Completed [The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Tarn puts his head down and gets to work mastering the essential art to being a solder. Combat

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A lawless town of anarchists, built on the ruins of an ancient mining city. [Lore]

[The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Postby Tarn Alrenson on June 29th, 2018, 5:21 am

12th of Summer 518 AV


The hot summer sun beat down on Tarn’s back as he stepped into the proving grounds for the first time. The air was filled with the sharp clacks of wooden practice weapons, the dull thuds of fists and weapons striking leather-wrapped dummies, and periodic shouts, both in pain and triumph. Tarn took a moment to gather himself and stepped farther out into the courtyard. He found a mostly open area and hefted his spear.

Tarn cursed his clumsiness as he nearly stumbled over the first few steps of the kata. It was a set of basic movements—nothing special—that his grandfather had taught him as a child after weeks of pestering. He failed to execute it perfectly, but it was familiar. That was a rare feeling now. Since joining the Dragoons, Tarn had lost almost all connections to his former life. To his surprise, in the long hours of the night, Tarn had even found himself missing the old shipyard where he had worked long hours under the stern guidance of the master shipwright.

Tarn snapped back to attention, focusing on the final steps of the kata. By the end, his movements were a little more fluid than when he’d started. That was its purpose after all. In his early days with the weapon, Tarn had thought that simple ritual would make him a master spearman, a wicked hurricane of wood and steel seldom seen outside the daydreams of little boys. As Tarn had grown older and gathered some sense, he’d realized the kata was little more than a glorified warmup, something to loosen the muscles and get your blood pumping.

Even so, by the end Tarn was breathing heavy. He leant against the spear and took in the rest of the training yard. A few of the Dragoons were gathered in a circle, jeering as two men wrestled in the center, churning up small clouds of dust. In one corner, a small class of Raiders practiced under the stern eye of the Marshal Iztel. One of the men tripped accidentally struck another in the back of the head with a sloppy practice strike. Tarn winced as Iztel began to give the man a thorough thrashing with her tongue. He had been on the receiving end of one of those tirades on his second day in the gang, and he was not keen on repeating the experience.

“Are you here to train, soldier? Or are you just going to stand there watching recruits become your betters all day?” Tarn straightened immediately, turning on his heel to meet the gaze of Eleuia the Strong, sister to the Marshall and fierce instructor in her own right.
“I’m here to train, Captain,” he answered.
“Good,” she said, eyeing him up and down. She took in the longsword at his hip and raised an eyebrow at his odd shortspear.
“That is an strange weapon, especially for a man like yourself. Where did you come across it?”
“It is— was, my grandfather’s. It used to be a cavalry lance, but he cut it shorter to use as an infantryman,” he replied. The woman grunted.
“Well,” she began, “spearmen are useful, if you have a decent line of them. It appears you have the basics down for that though. Point the sharp end at the enemy and stab.” She snorted derisively. “I can’t help you with much more than that. But I can help you with a weapon that has real grace. Tell me, how good are you with that?” She pointed at the sword on Tarn’s hip. Tarn’s eyes darted down, then back up again nervously.
“Honestly Captain? No good at all.” Eleuia let out a mirthless chuckle.
“Every word that comes out of that mouth to me better be honest boy, or you’ll live just long enough to regret it.” The words fell on dead air as the two stood in silence for just a moment before Eleuia clapped Tarn heartily on the shoulder.
“Come on,” she said. “I’m going to teach you how to use that thing.”
Last edited by Tarn Alrenson on July 1st, 2018, 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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[The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Postby Tarn Alrenson on June 29th, 2018, 7:24 am

