Once Upon a Nightmare
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Alistair stepped out onto the practice field just after Odette did - she would not be waiting more than a few seconds. Her father, after all, had always been a punctual being, though he hadn't known exactly when he curse would allow her to return to her fae form. It was a difficult thing, knowing she was in pain every time it happened, but unfortunately, despite all the power he and Larissa wielded... well. It did not do to spend too long fretting about things you could not change.
So the King did his best to focus on what he could do. For one, he was working with the Amazons now, trying to figure out how best to combat the Blight in Allutheria... planning their attach on Ga'leah. Not on its true residents, mind, but on the Blight that infected that place, too. That had been where it began, though Alistair continued to suspect that the Blight had originated somewhere else. He would have thought it had come from the gods, not knowing who else could create something so potent, but by the sounds of it, at least one of the gods had fallen. Which probably took them out of the suspect pool.
If only he could afford to deal with a single crisis at a time... but that, he supposed, was not the lot of a King.
Alistair was dressed mostly as he usually did, though his outfit was even simpler, short sleeves and a pair of simple pants, not unlike what she wore, in truth. He gave her a small smile, carrying a pair of wooden training swords in one hand, though he transferred one of them to his other hand, and offered it to her hilt first, holding the dull wooden blade lightly in his hand. The weapons were weighted to make their weight match that of a metal sword - he'd looked for ones similar to the weapon she had been using in the Yarrow, for the sake of familiarity. He was not about to use Aerondight against his daughter, naturally.
He waited until she took it to respond to her question, shaking his head a little. "I didn't talk to your mother about this, so, no. I told you I would train you... I do not intend to go terribly easy on you. That is no way to improve your skills. Not if you want to have the strength to survive the world as it is these days." He gave a faint shrug, then walked a few paces away from her, turning and lifting his weapon into a simple guard. "Take your stance, and attack when you're ready. I'm curious to see what you have learned so far..."
Odette looked at the man who was her father. He was as she remembered him. This sand pit was his dwelling. Odette noticed how much more her father was relaxed while in the sparring ring than in the throne room. She remembered how tense he looked and she could tell he never liked having to don all the finery his station called for. While her father was in his natural element Odette was not. Wearing trousers felt strange and confining. She didn’t like how they hugged her legs. In a strange way Odette felt naked.
Odette took the practice sword and held it aloft. It felt like the one Damien had given her. At least there was comfort in that. Butterflies began fluttering in her stomach as she faced her father. He was a master swordsman and she was barely an amateur. Most of her practice had been against tree trunks or Damien, who she could tell was going easy on her. This man would not. Despite having told him to not go easy Odette found herself wishing she had said no such thing. Maybe this was a bad idea.
Fear and doubt swam around her mind. This wasn’t where she belonged. Odette had never been fighter. That desire had never been hers even if her father had wished it. Yet, here she stood holding a practice wooden sword in a sparring ring. It wasn’t too late to turn away and run. No. She’d been running for far too long. Odette did not want to act the coward. Taking a deep breath she took her stance. It was a little awkward, but not horrible. Her hand was shaking from anxiousness. Odette took another breath and swung the sword in a circle over her head before striking to her father’s left shoulder.
Alistair smiled faintly as his daughter prepared herself, thinking back to the girl she'd been before all this tragedy. She had never been interested in joining him here. Her mother's world had always suited her better - though little she knew of how her mother, too, had been long in the past. In truth, he'd always wanted to teach her - she'd have been able to protect herself better. But he'd let her be who she wanted. Now that her ideas about such things had changed, though... Well, he was glad for it all the same.
He looked down over her stance, observing without comment until she brought her weapon up and swung hard, clearly going for power. Alistair lifted his weapon in an easy movement, deflecting her weapon wide of his body. With his weapon high and hers falling low, he brought it down to tap her shoulder - the impact was quick, more to startle than to hurt, and he turned, walking around her in a circle afterward. "I'll start off with the basics then. You went for a killing blow right off the bat - don't ever do that. It might serve you against mindless blight creatures, but I can see what you're doing as soon as you lift that weapon. You don't need such force to hurt someone."
He stopped at her side, lifting his weapon. "It's far more important that you remain on your balance, in control of the weapon. Else someone will knock it away, and you'll leave yourself vulnerable." He demonstrated a few cuts, each of them relatively small movements of the weapon - especially compared to hers - keeping the weapon the same distance from his body, keeping his balance centered.
"You know how to dance." he said, turning to face her again and lifting his weapon, indicating that she should do the same. "Fighting with swords is much like dancing. Your opponent is also your partner. You need to match their movements, but not exceed them. The difference is, you are looking for them to make a mistake. When they do, you can punish them for it. If they make a big enough mistake, if I lose my weapon, fall to a knee, then you can lift your weapon and bury it in me. But if you try it too soon..." He clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth a few times, shaking his head. "Then I'll be the one who makes you pay. Defend this time. Stay calm. Balance. Don't move more than you need to."
He knew full well there was a lot to say, a lot to take in... he'd get to simply making her fight again soon... but he hoped she would take at least some of it to heart. He started in at her, one blow after another - the first an easy cut for the side, then he'd pull back before cutting toward her right leg - not fast or hard, but very steady, flowing from one movement to the next. If she blocked, he'd move to the next movement, and if she failed to block, he would strike her. Still too light to injure, but enough to make her feel it. Getting hit was the only proper motivator for learing to defend, after all. And after a while of it, he slowed a moment, hoping she would take the opportunity to knock his weapon wide and make her own strike...
