Morning came too slow for the Naer girl's liking. Yet it came all the same. One of her sisters, accompanied by a manservant, woke her by letting the false light of Augiery in through the window slats. "Time for your gift, Alora. I hope you enjoy it."
The comment accompanied an uncharacteristic level of what sounded like sincerity. This wasn't even Alora's favorite sister. It had her worried.
Nevertheless, she went about dressing for a day of exercise, putting on her supple and flexible training silks and leathers. They were simple enough in make, yet rich as befitted a family of standing among the Naer.
She nodded to her sister, and so they left her room, down the stairs to the entrance of their household, and into the streets.
For many stretches along the street, the traffic was still this early in the morning. This was one of the more traveled thoroughfares through the various stratum of the cavern city. Though it took them only bits to arrive at the Ring of Lashes, the moments seemed to stretch into breaks. For Alora, she was too impatient to learn, though she wasn't entirely certain what that would entail.
A Titiri stood by as Alora surveyed the line of potential trainers. Each of them looked strong, confident, and nothing like the common slave. These were gladiatorial slaves, their wills forged and warped and woven. Made into whatever the Naer needed them to be. The Titiri nearby had more created these warriors, than broken them. Through a combination of torture, seduction, empathy, and a gauntlet of anguish, they were able to create their minds anew. They lived to serve their mistresses, to perform their duties, and to enjoy it. The slave mistresses of Augiery were second to none in the world. Even the Avriel of Athart could do with some lessons from the lowest of the Titiri.
Thus Alora strode past each of the warriors. As she walked by each of them, they'd announce their style of combat. Their names were not important. Alora would be naming only one of them Teacher.
"Da'riya! Desnind Standard." Said a dusky skinned Sev'ryn male. He wore the typical garb of an Augiery slave, as they all did, with a few flourishes that put his culture of origin on display. Some mistresses found it entertaining to dress their dolls up in the vestiges of their culture. "Learn to throw your opponents off balance..."
Alora was otherwise unimpressed by the pitch he made. She wanted to destroy her opponents, not to defend or throw them off balance. So she moved onto the next instructor.
"Glie av'Orien..." Said the avriel, standing proud with his gray wings folded behind him. He was an exotic one, heavily perfumed and his eyes drawn with cosmetics. His white hair and feathers and their contrast with his dark wings were fascinating to Alora. Yet she passed him by as well. "Fly or die. Learn the strength of the talon's grip."
Of course, Alora couldn't fly, and so thought his method of fighting may not be useful to her, and may not translate very well to her form.
"Ki'enaq." Another man said, as she passed him by. He was a human, tanned by a life of laboring under the overworld sun. He had a strange accent, unlike many of the humans Alora had met. "Black guard standard. Strike hard, without mercy, where your opponent is weakest."
This appealed to Alora the most so far. Striking an enemy where they were weakest seemed like the path of least resistance. Yet, something held her back from accepting him as a teacher immediately.
Then there was an Aukari slave, who stood solidly, and only spoke to Alora when her eyes met his, "Ustrina.." He said. "Consume your enemies with the fury of fire." Alora's eyes flew wide as she heard it. The pyromaniac in her thrilled to the idea of a martial art devoted to imitating the ways of fire. Yet her sister, who stood behind her as she was making her selections, pushed her along to the next teacher.
"No no Alora. We're here to cure your pyromania, not indulge it..." She tsked.
The next up, was a large Lotharro man. She had to crane her neck upward to look at him, and marvelled at his physique. "Vo'Sha" He said, glowering down at her with a grin, "Breathe in, crush your foes beneath iron-clad holds. Stomp their heads, and break their necks."
Alora blushed, and hurried along, only to find that the selection of warriors had dried up. She stood next to the Titiri.
"I'm not sure if I like any of these styles..." Alora said. "Isn't there anything you can teach me, shadow sister?"
Having said this, Alora looked at the Titiri expectantly.
The older woman looked down at Alora, giving her a small smirk. "Feris Tenebris." She said, "You may learn the brutal art of shadow, from an original mistress of the style. Whether with the hands, the feet, the legs, or the knees. I can teach you to weave a web of darkness around even the swiftest of prey."
Alora's eyes went large as she stepped backward, and looked at the Titiri. She was tall, a bit taller than Alora at the present moment, and well muscled yet lithe. She looked like she'd seen some battles, and was heavily tattooed which delineated her age and experience. Alora was completely sold, having forgotten all the slave men who'd offered to teach her their styles.
These, the Titiri dismissed with a wave of their hand, and they filed into a corridor in the side of the chamber of the Ring of Lashes.
That done, the shadow woman took a step toward Alora, "Are you sure you would learn Feris Tenebris? There's still time to save that pretty, unmarked face of yours."
"Yes! Teach me!" Alora said brightly, bursting with enthusiasm.
With no time given for her to register what was happening, the woman's fist came flying at Alora's face, sounding with a sickening crack.