The Kali Test: The End

Yesterday was a good writing day.  I wrote almost twelve hundred words in the morning, came home and wrote eleven hundred word TV recap, then ended up writing another two hundred and sixty words later in the evening to include something I meant to include in the morning, but didn’t.  Add all that up, and I wrote close to twenty-four hundred words, something I haven’t done in quite some time.

That doesn’t mean I’m back in the groove: it simply means yesterday was a good rating day.  The trick to all this is doing something like that nearly every day, and not just on a Sunday in April.  Most times I’ll be lucky to get five hundred words a day.  But I have to say, yesterday felt good.

Since I’m on the way to ending Chapter Eleven, here’s the end of the test scene.  And you knew this was coming; why wouldn’t you?  But based upon what you’ve seen so far, this ending is a little unusual–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

Ramona waited until she was absolutely certain that Annie and Kerry were the only creatures moving on the other side of the safety enchantment before casting it away.

She waited a few seconds for her students to gather their bearings before speaking. “The test is concluded. Based upon the final results—”

Kerry turned toward Ramona and Helena and screamed at them, raising his arms and hands in the air. “What was that bullshit?”

Annie stepped around the bodies on the floor as she wiped blood from her face and eyes. She, too, was not happy, and the moment she was alongside Kerry she also yelled out her frustration. “Koĭ postavi tozi shiban test zaedno?”

Ramona quickly raised the safety enchantment, putting a barrier of silence between her angry students and the rest of the people in the hall. She turned to Helena and shrugged. “Apparently they have some questions.”

“They’re not the only ones.” Helena turned to her left as she sensed Isis walking away. “Where are you going?”

 

The kids usually stick by their mantra of “A good sorceress keeps their head about them while everything is going to hell around them.”  But nothing is going to hell around them anymore: that’s already happened, things to them.  And these kids get just as frustrated and confused as adults, who often vent her frustration once a momentous task has completed.  Plus, when you add in the fact that both these kids are raging hormone factories, it’s easy to understand why they lost their cool and started screaming.  At their instructor.  In front of a room full of people, including the Head Sorceress.

Fortunately, Ramona is fairly even-tempered and she understands that emotions run high at times, particularly when you’ve been in a difficult match.  Also, it’s likely fair to say that the kids aren’t known to start screaming and swearing at the same time while in the Advanced Self Defense class–and you know Annie swore, because Kerry is already mentioned that usually when she’s upset and says something in Bulgarian, it’s likely she’s cursing.  You’ll find out in the following scene what she said.

So it’s probably a good idea to let the kids simmer down, or at least get rid of witnesses–

 

She held her tablet at her side as she addressed the Head Sorceress. “I’m finished with my side of this test, so there’s no need for me to stick around.” She tapped something on her tablet screen then looked up at Ramona. “My people will be by in the afternoon to collect the Spy Eyes. Shouldn’t take too long to get them out of here.”

Ramona nodded in acknowledgment. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Cool. See you ladies later.” Isis juanted off.

With the Chief of Security gone Ramona now turned to the students who’d observed the test, with a few appearing to have not handled the bloody spectacle well. “This test is concluded. For those while visitors, you are free to leave. For those of you remaining for class, I will need about twenty minutes to clear the testing surface so that we may start. Feel free to mill about outside: I will call you when ready.”

Students filed out of the Manor and it was empty save for the two instructors and the two testes standing on the other side of the safety enchantment. Ramona took a deep breath. “I think we can continue our dialogue.”

Helena nodded toward the two students. “By all means, let’s.”

 

Testing is done, so Isis isn’t needed anymore.  Or at least she seems to think so.  This will get brought up in the next scene as well.  Hell, a lot of things get brought up in the next scene…

Since Ramona and Helena are pretty easy-going in most situations, they’ve given Annie and Kerry time to cool off.  That time is over: now it’s time to talk.

 

The Self Defense instructor removed the safety enchantment and addressed her students. “Have you had time to calm yourselves?”

They answered simultaneously. “Yes, Professor.”

Ramona approached and stopped two meters from them. “According to the rules of this engagement, you have successfully completed this test. Will see to it that the results are passed along to the appropriate authorities.” She gave them both a quick smile. “Go clean up and change, and once you have you’re both free to leave.”

Annie looked the most surprised of the two. “We don’t need to return for class?”

A soft chuckle escaped Ramona’s lips. “I think you’ve both proven that there isn’t any need for you to work on forms or spar today.”

“That’s for sure.” Helena moved up closer to Ramona, though she knew better than to stand next to her at this point. “Erywin, I, and a few others are heading into Boston about eleven to have lunch and do a little shopping. Why don’t you come out to the Instructors Residence when you done cleaning up? You can relax a bit before we leave.”

Both seemed happy to hear this news. Kerry reached out and gave Annie’s hand a squeeze before responding. “Thank you, Professor.”

Annie smiled as she returned to squeeze. “Yes, thank you, Helena.”

“All right, then.” Ramona straightened slightly. “Face me.” Annie and Kerry turned to face their instructor and bowed as she did. When they straighten Ramona wave them away. “Go on: go clean up.”

The instructors watched Annie and Kerry make their way through the carnage they left behind only to stop just past the last of the bodies so that they could share a short kiss. When they finished they both cast a glance back before heading off to the locker rooms and vanishing.

