Finarvi — Training Tired
????, Fire Season, Season/Movement Week
Fire Season/Movement Week/Freezeday/Early evening. [[[s01:session-38|Session 38]]]
After the events of the second Lunar quest, most of the group is sitting in the common room of the White Grape, drinking Rondrik’s alcohol and pondering recent events.
Finarvi has taken himself to the courtyard to work on his broadsword drills.
Finarvi does his drills in the courtyard early morning and early evening, about an hour before dusk, There’s an open invitation to join in the sparring and training.
Varanis enters the courtyard in her armour, with her rapier on her belt, her shield on her arm, and a smile on her lips. She watches Finarvi work through some of the drills that Berra taught them, not saying anything to interrupt his concentration.
Berra, an unsmiling, thoughtful figure in brown armour, is leaning against a wall, possibly even unseen by Finarvi, possibly even not watching. Her arms are folded, her head back a little in a sleeping-while-upright infantry posture. Her eyes are half open, however.
Finarvi’s clearly taking the drills seriously. His expression is focused and intent as he runs through the drills. And they must be doing some good, for he’s holding the broadsword like a weapon, and not as though he’s about to inspect it for flaws.
Varanis waits patiently, rolling her shoulders and the wrist of her sword arm. She continues to watch the Grazelander, after a quick glance in Berra’s direction.
Berra gives Varanis a fragment of a smile, just long enough to say she is watching.
Finarvi finishes the drill set he’s been working on and falls out of his fighting stance, shifting his weapon to his left hand so he can work the fatigue out of his wrist. He’s frowning slightly, recognising the physical evidence of too much unproductive tension on muscles that have lost their fighting edge. Looking up, he sees Varanis and offers a big smile of greeting.
Berra cleans out an ear with her finger, and scowls thoughtfully at the ground.
Varanis grins back. “You’ve been practicing a lot,” she observes. “Do you want someone to practice with? We still have language lessons to work on too.”
That latter suggestion makes Finarvi beam in delight. “What about combining the two? I need to practice the words I’ve been taught or I’ll forget them.”
Berra winces, but says nothing.
“That works for me. Only, I don’t have a <broadsword> because someone hasn’t made me one yet. I can go through the drills with my <rapier> or you can practice your <sword> drills against me and my <rapier> at half speed.” Every reference to a sword in Varanis’ suggestion is in Esrolian.
Finarvi can’t help chuckling at this. It’s possible Minik had a hand in at least some of his Esrolian vocabulary.
Berra whistles for attention, and rolls forward into a walk. “If the <man> who made it does not mind, I will <lend> you a <sword> I have not named yet. For the pleasure of it.” Her accent is Esrolian, and the words are pretty simple.
Finarvi doesn’t start at Berra’s whistle, giving the impression that, all appearances to the contrary, he was aware she was there.
Varanis smiles in pleasure at Berra. “<You sound wonderfully Esrolian>” she replies.
Finarvi offers her a small bow. “The <sword> is yours, Berra,” he answers, trying to match her accent.
“Damnit. I’m a Sartarite.” So Esrolian. “<I go for the sword.>” And she takes a quick detour into the common room.
Varanis tries not to laugh. “Finarvi, you were listening to Minik weren’t you? Shift the final emphasis like this…” She repeats the word, so that it is no longer lewd.
Finarvi winces. “Alright, what did I just inadvertently say to Berra to make her run off like that?”
Varanis laughs. “You might have made reference to an appendage that she does not actually have. Remind me of the Grazelander words for swords, please?”
Before the door has stopped moving, Berra is back, with her spare sword in its dark red scabbard, offered to Varanis. “<Here is a sword.>”
Finarvi curses in Pure Horse Tongue, and gives Varanis a rueful look. “He got me back, then. You can tell him when next you see him.” Slowly, in Pure Horse Tongue, he says “<<This is a broadsword.>>” He points at his own blade and repeats, “<<Broadsword.>>”
Varanis offers the Humakti a little bow and accepts the weapon from her hands. She removes her own scabbard, with the rapier, from her belt, and attaches the broadsword. As she does so, she attempts to repeat the liquid sounds of Pure Horse Tongue.
