A Friendly Game of Swords

Garbed in modified Scythian leathers, Skye strolls into the West Practice Yard with Saffron. Unlike the battle garb of her mother's homeland, Skye's practice leathers do a more credible job of actually covering her without constricting her; likely her father had a hand in their design. The undyed leathers are a rich brown, but have a light pattern in them that is natural and not the product of tooling, meaning they aren't the hide of a bovine. The trousers are fitted but don't cinch in tightly at the waist, the bodice style of the top leaves her arms bare except for the gold studded vambraces on her forearms. The boots laced to her knees are sturdily topped, but with flexible soles, taking into account her fighting style. Her twin blades are strapped to her back; the elegantly detailed, slightly curved handles of the foreign made swords peeking over her shoulders. Her hair is pulled back in a long braid tucked down the back of her top.

The practice yard itself was a large rectangle of packed earth surrounded on three sides by stone walls and bordered on the fourth by tall shrubbery. Practice dummies were set up at one end, and there were wooden benches placed here and there along the edges for resting or observers. Taking up a large portion of one corner and part way down one wall is an arrangement of bars and narrow timbers that had been installed during Eric's reign for his daughter. Skye's warm-ups and solo practices were rather more gymnastic then anyone else's that had been using the yard, and he had based the arrangement on his observations of her style, and the training of the Scythian sword maids.

Skye stops at a bench and shrugs out of her scabbard harness carefully. After removing her blades, she drops it on the bench. "Sadly, this will not help you with your homework," she smiles at Saffron. "But it may be more entertaining."

Saffron laughs. "Anything is more entertaining than that assignment, trust me. Sparring… living in a tree… a game of chess…"

"Oooh… ouch," Skye laughs. She laces her fingers together behind her back and stretches them straight out behind her. "I admire your fortitude; I would never have made it through University."

"Sure you would have," Saffron answers. "It's just a matter of picking the right classes." She pauses, and then sighs. "And trying to survive the ones you're required to take and don't care about."

Lucas arrives quietly, and with no particular style. He is wearing a different outfit from that he wore at the party, but not one either better or worse, with a loose fitting dark blue button-up silk shirt, slightly tighter black silk pants, a black leather belt with a silver buckle, and flexible-soled leather boots coming up about half-way to his knees that have either been dyed blue, or are from a very strange animal indeed. His visible weaponry is unchanged from earlier, consisting of a bastard sword in a scabbard extending over his right shoulder, and two daggers at his belt. All three hilts are bright silver, and unadorned. He moves, as ever, efficiently and effortlessly, but without any real grace, though he seems a bit more relaxed than he was earlier.

He smiles at Skye and Saffron as he walks up, and his tone is light and friendly "Hello again, ladies. Would you like to talk for a bit, or perhaps do some warming up, or shall we just get right down to what we're here for?" he pauses a moment then looks a bit chagrined and sighs "That didn't come out quite right, did it?"

Skye turns to Lucas and just laughs at his chagrin. "We know what you meant. No harm done." She gives Saffron a wink as she leans down to pick up her blades. "We can get right to it if you like."

With that the young Ranger walks towards the center, twirling both gently curving blades at her sides, the sunlight flashing along their silvery lengths. She's humming a tune Saffron will recognize as a Scythian fighting song. The tune is deceptively light, considering the lyrics.

The packed earth is hard and probably cold even now. The sun, though, has begun shining down on the yard, and both Skye and Lucas know that the earth will warm and become more elastic - though probably not before their bout is done.

Lucas smiles once more, and draws his blade. The polished steel glinting in the sunlight, and assumes a position opposite Skye. His face goes serious and he speaks calmly then "Any particular rules you have in mind, or are we going no-holds-barred, albeit trying not to hurt each other? I'll admit to a preference for no-holds-barred myself."

Skye grins at him over the V formed by the blades crossed in front of her. "I was never one for rule bound, set duels. If I wanted that much choreography, I would go dancing. Let's just try to avoid the infirmary. The commander gets huffy when I come back from leave needing the medic."

Lucas's smile brightens "Ah, a woman after my own heart. Shall we begin then?" and with that, suddenly all expression vanishes, his face becoming completely blank, and his stance shifting to one more suitable for battle, he holds his blade two handed, at an angle in front of him, and begins to advance slowly and cautiously.

