It was always a little like dancing. 

It was always a little like dancing.

She tossed the knife to the priest, leaving her armor at the edge of the circle � Aunne�s slowly regenerating body covered, for modesty�s sake, with an arming jacket and short, slit loincloth, runeblades carelessly slung on her back; still clumsy from divots carved out of muscles � but functional enough.  She drew her own from the belt � a simple, forged reminder of a a friendship she hoped still existed. 

Her draenic was rough, hollow � �Do not hold back � you can�t hurt me, and you aren�t learning to fight pretend-things.  What you learn may save you � that is the point.  You feel less than useful because you believe you can�t be in the thick of things� alright.  But if you�re going to be there, someone is going to truly try to kill you.  And you have to be willing to ensure they do not succeed � whatever that means.�

Aunne nodded at the blade the priest held � �That is not a toy � it is a tool that can end lives to protect your own.  It is a heavy thing � and using it will always have a price.  And the first price is always sweat.�

And so they began.

She drew a practice knife, cut from heavy wood, from the rack by the temple�s circle � tossing it to the initiate across from her, and then taking one for herself.  She tied back her robe to her waist, eliciting a whistle from her husband, who leaned against the railing of the Circle.  She couldn�t resist posing for him, just a bit. The look on his face (And the smoulder in those blue-gold eyes) was worth the distraction.

�MOTHER.�  The intiatate huffed. �Really?�

�Hmph.  I have nice legs.  If I want them to be appreciated, what�s that to you?�

�EMBARRASSING.�  Her eyes flashed, and she pulled that dark hair of hers � so like her mother�s � out of her eyes.

�It�s only embarrassing if you let it be, kuru�nai.  I�m certainly not.�  Her voice was bright, vibrant � touched with laughter. 

�I don�t see why we�re doing this anyway � the Prophet says fighting is always the last choice.  Why learn if we�re not supposed to use it?�

�Because you never know � because there are dangerous things in the wild places, and dangerous draenei in the cities.   And .. no skill is worthless.  If nothing else, it will help with your dancing, and it�s more fun than just running laps around the Temple and more exciting than choir practice.�

�I /like/ choir practice.�

�You like your boy.  I know why you go � don�t think we haven�t noticed, young lady.�

And so they began.

�Balance.�  Aunne showed her how to move, low and arms wide � �Keep your body low.  Always balanced � the best defense is not like what the bards say.  For knives?  It�s simply not getting hit.  Watch where your opponent�s blade can reach, and stay out of that until you�re certain.  Keep yourself light on your hooves.  Never cross them.  Dancing � you see?  Be able to move.  I am your partner, and you are mine � and this ends when a knife strikes home.�

�If someone comes for you with a sword � you will not have an advantage.�  The death knight drew her own runeblade casually -showing the range. �You see?  I can reach you farther, and by carrying a sword you know I have trained, if only enough to hold it without killing myself.  There is no honor here � it is /survival/.  They will be better trained, better armed.  Not being there when they hit you is how you live.�

�Balance is everything, kuru�nai.  Stay low and fast � keep the blade here, an extension of your arm.  All the silly flourishes in your books and plays?  They�re silly � if you have to -use- the knife, you will look stupid, and that�s fine.  It�s not about how you look, it�s about living when the fight�s over.�

�Don�t forget your other hand.  The knife isn�t the only weapon you have � you have fists.  Knees.  Hooves.  You have teeth.  Horns.  And you?  You have the Light. If they give you time, -use it-.�

�Control the tempo, kuru�nai.  Dictate the song.  Don�t let me rest and think up a plan � your brain is faster than mine.  Use it!�

�Always think ahead.  The next swing.  The next strike.  Where are you open?  Where will I counter?�  She thumped the priest soundly in the ribs with the butt of her knife.  �When you commit, COMMIT.  Don�t hesitate.  Hesitation is death.�

�Use your body. Lie with it. Let everything about you scream you�re going to do one thing, then change your plan.  Keep your opponent off balance.  Guessing.  Balance is everything � take theirs away.�

�If you can�t reach the body � �  The back of the knife slapped the priestess�s fingers, stinging � �Stop them from reaching you . The arms.  Hands.  If they can�t hold the knife, they can�t win.  Wrists are vulnerable.  Hitting the upper arm makes it hard to lift things.  Cut the shoulder and they can�t raise their arm.�

�Every time you are stuck, it is a cost.  Every time you strike, you have to pay a price.  You�ll get tired fast if you don�t conserve your effort.  Wait.  Pick the right moment.  Strike.  It�s � a little like how I caught your father.�

�Focus.  Don�t watch my eyes.  Watch everything.  See how my torso moves � it cannot lie.  My eyes, my arms, my legs are all telling 

you where the dance will go.  Watch!  There is only you and me and this place.�

�Focus!  Stop reacting.  Force me to move.  Force me to dance your dance, not mine.  Make me uncomfortable.  Make my hooves unstable and my choices all bad.  Don�t give me room to improvise.�

They worked for several hours � until the priestess was exhausted and sweating and soaked through and shivering from the rain.

And then Aunne pushed her harder, Draenic becoming a snarling bark � �Up!  Faster.�  A hoof snaked out to hook the priestess�s leg, to knock her into the mud. �Your muscles ache.  You cannot breathe � get up.  SHOW ME.  Kill me.   PUSH.  Someone else�s life is ending because you are not standing.  Yes, you are cold.  So?  Your enemy will not care.  Nor will the next one, or the one after that.�

�Just a second, mother – <pant>  I can�t breathe � �

She shoved, hard, and the young girl sprawled, hooves over head, and Aunne kicked the wooden knife away, throwing herself down to pin the girl, breathing hard, showing teeth. �And?  And now you�re dead ��  Her knife was steady, just above her daughter�s throat.

She stood � offering a hand. �C�mon, Amia � up.  We�ll go again tomorrow.  And again the day after that.  When you make /me/ give up, you graduate, and your father takes over.�

Aunne offered down her hand � dripping with frost, to the mud-covered, panting, soaked, and shivering priestess. �It is a good start.  Come, Am-� Honored one � up � we�ll go again tomorrow.  And again the day after that.�



Author Aunne
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