He tossed his satchel in the corner and joined the crowd who had gathered to watch Professor Conway in his latest demonstration. He was holding two foils taken from the high wall of weapons, both had intricate decoration on the hilts and looked regularly polished. He tossed one into the crowd, caught by a small girl not in Will's class. She was summoned to the front, and stood still as Conway addressed them all,
'I'm satisfied with the progress of you all in terms of spellcasting, I had no doubts that you would be accomplished in the Art. However, one side that I feel may be lacking in your training is,' he twiddled the foil artistically, the blade making loud swish noises, 'the physicality.
'Now, you may believe that physical fighting is not necessary, if so you may find all of my lessons rather pointless. However, even if you do not believe you will use this skill, knowing it should the occasion arise is important. You will come across situations - especially in the current world - where calm words and negotiation will not suffice, in which case, you need to be prepared.'
He turned to the girl he'd called to the front, 'the foils that we're using today are blunt, so will do no actual damage, but so that you all treat this a little more seriously, the edges have been enchanted with a paralysis charm. Observe.'
They took the professional stances - the girl copying Conway carefully - then they broke into what seemed like a dance. They jumped back and forth, following each other, parrying, lunging, feinting, until the girl left her chest unprotected. Conway, one hand tucked behind his back, jabbed her in the chest.
She froze, almost as if she'd stepped unprotected into a frost, then collapsed to the floor, her legs going numb and lifeless, followed by her arms. The crowd heard the noise she made hitting the ground, they all seethed sympathetically.
'As you can see,' Conway continued to lecture, 'this gives you an idea of what a real fight would be like, although the paralysis would be a little more...permanent. As for this spell however, it will wear off in about ten minutes. So, everybody pair up, and get fighting.'
Andrel and Will decided to partner together in the first couple of seconds, whilst Sayara put herself with Arlamus - who insisted on wearing wrist guards. Tayna saw Calain sitting alone at the side, she made her way towards him kindly, but her path was blocked by Marinia and Valda.
'Hello there, Tayna. Want to be partners?' asked Marinia in a fake, sweet voice,
'No,' Tayna said curtly,
'Too bad,' Marinia whispered, grabbing her by the jumper and tugging her to the duelling lanes. Everybody lined up, Conway stood in the centre and explained that the objective was to make a paralysing blow, or knock them over the back lines. He ran to the side as quickly as he could once he motioned for them to begin, avoiding the collision of paralysing blades.
Although Will had never held a weapon in his hand before, he felt serenity spread through him. The hilt seemed to mould to his hand, the blade moving gracefully with a simple flick of the wrist. He looked up just as Andrel came running at him with his foil raised, Will managed a block in the nick of time.
'Damn it,' Andrel grumbled,
'Better luck next time,' he smiled. They broke apart and made contact again, this time Will was the opposing force pushing down on him as hard as he could, but his arm shook with the tension.
'You need to build up more strength,' Andrel said, pushing back and smiling, 'you're way too skinny. You'll never win a fight.'
'Well, there's something you should probably know,' Will said, smiling back, Andrel looked at him expectantly, 'I'm not right-handed.' Andrel's eyes widened as Will quickly swapped the hilt to his left hand, breaking their contact and striking his side. It was strange for Will to watch somebody become paralysed, it looked as if the nerves in Andrel's body were blocked off one by one in quick succession, he fell to the floor in a heap, silent in shock before he burst out laughing.
Waiting for the other duels to end, Will grabbed Andrel's arm and dragged him along the ground to the side-lines. There were a mix of swordplay methods on show, some looked like experts, executing both dramatic and artistic movements, whilst others looked like they were badly conducting an orchestra. There was the occasional noise of somebody falling to the ground, the children sitting at the side growing steadily.
But near the end of the lesson, there was only one pair left still fighting, and everybody's eyes were glued to them.
It was Tayna and Marinia.