Tarn followed the Captain to one of several weapon racks arrayed around the sides of the yard. He watched as she selected a practice sword from the rack and tested its balance. Seeming satisfied, she handed it to him. He took it in one hand, still holding his spear in the other. She jerked her head toward the side of the yard.
“Go put down your pointy stick. And take off your sword while you’re at it. I don’t want you using steel until I know you won’t kill yourself with it. Understand?”
“Yes Captain.” Tarn strode over and hesitantly leaned his spear against the wall. It was his most precious possession, and while common sense dictated that it almost certainly wouldn’t be stolen, it still aggravated him to leave it in the open like so. He unbuckled his longsword from his belt as well, laying it on the ground next to the spear. What was he doing? Tarn had joined the Dragoons because they seemed like they had the best shot at cleaning up the worst parts of Sunberth, but none of the brass seemed to consider that a priority. They would train him, build an army of no equal in the city, but how was this actually going to help people? Tarn had seen no evidence that the Dragoons would be mobilized against the city’s worst types anytime soon, so what was the point of training? Tarn shook his head to clear his mind. The mark on his hand had set his path. He was a Dragoon, and if he wanted to be the kind of soldier he had heard about in stories--just and righteous and noble--he would have to earn that liberty, rise through the ranks until he could do what he wished. And to do that, Tarn would have to train.

Shoving these thoughts to the side, Tarn jogged back to where Eleuia was waiting for him, not wishing to test her patience.

“Let’s see how much you know,” She began, “get in your stance.” With a moment’s pause, Tarn dropped into the stance he used when fighting with the spear. Knees bent, feet just outside his shoulders and spread front to back. He held the practice sword in front of him in a grip that felt awkward. Eleuia pursed her lips as she surveyed his position.
“Who taught you this stance?” She asked.
“My grandfather,” Tarn replied.
“The spearman?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. Eleuia nodded.
“That makes sense. This is all wrong. Spearmen usually fight in a line, like I said before. They can count on their comrades to protect their flanks for them. We don’t have that luxury. You need to be able to turn and move horizontally much faster than that stance allows. Here, move your feet inward, stop there. Turn your shoulders like this…”

The Captain circled Tarn, adjusting his stance and guiding his limbs into their proper positions. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of minor nudges and tweaks, she seemed satisfied, taking a step back and looking at Tarn with a critical eye.
“Good,” she said. “Hold that position until I come back.” Eleuia turned on her heel and began to stride away.
“What?” Tarn exclaimed, but the Captain seemed deaf to his cry, walking towards the class her sister was teaching, leaving Tarn alone, legs burning in his newfound longsword stance.
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[The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Postby Tarn Alrenson on June 30th, 2018, 3:07 am

Beads of sweat rolled down Tarn’s forehead, dripping down and stinging his eyes. He blinked furiously to clear his vision. His legs felt like they were on fire. It must have been only a few minutes at most, but by Tarn’s reckoning in his current state, it seemed as if it had been at least an hour. The tip of his practice sword began to droop lower, and Tarn’s arms began to strain to hold it in place. He gritted his teeth as his legs began to as well, crying out for him to straighten or collapse to the ground to give them respite.

How was this teaching him swordsmanship? Other Dragoons were performing practice strikes on padded posts or testing their skill in exciting bouts. Tarn was just standing in the dust like a fool, carrying a wooden sword and roasting in the heat. Only his knowledge of Eleuia’s influence kept him standing there. Within her domain of the proving grounds, her power was near absolute, second only to that of her sister.

With substantial effort, Tarn forced the tip of his practice sword back up into place and redoubled his efforts to hold his legs steady. Tarn had been in fights before—it was impossible to grow up on the streets of Sunberth without getting involved in at least a few—and he had never seen someone stand still for this long. He was willing to wager real soldiers never did this either. If they ever had to stand still they did it standing straight, or at parade rest, like his grandfather had told hi—
“Don’t get lazy Dragoon!” The command was accompanied by a heavy rap to his back knee, which had straightened itself farther than it was supposed to. Tarn struggled to return to the stance the Captain had shown him. Eleuia strode out from behind him, now carrying a quarterstaff, padded slightly on the ends for practice use. She leant on the weapon casually, staring at Tarn for a few seconds. He avoided her gaze. The anger in his chest would show in his dark eyes, and officers never took kindly to that kind of anger directed at them.

