The Heir of the Dragon
Today was going well for Eve. Arranging for a practice test with Professor Reycom for her cohort’s History and Magic Law class had worked out exactly as she intended. Sabine Scarlet was far from an exemplary student. While skilled at practical magic, she loathed book learning. As Eve expected, Sabine had not done well on the practice test. Eve, of course, had scored perfectly, which she loudly made known while the professor was going over the answers.
Sabine had rejected Eve’s friendship because there was no value in it.
So Eve created that value. And that was how she found herself eating lunch with Sabine Scarlet and her friends, agreeing to help the three girls study for their midterms. A practical learner, a ditz, and a musclehead, Sabine, Mindy, and Jasmine could all benefit from having someone like her around.
After all, what were friends for?
Right now, though, Sabine was in a bad mood. Their “friendship” tenuous, Eve made sure to keep from speaking out of turn and offending her. Fortunately, Sabine was a girl who loved hearing the sound of her own voice. So Eve sat back and listened to her rant about Elly, calling her slurs like “knife-ears”, “leafer”, and “ghostie” while she stating she was going to make her pay for getting too far ahead of herself
“Lot of rage with that one, I think she’s my favorite so far! You humans have a lot of colorful vocabulary!” A hooting laugh came from over Eve’s shoulder. The towering red-skinned Sati licked her lips, crimson eyes glowing with delight as she fed on Sabine’s anger.
“Not now,” Eve growled, dismissing the horned girl with a swat at her robes.
“She’s the worst, don’t you guys think?” Sabine triumphantly stated, turning to them for confirmation. Mindy and Jasmine gave immediate, if succinct, affirmations, and soon three sets of eyes were turned Eve’s way.
Eve had no opinion about Elly one way or the other, and thought Sabine’s obsession was rather pathetic. There were better ways to work out frustration than to use another girl as a punching bag. But she wasn’t about to let her hard work go to waste.
“Totally,” Eve laughed in a fake bubbly voice, Mindy nodding eagerly. As long as Eve could work a “like” and a “totally” into all her sentences she’d have the blonde eating out of her hand. “Like, she’s not even cute, and still sucks up to guys like Blake!”
Sabine’s face darkened and Eve immediately understood her mistake. “Like, don’t you think a guy like Blake would be totally perfect for a beauty like Sabine?”
Sabine’s smug smile returned and she sat up a little taller, pushing her chest out. Eve had to resist the urge to burst out laughing at how adorable she was, not even Levi was this amusing to elicit reactions out of.
“Blake’s not baaad,” Sabine agreed in haughty contemplation. “Buuut, he’s not exactly in my league, you know what I mean? He actually used to be my fiancé, if you can believe that!”
“No way, really?” Eve tried to keep the sarcasm out of her astonished voice, putting on a look of surprise.
“Back when we were kids,” Sabine boasted, twirling a lock of her hair. “Our parents wanted us to get married, and back then he was so cute, following me around like a little puppy dog, staring at me with those big eyes of his, it was adorable.”
“Aww, baby Blake sounds totally adorable!” Mindy gushed.
“…Then his house collapsed and we all thought he was dead, so the engagement was annulled,” Sabine shrugged dismissively, like that wasn’t a horrible tragedy. “Of course, all these years later and he’s still just as enamored with me as he was back then, and can you blame him?” She asked, gesturing to her body. Eve had to admit she had a lot going on there, just the right amount of plumpness in the most delicious places, yet trim enough to tease the delicateness of a lady…
Calm down. Friends don’t drool over friends.
Eve doubted Sabine’s boasts considering she hadn’t seen Blake speak to her at all, but she was happy to humor the girl. “So, since he’s still alive are you, like, gonna ask your parents to get engaged to him again?”
Now THAT got a fun little reaction. Sabine’s eyes widened slightly and her cheeks began to redden before she caught herself, putting on an arrogant smirk and turning her nose up at the idea. It was astounding, there were actually people who literally turned their noses up at something.
“Unfortunately, now that he’s lost his wealth and status he can’t do much for me,” Sabine sighed, almost sounding disappointed. Her tone quickly changed. “I’m in the market for a different sort of man, someone like the prince. Can you imagine? Me, as a princess?”
