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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 28

Prompt: Fight
Note: I went ahead and deleted the old version of this and did some minor edits here.

“A red Templar isn’t going to stop and see if you’re ready. Demons aren’t going to go easy on you just because they know you’re new, remember that.”

Ravena walked up towards the new training ring that had been constructed in the outer bailey. Blackwall was in the center of it, along with a handful of Leliana’s scouts. “You don’t have heavy armor or shields. Sister Leliana specifically chose you for your swiftness, so show me!” He clanged his practice sword against his shield and rushed one of the scouts. “I just ran you through. Again, starting position! Dodge or deflect my attack!”

“Mind if I watch?” Ravena asked, leaning against the ring’s railing.

Blackwall’s entire demeanor changed. Gone were the tense lines and his eyes softened. “Inquisitor,” he said, tipping his chin in greeting. “Commander Cullen asked me to run some of the scouts through their paces.”

“And you’re having some difficulties?” The question was directed more towards the four scouts than at him and he knew it. The lanky redheaded boy who couldn’t have been more than sixteen nodded.

Climbing over the railing, Ravena effortlessly landed inside the ring. “I can remember when I first started fighting. I was a little older than you, but just as inexperienced. What’s your weapon of choice, Scout?”

“Bows, Your Worship.”

Ravena nodded. “You have the shoulders for it. Archery might enable you to attack from a distance, but you need to know how to defend yourself once an enemy puts themselves within striking range. If you’d like, I could help you work on your knifework.”

“I’d take her up on it, lad,” Blackwall said. He turned towards her. “I’m wondering something. Do you happen to have any free time right now?” He flexed his shield arm.

She arched her eyebrow. “I might have some time to spare. What were you suggesting?”

“Well, I’m teaching these scouts how to defend themselves against armored attacks. It might do some good if they can see what I’d like for them to accomplish. You’re an experienced fighter; I’m certain they can learn from your example.”

Ravena grinned. “Why Ser Blackwall,” she drawled. “Are you challenging me to a fight?”

He returned her grin. “Consider the gauntlet dropped, my lady.” He gestured to the weapons rack where a set of practice daggers lay. “Those might suit you.”

Ravena tested the balance of each weapon and found them to her liking. “Any rules?”

“Do demons give you rules?” He thought for a moment. “First to land a deadly strike three times wins, loser buys the drinks?”

She laughed. “Sounds fair.” She began to circle him, a predatory light flashing in her eyes. “For the record, I’d like for my drinks to be cold ciders today.”

He moved with her, looking for an opening to start an attack. “Trash talking already? For the record, I’d like a pint of ale when I win. Several of them, in fact.” Lunging, he rushed at her, not surprised for one moment when she easily dodged him. He deflected her attack and clipped her hip with the edge of his shield.

“That doesn’t count as deadly,” she warned, moving into a fast riposte followed by a spinning whirlwind attack.

“And you’re not attacking me at full power,” he countered. “Come on, Ravena, give these scouts a show!” It was the last that they spoke, the two of them concentrating on fighting. Blackwall soon found that fighting against Ravena was extremely different than fighting on the same team. He might have been familiar with her style, but he’d never quite had something like it thrown at him. It was difficult to adjust to at first, but he soon used his knowledge of her weaknesses to his advantage, attacking her in places he usually made sure to protect out in the field.

“One,” he crowed, bringing his sword up through her armpit and tapping her ribs with the flat of the blade. He chuckled as she grumbled in frustration.

“One,” she shouted triumphantly, dodging past his shield and tagging him in the gut, his gambeson dulling the impact of her blunted dagger. She had taken his teasing to heart; she was putting her full strength into each blow now. While the blunted edges of her blades wouldn’t tear through his clothing like hers would have, Blackwall had a feeling that he’d be sporting several new bruises before the day was done.

He earned his second deathblow when Ravena was too slow to avoid a shield bash, but she paid him back by slipping into stealth mode and hitting him in the back with her twin fang strike. He grunted at the impact and swung around with his arms in front of him, his sword and shield falling uselessly from suddenly nerveless hands.

“Let that be a lesson,” Ravena was saying to the scouts who were crowded around the outside of the ring. Their fight had also attracted the attention of many of the other soldiers. “Use your blades to hit a nerve that runs the length of your opponent’s arm. If you can get them to drop their shield or weapons, then that’s one less piece of protection they have.”

“Yet let this be another lesson,” Blackwall chimed in. “Even though your opponent is unarmed doesn’t mean that they’re harmless.” With a roar, he lowered his shoulder and rushed Ravena, knocking her flat on her back. One of her daggers went flying and she grunted as Blackwall’s hands went around her neck, his grip open and loose yet still showing how an enemy could have strangled her. “Three.”

“Three,” she said at the exact same time, the one dagger she had managed to keep hold of pressing almost uncomfortably tight against his chest. Had her blade been sharpened, she would have gone through the padded gambeson, up under his sternum, and more than likely pierced a lung.

They were both breathing hard. “Call it a draw?” he asked, one hand moving from her throat to pillow the base of her skull from the packed dirt and the other slipping up, his thumb brushing against her jaw.

“I can live with that.” She dropped her dagger. “What say you buy my drink and I’ll buy yours?”

“I’d say that sounds like a fair bargain.” He seemed to notice how intimately they had landed just then, her bent knee brushing against his ribs as he crouched between her legs, his body pressed snugly against hers. Bull and Sera’s wolf whistles made Blackwall laugh, his breath stirring the hair at Ravena’s temple.

“I didn’t hurt you?” she asked, holding her arms up for him to help haul her to her feet once he had rolled away and stood up.

“No. I was going to ask you the same.”

Psh. That little knock to the ground? I’ve had worse.” She rotated her right shoulder to ease some soreness that still lingered from Valammar. Leaning close so only he could hear her, she murmured, “Besides, you’re rougher in bed. I’ve got bruises in very interesting places to attest to that.”

“And I’ve the scratches on my back to prove you can dish out your own share of roughness.” He winked at the blush that crept over the tops of her cheeks. Dismissing his recruits, they walked towards the tavern. They stopped near the door and giving her a lazy half-smile, Blackwall leaned his hand against the stone and purposely crowded Ravena. “So, can I buy you that drink?”

She tilted her head and fluttered her eyelashes coquettishly. “I don’t know. My mother always warned me about accepting beverages from tall, dark and handsome men. She said it would lead them to believe that they’d be able to get something more than a drinking companion for the night.”

He rested his weight on his forearm, looming even closer to her. “And do you always do what your mother says?”

“Concerning tall, dark and handsome men?” Her smirk widened. “Never.”

His free hand went to her waist. A slight tug had her body flush against his. “Lucky me.”

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