Aevan watched in curious silence as Master Halben strode purposefully toward the rack of weapons glinting in the sunlight.

Halben paused for a moment, considering, then drew out a stout length of steel, a halfspear. He planted it quivering into the ground and selected another weapon, a longsword. Only then did he speak.

"Is this blade acceptable?"

Aevan regarded the weapon, his sharp eyes judging the caliber of the worksmanship. He gave a single nod.

Halben tossed the blade almost carelessly, knowing that the younger elf would catch it. And catch it he did, spinning it in front of, behind, and parallel to his body before allowing it to come to rest in his hands.

"A duel, then," Halben said, retrieving the halfspear from the ground, "to deem if you are indeed worthy to be called a warrior."

And then the fight was joined, the halfspear a blur in Halben's experienced hands. Aevan allowed himself to be placed on the defensive as he studied the master's moves, calculating, always calculating the paths that the battle might take.

For long moments they moved in harmony, stepping in the deadly dance of combat, neither striking, only the soft sound of footfalls breaking the silence.

Halben's first blow carried enough force to break Aevan's neck, had it landed.

It did not.

Aevan's blade spun out, deflecting the point of the halfspear. Halben, expecting this, reversed the attack, the haft of the weapon now swinging in to connect with the side of Aevan's head. The younger elf flicked his wrist, blocking and sliding his blade's keen edge down the length of the halfspear, toward Halben's fingers. The master dropped the haft of his weapon toward the ground, breaking Aevan's contact with the spear and leaving him dangerously extended. Halben swung up under Aevan's sword arm, aiming for his ribs in a maneuver that would have defeated many outstanding swordsmen and sent many more scrambling back at an enormous disadvantage.

Aevan, though, was not about to be so easily defeated. He droppd the hilt of his blade, double-handed into the blow, driving the haft to the dirt as he danced back a half step and spun the blade in a complete circle and down on Halben's neck. The agile master reacted just in time. He brought his leading hand across his body, spearpoint deflecting the killing blow harmlessly away. Aevan laid down the next step of the dance, spinning in a lightning-fast circle on the ball of one foot as he brought his blade parallel to the ground, reversing the angle of his attack in an instant.

Halben tried to unwind his arms, tried to bring the point of the spear back across to counter, but it was too late, too slow, and only served to guide Aevan's strike home.

Steel stopped a mere hair's width from flesh.

"Yield." Aevan demanded, the first he had spoken since following Master Halben into the courtyard.

Halben held his gaze for a moment, then nodded, throwing down the halfspear.

"You have done well," he said as he returned to the rack with his weapon. Aevan straightened, swelling with pride. "But that was on unequal ground. You held the advantage."


"Try this," Halben instructed, hefting a greatsword from the rack.

"I am unfamiliar with the blade," Aevan protested, "I would not-"

"Precisely. You cannot call yourself a warrior until you accept every challenge placed before you," Halben interrupted, placing the weapon in Aevan's hands. "Accept," he continued, "and overcome."