Men, it always came back to men. While Sabine and Mindy began talking about which boys were “worth” courting Eve removed herself mentally from the conversation and nodded along like an idiot. She knew Sabine wasn’t the brightest but she had hoped the girl’s low cunning would be put to slightly better use. Mindy made her look like a genius in comparison but Sabine was still a vapid dullard, just a little more savvy and ruthless than what Eve had expected from a puffed-up future-marchioness.
After lunch came Physical Training, and Sabine’s first chance at revenge. Gathered out on the athletics field, Miss Esterwind began handing out wooden practice swords and shields. She explained that they would be sparring today, which surprised a lot of people, Eve included. Most of them had never even held a sword before, and they would get started right on attacking each other?
Then she explained it would be practice sparring. Her tone was calm and even, like an instructor. “Our first step is to stand with our feet about a shoulder length apart, like I’m doing. Now the way you want to swing is like this.” She turned to the wooden practice dummy and raised her sword up, pointing it at where its throat would be. She swung, hitting the dummy on the shoulder.
“Now, what you DON’T want to do is swing your sword like this.” She returned to her stance and raised her arm again, swinging it a lot harder it looked. The sword made a loud “clunk” as it struck the dummy. “That sounded loud, but it’s pointless. You don’t want to swing your sword around like a crazy person. A small drop from the elbow or shoulder is enough, the gravity of the sword will do the work for you. Small movements. If you use too many big moves, then you’ll just get tired.”
Maneuvering her sword with one hand, Eve could tell her teacher’s talent just by watching it dance through the sky, seeing the way it bent and shifted with the slightest pressure of the fingers before coming to an immediate stop.
“I’ll go through some basic forms with you and check your stance and grip,” Miss Esterwind called, walking down the spaced-out line of armed students, adjusting shield straps and fixing finger placements, kicking legs apart. Eve held the sword out far from her, not liking the way it felt in her hands. Weapons felt so… impractical, when she had magic. At least she held it better than Elly, who was struggling to keep the tip up, presumably due to the weight.
“Now what we’re going to do, is we’re going to brake our swings,” she continued, walking back up to the target. She held her sword in front of her, parallel with the ground. She didn’t move her arm but the sword twitched, and swung a few inches, surprising Eve.
“Turn your swords like mine,” the professor instructed, everyone turning it the same way. “Now, squeeze the pommel with two fingers like this.”
Everyone’s blades swung, causing more gasps.
“It-It just moved, but how?!” Mindy asked curiously.
“Your fingers have a lot of control,” Miss Esterwind explained, turning back to the dummy. “For a normal swing, you want to squeeze like that and follow through with your body, like so.” She swung and hit the dummy once. “But for a practice swing, we’re going to ‘brake’, or ‘pull’ our blow, stopping like this.” She swung again, the blade hitting the dummy with less force.
She glanced back to the class, and held her sword up in her starting stance again, pointing at the dummy and indicating its shoulder, side, and thigh.
“There are 8 avenues of attack with a one-handed sword. We won’t be targeting the head or the throat, because those are dangerous. Today, for our practice spars, we’ll be targeting areas that we can block with our shields. So that means three types of swing.” Miss Esterwind touched the shoulder of the dummy, “left shoulder,” then the side, “left side,” then the thigh, “and left leg. You’ll take turns to be the attacker and the defender. The attacker will make these three swings in order, and the defender will block them. Repeat this three times. Then switch roles. The goal is to get used to swinging a sword at your opponent. There should not be any injuries.”
The way she said that wasn’t the calm tone she’d been teaching them with. It sounded more like a threat.
“Now this is what I’m talking about,” Sati giggled, rubbing her hands together with excitement. “Time to let out all that pent up aggression, Eve!”
Eve ignored her.
“Now, are there any questions before we start?” Miss Esterwind called, scanning the class. Most people were still fooling around with the grip on their swords, but Audrey raised her hand, as did Morgan. “Angelique?”
“How will we determine our partners?” Audrey asked.
