Friday, the 16th of April
Today was the day! At last, today was the day! Student Khrystylandris "K.T." Steele sprang from her bed on this glorious Friday morning. A day that, like any other always had, presented such possibilities to this industrious and ambitious youth!
Except today, K.T. would have the recovery of her right arm evaluated by Professor Vela Anklaris, then finally be medically cleared to resume her typical levels of physical activity! She could spar again! She could engage in Full Contact activities again! She could attend her Physical Education courses again and not be forced to sit the sidelines as she had for the last two weeks!
But what she most looked forward to was having a friendly spar with her best friend and classmate, Grinthey Skystrider.
K.T. came to Stormwind University already an accomplished Vindicator; a brilliant tactician and a highly capable swordswoman in her own right, with a wealth of experience having fought in several campaigns on Azeroth and especially beyond. In every contest that she and Grinthey shared, K.T. had always bested her friend. She'd always used the opportunity more to keep herself limber and sharp, to remind herself of the basics of melee combat. The fundamentals and foundations! But most of all, K.T. sparred with Grinthey to help her friend reinforce what she'd been learning in her Basic Combat & Sparring courses this term. Grinthey so often expressed a longing to become an even better and more capable fighter, so K.T. made it a personal mission to aid her friend in this endeavor as best she could!
"Humility with grace, as Mother always says," K.T. would tell herself with a smile. "This is the Eredar way." She'd remind herself of this often, subsequently the reason for K.T.'s modest demeanor and kindness toward others despite how seemingly effortless she made her coursework look to her peers. "So too with Professor Keshina." K.T.'s persistent mantra had expanded to include this since meeting the illustrious Alchemy professor and fellow Vindicator. "Humility with grace, but one must always continue to push their limits! Never wallow or stagnate!"
Eredar standards of excellence and the elevation of her best friend's fighting prowess aside, K.T. primarily saw the friendly spars with Grinthey as a means for them to connect on a more social level. As friendly and amiable as K.T. is by nature, she'd never really been surrounded by many she'd call "friends". Acquaintances, sure. Comrades, certainly. Among the Alliance and later Steelhaven military, and particularly the Draenic regiments she'd served in, K.T. always had Bands of Brothers & Sisters she counted on. But the level of socialization she discovered at the University was something new to K.T.! And Light, if the perpetually bubbly and dauntlessly determined Grinthey Skystrider wasn't a paragon of this sociability! She was actually a bit envious of Grinthey in this regard, yet good humor never allowed this feeling to turn resentful in any way. In fact, K.T. embraced it! She hung onto it, and Grinthey's company, as tightly as she could manage!
As practicality would naturally have it, K.T. and Grinthey's personal schedules didn't match up until the late evening on this particular day. But excited as they both were, the two friends agreed to meet outside of the University's Training Center. K.T. had shown up in her full sparring regalia, complete with a practice sword sheathed at her side and shield on her back. Grinthey showed up in her typical sweatpants and a simple leather jerkin, her family heirloom sword at her side. K.T. and Grinthey shared a warm, friendly smile as their paths incidentally crossed just down the path from University Training Center!
"Hello, Grinthey! Thank you for meeting me here." She eyed Grinthey closely with a light giggle! "Forgive me, Grinthey. I am not laughing AT you! I am just thinking that perhaps I'm overdressed for our friendly spar this evening..."
"Yeah, of course! I'm just glad you're feeling better. Professor Anklaris *did* clear your arm and approve your recovery. Right?" Grinthey replied, scrunching her nose as she regarded K.T.'s armaments. "Mmhm! And tonight you're... in platemail. Ready to kick my rear, I guess?"
K.T.'s light giggle suddenly rose in volume to match her amusement with her best friend's retort! "I am looking forward to a friendly spar, friend. Nothing more! I am not here to kick your butt. Not when you are doing me this favor." She smiled.
