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Training Regimen

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Training Regimen

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:52 pm


If Zaistrun wanted to find Sarala, a thoroughly unpredictable person, there was but one place and time where it could be reliably done. Sometimes he would just message her and let her know where he was, but that only worked if they were in the same district. But since he had plans for her this morning that she had not particularly agreed to, it was probably best to get the drop on her. Thad was awake and just beginning morning prayers, and Sarala was doing exactly what she normally was doing at this hour: sleeping in.

He had their training grounds ready, and had brushed up on his knowledge of the shadow sorcerers. There were none currently in the Academy, but there was plenty of information on them in the library. There were several variants that were less likely, but it didn’t hurt to be thorough.

Three sharp arrhythmic knocks on her door let her know who it was. She’d probably be grumpy this early, but he’d weathered worse.

After a moment a muffled reply issued through the doorway.

“State your business.”

Sarala sincerely hoped it wasn’t Mekhail bearing urgent news from one of her Schmidts, or worse. It had been a long week and she felt entitled to some extra sleep. Couldn’t there be just one day where people didn’t start working until after noon?

“I’ve come recruiting.” Zaistrun tried the direct approach with the barest hint of humor in his voice. It was hard not to be in a good mood when Sarala was involved. “There is merit to the idea that any particular tutelage I would provide should be secretive so I picked a time of day no one would suspect seeing you out of bed.”

There was a muffled groan, a thump and the sound of doors closing none too gently. Presently the door opened and a disheveled Sarala fixed Zaistrun with an icy stare. She was dressed in a pair of maroon tights and a loose cream colored linen tunic that seemed to billow around her slight frame without a belt to tie it down.

“Good gods, Zaistrun,” she groaned, stepping aside to let him into her private chambers, “have you no sense of human decency?”

“An acquired taste perhaps.” He was very close to a smirk on his lips, but his eyes were definitely smiling at her. “I’ll only take an hour or so from you this morning. There’s no need to overexert yourself on the first day. Besides, this will work better if you are stressed and perhaps slightly annoyed. Are you ready to begin?”

“Are you serious?” Sarala asked, incredulous. Her green eyes were still cool as she took in amused look on her visitor’s face. It seemed he was serious, and prepared. With a resigned laugh she shook her head and said, “Alright. I suppose now that you’re here…”

She submissively held out her arms as if she were preparing to be manacled and mockingly pleaded.

“Teach me, O wise one!”

“Certainly.” He said as he stepped closer, looking directly into her eyes. He reached out to touch her outstretched hands, and then almost as if teasing he pulled away. A jestingly submissive Sarala was quite distracting him from his business of helping her. “The first thing I need you to do is remove your weapons.”

The sylph cocked her eyebrow at Zaistrun. Weapons? Just what was he planning to do? She lifted up her sleeve to reveal bare arm where her sap holster was usually strapped. A blue marking scrolled across her skin across the inside of her elbow, a part of her skin that rarely saw the light of day. As much as she could Sarala tried to keep the more obvious signs of her heritage hidden. Pulling down her sleeve again she then patted her hips and did a slow turn in front of the sorcerer to show there wasn’t anything hiding on her person.

“First step complete. Now what?”

Zaistrun crossed his arms doing a very convincing job of looking stern. “I did say weapons. Plural. The other one as well.”

Sarala sighed. “You know full well there is nothing else up my sleeves,” she sounded annoyed. “Don’t be getting any funny ideas. If you do I will put you down and throw you out the window. Just because I’m not holding my sap doesn’t mean it isn’t near.”

Her eyes went cool again as she raised expectant eyebrows toward him. “Now are we going to train or not?”

“Ah, yes. That’s about right.” He spoke as if he were completely disinterested in the personal threat and slightly interested in the attitude she was using, which, of course, he was.

He reached out suddenly and touched her shoulder and suddenly they were in a small candlelit room. He may not have great range of motion or have uncanny celerity, but he was quick when he needed to be. There were no windows, and really only one candle on a small table next to the door. Zaistrun backed up against the door and sat down as she got her bearings.

