Varanis — 1626 0714 Swordpractice
????, Fire Season, Movement Week
Fire Season, Movement Week, Clayday, in the evening. [[[s01:session-40|Session 40]]]
Wilmskirk, at an inn.
Yelm has not yet made an appearance, but there seems to be a fully armoured and armed Vingan loitering outside the inn where Irillo’s party is staying. She’s pacing, but it looks more like restlessness than agitation. It’s like she’s waiting for someone.
Berra is heralded by her voice. She is singing, not particularly well, as she walks around the wall of the courtyard to the gate. The same phrase seems to be escaping her each time, and she pauses outside, silent for a moment, and then speaking a spell to be sure nobody wishes her harm within. Then she tests the gates, and after a brief moment, there is the sound of running feet, a thump as a foot impacts, and the scramble of someone with one hand on the top. And over she comes, her right hand useless and her face set in determination. There is a bit of scraping and wriggling, but she gets over to land in a neat and wary crouch.
Varanis stares in silence, torn between being amused and impressed. At last, she says, “I would have unbarred it…” She looks wide-awake and cheerful this morning.
Berra says, “Well, yes, but… uh… can I find something funny to say later? I just got back from worship.”
Varanis shrugs. “Sure, I can wait. But, does this mean you are too tired for broadsword lessons? I know that was really about Finarvi and he’s away, but…” She trails off, looking hopeful but unwilling to impose.
“Uh… no?” Berra looks surprised. “That would count as worship too, in fact. It’s good. So let’s talk about using a broadsword against a spear, which we saw in action. Can you grab me a spear shaft and you a waster? I’ll get my shield. It’s inside.”
Varanis smiles broadly and heads into the stable where some of their gear is being kept. She returns very swiftly with a spear, what looks like the handle of a rake, and a waster. When she spots Berra, she says apologetically, “I borrowed a spear, because the length is more accurate, but it does have a blade. If that worries you, this might work, but it’s a bit short.” She offers both the handle and the spear to the Humakti. “I checked and there are no splinters,” she says.
“I can use the back end of it,” Berra replies. “Give me the waster first? That’s the one that might be hitting me.” She has propped up her shield against the wall of the courtyard. “Oh, I should have said that if you’d unbarred the gate I might have fallen off it. It came to me.”
Varanis laughs ruefully. “Indeed.” She passes the waster over as well. It’s one of the ones she and Finarvi have been using, packed in her gear and brought from Boldhome.
Berra checks that carefully, muttering in the poor pre-dawn light and running the edges along her cheek and her wrist to find cracks and splinters. She taps it against her vambrace and listens, and finally hands it back, to make room in her grip for the rake handle. “Having thought about this, I am tired, and I would hate to use the wrong strike because it’s the right one in a real battle, so no exposed metal. We can practice that when my hand has healed, and you’re more used to the weight of a broadsword.”
Varanis nods. She glances around the courtyard, which looks uncluttered. Like a Rondrik, this innkeeper keeps things tidy. “Here?” she asks.
“Anywhere else would wake sleepers, or scare people walking by.” Berra twirls the makeshift staff thoughtfully. “So, I’ll how you a few spear parries and I want you to think about how to get through and past them. Give me a half-speed thrust to my waist, if you would?”
The Vingan slips into a ready stance, light on her feet. She adjusts her grip on the wooden hilt, and nods. She thrusts towards Berra’s abdomen with a well-controlled half-speed attack.
Berra nestles her spear inside her arm, scooping up the motion with a circular parry and pushing the blade up and to her left where it should go safely past her. “That’s one. Did you see what I did?”
The Vingan nods. “It’s similar to a rapier parry, but with considerably more length. How do I counter the length? I can’t reach my opponent from here.”
“Yes – and if you… well, I won’t tell you that part. Let me repeat the action, and you can try to work it out. But… don’t think of the length as your enemy. Think of me as your enemy. I’m the important bit.” She rolls out her shoulders, a look of peaceful calm on her in the dim light. “The question is always how to strike me with Death.”
Varanis resets her stance and takes the thrust again. As Berra begins the parry, Varanis attempts to avoid the blade by circling under the spear shaft. It’s a move better suited to the rapier and looks clumsy with the broadsword. The Vingan shakes her head ruefully. “Well, that didn’t work the way I thought it would.”
“No, but that’s fine,” replies the Humakti. “Look without acting, as I move. Where could the sword fit?” Berra performs the same parry where she stands, without waiting for an attack.
