(1874-08-03) The First Lesson
The First Lesson
Summary: The first lesson is always the hardest. — Alia begins to train at swordfighting. tl;dr Nobody gets dead.
Date: 2018-08-03
Related: Qatunax Stories: A New Keep
NPCs: None
Alia  Maximus  

Training Yard, Candeo Castle, Colonia of Paras
Small castle, training yard, within the main grounds.

It had been little over a week, since the keep had been secured, and the Legion settled into the task of repairing, maintaining and, whenever possible, improving the castle itself and the fortifications. A selection of the legion had been garrisoned there and others soldiers and auxiliary assigned to handle the day to day tasks. The days since, had not been entirely without tension. The work needed for the repairs, the maintenance, the drawing of men and women from the troops to maintain the holding that was not, truly, the problem. The problem, which, in truth was not one that all of the imperials had, was that their new commander was not only completely untried in battle, the attack that won the keep notwithstanding, but she was a Westerner to boot. She did not even, or so it seemed, speak their own tongue.

And yet, for all of that, as she had been appointed by their Praetor, none had dared to dissent en masse. No, it was the little things. The occasional sharpness, the dour looks. Alia, however, seemed to ignore all of it. She set to the task that had been given to her with tireless focus, meeting with such centurions who had been assigned to aid her, using her knowledge of the land, not so far from her own home, her skill with stewardship, even her own sharp tongue to push for the castle, which she had renamed Candeo, to be in fit condition at speed.

But there were other tasks to which she had been set, and tonight, she must see to those. She had come to the area in the yard which has been allotted for training, bidden the weaponsmaster to bind the sword which she had been given. The sight of it, and not in its rightful owner's hand had gotten an arch of the woman's brow, but it had been done. And now, Alia simply waited, the sword at her side, hanging from a simple sheath, dressed as she usually seemed to be these days. Sleeveless shirt, boned corset, pants, boot; hair braided, coiled, and pinned at the back of her head.

Maximus had been called. He must answer. Even if he was more of a commander than a melee fighter, he was still absolutely brilliant in both aspects of the word. With that in mind, he can't help but smile as he arrives to see Alia dressed in her sparring clothes. Meanwhile, Maximus was also wearing rather normal clothing, but with bits and pieces of armor on him. He approaches Alia with a neutral expression.

Though he doesn't speak, his eyes shift to all the warriors who train with each other. Analyzing their forms, the way they hold their weapon of choice. How sturdy their stances are. How effective one strike would be in place of another. Alas….

His eyes fall upon Alia once more. "I hear you were called to train with a Centurion."

"I was commanded to teach myself everything that I do not know, both with the Princeps, when he has the time, and with the Centurions when he did not, or when what I needed to learn was something they could teach me in his stead." She caught Maximus looking off towards the other very, very much more capable fighters than she was, "I fear you will not have such a challenge as those warriors would present to you today." She returned her attention to the man standing across from her, "I requested you specifically for this particular lesson." Which might or might not get a man's back up. Honestly, Alia did not seem to show any sign that she cared one way or the other what his feelings on the matter might be. She, in her own way, as Maximus as well, was simply following orders. She drew the sword, which had had its blade covered in thick coated leather, to prevent the edge from causing injury. The hilt and pommel were still bare and that alone was enough to identify the blade. "I do not know how to use this, but I will learn." She did not say 'would like' or 'intend to'. Either of those would be an equivocation she did not feel. "And I would like you to teach me."

Maximus looks Alia directly in the eyes, before a small sigh escapes his features. Can't be helped. Oh well. Maximus then proceeds to draw his lightsilver sword, ornate and clearly an object passed down through the generations of House Olympicus, as it bears the symbol of Gens Olympicus. Either way, the blade remains sheathed as he wields it with a single hand. "I admire your tenacity and dedication. Very well, I'll show and teach you how to use that. First things first…your stance." he walks up to her, pointing with his blade. "Which handedness are you? If right-handed, right foot forward, left foot back. Lead with your strength. Vice versa if Left-handed." he waits for her to do so.

"Does something about the request displease you, Centurion?" She did not use the title as a goad, only that, while he had given her his name, he had not given her leave to use it. Still, her stance did not change, not until he walked in her direction, and then she set aside any thought of conversational things and turned her mind, ever her strongest weapon, to the task. She switched the sword from right hand to left. She was, after all making due with what she had and had not considered asking for a sheath which played to her stronger left side. "I cannot afford to fail." And then she dropped her eyes, marking that even in instruction, as he stood with her, he had already assumed the same stance he asked of her, only favouring his strong side. "Left." And then she took a stance as he had instructed, left foot forward, right foot back. Too much weight forward though, but it was an attempt.