“Your training begins now.” He said simply. “You must attempt to remove me from this spot. The easiest way to do it is to knock me out. But you mustn’t use a weapon. If you do, you will fail, and I will come unannounced again to train you on another day. If you pass, you will get to pick our next day of training. The purpose of the room is to heighten your power. If you have questions you can ask them, but one demonstration of the arcane power in your blood will remove me as an obstacle from this room and to a few extra hours’ sleep.”

The sylph’s shoulders had gone taut as soon as she realized that Zaistrun had teleported into an unknown location. Upon hearing his instructions she gritted her teeth and decided to try what she deemed impossible. Impossible without her sap, that is to say.

She closed her eyes and concentrated hard on the desire to blend in with her surroundings. In the past she had succeeded in melting away unnoticed in crowds of people. Even in certain types of terrain were becoming increasingly easier for her to meld into. But this room presented some difficulties. Sure Zaistrun had given her an advantage by placing only one light source in the room. Save for the sorcerer, the candle and the table it sat on the room was completely bare. This meant it would be extremely difficult to mask the sound of her movement. She knew Zaistrun would be on his guard and even if he failed to see her he would most likely hear her before she ever got close enough to touch him.

Sarala began taking light measured breaths through her nose. She imagined she was made completely of air. A soft and gentle breeze, only touching that which it wished to move. Taking smooth steps back she reached out behind herself until her fingertip ever so slightly brushed the wall. She opened her eyes again and saw Zaistrun calmly waiting by the table. She didn’t feel like she could safely rush him head on, even if she could keep quiet the light source would give her away. And he would be expecting her to come from that direction. She knew what she needed to do.

Slowly she crept along the wall letting the darkness envelop her, passing one, now two corners. She felt as if she were walking on air as she focused her entire mind on moving without sound. Finally she was so close to Zaistrun that she could hear him breathing. Carefully she stopped and stood perfectly still. How in the world was she supposed to knock him out without a weapon? Was she supposed to punch him? Sarala felt ridiculous. She was only about a foot away from him now so whatever she was going to do she’d better do it quickly. Her body became taut again and with silent feet she stepped forward and shot a leg out to kick the sorcerer squarely on the side of his jaw.

Zaistrun took it like he normally takes hits, with hardly a sound and the quiet dignity of his station. The problem was that he clearly wasn’t expecting a kick. He knew this was going to hurt, and that didn’t normally bother him, but it was clear he was not happy with what just happened.

“While I admire your resourcefulness, you have to remember this is arcane training, not physical training.” His face where she kicked him was definitely starting to bruise although he held it in, he was sure she knew that hurt more than he expected.. “You shouldn’t try to kick me. Blending with the shadows was good, you’ve definitely improved in that area.” He pointed toward the wall. “You left a magical trace over there now that it has served it’s purpose. You are absolutely using that gift. It’s just that you have another.”

He stood up for a moment and grabbed her shoulders gently, taking her back to the far wall he looked intently into her eyes as he was trying to impress upon her his knowledge.. “Here, where you started, think of how you fell out of sight. You should have some sort of feeling or a state of mind, perhaps an emptiness of some sort.” He took his hands off of her shoulders. “Close your eyes and remember that thing. Take it, hold it in your hand and touch me with it.”

“Oh-kay,” came the puzzled reply. Sarala still wasn’t sure what he was asking her to do, but he was the expert. She closed her eyes. What had she felt? There had been a hint of something different. A warmth perhaps? No, Zaistrun had talked about an emptiness. Where had the feeling of warmth come from? She felt warmth now, on her shoulders. Zaistrun’s hands. They felt warm, and firm, and sure. How in the world did he expect her to take him out with this confusing innate magic? And what was supposed to happen if she did knock him unconscious? What was she to do then? He had taken her who knows where. What if she opened the door and didn’t know where she was?

“Wait,” she opened one eye and peered at the sorcerer’s face through it. With his back to the light his head was little more than a silhouette, though if she focused she could see the little waves of heat radiating off his skin outlining his finer features.

