Day 047: With a Blade, up Close
Summary: While out gathering herbs, a Skaigirl encounters a Trikru hunter, and sees the opportunity to once more ask — or demand — for a lesson in combat.
Date: 15 & 16 July, 2016 (log took two sessions to complete)
Related: Follows A Favour in Turn for Trade, Sparring Lessons and Your Generous Offer.
Cassandra Khesu 

North of Lake Arkadia (AKA Audo)
A wooded grove, with yarrow growing.
47 Days After Landing

To the north of Lake Audo lies a grove of trees, outside of plain view of both adjacent camps — Trikru and Skaikru alike. Not long ago, three members of the Ark's guard were crucified here, and so no one from there should be foolish enough to venture here alone; yet here one is. In Cassandra's defence, she is dressed like a Grounder, and perhaps believes that she can get away with it. The girl is masked and crouched, though her long hair and androgynous build give her away to those who know her. Her mask isn't as fearsome as most Grounder warriors', in truth being no more than a scarf pulled up over her mouth. With a sharp, warrior's knife in hand, she grips a flowering plant and is cutting away at its stem, close to the roots. With the exception of birdsong, there's no sound or sign of anyone else nearby.

<FS3> Khesu rolls Stealth: Success. (6 4 4 4 4 5 5 8 4 6)
<FS3> Cassandra rolls Alertness: Great Success. (4 2 8 7 8 8 3)

Someone is unaware of any crucifixions that happened before his arrival to the lake. Khesu also hasn't seen Cassandra yet. He walks quietly, though he's not taking any particular pains at being stealthy until he sees what he's looking for. His bow is in hand with an arrow nocked and his attention is mostly for the direction of the water. A goose hangs from the back of his belt below his quiver by it's neck, one of its wings draping slightly loose as the Trikru moves. Dark eyes are on the water and the cattails there. Khesu freezes when he sees movement, though it's further up among the trees and tall grasses than he might expect for water fowl. It is Cassandra herself he's spotted, and until it becomes obvious that she's seen him, he crouches down to watch her and lowers his bow. The nocked arrow has no tension upon the string, held lightly.

Hearing a rustle in the underbrush, the Skaigirl turns abruptly in the direction of the intruding sound with arched brows, rapidly on alert. Her knife is held defensively at the ready, though she doesn't look like someone who knows how to use it. Even if she had gotten into fights on the Ark, carrying a knife where assault is a crime to be floated for would be both unnecessary and dangerous. Still, she's arrogant, young and clueless enough to believe that it'll offer her some protection on the Ground. Though she has a bow at her back and a sword at her hip, drawing and readying those would take longer.

Seeing that it's Khesu who's lurking, Cassandra does seem to relax a touch, though not completely. He may be related to Gideon, but she doesn't know him too well, and would rather be safe than sorry. For the moment she says nothing, waiting and watching silently in return for him to speak or make a move.

<FS3> Khesu rolls Survival: Success. (3 4 4 5 2 2 8 3)

Cassandra with her knife is observed. Khesu keeps his position as he studies her and takes his time about it. Then slowly he stands back up and removes the arrow made by Benning's hands and slips it back into his quiver. His dark eyes look to the yarrow she was collecting. Both the ferny soft foliage and the flattened, clustered flower heads of that species is easy even for him to identify without being a healer. Relaxed himself, he starts to walk closer.

Cassandra lowers her knife, but doesn't relinquish it. Holding the blade towards the plant once more, the pretence is that she means to resume cutting it, but the tip of her blade is still pointed towards Khesu… just in case. As he approaches, she casts her eye critically over his form, making a silent calculation of any openings or weaknesses. She's a wary creature, that much is clear, a bit like a wild animal. All the same, she greets him with a polite nod of recognition.

Khesu is not wearing any armor, or anything else over his torso, bare skinned with his scars and kill-marks visible to the world. He doesn't look the slightest bit concerned that she might stab him either. The lower tip of his bow stave he sets down on the ground up against the edge of his boot, and then leans on it slightly. Muscle moves beneath his lightly browned skin to flex the bow and unstring it. A faint furrow lies between his dark brows as he watches her. "You have no need to fear me. Not without cause." Khesu speaks very low in volume, for her alone to hear him.

Khesu's muscular build is taken in, and though under normal circumstances she might find it attractive, for the moment she seems to find it more intimidating than anything. "But if I had cause, I wouldn't know it until it's too late," she points out once he speaks. She too keeps her voice low, so that even if there were someone nearby, they needn't draw additional attention. She meets his eye, simply to try and prove she's unafraid, but remains coiled at the ready.

His height might be intimidating as well, though not as much as Wren who is also a little heavier and slightly taller than he. "You have my word that unless my Heda or my Kruheda orders otherwise, I have no cause to harm you." Khesu has stopped out of arm's reach of Cassandra to give her a little space. He gives her a faint gesture of his chin to indicate what she's doing with the herb. "Are you a healer?"