"No. I'm simply not the best teacher." Maximus shrugs, before he sees her take her stance and become ready for combat. "Good. Bend your knees a little more." he states then. before he simply swings at her with a full blown blunt strike aimed for her stomach with his sheathed blade! "The enemy will not wait until you are ready. Fight like your life depends on it!" he taught her the stance, now he's teaching her that you don't have time to enter a stance and be ready in a real battle. Show him what you know!

+froll/vs: Alia rolled 4 FATE dice plus 0 vs. Maximus.'s 4 FATE dice plus 2!
+froll/vs: Alia got -1 1 1 1 plus 0 for a total of 2.
+froll/vs: Maximus. got 1 1 0 1 plus 2 for a total of 5.
+froll/vs: Maximus. wins!

"If I had wanted a teacher, I would have asked for one, Centurion. I chose to face a warrior. One who will not cut corners with my education." And then, anything else she might have said caught in her throat as Maximus struck. Alia was quick and attentive by nature, but she was, as Darius had himself pointed out, entirely underarmed and undertrained. And so, she did not even manage to get the sword up in time to block the strike. Her teeth clenched, as though the woman would, could will herself not to cry out. And so only a strangled sound of pain escaped as the flat of his blade landed its blow to her abdomen. Bare inches from hitting her ribs, striking low enough though that it might have been a fatal blow, if not for the turn of the blade and its sheath. The sound of her voice barely made it out from between her teeth as she stepped back, only the small grace she possessed stopping her from a full-on stumble. "Again."

Maximus was careful to strike when she was mid-speaking so he'd catch her off guard. "You enemy will not play fair. They will not wait for you to speak. They will try to kill you by any means necessary. Lift your guard up and parry my strike. Read my movements. What do you think I'm going to do?" he then tries to sweep at her legs to attempt to knock her down with his sword.

Alia took what respite she could, in the few seconds that Maximus allowed her, listening with absolute intensity to his words. Even as he spoke, she worked hard to absorb not only the sound of his words but the meaning of them. And perhaps he was telegraphing, she did not know, but she did make the attempt to bring her sword down to intercept the strike aimed at her legs.

+froll/vs: Alia rolled 4 FATE dice plus 0 vs. Maximus.'s 4 FATE dice plus 2!
+froll/vs: Alia got -1 -1 0 1 plus 0 for a total of -1.
+froll/vs: Maximus. got 1 0 1 0 plus 2 for a total of 4.
+froll/vs: Maximus. wins!

The problem about Alia's defense is that while yes she did put the blade there to defend herself…she didn't quite put the strength required to block the strike, causing not one, but BOTH of her legs to fly out from underneath her and probably cause her to land right on her upper back. She might get the wind knocked clear out of her. "Get up. If you can't block, you will not be suffered on a battlefield. Get. Up." Maximus says with cold eyes. It's how his father trained him.

Back and shoulders? Meet hard packed earth. Possibly a few rocks. Alia barely managed not to slam her head against the ground as the leg sweep and her own weight dropped her back onto the dirt. She very nearly let loose the sword, but something made her clench her hand tighter around the hilt. Reflex, or instinct, or the desire not to dishonour the blade she had been given, or the commander who had given it. Alia blinked back the tears blurring her vision, as she rolled to her feet, pushing off of the ground with her free right hand. At least Maximus' strike did one thing for her. It got her to bend her knees closer to what he had been asking for earlier. Ill-fated though it might be, she did not wait for him to strike first, but attempted to strike in imitation of the first attack he had made on her.

+froll/vs: Alia rolled 4 FATE dice plus 0 vs. Maximus.'s 4 FATE dice plus 2!
+froll/vs: Alia got 1 0 0 -1 plus 0 for a total of 0.
+froll/vs: Maximus. got 1 0 -1 -1 plus 2 for a total of 1.
+froll/vs: Maximus. wins!