“What happens after I knock you out? What am I supposed to do then?”

“This she asks after she kicks me in the face.” He said to no one in particular. He backed up and sat down against the door again. “Your gift is called the shadow strike. It does no permanent harm. It’s similar to your sap. I’ll wake up in a bit with a headache. Piotr actually has orders to come in and revive me, so you can just go back to bed if you like.” Zaistrun smirked a little as he forgot himself for a moment.

He then got a bit more serious. “Now, come at me again.”

A smile tugged at the corner of Sarala’s mouth. What had he expected? He had told her she would need to knock him out to finish their session of training. She didn’t know how to use magic so her obvious option had been force. It had been a solid kick, too. But now she had to touch him with some abstract force. This was going to be interesting. Confident that she could move through the room without alerting his notice she began her process of attack once more. As she went she tried to figure out what part of her mindset had triggered the magic Zaistrun had seen. She focused again on the idea of becoming air hoping that would help the elusive magic come out of hiding as she reached out and touched Zaistrun on the knee.

He almost was able to follow her this time. He actually tracked her for a moment before he lost where exactly she was and before he knew it he got poked in the knee. There was no magical transfer of power, so he knew she had failed again. “Not quite. Your state of mind was not correct, and you didn’t follow through.” He frowned slightly and took her back over to the other side of the room.

This time Sarala gave the darkness all her attention. Leaving all thoughts of becoming light as air behind she closed her eyes. Reaching out a hand to touch the blackness that surrounded her she wondered what it would be like to be made of the shadow. The ability to be everywhere light was not.

Cold.

Empty.

Still.

Silent.

She had almost lost herself to the imagining when she felt it nagging at the back of her mind. A slight buzzing like the vibrations from tiny wings. “You should have some sort of feeling or a state of mind… Take it, hold it in your hand and touch me with it,” she heard Zaistrun’s words run through her mind. She tried make her mind reach for the buzzing and was surprised when she felt it respond to her touch. It was something like trying to remember that which you once knew but have forgotten and then after some struggle becoming awash with the memory. Sarala let the buzz wash over her. It felt fuzzy and her fingers started to tingle. It was then that she knew she had to move.

Swiftly she zigzagged across the room, daring to traverse the farthest beams of candlelight. She had no fear of the light touching her, though, for she was clothed in shadows. When she was close enough to touch Zaistrun she concentrated on the tingling in her fingers and her desire to send that feeling through her hand to his body. One little touch was all it would take. She brushed his other knee with her fingertips and felt a sudden loss, as if she had gone all day without meals. Her energy was sapped and fuzziness was gone.

“Was that it?” she asked, crouching down on the balls of her feet.

The third time was the trick. He caught just a tiny glimpse to know she was coming, although that didn’t prepare him for the actual feel of her power pouring into him. A darkness came over his eyes and they unconsciously fluttered and his head hit the door with a bit of a thud. He was able to keep his eyes open but when they were open after that he couldn’t really see much of anything but a blur in this dark room.

He stared off into nothing, remaining still, which was astonishingly easy to do at this point. He wasn’t unconscious but he might go under some serious harm if he let her do that again, so it was best to go with the flow. Besides, it might be interesting to find out what she’ll do next.

“Zaistrun?” concern edged Sarala’s voice as she heard something hit the door. She squinted into the dark but due to overwhelming tiredness and the bad lighting she was having a hard time seeing anything. It was worse than trying to scout out a room standing behind her brother while he held a torch, flickering light refracting in strange ways off his armor, playing tricks on her eyes. She prefered it to be either bright or dark, anything in between was just annoying.

She turned to blow out the candle and nearly fell over. Her arms felt like lead weights had been attached to them. It must be a side effect of the magic. The morning wasn’t even over and yet she felt as though she had spent an entire day on the back of a horse. Sarala couldn’t help wondering how beneficial it would really be if using magic was going to be this exhausting. It was proving to be quite the adjustment. Wearily she crawled over to the table and extinguished the offending light.

