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 Bastien St. Claire, Professional Duelist (Tempest Fighter/Ranger Hybrid)

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Bastien

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Posts : 15
Join date : 2010-04-27
Location : Westenra

Character sheet
Level: 13
XP to Next Level:
42625/47000  (42625/47000)
Hit Points:
79/79  (79/79)

PostSubject: Bastien St. Claire, Professional Duelist (Tempest Fighter/Ranger Hybrid)   Tue May 18, 2010 7:13 pm

PART ONE

The boy suited up.

He was small for his twelve years, having to wear the fencing gear of the younger students, but he didn’t really care. Any other boy in his position may have been ridiculed for this, or even bullied, but those would-be tormentors had long-since learned that little Bastien simply wasn’t worth the trouble. For starters, he was Master Sinclair’s favored pupil, and that unique position granted him a tremendous amount of protection, for none of the others students would ever dream of doing something to upset the master. Of course the other reason, the main reason really, was young Bastien’s prodigious skill with a blade. Two blades, actually, for he favored the true duelist’s style: a parrying dagger for defense, and a rapier for lightning-fast, armor-piercing attacks.

After fastening up the padded suit that all students were required to wear, Bastien turned to face his first opponent, his blue eyes narrowing as he studied the older boy, noticing subtle hints in the youth’s posture and stance that would aid him in the coming bout. Nodding once, Bastien brushed back his shoulder-length silver-blond hair with one hand while pulling the required full-face mask down over his head with the other. After taking a brief moment to do a few quick stretches, the young prodigy assumed a ready stance: rapier extended, its point directed downward toward the floor, his parrying dagger clutched firmly in his left hand, his arm extended, the small blade slightly lower than eye-level. This training match was to be fought to first touch, a single point only.

A barely perceptible nod from Bastien was all that the referee needed, and as the green flag dropped from his hand, there was a flurry of movement within the circle designated for the bout.

“Hold!” the referee shouted, quickly pulling the red flag from his belt and dropping it, signaling that the match was over. This second flag hit the ground just seconds after the first, and the referee stared slack-jawed at the sight before him.

The older, larger combatant had managed to take a half-step forward, only to find young Bastien already inside his guard, having come in with a low, up-sweeping attack that had taken the older boy by surprise. Bastien crouched low, his small, youthful frame contorted in a manner that made the aging referee’s old joints ache. A low gasp of amazement came from the taller student, muffled by the face mask, and his body twitched with disbelief as he tilted his head down to see the strike that had won Bastien the bout so quickly.

After a moment, Bastien drew back and stood erect once more, sheathing his weapons and pulling the mask off. Shaking out his long hair, and without even a trace of sweat upon his brow, Bastien calmly looked at the referee, who continued to stand stock still, as dumbfounded by the sudden victory as Bastien’s opponent was.

“Next?” the small boy asked, raising an eyebrow, scanning the dueling hall for another opponent. Several of the other students looked at each other, clearing their throats awkwardly and looking away, lest Bastien meet their eyes and challenge them. Knowing that no one would volunteer, the referee realized that it would fall to him to choose Bastien’s next dueling partner.

“Philip,” he called out, gathering up his fallen flags and beckoning for a short, stocky boy of about fifteen to come forward.

“Y… Yes Master Willem?” the boy called Philip asked, fidgeting as he stood at attention before the referee.

“Would you be so kind as to pair off with Bastien for a quick bout?” Had he unintentionally stressed the word “quick”? Willem shook of the feeling that he had somehow doomed poor Philip to weeks of private ridicule from his peers for being bested by “Little Bastien.” How any of the other students could tease Philip about losing when they had all, at one time or another, fallen before Bastien’s blade was quite beyond Willem, but such were the politics of youth.

When both Philip and Bastien were within the circle and ready, Willem dropped the green flag.

“Hold, damn it!” the old man suddenly shouted, unable to believe that the bout was over already. He quickly glanced down, sweat breaking out on his forehead as he watched the green flag flutter to the ground. He didn’t bother dropping the red flag. It was quite pointless.

Philip’s practice saber―a blade slightly heavier than Bastien’s rapier―clattered to the floor, dropped from the boy’s limp fingers. The tip of Bastien’s weapon was pressed firmly against Philip’s throat, the thick padding from the training uniform preventing any real damage. Bastien nodded once, stepping back and lowering his rapier.

Philip pulled off his mask, holding it in a trembling hand as he crouched down to pick up his fallen saber. “I… I didn’t even see him move!” the older boy said, as if to himself. “I didn’t see him move at all…”

Hearing this, Bastien simply shrugged. With an irreverent grin, the blue-eyed youth said, “Next?”

On and on, for another three matches, Bastien dispatched his opponents with a speed that bordered on the supernatural. A train of embarrassed, frustrated boys left the training hall to wash up and move on to their other classes, and throughout this all, Willem could only shake his head in disbelief. In all of the long, distinguished history of the university only one other student had ever shown such potential, and that young man had grown up to become the university’s current Blade Master, Sinclair. It was no wonder that the master had taken such an interest in young Bastien.

