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Talaban Morenae Gaidin
Sat Aug 26, 2006 07:50 (XFF:

The forest was calm and still, the whirr of crickets pervading the night as nocturnal creatures went about their business unobtrusively. The old barn owl sat perched on the branch outside its hole, wide open eyes peering intently at the movement around. Two rats and a careless field mouse sat deep in his stomach. Feeling too sated to move much, the owl cast its gaze around again, watching a pair of bats flit by. In the distance, a little waterfall gurgled as the waters flowed over the edge into the little plunge pool below.

Peace. Serenity. Harmony. The icy cold water cascaded over his head as the figure sat still within the pool, the veil of tears washing over his skin, touching every part of his body, cleansing his soul. His tongue flicked out, tasting the faint, sweet tang in the flowing water. A smile made its slow way across the face as tranquillity returned to his being. He understood now.

Swimming across the pool to the bank, the figure pulled itself out, jumping a little as droplets flowed of his bare skin, pooling around his feet. Moving some distance away from the pool, the man began to move in a series of familiar exercises.

He went through his stretches alone, feeling each muscle in his aged, scarred body. He revelled in the caress of the wind while he worked. It had been some time since he had done this. His mind was settled, habit taking him easily through the motions. The Gaidin knew why he had dropped the sword. He would never be able to knowingly strike a woman, perhaps not even one that wanted him dead, though he hoped not to test himself in that particular situation.

Finishing off the last of his routine, the Gaidin breathed easily. Moving over to Shadow, he pulled on his silks, feeling the familiar touch of the black garments against his skin. It was time. He knew she would be there.

He saw her, alone, framed in the flickering light of her torch as she stretched in the middle of the tomb. Talaban stopped to observe her. Picture perfect. In time, she would learn the correct poise. The Gaidin wondered a little at the fact that the Sei’Tar had persisted as long as she had. The rumour mill in the Gaidin barracks was its usual efficient self. He had already heard seven different versions of what he was doing to Kat, though most of them agreed on one point. Certain authority figures were not overly thrilled with him.Talaban gave a mental shrug. Honestly, he could not care less about it. He had sworn to the Tower, not to any individual or position.

Inside the mausoleum, Kat had finished her stretches. The Gaidin watched admiringly as the girl started her practice, schooling her muscles in the forms, both her blades whirring swiftly. Momentary unease returned as Talaban wondered how he was going to test the girl if he could not bring himself to draw blood. Perhaps Erevan himself would judge…

The clop of hooves behind him heralded the arrival of two more individuals. Even in the pale moonlight, one could see the obvious difference between the two mounted men. On the left, old Rivvy sat atop his mare like a sack of potatoes sat atop a barrel. There was only one word to describe Rivvy. Fat. His brown horse was equally rotund, both master and mount showing obvious signs of age. The wind ruffled the sparse white wisps atop his head as the old Saldaean Warder dismounted, adjusting his sword belt as his feet touched the ground. A great friend of Myrjala Gaidin in his youth, Rivvy had retired from the Tower more than a decade ago, devoting his time to tending the mausoleum.

On the right, stood a man who presented an entirely different proposition. Rael Vesane. Well over seven feet, Rael had pure blocks of muscle where Rivvy had blobs of fat. The son of a Malkieri Lord, Rael clung to the traditions of his dead people, even having sworn the old oath to ride when the Tower called. Long, grey streaked dreadlocks framed his square face, drawn out of the way by a weathered leather hadori. Strapped to his back, peeking over his shoulder was the hilt of Rael’s ancestral blade, Vengeance.

Talaban called into the hall, summoning the practicing Sei’Tar. Kat wasted little time, jogging over. The Gaidin made no mention of the events of the previous day. Perhaps he would tell her when her training was over. “Today, I will begin teaching you something else. Now that you have an idea of how the style works, you will begin sparring with multiple partners. Here, you will learn, truly, how to work each blade independently of the other. You will also learn how to counter and deal with various weapons other than swords. Rivvy Gaidin,” the fat man waved at Kat, “and Rael Gaidin will be here to assist me in teaching you.”

Leading the way to a clearing in the lee of the mausoleum, Talaban began the lesson. Moving at quarter speed, the three Gaidin circled, Rael and Rivvy attacking Talaban as if he were a common enemy. They moved slowly as steel met steel in mock battle.

The small cloud of dust billowed, hanging in mid air hesitantly before it was dissipated by a coughing fit. Gingerly picking herself off the floor, the Sei’Tar half entertained the idea of sitting back and bawling. A violent shake of her head banished cobwebs from her mind and along with them, the ridiculous thought.