Finally she could see again. Turning back she saw Zaistrun awkwardly slumped against the door. It appeared as though she was successful in completing the sorcerer’s instructions. She thought she would have felt happier, or at least a little relieved at being allowed to resume her sleep. Instead she felt uncomfortable, annoyed and little worried. He was blocking her way out after all. Just how hard had she hit him? As she moved closer to inspect the body she couldn’t help thinking of all the other times she had killed whether she had meant to or not. Sure, she hadn’t used her sap, but she had touched him with a kind of magic she had never used before. How powerful was this shadow stuff? Zaistrun was too smart to tell her to attack him with something that could kill him, wasn’t he? Her chest began to constrict as she contemplated the possibility that she had hurt him more than she had wanted to.

Zaistrun’s chest rose and fell, slow and steady. He was breathing. She let out a sigh of relief as she remember something he had told her when he was describing her new ability. “It does no permanent harm.” How could she have been so stupid to think she could have killed him? If only she had listened better it would have saved her from worry.

She couldn’t help but think of how uncomfortable he must be. Even if he didn’t feel it now, he would feel the effects of sleeping in that position later. Gingerly she slid the sorcerer’s shoulders down the wall, carefully supporting his head with her other hand, until he was laying half curled on his side. She couldn’t help noticing the breadth of his chest. He had grown. He no longer bore the body of the youth he was when he left Brevoy three years ago. He was a man now. This realization startled Sarala and she almost jerked her hands away, letting him fall. But she caught herself just in time, keeping her hands in place. Carefully she arranged his arms and legs into what seemed like a more comfortable position. Curiosity got the better of her and she lifted up the sleeves of his robes to peek at the gemstones the lined his arms. She had seen them once or twice before from afar when Zaistrun cast spells and had felt the oddly hard bumps as she was moving him around. She really wanted to see them up close.

It was odd how the skin rolled back to make room for the hard rock to protrude, almost like a cuticle around the base of a fingernail. Somehow she had imagined a smoother transition from skin to stone. She gently felt the arm around one of the gems to see if she could tell how far down it went into his flesh. Did it hurt him when these stones appeared? What did it feel like to have them so intimately attached to his person? Was it as normal as growing hair or was it burdensome? Sarala solemnly drew his sleeve back down as she suddenly felt the need to give Zaistrun some privacy.

Leaning her own back against the door Sarala sighed and tried to sort out her thoughts. Thankfully the first session of training had ended quickly. She wanted to be proud but she couldn’t help feeling like she had made a mess of things. Why was that, she wondered silently. She had followed Zaistrun’s instructions as closely as possible. But something had been off. She had been distracted.

She carefully reviewed the time since she had awoken in an attempt to figure out what it was that was breaking her concentration. The knock had woken her up and when she had opened the door the first thing she had seen was Zaistrun’s eyes. Those clear blue eyes. They had been laughing at her which had annoyed her very much. But there was something more… Then there had been the moment when he had held her shoulders. His admonishment of her improvisation should have irked her. What was wrong with her?

Her eyes trailed back to the sleeping sorcerer. He looked almost peaceful laying there. The harsh angular lines of his face softened in his reverie. One side of his face seemed to be much less angular than the other. Had he always been that unsymmetrical? Peering closer she noticed that the rounded curve was being caused by swelling on his cheekbone. Of course, that was where she had kicked him. She felt a twinge of guilt. If something wasn’t done quickly the side of his face would suffer a terrible bruise. As if by instinct she reached to her hip but her hand came up empty. All she had were the clothes she was wearing. Since Zaistrun had insisted on no weapon’s she hadn’t bothered to strap on her trusty sack. No sack meant no wand, or potions. She had nothing with which to heal him.

Didn’t Zaistrun also carry around some items on his person at all times? What were the chances that he had a healing potion in his things? She reached over for his belt and with some searching found a vial meticulously marked in slanting script- health. Propping his head back she pulled the cork out with her teeth and proceeded to pour the contents down his throat. She sighed with relief again as she watched the swelling on his cheek recede.

