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Chilled Soup: Practice & Practice Again
Thu Aug 24, 2006 09:06 (XFF:

Kat let Firefly lead himself back to the stables, led by the Gaidin, her head bobbing in defiance of falling off her horse and to the ground below in exhaustion.

“The first thing to correct, child, is your stance. You are no longer fighting with a single weapon, but two long blades. Open your feet or your footwork will let you down. No more nonsense about defending with minimal movement. ” Although some of Kat's age might have taken offense at the "child", there seemed no derogatory tone and at his prodding and instruction her legs came further apart than normal and as if of their own instinct, her knees bent a little more to maintain a fluid sense of balance.

Not only was her stance corrected, but everything from the way she held her blades to how she would fight. The Gaidin had always taught her to fight with cold calculation and to keep a rigid yet flexible grip on her swords—to be the willow in a storm, but it seemed that Talaban Gaidin eschewed not only the new forms and stances the Head Gaidin supported on his grounds, but also the disciplines each Gaidin was instructed to teach to Aethan'Tar and Sei'Tar. His anarchistic tendencies were alluring and frightening.

What didn't frighten her was the fact she was working with live blades—in Kandor that was how they learned and although Talaban's words were harsh, she didn't think he would press her to the point that she'd harm herself unless it was through her own stupidity. In the real world, in the Borderlands, there was no room for mistakes there, nor would there be with this eccentric but incredibly competent warrior.

He was also caring and instructive, correcting her mistakes the instant she made them and showing her the right way; as such she hoped that she provided him with a sense of confidence in her own abilities by not making the same mistake twice.

Talaban Gaidin was right, however, in that fighting with a single sword was far different than using two swords. It was like spending her whole life learning to see in the half light of dusk and then coming out into the light at full noon. Working the forms with a single sword made the wielder dependent on the sword itself, while working with two blades in her hands, it wasn't a matter of just using one's weapon, but focusing the whole body to move. Her arms swung around in tight arcs, she crouched and sprang, twirled and danced around the room he had brought her to. To see a blademaster was to watch someone dance with their feet and their sword, to see Talaban Gaidin work her through the techniques was to watch him dance with every fiber of her being.

Cutting, slicing, turning, moving, by the time Talaban Gaidin brought her first day of training to an end, the linen of her shirt was plastered to her back and dark tresses stuck to her face. She was weary and exhilarated. There was faint disappointment and extreme gratitude when he finally drew up, blades sheathing with barely a hiss. “Enough, any more and you will collapse here on the floor of this mausoleum. You may leave for tonight. I shall expect you on the morrow.”

Firefly had been bored, that much was evident when Kat returned from the tomb and tried to lift herself into the saddle, her arms already beginning to seize up from the unfamiliar workout. She muttered a curse when the horse took a step sideways, hopping after him with her foot stuck in the stirrup. Kat had just finished fighting with Firefly when the Gaidin emerged, his face serene, and he led her back to the main Training Grounds with the long shadow of the Tower blanketing most of her home in darkness. He gave her no further instructions, didn't reiterate his command to meet him four hours before dawn, Talaban Gaidin simply walked off without another word, his movements fluid as if he hadn't just worked his body to exhaustion over the past hours.

Kat wanted to go collapse in bed, but she had to worry about food first even if she was afraid she might fall asleep halfway through chewing it.

With food in her again, Kat felt somewhat refreshed and recharged and although she wanted to go drop onto her cot and wake at the appointed time, her head knew that this would be wrong. Today she had worked muscles that normally didn't get worked using a sword or even her bow, and unless she wanted to arrive at her appointed meeting place with seized muscles, Kat needed to warm them up, use them for half an hour and then cool them back down again. Already she felt the stirrings of stiffness and soreness, and this needed to be discarded; she suspected Talaban Gaidin was a patient man, but she still didn't want to force him to wait on her while she loosened her muscles tomorrow morning. It seemed, to her, the worst sort of rudeness.

For the next fifteen minutes, Kat stood in the center of one of the practice yards, the sun beginning to touch the trees and set behind them, and she moved her body through some of he movements he'd taught her, only slower. Her arms thrust out slowly at her waist, loose fists leading them forth, then raised to chest level before spreading out and separating from her body. Drawing them in again, the arced in a tight circle over her head and then back down to the waist. Her legs weren't as sore as her shoulders and arms, but she worked them anyway, bending at the knees, stretching this way and that, until Kat felt the muscles warm and loosen.

Talaban had taught her with live blades and that was what she used for the next half hour, the gleam of metal flashing as Kat moved through each of the forms he'd taught her slowly and with meditative deliberation. The moves were as important as the speed, and she had to know them as intimately as any other form. The purpose was not to recreate the workout the Gaidin had put her through, but to test her memory, to pull on her muscles and warm them up and cool them down. She almost seemed a dancer as Kat swept from side to side in controlled, slow movements, sometimes raising to the balls of her feet in a pirouette that lasted seconds in practice, and was performed for real in a heartbeat.

Her movements ended with a double sweep inward and out again, her arms outstretched, head tilting back to allow the breeze to caress her face. Left as such, she was completely vulnerable and it wasn't the end of one of the forms he'd shown her, but was a good stopping point for her. Letting the swords slide back into their sheaths, she performed the same maneuvers and techniques when she began, feeling her heartbeat come back down, her body cool and rest and within the space of another fifteen minutes, Kat was heading back to her barracks room to catch some sleep before she'd need to be up and see Talaban Gaidin once more.

Firefly knew the way, remembering in a way only horses seem to remember. The spring air was crisp and chill, the feel of moisture in the air dampening everything around it, even the blades of grass. So early, the sun hadn't yet begun its ascent to the sky yet and she used a small torch to find her way to the front of the building and make her way through the beautiful and vast hallways of the mausoleum until she came upon the tomb of the man Talaban Gaidin had called Erevan Truesilver.

For a wonder, she had no questions, only the desire to learn, and as she entered, Talaban Gaidin was waiting for her silently, his face composed in calm. Setting her torch aside, she stood easily to wait for the Gaidin's next command and see what she would learn today.

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