• Graded • Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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Arc 720, 104th of Ashan
Darius couldn't remember where he'd first seen one of the notices, but it suddenly seemed as though they were everywhere he looked. One such flyer was in his hand, and he took a moment to read it again.

Come see grandmaster swordsman Doran Thetys!

Be amazed by his unmatched skills!

Dare to test yourself against the greatest swordsman in all of Idalos!

It sounded incredibly pretentious, and Darius hoped the swordsman's attitide would not match it. But he also forced himself to acknowledge the fact that even if Doran turned out to be even half as good as the parchment claimed, he could probably afford to be a bit arrogant.

The blond human was initially reluctant to go, but he eventually decided to accept the flyer's invitation by making his way to The Proving Ground, where he had been earlier in the month. His opponent then had boasted far less about his ability than the notice in his hand, but he - like Darius himself - had had no ability worth boasting about.

The Proving Ground was busier than usual. That had been clear even before he'd arrived, with an increase in foot traffic and enough of a hubbub to rival one of Bramwell Foy's exhibition tourneys. Clearly, Doran's reputation had preceded him.

Darius moved closer, unable to see past the backs of the other spectators as he neared the arena. He worked his way through the crowd, a dance of shoulder taps and polite apologies until he finally found a decent viewing spot within the surrounding susurrous sounds and readied himself to witness the great Doran Thetys.
Last edited by Darius Baer Bottom on Tue Sep 27, 2022 11:20 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 278
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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But a cycle or two prior, the Mortalborn would not have agreed to something like that. He had been a rather private individual and not enjoyed showing off his skills, at least not simply in order to entertain others, but frowned on such activities. Meeting Llyr who had become his mentor in both magic and dreamwalking as well as something more, had changed him though, mellowed his demeanor and made him appreciate certain things, to some extent at least.

The flyer that Bramwell, the man that had approached him upon seeing him spar with one of his servants in the garden of the house that he had rented for the duration of his stay on the island, had written did definitely not meet his approval though, although the information on it was true. He was the greatest swordsmen in this part of the world or maybe even in all of Idalos. He found such blatant bragging to be utterly distasteful though.

He preferred to let his actions speak for themselves.

He crumpled the piece of paper up into a ball and abruptly threw it away, frowning barely noticeably, before he entered the Proving Ground. As he took note of the crowd that had gathered in order to see him fight, he raised an eyebrow fractionally. There were more people than he had thought there would be. He let his gaze drift across the citizens of Scalvoris for a moment, spotting Bramwell who had practically begged him to fight at his establishment, before he turned to face his opponent, one of those savage Lotharro.

That trial, the Mortalborn had traded one of his customary elegant and expensive suits for an outfit made of leather, that was no less well-made but that offered some protection and was more appropriate for a fight. Instead of the blade of Grave Gold that he used most frequently these trials, he had opted for a simple steel longsword. He didn’t want to use that slightly flashy weapon here, he didn’t want to be taken for some sort of braggart; besides, plain steel would be entirely sufficient to defeat that man. There would be no need for masterfully made weapons or magic.

With that thought in mind, he raised a hand that was encased in a glove to hide the mutations that he had acquired due to his increasing proficiency in his chosen magic and gestured for the Lotharro to come closer. He would let him make the first move. He didn’t need the advantage that such might constitute. While the Lotharro who had opted for a bastard sword advanced quickly, the Mortalborn didn’t move at all. He didn’t shuffle, he didn’t flinch upon seeing the savage look on the other man’s face, but remained calm, cool and collected.

He only gripped his sword with both hands and raised it shortly before his opponent had reached him. The Lotharro attempted to strike diagonally across his body, towards his torso, a fairly straightforward, but nevertheless effective attack. Doran immediately stepped off to the side and then forward again before he struck diagonally downwards, intercepting the oncoming attack. At the same time, he aimed for his opponent’s upper body, in a move that was most commonly called the Strike of Wrath, although it was unlikely that the Lotharro or the majority of the spectators knew that.

The Lotharro attempted to counter. The savage man was not bad, the Mortalborn decided, he might even be an above average fighter, but he had fought men and women that had been far more skilled than him. If he had wanted to, he could have defeated him within trills, but he recognized that Bramwell and the crowd might not appreciate such; they wanted to be entertained, and since he had been in a rather favorable mood recently, he decided to give them what they craved and hold back, for a little while at least.