Lying there had worked it’s wonder. She was pretty gentle with him. She hadn’t been too invasive although it seems she was curious of his arms. I guess it couldn’t be helped. When she was pulling on his belt he got a bit curious, but then he heard the clink of potions and he realized what she was up to.

She poured the contents in his mouth and he coughed and sputtered a bit as he had no control over how quickly it came, but the magic cleared up his foggy head and bruising rather well. He opened his eyes and found the room pitch dark with nothing but her measured breath near him. Obviously the light was out, but why? He must have been still a bit fuzzy when she did it, but he didn’t think she did it through magic.

He decided to address the potion instead. “Piotr is waiting down the hall, but I thank you for the administration of the potion. You have surpassed expectation.”

He leaned himself up on one arm and cast a little spell that illumined the small room with light.

Sarala shook her head and chuckled. She had been expecting him to at least let out a groan upon coming to. But no, as usual Zaistrun made no sign that he was in any pain.

“You never miss a beat, do you?” she murmured, squinting in the light. “Next time give me fair warning when you’re going to do that.” She pointed to the phosphorus orb that illuminated the room. “Or is that part of my training, too?”

The young sorcerer simply smiled one of his rare smiles that were reserved for the private company and shook his head. “Now that you know how it feels to produce your natural talent, with practice you can use it without any trouble. To commemorate your success I have a gift.” He reached into a quiver he had at his side and pulled on the lid. Out of the small case came a tall nondescript walking stick and presented it as if it was something very precious.

Her eyes fell upon the staff that lay across Zaistrun’s hands. It was elegant in its simplicity. She reached out to touch the smooth wood.

“What…” she stammered, “You never mentioned any sort of ‘gift’ before… What is this?”

She quickly withdrew her and eyed the sorcerer with suspicion. If this were a trick she did not wish to look a fool.

“You’re not just giving me an ordinary stick and acting like it is something special, are you?” she narrowed her gaze at him. “I know you have a weird sense of humor-like getting me up at the crack of dawn to train me for no good reason other than to see me sweat a little.”

Relaxing back against the door Sarala calmly folded her hands back into her lap. Jutting her chin out to the stick she commanded with the hint of a smile. “Explain yourself, sir!”

“This is something special.” he insisted retaining his good humor. “This is something similar to your Kukri, although it’s slightly harder to use. I made it so that you can have something to help you out when I’m not around. Three spells are contained within: the one I use to augment a disguise, the one that makes you invisible and one that will let you turn into an animal for a short time. Its power is limited, so when it is depleted you’ll have to return it to me so I can power it up again. It’s about as easy to use as your wands, so you may wish to practice with it a little.”

“More practice, huh?” she grinned, taking the staff from Zaistrun and inspecting it with an admiring look in her eye. Imagining the possibilities those spells would bring thrilled her. She turned back to the sorcerer with a mischievous glint in her eye. “So I’m guessing that you want to train me how to use this too. Gee Zaistrun, it’s like you want to keep me close by your side. Coming up with all these reasons for private training sessions.”

She looked back at the staff, thinking about the hours it most likely took him to make it, not to mention the time spent planning such a specialized piece of equipment. It felt like he was giving her a little piece of himself, something as he had said, to help her when he was not around. Another reminder that he still cared about her.

The smile faded from her face. Word from the most recent argument with her brother came back to haunt her. Thaddeus had informed her that he believed Zaistrun’s love for her to be based purely on some selfish, immature ego trip. Just thinking about this possibility stung her heart. She had come to trust Zaistrun and the thought that he loved her only because she had hurt his pride when they were children felt like a betrayal.

“Zaistrun,” her green eyes earnestly searched his face for answers, “why do you love me?”

Taken aback by the sudden question, he said the first thing that came to mind. “Why does it matter? You might as well ask me why I love Moon Radishes, or opera, or gems, or magic although you surpass them all. Why would it matter if it were the way you dance or the curve of your cheek or your smell or your suspicious nature?” He took a moment and sat back. He’d admitted it again without even thinking. That wasn’t a good sign, but she remained quiet for the moment, so he pressed on.