Grinthey nodded, smiling goofily. "Of course, of course! I... well, I brought two weapons, but I don't trust myself with both at once on anything but training dummies yet, heh! So I'll probably stick with the one."
K.T. patted the hilt of her practice sword. "I can forego my shield if you like. I am most accustomed to fighting with a sword and shield or two-handed." She gestured to the weapon racks off to the side. "I can borrow a wooden one if I'd like to switch it up later. I... won't attempt hefting my real greatsword just yet."
Grinthey nodded astutely. "I won't learn anything if you're handicapping yourself. Use your shield. Maybe you can even teach me how to use one properly--" She snickers, resting a hand on her shortsword. "*Someone* has to."
K.T. nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! I would be happy to! Then I will use it for now. It will simulate battling with a knight, for you." She beamed at Grinthey with a sly wink.
Grinthey grinned, nodding in agreement. "Then let's get to it! Lead the way." She gestures off to the side, at the training grounds. Khrystylandris nodded with an enthusiastic smile and they entered the Training Center together.
Once inside, K.T. scanned the remote distance, her eyes glowing with their unique verdant sheen. She nodded in the direction of an empty sparring space, pointing with the tip of her practice sword. "Yes! It looks like one of the rings has become unoccupied." Once there, Grinthey and K.T. did a few preparatory stretches then readied themselves to square off.
K.T. shrugged her shoulders, gripping her shield and unsheathing her sword. She swung her arms lightly to and fro, studying Grinthey closely. Grinthey, in turn, set her larger, thinner sword aside for the time being, and elected to focus with her more familiar weapon. K.T. smiled to Grinthey, courteously touching the tip of her sword to her friend's. The young Half-Gnome grinned. "Someone told me that if I need more than the sword, I'm not doing it right." She touched the top of her sword to KT's, indicating her readiness. "Yes. You?"
K.T. giggled. "I know a few warriors and swordspeople who might take umbrage with that statement..." She clanged her sword against her shield, rolled her neck, then fell into a fighting stance. "Ready!" K.T. bellowed. "En garde!"
The young Vindicator grinned, her demeanor still mildly playful yet growing more serious as her battle aura gradually began to stir and awaken. She dashed forward, keeping her shield high and bringing her sword around to connect with Grinthey's breastplate. "Ha-ha! That's one for me!"
Grinthey gave a little "Oof!" as KT's sword hits her breastplate. She squats low and swings her shortsword at KT's torso, connecting with the armor- once, twice. "And two for me!~"
K.T. faked a shield slam but instead juked to her left, thrusting the point of her sword into Grinthey's chestplate to score her second point of the match! But spotting another opening, K.T. continued pressing her attack! Seeing Grinthey knocked off-balance, she went all-in for a shield slam, bludgeoning Grinthey and forcing her toward the edge of the ring! K.T. then brought her sword down with a *clang!* onto Grinthey's, sweeping it aside and leaving her open to being tagged on the gauntlet!
Grinthey deftly swapped hands with her heirloom sword, making a concentrated slash at K.T., who lifted her leg to evade, but only a moment too late! She wheeled aside, leading Grinthey with her shield, then attempted a kick of her own, but was too far off-balance to land it successfully! Furthermore, Grinthey, in an impressive show of alacrity, sidestepped the attempt at a kick and swept K.T.'s wobbly, extended leg to score yet another point!
K.T. caught herself before toppling to the stone floor. She thrust her shield face-down for balance, kicking her hooves upward at Grinthey before scrambling to a stand! "Oof!" Grinthey groaned, being kicked square in the chest by those heavy hooves. But she dropped low in response, almost like second nature, sweeping a leg out to knock her opponent off balance before leaping to a standing position! K.T. was tripped up as she attempted to regain her footing! She grimaced, huffing through her teeth, then squared herself up again and braced for Grinthey's next attack...