Helena rubbed her eyes as she chuckled. “Love among the zombies.”

Ramona only partially turned to head to look at the sorceress. “Didn’t you ever do that after test?”

“We didn’t have homunculus as nice as the ones you make.” She turned towards Ramona. “When I get back from Boston this afternoon, you and I are going to have a little discussion about what just happened here.”

Ramona crossed arms and gave her friend an unconcerned look. “Believe me, Helena; I want to talk about this.”

 

There you have it: the kids get to kill a bunch of zombies in front of the third of the student body, they then got this work their instructor, and then they were released from class for the rest of the day so they can go hang out in Boston with other instructors.  All in all, not a bad day–or, I should say, a bad four minutes, as that’s all it really took for them to establish themselves as the Bad Ass Zombie Killers of Salem.  And given what was seen, and the rumors that will come out of what was seen, one has to assume that anyone who calls these two out now is simply looking for a beating.

That doesn’t mean that neither of them won’t get called out–

And now that the fighting is done, it’s time for the instructors to ask a few questions…

The Kali Test: The Third Phase

Just like yesterday there won’t be much for preamble; were going to get right into the action.  And this one is going to be a little different than the first two phases, because anything goes as far as my kids are concerned.

And as for going to see, that may be true for the zombies as well:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

He stepped away from the mess he had created and cast a glance at Annie as Ramona’s voice boomed out again. “Third Phase: all attacks allowed.”

As is happened the last two times the homunculi crossed the white line at the same time, but rather than run at them this time all six seem to mill about as if considering their options. Kerry wondered if they were trying to run out the clock and press them for time: he knew Relax pretty well and figured there was perhaps a little more than a minute until the end of the song, so the possibility existed that these were programmed to put a lot of pressure upon Annie and he in the last thirty to forty seconds.

Annie was considering another possibility, however. In the previous two phases the homunculi attacked three on one and were always defeated. With the likelihood that the test was winding down if there was any possibility of them failing the test, it would occur now. And the best way for that to happen was—

Five of the pseudo-zombies broke for Annie while the remaining one ran at Kerry.

 

Besides the fact these homunculus are fast, this is the first indication we get that they could be working together, which means it’s likely they’re something more than just simple homunculus.  And they’ve decided to going to gang up on Annie, because if they can take her out the kids fail the test.

The only problem with this plan is they have to take out Annie…

 

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what could happen—and Kerry certainly didn’t consider himself a genius. While Annie could handle herself, there was always the possibility that in a five-on-one battle one of the homunculi could get lucky and bite Annie, which would knock her out of the test and cause them to fail. At this point their odds of winning were far better if they worked together…

Kerry decided not to mess around. As soon as his attacker was close enough he sidestepped the attack and pushed hard on the homunculus’ back, driving it toward the safety barrier a few meters behind him. The creature hit it hard and was momentarily disoriented, but before it could determine the boy’s location Kerry threw a fireball and engulfed it, then follow that up with a Air Hammer that slammed it back into the safety enchantment once again. He figured between the damage it had taken from the combined attacks it was either out of commission or disoriented enough that it would be unable to continue.

He sprinted toward Annie.

Annie was prepared for the multiple attacks heading her way. She positioned herself near line of shadow and immediately cut a shadow ribbon long enough to be used as a whip. She twirled it around her head and encircled the neck of the first homunculus to approach her. With it firmly in position she gave the shadow whip a hard jerk. Blood sprayed everywhere as the shadow ribbon sliced into the zombie’s neck as it stumbled forward beyond Annie. She whipped her left arm around and blocked a grab from a second homunculus before slamming it in the chest as hard as she could with a flat palm strike that she felt crack its sternum. She swept it aside with her right arm as she blocked an attack from another homunculus with her left.

 

Keep in mind Kerry’s only a few meters from Annie so for him to sprinted over to her takes a matter of three or four seconds seconds.  And Annie, as well as Kerry, are actually moving about a bit trying to avoid attacks.  It seems like their standing in one place, but as was indicated in the second phase, Annie was having to adjust the grip on her sword because of all the blood that was coming off of the different attacks, and this would lead one to believe that she’s moving about as she setting up for strikes.

But the truth is is hand-to-hand stuff goes quickly and can be over in a matter of seconds.  And in that last paragraph above we got to see Annie perform the moves she did in the trailer I wrote for this novel–said moves including blood squirting from the neck and broken bones.  Yes, Annie is a vicious little girl and no one should trifle with her.  Then again, Kerry through a homunculus at the safety enchantment and inflamed it with a fireball–and if you’re paying attention, that means he did both in the direction of the students, as they are standing directly behind the safety enchantment. I hope they had a good show.

So let’s wrap this sucker up–

 

Kerry caught one of Annie’s homunculus from behind and got his left arm around its neck, then planted himself and forced it to the floor with a cross body throw. He stomped its left knee, breaking it, then turned to the fake zombie on his left and threw a right fist/left palm smash/right elbow smash into its right eye socket and skull, staggering it badly. He stomped down on the right ankle, smashing it, and threw it on top of the last homunculus he’d disabled.