Finally, just as Master Willem was fearing that no one else would step forward to face Bastien, a tall, slender figure clad in the familiar padded suit―face mask and all―and armed with a practice rapier and parrying dagger stepped into the dueling circle. Bastien turned to look at Willem, an expression of curiosity furrowing his brow. Willem shrugged, gesturing from Bastien to the newcomer, silently asking the boy if he wished to proceed. With that sly grin once again flashing across his face, Bastien nodded and pulled his mask down over his head, readying his weapons.

Once both duelists were ready to begin, Willem dropped the green flag, instantly prepared to drop the red one soon after.

A blur of movement in the circle was followed immediately by the harsh sound of steel clashing against steel. This caught the attention of everyone present, and from various parts of the chamber, students and instructors alike flocked to the dueling area, their eyes wide with disbelief as the sounds of weapon on weapon rang throughout the room. This was something that they’d never seen, or at least that they hadn’t seen in quite some time: Bastien facing an opponent of equal or greater skill.

Back and forth across the circle the two combatants danced, Bastien utilizing his speed and flexibility to good advantage, while his taller, older opponent relied on his greater reach and strength. Several times the duelists locked blades, each using all of their skill to outmatch the other, only to break the grapple and dash back before colliding once again. Silence had come to dominate the hall, all but the ringing of steel and the soft grunts of exertion from Bastien and his mysterious adversary.

Willem watched in undisguised awe, for while most duels were finished in a matter of minutes, this one seemed to be stretching on forever, with neither fighter seeming to have a true edge. It was, by far, Bastien’s longest match, and the old referee wondered how long the young boy could keep this up, for there was a definite sluggishness in his movements now, while the unknown opponent showed no sign of slowing down, though he did seem to have a slight limp in his left leg.

A slight limp? Master Willem thought to himself, his curiosity now aroused. He hadn’t noticed the man’s affliction earlier, for he’d hidden it well, as one with a long-term disability was usually able to. But now, with the duel wearing on him, it seemed that the mysterious combatant was too focused on the fight to try and hide the stiffness and pain. Willem smiled slyly, for there was only one duelist of that caliber who sported such an affliction.

Returning his full attention to the match, Willem saw that now both Bastien and his opponent were at the ends of their respective ropes, each spending more and more time simply hanging back, studying one another. The bout would end soon, one way or another, but Willem wondered just what the repercussions would be should young Bastien win this match. He found the possibilities disturbing.

As if the boy needs anything else to fuel that ego of his!

But his fears were in vain, it turned out, for just as this thought ran through Willem’s mind, the taller duelist lunged forward unexpectedly, aiming slightly to the right of Bastien, and low. The young prodigy, seeing the lunge in his direction, instinctively dodged in the very same direction that his opponent had positioned his blade. A collective gasp went up from the crowd as Bastien cursed, the tip of the tall, mysterious fighter’s practice rapier touching his upper right arm.

“Hold!” Willem shouted belatedly, dropping the red flag with a sigh of relief.

The crowd remained silent for a moment, but when the victor pulled off his mask and shook free his mane of long, steel-grey hair, everyone present gasped in shock. The man sported a close-cut beard, just as grey as his hair, and had a pair of green eyes so bright that they seemed to belong to a much younger man. A collection of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and a few fine lines along his forehead, leant the man a distinguished look, and as he flashed the crowd an exhausted grin, a cheer went up from everyone.

Everyone but Bastien, that is.

“Forgive me for being blunt, Master Sinclair,” the boy started, removing his own mask and sheathing his practice weapons, “but that was hardly what I’d call a fair fight. You’re far beyond my skill to best, and you know it.”

“True, Bastien, true,” Sinclair responded, never losing the proud smile. “But perhaps the same could be said of you.” Switching suddenly to Westenran, a dialect that no one else in the room save Bastien understood, Sinclair continued. “I am as far out of your league as you are out of the leagues of all the trainees here. You will never improve if you continue to face opponents such as them, for eventually you will become complacent and sloppy, and when a true enemy comes along he will find you an easy victory.”

Bastien nodded. “So,” he said in Westenran as well, “you’re saying that my training here is done, then?”

“I’m saying that, perhaps, it is time for you to train with a more practiced opponent.” He paused, looking around the chamber at the stunned faces of the other students and teachers. “And, as it appears that you’ll not find such an opponent among those here, I guess that I will have to see to the completion of your education personally.”

Bastien smiled broadly, wiping sweat from his brow. “Do you think I’ll ever be able to defeat you, Master Sinclair?”

The old blademaster laughed, beckoning for Bastien to follow after him as he limped out of the circle and pushed his way gently through the ring of amazed spectators. “I pray to the gods not, Bastien, for if you do, there will be nothing in the world that could put your ego in check.”

TO BE CONTINUED...
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