Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chapter Ten, Scene 3

The names that I use for different fighting stances and attacks are based on the actual longsword fighting techniques developed by Johannes Liechtenauer, Fiore Dei Liberi, and others, and documented in their own fighting books used for training in Medieval Europe.

* * *

For the first week, Balfrith restrained himself to only using the blade techniques of Men that he’d learned in Nûmidëa and Sildara, but after being beaten by Calunoth time after time, he’d had enough: he wanted to win, and wipe that arrogant smirk off the man’s face. And anyway, there wasn’t any rule (as far as he knew) against mixing one’s fighting styles.

So it was, on a cool evening in their second week of travel, that he started his sparring with Calunoth like he would have done on any other night, testing his opponent’s strength with a few quick taps and feints. Then he lunged, playing perhaps a bit more aggressive than he would otherwise have done, but Calunoth stepped back and parried his lunge to the side, and Balfrith was forced to step back on guard quickly. They circled one another again, Balfrith deliberately opened his guard, and then Calunoth lunged - exactly what Balfrith was hoping for.

He parried down and to the left, moving his left hand to the pommel of his sword so that he held it two-handed in Elefdar longsword style. Then, he lunged forward at Calunoth while shifting the sword so the point was behind him. He struck with the pommel into Calunoth’s chest, staggering him back a step, then quickly shifted the blade around in his hands and slashed over and down, striking him solidly on the shoulder just shy of his neck: a “killing” blow according to the rules.

Calunoth fell backward to the ground, landing with a thud and a woosh of air expelled from his lungs.

Balfrith stepped back and let his sword fall back into one hand, grinning and breathing hard.

“What in hell’s name was that?” exclaimed Calunoth angrily, levering himself up on one hand, then standing with the aid of his wooden practice sword.

Before Balfrith could speak, Eldamir said, “That, friend Calunoth, was Guard of the Changer, followed by a pommel strike, and finally a short Wrathful Strike. I think our friend Balfrith has grown weary of losing, so he decided to change the rules of the game.”

Balfrith raised a finger, interjecting, “Not change the rules, Eldamir - we’re still only sparring, and I still pulled my strikes at the last moment. But yes, I did decide to change things up a little by mixing my fighting styles. After all, I’ve been trained by both Men and Elefdar - why shouldn’t I integrate both styles?”

Eldamir shook his head and said, “In principle I have nothing against what you did, Balfrith. Though I think it would have been more sporting to give your opponent some notice that you intended to do so.”

Balfrith grinned broadly, almost laughing. “Well, then, let this serve as notice that I’ve decided to integrate my fighting styles.”

Calunoth grinned now, too, wolfishly. “So you want to spar free-style, do you? So be it, Balfrith. Shall we go again? After all, I think you owe me the chance to try again, given this little surprise you brought to the circle.”

Balfrith’s brow rose, and he shrugged. “If you wish, Calunoth, I’ll be happy to go again. I might even show you another new move or two.”

Still grinning, Calunoth said, “I certainly hope so. Let us begin.”

They both went on guard immediately, and began circling once again, but now both Balfrith and Calunoth were more cautious. Calunoth clearly didn’t want to be caught off-guard this time, and Balfrith intended to play a bit more conservatively since he knew he wouldn’t get away with a surprise like that again.

They went back and forth, feinting, parrying, slashing and blocking, for a long time. Neither was willing to fully commit himself to the attack, and finally Roidh exclaimed, “Enough of this silly dancing - either spar for real, or quit and let someone else get some practice!”

Calunoth grinned again, and said, “My apologies, Roidh, but I’d rather not lose again. But as you say -” he suddenly lunged in mid-sentence, and Balfrith blocked it to the outside, but then Calunoth’s left hand shot forward and grasped his left wrist, locking his arms down and out of the way. As Balfrith tried to step back and twist his arms in order to release his wrist, Calunoth stepped forward again, kicking out with his left foot and striking Balfrith in the shin, then his right hand rose with the pommel forward, and he struck Balfrith with a right hook to the head that knocked him flat on his back.

Stepping back, Calunoth exclaimed, “And that, my friends, is called Rhodanim street fighting.”

Balfrith sat, shaking his head as he removed his padded helmet. He muttered, “I think a clarification of the rules may be in order.”

And so, an hour later, they finally all agreed that their sparring would remain free-style, not limited merely to western methods as practiced by Men. Calunoth and Roidh would help teach Balfrith and Eldamir some new moves from Rhodan and elsewhere, and Balfrith and Eldamir would, in turn, begin showing Calunoth and Roidh the elements of the Elefdar longsword style.