Tarn’s seething was interrupted as with one smooth motion Eleuia swept the staff along the ground, catching Tarn’s legs and toppling him to the ground, knocking the air out of his lungs. All of Tarns thoughts halted, and even his anger evaporated with surprise.
“On your feet,” she commanded. Grumbling, Tarn stood up, stretching the soreness out of his muscles. Once again, that quarterstaff darted out and sent him sprawling. A few of the Dragoons training nearby laughed in amusement. Dust from the ground stuck to Tarn’s sweat-covered face.
“On your feet, in your stance.” As Tarn crawled up from the ground, Eleuia placed her boot on his side and shoved, knocking him over before he could rise.
“Move faster,” she said. Moving as quickly as he could, Tarn scrambled into the stance she had shown him, retrieving the practice sword from where it had fallen during his tumble in the process.

This time, thankfully the Captain did not strike out with her staff. Instead, she clucked her tongue and set about correcting a few errors in his positioning. Many of the adjustments were minor, things Tarn would have believed to be without meaning, but the woman was meticulous. Finally, she stepped out in front of Tarn again, meeting his gaze. Tarn’s time in the dirt, as brief and bewildering as it was, had granted him some rest, but his muscles quickly returned to their strained state, crying out for him to stop.
“You need to get comfortable in this stance. Every time you move, every time you strike, advance, retreat, or get knocked down, you return to this stance. If you don’t, you will be slower than you could be, and in a fight, speed is everything. Your life and death are decided in less than the time of a heartbeat, so make every second count. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes Captain,” Tarn responded.
“Good, then let’s get working on your footwork.”


Weekend Marathon Post Word Count: 688 Total: 688
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Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. --CS Lewis
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[The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Postby Tarn Alrenson on June 30th, 2018, 5:14 am

“Footwork?” Tarn asked with an incredulous air. He wanted to learn to fight! How to strike, parry, and thrust his way through his enemies! He didn’t come here to learn how to walk.
“Yes, footwork,” said Eleuia. “The fastest way to die in battle is to trip over your own feet, and I’ve seen it happen all too often.” Tarn nearly scoffed, then he remembered his stumbles during his warmup kata. When he’d learnt it, his focus had been on the movements of the spear. How to thrust, the way to shift his grip when blocking… but maybe he should have put a little more effort into his feet.

“The first rule is to never cross your feet. As soon as you do that, your balance is off and any opponent worth their salt is going to capitalize on it. When you advance, you step like this…” Eleuia worked through several different steps with Tarn. She showed him how to step forward and take ground with strength, how to retreat without giving more ground than necessary, and how to move left and right without crossing his feet, a sin for which she knocked him over with that practice quarterstaff he was beginning to hate if she ever saw him commit it. The steps were small and deliberate, nothing like the sweeping leaps and strides Tarn had seen in some of the duels around the yard. When he questioned her about it, Eleuia laughed and replied,
“There are two kinds of people who move like that. First, people who know their stuff. You aren’t one of those people. I am, my sister is, and there are a few others here like that, but not too many. The second group of people is far more common. Those are the people who try to act like those of us that know our stuff. They focus on looking pretty, and they do a good job of it to people without two wits to rub together. I’m not teaching you how to look pretty. If you care about that go find someone else to train you. I’m teaching you how to fight and win.” With that in mind, Tarn held his silence as Eleuia worked him through the steps. After they had spent what Tarn thought was far too long learning the individual steps, she started having him string them together. The older woman would call out strings of commands, “advance, left, retreat, advance, retreat, right, left…” and Tarn had to execute the steps in the order she said. If he got the order wrong, or made a mistake, he received a disappointed look, and a barked order to do it again. At least it wasn’t the staff. Eventually, she added a command for Tarn to drop to the ground and rise back into his stance into the mix, and she began to call out steps faster and faster. Tarn pushed himself to follow along, furiously stepping, dropping, and rising. Mistakes became more and more frequent as their training session continued, each time resulting in breaking their current string and starting over. In one of these short breaks Eleuia quickly explained that it would not do to go on as if the mistakes had never happened. Then they would become habits, and she claimed that she refused to be responsible for any bad habits of her students.