Out of the corner of her eye Annie saw the second homunculus she repelled beginning to recover, which meant she didn’t have much time to deal with the third one. She drew back her right arm and thrust it forward, extending her index and middle fingers. She and drove them as hard as she could into the homunculus’ eyes, hoping she’d pierced the fore brain. The creature staggered away, damaged and unable to see, giving Annie time to craft Exsanguination and toss it at the second zombie. It bled out explosively and Annie managed to catch two sprays in the face and chest before it went down.

Seeing that Annie had her situation under control Kerry did a quick sweep of the room. The burning homunculus was still on its feet and staggering in his direction. He fired a couple of Air Hammers at the two on the ground at his feet, killing them, then crafted an Air Hammer using dark energy and fired it off at the burning zombie. The creature came apart when the sorcery attack hit, throwing a half dozen pieces in various directions. He turned around in time to see Annie kick her last homunculus to its knees, come up from behind, and snapped its neck with a head twist.

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

 

So there you have it: exploding burning zombies and Annie snapping some poor homunculus’ neck by hand.  Neither of these kids are playin’ and they finished their tests successfully just in the nick of time.

Which means everything following is going to be nice and sweet, yeah?

Ummm…

The Kali Test: The Second Phase

So here we are, back for the second phase of Annie’s and Kerry’s Kali Test.  As the second phase is meant to be fought with weapons, that’s exactly what were going to get: an all-out weapons bash.

There’s no set up here–we just get straight to the action:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

He had just hopped back up onto his feet when Ramona’s voice rang out just loud enough to be heard over the music. “Second Phase: weapons allowed.”

As the homunculi cross the white line and broke into a run Annie extended her right arm and levitated a weapon from the weapons rack four meters away. Normal levitation of this nature usually took anywhere from five to ten seconds, but Kerry and she had spent several months practicing fast levitation crafting. Needing to give most everything a geekish label, Kerry called this “Force Grabbing”, a phrase Annie actually found somewhat amusing.

A kampilan, a ninety centimeter Filipino sword with a spike tip at the end of the blade and a bifurcated wooden hilt, flew out of the weapons rack. A second later Annie wrapped her right hand around the hilt and deftly spun to her right. She whipped her head around and selected her target as her body continued turning, bringing the kampilan around. The long sword caught the first homunculus in the neck and decapitated it cleanly, blood fountaining into the air as the body skidded off to Annie’s right while the head continued flying forward. She twisted the kampilan around in her hand before bringing it back and down in a vicious downward slash across the face and torso of the second homunculus.

Kerry also did a Force Grab, but his weapon of choice was the traditional baston, a pair of seventy centimeter long rattan fighting sticks. Kerry struck his first homunculus several times in the head and shoulders before kicking it aside and turning on the second one. After quickly beating it upon the neck and torso he turned and smashed the third homunculus three times across the skull and face before smashing it and the second attacker several times against the sides of their heads, driving them back while cracking their skulls. He spun and moved to his right to attack the first homunculus with a series of vicious blows to the face, shoulders, and skull which drove it to its knees. He spun the bastons about in his hands and drove them hard into the homunculus’ damaged skull, crushing it and rendering the zombie dead.

Annie was busy dispatching her last two opponents. She’d already slashed one homunculus severely and had severed the right arm from the second. She was more cognizant of her footing now as the floor was becoming slippery with blood, and she’d found it necessary to adjust her grip twice due to blood sprays on the hilt of her kampilan. She decided it was time to end her opponents quickly. She brought the kampilan around in a cross body slash, decapitating her second homunculus, then swung the sword above her head and cleaved the skull of her last attacker. Leaving the kampilan in place she used a vicious Air Hammer to push both bodies out of the way in preparation for the last phase.

Kerry summoned two weapons as he faced his remaining attackers. This time his weapons were karambits, the dangerous curved knife found throughout Southeast Asia. Holding each one in traditional fashion with the top of the held by his thumbs in the curve of the blade facing him, he went after the first homunculus with a Redonda attack, slashing the creature across the face and neck in a continuous upward circular motion. He went at the second zombie using the same attack and after nearly disemboweling it and the other, he spun both karambits around so the blade tips faced his body, then drove his left one through one homunculus’ left eye while sticking the right one through the skull of the other zombie, killing them both.

He stepped away from the mess he had created and cast a glance at Annie as Ramona’s voice boomed out again. “Third Phase: all attacks allowed.”

 

As you may have gathered from reading the short excerpt, my kids love to get bloody.  And when it comes to their weapons, they don’t hold back.  One of the interesting things about Kali martial arts is that you learn weapons first and hand-to-hand second.  Kali is primarily a weapons based fighting form and the use all sorts of weapons, including improvised weapons like scarves, chains, ballpoint pens, anything that can be used to inflict damage and possibly even kill another person.  Most of the hand-to-hand moves learn later are nothing more than weapons forms done without weapons.  Kali relies primarily on muscle memory, so once you learn a particular form with a weapon, you can do the same thing with the life hand.

Now, let’s take a look at the weapons…

Annie’s weapon of choice is the kampilan, a traditional sword found in the Philippines.  This sword has been around for a long time and was the weapon used to kill Ferdinand Magellan when the locals decided to kick his ass out of the Philippines back in the early 1500s.  And from what little research I was able to do, it appears this was also the weapon of choice of Princess Urduja, a legendary warrior princess of the Philippines from the fourteenth century.  So it appears that Annie is in good company, weapons wise.