“I’ll leave that up to you, find someone you want to pair with,” the teacher shrugged. “But then, you’ve got quite a bit of experience with a sword yourself, isn’t that right?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Audrey said proudly, standing a little taller.
“In that case… I think you and the prince should partner together,” Miss Esterwind determined, glancing at Lancelus. “As the only two students with formal sword training, it wouldn’t be fair to make you face novices. Jallbring as well, you’re from one of those sword schools, right?”
The blonde Est Jallbring nodded his head and opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off.
“…But I hear you aren’t much good anyway, so no need to worry there.” The boy blushed and hung his head sheepishly. Miss Esterwind ignored him. “And what about you, Okoro?”
Morgan dropped his hand stepped forward, lowering his sword.
“Miss Esterwind, if I may… I would like to sit out this lesson,” he requested, head lowered.
Miss Esterwind tilted her head to the side and walked over to him, an angry glint in her eyes. “Excuse me, can you repeat that?”
“I said, I would like to sit out this lesson.” His voice louder but his tone no less respectful.
“Oh,” the teacher calmly said, tucking her sword under her arm and rubbing her chin. “I see.” Her voice turned harsh. “Denied! Back in line!”
“I’m sorry Miss, but I won’t.” Morgan’s voice was contrite and respectful, but firm. “You see, I… I don’t believe in using a weapon against another person, unless absolutely necessary.”
“…Unless absolutely necessary,” Miss Esterwind sarcastically repeated. “Well, you’re in luck!” Her voice turned to a growl. “Because this is my class, and it is absolutely necessary.”
“I’m sorry,” he mournfully apologized, setting the sword down on the grass and sitting beside it. He stared up at her. “I won’t.”
Miss Esterwind’s face turned red. Her arm twitched, and for a second Eve thought she might take her sword and beat his head in. But she didn’t. She took a deep breath, let it out, and calmed herself down.
“If you won’t participate in today’s lesson, you’ll fail for the day.”
Morgan’s face brightened, and he nodded his head. “Yes, Miss.” She scowled.
“Well, now we have an even number of students, so that works out just fine!” The teacher growled, stomping down the line. “Anyone else feel like sitting out?!”
Elly began to raise her hand, but when Miss Esterwind turned her way it quickly shot back down to her side.
“Good! Then get to it! Pair off already!” She barked.
“My, that one’s got a lot of anger in her, too,” Sati cackled. “Just delicious! So who are you going for, Eve? Want to find someone who you can really wail on?”
“I already know,” Eve said. She caught Sabine out of the corner of her eye, the redhead standing menacingly in front of a trembling Elly. She’d cornered her prey. Elly’s friends, Wendy and Melody, were silenced by a single glare from Sabine. Neither girl was strong enough to stand up for their friend.
Eve pursued her own target.
“Blake Harker, will you be my partner?” she politely asked, walking up to him. Blake’s eyes widened a little in surprise, along with a few other people. Clearly no one expected the quiet and withdrawn Eve Moonshadow, who never spoke to the boys, to actually invite one of them to practice. Sabine shot her a warning look.
“Uh… sure,” Blake said, uncomfortable. She could tell that he was studying her. This would be the third time she’d approached him suspiciously. The first, when she had returned his dragon egg. The second, when she’d saved him in the dragon hunting game. He was probably worried she might have ulterior motives. She didn’t care if he suspected her, though. He’d said yes, and that was the important part. They headed to a section of the field that was far enough away from the others.
“Yeah! Way to go, Blake! Get some!” Rafe Eriksson called out after the two, his obnoxious voice making Eve want to shave his tail.
The sparring began. Blake was… well, awful. His stance was fine, and his swings had a lot of power behind them, but that’s all he had. He was putting as much as he could in each swing, completely ruining his balance by breaking stance and going in full force, fumbling at pulling his blows. It was like he couldn’t tone things down. She could see the barely-repressed rage in his eyes, like he had to remind himself it was just a class.
Fortunately, Eve was quite enjoying letting him work out his aggression on an illusion while she studied him in safety.
“Oww!” Eve turned to see Elly tumble over a few feet away. She was holding her leg and trying not to cry.