Berra steps back, with a nod to Varanis. “Right. I’ll watch, and see how you’re doing.” Fully Sartarite now.
Varanis nods. “Drills first, yes? Sparring after?”
Berra draws Wind Tooth, and begins to move into her own drills, moving slowly through a pre-defined form at a speed that makes the muscles in her left arm stand out and quiver.
Varanis finds a large enough open space to run through the drills Berra taught her. As she goes through the exercise, her eyes are drawn repeatedly to Berra’s form, studying the Humakti’s movements.
Finarvi repeats his own drills at a slower speed, observing the wobbles and inaccuracies that are revealed and determining to do better on the next round.
Berra does not notice, apparently. Instead, she moves through the work she is doing, grimaces discontent, and changes her stance slightly to go through it while watching Varanis and Finarvi. Now, if looked at, she would notice.
As she moves through the drill, Varanis slips into a different drill, probably one meant for the rapier. She stops and curses soundly in Esrolian.
“And again, with a front-heavy weapon,” Berra says calmly. “From the start.” Her attention drifts over to Finarvi after that.
Finarvi mimics the sound of Varanis curse as best he can. His lips twitch. His movements, slowed right down, are smoother as he remembers which muscles to relax.
Varanis scowls at no one and nothing in particular, and runs through the drill again. This time, her movements are competent, her timing is reasonable, and she makes it to the end of the sequence without losing her place. She smiles in satisfaction, then begins again.
“Don’t concentrate on languages now. Swords, not words.” That last has the sound of an aphorism to it, a quote from somewhere, somewhen. Berra’s voice stays calm, her sword moves slowly, her weight shifts. “Doing well. Tired enough to spar yet?” Berra rolls out her arm, Wind Tooth performing a delicate, dangerous dance. Apparently left-handed drills are harder on the Humakti, for she winces.
“I am,” Finarvi announces cheerfully. “I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep since coming to this city.”
Berra pauses in what she is doing to give Finarvi a dry look, and then a smile. “Well, yes. Exhaustion can help, but if we were in a lesson together, you’d be getting more tired now. If you want me to oversee it, say so.” She seems cheery.
As Varanis sheaths the sword fluidly, she smiles eagerly. “I’m always ready to spar.”
Finarvi looks dismayed at the prospect of facing Berra in full fighting form. “Not wishing any insult,” he says meekly, “I have some wooden wasters we can use.” He makes a half-gesture in the direction of the stables.
Berra puts away Wind Tooth. “Yes, the wasters,” she says. “And I put a quarterstaff by them. Grab me that if you want me to have something solid to get in your way. I’ll show you the signals.”
“I’m not insulted and I don’t mind, Fin. I’d hate to face Serala if one of us cut the other.” Varanis has slipped into using Serala’s nickname for Finarvi.
“I’d hate to face her too,” Finarvi replies with forced cheer, heading into the stables to fetch the sparring weapons.
“Put me in the way if you have issues,” says Berra cheerfully.
While Finarvi gets the weapons, Varanis glances around the courtyard, shifting anything that looks like it might be in the way. She also removes Berra’s new broadsword from her belt and returns it to the warrior, with thanks.
Berra puts the sword back with her gear, not taking long at all.
Finarvi comes out with the wasters and the quarterstaff. He’s donned his helmet, which he’d left off for the drills. He’s still not wearing his greaves. He grins at Berra’s instruction. “Hide behind Berra, understood.”
Looking at Finarvi in the helmet, Varanis nods. “Probably wise.” She winds her plait on top of her head and slides her helmet into place.
