To Know a Soul, You Must Spar
Location: The People's Will Sparring Chamber
While waiting for Mnhei'sahe Dox to be brought to the sparring chamber, Riov Dalia Rendal and Erei'Riov Arrenhe t'Suil were preparing the space. The vents were secure, Centurions were in each of the six corners, a medic was on standby, and holo-cams were recording the entire proceedings. Thus Rendal herself was inspecting the array of wooden weaponry along two of the six walls. She wasn't sure what the Starfleet trained woman would prefer, so she had everything that was available brought out, including a mock bat'leth and a Jem'hadar pike lance. After all, one never knew what one would find on the field of battle, and one would need to train in all the weapons of the enemy.
As the doors wooshed open, Mnhei'sahe stepped in. She was flanked by two Centurion's, but her arms were unbound and they were walking her more like an escorted guest instead of the prisoner she really was. Rendal is certainly making every effort her to try and... Ingratiate herself here. the stout, red-headed Rihannsu woman thought to herself as she quickly examined the room.
She took in the guards and doctor, noting their positions and armaments. She surveyed the room and the wall of sparring weapons. And she looked at Rendal and t'Suil and took a breath, pushing down her contempt and maintaining a blank face.
The SubCommander, t'Suil, saw Dox first and her posture stiffened slightly as she spoke. "Riov. She has arrived. It is time."
Rendal turned, her hands clasped behind her. "Excellent. Combat training, exercise, and the noble art of swordplay, in particular, is expected of all noble houses of ch'Rihan and now as a member of such a house, you will be expected to train with such weapons. Though you have demonstrated the mental discipline and fortitude to match a Kolinahr master... I will ensure that you have the aptitudes to match a Dahar master."
The olive-skinned Riov then motioned to the walls of wooden weaponry. "Thus we will begin by sparring with training weapons. And if either of us are injured, there is a medic standing by. Please feel free to choose anything on the walls that you see fit." With that, she chose a longsword that closely approximated the length and heft of the sword that rested at her hip.
Nodding respectfully, Mnhei'sahe stepped forward. It was a performance she was becoming quite good at in her captivity. Her guard's sidestepped to take up positions to the sides of the doors and she was free to move about the room. Looking at the weapons, she knew that the twin short swords were ideal based on her training. They were remarkably close to the curved Caitian blades she had practiced with under the aegis of Baroness Von Alcott for over six months straight and had become like extensions of her own arms. She had gotten good. Very good. She could almost hold her own against the augmented super-soldier in exercises and could best the holographic training programs Schwein had crafted to allow Mnhei'sahe to practice in her absence. In the tribunal, she successfully held off multiple attackers in a massive melee attack, never once taking a hit. But she didn't want Rendal to know that if she already didn't.
Instead, she picked a blade of dark maithe wood not dissimilar to the one Rendal had chosen. After all, in her darkest moments, she dreamed of ending the Royal Romulan with her own sword and this seemed apropos. But the weeks spent on the Warbird learning to keep her temper in check had born useful fruit and her face betrayed none of this. Taking the sword off the wall, she bounced it in her hand, testing its heft. It was extremely well balanced and felt very much like the real thing. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see t'Suil slowly place her own hand on the hilt of the very real sword on her own hip as Mnhei'sahe turned to face Rendal.
"Everyone calm down. This is a simple swordplay lesson, nothing more." Rendal could easily read the mood of the room and swore that she would need the sword at her hip to cut the tension. "You will have to forgive them. Anyone who kills me and takes the sword at my hip may claim my command, my Royal house, and my titles. I doubt I have anything to fear from a Starfleet pilot's skills with a blade, however."
She then moved her sword through a few warm-up exercises and took a basic defensive stance. "You may come at me when ready."
The young pilot allowed herself a light chuckled and nodded. "Very likely. Put me at a helm and I'm much more dangerous. Here... not so much. Regardless. I belong to the house Rul. I would not seek another. And besides, I have given my word that I would not resist beyond the defense of my oaths. I intend to keep that word to the best of my ability." Mnhei'sahe replied, swinging the sword about in a somewhat purposeful display of seeming ignorance.
Then, centering herself, she took up an amateurish stance, took a breath and lead with a wide downward swing that was deflected with comparable ease.
Rendal frowned as she did so, however. Something felt off. "Widen your stance and tighten your grip. Again!"
