26: Weapon Proficiency

on July 9, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which We Learn That Knives Are Sharp

Mariel apparently wasn’t in the same basic knife class as I was, but joy of joys, Sooni was there… standing at one end of the wide open classroom, surrounded by a knot of human girls who were admiring either her fox’s ears or her elaborately braided buns. The bronze-skinned kitsuyokai was eating their attention up.

I hated Sooni… loathed her, actually. I’d simply been embarrassed during our first encounter, but after learning that the nekoyokai, a trio of furry-skinned cat girls who followed her around, were probably more like playthings or slaves than actual friends, “loathing” was the only word to describe how I felt.

I’d seen Sooni hitting the smallest of “her” nekos, Kai… I’d heard her beating or torturing her… and then the next day, I’d seen her dress Kai up like a doll, in the outfit of the sidekick from a stupid TV show that she liked. I couldn’t begin to understand it. Amaranth had suggested that the whole thing might be consensual, but I couldn’t see how. I could see making a certain amount of compromises for the sake of a friendship… but how messed up would a person have to be to just let somebody else treat them like their personal chew toy?

Then, Amaranth had also said that we should feel sorry for Sooni if she really didn’t have any friends that weren’t paid for. I loved Amaranth–in some way, at least–but I wished she was a little more discerning about people.

Of course, if she was, then maybe she wouldn’t want to hang around with me…

Sooni saw me looking at her and said something to the gang of girls around her, pointing at me. Several of them looked shocked or surprised, and one actually looked angry. I wondered what she had told them… probably that I was a “girlkisser”, as she put it. This was only true in the technical sense that I had kissed a girl, on one occasion. That would actually be the best case scenario. It was likely that she’d heard about my heritage, by then.

Even though they were on the other side of the room, I found myself backing away from the nervous giggles and scowls that Sooni’s insta-clique were throwing my way… and backed right into a tall girl, wearing tight-fitting jeans with butterfly appliqu├ęs and a lacy, scoop-necked blouse. Not only was everybody in the class female, they were all apparently really girly girls… all except for me.

“Oh, sorry,” I mumbled, looking down at my feet.

“It’s okay… I’m a bit nervous about this class, myself,” she said. “I’ve been putting off getting my WP credits, but I need to get them done in the next two semesters if I’m going to graduate this year.” She looked me up and down. “Ooh, I wish I would have thought to switch into grubby old clothes before coming here. I hope we’re not going to get dirty. Do you think we’ll actually have to fight anybody today?”

I was saved from having to try to answer by the entrance of the instructor.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” he said. “My name is Lem Carlton. You can call me Coach Carlton, or just Coach. Regardless of what it says on my office door, I will not be answering to Dr. Carlton or Professor Carlton or any such damned thing. I teach from experience, not from a textbook. I’m sure a lot of the professors you’ve seen so far today have spent an hour going over a syllabus or having you read and re-read the foreword to a textbook, but this is a practical, hands-on class and we’re going to get right to practical, hands-on practice.”

Well, that was kind of promising, I thought. I really didn’t care about combat training, but if the coach was all business it might take some of the bite out of the others’ scorn for the course.

“I’m assuming everybody’s got their knives,” he said. “If not, you might as well turn around and head back to your dorm because there’s no point in even being here. Now, you’re here to learn all about knives… and lesson number one is that knives are sharp. That should maybe ought to go without saying, but the way some of you are waving them around, it seems like you’re unaware of this little fact. Rule number one in this class: I do not see a naked blade unless it’s come out of the mockbox.”

Several of the girls hastily sheathed their weapons, giggling self-consciously or blushing, as the coach pointed to a black rectangular wooden box on the table at the front of the room. It was just big enough to have held two copies of the largest knife… and that, in fact, spoke to its purpose: if you put one knife inside the box, put the lid on, and then opened it up, you would then have two knives, outwardly identical.

In high school, all combat practice had been done with wooden or foam weapons. University-level weapon courses called for something a bit more realistic, though of course, an introductory class wouldn’t be dealing with anything that could cause lasting injuries. Some schools had other solutions, but MU used the fairly standard method of spectral weapons: illusionary duplicates capable of inflicting illusionary wounds. Supposedly, such injuries were realistically painful, up to a certain safety threshold, though they would fade in seconds.

