First Draft Excerpt from The End of Childhood

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Getting close to finishing this. There is a nugget in this passage foreshadowing events later on.


The rules of bladework sparring were simple: blade only. You were allowed to use auros to plan, but no mindbolts or anything else. This wasn't a duel; it was a test of our skills with the blade. The point continued until someone drew significant blood. When you could heal anything but brain function, lesser wounds might be painful, but they weren't life threatening. You'd heal yourself and be good as new in a few seconds - maybe a minute or two at most. The ilestar floor covering would soak up any blood that fell, and as soon as the room was vacant, one of the little robots would be along to replace the ilestar. Clothes were just as replaceable. Head protection prevented practice weapons from doing anything that couldn't be healed.

The point was that we didn't hold back. Our family could use the same sword moves we'd use in a real duel, and do so in earnest. This meant no bad habits to break in a real duel, we wouldn't be used to 'holding back'. I had no reason to suspect that the other Great Families did anything different. Swordsmanship settled roughly a third of all Imperial duels. If you were reasonably matched mentally, greater sword proficiency gave you a real advantage. It wouldn't balance out a large disparity in mental power - as I'd learned the hard way in my one duel - but it could be what allowed you to defeat an opponent that might otherwise have worn you down mentally. I had no intention of fighting any more duels - but sometimes circumstances gave you no choice. I'd learned that the hard way, too. Since I wanted to keep enjoying my husband and children for as long as the Lord allowed, I practiced with blades regularly.

Parry riposte parry riposte parry riposte, and ow! A hit on my wrist from the titanium rod meant momentary pain, and a bruise I'd be healing later, but no real injury. In a real duel, it might have been the opening for an opponent to win decisively before I could transfer my weapon to the other hand. A beat later, I re-started the engagement with a cut to his head.

Attack parry riposte remise parry riposte. He'd hit me several times before my blade nicked his elbow. Good! He acknowledged the touch, and we kept going. Unlike a real human, Asto's splinter didn't have blood - a splinter was a projection, not a real human body. Ordinary action with a sword didn't damage them. Even in a duel with a real opponent, it would have been at most a minor annoyance - healed in a moment to negligible blood loss. But it felt good to have the acknowledgement that I'd gotten some of my own back. Good enough to trust me to take our kids to meet my family?

You're going to have to talk to Mother and Grandfather about that. Children of Great Houses did not leave the security of the Residence for anything more than short excursions that could be cut short at any time. They were too vulnerable to other Great Houses. No matter what the rules said about targeting children, every time I requested an Earth visit, I was told the gains wouldn't justify the risk.

Eventually, our sparring ended. Scimtar's splinter indicated it was time for my lesson. I was already sweaty and tired, but you didn't refuse even a short lesson from one of the greatest living masters.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 30, 2020 5:00 AM.

Teaser for Working The Trenches was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from Preparing The Ground is the next entry in this blog.

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