Cassandra shakes her head. With a tug of her knife, she severs the plant from its roots, then reaches to collect it with a hand clad in archer's gloves. "I'm collecting for a healer," she replies, stuffing the plant into her bag. "Two healers, actually. One of 'em's on your team." Giving him a look that implies she finds the notion dubious, she asks, "Are you?"

"Who?" As to which healer among his people. "No, my Houmom was. Sometimes I gather for the healers also." He tilts his head slightly as he watches her. Khesu's own attention turns back to looking at the lake as he stands very slightly leaning on his bow and with more of his weight on his left leg than his right. Back to her, he asks lowly, "You had these plants in your sky box?"

With a nod of her head, Cassandra replies, "Yep." She seems to have given up on threatening Khesu for now, either having realised that he isn't going to attack her, or placated by his indirect attention. She reaches over to cut away at another stem, but no longer does so with any implicit brandishing of her knife, using it for efficient utility instead. "My parents were both farmers. Mum more into research. Dad more into management. I grew up on Farm Station. That's one of the stations that didn't land with us here." For whatever reason, she doesn't seem too bothered by that. With another stem severed, she asks, "What's a Houmom?" It's unclear whether she neglects to answer his first question on purpose or not.

Yes, he noticed she didn't answer his question. Khesu lifts a brow very subtly at that, curious, but does not ask her again. "My wife. She is dead." The bow is picked up and he walks quietly over to take a seat beneath a tree a short distance aside, where he can watch the lake and also watch 'Kasandra' gathering the yarrow. He thinks about what she has said and is quiet briefly before he rumbles, "Pieces fell elsewhere. You do not care what happened to them?"

"I care," says Cass. When she has a sizeable bundle, she prises a piece of string from her bag and ropes it together into a bouquet. That done, she picks up her bag, slings it over her shoulder and straightens back up, moving off towards Khesu's tree. "Farm's a ways off, though. Dangerous to go alone, and my people are all distracted by the Mountain right now. Last time I went looking for a fallen piece of the Ark, with our best fighter, I got this." She points a finger at the bruise on the side of her head. That was a month ago now, but the injury was serious, and is taking its sweet time to heal. A pause, and then in a more sincere, sympathetic tone of voice, she offers, "Sorry about your wife."

The bruise he eyes as he listens, not caring about bruises. But he watches her, the strange inflections of her voice. "You know where it is, then. You think others of your people live down here." Hmmmm, yes that worries him a little bit maybe. The Trikru perhaps have enemies of their own, besides the Mountain, who might benefit from having Skaikru of their own. With guns. Khesu does not say that aloud as he chews on his own thoughts. A faint nod, "I hope she is dead. Worse if the Mountain or the Reapers kept her." He scowls, then looks at 'Kasandra'. "If your people they took yet live, it may be better if they had died."

It's not his words that make Cassandra frown, but the scowl; the obvious distaste. The peace of their two peoples lies in a delicate balance, and whether or not she trusts him, upsetting that peace isn't on her agenda. "Apparently they're alive, or were until very recently. One of them escaped," she shares. "What's so bad about these Mountain People that you Trikru are so afraid of them? I mean I heard stories, but I don't know how much is true. We heard stories about you Grounders, too, before we met you and saw for ourselves. Worse stories."

As for Farm Station, Cassandra shakes her head. "I don't know if others of the Skaikru are alive," she says, deliberately avoiding referring to them as her people. "Last time a piece fell, they weren't. Just be nice to find out for sure, is all."

She asks good questions. Khesu continues to sit beneath the tree with his bow and the dead goose to consider his answer. Eventually he says, "The Mountain take our people. Those who have been taken, or go to find them, never return. We do not know what becomes of them." He frowns but it is a barely perceptible change of his features. "Until the scouting party returned. They tell us the Mountain people also control the Reapers who have long preyed upon the Trikru for meat. They eat the flesh of those like you and me. It may also be the Mountain who sends the acid fog. I do not know." His calloused hands gently feel the smoothness of the wood of his bow, uncarved but long oiled and well cared for. "One of yours, Jumar, has a small box with images of what they found. You should ask of him to see it. Then you will know."

Cassandra has seen the grisly Reapers with her own eyes, but even so, Khesu's description of their cannibalism is still enough to mar her features with a faint grimace. It's barely been six weeks since her own first taste of nonhuman animal meat. "I guess I'll know when I see," she says, but sounds dubious. She has seen terrible things that the Trikru have done, and yet here she is, talking to one without rancour.

"I hope you find your wife alive," she says, in contrast to his more morbid wish. "And well."