Berra, never unarmoured, reaches for the staff. “So, staff instructions. If you see it clashing swords or in the way, stop. If it hits you, stop. If it gets out of the way, start. Also listen for voice commands.” It sounds like a rote recitation, and she demonstrates how it might move, bracing it against her elbow so she can keep it in her left hand rather than using her right.
Finarvi watches attentively and nods his understanding.
Varanis nods. The staff is a familiar tool from the Vingan training grounds. “Any particular voice commands?”
“Start, stop, stand back. The only one to worry about is if I shout stop loudly. The others do not indicate danger. Main communication will be by wood. Continue until hit, then step back a pace and start again in your own time.”
“In the training grounds, we were taught that stop means stop moving, but don’t drop your guard, just in case someone else didn’t hear the command. Can I assume that holds true here, as well?”
“Yes,” says Berra. “Stop means stop carefully.” There might be a slight smile to her there.
Varanis nods. “Shields or no?”
“No. Don’t complicate issues. You need to know the weight of the sword without your shield and rapier reflexes.”
Varanis puts her shield out of the way, leaning up against the wall of the stable. She rolls her shoulders and strides over to Finarvi for one of the wasters. When she’s directly in front of him and between him and Berra, she asks very quietly, “Is everything ok?”
Berra, checking the staff over for splinters, probably has not heard.
He gives her a carefree smile. “I think so. Being yelled at and hit with sticks is much closer to the training style I’m used to.”
He passes Varanis one of the wasters. “Check it first. They’re newly made so there shouldn’t be any splinters, but it’s a good habit to maintain.”
“Tell me if something changes,” she murmurs. She accepts the waster and looks it over. “It looks good to me,” she says more casually.
Berra grimaces at the quarterstaff and goes to get a spear shaft instead. She likes the heft of that more, and just says as she comes towards them, “Lighter shaft than I had before. Note change. Ready?”
Varanis shifts her feet into her fighting stance and holds the wooden blade in front of her.
Finarvi adopts his own ready stance, a light and mobile stance.
Berra spins the spear to a halt between the pair of them, and then lifts it to a ready position to let them fight.
Varanis pokes Finarvi gently with sword. “Still awake, Grazelander?”
“I’m not that relaxed,” Finarvi responds dryly. “And that wasn’t an attack.” Varanis slides into an attack, based precisely on one of the drill movements Berra taught her. Finarvi was waiting for it.
Berra’s easy distance from the fight and her grasp on the spear shaft both indicate readiness.1Berra, as GM says: I’m going to say, you do a few rolls and match them up, and if anything goes badly wrong, Berra will roll to see if she matches it. Each roll will be for more than one combat round, although you shouldn’t take aaaages typing. Finarvi gets: 6/35 special, 65/35 miss, 38/35 miss; Varanis gets 31/35, 17/35, and 002/35
Finarvi parries neatly and ripostes with a slash that leaves him shaking his head in self-disgust. “Accuracy, Finarvi,” he chides himself. His next attack is more decisive and fluid, moving forwards inside Varanis effective striking distance in an attempt to force her backwards.
“Indeed. Double burden – correctness, and use in combat. It gets easier.” Berra does not take her eyes off the fight to speak to either part of it.
Varanis steps back from the attack, losing ground but deflecting the blows. Her nostrils flare, her grin widens, and then she’s on him, changing the flow of the fight to suit her. She swats his practice sword with hers hard enough to create and opening and steps in to take it.
“Good use of weight. Nice flow, Varanis.” Berra’s voice stays encouraging.
Finarvi tries to squirm out of the path of the blow but he’s let Varanis get too close, and his own blade is in no position to deflect hers. The blow lands, and Finarvi, laughing, takes a step back and disengages. “I should have known you wouldn’t be easy to push about.”
Varanis winks at him and steps back to increase the distance between them. “I’ve been pushed about enough,” she says by way of reply, but she doesn’t let her own remark taint her joy in the exercise. She glances at Berra, looking for instruction.
“Keep going. But less talk. More fight. Be the fight, not the talk.”
