∴ A Gratuitous Art∴
Your feet fly over the wooden floorboards of the salle, and you hear them creaking in protest as you leap and lunge. You pay the sound no mind, consumed by the wooden waster dancing before you as you slip into a stoccata against your shadow partner.
As you drill you imagine the clash of steel against steel, the purity of that ring, the gasps of ghostly spectators as you cede away from a thrust in perfect time. You picture the long lines that you draw with your body as you pass and parry, the kaleidoscopic shapes you leave in your wake.
At last, out of breath, you land in a low lunge with a flourish. Your already pounding heart quickens as you hear slow, singular applause from the doorway of the salle.
Turning, flushed, with no hint of your practiced elegance, you see your master leaning languidly against the doorframe. In one hand he holds a single-edge sidesword, its grip a fluted column of brass and copper wire, its black guard curving in an S-shape around his bony fingers. In the other hand is a dagger, the sword’s unmistakable partner, alike in all ways but size and complexity of its guard.
“Apologies Master,” you pant, hurrying to replace the waster in the rack you took it from. “I got here early, and I wanted to warm up.”
“Why do practice?” the old man asks, toying with the dagger as he speaks. “Is there some dispute you wish to settle? Some competition you seek to win? Some woman you hope to impress?”
You have no answer that makes any sense, so you simply shake your head, staring down at your feet.
At this the master chuckles, stepping into the room with a catlike ease that belies his years.
“I’ve made a living out of teaching fighters. Hot-headed young men – they train to win. But it’s been a long time since I’ve taught an artist. Someone who trains simply to fight.”
You snap your gaze up to meet his, unsure whether or not he means this as a compliment. With a wink he tosses the elegant dagger to you, and out of surprise more than dexterity, your hand shoots out to catch that glittering grip.
“Let us begin,” the master says.