“Sorry, Elly,” Sabine said, her tone far from sorry. “I didn’t think you would be so slow you couldn’t block that one.”
It went like that for a while. Blake was nice and contained, swinging at ghosts, so Eve went and watched the girls spar. But really, it looked more like Elly was getting beaten up. Whenever the teacher would look the other way, Sabine would take advantage of her height and strength to hit Elly in places she couldn’t lift her shield to in time. The half-elf’s arm was trembling as she struggled to raise it, and even though Sabine was supposed to be aiming for the shield, she instead brought her sword down on Elly’s collarbone.
“Come on, knife-ears, can’t you even block a swing?” Sabine cruelly taunted, catching Elly below the knee and nearly tripping her. “How useless! Are all you ghosties so fragile?”
Eve hung her head, too ashamed to say anything back.
“Come on, it your turn,” Sabine smirked. “Swing at me! Come on, you know you want to, let’s see if you can even lift that sword!”
Elly raised her sword as best as she could and swung, but it would never get anywhere. Her arms were too skinny. Indeed, Sabine effortlessly blocked Elly’s strikes with her shield every time, and then it was her turn to attack again.
“Audrey’s not here to save your little ghostie skin this time, knife-ears!” Sabine growled, lifting her sword. “Maybe try and not be such a pathetic failure! Or lay there and cry!”
“AAARGH!” Elly wailed, Sabine stepping back in wide-eyed surprise. She must have put more force into it than she’d meant, because that scream was loud. Elly’s sword dropped from her hand and she fell over, holding shoulder.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to see what had happened. Miss Esterwind was already there, stepping between the two.
“You’re supposed to aim for the shield, not for your opponent!” Miss Esterwind growled angrily at Sabine. “And you’re supposed to pull your swing!”
“I-I didn’t mean to!” Sabine lied, putting her earlier surprise to good use. “I thought she would block it but my hand slipped and…”
The teacher ignored Sabine, helping Elly to her feet. She was almost comforting. “You’re okay, kiddo. Just a bruise, nothing to get too worked up over.” Elly sniffled and nodded. “Think you can keep going, or do you want to sit this one out and go to the nurse’s office? It’s not that bad.”
Sabine clicked her tongue and Elly flinched, shaking her head.
“I can look after her,” Audrey interrupted, the teacher glancing at her in surprise. “I can show her how to practice her forms a little better, while she’s recovering.”
“Ho, good thinking,” Miss Esterwind nodded, smiling. “I suppose not much need for you to practice. Fine, go.”
Elly glanced up at Audrey, and for a second Eve though she saw a look of gratitude in the broken half-elf’s eye.
“What about me?” Sabine exclaimed in disbelief. “Who am I supposed to partner with, then?! Prince Lancelus? He’s way stronger than I am!”
“Miss Esterwind, I’ll be her partner.” It was Eve’s turn to step in. Miss Esterwind and Sabine both looked at Eve, surprised.
“…Your partner going to be cool with it?” The teacher asked, glancing over at a rather confused-looking Blake.
“Yeah, Blake’s swings were a little… aggressive,” Eve said, rubbing her left shoulder like she was sore from blocking his blows. “Do you mind, Sabine?”
“Fine, whatever,” she muttered, rolling her eyes, clearly still frustrated that Elly had weaseled away.
“Good. Moonshadow, Scarlet, you two together,” Miss Esterwind said, dismissing the girls with a wave. Eve could see in her eyes, there was something she was more interested in. “Eldaria, Harker, you two are together! The rest of you, get back to it!”
Eve understood the teacher’s interest. While allowing a copy to take the role of sparring with Sabine, Eve followed Blake as he walked over to where the prince was standing, the two boys glaring at each other.
“Hello,” Lancelus said politely, bowing to Blake. “It seems that we’re going to be sparring together.”
“It seems,” Blake echoed, his tone less polite, angrily clenching his sword.
“You should adjust your grip,” Lancelus sternly warned. “You won’t be able to swing properly that way.”
“Are you going to attack first, or should I?” Blake asked, anger seeping into his voice.
The prince sighed in resignation. “I’ll attack first, to show you how it’s done.”