Varanis winks again and launches a sudden attack on Finarvi. But, she gets distracted by a movement from one of the tiny upstairs windows, and somehow tangles herself up in her own feet, crashing down towards the Grazelander’s legs. Finarvi leaps out of her path at the last moment. Varanis rolls past, regaining her feet quickly and says, “I meant to do that!” Then bursts into laughter.2Varanis fumbles, Finarvi successfully dodges. Berra calls, “Stop,” and moves her spear not into but out of the way. It seems a practiced movement, although if there were a sword in her right hand Finarvi might end up dead, as she has to use that to balance. Varanis freezes, but is struggling to hold back the laughter. Finarvi, meanwhile, tries to maintain his balance while surreptitiously slipping back into a ready stance.
“Right. Good. Varanis, sprint until your mind is yours again. Laughter is good, but concentration is better. Finarvi, drills until she gets back. Full speed. Keep on the edge. Back and forth, Varanis. Touch each wall until you’re calm.”
Finarvi obeys, slipping back into the now-familiar drills. He focuses on what he’s doing, not sparing a glance towards Varanis.
“Fast fast fast, while you have no opponent. Push yourself. How fast can you go?”
Finarvi pushes himself, still trying to maintain tight control. The wooden waster thrums through the air.
“Stop. Now start.” Halfway through a stab.
Finarvi’s movement stutters, his balance compromised. He shifts his weight and executes the thrust again.
“Good. Fast again. Do that one until you get the balance throughout.” Tricksy, this teacher.
For the next run-through, Finarvi makes an effort to relax his shoulders and bend his knees a little more, lowering his centre of gravity. It makes his balance a little less woeful.
Berra makes him stop at the end of most of the thrusts, pausing until his weight has had a moment to settle, and then letting him recover.
Varanis is bent double, hands on her knees, sucking wind. She took Berra’s chastisement to heart and ran until she had nothing left.
Berra nods to Finarvi after a moment. “Right. Back to it. End of a battle, you’ll be this tired. Plus, that ribcage you just stood in turned your foot. Stay alive, both of you.” She puts the spear in front of her to give them a point on which to form up. No mercy in the teacher part of her.
Varanis straightens herself up, shifts her feet into her ready stance, and raises the sword. She’s still panting, but it’s no longer desperate gasps. Finarvi enters a ready stance, eyeing Varanis warily. The spear moves out of the way as soon as they are settled in. Finarvi attacks swiftly, too quickly, intent to get an attack in before Varanis is ready for it. In his haste, all his carefully drilled technique and poise get left behind. Varanis neatly side steps, and swings a clean blow towards the Grazelander’s head. Berra winces, but does not try to intervene. Maybe she would be too slow, maybe she does not see it happening in time. The Vingan stops the blow more than two hand-spans from Finarvi’s helmet, in full and complete control of the wooden blade. The distance isn’t because she couldn’t touch his helm, but probably to avoid worrying either of the others too much. Finarvi goes stumbling past like a drunken Storm Bull. Varanis steps back to watch the Grazelander, and lowers her guard, grinning at him. He composes himself, meeting her grin with a shrug.3Critical for Varanis and fumble for Finarvi.
“Well done. Finarvi, try that again but in better order. Varanis, as you were. And remember that feeling, but not right now.” The spear goes back into place to re-start the bout. Finarvi returns to a ready position. The spear signals the start with the blistering speed of a teacher who wants to get to watching people and knows how to twirl a spear. As soon as the spear signals the start of the bout, Finarvi attacks with a feint.
Varanis side steps the feint and comes in with a stab in the direction of Finarvi’s belly. But Finarvi is not where she expects him to be. Her strike misses, but her sidestep has put her beyond his effective reach.4Both failed their rolls. “It was a feint, I didn’t need to respond to it,” she says, seemingly talking to herself.
Berra moves smoothly with the action, staying neatly out of the way. As they fail to swipe at each other effectively for a while, she says, “Aaaand stop. Well done.”
