It has been entirely too long since I’ve picked up this story where it left off, and I have terribly little time left to finish. As such, future fiction posts may not necessarily be on Fridays.
Because the links are still broken (I have practically zero spare time between testing, work, and thousands of other things to complete before Cataclysm), if you need to backtrack and catch up, go here.
This particular installment is a collaboration between myself and Amber of I Like Bubbles; Lyestra seemed a perfect fit for what needed to transpire in this chapter.
Lelissa sat quietly on a bench near the training dummies, waiting for a turn. Siegadormi had not yet arrived, so there was time to kill until the bronze could carry her to Dalaran.
Lyestra had claimed a small area of her own and was stretching. Â She moved stiffly at first, favoring her right side. To distract herself from the pain the Kaldorei took a swig from a flask at her belt and then glanced at those at the dummies. Â â€śAh, you donâ€™t swing a sword like that,â€ť Lyestra muttered under her breath. Â â€śWild and reckless yet, that one–someone should put axes in his hands, heâ€™s better suited for those.â€ť
A short distance away, Lelissa chuckled softly, shaking her head. â€śHeâ€™s still young yet. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll improve, given time.â€ť Turning her head, Lelissa fixed her gaze on the Kaldorei, smiling wryly. â€śAfter all, not everyone has the experience of years.â€ť
â€śSome do. Â Some donâ€™t.â€ť Â She shook her head. Â â€śSome brawler types never quite acquire any real finesse.â€ť Â Lyestra tilted her head slightly, then chuckled. Â â€śAs I know from my years of personal experience.â€ť
â€śOr worse, they discard everything they ever learned in the face of rage.â€ť Lelissa winced at her own admission, glancing down at the axe resting against the bench at her side. â€śAt least we can hope heâ€™ll survive it and learn from the experience… but I guess we all canâ€™t be that lucky.â€ť
â€śRage can be a powerful drive-and not always a bad one.â€ť Â Â Lyestra glanced at the training dummies again. Â â€śAnd some people are going to start seeing some of mine if they donâ€™t hurry up. Â Iâ€™m all for taking turns but Eluneâ€™s tits, people, donâ€™t fucking dawdle. Â Theyâ€™re training dummies not magic workers.â€ť Â She fidgeted and took another swig from her flask, wincing at the taste.
â€śThe trouble comes when it gives you blinders. I just hope that it doesnâ€™t turn out to be a fatal mistake for some of these new ones.â€ť Lelissa shrugged. â€śTime will tell. Weâ€™ll either have less of the scourge to fight, or more. Not where my battle lies right now anyway.â€ť
Sighing, Lelissa reached out and tipped her axe vertically, sliding her hand down the haft and turning her wrist, lifting it easily over her shoulder. â€śWe could be waiting around like this all day. Iâ€™m Lelissa. Would you like to spar?â€ť
Lyestra instantly perked up. Â â€śElune, yes, please – more interesting than the dummies, anyway. Â I havenâ€™t genuinely sparred in awhile… Iâ€™ve been teaching lately, but thatâ€™s not nearly the same thing. Iâ€™m Lyestra, by the way.â€ť Â She turned to pick up the shield that had been leaned up against the wall behind her.
Lelissa rolled her shoulders, loosening her muscles a little before walking to a clear space in the practice field. Turning to face her opponent, she settled into an easy stance, hooves planted in the soft earth. â€śWhenever youâ€™re ready,â€ť she said, tilting the axe in her hands low and to the right.
Lyestra eyed her opponent, then gave her a nod to indicate that she was ready. Â Lelissa would probably pick up rather quickly on the fact that she favored her right side-but she was used to that by now. Â She sighed softly, more to release tension than anything else, and kept her eyes on Lelissaâ€™s hands while lifting her sword.
Lelissa flexed her fingers, steadying her grip on the haft of her axe. Taking a step forward, she planted her right foot, swinging the axe upward.
Lyestra pivoted at the hip, deflecting the swing with her shield, turning with the momentum of Lelissaâ€™s swing and the block. Continuing the spin and pushing the axe away, Lyestraâ€™s sword cut an arc through the air as it swept toward her opponent.
Lelissa allowed her own momentum to carry her through a turn as well. Shifting her right handâ€™s grip on the axe, she dropped her left, putting the solid haft in the path of the sword swing. Lyestraâ€™s blade rung with the block and changed direction, a wide sweep over her head that had Lelissa backing up a step. Turning, Lyestra set her shield and squared off with Lelissa once again.
The Kaldorei was grinning, delighted by the initial exchange. Lelissaâ€™s smile was just as broad, caught up in the excitement of a real sparring partner instead of a training dummy. Lelissa paced toward her right, keeping Lyestraâ€™s shield between the two of them, intending to use it as a buffer. â€śToo bad,â€ť thought Lyestra, as she rushed forward, shield squarely set on her arm.
Caught off guard, Lelissa gasped as the shield came in low, prompting her to block. As the haft thudded against the shield, Lyestra drove forward and up. â€śSheâ€™s heavier than she looks,â€ť Lyestra thought, her back and leg muscles straining with the effort to throw Lelissa back. Unable to stop the momentum, Lelissa sailed a short distance through the air, crashing to the ground and rolling noisily to a stop several feet away.