Finally, after some time of drilling him on steps, Eleuia called for a halt.
“That’s all the time I can give you today,” she said. The Captain nodded toward where Tarn’s equipment lay against the wall. “You can take your sword -- the real one -- but I don’t want to see you using it yet, the only blood you’ll draw is your own. If you have to fight, use your spear. You’re fine enough with it to defend yourself.” Tarn nodded. He would follow her order, disobeying one’s superiors was never a smart move, and Eleuia had a reputation for being harsh on members who were lax in following her commands. “And kid?" she continued, "If I were you I’d use some of this footwork when you use that spear too. You can’t afford to move like a normal spearman, because I can’t afford to put a squad of them beside you at all times. Got that?”
“Yessir.” Tarn replied, and Eleuia nodded.
“Come see me again soon, gods know we don’t have enough decent swordsmen in this organization…” With that she walked off, likely to find another student. Tarn stretched his legs and walked slowly towards his weapons. He slumped against the wall, forehead pressed against the rough-grained wood and let out a long aching groan. He began to lethargically put on his sword belt but stopped, setting it down again gently.

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[The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Postby Tarn Alrenson on June 30th, 2018, 8:32 am

Tarn’s muscles ached, and his shins stung from where Eleuia’s quarterstaff had repeatedly struck him. The pain reminded him of that night--a few months ago now--a night spent sprinting down abandoned alleys, past decrepit buildings, and through dangerous streets, frantically looking for something he somehow knew was lost forever.

Tarn had lived his entire life in the shade. That was all too easy in Sunberth. The shadows of the city were everywhere. Deep, black, and oppressive, sucking the life out of the children born in their murky depths, robbing them of trust and comfort. Light streaming down from the sky and pouring out from torches did nothing to quell shadows of this kind. Honest people spent their lives trying to make their peace with the darkness they lived in. Working long days and often longer nights, ducking their heads and avoiding anyone with a blade in their hand or a brand on their skin. They carved little homes out of the darkness for their families and prayed it wouldn’t crush them. But that darkness cared nothing for the lives of little people, people like Tarn’s father and grandfather, two men with their throats sliced at twilight for a perceived insult and the Mizas in their pockets. Two bodies, meaningless to the darkness, nothing to anybody else, but everything to a young man searching for his loved ones in the dead of night, with an ever-deepening shadow in his own heart.

In the darkest pit of that shadow sat a single coal, burning with an intense rage. Rage colder than the most gelid winter and burning with volcanic friction. Rage to freeze his blood and sear his soul. Sometimes, that rage sat dormant just below the surface, but now it reared its ugly head, a fearsome beast rising from its long slumber. In a mind fueled by that rage, thoughts raced on the wings of hawks while logic flowed like molasses.

Tarn’s hand reached out, grasping the haft of his spear with a knuckle-whitening grip. He closed his eyes, blood roaring in his ears. The darkness had taken everything from him, but it wouldn’t pause. It would continue to roll over other people, crushing them beneath its leviathan weight. He would stop it. He was a huntsman standing before a forest telling it to stop growing, a beggar standing beneath the sun and telling it to cease shining, a sailor standing at the shore and telling the waves to quit rolling. He was a man standing alone trying to stop people from hurting.

He had joined an army waving the banner of the sun, declaring themselves the bringers of light, only to find they only deepened the shadow. Every step he took towards the beckoning brightness that always sat on the horizon only seemed to carry him farther into that stygian blackness. The only solution–-in Tarn’s’ mind–-was to beat it back. To channel his rage, use a spear and the strength in his arm to force back the shadows.