Varanis laughs. “Just like that, only different,” she comments as she catches her breath. “You move more quickly than I expect, Fin. I keep underestimating you.”
Finarvi’s breathing a little heavily. He looks mildly surprised, either at the praise, or at not having been hit more.
“If you don’t respond to it, it’s not a feint,” says Berra, drawing her sword and demonstrating a pause partway through an attack that she then continues at full commitment. “So instead of reacting, how can you make him react? How can you make him make mistakes?”
Varanis thinks. “I keep looking for openings in his guard, instead of making them. I can feint, like he did. I can change the distance between us to see how he reacts. Or better, change distance and angle. I can fake an opening to invite an attack at a target of my choosing, so that I can counter it.” This sounds like a lesson Varanis has had before, and is digging up from the depths of her memory.
“Mhm. Finarvi, you did well, but it’s not all good news. I want you to do those stop-drills more now. And I’ll show you another, unless you want to spar with me.” She grins. “Spear or sword, but I’m left-handed, so I’m unusual. Pretend I’m a dragon-newt. Or if you’re too tired, don’t. No need for pride.”
Finarvi gives a nod that’s almost a bow. “I feel like I need more drills first. And sleep,” he adds, like it’s an afterthought. “Though it will be useful to learn how to tackle a left-handed opponent.”
“Sleep, we ignore. If you’re not trembling, you can do drills. If you are trembling, you can observe drills. The demands of your body for rest cannot always be met, and the faster you learn that, the better you will deal with it when you need to stay awake another hour on watch. So, the stop drills, and also this…” She begins to demonstrate with Wind Tooth, showing a change in grip that flicks the sword from an upright defense to an outward threat. “Out fast. Back slowly, because you come back to be able to parry and if you are hit at that point, you lose the sword. Out fast, back slowly. See where my fingers end up? They brace only one way, but we’ll be using them for strength with the next drill. Out fast, back slowly.”
Finarvi watches closely, trying to match the movements with the waster. He soon moves to replace it with his own broadsword, preferring the weight and balance of a real weapon.
Varanis politely remains silent as Berra instructs Finarvi, but she watches closely, absorbing the instructions and demonstration. Her fingers twitch on her hilt like she wants to try the movement, but otherwise she remains still. Or at least, as still as an alynx who has just spotted prey.
After showing Finarvi until she is satisfied he has enough knowledge to practice, Berra turns to Varanis. “Good. Much more in control of yourself than last time. Now take me through those things I showed you about your own grip, and then we can talk about feet and distance.”
Varanis looks slightly disappointed, but schools her expression quickly. “Yes, Berra,” she says politely. Carefully she demonstrates her previous lessons, paying close attention to the grip and correcting herself once when she slips into a grip more typical of the rapier.
“Well done,” says Berra after a few minutes. “Now, see what Finarvi is doing? Observe. And can I borrow your shield?”
Finarvi is diligently practicing the new drills Berra has shown him. On the stopping drills, the blade has a pronounced wobble to its tip.5Rolled 96 on a con check, he’s reaching the trembling stage of tired.
Varanis grabs the top edge of her shield and holds it so that Berra can grasp the handle easily.
Berra holds it, and moves it around to get the weight. “The grip change one more time, Finarvi, and then take a rest. Water, and no complaining about your arms. Varanis, that.”
Varanis nods, steps into the space that Finarvi was just occupying. “Stop drill, grip change, or alternating between them,” she asks as she gets into position.
“You’re going to get the grip change, and you’re going to use it as you get past my shield. It should put the point close to my neck, so don’t commit to the thrust, but endanger me.” Berra does not hold the shield ready yet, but watches Varanis.
The Vingan nods. It takes her several tries to get the grip change flowing smoothly. The weight of the sword throws her off initially, but repeating the movement it gradually becomes more and more smooth, until it looks like she is getting the hang of it.
Finarvi sheathes his sword and retrieves his waterskin. He watches Varanis and Berra’s movements while he recovers.