Lelissa scrambled to her feet, angry at her foolishness. She had known many warriors and paladins who used a shield as a weapon, and should have expected that this one would as well. She charged, covering the distance between them quickly and crashed into the shield. Using the haft of her axe, Lelissa wrenched the shield wide and down, then slid the ornate wood through her hands, the butt of the haft skimming dangerously close to Lyestraâ€™s eye and scraping her cheek.
Lyestraâ€™s eyes briefly widened with shock. This girl was fighting dirty. A devilish smile crept across her lips as she said, â€śWhy, Lelissa… I havenâ€™t made you angry, have I?â€ť
Lelissa narrowed her eyes, suddenly dropping the haft heavily on Lyestraâ€™s sword hand, numbing her wrist and sending a rolling shudder through that arm. Lyestra gasped, fighting to hold on to the blade, twisting her left arm around to knock the haft away and disengage. Lyestra whirled, squaring her shield again and set against a charge…
Only to see that Lelissa had turned away from her and was walking back to the bench.
Despite the fact that she was still having to exert some effort to keep her hand around the hilt of her blade, Lyestra arched her eyebrows at Lelissaâ€™s abrupt exit from the practice ground. Â â€śWhat, done already? Â I wouldnâ€™t have taken you for such a sensitive git. Â Whatâ€™re you walking away for?â€ť
â€śIt wasnâ€™t what you said. Itâ€™s me and my own oversights. My anger at myself. Using such tactics in a sparring match.â€ť Lelissa sighed, sitting heavily down on the bench at the edge of the practice area. â€śLight, Iâ€™ll never get anywhere at this rate. Sorry about the wrist, by the way. I have a bandage if you want it.â€ť
Lyestra shrugged and sheathed her weapon, absently rubbing her wrist. Â â€śAh, thatâ€™s nothing. Â Iâ€™ll just make my husband earn his keep and take a look at it when I get home.â€ť Â She wandered over to the bench and sat down heavily, stretching her legs out before her. Â â€śAnger is useful, just best channeled in a more controlled manner.â€ť Â She took a swig from a belt flask as she paused. Â â€śAnd that is a lesson that took me some five hundred years to learn, if that makes you feel any better.â€ť Â A second silence as she searched for further words. Â Advice wasnâ€™t really her forte. Â â€śIf you donâ€™t feel like youâ€™ll get anywhere at this rate, change rates.â€ť Â She chuckled softly even as she knew the statement wasnâ€™t really that witty.
Lelissa cast Lyestra a sidelong glance. â€śI used to be a lot better. More controlled. Then my sister ruined all of it.â€ť Lelissa frowned. â€śShe made me doubt myself. Doubt everything I had ever learned, ever done… Iâ€™m like some goblin zeppelin careening out of control after one fatal engine failure.â€ť
â€śAh, she didnâ€™t ruin it. Â Youâ€™re just letting her play mind games with you.â€ť Â Lyestra fiddled absently with the cap on her flask. Â â€śWhatâ€™s a goblin zep doing wandering around without an engineer, anyway?â€ť Â She took another swig and waggled a finger at Lelissa. Â â€śThe skill and the control is all still there, Iâ€™m sure.â€ť
Lelissa scoffed. â€śYeah, mind games. Nearly killing me and my closest friend is a mind game.â€ť She looked out over the snow, away from the tournament grounds, across the vast and empty expanse in the shadow of Icecrown Citadel. â€śI have to face her. Beat her. Save her, maybe. But… Â Iâ€™m so damned scared to try. I know I donâ€™t have a choice, but itâ€™s almost paralyzing.â€ť
Lyestra leaned back and crossed her arms. Â â€śIt is. Â Death is the greatest mind game of all.â€ť Â She cocked her head, taking a moment to study Lelissa as something other than an opponent. Â â€śAnd fear is a close second. Â If you donâ€™t have a choice, then thereâ€™s no reason to dally.â€ť Â How much of her own experience was applicable? Â Not knowing any details there was no way she could know, but Lyestra offered the words anyway. Â â€śFear is only conquered by facing it. Â Sometimes repeatedly. Â Lost your skill and control? Â Regain it. Â Drill, not against these stupid dummies but against people. Â Push and be pushed.Â If you think sheâ€™ll play dirty, then find someone to play dirty. Â Find someone who fights in the same style she does. Â Burn the memory into muscle so that even if your mind betrays you, your body will not. Â Donâ€™t worry about saving her. Â Maybe she can be. Â Maybe she canâ€™t. Â But maybe she wonâ€™t. Â In the end the person to worry about saving is you.â€ť
Lelissa nodded absently, noting a runner coming toward her. â€śThe trouble is, I doubt thereâ€™s enough time. Arthasâ€™ reach is long… too long by half.â€ť The runner reached the pair, leaned in and whispered into Lelissaâ€™s ear. Lelissa murmured a thanks, and the runner set out for his next destination. Lelissa stood. â€śLooks like my ride is here. Thanks for the spar, and the advice. Sorry about the wrist. Light willing, weâ€™ll meet again.â€ť
â€śThen use what time youâ€™ve got. Â Come wander through Ashenvale sometime and look for the house west of Maestraâ€™s Post. Â Iâ€™ll be more than happy to spar again.â€ť Â The Kaldorei rubbed her wrist, then shook her head ruefully.
“I’ll do that.” Lelissa smiled apologetically, then turned and headed for the landing area. Siegadormi was waiting.