Thoughts race like hawks, logic like molasses, decisions like lightning.

With a face cast in a hard mold of seething anger, kindled by suppressed thoughts, Tarn hefted his spear and walked out to the space where he had previously performed his grandfather’s kata. He fell into the stance Eleuia had taught him, holding the spear slightly different to compensate. He would use every weapon at his disposal, every skill, every opportunity.

He began the kata. Slowly at first, then faster, he did the movements his grandfather had taught him those long years ago, when the world had seemed just a little bit brighter. A thrust into the heart of an imaginary foe, a block for a phantom strike, a spin of the spear as he turned, useless in battle, but serving to familiarize him with the weapon, forging a bond stronger than the steel that formed the spear’s head. His feet moved, planting, pivoting, and sliding in an ancient dance, a dance of soldiers long-dead and forgotten, a dance fueled by rage, a rage that was at the same time a roaring fire and a biting wind.

Tarn moved faster and faster, letting his vision blur, letting himself be consumed by the anger. He would be a weapon forged in the heat of his own fury, hardened by the mountainous weight of duty taken on at his own behest. Finishing the kata, he immediately launched into it again without pause, flinging himself at the effort, slaying ghostly enemies in a mad frenzy, not caring if his movements were precise or smooth.

His spear stopped, halted by a hand as sure as iron. Tarn’s wild, angry eyes swung to see who had stopped him. They met those of Itzel the Swift, Marshall of the Dragoons and unquestionable master of the Proving grounds. Suddenly, Tarn noticed several of the other trainees watching him, noticeably giving him a wide berth. Itzel looked from Tarn to the spear, and then back again. In a low voice, she said,
“If you’re going to lose control, don’t do it with a sharpened spear in the middle of your comrades.” She let go of his spear and turned to walk away. Stunned, Tarn’s anger slipped back beneath the surface, once again dormant. He managed to choke out a hurried,
“Yes Marshall,” before she left him. Slowly, the men watching Tarn drifted back to their own tasks, nudging and joking with each other.

Tarn’s exhaustion hit him like a charging boar. Even leaning on his spear, he could hardly stand. With the adrenalin from his anger gone, Tarn was tired enough that he felt nearly to the point of retching. Eventually, he made his way out of the Proving Grounds, retrieving his sword on the way, soul heavy. As he left, one thought struck a pang of fear into his heart. After all that, the darkness in his soul only seemed stronger.

Weekend Marathon Post Word Count: 971 Total: 3031
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Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. --CS Lewis
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Tarn Alrenson
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Posts: 81
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Joined roleplay: June 27th, 2018, 3:14 am
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[The Proving Grounds] Sweat and Bruises

Postby Madeira Dusk on July 26th, 2018, 7:00 pm

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Grades Awarded!

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Tarn Alrenson

Skills
  • Weapon- Shortspear: 2xp
  • Endurance: 5xp
  • Observation: 4xp
  • Socialization: 2xp
  • Weapon- Longsword: 3xp
  • Politics: 2xp
  • Philosophy: 1xp

Lores
  • Location: the Proving Grounds
  • Shortspear: basic stance
  • Eleuia the Strong: sister to the Marshal
  • Eleuia the Strong: fearsome instructor
  • Personal Motivation: rise through ranks and clean up the city
  • Longsword: proper stance
  • Longsword: protect your flank
  • Lore of the basics of combat footwork
  • Politics: obey your superior

Awards & Retribution


Notes
An excellent training thread! I appreciate how realistically you played your novice combat skills. Tarn feels very human, with lots of big dreams and ambition. Also, I've awarded you Politics because Tarn gave clear reasons for obeying Eleuia and showing deference in order to move up that ranks.

If you have any questions or concerns give me a shout!
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