Grinthey popped back up into close-range to K.T. - literal inches apart - and smacked the hilt of her sword on the Draedorei's hand, attempting to get her to drop her weapon. K.T. seemed all too happy to oblige, indicated by her sudden shift in strategy; she purposely loosened her grip, the shield sent skittering unceremoniously across the ring floor. Khrys thrusted her sword into a rut between the mat padding then whistled to one of the ring attendants, who then tossed her a wooden two-hander!
As she readied herself to resume, K.T. was taken slightly aback by Grinthey's pluck and swiftness! She was tagged on the breastplate, snorting through her nostrils. Taking a step backward, K.T. fell into a fighting stance then assailed Grinthey with a trio of swift blows! Left abdomen, right shoulder, then a quick deflection of Grinthey's sword. The first two strikes missed their mark as Grinthey bobbed and weaved almost unnaturally so, then raised her sword to meet K.T.'s attempt at deflecting it.
Grinthey faltered a little, seemingly back to typical form again, while K.T. followed her closely and waited for the opening that finally came! Grinthey stumbled a bit - *aha!* - and K.T. took the opportunity to strike and "finish" Grinthey and this duel! She finessed a bit and twirled the greatsword overhead before bringing it down, aimed for Grinthey's shoulder! Instead, Grinthey somehow managed to repel the blow, whirling around to slash at K.T.'s sword. A little too hard it seemed, pitting the metal of her shortsword against a wooden greatsword, embedding the edge into the wood.
"Huh..." Grinthey mused aloud. She grinned and giggled at her friend and sparring partner, who took several long moments to cool down enough to share in the mirth of the moment. "...Maybe we'd better call it for now."
K.T. sighed deeply, nodding after a sweep of her gauntlet across her brow. "Yes! Perhaps..." The brilliant flare in her eyes slowly dimmed. She caught her breath. Her temper cooled. She smiled, finally. "You fought admirably, Grinthey. I feel so reinvigorated now! I've missed this! Thank you, friend." K.T. bowed to Grinthey, as sportsmanship and custom dictates, and the gesture was returned. "Perhaps we should do this more often from now on! I admit, I can hardly believe how much your skills have grown since your training first began. You are a good friend, Grinthey."
"Thanks, K.T.!" Grinthey cheerfully responded. "I've been practicing a lot, y'know? Lots of late nights in the training center, heh! Lot's of pointers--" she smiled to K.T., conveying her gratitude without a single word.
"Perhaps I am not yet at full strength... but this is not a boast, I promise! Nor am I minimizing your newfound prowess! You held your own with me, fair and square. And so, have earned even more of my respect as a fellow warrior."
Grinthey's cheeks turned a darkened hue. "Aw... you sure you didn't go easy on me?"
"I didn't go easy on you at all! I fully intended to give it my all, regardless. I seem to be more rusty than I anticipated. But again, this is no excuse!"
Grinthey puffed her chest out a little with pride, then giggled. "Well I think you did fantastic, K.T.! So... what do you wanna do now?~"
"Thank you," K.T. replied. "I put forth as much effort as I could! Ah... but perhaps we should return to the dormitory soon? I could very much use a shower after such a rigorous workout..."
Later that evening...
A more common occurrence of late has been K.T.'s visits to Grinthey's room turning into their own private "slumber parties". They'd stop at the Campus Commissary for snacks and drinks then return to Marris Hall to get cleaned up and relaxed for the evening, often talking of classes and life in general before eventually falling asleep. Grinthey had a single room all to herself, which K.T. enjoyed and was possibly even a bit envious of. It was in fact a typical double room, except that it was suspected of Lady Isbeth Steele to have arranged for 'the paperwork to be persistently lost' when it came to matching Grinthey with a roommate.