"Aye, you will." That to her learning for herself for good or ill. Khesu's mouth thins a little and he moves to stand, "I have looked for her for many months. If she lived, she'd have born a child by now. We shall see." Or not. He may never know. His bow is set back down with the tip against his boot for him to lean against the strength of the wood to bend it. The bow string is slipped back up into the notches to make it taut and ready to use once more. This Trikru lifts his chin slightly to 'Kasandra' and makes ready to continue his hunting.

Cassandra's own bowstring has never been released, but she watches Khesu intently as he tends to his, glancing over her shoulder to note both the similarities and differences in their weapons. Hers is small, meant for a beginner, and to minimise risk of injury. "Are all your family archers?" she asks. "That common down here, like on the Ark? Where all my family are farmers?"

The question pauses him. Khesu studies Cassandra from where he stands. "Aye, easier to hunt. Some prefer spears or to use dogs." A brief pause, "I prefer to kill a man, or a woman, with a blade, up close." Some clearly have tried in turn to kill him, the marks of their blades upon his body. The warrior thinks upon it ere he adds quietly, "Some among us also farm." She may not have seen evidence of that however. Not at their camp, for his home has been destroyed.

<FS3> Cassandra rolls Resolve: Great Success. (8 4 7 7 1 8 5 3)
<FS3> Cassandra rolls Melee: Good Success. (8 2 7)

The statement about Khesu's preference for how he kills people washes over Cassandra, who gives a light nods of her head in reply. She's killed, too, even if it's been too short a time since then to really process that. "That… makes sense," she says, though she sounds unsure of why. Rationalisation, perhaps. Taking a step back away from him to offer a wide berth, she then stows her knife and instead draws out her machete, holding it aloft.

"Show me," she says, demonstrating an aggressive stance born from experience, but not from training or skill. One foot forward, one foot back, ready to lunge.

Well now, isn't she a bold one? Khesu might be vaguely surprised at Cass as he considers her. He eyes her blade and how she holds it, then takes a slow look around the lake and the landscape around them. No one else seems to close by. His bow is left strung as he reaches back and slides it back into his bow case. Beneath it hangs his axe, the long handle hanging by leather loops. That he draws forth instead, the darkened steel salvaged from something else and reforged into this blade. It is well honed and oiled but fairly plain, not too large and heavy. Equally good for chopping wood or to open up a man's chest.

His eyes intent upon her own rather than her blade, Khesu rumbles, "Guard yourself." The older Trikru moves slowly, watchful of her lest she try something quick. The axe comes forward to probe at her with a slow, low arc for her legs. Watching how she moves, her balance and where her eyes are if not what her blade goes, there is plenty of time for her to block or evade.

When Cass said show me, she didn't really expect a full on spar — but given Grounder culture, should have known better. She sends a quick glance back to Camp Jaha before settling back on his eyes, but it's too late to back out now, so she shows no fear. In the Skybox, where she was imprisoned, she ended up confined to Solitary for her propensity for starting fights she couldn't win; this is a game she knows how to play.

The mistakes she made when sparring with Britt kom Trikru won't be made here, with Khesu. Her gaze stays fixed on his to try and anticipate his moves, though with little experience duelling, she doesn't really know how to do that. She pulls back her legs at the plainly telegraphed arc of his axe towards them, then lunges forward with her machete aimed at his chest. Though she fully intends to stop before she can seriously injure him, she isn't playing — overplaying, maybe, but not holding back on her aggression.

His eyes likewise stay on hers, to see where she looks, but also it allows him to peripherally watch her shoulders. Those in turn tell him what the rest of her body is doing, her hands, her body angle, and even the placement of her feet to some degree without his having to drop his eyes to glance down. If he looks anywhere else, it is to keep track of what is, or isn't going on, around them.

Instead of lunging back, Khesu continues the arc of his axe, but diverts it to come up sharply at an angle to deflect her machete. But only enough as he sidesteps to lightly make her blow miss. The turn of his body as he moves to the side keeps him also moving forward, to come in close with her. His own weapon moves no further upward than necessary and the moment her swing has been lightly shunted with the barest of contact, Khesu drives the point that sticks out of the end of his axe right for her face and eyes!

It is just as well that he moves carefully and is prepared to stop the blow – because if she were unable to evade it, her own blade extended, their fight might be over as soon as it starts. Unless she can surprise him.

Cassandra was not expecting Khesu's swing to divert towards her face, and so unfortunately, cannot surprise him — she is far too busy being herself surprised. She freezes, eyes wide, and stops, simply hoping at this point that he isn't actually intending to kill her.

"Nice trick," she says, keeping a firm hold on the hilt of her machete, though the blade has been deflected from his body. A pause, and then she slowly asks, "So what would you do?" Where she cannot fight, her role here is to learn, every motion and feint closely studied.

The axe is drawn back and he steps back so that there is about the length of his own body between them. Khesu is not the fastest thinking, sharpest wit among his people, but he likes to think about what he will say before he speaks, and how to say it. So he looks at her blade, then to her. "You keep your eyes on mine. This is good. Watch my shoulders. You would sense at once that I keep coming at you." He considers, "If it were me, I'd tip my head over to evade the axe and bring my elbow up." Khesu mimics her pose with his axe exactly how she had her blade angled, but tips his head to evade the blow to the face while bringing up his near elbow from below. "And strike at my enemy's throat or face. Everything is a weapon. Or in tipping my head, turn my body and as I bring up my elbow, bring the axe back up with it…" He shows her almost precisely the same move, bringing the axe handle up, ready to block, but the head down low to split up the body of his enemy's groin. If it hit the thigh or the gut, that'd still be a good, solid, and hopefully surprising strike.

He stops and stands once more. Her weapon only has one edge and it's a wide, heavy blade with no other parts that are very useful to use in an attack, but as she is not his Second, Khesu doesn't offer the additional insight to this near stranger. He has seen what he wished to see.

Though Khesu has seen what he wished to see, Cassandra is not yet done. "Again," she says, bringing up a second hand to grip her machete. She pauses just a second, swaying to test her balance, then dances to the left and brings her blade swinging in towards his side, such that if she does not stop, and he does not dodge, she would cleave her opponent in two.

Her movements are different to his. She fights as one who must fight, who's itching to. She puts almost no forethought into her attacks in the moment, sharp as she is otherwise, and expends all her energy into every single swing, throwing her entire weight forward. Her lips curl to sneer with every attack, her eyes burning with feral determination.

What Khesu does isn't what she might expect. He makes no move at all to evade her swing as she lunges at him again. Instead, this time he does look to see precisely where her blade comes, and he reaches out with his axe to give her blade a counter blow at a sharp angle! If he can, he'll snag the edge of her machete with the hook of his axe and simply use brute force to rip it out of her hands and disarm her. Should his blow not quite hook her steel, it should knock her blade hard out of line and send a powerful and possibly painful shock up through her hand.

There is nothing slow about his counter, nothing held in check. If he'd succeeded in hitting her just then it would have been a hurtful blow. His dark eyes rivet upon her. "No." It is a sharp negative. Watching her and on his own guard, he adds, "You are not mine to train."

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Cassandra=dodge Vs Khesu=melee
< Cassandra: Success (2 6 7 2) Khesu: Success (4 1 3 8 5 1 6 3 3 2)
< Net Result: DRAW

This does not go quite as Khesu planned. What Cassandra does next is not only stubborn, but downright foolish.

The full extent of her rather flimsy weight thrown forward, she moves something like a ragdoll when he hooks his axe against the blade of her machete. One of her archer-gloved hands is prised free, but when she realises what he's doing, it flies back towards the grip. Eyes wide, she allows herself to be flung together with the sword rather than let it go, even when it drives her forward and onto her knees behind him, and even when it sends a shock up her arm and shoulder. She grimaces, but ultimately keeps ahold of her machete, the tip of which she slams into the dirt to steady herself.

It is a wide, heavy blade, unlike his more cleverly designed axe — but it's her blade. She claimed it in her first week down here on Earth, from the first Grounder she had to kill. Although at first it was used merely as a tool for her Earth Skills, to chop vegetation, it's since come to see much bloodier uses, and more than once. Over her dead body will she let anyone take it from her.

"Whatever," she mumbles in lame retort to his refusal. Her voice drips with bitterness, eyes fixed on the ground.

He draws a slow breath, shifting his body at once to keep himself guarded when she falls to the ground somewhat past him. Aye, wary of this woman he does not know. Size and sex can be deceiving and he'll not fall for that. Even so he is not tense, but moves easily and is relaxed. Khesu watches her and makes neither move to accost her, nor to put out a hand to help her up. His voice is low and gentle after the sharp negative before.

"You demand. You did not ask." Certainly not the second time. "One who comes to me for teaching would be my Second." When first she asked, he gave her a few pointers. But after that, perhaps he didn't care for her pushing the second time. For all his quiet, Khesu is a dominant male, no Omega.

Using the tip of her machete to push herself upwards, Cassandra takes a moment to test the strength of her legs, then gives Khesu a nod of her head. "Have a good day then," she says. She doesn't sheathe her sword, but hoists her yarrow-filled bag over her shoulder, watching him to ensure no foul tricks. Sidestepping, she starts to warily manoeuvre herself back towards Camp Jaha, collecting her pride with her weapon hanging at her side.

Khesu has no hint of anger. He only stands there and watches her and allows Cassandra to go. Once she has moved off a little distance he secures his axe and draws his bow to quietly resume his hunting. There will be plenty of fowl to share in the Trikru camp's cook pots tonight ere he is finished.

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