. It would not do to tip his hand so soon. For the time being, it would raise far too many questions if he had taken on a study, or even expressed a favoured student, on the first day of proper training.

Perhaps a month down the line, he would ask her to tutor under him, privately. Until then, he would carefully make sure she received more attention and subtle instruction than any of her classmates. They, after all, were merely to become Blood Knights. This Dawnseeker woman, however.

Bloodwrath had a plan for her.

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11 Responses to In Which the Plot Thickens

  1. Momome says:

    As always a superbly constructed story that leaves me wanting more. One or two turns of phrase that halt the pace though, for instance:

    [Not so with this Dawnseeker elf. Those who grew up poor, or on the streets, or for whatever reason haven’t lived quite the most peaceful and protected life, generally did not have such crippling tendencies. At the very least they were less pronounced.]

    Maybe it’s just me being pedantic but that paragraph is a bit clunky…more words than needed I guess? Also I think ‘they’ in the final sentence is referring to ‘those who grew up poor’ rather than ‘crippling tendencies’ as I suspect you intended.

    Other than that though, awesome, loved it.

    • Euripedes says:

      Removing one “or”, “generally”, and changing “they” to a less ambiguous word. Let’s see if that helps.

      It would read thusly now:

      “Not so with this Dawnseeker elf. Those who grew up poor, on the streets, or for whatever reason haven’t lived quite the most peaceful and protected life, did not have such crippling tendencies. At the very least such tendencies were less pronounced.”

      Better?

  2. Monsieur says:

    Tell us the plan!! :

  3. Armond says:

    Suspense! Drama! Moar!

  4. Torumin says:

    “Not all nobles, technically, but the majority were still members rather successful families.”

    Members OF rather successful families, I think you meant. Typo aside, amazing work as always.

  5. Momome says:

    Replying to your reply to my reply above 😛

    Better yes, though I think I’d remove [or for whatever reason haven’t lived quite the most peaceful and protected life] from the paragraph. It could do with just being slightly more snappy 🙂

  6. Riptor says:

    This alomst makes me want to start a Paladin alt.. Almost…

    Keep going and I probably won’t be able to resist much longer

  7. Sun says:

    As much as the death of QCC hurt, I’m am glad your not done writing. This story so far has been a great enjoyment, and I hope you are able to continue it.

    Thanks for continuing to write!

  8. I really liked it. A LOT.

    One question though: if Arkenheart is *THAT* good, and THAT special, how did Triss manage to stand “toe to toe” with her? (unless she’s an advanced/2nd or 3rd year student?)

    Keep it up!!!!!

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