Maximus simply looks at her then as she stands back up, if albeit possibly painfully. "Now you know why you bend your knees." maneuverability. If you keep your legs completely straight? You are almost guaranteed to break something when a strike hits. Either way, he looks at her as she strikes at him, deflecting her attack just barely, perhaps a bit unprepared for her to actually try to attack! "Good. Fight. Back." before he attempts to use the flat end of his blade to try to strike her alongside the head with enough force that it could knock her right back down.

+froll/vs: Alia rolled 4 FATE dice plus 0 vs. Maximus.'s 4 FATE dice plus 2!
+froll/vs: Alia got -1 1 0 1 plus 0 for a total of 1.
+froll/vs: Maximus. got 0 -1 1 1 plus 2 for a total of 3.
+froll/vs: Maximus. wins!

Alia did find the presence of mind not to answer him back. He did say no enemy would wait for you to talk, didn't he? But she was still to slow on the parry, bring her sword up, just after he swung hard. She might even have managed to strike him across the chest, if his sword hadn't slammed into the side of her head. Not quite with enough force to break the skin, though she would likely end up with a righteous bruise along the side of her temple. Once again, she met the ground, flying to the right, her shoulder this time jamming into the ground as she hit the yard. She did not lift her head for a moment, and her hand tightened on the hilt. And now it was out of reflex, as a momentary bloom of fire flared around the hand she kept clenched around the blade. The leather cover did not, thankfully, catch flame, but the smell of burning added a certain perfume to the air. Alia rose again, clearly fighting to regain her feet, and no doubt exerting the full force of her will to control her sorcery. She turned her head to the side, spitting blood onto the ground, likely from a bitten tongue, "Again."

+froll/vs: Alia rolled 4 FATE dice plus 0 vs. Maximus.'s 4 FATE dice plus 2!
+froll/vs: Alia got -1 -1 0 1 plus 0 for a total of -1.
+froll/vs: Maximus. got 1 -1 1 -1 plus 2 for a total of 2.
+froll/vs: Maximus. wins!

Maximus has faced and killed sorcerers before, so he keeps a remarkable cool as he simply watches Alia as she maintains her willpower. His eyes not judgmental or even angry. But he puts his sword back onto his side, approaching her with no weapon, though his hand does rest on the pommel of his sword. "No. That is enough for today. You've proven one thing already: That you will never surrender. And in the eyes of Vir Sidus, resolve is everything." he tells her then. Especially when she spits blood on the ground. "We will continue again tomorrow."

A true enemy might have attempted to take advantage of Maximus' momentary lapse in, not concentration, but in attention to the battle. But this was not that fight, and Alia did not press the attack, allowing the sword to fall loose at her side. She stood perfectly still, something in the set of her shoulders denying herself the easy route, which would have been to allow herself to drop back to the ground, to give into the pain in her head, her stomach, her back, her shoulder and hip. Instead, she lifted her eyes to meet his, the unnatural shine there slowly fading until they were her usual green. "I do not have the luxury of surrender." Another turn of her head, which brought a wince of pain, and more blood met the ground. "We will continue tomorrow." And then, though she had no strength to smile, but there was gratitude in her expression, "I don't think I should attempt anything stronger than water, but will you walk with me?"

Maximus didn't seem to mind that Alia wanted to walk with him, so with a soft smile, he nods lightly. "We will. Don't worry about the blood. I keep hearing it's good for the soil, somehow." he shrugs lightly before walking up next to Alia, offering her his arm. "I'll help you walk if you need it." but he nods. "I will walk with you nonetheless." and he'll follow with her wherever she'd like to go.

"Perhaps it is at that," Alia moved slowly, carefully, her body stiff, "But this ground has seen enough blood to last a lifetime." As they walked, the covered the ground that, on a week now, had burned high with the pyre of the dead. "No!" And that came out more sharply than she might have intended. And hearing that sharpness in her voice, she softened her tone, "Thank you, but no. It would not be safe for you to touch me now. As well, I would only be telegraphing my weakness." It was clearly important to the woman not to do that. "Thank you for agreeing to work with me. I understand that it is taking precious time from your own command." Yes, he had been ordered, and she could have left it at that, but it seemed important to convey her gratitude. They did not go far, Alia stopping at one of the stations which were set to allow the soldiers to refill their canteens, reaching out, gingerly, to retrieve one, offering it to Maximus, before she took one for herself.