Besides, a part of him actually began to enjoy himself. The Lotharro was no match for him – few in this world were – but he was quite a bit more skilled than Elias, his Etzori servant, that he usually practiced with or Plia, the young half Eidisi woman that had become his assistant.

He met every one of the Lotharro’s attacks effortlessly and with utter precision, but he did not use his full strength; instead he opted to give his opponent the illusion that he might still have a chance. When he finally decided to end the fight, he did so quickly, closing the gap between them within trills and disarming the Lotharro who just stared at his sword that was lying in the sand now, as if he wasn’t sure what exactly had happened.

A moment later, the beastly man remarked rather in a gruff tone, “That was a good fight.”

The Mortalborn inclined his head in order to let the man know that he appreciated the comment and lowered his weapon before he moved to the edge of the pit to make room for the next two fighters and converse with the spectators if they desired to do so.
Last edited by Doran on Tue Jun 23, 2020 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 862

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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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"And that," Darius muttered under his breath with an exagerrated roll of his eyes, "is when I realised I was destined for greatness!"

The mocking comment supposedly imitating Doran Thetys was unnecessarily harsh. The grandmaster swordsman was a victim of overzealous advertising of Bramwell Foy's doing, and had made no such boasts, but Darius was in a mood to hastily judge.

He was also jealous. That self-revelation stung. He hadn't even fought his way through the crowd yet and he already wished he could have enough talent for such a flyer to potentially exist about him.

But perhaps Doran Thetys wasn't all the parchment claimed he was?

It only took a few trills of Darius watching the master of blades to realise that there could be no further questioning of the man's talents. Even as a mere spectator, the bearded blond could see that the Lotharro was little more than a plaything to his opponent.

Darius watched on in awe, immediately won over by the grandmaster swordsman's immense talent. Enthralled, he watched every graceful and refined stroke, until Doran finally ended the Lotharro's challenge.

The crowd cheered for their champion when the fight was finished, and there was extra pushing when the victor approached.

"Excuse me," Darius called out, attempting to remain polite and calm amidst a passionate and vocal audience. "Do you teach lessons?"

A nearby audience member roared with laughter.

"Weren't you watchin' lad? 'e sure taught that Lotharro a thing or two!" the man yelled, and the nearest spectators laughed, causing an embarrassed blush to rise up beneath Darius' beard.
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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Unlike some other celebrities, the Mortalborn who was one of Etzos’ greatest heroes – because of something that he regretted deeply nowadays and that he wished he were able to undo – did not crave attention. In fact, he was perfectly content without any kind of attention. It seemed as if these people here needed to engage in such behaviour though, and thus he shook hands, smiled slightly and even answered a question every now and then. He retained his calm and remained patient throughout the interaction with the spectators, although he did wish that the islanders were a little less loud and rowdy and would crowd him a little less.

When he heard someone ask him something – the man’s voice was barely audible over the noise of the people around them - he turned around, raising an eyebrow questioningly as he did so, and met Darius’ gaze. He took note of the younger man’s demeanor that was polite and calm, especially compared to the rowdy people around them, the way that he held himself, as well as his appearance. He was tall, almost as tall as he was, and he had the build of a soldier or at least someone who was used to physical work. His clothes were not of particularly high quality, but the son of Ziell who was likely one of the richest people in the city of Viden had never cared about things such as the quality of clothes when it came to those that he interacted with.

Darius, he decided, had potential.

“I do occasionally teach lessons and take on students”, he confirmed, in a calm and surprisingly friendly tone, and inclined his head, only glancing at the man that had made that rather superfluous comment for the briefest of moments before he gestured for Darius who he considered to be the far more interesting person to walk with him.

“It would be best if we moved away from here in order to discuss your request further though. It seems as if another fight will start soon, besides, it’s comparatively loud here”, he explained, furrowing his brow barely noticeably. “Tell me a bit about yourself, who you are, what you already know and why you wish to learn though”, he continued as he began to lead Darius away from the crowd. As he did so, he nodded at the Lotharro who was still lingering in the pit, perhaps thinking about their fight some more or considering challenging someone else, someone that he might actually be able to defeat.

Darius would notice that the man next to him enunciated his words clearly. He was a well-educated and proper man, especially compared to the people that usually frequented The Proving Ground; and while he moved with obvious confidence, there was nothing arrogant about him. He was simply a man that knew exactly what he was capable of and lived by it.
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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The response Darius received caused a mixture of relief and regret to well up inside him. On the one hand, he was relieved that such a clearly talented fighter was willing to teach him some of the basics. But on the other, he knew that it was probably going to be a painful experience.