Skye rocks back on the balls of her feet at the same time that her right arm moves back and up, the blade in that hand above and behind her in a graceful arc. Simultaneously her left arm comes up slightly, holding the blade in a position that it can be used to block or attack. She circles Lucas as he moves forward; blue eyes sharp, watching and assessing, calling to mind a coiled snake ready to spring.

Lucas continues to advance cautiously, then, almost faster than Skye can perceive, and with absolutely no change of expression, his grip on the sword shifts to one-haded and his left hand has something in it, which then flies spinning through the air directly at her.

Indeed, it was almost faster than Skye can perceive - but not quite. Skye's left hand sword moves to block, and strikes the knife, making the blades ring as the knife gets diverted to the side. Skye can, however, feel the rush of the knife's passage, making it clear that the deflection was a very close thing.

Skye arches an eyebrow. Not in surprise at the dagger's passing, as she knew his skill exceeded her own by a narrow enough margin to make it interesting. But the rest of her expression gave nothing away. Her front blade came back into position and she continued to circle. A quarter later she springs into action; a whirling dance of sharp edges that is as graceful as it is deadly.

Lucas' expression remains utterly empty, but almost on it's own, his sword, now held two handed once more, flicks out to parry the flashing blades, meanwhile, his left foot snakes out in a perfectly executed sweep, attempting to knock Skye off her feet.

Saffron is viewing all of this from the bench by the wall. She's tucked her feet and her skirts back underneath her seat and is leaning forward slightly as she watches intently.

Skye's own assault is well on its way when she realises the double nature of Lucas' attack. In a heartbeat's time, she knows that she can either land a blow and mostly block one of his moves, or block both of his attacks for the most part. Stinging palms are easier to continue functioning with. Also, less likely to annoy Saffron. So Skye manages, barely, to block Lucas' blow, her palms stinging with the force of his blow, and her foot definitely feeling the blow, but still fully functional.

Lucas keeps the fight in close, pressing forward, with his sword now striking faster and faster, a blur of glinting silver in the sun's light.

Still circling, Skye dances back, forcing him to chase her to maintain his assault. There is a ghost of a smile there - even when she grunts under a particularly hard strike. Skye maintains a solid defense against Lucas' attacks, though his blows are definitely strong enough to make her blades ring and her arms ache. Still, Lucas manages to limit how much of the ring she can use for her circling, and thus how long she'll be able to avoid a major exchange.

She isn't above using her environment in any way possible. She leaps onto benches, does hands free cartwheels over their backs; dances among the bars and beams of the training apparatus in the corner that she can navigate blindfolded. But she isn't shy about leaping right back into Lucas' space when she feels the need; blades flashing and ringing when they engage.

Lucas simply doesn't follow her into the training apparatus, though he easily compensates for the bench leaping, instead he slides out another throwing knife from somewhere and throws tosses it at her with inhuman speed and precision. That first one is followed by another and another and another in rapid succession.

Lucas' barrage is so fast and accurate that she can only defend by dodging behind beams
and the like. One of the knives strikes a beam and a splinter from the blow strikes Skye's left arm. Though it does little enough damage, it's still a solid reminder of the reality of the weapons they've chosen to use.

A leap back into the ring as Lucas completes his throws almost gets through, but a
stop-thrust by Lucas' sword is closely parried by Skye. Too closely, in fact, as the sword scores a deep line along her right vambrace.

Skye winces at the damage to her vambrace even as she spins to the left and skips to the side. Her mother was going to have a few words for her when she goes home next; which will be sooner then anticipated now.

Lucas renews his assault, pressing forward once more with a series of swift and brutal blows, his blade seeming everywhere at once.

Lucas' blows continue to come closer than Skye would prefer, but as he gets more aggressive, he also seems to get somewhat more open in his stance. The question Skye must ask herself is whether she's good enough to take advantage of that opening without giving him an opening in return.

And, of course, there's always the possibility that the opening is deliberate.

Neither having sparred the other before, it's taken some time, but it is clear by this point that Lucas is the better - but that Skye is more than skilled enough to defend. The only question remaining is, can she strike Lucas, and what is she willing to pay to do so?

