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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 73: Slade 192
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 196
By the end of the week things were falling into a routine. He thought his best ideas were that he had Agile in dance classes and Swifty learning to play the drums, but every student was starting to improve incrementally in what they were doing.
“Good morning,” he said on what he guessed was about the seventh day they had been working together. “You’re all doing quite well, and today we’re going to do something a bit different: each of you is going to fight against me. Don’t worry,” he said to the worried twitter that passed through the group. “I’ll go easy on you--that is, as easy as necessary. I’m going to skip you two,” he said to Agile and Swifty, “partly because you already know you’re the best two in here, and party because you’ve both already fought me, twice, and we don’t have a lot of time. But you’ll be the referees for these matches. And we’ll start with whoever you think is best, and work down.”
And so it began, Slade fighting one after another. None of them matched the first two he had fought, but he knew that before they started. When they got about halfway through, he started taking them two at a time. After each bout, he would ask the student, what did you learn?, and then talk him through where he was weak and what he should do about it.
As he was reaching the end of the list, he noticed a bird approaching--he thought an older cock, although he couldn’t always tell either age or gender. It was wearing a protective suit and had a sword at its waist--a genuinely nice and rather dangerous looking sword, for that.
Slade interrupted the last fight, and turned to watch the approaching swordsbird. “What have we here?” he said in English; the students gradually followed his gaze, until Swifty decided to intervene.
“Lord Slade,” he said, “This is professor,” and again he made a noise that did not translate, but it took Slade only a moment to make the connection.
“Your warfare instructor,” he said, and got an affirming nod. “Greetings, professor,” he whistled. “How can I help you?”
“They say one of the legendary gods from the past is teaching my students how to fence,” it said. “I at least wanted to see what it could do.”
Slade nodded. “Fair enough. If you’ll excuse me, I have a few more students to attend to here, and then you can have my full attention. Now,” he returned his attention to the last group he had been fighting, “where were we?” Moving through the opening positions, he waited for the go, and finished the fight. He again took the time to discuss their weaknesses with them, but made a point to praise their progress. Then he turned back to the professor.
“Now, what can I do for you?”
“You can give me the opportunity to prove my steel against yours.”
Slade smiled, and stifled a chuckle.
“You do have me at a disadvantage, you know.”
“Because having fought all these others, you are tired.”
“These? No, that’s not it at all. You have had the opportunity to observe my style, but I have not had the same opportunity to observe yours. But then, in real battle one rarely gets to see his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses until combat is drawn. If you don’t mind my two best students being the referees, I believe you know the standard rules?”
The professor nodded. Slade touched the tip of his sword to the ground and touched the blade of the dagger to it; the professor drew his own sword and touched the ground, and the other birds formed a circle around them.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #443: Versers Acclimate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: