Damian Crowley: Part 5

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Damian Crowley: Part 5

Post  Jack Napier on Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:52 am

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Chelaxian Ninja
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Damian was no more than a toddler when he held his first sword. It was a wooden sword, and not much more than a toy, but you had to start somewhere.

His father, Aleister, considered this to be his proudest moment. “Here you are, son. I present you your first Hell Knight’s blade,” he said while carefully handing over the weapon. He ruffled the boy’s black locks. The boy smiled and looked up at his father with his blue eyes filled with wonder.

“You’re holding it wrong,” said his father; immediately correcting him.

-=-=-=-

Damian was barely a teenager when he started living a double-life. His days were spent at Hell Knight Academy receiving strict instruction, but his nights were spent out in the city, particularly the art district. He did quite well for himself there, making many friends and trying out many arts. This went on for a few years.

One day, while passing the theater, he noticed two young men sparring on stage with blinding speed. An older man sat in front of the stage was alternating between berating the fighters and giving orders to a little girl who was moving some props around.

Damian, fascinated, went right up to the stage to watch and maybe ask a few questions about the production. Passing by the old man, he could smell a strange alcohol and noticed the bottle was oddly shaped and labelled with a strange writing he couldn’t decipher.

“Wow, that’s really something,” declared Damian.

“It’s something, all right.” The old man replied. “But it’s not good enough. It’s gotta be perfect for Yuriko!”

The old bard’s name was Jessiah “Jesse” Black, but he wasn’t really old. He was a weathered blonde man in his fifties who had a number a scars, piercings and tattoos. He wore a patch over one eye, and had a flute on his back. He explained to the boy that he and his troupe, The Shadow Puppets, would be performing Korvosa’s first play from the Eastern world.

The play was called “Yojimbo” and Damian wanted to be a part of it.

-=-=-=-

The opening of “Yojimbo” came and went and received fairly good reviews. Damian under-studied one of the actors and helped out the crew backstage. He worked on quite a few productions and learned the many ways of being unnoticed or “invisible” as Jesse preferred to call it. The Shadow Puppets, through use of magic and skill, performed shows that audiences could lose themselves in for an hour at a time, and all the while not notice all that went in to the production.

The actors trained hard to hide themselves behind the characters they’d play. A gnomish illusionist and his small team of bards provided music and special effects. Even Jesse’s own daughter, Aiko, no more than 10 years old, somehow managed to replace props on stage with such speed and subtlety that the audience never noticed a thing. Damian worked with all of these people at some point and learned many things, but it was Jesse that taught him the most.

Jesse became like a father to him at a time when he was losing his own father. Damian would confide to Jesse all the hardship he endured at home and at the academy, and Jesse saw to it that the boy worked through it. He trained him to mask his emotions so that they could not be used against him. He taught him that true strength comes from within and not from one’s size. He taught him of Ki.

-=-=-=-

“You have a lot of life in you, kid.” He told him. “You remind me of myself before I set out and travelled the world… that’s why I hate seeing you come here all bruised up. You need to learn how to fight.”

He tossed a short sword to the boy and leapt to his feet. Damian caught the blade and immediate took on the Hell Knight’s stance, holding the blade upright with both hands showing all strength and determination.

Jesse laughed. “You’re holding it wrong.”

Damian let out a sigh. “This is what they teach at the Academy. They know a thing or two about fighting…”

“That’s just it,” Jesse spat. “The Hell Knights train the same way again and again. Their moves are effective, yes, but entirely predictable. Knowing their style will serve you well, but anything you can do differently will give you the edge you need in combat.”

Jesse held his sword in a reverse grip; the blade running along his forearm. “Try it this way,” he suggested.

Damian did as instructed and did his best to mimic the forms Jesse demonstrated.

Over the course of several months of training, he improved and became more and more proficient, being careful to not let his two styles of sword training overlap as it meant a scolding in either place. While training at Academy he learned what to expect from his opponents, while training with Jesse he learned what to expect from himself.

“You’re left-handed; that’s good. Your opponent will be required to rethink their every manoeuvre. You’re thin, so your larger enemies will underestimate you. You’ve got wit; use its sharpness to cut your foes from within. Also, you’re good-looking; nobody will expect that you know how to fight. Fighters usually have scars.” With this final comment, he pointed to his own scarred face and eye-patch and laughed. “Like me.”

-=-=-=-

Months later, on his birthday, Damian was gifted an ornate box by Jessie. The card attached read “Stay sharp, kid. Happy Birthday.” Inside was one of Jesse’s prized weapons: a wakazashi from his years in the Far East.

“Hold it wrong, kid.” He told him. “This one’s fast and it’s got the curve of a woman’s back. If push comes to shove, your opponent’s back might just be the best place to put it.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Damian added.

“Sorry to say it, kid… but sooner or later, it always does. Stay safe and protect the people who are important to you.”

Damian knew Jesse was talking of his own experiences losing his wife Yuriko. The loss was no doubt the reason Jesse retired from travelling and adventuring and moved to Korvosa in order to provide a safe and stable environment for Aiko. Damian was sad that this happened to his friend, but so glad that he was here.

He thanked his master for the gift. He named it “Wit” and has practiced with it every day since as part of his meditation to align his Ki and, recently, to focus his magic.

-=-=-=-

Going through the haunted house brought back a lot of memories of the theatre for Damian. The house itself told a terrifying story through elaborate hauntings performed by invisible players. Without the help of Ka, who had grown ill after spending the night, Damian had to trust in his own inner strength, or Ki, to survive.

He took his lessons of invisibility a little further to be a “ghost” himself when the need was greatest.
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Jack Napier

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