Twenty seven nights. Twenty seven nights of sheer torture. Mace, spear, quarterstaff, short sword, daggers, two-handed sword, rapier, war-hammer, morning star, battle ax, longsword, naginata. Kat would never, in the foreseeable future, look at a weapons rack in the same way again. Each was an instrument of pain, sending her crashing into the dusty floor as the Gaidin forced her mind to learn through sheer brute force alone. The Sei’Tar would face the same weapon, round after round, until she learnt the gist of dealing with it in single combat. Then, there were the combined sessions…

Talaban watched as the fiery Sei’Tar pressed Rael, the ring of her blades a constant symphony against the power wrought steel of Vengeance, the fury and speed of her attack forcing even Rael to wield his blade with both hands. It was something the giant Gaidin was rarely required to do, to grip his monster blade with two hands. The former thief watched as his protégé whirled away, instinct guiding her movements. Already, she was developing her own distinctive style, similar yet different from his own.

He was proud of Kat. The Sei’Tar had come through the training far better than he had expected, responding excellently in what was the most critical period. She had absorbed, with surprising speed, the rough technique of dealing with different types of weapons, both defensively and offensively. Now, the Gaidin slowed the pace of the lessons.

Kat had learnt what she could from the breakneck bombarding of physical punishment. Her sub-conscious mind had responded, generating responses built on the basics that had been hammered into her muscles over the course of the last month. What worked was remembered, what failed, discarded as bit by bit, the Sei’Tar’s own dance began to manifest.

Talaban took over from Rivvy and Rael, pulling back on the pace even more, slowing the lessons tremendously, from the relentless punishment at the height of the torture to three or four long spars per day. They picked at Kat’s movements during the practice sessions, pointing out little details, how the alternative placement of a foot improved her balance, why her trailing blade had to be that inch closer to her body, refining her style, pointing out the little flaws before they became too habitual to change. Their’s was the weight of experience, each man vastly skilled in his own way, each aware of their own flaws.

Conversation returned, slowly at first, but increasingly rapid as Kat grew more at ease with the three Gaidin. She asked, they answered, debating points and exchanging ideas as the old men honed her movements.

Talaban wondered if Kat even realized how much her dance had changed from his. Of course, similarities in base movements were there to be seen if one looked closely enough but already, there were differences in the execution, the preferred movements and parries, and the way each used his body. Identical, yet unique. The Gaidin smiled. He was proud of her, proud enough to allow himself the arrogance of considering her his protégé. She was not perfect, he knew. There was no such thing as a perfect fighter but Talaban knew there would never be another in which the same amount of work, care and craft would be poured into. Kat had already passed. Both by his standard and Rahien’s.

As the sun dipped toward the horizon, the massive orange ball casting its dying rays across the sky, Talaban smiled wistfully, calling a halt to the exercise. The fifty nights he had spent in the tomb of Erevan with Kat were, arguably, one of the most memorable times of his life. He looked at the Sei’Tar, her cheeks flushed a rosy pink from the exertion, her body further tightened and honed over the long period of training. One day, if she maintained her discipline, she might rank among the foremost of her generation of Gaidin. Talaban paused, wondering how to tell her, before settling for the easiest, most straightforward approach.

“You have passed, Kat,” he told her simply. The Sei’Tar looked at him quizzically, not quite sure what he meant. “You’ve passed, Sei’Tar. By my measure.” Kat blinked once, before flashing her impudent grin at him. The Gaidin smiled, continuing, “You may leave for today, get a good night’s rest and return tomorrow at dawn. It will be a relatively easy day tomorrow, we have a few more things to show you, after which I will consider this lesson complete.”

Kat bowed once to each of the men before mounting her horse. As the drum of hoofbeats faded, Talaban blinked, forcing the moisture from his eyes. Rael’s heavy hand clapped around his shoulder, the dreadlocked Malkieri and the fat old Saldaean sharing the moment. They had experienced it once too, this bittersweet victory, the release of a student that each had grown close too.

Shaking himself, Talaban broke out of his reverie. Together, the Gaidin moved off, low, amiable conversation breaking the silence as they prepared the ground for the final course.

  • Breaking breadKat Tenzin Sei'Tar, Fri Aug 25 10:40
    Not for the first time in eleven days, Kat mounted Firefly wearily, her bones about the only thing that didn't ache on her body. The roan knew his way back to the grounds, which was good because Kat... more
    • Bittersweet — Talaban Morenae Gaidin, Sat Aug 26 07:50
      • Cat on a Hot Fudge SundaeKat Tenzin Sei'Tar, Mon Aug 28 07:55
        Distilled. There was no other way to describe what Kat had been through over the past two months except to say that she had been distilled. Her body was harder than it had been even immediately after ... more
        • Red wine and coffeeTalaban Morenae Gaidin, Mon Aug 28 11:38
          Mist floated, its tendrils seeking something invisible in sea of pitch darkness. Translucent wisps drifted in the half light, slowly moving apart as he peered through the fading curtain. She danced.... more
          • Wafer Thjn Mint (End)Kat Tenzin Sei'Tar, Mon Aug 28 12:42
            There was something about Rivvy's odd sense of humor that Kat couldn't put her finger on—and yet she liked the man no matter what. There was an inherent and strong underlying respect she received... more
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