The kampilan.

 

Kerry went the simple, direct route.  He went with two extremely traditional weapons found in the Philippines, but are nonetheless just as deadly as Annie’s sword.  The first is the baston, a ratton fighting stick that when used properly can disable and even kill another person. How is that possible?  Because when used properly, someone wielding a baston is actually wielding two and their hitting their opponent may be a couple hundred times in a minute.  That’s gonna leave a mark.

Bastons:

 

And then there’s the karambit, the curved knife that you’ve likely seen used several times in movies.  This thing is razor-sharp and can take out a person without a problem–particularly if the person wielding the knife knows what they’re doing. And as we’ve seen, Kerry appears to know what he’s doing.

Karambit:

 

Now, I put together a short–about five minutes–video showing most of the motions used by my kids.  When I show the karambits, I’m doing my version of a Redonda attack:  Kerry would do it much better.

 

So there you have it: the second phase of the Kali Test over.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

The Kali Test: The First Phase

Here it is, the actual test.  And that means there’s about a thousand words in this excerpt, because I need to get the kids all set up and relax before I unleash hell.  Yeah, things are not going to be nice and are going to start to get a little bloody real fast.

So I’m going to excerpt each of the phases of the fight on separate days.  Today you get the first phase, tomorrow you get the second, and instead of getting a video on Saturday morning you get the third along with the aftermath.  Given how much time I’ve spent discussing this in the past, I hope this comes off as being interesting.

Now that all my preliminary talking is done, all that remains is the butt kicking.  Well, with a little more set up first:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Annie and Kerry moved to the designated start spots and waited. As was the norm when they were engaged in a combat situation, Kerry stood with Annie on his right and she stood with him on her left. This was to accommodate their primary hands and prevent them from accidentally hitting each other with weapons.

While they watched Isis do something on her tablet at the far end of the room Kerry spoke to Annie in a low voice. “I don’t like this. There has to be some sort of catch here.”

Annie kept her eyes locked on the cabinets as they opened and homunculi shuffled out. “Dispatch eighteen in three and a half minutes? That’s far too easy.”

“I agree. By now they know we can do in Self Defense class.” He snorted quietly. “There’s some kind a gimmick goin’ on.”

There was no need for her to ask what Kerry meant by “they”. Given the complexity of the test and the fact that both Helen and Isis were present, either as observers or assistances finalizing preparation, meant the “outside organization” responsible for this test were the Guardians.

But like Kerry she was a bit concerned regarding the requirements. Though they didn’t appear any different than homunculus they’d fought in the past, Annie knew there was something special about these. Three for each of us during a minute long phase? Given the skills we now have, Kerry and I could dispatch nine each in half the time they’re giving us for this test.

Ramona waited until Isis had walked across the test area and was standing alongside Helen and her before she clapped her hands. “The test is about to begin. The safety enchantment will be raised and the music will start momentarily after that. As soon as the homunculi at the far end across the white line, the test begins. Good luck.”

 

When your test subjects are questioning parts of the test are about to take, you know they smell something fishy coming on.  The previous excerpts have revealed, more or less, that it’s possible the Guardians aren’t quite on the level as far as this test is concerned, and now that the kid’s butts are literally on the line they’re starting to feel the same trepidation.

Now they’re about to be sealed up in an area with a bunch of shambling zombies–

 

Annie and Kerry felt silence descend upon the test area as the safety barrier went up. While it was designed to keep out distractions, they knew everyone on the other side could hear everything happening on the test area. Three seconds later the lighting diminished slightly, causing Annie to look up. “They’re going to make a bit more gloomy in here.”

“Can’t make it too easy for us.” Kerry shook his arms more out of nervousness than a need to prepare. “Those all look to be our size, so they gotta give us a bit of a handicap against the zombies.”

“I’m sure that’s the reason for the music. I imagine the going to play it loud enough that’ll make it difficult for us to communicate.” As if on cue the first strands of the song faded in. “And just like that…”

Kerry recognized the song Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood instantly. He turned to Annie. “What the hell?”

“Not one of my songs.” She noticed the homunculi twitch and began moving toward the white line. “Here we go.”

In unison the homunculi took two shambling steps towards the white line before taking a third step over. They pause for a moment as if to orientate themselves—

All six broke into a run.

“Shit.” Kerry skipped nearly a full step to his left. “Rage zombies.”

Spread out.” Annie skipped a step and a half to her right before planting her feet and quickly crafting a spell as she prepared for the attack.

 

Running zombies: you gotta hate that.  And if you are looking for the twist, there it is.  The zombies are fast and maneuverable, and are coming it Annie and Kerry three-on-one.

They’ve got their work cut out for them.

After months of mentioning that I had an idea for scene where Frankie Goes to Hollywood plays while the kids are involved in some activity, here it is.  The song is 3:58 in length, so there’s your four minutes–oh, did I say for?  More like three and a half.  Hey, I’ll even give you the song to listen to while you read through the ass kicking…

And speaking of ass kicking, here it comes:

 

Kerry had less than a second to act, so we decided to take the most direct approach. He waited until the trio of homunculi were nearly upon him before sidestepping to his left and thrusting his right arm straight out in order to close line the nearest attacker. The pseudo-zombie slammed into his forearm and went down as its feet shot out from underneath. Kerry spun with the impact, lessening the damage to his shoulder, then informed a quick Air Hammer in his left hand as he swiped his left arm downward. The Air Hammer caught the homunculus in the mouth and tore the head apart, spraying fake blood and brains everywhere. With one assailant down, he knew he’d have an easier time dispatching the remaining two.