K.T., on the other hand, was assigned a four-student suite that she shared with three other female students. Two Humans and a Sin'dorei, who, for the purposes of residency, is on the official student rolls as a Half-Elf. K.T. had absolutely nothing in common with the trio and their incessant prattle of intimate partners, getting sloshed, their noble wealth and whatever recent party, club or bar they'd visited over the weekend. This only served to encourage K.T. to be found elsewhere throughout the campus. So, to say that this fairly recent development with Grinthey was a pleasant surprise would be a vast understatement!
K.T. laid awake in bed, restless and uneasy. "Humility with grace, as Mother always says," she murmured to herself, turning the significance of those words over and over in her mind. "This is the Eredar way." Despite the way she and Grinthey had concluded their earlier friendly spar, despite the way they ate and drank together and had such a fun night together, something inside of K.T. just couldn't let her unexpected 'loss' go.
"It was only two weeks...? I was out of commission for only two weeks. I was a bit... despondent, I know. But even if I couldn't spar with Grinthey, I still showed up to her practices as much as I could." She sighed heavily. "But there's no way she improved that greatly in merely two weeks' time! It isn't possible. Just as it isn't possible that Grinthey could best me, even with the rust I'd accumulated from the temporary loss of my arm. It shouldn't have been possible, I-- I didn't hold back. And I could not lie. She probably thinks I did, for her benefit. But that isn't-- it just isn't so!"
K.T. grumbled and rolled to her side. There, nestled beneath the blankets, was her good friend Grinthey. Her best friend. And this is why these feelings tore K.T. up so much! Watching Grinthey sleep peacefully nearly melted K.T.'s heart. She couldn't help but to smile at the friend she made. A raucous snore escaped from Grinthey's lips suddenly, smacking them and murmuring to herself as she shifted a little in place. K.T. brushed some stray hairs from Grinthey's face which elicited a dreamy smile from the Half-Gnome youth.
K.T. rolled back over, this time on her right side, still fighting that feeling deep within her that she just couldn't identify. Or maybe something inside her didn't want to. Had she gotten complacent, her fighting prowess only further affected by a two-week sideline? ...Or had Grinthey just honestly improved through hard work and diligence? But... but was she secretly content with the dynamic she shared with Grinthey, being the superior fighter? A dynamic which seems to have experienced a sudden, unexpected shift!
"Humility with grace, as Mother always says. Humility with grace..."
K.T. hugged herself tightly, teeth slightly gritted. Her mind was racing, she wouldn't be able to get her necessary full-night's sleep this way. Her opaque, verdant gaze searched the room like small beacons for something else to occupy her mind. There! Leaned carefully and reverently against Grinthey's armoire, her heirloom sword. A sword that by Grinthey's own admission bore no magical enchantment or boon save for a deeply sentimental value for her An'da. K.T. inspected the sword closely from her vantage of the side of Grinthey's bed. She had a mild natural inclination toward magic through both life experience and heredity, though the Light was far more often K.T.'s guide.
It was then that K.T. spotted it. A blue crystal of exceptional beauty and craftsmanship, dangling from the pommel of Grinthey's sword. That hadn't been there before, to her recollection! "If it had been there all along, surely I'd have noticed for as much as Grinthey carries that sword around. Yet, I cannot discern any sort of magic coming from it either. I wouldn't put it past Grinthey to affix some sort of fun, decorative adornment to her sword, but this is curious indeed. Grinthey is an honest, hardworking student. She would never cheat, especially at something she wants so desperately to learn. Would she? No. How could I think such a thing of my good friend? Of Grinthey? I must cease this line of petulant thinking and accept my earlier defeat. Yes. After all, what would Mother say? ...Hm, what would Professor Keshina say?" K.T. huffed soundly, shutting her eyes tightly and attempting to just sleep on command, to no avail.
"Humility with grace, as Mother always says. This is the Eredar way. Humility with grace..."
K.T.'s eyes narrowed as she peered at the blue crystal. There was nothing yet something about it. But for now, the light it shed was enough to lull Khrystylandris Steele into the restful slumber that she so desperately sought.