Stepping back, Mnhei'sahe obeyed. She did exactly as instructed, but no more and swung wide from the left this time. Rendal easily dodged the move and blocked the clumsy follow up even easier. All the while, Mnhei'sahe struggled to look as poor a sword fighter as she could. On the perimeter, t'Suil folded her arms behind her back and began circling the ring with narrowed eyes. While Dox was eventually captured, she successfully did disable two of her attackers with a stunning baton before being defeated which was no easy feat and t'Suil knew it.
Rendal had seen the logs as well and while she expected the woman before her to be inexperienced, she was acting as if she were completely new to the sword. Thus she stepped in and lashed out with a trio of strikes that she knew the young woman could handle as she saw her do it during her capture.
Blocking the first strike almost instinctively, Mnhei'sahe stepped back defensively. As she did, her feet fell into a correct stance and her posture shifted. Noticing this, the young pilot then only barely blocked the second and dropping her guard just enough to allow the third strike to land squarely at its target. The wooden sword bit hard into her side and she winced at the impact. As she did, her face went hot and she knew she was flushing green as her anger began roiling up. But she pushed it back down and reset herself, wincing as she did and not saying a word. She didn't have to mask her frustration, however, as she hoped it would help sell the performance she didn't realize was being wasted.
"You are trying to hide your true skill," Rendal pointed out as she traced a small circle before her with the tip of her training sword. "Come at me with all of your skill and might. Prove you are a true green-blooded Rihannsu. Or will you not at least grasp at this chance to take my life, now that you have it? To beat me to within an inch of my life and make me beg for mercy? Or will you roll over like a Ferengi and wait for the Federation to negotiate your release?"
Listening, Dox gripped the hilt of her wooden sword that much tighter as Rendal tried baiting her. Even with a practice sword, she could see more than a few ways she could kill the woman that had murdered her father in front of her, tortured her grandmother and may be responsible for the death of her mother. If her mother was, in fact, truly gone. Mnhei'sahe tried to put those thoughts out of her head.
Rendal had likely held a sword all of her life, Dox thought. And even if she could beat the woman, there were now eight armed guards, a doctor, and t'Suil in the room to stop her. She might satisfy her rage and avenge her family... balance her honor... but then Rita and Enalia would be rushing in to save a corpse. Risking their own lives for nothing because she couldn't not be baited. But as her blood all but burned in her, she wanted so desperately to see Rendal suffer.
She was straining to not let the shaking she felt in her hands show as she brought her sword up again. This time, her stance was better. This time, the sword was locked in her grip. But as she moved, she stunted herself again. She swung wild and angry, but still purposefully poor, and Rendal was having none of it as she blocked the swing again and countered with another hard strike with her own sword, this time to the young Lieutenant's shoulder.
Again, purposefully taking the hit, Dox winced as her eyebrows knitted and she stared with unguarded hate in her eyes.
"I think I see the issue. Everyone else in the room... Face the wall..." As Rendal stood there and waited for the centurions to turn around and face the walls, she nodded to t'Suil that it would be ok. Once she too was looking away, the Royal Romulan continued. "Will you show me your true skill now? The skill that you displayed during your capture? The skill I can plainly see within you?"
Without another word, Rendal stepped in and feinted with her sword to cover for a double kick to Dox's leg and midsection.
And again, Dox let herself take the hit. It was everything she had in her to keep herself from erupting with anger as the air was forced out of her and she fell back hard to the floor. But as she did, her hand's grip on that wooden sword never faltered. From the thinly padded mat on the floor, Mnhei'sahe looked up and her eyes locked on the very real sword on Rendal's belt for the briefest of seconds.
The sword that killed her father.
And slowly, she stood back up. She looked down at the wooden sword in her own hand for a moment and closed her eyes. Taking a breath, her grip tightened and she looked back up. Her skin's green flushed tone began to abate and her eyes opened, only half-lidded. The hate behind them was gone. Everything behind them was gone. The tremble in her hands stilled, and with the sword still at her side, she simply tilted her head slightly and stared at Rendal.
There was a moment as Rendal didn't quite know what to make of the shorter, slightly soft-looking woman staring at her with such dead eyes. But the moment was short-lived as, without warning, Dox simply... moved.
The first move was a tight, upwards swing that forced the skilled swordswoman to put up the first legitimate defense of the day to keep the wooden blade away from her face. But Dox wasn't finished. As she swung, she let the handle slip backward in her hand and was now holding the blade backward and began a series of quick, tight slashes that actually began to push Rendal back as she defended herself.
At the now rapid sound of the wooden blades hitting, t'Suil turned just enough to see and her eyes widened. Dox was moving fast. Much faster than her physicality would suggest her capable of. And moving in closer with ever-tighter strikes.