Annie planted her feet and pointed forward. She thrust her elbows outward as she directed a spreading Air Hammer at the middle homunculus and blasted it apart. She stood her ground while the other two zombies were pushed to her left and right, even though she was sprayed with some of the remains of the recently destroyed creature. Keeping in mind her triangle step placement—your feet stand at two points of a triangle and every turn is to the open point—she attacked the homunculus on her right. She arm locked it as the creature began to turn toward her, then punched it hard in the throat, crushing its windpipe, before executing a flat palm smash to the nose, driving bones and cartilage up into the fore brain.

As it went down she moved two steps to her right and spun around to face her third attacker. She swept aside its right arm and shot her forearm up into its jaw, snapping its head back. She swept its left arm aside as she grasped its right and slammed her fist into his shoulder joint, popping the arm out of the socket and throwing the homunculus off-balance and to the ground. She fired Air Hammers at their heads, crushing their skulls and killing them. She looked up and saw six more homunculus waiting to cross the white line—

Kerry found himself being attacked simultaneously by his remaining two homunculus. Delving into paninipa Kerry kicked his first attacker in the calf and swept the back of its knee before arm locking his second attacker and viciously punching it in the throat. He wheeled around and stomped on the throat of the downed homunculus, then turned back to his second attacker and fired a Electrify attack directly into its face, scorching its flesh and exploding its eyes while frying its brain. He pushed it away with a kick then fell to his knees in order to deliver an elbow slam to the forehead of his last remaining opponent, caving in the skull.

He had just hopped back up onto his feet when Ramona’s voice rang out just loud enough to be heard over the music. “Second Phase: weapons allowed.”

 

Let’s talk about a couple of things expressed here in the preceding paragraphs.  Annie is using the triangle method for her feet placement and is just as she says: imagine your feet are in two points of the triangle and no matter how you turn, it’s always towards the empty point.  This way you don’t have sloppy footwork and you keep yourself centered to be able to repel attacks.  It’s one of the things that Kali stresses and Annie knows what she’s doing.

Paninipa is a regional Filipino word meaning kicking, and this comes from a concept found in Panantukan, or Filipino street boxing.  So Kerry got down and dirty on his opponents, which is fine: Kali is all about surviving and right now the kids have to survive–

At least until the next phase…

 

The Hard and the Soft of It

Hola, survivors of U.S. Thanksgiving.  I made it through the day yesterday, heading down to Maryland to relax with friends, then back up to The Burg for a late-night brow waxing before heading home to call family.  Yes, busy day all around.

And you know what that means:  no writing.  Not yet, at least.  I did it yesterday morning, and you saw that, but I didn’t write before going to bed because I was just too tired.  Now, since I had a two hours drive down yesterday, and two hours back, I had plenty of time to figure out things with my kids, and even lay down a couple of scenes, one of which will get played out in the next book.  Wait, am I really talking next book?  Yeah, I am.  I’m strange that way.

I also started thinking about Motre spells and how they could be looked at in the same way martial arts is examined.  Why is this and what am I talking about?  First, they why, and it came from a comment from my friend and fellow blogger renxkyoko, who made this statement the other day:

 

Just a lame observation……

Annie’s is more feminine…. I mean, ribbons ? He he
And Kerry’s is manly…. I mean, a sword ?
I guess it’s natural instinct. They gravitate towards what they prefer, deadly shadow ribbons for a girl, and a sword for the guy.

 

Now, I don’t see those as either feminine or masculine traits, because a lot of women in fiction where fighting is involved use swords–several animes would tell you so, I’m sure–whereas there are certain martial arts films where you see guys doing a lot of deflecting and misdirection.  And this is where I start looking at Morte spells where they are seen as hard and soft disciplines.

To lay it out quick and dirty, a hard martial arts style is often defined as power coming from the outside the individual, using fast, strong, direct attacks against your opponent, while a soft martial arts style is usually defined as power coming from within, using relaxed, slow, indirect defense against your opponent.  In terms of martial arts, Shaolin Kung Fu, Eskrima, and Karate would be considered hard styles, while Tai Chi, Aikido, and Hsing-I are considered soft styles.

The different spells are used different ways, just as in martial arts you have different ways of pretty much doing the same thing.  When Annie did her Morte demonstration she used ribbons to bind–soft restraint there–and then used magic to turn one’s body against itself:  in short, she bleed out her opponent.  She could be seen as a practitioner of a soft style that didn’t require any outside attacks, and given that her signature Morte spell is Exsanguination, the way she goes about killing someone isn’t going to be all that flashy or noticeable:  just look at how she took out the female Deconstructor during the Link Bridge battle.

Kerry went full-on external using Electrify as his signature spell, and even went a step further by showing he could craft an electrical sword.  We can guess why he started learning Electrify:  because he’d seen it used within various entertainments in geek culture, and if you haven’t figured it out, that’s also one of the reasons he was initially drawn to transformation as a magical form as well.  At this point in his schooling Kerry is going with what he’s seen, knows, and loves, but he’s still young–I mean, he’s not even a teenager yet, right.

