Hippoi Athanatoi

The Naked Truth
IC Date: Threeday, 26th of Tammaz, 997 NE.
RL Date: May 17, 1999.
Participants: Isandros Chrysogones den Kalinikos and Sirhan Amir Zahavah/Shirin Khalida Zahavah.
Locations: Gathering Clearing: Tourney Ground, Fal Moran and Bath: Public Baths, Fal Moran.

Summary: Following a sparring session at the Fal Moran tourney grounds, Isandros learns something he definitely didn't know about his Saldaean friend.
Gathering Clearing: Tourney Ground, Fal Moran

Even at this early evening hour the heat built up during the day lingers, a certain thickness in the air, which isn’t made fresher here by the dusty and dry grounds. Despite this, Sirhan, as usual, looks as if dressed for a colder season, that coat of his rarely set aside despite his claims last winter about really not minding the cold half as much as you seemed to. And even with your regular practice moved from the morning hours to now in hope of somewhat cooler conditions, he is starting to look faintly uncomfortable with nothing but the preparations done with. Pretending, of course, that this isn’t the case at all.

With a final careful sweep of his wooden sword in a practice form designed to loosen and exercise several muscles wile being entirely useless for any real warfare, Isandros finally seems prepared. He’s rather more used to this heat than yourself, it seems, but even he is perspiring. His shirt is partially opened, his coat folded neatly on a fence not far away, and the shimmer of sweat is plain—but the fact that his breathing, at least, is hardly touched is quite noticeable.

“Well. This is a little more like the lands I know—bloody odd place,” he says conversationally, walking casually over to the place where the both of you tend to start off. “Freezing cold and then blistering hot . . . I think Farstrider said the Aiel Waste is rather like that. What does that say of the Borderlands?”

With a snort, and a wryly twisted smile at your words, Sirhan sets his own practice sword down for a while, his hands moving to rake back stray curls of raven hair and redo an already rather untidy ponytail, some dark strands clinging damp to his face. “That we are something like those Aiel savages, perhaps?” Dark brows quirk upwards above tilted eyes, that look of his challenging and question at once. “Compared to you ... refined southerners, that is.” His hair done with, he reaches for the wooden blade once again, testing his grip until it lies comfortably in his hand.

“Well . . . I wasn’t think of it quite that way,” Isandros says with a feigned defensiveness, before smiling so that his teeth show clearly even despite his closely trimmed beard. Then he, too, chooses to settle into a position, wiping his hands on the dark and well-made breeches he tends to wear for such practices. The stance he takes is rather in the middle of viability for both defense and offense.

“So, in your opinion,” he asks rather dryly, “what do you need to work on in particular today?”

“Of course not,” Sirhan replies, somewhat dryly and with a flicker of amusement touching his voice, though that emeraldine gaze remains untinted by it, instead watching you closely in a particular, subtly alert manner. Moving slowly to your right, sword held so low that the point of it misses dragging along the ground with just some inches, he seems to be consider the question, a thoughtful cast to his feature, but remains focused still.

“Last time around you slipped in more than one low hit. I’d rather not have that happen again,” he replies after a little, head faintly tilted as he continues to move, and to watch you.

The only reply Isandros gives is the sudden motion that leads into the dance of blades (wooden though they might be.) As a blademaster should be, so he is—swift and sure, graceful and deadly, a moment of calm in the midst of the onslaught of a storm. He moves so quickly that he might as well be wielding four swords at once, with eight arms for all of them, and he has long since given up holding back to test you.

His face is curiously flat as he focuses, neither bravado nor exhilaration nor any other sign of what he might be planning next apparent. His energies, however, are plainly centered on both defending himself, pressing you, and sending both thrusts and slashes low at your body—sometimes even lower, seeking a shin or a calf or a thigh.

Having expected no other reply, Sirhan is anything but surprised, his slender body reacting almost as if instinctively to the sudden change of pace, as if one with the wooden blade which he now sends slicing through the air. A low cut towards his left thigh is blocked with a near vertical sword, which presses for a moment and then smoothly glides away, as he does. At first he seems to be focusing on defending himself, not pressed but neither pressing, finding the flow and rhythm, and slowly picking the pace up further, as if trying to push you in that manner, seeking an opening as the speed of your exchanges increases.

