Xenofos — After The First Death
????, Earth Season, Death Week
Earth Season, Death Week, Fireday morning. [[[s02:session-7|Session 7]]]
Early in the morning after the fight Xenofos is up uncharacteristically early and comes to see Berra.
“You asked me if I want to hear your observations, I said I would.”
“Ah, yes.” Berra was not in her room, but in the courtyard, greeting the Sun with the threat of violence, but she puts away her blade. “Firstly, you were lucky. He was not a great warrior. But there were a few times he let his guard open. Do you want to pick up a couple of wasters, or just talk it through?”
“Hmmm, let’s first talk it.”
“Fine. So, your form was good throughout, but your timing was rather off sometimes. He was creating a lot more movement, and I’m not saying he was BAD, but he didn’t have your precision. The first clash saw you taking the initiative, there was nothing unexpected there, but did you notice he had his sword-hand tilted inward?” Berra demonstrates, moving her own hand fluidly between two positions. “I THINK that was an error with a Rapier. It certainly would be with a broadsword. His fingers were doing most of the work. He didn’t expect you to come in that hard and fast, and he wasn’t ready, as far as I can tell.”
“Fascinating, I was just concentrating on my own thrust and wanted to be fast.”
“Well, you turned it aside well. But then. Oh… Xenofos. Were you trying to kill him?”
Berra looks a little like a stern tutor, suddenly. That ‘why are we talking instead of writing?’ look.
“What? Why would I want to do that, the duel was to first blood.”
Berra replies, “Because you were looking to get through his face guard, I thought. That’s showy and unnecessary if you are trying to kill someone. If you do, go for the throat, low to rising, from where you were standing. If you’re going to try to get in on either side of the nose guard, and you don’t, you often damage your edge. Go for the soft parts. Or don’t delay. You were more skilful than he was. I can show you what I would have done if you like, though.” Apparently she was not stern about whether there was an attempt at execution, so much as the execution of it.
“Yes I was trying to bypass his armour by cutting his face? But please do show me what you would have done – I did notice I am not quite good enough to manage that.”
“Bypass the armour by cutting at his throat,” Berra says, and pulls herself into a ready stance. “With a broadsword, this.” And, slowly, she moves her hand in a spiral. “Around his guard, as he recovers from his thrust. His shield was a little out but returning fast, but from HERE I am rising, always rising, so once I am past the bottom of the chin, even the shield is unlikely to help. Certainly, he would bleed. His cheek guards were long, but not that long. I can bend the wrist and keep the point going forwards if I have to, and my shield is enough to cover my hand.” The shield in question is currently imaginary. “This would be much the same with a Rapier, but the distance would be longer. Thumb just as yours was, but the easier target.” She stays at her nearly full extension. “You could have ended it and him there, but better would be paying for someone to put a magical matrix on your sword.” 1Berra passed her broadsword but not her rapier, so she knows how she would have fought it, but not how to do it classically as an Esrolian noble. Xenofos passes Rapier.
A nod. “That would certainly work, but I don’t think I could thrust a mans throat fast enough to pass his guard and not kill him.”
“If you’re going for the head, you already made your decision. I saw you go for the head. So be aware of that, and when you do, commit to it. After that, you were unbalanced. Your next major thrust was hurried, maybe because you wanted to finish things. That left your right leg forward. He had a genuinely fast drop and attack. I think he relies on a set of movements he practices a lot.” Berra demonstrates a sudden move, vicious and familiar.
Xenofos ponders things for a moment. “You know, I said to my cousins that they were speaking of accidents when speaking of possibility of death. But I did take that into account as a very possible outcome. Things do happen when fighting with sharps. It is not sparring.”
“Yes. And I would have said it was fair. Even if you intend to kill, that is within the word of the law. First blood may be last.” Berra looks up and down the length of her own blade, considering how to recover from her current position.
A shrug, a sideways look “I wanted to cut him and win, but I am quite happy that I did not kill him. Maybe I was lacking intent.”
“Maybe. It’s not a problem to be not trying to kill someone.” Berra stands by moving her weight forwards, and then tries the move again. “Still, you were committed too far. Want to work through some of that?”
“Sure. So I turned a cut into a thrust, while parrying low…”
“Let’s start with the moment before you made your forward movement. You were jostling him for the space in front of you, he had torn a wide slash in your shield, and you were committing to move. You were cool-headed, it was good… where were your feet? Where was your balance? Show me.”
“My feet? Errr. I don’t know.”
“Relax and try to remember that, then. I wasn’t watching all the time, but I was watching enough to get an understanding of how you were moving. So back on the field. He’d come in hard against the shield, you’d turned that aside – then what?”
“Compass step with right foot forward. I think.”
Berra nods. “And that was a long step to catch up with him?” She seems to be rebuilding the fight in her imagination.
“Rather to get offline and gain angle.” Xenofos had been moving backwards.