The prince swung his blade and Blake blocked it, wood bouncing off wood. He continued to attack as Eve studied the two, curious. Lancelus’s attacks were more aggressive than she had expected. Blake, she knew, would swing like a wild animal. But when the prince had fought against Reed, he was little more controlled. Maybe because this was just a practice sparring session…
Then Eve caught the prince’s eye, and she saw differently. The prince forgot to pull his blow, swinging at Blake’s side with enough force to break a few ribs at least if Blake hadn’t blocked.
“…Sorry,” Lancelus half-heartedly muttered, pulling his sword back and wiping his wrist against his forehead. “I got… carried away.”
He swung at Blake’s leg next, managing to get in under the shield but pulling the blow so it only nudged against him. Then it was Blake’s turn to be the attacker.
Blake swung with the wildness Eve remembered, and it clearly caught the wide-eyed prince off-guard. He raised his shield to block the blow, stumbling a little.
“What was that?!” Lancelus exploded.
“A swing,” Blake growled.
“You didn’t pull your swing at all!” Lancelus shouted, anger filling his voice. “What if I hadn’t blocked?! You might have broken my collarbone!”
“…Well, luckily you managed to block it,” Blake snarled back at him. “Besides, I recall a side swing from you that was a little less than friendly.”
“That… that was different,” Lancelus muttered, his face turning hot.
“Those two are really pissed off,” Sati observed.
“I didn’t need the Queen of Wrath to tell me that, Sati, I have eyes,” Eve dryly replied. The two boys continued to spar until finally it looked like Lancelus had had enough. When Blake swung his sword, the prince stepped to the side, avoiding the strike. Instead of shield or flesh Blake’s blade hit nothing, and since he had put all of his weight into the swing he couldn’t keep his balance, stumbling forward in surprise. The prince seized the moment to bring his own sword up and catch Blake in the chest, flipping him onto his back and standing over him, panting.
“ENOUGH!” Lancelus shouted. “Calm down! What’s the matter with you?! This is practice! Are insane?!”
“What’s going on now?” Miss Esterwind growled, storming through the onlookers and stepping between the two boys. She reached to help Blake up but he knocked her hand away with his shield and stood on his own, glaring at Lancelus.
“Blake was attacking me without pulling his swings,” Lancelus calmly reported. “So I stepped out of the way and let him face the consequences for his reckless, dangerous behavior.”
“You hit me in the chest with your sword when I was attacking!” Blake shouted angrily. “What’s the matter?! Afraid to follow the rules in case you might end up looking bad? That would be a laugh, the prince who needs to cheat in order to beat an amateur!”
Something snapped in Lancelus and he lunged forward, raising his sword. Eve fell back, startled, just barely able to keep her illusion intact.
“You shut your fucking mouth!” Lancelus roared, but his blade never hit. Miss Esterwind stepped in front of him and shoved him backwards.
“SHUT IT, THE BOTH OF YOU!” She barked, her voice loud enough that anyone who hadn’t stopped to watch was paying attention now. Eve could see the fury in her eyes, and she stood up, slinking into the circle of students that had gathered to watch the exchange.
Miss Esterwind glared at Blake. “You, you’re just a brat who doesn’t know about how dangerous a sword can be.” She turned to Lancelus and her expression darkened. “But you, you know what you’re doing. You know how much damage you could have caused, what were you thinking?!”
Lancelus hung his head, his face red with shame.
“I-I’m sorry, professor, I wasn’t-“
“Miss Esterwind,” the teacher snapped, but her tone softened. She reached up and scratched her hair, shaking her head. “Listen, everyone. This isn’t a fuc- *ahem* this isn’t a game. I know we went over safeties at the beginning of the day, but do we need to do it again?” She grabbed Blake’s sword from his hand and held it up. “This isn’t a toy! It might not have a blade, but it can still hurt people! And the real ones you’ll be using? Those can kill! Easily! When you’re practicing, remember that for all intents and purposes, this is a real sword in your hand, something that can hurt someone. Do I make myself clear?!”