The illusion spell would even accurately imitate any enchantments on the blade, though luckily for me, it couldn’t counterfeit a blessing. That none of my classmates would have holy weapons was too much to hope for, but an illusion of sanctity did no more to me than a pretense of faith would.

As far as enchantments went, my own bronze-handled hunting knife wasn’t much. It didn’t need sharpening and would never break under ordinary stresses. It was just magic enough that I could cut myself with it, if I was into that kind of thing. I didn’t have to look too closely at the other students’ daggers and knives to know that it was probably the least impressive one in the room.

Sooni’s rather delicate little ivory-clad poniard wasn’t even the most expensive-looking one… that honor belonged to the dagger on the belt of the girl I’d bumped into, the hilt of which appeared to be the end of a unicorn horn, with gold inlaid in the spiraling groove. I wondered if it was real. I wondered what enchantments it had, too… probably healing magic to take advantage of the horn’s inherent properties, but that could also be used in truth-seeking spells, or spells of invisibility or illusion.

In fact, a unicorn was so fantastically magical that you could use its horn to strengthen just about any spell, even if it had nothing to do with the unicorn’s nature. It was too bad an intelligent creature had to, you know, die just so that you could do it.

In the time I’d been staring at the unicorn dagger, Carlton had apparently given instructions, because everybody else began lining up in front of the mockbox and getting their weapons cloned. The originals were left in a row on the table… the girls who had their copied weapons hefted them in their hands, as if trying to find something wrong with their weight… or not quite believing that they had any. A few had unsheathed theirs and were gingerly poking at the edge of the blade with their fingers.

“What in the name of the Dark Herald is that supposed to be?” Carlton asked when I laid my lambskin-clad weapon down in the box.

“It’s my knife,” I said.

“I know a knife when I see one… I’m talking about that rag you’ve got it covered with,” he said. “Where’s your sheath?”

“Right there,” I said indignantly. The lambskin wrap had cost good money. Okay, so not a lot of good money… not as much as a real sheath that could be strapped to a belt… but it kept me from cutting myself when I took the knife out or put it away, and that was all a sheath needed to do, right?

“That isn’t a proper sheath,” Carlton said.

“I don’t need a sheath to fight,” I said.

“Well, I guess you’ll have loads to do next quarter when we’re ready to practice fighting,” the coach said. “But as this quarter is devoted to the proper, safe handling of a knife and sheath, you’re just S.O.L., aren’t you?”

I gaped at him.

“We’re using spectral copies just to practice handling knives in their sheaths?” I asked.

“And drawing them from their sheaths, eventually… or at least the rest of the class will be,” Carlton said. “You can do whatever the hell you want with the rest of the hour.” He pointed towards the door. “Don’t bother coming back on Wednesday unless you’ve got the proper gear.”

Great. I’d already been ticketed by a campus guard for having my knife bundled away inside of my jacket instead of in a more accessible belt sheath, and now I’d been kicked out of a weapons class that apparently wasn’t even a real weapons class for not having a sheath. It looked like I was going to have to go shopping, and soon. I’d been given enough shit for taking basic knife… imagine if I actually managed to flunk out of it?

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4 Responses to “26: Weapon Proficiency”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Dot your “T’s” and cross your “I’s” Mack, procedures are procedures.

    Current score: 0
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    Which is really stupid, too. Since if you bind it correctly then a lambskin cloth with some string is the same damned thing as a sheath. It holds knife, you pull on knife, knife comes out, ta-da! it’s SCIENCE!

    Which actually brings me to the question of how much money Mackenzie has. I’m guessing “not much” from previous encounters with fines, and I’m glad the money system is simply. 100 copper = 1 silver, 100 silver = 1 gold as far as I’ve seen.

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      There are fifty silver to a gold; Puddy called a gold coin “exact change” when paying Mack’s fine some chapters earlier.

      More than fifty coppers to a silver, though, or Mack wouldn’t have commented about her last haircut costing “50 copper” when Mariel planned to charge one silver.

      Current score: 0
  3. nattykat says:

    They mention 320 copper being 2 silver, which puts one silver at 160 copper

    Current score: 1