Rumors were everywhere the next day. Lucas could hear them whispered as men ate breakfast, as they walked to various locations, as they sparred, shot, and wrestled. Few made sense, though one was repeated several times defector. Rumor had it the mysterious woman was a Southern Elf who had chosen to abandon her countrymen and join the North's cause.

Lucas noted it as a logical explanation but wondered at its veracity. Surely the Guardians would not allow the rumor to circlulate if it was true. That seemed to be a common thought as the defector argument faded by noon.

Hundreds of men trained under the midday sun, some sparring with eachother others working in formations. Unable to think of a better way to pick a thirteenth member Lucas strode to the knot of sparring men and selected a practice blade. Within seconds he had a sparring partner.

The woman facing him had attacked with a quick thrust to Lucas's abdoment, he knocked the sword to the side, spinning gracefully around her to touch his own blade to her neck. But she followed his movements, wooden sword held high to deflect an attack. Lucas smiled slightly at her, and in her moment of confusion he brought his sword down and touched her elbow, knee, and side in quick succession. "Not fair." Lucas felt his grin fade at her complaint, "It's war, war's not fair."

The bitterness he felt in leaving his family was clear in his tone and Lucas could tell he had surprised the woman. She left quickly, not saying another word. Emotions high Lucas turned back to the heaving knot of elves and selected his next target. A Guardian had just dispatched a trainee who had the audacity to challenge him. Lucas slid through masses of elves, knocking aside the occasional wood threatening him until he stood directly behind the Guardian.

Swift as a striking snake Lucas had his blade at the Guardian's neck, touching the bare skin. The elf whipped around, "Approach a man from the front." He sounded impatient, "This exercise is to teach sword play not simulate actual combat." Lucas smiled slightly, "My apologizes." Then with a slight bow he attacked again.

The Guardian flicked his wooden sword knocking Lucas's thrust to the side and pirouetted to the right. Lucas followed his sword moving in complicated patterns designed to confuse rather than attack but the Guardian paid them no mind, apparently used to pointless whirrling amoung students. So Lucas abandoned the tactic choosing to instead attack directly. He stepped forward, blocking the Guardian's blows with a strong arm.

With a tight smile the Guarian redoubled his efforts, "You have skill. Good." Lucas grinned, "Oh you have no idea." Eyebrows furrowed the Guardian began to increase his attack, stymied when his every swing was either deflected or stopped in its tracks. Lucas attacked as well, thrusting and slashing. Neither managed to land a single blow on the other. Lucas surveyed the area around them quickly, it was nothing but smooth grass and retreating trainees. As the duel continued Lucas felt his heart rate increasing and his vision sharpening.

Locking eyes with his opponent Lucas faked a stumble, tripping forward on nothing. He hit the grass and rolled as the Guardian stabbed where he had been. Then with a sweeping motion hit the Guardians ankles. With a curse the man jumped back glaring as Lucas lept to his feet. Lucas smiled widely his heartbeat slowing. The hyper awarness he had just had faded back to his normal vision.

Stiffly the Guardian bowed, "Where did you learn swordplay like that?" Lucas only shook his head enigmatically. "Here and there." The Guardian narrowed his eyes, clearly unhappy with Lucas's answer but before he could pursue it further a voice interrupted them. "Here and there, well I'm curious if he can stand up to me." The two elves turned in astonishment to see the same woman from the day before walking up.

Clad in supple leather she moved with an ease that made clear her military background. A long rapier hung from her side, cold steel glinting dangerously in the sunlight. Lucas stared at her slitted eyes wondering why she was on the field, especially after her earlier reception. "Who are you?" She smiled at his question, "Tell you what, I'll tell you if you beat me." there was a clear Southern Accent in her voice but Lucas wanted more than that so he nodded, hefting his wooden blade.

She drew her rapier, " I hope that that's not all you have." Lucas dropped the wood and drew his own hand-and-a-half, kicking the carved stick away. Mentally he chanted a spell to protect him from her blade, and another to aid him in controling himself. The shift to alertness had reawakened his fear of losing control in combat and he was sure it wouldn't due to kill this woman.

"Are you quite finished?" Lucas blinked coming out of his glassy stare. Magic was used in the South, he realized too late, she would probably know what he had done. But if she knew and cared she didn't show it. Instead she jumped towards him, coving the distance in one bound. Lucas paried the thrust and was amazed as a second attack seemed to arrive only seconds later.

Blinking harshly he whipped his heavy blade around to block the attack, feet dancing over the grassy field. Lucas ducked, and wove around the faster blade. Blocking and dodging every attack. She clearly had not expected him to be this good as she faltered occasionally. But Lucas didn't let that distract him, instead he moved to stab downwards towards her feet, pulling the blade up towards her throat at the last minute. She fell backwards avoiding the singing steel. Light feet prevented her from falling. Lucas continued his attack, raining heavy swing after powerful thrust on the woman, her light sword barely keeping up.

Then there was a mental snap, and Lucas felt the magic inside him brake. Realization filled him as he realized she hadn't been trying. She had been sawing at his spell, obviously unaware of what it was. She smiled triumphantly, unaware that she might have just signed her own death sentance. Lucas tried to pull back, but she attacked. Sure of her victory she came at him with a renewed vigor. And Lucas felt himself losing to the haze.

Red covered his clear vision, and his heartbeat sped up. He could see the worry flash across the womans face as he blocked her attacks efficiently he could see her thoughts. She had thought the added control aided his sword play. She had thought he would lose his skill with the spell gone. She was wrong. The control protected her, not his ability. She struggled, fear clouding her movements.

Lucas felt himself attack again and again. "Stop I yield!" Her desperate cry echoed in his numbed mind. But even with the desperate plea she continued to fend off his attacks. As Lucas watched the duel through his own eyes he marvled at her skills. Faintly he realized the other elves were contracting, pulling towards the pair to stop him. And with a colossal force of will Luacs opened his fists and allowed the blade to fall.

Weapon removed from his grip Lucas came back to himself, and looked at the sweaty figure before him. "So who are you?" She gaped at him, "Who am I? Who are you? How did you just do that?" Lucas shrugged and hesitently picked up his weapon, sheathing it quickly. "Hey, I beat you. That means you answer my questions." Shaking her head in amazement the woman sheathed her own rapier and started to walk away. "Not here."

Lucas followed her, ignoring the silence around him. "Then where?"

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