At the same time the kids known how to change up their styles.  First, look at how Annie fought her Judgement Trial.  Everything was external, full of deadly Air Hammers and an Electrify kill shot.  She had to because there wasn’t room for subtlety:  it was go or blow, and Annie doesn’t not blow when it comes time to show her stuff.  She also had a point to prove:  mess with me and I’ll put you down hard.  It was a bit different from the point she made in her Morte demonstration, which was, “If I want to take you out, you won’t see me coming.”

Kerry is still learning his styles, but now that he’s learning Exsanguination he’ll change up when the need arises.  Remember, Annie’s had a few years to develop her signature Morte spell:  Kerry’s only been working on this stuff for about a year.  When he took out the homunculi during his Exsanguination training it became an “Ah, ha!” moment for him, when he learned that for some spells overthinking–or over attacking–isn’t what’s needed; sometimes you just kick back, flick your finger at someone, and let the magic do the rest.  Now, Helena mentioned that Kerry knows the same stuff as Annie, but you can bet all his fellow B Levels remembered from that class is how he lobbed a zombie head in their direction.

And one last thing that I find interesting.  Helena has been played up as a major bad ass, and rightfully so.  And yet, we know Kerry has killed someone, Annie has as well, so has Erywin, and it’s been implied that Maddie and Jessica killed people during the Day of the Dead attack.  Now, we’ve heard that Helena has killed people, but have you seen her throw a Morte spell?  No.  One day I’ll have to write up the time she killed a student . . .

So, there are my musings for the day.  Tomorrow I’ll have more for you to read–

And I expect this to be the look on some faces while they do.

And I expect this to be the look on some faces while they do.

A Trial of Judgment: The Final Reckoning  

We have come to the final moments, the last part of what ended up being a long scene, longer than I’d anticipated, or maybe not.  Sometimes I think these are gonna run longer or shorter and I’m always surprised.  But, no, I’m always a little surprised.

I did pass another milestone last night:  one hundred ten thousand words written.  And since I ended up with a little over twelve hundred words last night, I went one more and made it one hundred and eleven thousand.  It’s another nice point, and the next up are one hundred twenty thousand (of course), and one hundred twenty-five thousand, or an eighth of a million, if you’re fractionally inclined.  At the rate I’m zipping along I should reach one hundred and fifty thousand in about forty days, or some time around the end of September.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

The match is over, so what happens next?  Well, things happen . . . and stuff.  Like–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“And stop.” Professor Chai raised her arms over her head as she issued the command. “Annie, please return to your starting position—” As Annie touched down, dissipated her magic, and walked back to where she’d begun the trial, the professor turned to Nurse Bianca, who had come over from the hospital and was now giving Rikkard a quick checkup. “Is he good?” Bianca nodded before patting the boy on the shoulder. “Good—” Ramona headed for the center of the mat and motioned for her two combatants to join her. “Please come.”

Annie walked slowly to the center of the mat and stopped about a meter from Rikkard, who seemed just a bit unsteady on his feet: she expected that was the reason Nurse Bianca a step behind him. The left few spells left her a bit winded, but that was passing quickly, and in another minute no one would know she’d just participated in her first judgment trial.

Ramona held out her hands to both combatants. “Please face each other—” They both adjusted their stances so they were face-to-face. “—and bow.” Both students executed a short bow, and for the first time since they’d met a slight smile appeared on Rikkard’s face. “I want to congratulate you both for the honor you showed each other, and the fact that there no penalties were registered against either of you.” She folded her hands across her torso. “Well done.”

Rikkard extended his right hand towards Annie. “Good match. And congratulations.”

Even though she wasn’t yet declared the winner, Annie was as aware of the outcome as the boy across from her. “Thank you.” She shook his hand. “And a good match from you as well.”

He exhaled slowly. “You should consider going out for your coven’s combat team.”

She shook her head. “I only fight when it’s necessary.”

His smile grew wider. “Probably best for the rest of us.”

“Rikkard, you may leave. You fought a good battle: thank you for your participation.” Ramona gave him a slight nod right before Bianca placed her hands on his shoulders and jaunted away. She then turned to the girl on her right. “Annie, you are the victor of this trial, and the moment has come to pass judgment. Do you which to continue?”

There wasn’t any need to ask Annie twice. “Yes, Professor.”

 

Rikkard is a good sport about getting his ass handed to him, and his remark about it probably being best Annie isn’t in a combat club is telling, because it would seem that most of the people he faces don’t have the same skills Annie has.  Probably because they aren’t little sorceresses who can handle their Morte spells . . .

It’s also sort of telling that he gets jaunted off to the hospital right away for a check-up, because Annie juiced his ass probably harder than Lovecraft zapped Kerry back when their first started.  Helena, however, was using “invisible” charges, which is to say she was using Kerry’s electrical field, the one generated by his body.  Annie’s not quite there, but she’s close to doing that.  She just needs a, um, “partner” for testing.