Then, there was a moment of shock on the SubCommander's face as the red-headed woman dropped half to the ground and in a spinning twist, brought her wooden blade in behind her to slip through Rendal's defense to land a solid stab to her middle. As the wind was forced out of her, and the white lights in her eyes subsided, she realized that in a real duel, that could have been a lethal blow.
Dox stood back up and simply stared across at her opponent, that same coldness in her eyes.
Instead of anger or frustration, Rendal was chuckling as she straightened up and pulled her uniform top open to reveal a light paneled armor underneath. "Good... Good... You finally show your true skill. Let us finally begin." Rather than the casual defensive stance she had been taking, her eyes were cold and hard and she was now in a crouching stance with her sword in a one-handed hold over her head, her other hand outstretched.
While the other guards had resisted the temptation to turn, t'Suil was now turned and watching. If this woman was a genuine threat, then her own honor demanded that she disobey to keep watch over her mistress.
And after another second, the battle continued. The six-sided room echoed with each loud clap of wood on wood, but it was now moving even faster. Neither woman giving up ground as Rendal decided to test a hypothesis she gleaned looking into Mnhei'sahe's eyes as she ducked up under a tight swing, only barely avoiding Dox's blade by a fraction of a centimeter and came up again to jab the woman hard in the side with the butt of her own weapon.
From the younger woman, there was almost no reaction. A brief exhale of air as she stepped back, paying no attention to a hit that was designed to cause serious pain for the unarmored combattant. But instead, Dox simply pressed her attack and Rendal realized that the woman's fight training and ability to block out pain likely bordered on mental conditioning, no doubt the product of her traitor mother. She's been conditioned well, not only by her mother, but by possibly that captain of hers at the behest of her mother. Well done, Jaeih. You've produced quite the offspring.
Stepping back, Rendal realized now that she needed to shift tactics once again. If the young woman was trained to the point of conditioning to block out pain in a fight, then Rendal would have to attack things that she couldn't consciously control.
Launching back in, Rendal pressed with an even harder attack pattern and Dox shifted to a tighter defense. The woman was still in control of her faculties but simply allowed her training to take over as she moved. Her anger was inside, helping her ignore the pain in her side that made her want to double over. But all she saw was the woman she wanted to kill and she kept pressing forward.
But Rendal was the superior swordswoman, and she began landing quicker, lighter hits. First a jab directly to Dox's upper arm just below the shoulder that all but caused the young woman's left arm to fall limp to her side. Rendal was no longer attacking major areas of damage and instead was going after nerve clusters. It was a technique Dox was trained in and knew all too well, but by the time that she realized how she was being targeted it was too late.
With the first hit, Rendal had a broad opening as Dox's left side defense had fallen and she took it, striking again at the side of the young officer's neck. And as her neck locked up and the pain finally broke through her mental defenses, Dox locked up slightly and her grip on her wooden sword faltered. Seeing her opening, Rendal swung wide knocking the wooden sword from her opponent's faltering grip.
The practice blade fell to the ground a solid meter clear of the matt and hit with a loud slap of wood on metal as Rendal spun around and brought her blade to a stop just a millimeter from Dox's throat.
"I believe that is the first time in many years I have fully enjoyed myself... You have my gratitude." Calming her breathing to a more normal manner, Rendal motioned to t'Suil. "She is to receive proper medical care and treated with the respect due my apprentice."
Rendal then set her wooden sword aside and moved towards the door. "You did very well. I daresay you could easily kill anyone aboard this ship with the exception of myself. Tomorrow I will teach you a new breathing technique that may allow you to do even that."
At the word 'apprentice', Dox's stomach tightened again as if she's been hit even harder. The young Rihannsu was breathing heavy and said nothing in reply as t'Suil nodded and stepped over. 'Ie, Riov. It will be."
Saying nothing, Dox stretched out her neck, which popped loudly, and slowly turned towards t'Suil as Rendal stopped at the door. The SubCommander looked down to meet Dox's eyes and clearly didn't like what she saw there as she narrowed her own gaze. "Let us have your needs attended to, then." As she spoke, t'Suil gestured with two fingers and the guards at the door stepped slightly forward to escort them.
Without a word or a specific order, and certainly without waiting for t'Suil, Dox simply walked over to stand with the centurions as if they were hers. As she did, she turned to look at the Royal Romulan waiting at the entrance to the gym, then back to t'Suil who was following with a slightly frustrated look on her face. There was a palpable tension between the two now as the well trained SubCommander wasn't sure she would have won had it been her in the ring.
"After you, Erei'Riov." Dox said flatly.