[Haven] Thinking Outside the (Sand)box

A small island with an active volcano, Faldrass is the home to Saoire's school and to the Faldrass Induk.

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Elisabeth Black
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[Haven] Thinking Outside the (Sand)box

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Arc 721, 22 Ashan

It was a sunny morning in Haven and Elisabeth had a bit of a goal. The unarmed training Balthazar offered each evening was helpful, but the young mage needed a bit more training to work on a few skills that she hadn’t been able to in group sessions. Balthazar was busy with settlement business so she trudged off to the beach to see if she could sort it out on her own.

Oddly enough, she was in a weird situation. Balthazar was the settlement leader and she respected that. The guards were the settlement guards, and she respected that as well. Elisabeth, however, really didn't have an official title or designation within the settlement other than 'Balthazar's girlfriend....oh, who happens to be a mage'. To be honest, the term 'girlfriend' irritated her every time she thought about or heard it. It was an immature term at best and at worst, well, she didn't want to go there. She wasn't looking for anything official settlement-wise but that didn't stop it from being an awkward place to be - not knowing her place. He had made it clear to the settlement that she and the guards were the first points of contact for anything but still....was there a better word than 'awkward'?

Regardless, she was happy to be there and relieved that things between herself and Balthazar had stabilized since their incarcerations. He was starting to involve her in more settlement business and showing signs of being himself again, which was far better than the issues they had dealt with after arriving in Haven. That allowed her to focus less on him and more on strengthening her skills so she had more to offer the settlement.

Her training goal that day was using meditation within the bounds of unarmed combat. Prae had once broached the idea of using a type of waking meditation to help in combat. In fact, he had taught her a little of it, asking her to find a rhythm during a training mission they had done together. She had used the technique as well to push a bit of pain to the side during a sparring session with Balthazar. Both of those moments had been within the heat of battle though and while some would say that was the best place to test things out, she preferred a more measured approach. Now that she knew what the power of meditation could do and had experimented with it under duress, she wanted to train the technique a little better.

On the beach stood a giant canvas bag filled with warm Faldrass sand. The sandbag was used by her to practice techniques when she couldn’t find or didn’t want a partner. It gave her a realistic feel when she hit it and didn’t talk back to her or tease her as Balthazar often did.

The sandbag didn’t stand tall enough to practice punches or any strikes on, so she was limited to kicks, but that was fine by her. Elisabeth didn’t have any specific need to practice upper body strikes and relished the opportunity to improve her kicks and sweeps as well.

Front kicks were the easiest but often delivered incorrectly. She knew of two different formats – ball of foot and top of foot. Elisabeth preferred using the ball of foot version because she could put more power behind it without risking hurting herself. The top of foot front kick, she felt, should be left to the more advanced fighters, like Balthazar.

Positioning herself in front of the sandbag, the young mage raised her hands to guard and closed her eyes, envisioning the preferred target on the sandbag. Breathing in…breathing out…. she opened her eyes and began the motion. Raising her knee, she thrust her right foot forward, hit the sandbag dead center with the ball of the foot, causing a satisfying ‘thud’ to sound. The trick with this version was to make sure one’s toes were bent upwards, or else it was easy to break them because they got in the way. Quickly snapping her leg back, she placed it back into the ready position. Pulling the leg back swiftly was important as well because if one didn’t, they were opening the opportunity for their opponent to grab the extended leg and that was never good.

Practicing the technique a few more times, Elisabeth reminded herself that she was trying to incorporate meditation into her combat techniques. Instead of simply going through the motions, she timed her movements with the sounds of the sea and waves, letting them feel effortless and graceful. For one like Elisabeth, it was hard to do things without thinking about them so learning to meditate while training was important, allowing her mind to settle and not get wrapped up in details.

Next, she wanted to work on her back kick. In combat or sparring, it wasn’t the first tool she would go to in her bag of tricks. She had used it on Balthazar once – a spectacular fail – because she needed something he wasn’t expecting. The back kick used the rear leg and required one to turn away from their opponent slightly, which was not optimal in combat. Resuming the ready position, she turned her body to the right, facing directly away from the sandbag and pivoting on her left foot. Continuing to turn, her eyes remained locked on the sandbag, looking over her right shoulder. Lifting her right knee to her chest, Elisabeth drove the heel of her foot straight back towards the sandbag.

