First Draft Excerpt from The End of Childhood

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I didn't particularly need to be involved in the older boys' lesson, but it was a good way to be interacting with my kids without distracting them from their lessons. I couldn't help Alden or Imtara in theirs as they were beyond my learning thus far in what they were doing. Anara would ask me if she wanted my help. But despite my little hellions being more advanced than I in bladework, I knew I could contribute to the lesson - and it was never a bad idea to get another lesson myself. I teleported to the gym.

Scimtar's splinter was sparring with both of the boys simultaneously, while Asto's splinter watched. The splinters were using titanium rods, while the boys were using practice blades sized for their smaller frames. Not that a real blade would hurt a splinter. The titanium rods, however, would inflict a nasty bruise or even broken bones - and such injuries happened regularly. Esteban and Ilras had been healing themselves from such injuries for years - the family believed it was necessary. As much as it clashed with my American upbringing, evidence was on their side. The boys were wearing head protection, but I knew from personal experience Scimtar could hit practically at will with the lighter titanium, and he would intentionally inflict broken bones or worse if he thought it necessary to drive home the lesson.

Since the boys were busy, I began by drawing my weapon and practicing parry-riposte drills with a drone. Dead boring - and absolutely necessary to keep muscle memory fresh, even for Guardians. Scimtar had produced a program that randomly mixed up the major drills. Contrary to the fevered dreams of fiction writers unfamiliar with actual swords, there were exactly eight basic guard positions or parries against point attacks, six against cutting attacks. There were variants on each, yielding parries versus circular versus active and a few others as well, but they were variations on the basic theme. More complex were responses to compound attacks, which began with a feint. However, you still had to move to parry the feint or the drone would hit you.

Similarly, there were only four basic thrusting attacks and three cutting, and although there was a choice of complicating maneuvers, from what Earth swordsmen would call degage to coupe to moulinet and others, and the possibility of feinting or turning an attack into a compound action, there remained only seven basic attacks. Start multiplying all the possibilities out and you'll understand there are a large number of possibilities, and I haven't even mentioned stop actions or counters yet, but you have to practice them all to keep them in muscle memory, and they really do spring from a comparatively small number of basic actions.
I winced as I saw Scimtar's splinter disarm Esteban, hit Ilras across his forearm, and move back to strike Esteban on his protective headgear all in one smooth action. Ilras' arm was broken, but he kept from crying out and transferred his blade to his off arm in time to parry Scimtar's return stroke. I kept at my practice, pretending not to notice what had just happened, or Scimtar's critique.

"You louts determined to waste all your mother's hard work carrying and raising you? You've got to work together if you don't want a single opponent to use that lack against you, ending up in both your deaths! If you want to kill yourself, we can't stop you but don't get your brother wiped, too!"

I kept up my drills, pretending not to pay attention. Cut-parry-feint-thrust. Cut-parry-feint-thrust. Thirty repetitions of each drill, change to the other hand and repeat. Keep it engraved in muscle memory, so all I had to do was tell my muscles what program to follow, and they would do it. After thirty more repetitions, thrust to a new line, parry the riposte, feint a thrust, then turn it into a cut in different line. What Scimtar was doing to the boys might sound like abuse to some, and if we were back on Earth with no Great Families full of Sixth and Seventh Guardians for rivals, I'd probably have agreed with them. Not here. My children needed to be able to handle deadly threats before they were adults, in whatever way those threats presented themselves.

The boys had learned enough not to argue with their great-grandfather or his splinters. They'd get no sympathy from anyone else in the family, either. Esteban was helping Ilras heal himself while the two of them endured their great-grandfather's admonishment. Their father's splinter looked on in disapproval of their slipshod efforts. I studiously kept to my drills.

Scimtar's splinter ended his tirade once Ilras' arm was healed, and struck a guard position. "Asto, illuminate your offspring as to the nature of teamwork." Asto's splinter struck a guard position as well, parrying Scimtar's first attack, a circling parry in what an Earthman would have called octave, which defeated Scimtar's initial degage, flipped his sword up into a quartre riposte to Scimtar's high inside line. The boys were slow off the line, but attacked in Scimtar to the low outside and low inside as well. Scimtar enveloped Asto and Ilras' attacks in quartre himself, retreating from Esteban's attack. Esteban redoubled, Asto in turn bound Scimtar's blade on his yielding parry, and Esteban scored a hit thanks to his father controlling Scimtar's blade. "Better," he admitted, "Now let the boys do it on their own. Go spar with your wife for a while."

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on April 5, 2021 9:09 AM.

First draft of teaser for The End of Childhood was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from Moving The Pieces, Current Work-in-Progress is the next entry in this blog.

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