The class said “yes” unanimously, and Miss Esterwind glanced up at the sky. She sighed in resignation. “We don’t have a lot of time left, so I think we’re going to call the sparring here today. Before we go, though, I want you brats to understand exactly what you’re dealing with when you’re practicing with these swords.
Miss Esterwind tossed Blake’s sword to the ground and turned to Lancelus.
“I’m going to spar with you for a little, kid,” she growled, Lancelus staring at her in shock.
There were more murmurs of confusion among the other students, but they didn’t seem to faze the teacher. She shooed them all back. Eve took the opportunity to dismiss her illusion.
“Simple,” Miss Esterwind shrugged, her tone lightening. “You’re confident in your abilities, aren’t you? Think of this as your punishment for losing your cool today. I want everyone to see just how unprepared all of you brats are for real combat. Maybe when you see just how small of an island you’re floating on, you’ll start taking our lessons more seriously and not lose your cool next time, okay?”
“But, a sparring match, how…” Lancelus looked confused, and Eve wasn’t sure what, exactly, the teacher was proposing either. Practice spars didn’t have a winner. And even if they did, the teacher’s level was so obviously far above Lancelus’s it proved nothing. Even Lancelus had to know that he wouldn’t be able to win.
“Simple, you swing at me, I swing at you, first one to score a blow or get the other to yield wins,” Miss Esterwind said, rolling her eyes like the idea of an adult sparring with a child wasn’t ludicrous. “Unless you’re not up to a swordfight with a one-armed lady like me.”
Lancelus looked around, and Eve wondered what thoughts were going on behind those blue-gold eyes. He finally turned to the professor and nodded.
“If that’s what you want, Miss Esterwind,” he agreed, trying not to sound nervous. Blake stepped back and everyone gave the two of them some room, Lancelus raising his sword and shield. But he paused, and realized the same thing everyone else was realizing.
Miss Esterwind didn’t have a weapon! Her left arm was gone so she couldn’t hold a shield, of course, but she wasn’t carrying a sword, either. She just stood there and stretched.
“You don’t have a sword!” Lancelus protested in disbelief, waving his sword at her empty hand.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Miss Esterwind said, cracking her knuckles against her chin and smirking. “I’ll just use yours when you’re done with it.”
If Lancelus was as savvy as Eve, those words should have worried him like it did her. Eve watched warily as the boy faced down an unarmed woman. Then he struck. He swung for her left, her clear weak spot, but he never came close. She stepped out of path of his sword, so he continued with another swing, then another. Miss Esterwind dodged them all, ducking, turning, twisting, pulling her body out of the path of his sword with every advance he made.
To Eve’s untrained eye, it was like a dance. Lancelus was swinging at air and the teacher was drawing him in, encouraging him, but never letting herself get close enough where he could hit.
Then it happened. Lancelus swung his sword like he had been, aiming for Miss Esterwind’s shoulder, but she didn’t step away. She did the one thing no one expected, she stepped in to his strike! She turned her body and raised the stump of her left arm, pressing her back against his arm as she did, tucking the appendage behind his neck. She stepped into him and pressed her other elbow against his chest, then grabbed his shoulder with her hand. She turned into his body and slid her wounded arm down towards his sword hand, bringing her foot forward and kicking against the back of his heel, knocking him flat on his back with a light push.
Lancelus didn’t have time to react, she had already pinned him. She planted her hand on the grass and her right knee beside his head, pinching his arm between the crook of her left shoulder and her left thigh. Rolling her shoulder his hand snapped open and the practice sword slipped from his fingers. It landed in the grass behind the teacher, and she got off him and picked it up. Still stunned from the fall, Lancelus stared up in wide-eyed surprise as she pressed the tip of the blade against his stomach.
“As you all can see, you kids are still kids. Even the best of you doesn’t know a thing worth spit! That’s why you have to follow orders, to make sure you don’t hurt yourselves or someone else!” Miss Esterwind shouted, turning her head in a sweeping glare. “That’s why I’m the teacher. Because I know what I’m doing, and you brats don’t!”
There were no arguments from the class, no responses from anyone that weren’t gasps. Eve was as shocked as the rest that the teacher had so easily disarmed him.
Maybe she’d consider putting more effort into Physical Training.