Berra says, after a while. “Sufficient. Now, this is partly about your footwork, and partly about my mistake. I’ll be keeping my shield out a little far, but not much. First of all, find where you want to be so you can put the sword a handspan past my neck with a thrust. Do not touch me doing that, or I will be very annoyed. I like my neck.”
Varanis snorts. “I definitely don’t want you annoyed with me,” she says stepping into position. She adjusts her distance slightly, and then uses the practice blade to test. She grunts in satisfaction as she confirms that she picked the correct distance for the blade.
“Correct. Now, circle, blade up. You have no shield. My sword-arm is not a threat today, for we are training your right side, but you will keep up the defence until you can kill me. Draw out the shield with your distance, get past it, strike.”
Varanis takes a slow, deep breath, grins in a mix of concentration and genuine enjoyment, and follows the instructions. She circles, blade up, feet moving lightly. The attacks are swift and precise, each one carefully controlled.6For fun, I rolled it to see how well I’m picking this up. These dice are so extreme! This time it’s a 002.
Berra plays the part of a competent shieldswoman well. There are occasional chances that Varanis might take, some more obvious than others, and some even apparently happening only because of Varanis. Her look of concentration as she lets Varanis put a semi-sharp piece of wood near to her neck is hardly a glare at all. “Good. Nice distance. Keep it up. Try tapping the shield to see if you can get me to parry out…” There are suggestions, but no corrections – she seems satisfied with how it is all going.754/enough. But not a special. She’s just being competent.
Varanis follows the advice given, trying to lure Berra out of position.
After a time, her neck in danger yet again, Berra says, “Aaaaand stop…” Gentle enough not to surprise. She draws herself up to her full height, several inches shorter than Varanis, and with her right hand draws a Death Rune in the air between them. “Very good. The distance was fine, which is the important part. Practice that alone, with the understanding you should bite at least an inch into the neck as you slice. The full weight of the forward part, no hesitation.”
Varanis nods, looking very pleased, though she’s breathing heavily. She gives Berra a small bow. “Thank you for sharing your knowledge, teacher,” she says politely. Finarvi gets a bow too. “Thank you for sharing your training time. You are an excellent training partner.”
Finarvi’s eyebrows rise in surprise, but he returns her bow.
Berra goes over to use the last of the light for her own drills, which rapidly become a blur of death and blades, almost a dance against a dozen opponents. She even hums a few snatches of music as she moves, but mostly she fights something that nobody else can see. She seems to be winning, even left-handed, but she might have forgotten to stop.801. Happy Berra.
Varanis watches in pure pleasure. “That is incredible,” she murmurs to Finarvi.
“And formidable,” he agrees. Then he adds, under his breath so only Varanis might hear, “If Berra’s going to be a dragon newt, I’m going to fetch my bow and climb onto the roof.”
Varanis raises an eyebrow at him. “That might not be far enough away.”
Finarvi grins. “I didn’t say which roof.”
The Humakti is lost to her own imagination, her own enemies, and her own concentration. Very occasionally Wind Tooth makes a humming sound on cutting through the air, some trick of the hilt directing sound from motion, and revealing the truth behind her name.
“My teacher always told me to watch the feet. The feet can show you the difference between a novice and a person with skill. And the feet tell you when you are watching a master…” And indeed, though Varanis is watching all of Berra and Wind Tooth, her attention is focused on the footwork.
Finarvi nods. “One of my teachers taught me that bad footwork is a quick way to die badly.”
Sandals, pulled tight, hobnailed. Sometimes Berra is stepping into her own marks, and sometimes, apparently on purpose, she repeats steps. There are times when it looks like she is just casually passing through someone else’s footwork drills, following along. Then she is done, stopping suddenly with her sword in a position that must have taken off a head or cut a spine, and she is absolutely still for a moment before she returns Wind Tooth to her home and stands straight.
Varanis says nothing, but her pleasure at observing the Humakti is obvious.