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Walkin’ With the Homunculi

Summertime is happening outside, but in my story it’s the last day of September, and the start of my kid’s “strange day” has arrived.  Though it took some time to get writing on this sucker, let me tell you.  There was much chatting happening, and as I always am when I’m getting ready to start a new scene; the fingers want to start typing, but the mind is like, “Now just hold up there, girl.”

But I get over it:  I always do.  Just like yesterday.

We start off in the Self Defense for Beginners class, early Friday morning, which is where you want to find yourself at the end of a long week of school, ready to learn your forms in the hopes you’ll one day deal out some pain.  Except this time, the students have a real test . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

“Today we participate in our first exercise.” Professor Chai stood in the middle of a large, blue mat, with a row of cabinets at one end of the room and a table full of what looked like wooden sticks along the wall at the other end. “None of your are no where near even slightly proficient in your skills, but sometimes proficiency isn’t what is needed—numbers are.

“Our exercise today is not about how well you can use on of the various weapons you’ll be allowed—it’s about how well you work together as a group. It is about how well you combine your meager skills to defeat a common enemy.” She felt the student’s mummers run through the Manor. It’s only natural they’re nervous: they don’t realize what is coming.

 

Of course they don’t, you crafty woman, because no one is talking.  Particularly the writer.

And just to turn the test up to eleven, there are weapons.  Not like really dangerous weapons, but, you know–weapons are weapons.

 

“Along the far wall—” Professor Chai pointed at the tables near one end of the mat and walked towards them as she spoke. “—are the weapons you can use. All are weapons we have covered so far in class and worked with to a limited extent during the last two weeks.” As she picked up each one, she gave a quick remedial. “Bokken, used in kendo and aikido. Most of you have seen people use swords; this does not mean you know how to use one properly. Remember that this weapon can do a great deal of damage to you or someone else if used incorrectly.”

She picked up a long pole. “Bō: one meter eighty, made of hard wood. Though they are available, the length will likely preclude its use, given the majority of you stand about one meter five.” The next pole was shorter. “Jō: one meter twenty-five, made of the same material as the bō. Most who will choose a long pole weapon will pick this, as it is more manageable for your height, though you must handle this with care.”

The professor moved on to a similar but even shorter pole. “Hanbō. Only ninety centimeters long, also made of hard wood. Easier to manipulate that the jō, and can cause considerable damage if used correctly.” She reached the last set of weapons, picking up two poles, one in each hand, that were shorter and thinner than the hanbō. “Yantok. Only seventy-five centimeters, designed to be used paired, like this, in eskrima.” She used them against an imaginary opponent, moving at normal speed instead of the hyper-quick speeds she’d shown the class before. “You may try to use both together, but if you aren’t careful, you may do more damage to yourself than to others.”

 

So, kids with wooden weapons–what are they gonna do?

 

She calmly move closer to the students, some who were visibly nervous now. “Your opponents are homunculi, artificial people who consist of flesh, internal organs, and fluids—which means they act like you, move like you, and bleed the same as you. The homunculi will be your size; this is so they won’t have too great an advantage over you.

“I won’t deceive you: the homunculi are difficult to stop, but if you work together as a cohesive team, it’s entirely possible to pass this exercise. That is the whole idea of this test: to see how well you work with others in a self-defense situation.”

The professor stood silently before the students, allowing them to absorber all that she said. Every first meeting that her A Levels had with homunculi always resulted in anxiety among the students, because this was the first time they were going up again a moving opponent that appeared human. And this year she’d thrown in an additional challenge—

There was no need to give them time to grow more anxious. “To make it easier to determine teams, they will consist of members from a single coven. All members of Blodeuwedd will form one team, Mórrígan another, an so on.” She clapped her hands. “As they are first in the English alphabet, our first team is the members of Åsgårdsreia.” She pointed to the weapons at the far end of the room. “Select your weapons and gather on the mat. You have five minutes.”

 

There you have it:  put a bunch of kids on a mat with weapons and turn human-looking creatures loose, and prepare for carnage–not all of it on the side of the homunculi.  I even know who’s in each coven because when I did all that work last year figuring out who all the New Witches on the Block were, I knew the time would come when I’d need those names, and know the tower where they’d been sent–

Always know your marks before you send them running into the sharp end of a stick.

Always know your marks before you send them running into the sharp end of a stick.

With all the exposition out of the way, all that’s left is writing about the carnage–I mean, the test, the fun, fun test.  And it’s going to be fun writing, because these homunculi . . . lets just say Professor Chai loves to give her new kids a bit of a twisted challenge:

 

With all eight Åsgårdsreia students finally milling about the center of the Professor Chai walked off the mat and stood next to the row of cabinets. There was a shimmering on both sides of the mat as the protective enchantments were activated. The professor didn’t waste time reiterating previous statements. “Prepare yourself, for your test begins now.” She waved her hand and three of the five cabinet doors opened—

A few seconds later two homunculi stumbled through the doors and onto the mat, and that was all the time Kerry needed to recognize their opponents. Oh, holy jeez—they’re Walkers.

"'Sup, kids.  Who's ready for their test?"

“‘Sup, kids. Who’s ready for their test?”

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