“Mhm.” Berra grins, getting the situation straight. “So let’s step through that, and try to do it again without exposing the leg. Then after that if you want we can talk about the Storm Bulls, but I was mostly busy at that point.”
Obediently Xenofos walks through steps a dozen times, with different errors in footwork in different occasions but slowly gaining flow to his steps.
Berra acts as a foe, albeit one not drawing her sword. She moves, stays, moves, until Xenofos has seen a lot of options.
“I think I got that. I still don’t have those steps in my feet so to say, but I think I now understand what happened and also variations of what could have happened.”
“If you fancy sparring, I could do with a partner who has a rapier?” She suggests wistfully.
“Sure.” Xenofos takes a relaxed guard. ” How intense you wish to start?”
“Slowly. I’ll be trying to limit myself to a set of options and I want time to think.” Berra goes to a pile of wasters and starts looking them over. “Want anything in particular?”
“Hmm, maybe ditch the shield and force myself to concentrate on footwork. But slow beginning is good for that too.” He takes couple of steps back and gets rid of his shield.
“Distancing, then.” Berra compares swords for a while, finding two rapiers that are the same length. “Here we go.” She hands over the one she will use, to be checked by the person who might get hit by it.
Xenofos slashes with the rapier to check its heft and balance and hands it over.
Berra finishes running her fingers over the edge of his, and passes it to him. “Right. Slow, concentrating on balance, and if you want to go over a thing again, just ask. I’ll try not to think this is a broadsword.” The rapier she has is several inches longer than Wind Tooth.
Xenofos is parrying with a shield he does not have and keeps on forgetting to change line or tempo. Despite stinging whacks from the waster he keeps on coming for more.2Xenofos fails Rapier, Berra passes it. Xenofos is more talented than Berra with a longer sword, in general.
Berra takes the chance to make Xenofos work for the correct distance, although the look of concentration on her face makes her seem terrifying to those who do not know her. It looks like pure, dark fury. To someone who can read her, it is the effort of control. She is pointing out mistakes by going through them to land on Xenofos, but she mostly takes this time to make sure he has plenty of chance to get his footwork right. On the occasions that he lands a blow, she smiles or nods with a word of praise. Orlanth is with her, keeping her breathing steady, and she does not call a halt for some time. Finally, after Xenofos has added a slice across her shoulder to the reddish bruises she has, she retreats, holds up her left hand, and says, “Enough.” She is sweating lightly, but shows little sign of having put in undue effort.
Xenofos nods, he is not too winded either but that left thigh and arm do show where he thought his shield was. ” I really need to remember move those feet…” His smile suggests he did not get frustrated by his lack of fluent grace. “… needs practise, no way around that. Except getting on horseback.”
“Infantry tactics. Avoid horses. They only go the wrong way.” Berra offers an arm to clasp. “Well done.”
“Thank you for the lesson. I suppose I need to tidy up and visit the Library.”
“Thank you for sparring. Any time.” Berra pauses, and then says, “Oh. Did you make a second date with Lord Hofhrai? The social one?”
“No. There was an invitation from him for me today though. I did not quite know what to make of that.”
“Uh… right. I know this one. I saw it happen once. It’s a public meeting of some social sort to show people that you can get along now. You don’t have to do much more than be in the room for a conversation. Usually it’s right after the duel, but I think there might have been questions people didn’t want to answer about dead Storm Bulls. If there’s not a place named by the invitation then somewhere close to where the fight was is fine. Or even just be seen meeting him and being polite. That probably works.” Berra gives Xenofos a grin. “There used to be a lot of action, even when the siege was on. You’d find people sneaking up to the roofs, sometimes.”
“I suppose I was too busy fighting Lunars to pay attention to private fun… So I need to arrange that meeting somewhere too.”
“You can arrange it, or I can go to him if you want. This is supposed to be relatively easy on you, either way.” Berra says nothing about fighting or private fun, although there is a small grin for no apparent reason.
Xenofos on other hand looks lost in his own thoughts, serious.
Berra gives him a moment before saying, “When did you last drink?” as she goes to put her wooden sword back on the pile.
“At Yelmrise, with the breakfast.” Xenofos comes back from where he momentarily was, shakes his arms and shoulders a bit and puts the waster away.
“Right. It’s hot. We’ve been sweating. Get some water down your outside and some water down your inside, and call it a good day. I think I’m going to go lie in the sun and think about Truth, but if you want me to run that last message, I’m easy to go.”
“Be careful. Yelms gaze can be harsh this time of year … And thank you for the offer. For a social call servant is better, I think. That was the way his note arrived too.”
“In that case, I’ll go lie in the shade a bit too. It’s not yet really hot, and it would be awkward to fall asleep and get burned.” Berra rolls out her shoulders, and then gives Xenofos a shallow but slow bow of farewell.
Bow is returned, with a friendly smile.
Berra is grinning as she trails away to go do very little while not on guard.
Xenofos follows the Humakti with his gaze for a moment, turns and walks away with brisk steps.