Footwork

#1
Early August, 1792
Casa della Scherma di Eberardo Pirozzi, Afternoon



The dueling space was unusually sparse today, and in the dying heat of summer, the air was almost tolerable, even a touch cool, though as ever in this city of canals it remained damp. The approach of Autumn reminded her of the nearness to the closing of the year, and soon after would come the anniversary of her arrival to the serene republic. Time travels quickly, and yet slowly. In many ways, she still felt like a stranger to this place, a sense of impermanence, as if she was just passing through. A year. It seemed unreal. She'd not stayed anywhere so long since she's left home.

She paced the length of the piste as she waited, though she was not restless. The low heeled shoe tapped out a lonesome sound on the well-scuffed floor of the battlefield, her hand resting on the grip of her practice sword as it hung from the scabbard at her waist. From her appearance, one might have guessed her someone's boy valet or some minor foreign princeling. She was small in stature, slender and upright; nature had not seen fit to give her much to conceal in the way of feminine endowments, and the layers of her clothing concealed what there was. A fine frock coat of chocolate brown and matching breeches, a silk waistcoat, heavily embroidered, a frill of lace at cuffs and collar. Her hair was bound up in a brocade, a turban of dull golden cloth with golden pin. She had a fine patrician nose, courtesy of her father, rounded cheekbones, immense brown eyes, and a stubborn set to her pointed chin. Her amber complexion and alien headdress betrayed her foreignness. The strong nose, the set of her shoulders; squared, bold, the way she took up space without apology. It threw into confusion the softness of her lips, the grace of those steps, the slight sway to her hips.

Was this a boy, or a woman?

Many at the salle had asked that question of the maestros student, but in time most had simply accepted her presence. She came and went without much adieu, making little attempt at camaraderie, though she was not unfriendly or unapproachable. Any who had seen her at work knew where her focus lay; it as no secret that she was one of Maestro Pirozzi's favorite students, and with good reason. She could be found at the school most days of the week, coming or going in the early afternoon, soon after her rising and before the evening when her guests began to arrive, seeking the thrill of risk at the gaming tables or settling in for an evening of sport and entertainment. These few hours between the suns zenith and setting were hers alone.

The heavy door creaked in the hall. Pausing in her pointless meander, a brow arched as she waited to see who entered.
word count: 502
Have you ever touched a butterflies wings? You'd think they'd be strong, to stand the elements as they do, to bear them in flight, but at the mere touch of your fingers all their beautiful colors are brushed away,
like dust.

Re: Footwork

#2
He had slept too late.

The morning had come and gone on his day off and Bastian was hopelessly late for fencing practice with Eberardo Pirozzi. Within minutes of awakening he was tearing through the streets of San Marco jacket and rapier in hand. He garnered strange looks from passersby as he attempted to fasten his belt, the sheathed sword swaying dangerously between his legs threatening to trip him. At the same time he struggled to get an arm through the sleeve of his navy fencing jacket.

This is ridiculous.

Bastian arrived at the door of the salle, pausing to fix his appearance. He had put his arm through the wrong sleeve, and had to rip it back off to fix it. He did the coat up, straightened the collar, and opened the door. Running a hand through his hair which was was wild with both wind and sleep he did his best not to look both half-asleep and out of breath. With any luck he would be able to slip in to practice without Eberardo noticing.

"Signore Ferdinand, you are late!"

Shit.

"My apologies Signore Pirozzi, I- uh..."

"No matter. I have another student waiting for a partner. Perhaps you could oblige?" The tone in his voice suggested that there would be no perhaps about it.

"Yes of course," Bastian said, still trying to regulate his breathing which was only making him light headed.

"Good. Though you should be aware that your jacket is inside out," Pirozzi said, picking a stray thread from the exposed seam on Bastian's shoulder.

"Oh." He resisted the urge to groan aloud at his own carelessness and rearranged his attire, smoothing down the deep blue fabric over his chest.

"Better. Ah, and there is your partner," Pirozzi said, slapping Bastian on the back and causing him to sputter his next words.

"A pleasure," he wheezed, nodding to the...woman? Young man? He couldn't be sure. Just the same he drew his sword and stepped on to the piste and waited for Pirozzi to call the match since the man appeared to be taking great interest.

"Begin!"
word count: 355

Re: Footwork

#3
The maestro, accompanied by a harried-looking young man with hair that reminded her a nestlings feathers.

He was not tall, this young man, but his shoulders were broad, his posture speaking of one who had practice at it; one remembers to hold their head up, shoulders back, after enough cracks of the switch. If she didn't know any better she'd say there was something almost martial in his bearing. She watched as he made his way to the piste, noting the way he moved. Still a little lagging from sleep maybe? Her brown eyes briefly flickered towards the maestro before she saluted her opponent and took up a position at the opposite end of the battleground, her stride as fluid as a feline.

Drawing her sword she awaited their master's instruction, and at his word advanced within striking distance. She wasted no time in setting the tone for the fight; they dallied for a moment, sizing each other up, but it was she who made the first move, testing his defense with a feint towards his left shoulder.
word count: 182
Have you ever touched a butterflies wings? You'd think they'd be strong, to stand the elements as they do, to bear them in flight, but at the mere touch of your fingers all their beautiful colors are brushed away,
like dust.