Now it’s judgment time, and Lisa has to pay the piper–and Annie isn’t playing a cute, dancy pop song right now–

 

Ramona turned her gaze upon the gathered students. “Lisa, please come forward.” The girl stepped away from a small group of students and slowly approached. “Come to the center of the mat and face Annie.” The professor waited until both girls were standing before her, facing each other. While Annie appeared calm and relaxed, Lisa seemed understandably pensive. “Lisa, your champion has lost this trial, and in accordance with trial protocol, you are required to face Annie’s judgment.” She turned to victor. “Annie, you have twenty-four hours to issue your judgment against Lisa—”

“I won’t need that much time, Professor.” Annie stared down the smoldering Lisa. “I’m prepared to pass judgment now.”

“You may proceed.”

“Thank you.” Annie’s eyes narrowed as she spoke the words she’d considered all through the afternoon’s Advanced Formulistic Magic. “Lisa, from now and until you leave this school for good, you will not speak ill of me, you will not make disparaging remarks, you will no longer make up lies about me in any public area where I could overhear you speaking.” She closed the distance between them by half, feeling Lisa’s anger burn into her. “What you said this morning was horrid and disgusting, and I will not stand for your crap any longer. I can’t control what you say about me in private, but should I ever hear you speak of me as you did today—or learn that you are the source of any nasty, perverted rumors—I will call you out again, and you will fight me without benefit of a champion.”

 

Now, it may seem like Annie should be making Lisa swab floors with her tongue, but keep in mind, if she went out of her way to lay something crazy on Lisa, Ramona would likely tell her, “No, do it again,” and Annie would need to regroup.  As it is, she just laid a gag order on Lisa to stop talking shit about her, and if she blows it, Annie’s gonna haul her back up to the manor and zap the shit out of her–which is not what Lisa wants to hear–

 

The mask of anger finally fell from Lisa’s face, and she grew panicky for the first time. She turned to Ramona. “She can’t do that.”

“Yes, she can.” Ramona spoke clear and slow. “It’s a common request from a victor that if the vanquished violates a judgment, they must enter another trial themselves.” Her head tilted slightly to the right. “As knowledgeable as you appear about judgment trials, I would have believed you’d know about that stipulation.” She turned back to Annie. “Do you have anything further to add, Annie?”

“No, Professor.” She tilted her head back just enough that it appeared she was looking down her nose at Lisa. “That is all.”

“Understood.” Ramona walked backwards a few steps and addressed every student in the room. “As Mistress of Judgments for the School of Salem I declare Annie’s judgment to be fair and evenhanded. Lisa—” She ignored the furious glare focused upon her. “—if you feel this judgment is unduly severe, you have forty-eight hours to appeal my decision, at which time I’ll bring the matter up before the Ruling Council. I should remind you that I have never had a decision overturned—” A slight upturn appeared at the left corner of Ramona’s mouth. “—though there’s always a first time.

“And with that . . .” Ramona spread her arms wide. “This Judgment Trial is over, and our business is concluded. It is now seventeen forty-six; leave now and you’ll make dinner by eighteen. Thank you for coming.” She bowed, turn, and walked off the mat and out of the room.

 

What Ramona did was, in her own way, let Lisa know she’s aware she gamed the system and lost, and if she wants to bitch about the outcome, fine, go do so, but you’re gonna lose.  Professor Chai doesn’t talk smack, but she is a firm believer in karma, and she’s knows the Karma Express pulled into the station and pretty much ran Lisa’s ass down.  Lisa’s not a Moriarty-like mastermind of intrigue:  she’s just a mean girl who thinks being a bitchy witch is cool.

She just picked the wrong person to screw with.

And someone close to Annie knows the same:

 

Annie didn’t wait to see if Lisa any something to say: she turned her back on the girl and walked towards Kerry, who had moved away from the crowd and was waiting for her just beyond the mat. “Did I disappoint?”

He shook his head. “Not in the least.” He waited until Annie had slipped on her flats before giving her a hug. “You were incredible. How do you feel?”

“Good. A little tired after that lightning shot, but—” She kissed him on the lips. “—I’m fine now.”

“So I see.” He kissed her back, holding it for several seconds. “I thought you might be tired because you’re so . . . calm. You should be really excited after that win.”

“Hum.” She shot him a impish grin. “That is not my style.”

“Oh, come on: just this once. Here—” Kerry slipped his arms around Annie’s thighs and lifted her into the air. “I’ll help you celebrate.”

Annie laughed, because she’d never had Kerry touch her this way, not with dozens of people standing around. But she liked the feeling of excitement that immediately filled her as she was hoisted into the air, and she realized he was right: she had every reason in the world to get excited, to celebrate a victory that she figured few in the room thought she’d achieve.

With Kerry holding her tight Annie leaned back and threw her arms into the air. She started laughing as she turned her gaze towards the ceiling, because not only did it feel wonderful to have emerged victorious, in that instant she realized on other thing: just like Helena, she’d given herself a reputation.

No one was going to make light of, or underestimate her, ever again.

 

Though you can probably imagine that some fool will, because now they know how Annie fights–at least in this environment–and they’ll try to match her moves and attack, because everyone wants to take out the fastest gun, right?  We’ve already shown that making Annie mad isn’t a good thing, and if you keep doing it–

You do it at your own risk.

A Trial of Judgment: Time to Rumble

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but I spent most of that day either sleeping–which I totally did around noon because I was up at four-thirty–or writing.  Eight hundred four words in the morning for one scene, almost twelve hundred words for notes for my Humans recap, and then I started another scene writing seven hundred ninety-eight words–

Yes, I start working on Annie’s combat.