This time, however, things did not go as smoothly as she had hoped. That tended to happen with unfamiliar techniques and the back kick was certainly that to her. During her turn, she noted that the sand was piling under her pivoting foot just a bit but hadn’t thought much of it as she was focused on what her mind and body were doing. By the time she had been ready to release her kick, her center of balance was off just enough that it sent her leaning to the side and the kick itself gave her just enough momentum to cause a fall.

Muttering a bit, she lifted herself off the sand, brushing herself off and trying again. Subsequent attempts yielded better results. As she worked on the issue, she realized that her pivot was too slow for the ground she was working on. A fast pivot, or spin, would toss the sand away from her foot and allow continued balance.

It took multiple attempts for her to get the speed and timing right, but finally, the heel of her foot hit the sandbag precisely where she had envisioned it, then quickly pulling back and resuming the ready stance. Giving a satisfied nod, she took a few deep breaths and pushed on.

Side kicks were her favorite kicking technique because, from her view, they were a powerful weapon for a smaller body like hers. The problem with side kicks was that it was easy to telegraph your intentions if you weren’t careful and balance-wise, they were a bit tricky. She had spent a lot of time on the ground learning them, trying to figure out how to balance the center and fire off the kick. Elisabeth still stumbled from time to time but was getting better.

Back to the ready position, she rotated her body until her side was facing the sandbag, pivoting on her left leg on their front leg. As she rotated, she brought her rear leg forward, almost waist height, foot facing the direction of the sandbag, then thrust her foot forward and hit the sandbag with the sole of her foot. The strike was a bit wobbly, thanks to the sandy terrain. Frowning a bit, she decided to employ the same measure she had used with the back kick – making the pivot faster to throw sand out from under her turn.

Trying a few more times, she realized that working on the sand had its benefits. While it was frustrating attempting to compensate for the shifting nature of it, it did make her more solid on firm land, making the moves seem easier, from what she remembered.

Once she landed the side kick to her satisfaction, the young mage decided to call it a trial with training, wanting to devote the last few bits to reflection and relaxation.

Taking a deep breath, she took in the sight of the waves, closing her eyes and letting herself fall into a meditative state. Elisabeth often found that after training was a good time to meditate because her body was tired and mind not so active, so it didn’t resist what she was trying to accomplish so much. Mediation was something of an art that one needed to practice again and again, and sometimes one session could be vastly different from another.

But that trial on the warm sand beaches of Haven, her session brought her nothing but peace. She had solved a problem using her brain and a little muscle. Not so bad for a trial’s work.


word count: 1538
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Doran
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Re: [Haven] Thinking Outside the (Sand)box

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Elisa:

Knowledge:
Combat: Unarmed - Not snapping leg back after strike invites opportunity to grab
Combat: Unarmed - Make sure toes bent upwards when striking w/ ball of foot
Combat: Unarmed - Eyes should never leave target, even if body is turning away
Combat: Unarmed - Striking with top of foot increases chance of injury due to location
Combat: Unarmed - Side kicks allow smaller bodies to produce more power
Meditation: Using meditation in concert with combat can be used for a variety of purposes

Loot: -
Lost: -
Wealth: -
Injuries: -
Renown: -
Magic XP: -
Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
- - -
Comments: I thought it was a good idea that Elisabeth decided to practice a few moves that she hadn’t been able to work on in those group sessions, and to be honest, I never considered Elisabeth’s lack of an official position in the settlement. It does sound like this is a rather awkward place to be. Maybe, she will eventually find her place in Haven though?

The idea of using meditation in unarmed combat is interesting. There is in fact a Videnese unarmed combat style that incorporates elements of combat, meditation and discipline, if you are curious: Menochoros.

I wonder how the fact that the sandbag is filled with Faldrass sand affected Elisabeth’s training though. Does the warm orange sand make hitting it a slightly more pleasant experience?

I found Elisabeth’s combat practice very easy to understand, and I had no trouble envisioning what she was doing at any point. Combat training can be hard to write, but you did a good job in my opinion. I also appreciate that you had Elisabeth struggle a bit.

I have to admit, I want to see Elisabeth fight someone else now though!

Enjoy your rewards!
word count: 291

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