“I could follow within the arc created by the spear, but that sets us up for going in circles. Unless, I can safely close the distance as I bring the blade around again.” Varanis looks thoughtful. “Or, I could bring my blade around for an off-side attack, which might work, but feels like it would be slow with this weapon.” She looks unsatisfied. “I’m not sure either is a good solution.”
“Alright. What are my vulnerabilities?” Berra keeps up the same motion, steadily. It is a good demonstration move, easily repeated.
Varanis replies, “The spear is offline, so your entire left side is more open. Once I’m inside your guard, you begin to lose manoeuvrability. Inside your guard, you’ll mainly have defensive options rather than offensive ones. The angles you can attack from are restricted because of the length of the weapon.”
“Good. And one more, but it looks like a strength. A little like your last. I’m far stronger than you because you will bend at the wrist while I will bend at the shoulder, if we push. You can brace your hilt against your wrist if you wish, but for you that is an option.” Berra repeats the move again. “I am slower to respond, and if I do not catch you, I am more likely to come back late. That’s one of the reasons getting inside my guard is deadly – the main reason I am strong is because I am slow.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “Again please,” she asks, raising her sword to make the initial thrust.
Berra does just that.
Varanis allows the parry to occur, but sweeps her own blade around and back to centre, closing as she does.1GM says: Broadsword roll to see how fast you get through, I suspect. Result is a pass.
That leaves Berra open to the action, and she nods. “Good. Try that again, a few times. That’s you getting your sword to where it needs to be.” She seems genuinely pleased.
Varanis repeats the attack and counter parry several more times, with the movements becoming more fluid through repetition. She smiles as she practices, enjoying the feel of the blade work.
Berra lets that happen, and is struck in dumb show a dozen times. Then somehow the spear does not move the same way, and instead of left it drifts downwards, the point towards Varanis’ thigh, as it catches the broadsword halfway through her attack. The sword is still in the same position, but Berra’s guard stayed inline.
Varanis responds to the change by stepping offline, removing her leg from its vulnerable position and bringing her own attack in from a different direction. The point of her sword is directed at Berra’s belly. She grins in satisfaction.[[Rolled 16 – success!]]
“Nice,” says Berra, and starts making Varanis choose between the two options. “There are a few other things I can do from here,” she says, “But you can reduce them by doing what you’re doing – being the one to press forwards. Don’t let me think. Make me react.”
Varanis starts to vary her responses to the two attacks. A couple of times, her experiments don’t quite work, as she misjudges the way the blade will move, but for the most part, the variations seem to be working.2Rolled 25 for a series of practice engagements. I figure that normal success in learning something new means more right than wrong, but not perfect.
Towards the end, as Yelm announces his own rebirth, Berra adds one last change. As Varanis comes offline the spear follows, Berra’s back leg moving around and back, and then pushing her forward as the spear extends straight towards the Vingan’s neck. It is a blow that could not be attempted with a shield, relying on her strength and flexibility. It looks somewhere between overbalanced and perfectly graceful, almost a ritual movement – just a very dangerous one. Her elbow goes above the sword-blade, her hand under the spear to support it as it rises wunward and Varanis-ward.
Varanis is caught off guard by the move. She frantically brings the sword up in an attempt to parry, but it’s clear from her expression that she knows it would have been too late. “That was…” She shakes her head, breathless, “unexpected.”
“That was me committing to kill you,” says Berra. “But if you manage to deflect it, even a little, I have to keep going forwards, because I can’t recover back. So then it’s shoulder to abdomen and it all gets messy.” She stands straight, still shorter than Varanis in her fighting posture. “I should stop now, because I’m starting to want to fight, and show other things, and you need to think about these more. Imagine them right-handed as well as left-handed, and move through how you would get your sword to where it needs to be.”3 Berra had a pass, a fail, and a pass there, but she was never not in control. Just a bit clumsy in the middle.
Varanis nods. “Thank you,” she says giving Berra a little bow. “I’m going to stay out here to run through the footwork some more. I heard someone in the kitchen before I came out, so I expect there will be food ready when you go in.”
“Noisy people in the common room, right?” Berra twirls the spear, stops it absolutely still in midair at waist level, and then jumps over it to put her wrist on the other side and extend it fully forwards. It is the flashiest killing blow there could be, and she grins as she straightens. “Heh. I can still do that!”4Critical spear, right at the end!
Varanis grins, impressed. “It was quiet when I came out, but people are likely awake by now. I’ll see you in a bit.” She tosses the waster from her right hand to her left and resumes her training, less graceful but just as determined.
Berra goes to put the rake handle and the spear away, and carries her shield back into the inn, over her back so she can open the door.