Friday, January 26, 2007

Progress of a Student of Arms IV (Or How Insults Can Be Compliments)

Well, my last fighting story was a bit of a downer. Here's a more cheerful one.

In the fall of 2001, we were having an armored combat practice at the Black Dragon Farm site, and I was having a rather prolonged sparring match with my friend Kveld-Ulfr Hersir inn Berserkr, of Stormvale, Iron Oak and more recently Northwoods. Kveld-Ulfr has a relaxed defensive style, very hard to get past, and an offensive style of waiting for his opponent to come into range and make a mistake. A good combination, and a bad match-up for me, with a relatively sophisticated offense but relatively poor defense. I had trouble getting past his guard, and staying in range to do so was likely to prove fatal. No point in dancing around with Kveld-Ulfr, my usual style, he would just stand and wait for me to come to him.

On this occasion, we stood in each other's range and whacked away somewhat cautiously, and a few other combatants were standing around watching. It was a highly satisfactory bout, one which went on for a long time and in which neither participant made any serious mistakes.

At last we paused, still in close range, and looked calmly at each other, for quite a long time (by combat standards, meaning it seemed like a long time to me but probably wasn't really all that long). We each waited for the other to do something. The circumstances called for something heroic. One of us, sooner or later, would snipe the other and hit the miniscule opening we might provide with a violent, perfectly delivered snap. That was how this bout ought to end.

Instead, and I don't know what possessed me, because I rarely use this particular tactic - it must have been the time I had to think it over - I brought the hilt of my sword smoothly before my face, let the tip fall so that it pointed toward him and gently poked him in the face. It was without a doubt the most elegant face thrust I've ever delivered, all so perfectly calm and relaxed that he never reacted.

Down went his sword and shield, and Kveld-Ulfr cried "Balian, you dick!" and began to laugh. Ever since, that has been my favorite insult. Kveld-Ulfr was always one for the bon mot.

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