Re: Footwork

#4
Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, Bastian tried to reorient himself into the proper headspace for fencing. He was still sleepy but his nerves were frayed from the sprint here. He hadn't even had time to enjoy his morning at the coffeehouse before practice. With a heavy sigh he swayed his head from one shoulder to the other to loosen up and stepped back easily into his stance. The Prussian could feel his opponent's eyes on him like they were searching for something. For who he was or where his weak points were, most likely. Bastian returned the gaze but could not discern whether they were a man or a woman.

As Pirozzi called the match he was immediately on the defence, parrying Hebert's blade harder than he intended, realizing only after that it was intended to be a feint. The high sound of steel on steel seemed to be particularly efficient in waking him up. It might have been even better than coffee. Fear tended to do that.

He bit his lip as he realized his mistake in defending against a feint and lunged forward in an attack in hopes of beating his opponent to it.
word count: 203

Re: Footwork

#5
Parry, second position, quarte, riposte. She was unrelenting in the press, pushing and testing him at the slightest advantage. But this was part of the strategy. She held her sword lightly, betraying no tension in her frame, only the concentration of a chess master at play. Most of her opponents did not expect such aggression from such a small figure, which she used to her advantage, that and her quickness. She could not match them for strength; to let herself to be overwhelmed would be her death, and so from beginning to end she set out to control the pace of the fight. But that is what those drills were for, practicing those positions over and over again until they were stored not in the memory but in the sinew and muscle, summoned without thought.

The poor young man never had a chance.

And all throughout, she kept her eyes on his, something like humor glittering in those amber orbs, though it was not unkind. It was as if she was testing him, guiding him through this game and laughing at his missteps. "Do you dance at all, Monsieur?" Her voice was low, a well-tuned soprano of a darker timber, decidedly feminine. French. But there was something in her accent not so; not in the words or phrases themselves, which were perfectly correct, but in the cadence of her speech, the rhythm of those words; it spoke of Africa, and places where those two disparate worlds collided. "You might find it helpful to take up the practice." Her words conversational, as if they were engaged in idle chatter and not holding each other at the point of a sword.
word count: 280
Have you ever touched a butterflies wings? You'd think they'd be strong, to stand the elements as they do, to bear them in flight, but at the mere touch of your fingers all their beautiful colors are brushed away,
like dust.

Re: Footwork

#6
Another step back.

His fencing style had never been aggressive despite the teachers his father hired, and now Pirozzi's attempt to beat that out of him. Really, Bastian had loved the aesthetic of fencing more than the sport itself. The cool grace of the fencer's charisma, the smooth and elegant lines of the body in movement. As a boy he dreamed that was how war was conducted. Hundreds of square-jawed fencers marching onto the field and engaging their enemy in swift, calculated swordplay.

He found himself less inclined to the sport than his family deemed acceptable. Even now he could feel Pirozzi's criticising gaze bearing down on him. He debated which was the more uncomfortable, his opponent's sword or the teacher's disappointment. He was being pushed to the end of the piste and could do nothing but parry and delay the inevitable end to this bout.

"Do you dance at all, Monsieur?"

"I was once quite proficient at the Waltz," Bastian answered breathlessly.

Parry, feint, another step back.

Was he being suggestive? He often forgot that the Waltz was not well received outside of Prussia and Austria. London society found the folk dance vulgar. "Though it is performed in much closer quarters and without the use of swords."

Thank heaven for that.

In truth he hadn't been terribly skilled at Waltzing either. He could perform the steps, keep time, but nearly always stepped on his partner's dress in the midst of it. A male cousin had once attempted to counsel him on the matter and found him much more adept when both parties were wearing pants. Still, it did not help him now. Every movement brought his opponent's sword closer and closer to its mark.
word count: 294

Re: Footwork

#7
Marceline hadn't thought much of London society, though her experience of it had been brief and her frame of mind at the time less than receptive. If the upper classes rejected the waltz as vulgar, they would have been utterly scandalized by the dances performed in the streets of Port de Paix during the holiday season, especially during Carnivale. To follow the bass rhythm of the drum, to dance with your whole body, hips swaying, skirts raised, feet flying? But those were dances brought across the waves from Africa. Only when we dance are we free. "Perhaps you can teach me. It might help your footwork."


When your opponent lacks the spirit to fight, the contest isn't much of one. "Also...you may not be aware..but you drop your left shoulder every time you attack." She goaded, though it was well meant. The man who called himself Bastian defended himself well enough but after the first exchange his confidence seemed to quickly wane, and Marceline easily controlled the rest of the engagement. She wondered why he spent so much time at the salle when his heart clearly wasn't in it. Perhaps his occupation demanded he be able to defend himself?

In that case, she opined, he needed a different occupation.

The landscape left him with little room to escape. She'd pushed him to the end of the piste, and with a flick of her sword and quick lunge, the tip of her blade pressed to the lightly padded coat, just above his heart. "You're dead, Monsieur." She said gravely, brows rising slightly as she held him at the point of her sword, "I wonder...can dead men dance?" A slow grin spreading on her full lips.
word count: 292
Have you ever touched a butterflies wings? You'd think they'd be strong, to stand the elements as they do, to bear them in flight, but at the mere touch of your fingers all their beautiful colors are brushed away,
like dust.
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