The clack of wood-on-wood is rather dull in this oppressive weather, but it doesn’t slow down the exchange. High, high, a sweeping strike to towards the mid-section, and then a sudden push low before whirling away—so it goes, a constant and seemingly infinite combination of motions on Isandros’ part. As your attacks come on, he is deft and perfect in his defense, nothing of wasted motion. More low strikes follow, in a dizzying series of speeds and rhythms. Most importantly of all, however, is that there is no lasting rhythm—he is skilled in re-organizing his strikes and choosing different methods to deliver them.

Easily, if not as much as some months ago, too caught up in what he is doing, Sirhan is without a doubt the more predictable of the two of you, a pattern to his movements, albeit a complex one, possible to discern. Even so, he does defend himself well, his wooden blade more often than not there to parry your cuts—and if not he is usually elsewhere himself, quick feet having carried him beyond your reach for a moment or two. Until he moves in once more, turning parries into attacks for a turn or two before backing off a fraction yet again. A little more tiresome a style, perhaps, or maybe it is only his instance to wear that coat of his which has seen to that loose tendrils of dark hair now are matted soaked to his face.

Sword moving as if a thing preternaturally alive, Isandros is up to defending himself from your attacks—although atone point it’s a near a thing, as the slashing tip of your blade touches the fabric of his shirt with but little more than an inch to spare. An instant’s pause, and perhaps for a moment Isandros allows a brief smile of approval . . . but all too brief, as he moves in again. His feet hardly seem to touch the earth beneath them, for he moves in a steady and even glide, always balanced and prepared. Slashing and cutting, tipping aside a blow by the merest of fashions or pivotting aside from another, he is implacable—and suffering less from the heat than yourself, his breathing only now beginning to speed.

A faint flicker of a tight smile does perhaps touch Sirhan’s mouth at that close call, though he’s far from the kind to allow himself to dwell on either success or failure, albeit the latter sometimes has a way of igniting his temper and introducing a seed of recklessness to his fighting. Not so now, however. Nothing, not even his sometimes rapid breathing seems to disturb his focus. Blocking a slashing cut from just hitting his stomach, he twirls around with his weight upon his left foot to free his blade from the engagement, cutting low towards your thighs in return—and barely slides aside from your next attack, your sword lightly touching his left arm.

Isandros’ attack shows a little success—but then, so does yours as you time your blow precisely, the swiftly striking tip of the sword catching Isandros on the inside of the thigh. While there’s barely any strength to it, the speed it goes with would surely have left a gash—perhaps even a deep one, chipping away at the bone beneath; fine steel can do such things.

The result of the double strike . . . well, it’s a laugh from Isandros as he disengages, sweeping his sword with the first flourish he’s shown in awhile . . . and into a salute. “Well! That was well done. If anything, you’re improving your timing and judgement of distance,” Isandros says, the slightest sounds of breathlessness in his words.

A hint of surprise, and the faintest of smiles, does touch Sirhan’s expression as he smoothly brings himself to a half as you disengage, stillness almost appearing ... wrong for him after so much fluid, uninterrupted motion. “And I do believe that fortune decided to favour me for a moment there,” he responds, a certain quickness to his breathing and it is taking its fair share of time to fade. That he is pleased cannot, however, be completely hidden; that slight but persistent smile makes sure of that. “But I don’t think I will ever learn as well as you to have a rhythm that is no particular rhythm.” Taking his blade into one hand, he moves the other to wipe sweat from his brow and rake damp curls of raven hair out of his eyes. “Light, but I feel covered in dust, inside and out.”

Bath: Public Baths, Fal Moran
Some hours later.

Despite the warmth of the weather, which one might imagine would make these baths quite a tempting option, the late hour has left them quiet indeed. In fact, empty save for one person, who sits low down into the water facing away from you, damp waves of dark hair clinging to slender shoulders.

Empty save for two people, rather, as a southron lordling makes his way into the bath with a certain quietness. He too seems to have need of the baths at this late hour—not that he has been doing anything of note, but perhaps the oppressive heat has made him feel the need for some way to cool himself before he goes to sleep. So, with a long length of toweling about his lower body and another slung across his shoulders, he keeps his eyes rather down.

He does notice you however, and his courtesies are quite immaculate. “Peace favor you, lady,” he murmurs quietly, even as he slips off the towels and settles into the bath opposite you to make the best of the room. He really doesn’t look at you, as proper as any person of Shienar.