Skye chooses to ignore the openings for now. Instead she chooses to continue defending and leading Lucas on an energetic chase to keep her engaged. Skye can't claim to know for a fact that she can outlast him, but she does know most people tire out before she does and she has been pushing herself over the years to increase her stamina - also, he did mention that he thought he would tire before her. Plus, her blades are a lot lighter then that broadsword of his.

Lucas's reaction to this is simple, he backs off. Another quick knife draw, and perfect throw follows, as do another two after that. Cool as ice, and clearly being careful not to overexert himself.

Skye, as before, is able to deflect the knives, but as before, the deflection is very close. Still, even though Lucas is not exerting himself overmuch, every action does tire him. Of course, all have heard of Random's fencing bout with Corwin. Twenty four hours, and both remained fresh.

The likelihood of this bout going that long is, of course, not high, but it's pretty obvious that simple maneuvering isn't going to tire either of them out.

Lucas advances now, calmly and methodically, his face still an utter blank. He draws a dagger with his left hand, and throws forward a flurry of attacks once ore, now using both hands to attack and defend, duplicating some of her own style.

Skye has her own focus, though different from her opponent's. She apparently finds something amusing, as indicated by the smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. She leans to avoid the dagger and her style shifts slightly as she moves in to engage. She is getting really tired of the daggers he keeps pulling seemingly out of … well, wherever. She finds his continued use of them somewhat disappointing.

Lucas' last dagger in his hand, he advances on Skye, who moves to engage him as well. As Skye avoids the dagger, Lucas' blade sweeps in. Skye is easily able to block that, but even as she does, Lucas changes directions on his dagger, and the butt strikes her on the wrist.

Unfortunately for Lucas, it's not a strong blow, and her second blade cuts in and tags him lightly on the arm.

Lucas's lack of expression never wavers, and he continues attacking, doing so with a complex and ever changing sequence of blows and thrusts, though he appears to have slowed down a trifle, as if to reflect the 'severity' of the 'wound' to his arm. Then, rather suddenly, his left leg flickers out with a quick kick to Skye's knee.

Skye skips sideways and back just long enough to change her grip and then she is coming at him in a no holds barred flurry of silver.

Skye's leg is nearly knocked from under her as she charges back at Lucas with her flurry, but she manages to land a blow on Lucas' upper left arm as well.

As they disengage, Skye's leg has a moment of trouble supporting her weight, until she gets her balance again.

Lucas waits calmly for Skye's next move, his face still an utter blank, and seeming oblivious to any pain from the damage to his arm.

Skye's next move is to continue her attack, not letting up one bit. If she's in any discomfort, she's is hiding it well.

Lucas responds calmly and methodically, parrying quickly and professionally and lashing out in response.

The mistake - if it could even be called a mistake - is tiny. Saffron doesn't even know what happened, though Skye knows immediately when she makes it, if not specifically what it is. Perhaps she extended her sword a little too far, put a little too much energy into it.

Whatever the case, Lucas' own blade lightly eels around hers, smacking her in the chest, hard. Were she anyone else, that would end the fight, but Skye is tougher than that, and manages to pull back before Lucas can follow through.

Lucas pauses for half a second, though still in a fighting stance and his face and tone still oddly blank, and speaks politely "Do you wish to concede?"

Skye steps back out of range and crosses her blades in front of her. "I don't know if 'concede' is the word I would use. Hold."

She turns and looks at Saffron. "How long have we been down here?"

Saffron shakes her head. "I'm sorry; I wasn't paying attention to the time."

The brunette sighs and checks the position of Lucas' shadow to determine the time. "I have an appointment," she explains to Lucas. "And I don't imagine 'I got caught up in getting my tail kicked around' will be an acceptable excuse for missing it."

Lucas' blank expression vanishes, replaced by a friendly smile, and his blades lower somewhat "I understand entirely. Thank you very much for the sparring, as I said, finding worthy opponents is more than a bit difficult. We must do this again some time."

"Next time we're both in town and have some time," Skye agrees cheerfully. Her blades are lowered to her sides and she starts towards the bench where her scabbards rested with Saffron. "For now, though … I would be interested to hear what you make of this morning's events?"