That said, it was gratitude that he felt most of all when Doran invited him to walk with him and he obliged, ducking under the spectator barrier and sending a cursory glance to the rowdy group that he was leaving behind.

There was an inexplicable sense of pride that attempted to build up within Darius when his newfound teacher asked what he knew of swordplay. He wanted to say that he wasn't a complete novice, but the reality was that he wasn't far from it, and there was no point in claiming otherwise.

"I only know a little," he admitted, thinking back to the lessons he'd been taught at the Element Hall. "But I've seen a few fights. On ships and at the docks, mostly."

It wasn't uncommon for sailors, bored on a long voyage, to let their rum do the talking - especially when someone had just lost a game of dice.

"I want to be able to look after myself, basically," he addressed his motivation matter-of-factly. "I plan to spend more time at sea and in the wilderness. It can get pretty rough out there."

Darius looked up - an unfamiliar experience for him - at Doran, unable to hide the sense of nervousness in his gaze. He felt he was being measured in the man's mind, and he could only hope that he might pass muster.

"Oh," he awkwardly added, a little embarrassed when he realised his omission, "I'm Darius Baer, by the way."
Last edited by Darius Baer Bottom on Tue Jun 23, 2020 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 307
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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“Are you a sailor then?” the Mortalborn asked as they walked further away from the spectators and the other fighters and raised an eyebrow fractionally. He spoke in a calm tone of voice and without condescension, and he held himself straight as he walked, his arms clasped behind his back. His gaze was focused on the younger man, taking note of his facial expression as well as the way in which he moved. “Or did you simply spend some time travelling by ship?” he continued. “What did you notice when you watched the sailors fight? Is there anything about their fighting style or the lack thereof that stood out to you?”

He was not attempting to make some sort of small talk in order to pass the time until they reached a spot that he deemed suitable for a training session. There was a reason why he asked those questions. The ability to memorize facts, to observe and analyze your opponent’s movements and their fighting style and subsequently find out their weaknesses was vital in his opinion and could mean the difference between life and death.

As Darius admitted that he wanted to be able to look after himself, he inclined his head, acknowledging his statement, but not commenting on it. “It does get rough out there”, he agreed, speaking from experience. “There are worse things than bandits or rowdy sailors, creatures that would not hesitate to kill you”, he spoke. He had seen monsters, taller than any man, that clothed themselves in the hides of their victims, he had fought beings made of pure light – and lived to tell the tale – but he chose to not reveal those things to the young mortal. He didn’t want to brag, and he didn’t want to scare him either.

He didn’t need to be scared, anyway. From what he had observed so far, Darius seemed to be a fairly reasonable man, and cautious. There was something that he did comment on though. “What is your ultimate goal? Adventure? Finding treasure? Or do you wish to protect the world from those that seek to cause others harm?” he asked, looking at the mortal once more. No matter what Darius said, he would not judge him for it. Finding out what he planned on doing with his life would help him tailor the lesson to suit his needs though – and subsequently make him benefit more from it.

Eventually, he stopped in front of a weapons stand at the edge of the pit and let his gaze drift across the various axes, swords and spears for a moment, furrowing his brow, before he removed a slender steel longsword, without any adornments, and held it out to Darius. “This weapon should be the right one for you”, he decided. “Take it and pretend that you are attacking an opponent. I need to see you move – and how you hold your sword”, he informed him and made a step back, leaning against the barrier that separated the spectators from the pit, crossing his arms over his chest.
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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"Aye."

Darius nodded when Doran accurately guessed his profession. There was a sense of pride in the bearded blond's eyes, for it had only been earlier that season that he'd undergone the dunking ritual that had enabled him to establish himself as a sailor.

The man's next series of questions gave Darius pause for thought. They were too easily brushed over if he didn't consider his answers. Most of the fights had been drunken affairs, and they were hardly the finest examples of martial skill.

"The rum certainly didn't help," he admitted with a chuckle. "It made them sloppy and predictable with their strikes, and it often threw them off balance."

He paused a little, thinking back to specific fights, or trying to recall certain combatants.