A slight nod in response to your greeting, but the quietly mumbled words which begin to follow upon it are abruptly cut off, drowned by a sudden silence, and a somewhat strangled cough upon that. For a lady of Shienar—if that is really what she is, there is after that group of Saldaeans now staying at the fortress—that is shyness indeed. Indeed, it would seem that your presence is a cause of considerable ... discomfort, as the dark-haired woman shifts uneasily where she sits and if possible keeps her eyes even more downcast than before, even though you make an effort to leave as much of a distance as possible between the two of you

He hardly looks at the sound—perhaps thinking it was but quite an innocent cough, perhaps by breathing the wrong way. Why, he doesn’t even look—well, maybe the quickest of sidelong glances which would hardly provide any detail. He’s rather busy bathing himself anyhow . . . first the shoulders and the like as he’s immersed, and then scrubbing at his arms and splashing copious amounts of water on his bearded face.

She stays silent for a good while, your apparently more than a little shy bath companion, and mostly still. That is, save for the occasional edging away from you (as best as can be done when you’re in a round pool), likely when she thinks you’re too occupied to notice. And still she keeps her head bent forward, that dark and damp hair falling like a sheltering curtain about her face, preventing insight—and no doubt obscuring her vision as well. A little dangerous, perhaps, when it seems that she has made her mind up about .... retreating for the evening.

Reaching for a towel folded neatly on the edge of the pool (still without exactly looking for where it is, or where she is), she starts to turn away from you, to make her way up the shallow steps out of the pool. While, at the same time, attempting to sweep said towel about her body as it leaves the water. But, still staring down at her own feet, and probably seeing little of them through her hair, she manages to drop one of the towel low enough to step on it ... which unbalances her enough to cause her to slip upon the wet stones, an actual accident avoid only at the last moment by quick reflexes and a sudden, graceful twisting of her body which allows her hands to hit the stone first, blocking her fall.

The stumble seems to almost pass the southron by—but peripheral vision shows the momentary flash of skin as your body falls to be stopped by your swift action. The conflict of Shienaran modesty taboos and the need to help leads to a distinct hesitation—before he stands in the bath (which, unfortunately, isn’t that deep) and moves (with eyes a little averted) to help you. “Lady, are you well? Do you need help?” Ah, the poor innocent fool, he doesn’t quite know what he’s gotten into. He’s earnestly trying to be helpful, and even offers a hand (a little blindly) should you need help standing once more.

A little ... shocking, perhaps, the sudden string of muttered, and far from ladylike curses which escape the dark-haired woman, perhaps unexpected enough to make you fail to notice that there is something distinctly familiar about that voice. She seems to suddenly remember herself then, shaking her head to you, and thus hardly making it clearer whether she is well, or if she just doesn’t want the offered hand. Unfortunately, she never really did manage to regain a steady seat upon the slippery ridge of stone, and when she tries to move one hand behind her back to fish out the now soaked towel, she slides down a fraction more—and instinctively throws her free hand up to catch yours. A slender hand, but hardly what you’d expect from a pampered lady. In particular, there’s an odd bruising over three of her fingers, just below the nails. As if by a blow of some kind.

Taking hold of the hand, Isandros rather welcomes having something to focus his eyes on, and his sure and strong pull to help you up is steady—until those very focused eyes of pale jade blink once, twice, perhaps three times. Then, all propriety forgotten, hand suddenly tightening around yours . . . he looks up directly into your face.

Sirhan?” He nearly lets go of his friend’s now all-too-feminine hand.

“Cursed ...” the dark-haired woman—Sirhan, though the name no longer fits—half growls, head snapping back all of a sudden so that tilted eyes of an unmistakable, emeraldine hue meet yours, the point of hiding now moot, and shyness real or pretended seems forgotten for now. “I ... I mean—” she begins, with little success, until a flicker of temper finally helps her to force out. “I am sorry, Isandros. I didn’t mean to deceive you, or for you to find out.” A little ... contrary, those statements, and then, as the initial shock fades and she seems to remember where she is (and likely that not only she is somewhat unclothed), a sudden blush colours her cheeks brightly red and tugging her hand free she leans down to snatch the soaked towel up. Wrapping it quickly around herself she then hurries off.

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