I carefully picked my way around the parameters of the camp, sword in hand. It was newly forged, a work of Darl's skilled hands, shimmering menacingly in the Aeridian sun. As I crept stealthily, my elven feet moving silently across the clearing floor, I examined the sword. The blade had deeply, yet delicately inscribed detailing, forming vines, leaves and grass snakes which slipped and twisted around the blade. The hilt was encased in leather, twisting in a double-helix until it reached the head of the blade. This device, designed to kill and maim, looked horrifically beautiful in my pale, white-knuckled grasp. The leaves began to quake, rustling like eagle's wings, a muted battle cry. Then, silence. The noiselessness of the clearing filled me with apprehension. Fearing the approach of a malicious creature, I turned on my hocks and prepared to strike. I was alone. Then, my pointed ears pricked up; a long, metallic note filled them. I turned again, holding the sword in both hands, and swung it into the pathway of another sword. There was a loud clang as they met, crossing in the Skye. Held in this position, I looked into the eyes of sword's bearer.
It was Darl. My training had begun.
I slid the blade of my sword across his, hating the shrill scream the friction produced. I swung again, they met again, each of my thrusts blocked by his skilled parry. I was not going to be able to defeat him unless I brought my magic into the fight. I remembered my sister's angry words,
"You're not strong enough by yourself."
Here was my chance to better myself, to help the Rogues in whatever trouble I was certain lay ahead. As the sound of the metal blades' violent kisses filled the clearing, I whispered, "Maelare," and waited for a moment. A pair of thick, green vines erupted from the soil beneath Darl's feet and snaked their way around them, their grip tightening, until eventually Darl fell backwards. I ran forward and leapt atop him, straddling his dragon skin breastplate and pinning down his gauntleted arms.
"I won," I gasped, then laughed. Presently, I heard the vines snap and, in a sudden burst of strength, Darl pushed me off and began to stand up, his sword firm in his grasp.
"I'm not giving up that easily," he said, and smiled, gesturing for us to continue our battle. I continued, sure that I had plenty more tricks up my sleeve. I ran at him, and we continued our duel. By this point, the others were watching intently. Faeth was shouting for us to continue, Meredyth used her powers to find out how we would act next, while Elowyn shouted for me to try harder. Sunelya was calming Tunya, consoling her that this was not a real fight and nobody was getting hurt.
While we fought, I began to notice a weakness in Darl's technique. He spent a long time preparing his strike and marking his next move. I ran straight at him. At the last second, he dodged. I saw a tree hurtling towards me. Instinctively, I raised my hand and cried, "Hakura!" The tree branch became as flexible as a vine; I grabbed it and ascended the tree. I peered down at Darl through the leaves and saw the confusion etched into his expression. I silently loosened a vine from the trunk and wrapped it around my waist. With all the stealth I could muster, I straddled the thickest branch of the tree and began to manoeuvre my way along the branch. As I reached the lighter end of the branch, I took the other end of the vine, a rope in my grasp, and fixed it to the branch. I inhaled deeply, then slipped purposely from the branch, twirling over and over as I descended. I landed silently behind Darl, and loosened the vine from my waist. I leapt forward, and pinned him down, taking his sword as he fell. Now, straddling him for the second time, I sheathed my sword, breathing quickly and deeply. Smiling, I asked him, "Have I won now?" He nodded. I stood up, allowed him to retrieve his sword, and shook his hand. Darl spoke, his breath now recovered.
"You had won before we started. I didn't want to hurt you."
"So you let me win?" I asked, my victory now tasting bitter. Darl said nothing. In a rage, I flung my weapon to the ground and stormed off. As I sat down and leant against a tree, trying to collect my thoughts, Elowyn appeared.