Maximus smiles softly to her then as she admits that blood can likely better everything, but when she snaps at him? Oh, she gets that cold look that perfectly says 'you just fucked up' in the most eloquent way possible. Regardless, when she apologizes, he nods. He knows the feeling of showing only strength. Let no one see your weakness. He knows all to well. He nods then. "Very well." and he keeps walking, letting her walk on her own strength. "It is fine. We are not in combat and my men are competent enough to know what to do without me holding their hands or overseeing them." the faith he puts in those under him is fully returned. but he accepts the canteen from Alia, sipping on it idly. "Tomorrow, I will teach you the finer points of blocking and parrying. The art of keeping yourself alive if your struck."

Alia met the look he glared at her, and did not look away, nor back down from that moment of confrontation, "It was not my intention to be short with you, Centurion, nor to return your consideration with disregard. But I am not fully in control of my emotions right now, and I can feel the flame, like a itch under my skin, eager to get out. Until I have better hold of myself, I would not risk touching anyone, and by so doing, cause them to be injured." Her own canteen she took carefully, gingerly, and took only a small sip, as though she were testing to see if it were safe to drink. Water was ever the enemy of fire. And finding that she could manage that, she took a longer one. "I would be grateful for the instruction." And then, more gently, with as much humour as she could manage, "I was quite terrible."

Regardless of the exchange of looks, the reasoning given behind Alia's more…hesitant nature to even be touched is noted. Where Maximus didn't know before, he knows now. Sadly, when magic awoke, he was not one of the few who awakened mystic might. Though he did train extensively in specific ways to kill them, should the need arise. Either way, he simply smiles as he sips the drink. "Then I will give it to you. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Regardless of age or previous experience, we all must start somewhere when attempting a given task."

Having slacked her initial thirst, Alia took smaller sips now, a full half dozen, before she set the canteen down, turning to find some bench or place she could sit, to relieve the need to stand on her feet, and finding a flat bench, bent to pull it over closer to where Maximus was standing. And when she sat, she certainly seemed better for it. Once she had settled herself, she reached into a small pocket which had been sewn into one of the ribs of her corset, retrieving a small glass phial. An ideal place to store such a delicate thing. A small sip she allowed herself, before she curled it into her hand, her fingers turning it over and over as though it were some sort of worry stone, "While I will not disagree with that sentiment, I feel that I do not have the luxury of time. We hold the keep now, and the legion abides here for a time, but I know that it will not last and then we will be back on the campaign. I must be ready for that."

Maximus gives Alia a tilt of his head when she appears to allow herself to move a little closer to where Maximus was standing. Or at least, to pull the bench closer to him. A very kind gesture. But…as Alia drops her worries and concerns at his feet, Maximus smiles softly to her. "Fair enough. It's something that you need to know, for certain. Magic and Alchemy will only get you so far. But…that alone gives you a good deal of respect among the Vir Sidus, who value such things very highly." he sips his canteen once more. Even the way he sits is the discipline of a warrior. "I will teach you. From now on, you are my student. Who knows, perhaps we shall both learn from one another." he sips his drink again. "You will be ready."

Alia, having settled herself, began to take stock of her injuries. Her hands first, which were, of course, the primary tools of her trade. Whatever she had taken, it was no healing draught, at least none such as would speed her recovering. Indeed where her skin was exposed, on her face, her shoulder, it was already possible to see the reddening that would soon enough become bruising if left untreated. Still, she was careful, but not overly so, as if she were taking stock of the injuries, their extent. "So it would seem. Though, given what I encountered during the battle and some bit afterward, the tool is more valued than the wielder." She did not seem at all put out by that, seeming to offer it as a simple observation. "Alchemy is a discipline, like any other. It can be learned, if one has the mind and the will for it. If you wish to learn, I will make the attempt."

Maximus seems to nod very softly then to Alia, a small smile on his face. "Heh, I don't need to learn Alchemy…but, if you feel like showing me a few tricks of the trade…then I won't mind it." he smiles softly to her, bowing his head lightly. He noted that her bare skin had a few red marks from the bruises he gave to her. "If you feel like teaching, I am happy to learn."

"Then it might be better not to begin. Much like martial trades, I would imagine, you must put all of your mind to it, and mistakes can and do kill. Best to save such intensity for the battlefield. But I have few other skills. I have been at the College of Alchemy since I was little more than a child. Scholarship is most of what I know. And such skills as have served me as a guildsman, though I think such skills are ones you would already have." Alia shifted, reaching back for her canteen. She seemed much improved from when they first finished their lesson.

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