“This isn’t how it was supposed to go. You were supposed to say something like: ‘I can’t accept this. It’s too much.’ and then I’d argue how practical it was. Or you’d try to pay me for it and we’d haggle. Or you’d… I don’t know. Not this.” He let out a sigh and stared over at the wall. He’d said too much for them to remain business friends anymore. If she decided she didn’t want to see him again for a while he could at least pay some of his faculty to recharge the staff.

“Of course I should have known it wouldn’t go smoothly. It almost never does.” He thought for a moment. “But ‘why’? I suppose because ever since I realized I desired love I could think of no other face. You have the qualities present in full more so than anyone else I’ve ever met. You’re worthy of my admiration and unlike anyone else, I admired you before you were as accomplished as you are not on the basis of who your brother is or what he’s done.” He paused for another moment. “That’s all I have right now. You’ll have to rephrase your question if you want more information. If not, I’ll let you return to bed now.”

Sarala calmly took in Zaistrun’s answer with the worried expression of a skeptic on her face. It was unusual for the laconic sorcerer to give such a long and impassioned speech. She had been expecting a simple answer, yet the one he gave was anything but simple. Her instinct warned her that excess of words meant that he must be hiding something. That no one that flustered could be telling the truth.

And yet Zaistrun never showed this much emotion, even when he was lying. His pride was too strong and his armor too thick to let any emotion through. Unless he was being sincere. Could it be possible that she was seeing through a crack in the thick veneer that he used to protect himself? Was she the chink in his armor?

She was close to his heart. She realized this as she saw how exposed he became when expressing his love for her. The realization hit her like a wall of water, sweeping her off her feet into a sea of uncertain emotions. It felt so overwhelming that for a moment she forgot how to breathe. With a quick intake of breath she decided that she either drown in this feeling or learn how to swim.

“I can’t go to bed now, and leave you hanging like that.” she admitted with an awkward frankness. She caught in Zaistrun’s eyes the same look of fight or flight that she felt must be mirrored in her own. “It just wouldn’t be fair.”

Picking at her shirt sleeves she sighed and tried to figure out where to start. She knew she needed to say something, but what? She spied the simple band of silver that encircled her right ring finger and had an idea of where to start.

“Do you see this?” she pulled of the ring and held it up between her thumb and forefinger before placing on the ground directly in front of her. “This ring allows me to mask my thoughts from other people, or rather, it allows me to lie with little to no magical detection. I got it not long after we entered the Stolen Lands and have been wearing it ever since. I even wear this around my brother. But I am taking it off now, to show you… so you will know that I am… that I want to tell you the truth.”

It felt like the waters were closing in again. Breathe. And swim, she told herself.

“I don’t know how to do any of this,” with shrugged shoulders she waved back and forth between the sorcerer and herself in a pathetic attempt to signify their relationship. “I don’t know if I love you. I don’t know if I have ever loved anyone, for that matter. I don’t know what the heck love is, or what it feels like, or what it even looks like. And if you must know, it scares the heck out of me. I don’t really like things that freak me out. It freaks me out.”
Her anxious babbling stopped abruptly and her voice filled with sudden realization.

“I’m afraid of love.”

She blinked, letting the words sink in. So many of her words and actions, thoughts and feelings swirled around her head now becoming clear in the light of this fact. She was afraid of love. To love and to be loved, all of it scared her. But she wanted that to change.

“But Zaistrun, knowing you… trusting you… I think… It makes me feel like I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

“I trust you, I really do. And that’s important, because I don’t just trust anyone,” she began to babble again. “But I trust you, and I really appreciate that, and I hope that you can appreciate it, too. No, not appreciate. I mean, I hope you understand what that means, how much that means, what you mean to me… do you?” She looked at him with wide, embarrassed, questioning eyes.

He set the staff against the wall and reached out took one her hand looking in her wide eyes with intensity. “I will protect that trust as if it were my most precious possession.”
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Eddick the Steady (XIV)

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Join date : 2009-09-19
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