Lucas's smile dies and his face grows serious "Personally? I think it bodes ill. Assuming the Chaosian spoke truth, we have an unknown enemy with potent capabilities, and if he lied, which I doubt, but cannot be discounted out of hand, that means that Chaos is attempting to maniplate us. Either way, we have a rather severe problem. Beyond that? I don't think we have enough evidence to say."

"There is more to it then meets the eye," Skye opines. "Did you notice how Random was watching everyone? How the Elders of the Court seemed to be expecting something. Flora looked terrified, but Flona and Random didn't twitch really. They didn't expect him to be on fire I don't think, but they expected." She pauses and considers. "Julian and Gerard may not have expected it, seeing how swiftly they moved to put themselves in front of Random."

Lucas nods slowly "I noticed, but I'm not entirely sure I'd draw quite the same conclusion. I'd suspect Random, and likely most of the rest of our aunts and uncles, knew or felt that something was going to happen, but I equally suspect they had no idea what. Which explains their various reactions. Perhaps magic or prophecy was involved, but it might equally just have been an…instinct. A feeling that something was in the air. Our elders have a keen instinct for danger, honed over centuries."

Skye's expression darkens. "I do not buy into that. They have been caught off guard and flat footed too often. What they had was a keen sense of their own immortality, which Patternfall squished like a bug." As swiftly as it came, the darkness vanishes as they approach the bench. Skye smiles at Saffron as she shakes out a towel to wipe down her blades.

Saffron smiles at them both as they approach. "Very nice, both of you. That looked like a good workout."

Skye shrugs. She sets down one blade and examines the other as she wipes it down. "Too short, I think," she says with a smile at Lucas. "We will have to see if we can schedule a bigger block of time for the next opportunity." Turning back to Saffron, she adds; "We were just discussing the disturbance this morning. How long do you both think it will be before they send us to investigate?"

"Tomorrow morning," Saffron answers sensibly. "They will want the rest of the day to be suspicious and circle each other like mutts fighting over a female in heat." She smiles slightly. "Or at least that would have been the reaction under the old regime. I don't know, honestly, but tomorrow seems like a good bet."

Lucas nods, his smile returning for a moment "Agreed. Though I suspect the reasons differ a bit under the current regime. Only two thirds will be being suspicious, with the other third consisting of planning. I believe they call that progress."

Skye first blade snicks home into the scabbard. She picks up the next one for her attention. "Reasonable conclusions," she says. "I suppose that means we should take the rest of the day with an eye for being on the road tomorrow." Skye finishes with her blade and slides it home into its scabbard. She offers the towel to Lucas.

He nods and takes it, beginning to clean his own weapons "That sounds about right, yes." he smiles then "Not that I have a great deal of preparation to do. Paranoia tends to leave one prepared for a variety of eventualities at all times."

"I am locationally prepared," replies Skye with a short laugh. "I have court dress - and practice armor at the castle, casual stuff at Saffron's, and my uniforms and most of my fighting gear in Arden. I really should do something about that one of these days."

Skye shrugged back into her scabbard harness and adjusted it across her chest. "If you will excuse us, Lucas, the lady sorceress and I have an appointment to keep."

Lucas nods still smiling slightly, and sheathes his sword, which he has finished cleaning "Of course. A pleasure sparring with you, and thank you once again for agreeing to do so. Adieu until the morrow, ladies."

Skye gives him a bright smile and then turns it on Saffron. "Come, Scorch. Or you will be the one explaining why we are late."

"I?" Saffron answers innocently. "I am not the one that wanted to come engage in a mutual beating-up session." She smiles brightly at Lucas again and rises. "Until tomorrow."

"Yes, but you are the one not watching the time," Skye replies reasonably. As she starts to walk away, she waves over her shoulder at Lucas. "If he had not stopped, we would be going till dark. As you are aware. Wench."

"Ah," Saffron says mischievously as she turns to walk with the other woman, "but what if I were to say that I was simply dazzled by the display of skill?"

Skye and Saffron left the courtyard, still bickering good-naturedly as they went.


TOCAppointment, Interrupted

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