"There was a sailor called Bronson," he recalled. "He was constantly getting himself into fights. But if you watched him enough times, you knew how he'd fight. He'd always throw two jabs with his left hand, and then a hook with his right..."

Darius shifted his position, as he attempted to mimic the man.

"...so when he threw two jabs, you knew what was coming, and you could plan how best to react."

Those reactions were different. Sometimes a fighter might duck or block the incoming attack; sometimes they would launch a quick strike of their own to throw Bronson off balance.

Darius nodded when Doran spoke of greater terrors than bandits, but his next answer came easily.

"All of those, but mostly, I want to be able to protect others."

It was true. He had always sought adventure and had often had fanciful dreams of treasure, but that had been tempered by the last time he'd been at The Proving Ground, when Yeva had arrived, seeking to learn how to protect herself. Knowing that someone he cared about had been attacked in the streets of Almund had only strengthened his resolve to learn.

Darius nodded when his new tutor gave him a practice longsword, and he took hold of it in one hand. He tightened his grip around the hilt, and felt the weight of the weapon, rotating his wrist to get a feel for it. From there, though, he was somewhat unsure of what to do, for he had limited experience with a blade. He adopted a similar fighting stance to when he'd seen the sailors attempting to punch each other, one foot in front, the other planted behind him to steady himself, and then, unsure of what to do, his weaker hand joined the the stronger, tucking right up beneath it on the hilt, and edged forward, lifting the blade above his head and over his shoulder, as if to strike downwards at an enemy.

"Like this?" he asked, clearly uncertain of what he was doing.
Last edited by Darius Baer Bottom on Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:39 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 474
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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Darius, the Mortalborn observed, was proud of being a sailor. The fact that he took such obvious pride in his occupation and that he seemed to give his questions careful consideration rather than brushing them over and answering them without really thinking about them cemented his view that the younger man was promising and that he might be a worthy student. He listened to young mortal carefully, his attention focused entirely on him, rather than looking bored or indifferent, as another man of his station might be when being faced with someone that was an absolute beginner.

“Alcohol tends to have that kind of effect”, he agreed, smirking slightly as he remembered his own encounters with certain inebriated individuals before the expression on his face grew more serious again. Darius’ story about Branson and how he fought revealed another thing about him. He was observant, and, judging by the fact that he still remembered how that particular sailor had fought, he had an excellent memory, both of which were traits that would aid him, in combat as well in regard to whatever path he chose to walk in the future. With that thought in mind, he posed two more questions.

“Do you think that anybody else noticed how Branson fought? Did he lose a lot of fights?” he continued, raising an eyebrow fractionally before he turned to watch the younger man as he grasped the practice sword. He seemed to be a little unsure of what to do, and his stance was imperfect, but that was to be expected. His desire to protect others was commendable though.

“You are much too tense”, he remarked as Darius adopted his fighting stance. He traded his steel sword for another practice sword and finally stepped forward. At first glance, the stance that the Mortalborn adopted was similar to Darius’ own, his knees were slightly bent though, and he was utterly calm and relaxed. His dominant hand was near the guard of his sword, and his off-hand was near the pommel. His grip on his sword was not too tight – a vice-like grip tended to be counter-productive in his experience.

“You also moved your foot first”,
he continued in a calm, but firm tone – he was not criticizing Darius for the sake of criticizing, but so that he could learn from his mistakes and improve. “This creates an opening that your opponent will see. At best, it gives them time to defend themselves against your attack, and at worst they will attack you. If you move your sword first, you will give your opponent less time to react. They will likely not be able to attack without defending. A cut is an acceptable attack, although you shouldn’t raise your sword quite so high as that might create another opening”, he added.

“Try again”, he told him. “This time, I want you to aim for my torso proper though. I will subsequently demonstrate a possible way to react to such an attack.” Having said that, he nodded curtly, a sign that he wanted Darius to proceed. As soon as the mortal executed his attack, the son of Ziell stepped aside before he moved forward and quickly struck downward, thus stopping the oncoming attack, using the strong of his blade, as that was less likely to be pushed away. He did not use his full strength when he parried.

Doing such would likely have ended their little spar immediately, but Darius would feel the impact, nevertheless. Doran didn’t simply stop Darius’ sword and wait for his reaction though; at the same time that he set aside the other man’s blade, he aimed for his torso. Had this been a normal fight, against a somewhat experienced swordsman, he would have continued to attack; as it was, he signalled for the other man to stop for a moment as he considered it to be important to explain the reasoning behind what he had just done. Darius needed to understand the basic principles of swordsmanship first.

