First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain. Please be tolerant.
Lillith sat on the ground and called the Servant of Duels, the spirit that sanctioned fights. With their protection, both parties would be safe from large injuries and also from death.
When she was done, Lillith stood and drew her sword. It was a long blade with a single edge and a slight curve, a fencing sabre. Chloe took the King’s sword from her hip.
“Let us fight!”
Chloe raised the King’s sword above her head, letting the tip fall at a forty-five. Her father had only ever taught her how to fight with a double sword, her mother an extra sword. The King’s sword, paradoxically, was a single sword, and she didn’t know how to use it at all.
Lillith and Chloe circled, each hoping the other would strike first, and create a line.
Chloe knew about lines, it was one of the basics of swordfighting. There were lines of attack, and lines of defence, and one could become another very easily. Chloe was creating a line of defence from her hand to her waist with the King’s sword, and with a simple movement, a rotation of the elbow or shoulder, she could move that line to intercept an attack coming from either side.
Lillith too knew about lines, but not by name. She knew them from experience. She decided to test Chloe’s defence and strike first. She attacked low, aiming for a knee. Chloe’s weapon was high, so she simply stepped back instead of blocking, then realized her mistake. All the openings created by Lillith’s attack were closed before Chloe could get close enough to hit them. She decided to strike anyway, and Lillith pulled her sword up to block. Chloe decided to feint, and instead of striking from above, she curved her sword down and hit from the side. Lillith simply moved her wrist and the swords clashed.
But Lillith maintained the hold, pushing her sword into Chloe’s. A lot of information can be gained from binding blades with an opponent, and that’s why it was generally avoided. She read Chloe’s pressures. Even though she was in no danger in this position, even though she should have exited the bind long ago, Chloe kept her sword pressed against Lillith’s. She was afraid. Lillith could tell that Chloe had become rigid, while Lillith herself was still light. And, thanks to this, Chloe’s reaction would be delayed quite a bit.
Lillith exited the bind, and Chloe’s weapon fell. Lillith lunged forward and swept across Chloe’s opposite, hitting her in the waist.
“Good.” Lillith said, standing straight.
The duel was over.
“What do you mean, good? That was awful!” Chloe rubbed her wound as the Servant of Duels’ powers began to work at it, closing it up.
“At least you recognize it. You’re using the wrong sword, I think.”
“How did you know?” By now she was healed, as if she had never been hit.
“You fight with a lot of deliberation, your movements are firm. You have an arming sword… even with a shield, the way you move would cause issues later on.”
Chloe’s face turned to worry, “well, what do I do?”
“You need a different weapon.”
Lillith smiled at her, “you’re a big girl, I think you need a weapon to match, don’t you?”
Chloe pretended she wasn’t insulted, “like?”
“I’m thinking either a two-handed sword, or a hybrid. Why don’t we experiment. Riley, hand me the sword with the two-part hilt.” She pointed, and Riley obliged.
Elliott went to the wall across from the duelling ring and sat down, leaning against it.
As Riley surveyed the wall lined with swords, Lillith approached her new student.
“Was that a good warm up? You seem more loose. Actually you’re muscles seem bigger, what’s with that?”
Chloe shrugged, “The Solune store part of their biomass as aura in case of large outbursts of laszor plasma is needed. It’s a survival thing.”
Lillith nodded, feigning understanding, and walked up to Chloe, “right. Whatever.”
She grabbed Chloe’s biceps and said, “you have a lot of fat here.”
Chloe wasn’t going to take this any more, she said, “what is your problem?”
Lillith raised an eyebrow, “no, that’s a good thing. You know it’s easier for the body to convert fat into muscle than to build muscle fibre straight out, right?”
“Of course…” she murmured in reply.
“Well, I’m just saying we have a lot to work with here.”
Lillith then unceremoniously lifted Chloe’s shirt to examine her midriff. Elliott wolf whistled, and Chloe blushed. She would have gotten offended if she had known the whistle was culturally offensive, but the Solune don’t generally whistle.
“You’re pudgy.” Lillith laughed.
“I swear to Däwngale, when I get that sword I’m going to cut your tongue out.”
“Good, we can see if you fight better or worse when you’re angry. Just saying, most people fight worse.” Lillith winked.
“Is this the one?” Riley had snuck up behind Chloe and was dangling a sword by its pommel.
“Yes dear. Take it!” Lillith motioned to Chloe with her eyes, “I’ll redo the ritual.”
As the two set up, Riley sat down next Elliott.
“Where’s Dool then?” He asked.
Elliott’s face contorted, “I… actually have no idea. We encountered-” he was not going to use the word savages, “resistance on the way here. He got to the Underside waaay before me. I don’t really know where he could be.”
Riley’s expression fell, “That means that he was incarcerated.”
“Are you sure?!”
“Yes. They’ve been arresting my followers one by one. In fact, it’s only you, Gerome, and Avvarice left at this point.”
Elliott’s eyes widened.
Riley reached into his purse and pulled out a few rectangular sheets of stiff cotton. This was Lussa currency. It didn’t hold intrinsic value like Solune coins, instead it held a promise of value from the monarch.
“I don’t know for how much longer this will be worth anything, but here is your payment.”
“This is… this is almost three times my regular pay.” Elliott began counting again.
“Yes… bonus for bringing us a new ray of hope in the form of,” Riley gestured exuberantly, “an angel from above!”
Chloe, who was in the middle of defending herself, glanced at him and flushed, but then quickly returned to her duel.
“And the rest is Dool’s half. He can’t use it in prison.” Riley shrugged.
“Damn.” Elliott frowned.
Chloe hit Lillith in the top of her skull, and the older woman was momentarily dazed. She took her revenge with great haste, however, and dispatched Chloe by grabbing the weapon with her off hand, and thrusting her own sword into Chloe’s abdomen. It plunged deep into her fats, aura, and muscle, but stopped before it hit any organs.
“Ah, foiled by Duels,” Lillith said. “That would have gone right into your secondary heart.”
They finished their duel, and Lillith announced, “well, you show promise. I didn’t let you hit me, and if you hadn’t been so stupid, letting me grab your weapon like that, you might have been able to land a second hit.”
“We’ll continue tomorrow with the two-hander, although I think the hybrid suits you quite well. No reason not to experiment though!”
Lillith lead the group to a large wooden table in a lavish dining room. Both sides were lined with red felt chairs, the table empty save for utensils.
Chloe noticed that there were no chairs at either heads of the table. She sat down at the nearest spot, and Lillith sat across from her. Elliot went beside, and Riley across from him.
Lillith looked around, a little lost, seeming suddenly very young because of it. “Uhh…”
There was a loud thump, and then the sharp sound of glass hitting stone tile.
Someone from the next room shouted, “it’s fine! Fine!”
A young man, no more than seventeen or eighteen years of age, came in with a handful of tall, thin glasses, and a bottle of wine.
“See? It didn’t break!” He smiled, revealing four gaps where his canines should have been.
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