PM to join [The Proving Grounds] Survival of the Fittest (Gareth)

Getting better at staying alive can be a grind.

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

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[The Proving Grounds] Survival of the Fittest (Gareth)

Postby Baelin Holt on December 1st, 2019, 12:17 am

To his credit, Gareth didn’t hesitate to explain. He called his stance the fool’s guard, and admitted to liking it better than the guard Itzel had shown. Baelin didn’t have nearly enough experience with sword fighting to have formed any opinion of his own, so he just filed them both away as defensive guards that people liked.

Baelin’s eyebrows jumped up when Gareth offered to go through other guards as well. “There are a few I think would suit you well, friend,” he said. That was… inordinately generous. Didn’t Baelin literally just try to bash this guy’s brains in? How was he still being so nice?

As he spoke, Gareth slipped back into the guard from earlier. The one he called the fool’s guard. Baelin huffed in self-rebuke as he studied the seemingly open stance. Yeah. He’d been a fool alright. Baelin raised his shortsword again, trying to figure out how the petch he should strike at him. Where was the real opening? It definitely wasn’t the opening he wanted to go for―he’d learned that quite clearly in their last exchange. But then where was it?

“Oh,” Gareth started. Baelin glanced up―pulling away from his shoddy attempt at a battle strategy―and cocked an eyebrow in question. Gareth didn’t leave him waiting, immediately going into how he should learn to keep his anger in check and not be reckless or so easy to kill. He pointed at the spot that Baelin just got nailed in, as if Baelin wasn’t entirely aware that his stomach was currently a pit of dull pain.

Baelin sneered before he could stop himself. He reigned it back in a split-tick later―letting his expression flatten into something a bit more blank―but it’d still shown. Be civil, he tried to remind himself again, The guy’s just trying to be helpful. So what if he had to sit through some unsolicited life-advice? He could deal.

Gareth continued to doll out advice, and Baelin’s eye twitched. But then Gareth switched from life coach to offering intensive swordfight instructions. The dominant foot forward and other foot back and angled. Shoulders relaxed, and sword angled to Gareth. Baelin found himself shifting into position, trying to follow Gareth’s earnest instructions as well as he could. He twisted around so his right foot slid forward, and settled his left behind him. There was very little chance that he actually had that pose right, but Baelin figured he could adjust it as he got a feel for how badly the version he currently had would fail him.

Taking in a long, deep breath, Baelin let the tension in his shoulders ease out. Alright. He could do this. Don’t use his hands to catch the blade like an idiot? Yeah, the girl from last time had told him the same thing. He’d told himself the same thing. Didn’t stop him from doing it. Instincts were the opposite of helpful sometimes. Baelin just figured he needed to practice it―over and over again―until eventually habit overrode instinct.

One day, he promised himself.

With Gareth set and ready―and his quick relay of tips seemingly done―Baelin figured it was time to see if he could get past that guard. He still had no real idea what he was doing, or any sort of plan or strategy in mind. But time was ticking. So Baelin tried to angle his wooden shortsword in the way that Gareth suggested, and then lunged forward.

Gareth’s wrists snapped up. But whatever he was trying to do, he wasn’t quite quick enough. Baelin got his sword in before Gareth managed to pull his all the way up, and for a split tick Baelin felt a rush of success. That rush, however, quickly vanished as Gareth shifted into a slash. His wooden sword drilled into Baelin’s side―hard enough to make Baelin grunt aloud―and then Gareth shifted back a step.

Baelin had thought that was the end―he’d been tagged, now was the time to wince at his new, forming bruise and reflect on just how crappy he was at this. He’d been so prepared to do just that, that Baelin had dropped what little excuse of a guard he’d had.

That’d been a mistake. Gareth immediately launched into another attack, and Baelin scrambled to raise his shortsword. He was too slow and only managed to get his sword up enough to have it in between Gareth’s sword and his own chest. He hadn’t managed to brace it, and he hadn’t gotten into any actual defense. Baelin’s own sword collided into his chest, pushed in hard by Gareth’s.

Baelin swore and surged forward, leaning his whole body into the point where the two practice swords met and shoving them off him. He then took a half-step back to get some space, and swung his shortsword in a wide arc.

He hadn’t been expecting it to make contact with anything other than Gareth’s defense. But he could still keep swinging. This guy didn’t want any breaks? Fine. Baelin could play that game. He resolved himself to keep swinging until the guy tired out and begged for Baelin to give him a break. Baelin grinned at the thought―his smile dark and twisted. Oh yeah, that’d be fine by him.

When Gareth would put forth his own counterattacks, Baelin focused on just catching the sword with his own. If he could just…keep catching wood on wood, then he wouldn’t have to worry about losing this by becoming too badly injured to continue. He just had to catch it. It didn’t have to be pretty. Baelin would undoubtedly use his left hand in ways he definitely shouldn’t, considering these wooden swords were supposed to be stand-ins for actual, sharpened blades. But he didn’t let himself worry about that too much. He’d rationalize it away to himself as a handicap. Gareth was obviously much better than he was; so he wasn’t going to be embarrassed by being obviously worse.

As their wooden swords clacked together, Baelin’s focus tunneled down onto the fight. It was just him, the swords, and Gareth. Itzel and the other Dragoons were forgotten as Baelin zeroed in on one thing that―in this moment―he wanted with all his might: beating Gareth. He might not be able to beat him in a test of skill, but Baelin could absolutely try to wear this guy down in a test of stamina.

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Baelin Holt
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