Come one, come all, let's see this happen!

Come one, come all, let’s see this happen!

Now we get into the low-down and see what’s about to happen.  And it begins with just a bit of a rewind, because we haven’t seen or felt anything from Annie’s point of view–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie walked to her start position, her breathing controlled, her mind clear, her nerves steady. While a fight against Lisa would have ended quickly, someone more skilled in magical combat was going to give her a challenge—maybe even beat her.

She was aware of her abilities as well, and there was one important incident that no one at school—save three people—knew about. I wonder what this Rikkard would say if he knew I’ve killed two people? Not that it mattered: Annie couldn’t kill this student, nor could she use her most effective—and deadly—spell. It didn’t matter: she’d learned a great deal in the last year, and she knew how to put it to great use.

Annie stepped into the white rectangle and faced the boy ten meters across from her. She smoothed her skirt down and discreetly tugged on the waistband of her leggings, then prepared herself for the moment to come. The moment Professor Chai ordered the trial to begin was when crafting would begin, and she wasn’t concerned about her first spell: rather, she thought about what Rikkard would do. She’s not watched many of the combat matches—they weren’t as wildly watched as the races, and they were always held on Sunday afternoon, when Kerry and she did things—but her own experience, and the lessons in the Advanced Self Defense class—taught her that the majority of people in magical combat will throw up their defense spells before launching an attack. And if Rikkard is like the majority of those people, he’ll do the same . . .

Professor Chai raised her hands and the protection enchantments activated: Annie was sealed inside a bubble with two other people designed to protect the spectators from errant spells. In a moment the action would begin, and she knew exactly what she was do—

“And . . . begin.” With that the trial began.

 

So Annie figures she can beat him ’cause, you know, killing a couple of adults weren’t no big thing, and this is just some punk kid–a bigger punk kid than here, but that just makes it easier to hit him.  Now that the command has been given to start your magical engines, Annie’s ready for action:

 

Annie watched Rikkard start his crafting, careful to watch his moments and notice the energy he was drawing upon—the last was something Kerry and she had begun learning a couple of weeks before in Advanced Spells. Normal magical energy being put into a defense screen—as I suspected. She began her own crafting, but experience she picked up in Wednesday’s class didn’t necessitate the need to give away her crafting: she didn’t want the boy across from her to know what she was about to do—

Not in the least.

She continued watching Rikkard. She observed him throwing up his defense screen in just a few seconds before moving on to his offense spell. She didn’t feel dark energy coming into play, so there wasn’t any chance the ball lightning forming in his hand was the result of sorcery; she figured he either didn’t know it well, or was saving it for a kill shot attack.

Rikkard chained three balls of lightning together, quickly pulled his elbows back a bit, and hurled the magic the direction of his opponent.

Annie bent her knees slightly and launched herself into the air.

 

Oh?  Did we forget Annie can fly?  She didn’t.  Can she do that?  Well, it is a kinda magic, so why not?  Anyway, here’s sort of what that moment looks like, because drawing skillz, yo.

Artist's rendition of the moment (rather simplified).

Artist’s rendition of Annie’s moment of lift-off (rather simplified).

I doubt very much if she went “Whee!” on take off, but you can bet there was a little confusion from her opponent.  Which is what she wanted . . .

 

When Professor Chai mentioned they had to stay within the circle Annie remembered the demonstration Coraline and the professor had performed the year before—in particular the moment when Coraline performed a high back flip all the way across the mat. Though nothing was said about the validity of the move, Annie was certain Coraline wouldn’t have performed such an action if it wasn’t legal. But the moment the professor stated, “This is a match of skill, so use whatever you feel is necessary to prevail,” there was no question she’d use her Flight Gift. As far as anyone in the room was concerned she was levitating—and levitating was a magical skill.

However, she’d spent the last two months learning how to maneuver in ways few could using levitation, and she was going to put all that knowledge to the best use . . .

She was already four meters above the mat when Rikkard’s attack reached where she was and flew straight into the barrier beyond. Annie managed to see the boy’s look of surprise as he turned his gaze upwards. Before he could lock onto her, she rolled twice to her right and slipped upward and to the left another before she used the spell she’d begun crafting the moment the professor started the trial.

A huge fireball struck Rikkard’s defense screen as well as the mat around him. While he was protected by his magic, the mat outside the screen caught fire and the heat from the blast—which the screen wouldn’t stop—poured through. Rather than ready another attack, Rikkard was forced to move, as it would take a few seconds before the safety enchantment extinguished the flames and he wasn’t enjoying the sensation of being embroiled in massive amounts of heat.

 

Since Annie knew she wasn’t going to be where Rikkard’s attack would end up, she put what she had into offence and let rip with a huge fireball.  How ‘about a little fire, Scarecrow?  Hope you got on your fire suit.

Just like this--take that, Finnish Boy!

Take that, Finnish Boy!

Now, rather than him maneuver for position so he can ready his next attack, he’s gotta do something to get out of the bonfire which has formed around his feet.  Also, he’s gotta deal with some little Bulgarian girl who’s flying around like an angry swallow, only this bird can throw fireballs–and worse.

‘Cause Annie’s just getting warmed up.