Odette yelped at the contact of the practice sword on her shoulder. She turned and looked at her father. Heat rose into her face in embarrasment. The princess had hoped she’d at least have been able to land a blow or two. “I’ll start off with the basics then.” It felt like a slap in the face. Odette knew it was not meant to be, but she had hoped fifty years of being on her own would have resulted in better fighting skills. She listened quietly to her father and mirrored his movements as he explained what she was doing wrong. Her heart was already elevated and she could feel every muscle in her body begin to tense. The world of the warrior was a completely different world than the one she was used to. All her instincts told her to run from danger and yet in this world you confronted it.
Dance? Odette had never thought of fighting like a dance. She supposed in some gross way it was. Dance was elegant and beautiful. She could not seem to marry that with fighting. Her father was attempting to draw an analogy, but it was one she was struggling to wrap her head around. Dance was the thing Odette did to comfort herself and try to take away her troubles. Dance was an escape it was her coping mechanism. Yet it could be violent and dark? She could feel her mind wishing to reject that idea. ‘You are the student here. Accept it don’t question it,’ she chastised herself. Gripping her sword she prepared to strike again or to block. Whichever came first.
Alistair’s sword came at her. Odette managed to block, but just barely. His next came and it grazed her leg as Odette tried to dodge. Odette moved clumsily in the yard never managing to make a hit and getting a blow. The frustration began to grow in her belly. The horrible tingling moved up her body till it stuck in her throat. A red flush was filling her face. Odette tried to control her irritation, but it was beginning to get the better of her. The surroundings began to blur in her vision and suddenly she felt like she was back in the Yarrow. The feelings of helplessness and inadequacy were rearing their ugly heads. ‘Pathetic,’ a voice seemed to say. Whose voice was it? Odette didn’t know, but it was a voice she knew too well. There was always this voice while in the Yarrow. It was not hers she was sure of it. Was it the voice of her mind? Odette never figured it out, but usually it made her feel small.
Here she did not feel small. No Odette felt angry. The anger grew out of her frustration. Suddenly she wasn’t in Allutheria. She was back in the Yarrow and her father was gone. She was all alone with nothing, but the echoing laughter of her mind’s voice. Odette stopped and shut her eyes as the voice cackled, poked, and prodded at her confidence. “Shut up!” she shouted moving to strike. He practice sword swiped her father’s away and came down to strike him. As the sword got closer to her father the forest disappeared and suddenly she was back in the practice yard. It was too late to stop the strike though Odette was committed.
There was a look in her eyes for a second that told him he'd wounded her pride, but he made no sign that he'd noticed, nor was he going to change anything about how he treated her here. He was giving her what she asked for... and whatever her fifty years of looking after herself had done, they had not been filled with detailed combat instruction. Nor did fifty years compare much to more than three thousand, but he wasn't about to say anything like that aloud to her. He was not the oldest of the fae, though there were few around who could match him, but Odette was very young. Against humans he had no doubt she would be very dangerous... it would take work for her to be considered as such among the fae.
So he fought with her, keeping a pace that was easy for him, almost restful. She issues similar to the ones most novices had. Her movements were inefficient and telegraphed her intentions, and she wasn't yet fully on balance when she swung the sword - it had a tendency to pull her when she extended, which was a tendency she would have to break eventually. Not her fault... but he kept note of it, trying to note every deficiency, every tell. Once he was properly familiar with them, he could assign her drills, tell her what she needed to work on. But he needed to see where she needed work before he could do that, of course.
As they went, the most obvious thing affecting her seemed to be her own anger. She was growing frustrated, and as much as he understood it, it wasn't warranted... granted, even if it wasn't, he wasn't going to protect her from it yet. It was just another thing to work on. At least, until she seemed to be getting lost in it. Something definitely happened behind her eyes... but at least her cut was true. His eyes flashed a moment as something very much like rage seemed to compel her, and he snapped his free arm up, catching her wrist just as she brought the weapon down on him. It was a partial block, though - her wooden weapon still glanced off his shoulder, and he let her go, taking a step back, looking thoughtful.
"Scored a point." he allowed, inclining his head to her, though it was clear there was something else coming. "But you acted in anger. What happened?"
Odette had never experienced anger like that before. It had been blinding. The only thought in her mind had been to stop the voice that was laughing at her. It’s laugh taunted her still, but it was so faint almost like a shadow slowly disappearing. A thought came to her that it might be something similar to her mother’s black moments, but there was no magic in Odette. Her magic was still being suppressed by her swan curse. Yet that anger...Odette couldn’t explain it. Her blue eyes looked to her father who didn’t seem to know what was going on either. The man looked concerned, but not nearly as much as Odette felt.
Heart still racing Odette tossed the practice sword to the ground. It tossed some sand up into the air as it fell. Odette rubbed her forehead and took deep breaths to calm herself. “I...I...I don’t know. It…” Odette was trying to make sense of what she had seen or why her mind had drifted so far. She was here in the White Palace safe and sound. No one could hurt her here. The blight was a growing threat and her curse could not be lifted, but despite all that she was safe. Her father and the capable warriors at the White Court’s disposal would protect them. Odette was learning to fight. How and why did she see herself back in the Yarrow? Was this some new symptom of her curse?
Looking at her father Odette shook her head. How did she explain this to him? Would it make him worry even more? Both her father and her mother were both frustrated that they were unable to break the curse surrounding her. It would distress them more to know a new symptom appeared. Yet there was no way to hide it. Her father had witnessed her brief break with reality. Clenching her fists she looked at her father. “I saw the Yarrow.” That wasn’t good enough. “What I mean to say is I wasn’t here. I was in the Yarrow...in my head. One moment I’m here getting irritated and the next I’m back in that prison of trees. I...there...there was a laugh. I don’t know whose it was, but it was laughing at me and mocking me. I couldn’t take it and so I snapped. I’m sorry.”