“Simply parrying is never enough”, the Mortalborn spoke, hoping he would listen. “If you only parry, if you never do more than react to your opponent, you will eventually grow tired and exhausted – which will ultimately lead to your losing the fight. For that reason, every defense of yours should also be an attack”, he explained before he inclined his head. “Continue, try to parry the attack that I just executed, come up with an attack of your own and keep what I just told you in mind”, he told him as he waited for Darius to make his next move, his blade still pointing at the other man’s torso.
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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Darius nodded at Doran's questions. He didn't need to think so hard to answer these ones.

"Aye, he lost plenty of fights," he recalled, "for a time."

He thought back to one particular fight, when Bronson's less inebriated opponent was able to predict his attacks with consummate ease. It had been a brief brawl, for the other man's familiarity with the drunkard's predictable martial style ensured every strike was countered. After taking a beating, Bronson's approach changed.

"He eventually sobered up, though," the blond remembered. "Then he was able to think while fighting, and he became much less predictable."

When it came time to receive Doran's specific instruction, Darius had already resolved within himself that he would be willing to accept the man's criticism and instruction. It was not the first time he had held a blade, but he was quickly realising that he had mostly been doing it wrong.

He relaxed as best he could - no easy feat when one was facing a highly skilled opponent, no matter how trivial the combat - and after a few attempts, he convinced himself to let his shoulders drop, and in doing so, his legs naturally bent at the knees. Likewise, he loosened his grip, and he would be surprised to discover with his next strike that the blade moved much more fluidly and naturally as a result. The strike in question, aimed at Doran's torso, was easily parried, and the bearded sailor was quickly put on the back foot by the master swordsman.

Each miniature skirmish carried with it new lessons, so when he was asked to turn his own parry into a strike of his own, Darius obliged. It was made easier, of course, by Doran having already demonstrated the attack he would be aiming to counter, but it was still a challenging task. When his instructor turned his defensive parry into an attack, Darius swung his blade across his body in an attempt to knock his opponent's sword to the side, before lunging at Doran's newly exposed torso.

That had been his intention, at least. In truth, his movements were slow, predictable, and clumsy, but at least he wasn't drunk, like Bronson had been!
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Re: Don't Spar(e) The Horses

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… except that Darius didn’t manage to knock Doran’s sword aside and subsequently lunge at his torso that would have been exposed due to such an action, at least for a few moments. A more experienced swordsman might have succeeded – Doran was good, better than good, in fact, better than most other people, but he was not invincible, not even the Immortals were – but as it was, the alchemist knocked Darius’ sword to the side instead before he shifted the blade that was in his hands slightly once more and closed in again in order to execute a slice.

Had they not fought with what were essentially practice weapons, had this been a real fight and had he put a little more force behind that particular attack (he was still not using his full strength as such would have ended the fight within a few moments and subsequently have kept Darius from learning anything useful), it might have caused enough pain that Darius would have been unlikely to be able to hold his sword any longer. As it was, it would just be unpleasant though.

“Variety is, as the example that you mentioned to me illustrates, quite important”, he spoke as he readied himself for Darius’ counter. “Try not to be predictable. Don’t always execute the same attack. Surprise your opponent if you can. And move. Movement is an important element of defense. Sometimes, it might be better to step out of the way of an attack than to just try to parry - and subsequently approach your opponent from a new position.”

“And always remember, you are fighting your opponent and not their sword. Do not strike the weapon without attacking the person as well”,
he reminded him in a firm tone of voice. At first, such a statement might seem superfluous and, possibly, slightly ridiculous. He had seen it often enough though; men and women that were so focused on hitting their opponent’s blade that they forgot all about the person that was attached to it and that they were supposed to defeat.

“You are already doing much better, Darius”, he continued and inclined his head slightly in appreciation, smiling lightly as he observed how the younger man stood and held his sword now. “You are a fast learner”, he added. Those were not just empty words. He was not trying to humor his unexpected student or coddle him, he really thought that he was already doing better and that he was a fast learner. Darius’ movements were still slow and predictable, and slightly clumsy – nobody, not even the most talented of people, mastered the sword in a trial – but already, he moved his weapon much more fluidly and naturally.

In short, he showed a lot of promise.

“Try once more though”, he told him.
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