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Talaban Morenae Gaidin
Meat Entree: Prime cuts or leavings?
Fri Aug 25, 2006 09:55 (XFF:

Trepidation. In the pitch darkness, the Gaidin smiled. It was an ironic smile. He was just coming to realize exactly how much he hated the feeling. Wind brushed against his face, running soothing fingers across craggy features and ruffling blond hair. Talaban waited patiently, suppressing his own nervousness. He could feel the weight of expectation. They were watching.

Did you ever feel this way, Rahien? thought intruded on the peaceful silence. No answer was forthcoming. Still, he waited. The girl would be on time. It was the eleventh day. She had to be.

Talaban watched the portal carefully. Half of him was convinced Kat would not be returning on the second night. The other half worried that she would return looking half tortured to death. He did not usually care this much about trainees but there was something a little special about the girl.

The Gaidin watched as Kat walked into the mausoleum, her sure, smooth steps surprising him somewhat. He himself had come back to Erevan on the second night cursing every single muscle in his body. The SeiíTar had bothered to stretch. Still, Talaban kept silent, instead taking her outside to the clearing at the entrance of the mausoleum where he instructed her to follow.

If he was teaching, then his student would learn everything, not just what she deigned to learn. Moving slowly but deliberately, the wiry Gaidin stretched, feeling the pull on the muscles of his slight frame. Stretches fed warmth into scar emblazoned tissue, soothing the reminders of a hundred lessons. Beside him, Kat followed obediently. Talaban smiled. He liked the flexibility of her mind. She did not persist on questioning why he taught things differently from most of Jieldís instructors. Instead, the SeiíTar focused herself on learning and studying the benefits of both methods. He knew, in time, she would judge and form her own style.

Flowing through the stretches, time stood still for the Gaidin as he slipped into the callisthenic positions he had learnt as a child so many years ago. The Ramparts of the Sun, the Shooting Bow, the Swallow, the Swan and the Crow. All one hundred and twenty seven positions flowed in an ingrained routine as he showed Kat each and every posture, explaining which muscle each kept in a toned and prime state. Once they were properly stretched, they returned to the innermost hall where, once again, they went through the routine of corrections.

As each day passed, the Gaidin spent less and less time on basic forms and corrections. Instead, he sparred with Kat, demonstrating the variants of each form modified for his style of fighting. Arc of the Moon, Cutting the Clouds, the Leopardís caress, Soft Rain at Sunset, Wind and Rain, the list went on and on as he taught all she could absorb. The SeiíTar was a fast and able learner, often not needing to see something more than twice before catching it. In between, Talaban droned on about various principles of fighting, such as the Mountain-Sea change, basically a fancy name for people who fought by rote, whose moves were as predictable as clockwork.

Conversation flowed as they sparred, from the idle and mundane to the deadly serious. It shifted from philosophies and styles to the essence of being a Gaidin and back to recipes for soups.

Reality intruded. The steady clip-clop of a horseís hooves sounded clearly in the silence of the night as it moved through the forest, ever closer. Talaban smoothed his hands across the black silk garments he always wore. It was almost time. He inhaled deeply, a slow and measured breath, taking in the smells of the night. A slight clink and the crunch of leaves told him that the SeiíTar had dismounted.

The Gaidin waited. He knew she would be curious why the mausoleum was unlit today, especially on a moonless night. He could see her from where he was, watch the curiousity play across her face. Shadow was grazing outside, an indication of his presence. Talaban kept perfectly still, waiting. She would come in eventually.

Five minutes passed, the time ticking slowly. Talaban leaned against one of the columns, waiting. The chill of the cold marble seeped pass the silk shirt, cooling his back. Finally, Kat moved forward. She had given up waiting. Gingerly she stepped forward, trying to peer into the inky darkness.

Talaban waited still as the SeiíTar moved further and further into the mausoleum, each step bringing her closer and closer to the Gaidin. This would be her first test. Here, in the darkness, she would have no choice but to rely on instinct, for what use was conscious thought when one could see nothing? It was a test of how much she had actually absorbed. How she moved, how she fought, how she thought, everything would be laid bare for Talaban to see. All that needed further work would be revealed tonight.

Kat moved pass him, the SeiíTar inching her way forward, unused to the darkness. She moved pass without realizing his presence. Talaban waited till she had taken another ten or twelve steps before detaching himself from the pillar. Moving up to her, the Gaidin drew, deliberately causing his blades to snick in warning. Unfolding the Fan met his first attack. The stance was a little off-centre but it sufficed to push his blades away. Talaban pushed the attack, pressuring her a little, denying her the time for thought, forcing the SeiíTar to learn to give in to instinct.

River undercuts the Bank met Wind and Rain, Tower of Morning turned aside Boar rushes Down the Mountain. Figures danced in the darkness as steel met steel in a rapid, ringing staccato. Talaban moved constantly, keeping Kat on the defensive, testing her. The SeiíTar was good, her balance and poise showing her ease with the new style of fighting. She seemed to have shed any inhibitions from the teachings of her original instructors.
Time for the final test. Spinning to the side, Talaban feinted, turning Katís blow with a simple deflection while he changed his attack vector. The Gaidin attacked Lion on the Hill flowed into Arc of the Moon before making its way into Tower of Morning. Each time, Katís perfect parries lanced out as the former thief lapsed into what would be a familiar training routine, a standard attack sequence. Creeper embrace the Oak, the Falling Leaf, Lightning of Three Prongs. Another standard sequence. Deliberately he used forms that every SeiíTar would be familiar with, lulling her.

Watered Silk was met by the Falling Leaf square on, Kat already anticipating the attack. Steeling his heart for something that would hurt him deeply, Talaban struck. The woosh of the SeiíTarís blade was audible as she attempted to parry his expected move, the lack of resistance causing her to overextend. The Gaidin ducked the wavering blade stepping into the guard of the overbalanced SeiíTar. Ayende swung in, ready to cut deep into her side and draw blood.

A harsh clang rang through the room, the sound of fine steel striking stone. Talaban breathed hard, the adrenaline pumping through his body, the exertion making itself felt as he became aware of the trembling SeiíTar pressed against his entire length, one of her weapons trapped between them. His left hand was pressed across her neck in an arm lock, immobilizing Kat while his other blade kept herís wide.

A moment passed, then another and yet another before Talaban recovered first. He released the SeiíTar, spinning her out of his reach. In a wavering voice, he whispered, as she steadied herself, ďEnough. You have passed.Ē The words quavered, even to his own ears. ďYou are free to leave for the night.Ē

The Gaidin recovered his fallen blade, fumbling a little with Folding the Fan. He was confused, something which he was not used to. Talaban had meant to teach her a lesson she would never have forgotten, cut deeply enough that she would remember forever, yet not so deeply as for it to be a death wound. Why did I drop the blade?

He looked at the bewildered SeiíTar in the wan light. She was panting, her slight frame heaving with the exhaustion of the exercise. She seemed to be all right, showing nothing more than minor gashes and slits in her clothing. Her hair was wild and jumbled and her blades still hung in her hands. Talaban could not bring himself to look into her eyes. He did not know what he would find thereÖ What was he afraid of? Derision?

Talaban turned around, instinct guiding him more than sight. He needed to meditate. Chaos surged in his mind, a thousand conflicting thoughts and explanations. The Gaidin headed for the coffin. Perhaps he would find answers from his master, perhaps censureÖ it hardly mattered at this point. He did not notice if Kat had left, he only hoped she would return tomorrow.

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