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Eckaaso Shyn

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The Kaleesh took a deep breath as he swung his lightsaber, which was held in the typical Shien reversed grip. Since last time he had met with Fiach for training he had improved greatly in that variant of form V, to his own satisfaction to be honest.

He had had summoned Fiach for two main reasons: continue her training in Djem So, and also check out her new lightsaber, since she had recently completed her Gathering ceremony, even though for other reasons he had been forced to leave for some important matters and so he hadn't seen the saber. He was curious about the saber's color, but even more about the hilt she had chosen for it.

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Fiach Dubh

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Fiach believed passionately (well as passionately as someone that does not do emotions) in practice. Not only in learning new skills, but honing the existing ones. If anything, she had a belief that learning too many Force abilities would leave her a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Not that she professed to be an expert in any skill – but she preferred to focus on a few and spend her time developing those.

So, for example, her expertise on healing was rudimentary – the equivalent of a field medic perhaps – and not someone able to bring someone back from the clutches of death.

But saber combat was one of her chosen abilities. She had a rudimentary knowledge of most of the Forms (the seventh was not one she’d chosen to pursue at all) but Soresu was currently her preferred choice.

So, she arrived to meet the Kaleesh she’d so recently worked with on a mission on Dxun – to continue her training on a Form that was becoming more prevalent in her training regime…Djem So.

She arrived on time and noted her teacher was already there. Bowing, as was her custom, she removed her cloak and folded it neatly before turning to face the Knight – her new saber clearly visible, hanging from her belt.

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Eckaaso Shyn

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The Kaleesh kept fighting with an imaginary enemy, swinging his lightsaber in wide arcs due to the reversed grip, and backed off like if he avoided a hit from another lightsaber. He then noticed the young woman, and turned around to look at her. "Hey, here you are. Shall we begin?" he asked, this time keeping his normal lightsaber, perhaps wanting to challenge her.
 

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Fiach watched the Knight’s practice. There were typically two types of cadence – one where you performed a regular pattern, often over and over – to build muscle memory and develop combinations of moves. The second was to improvise – to imagine a foe and attack and defend based upon the fantasy opponent’s moves.

Fiach preferred the former – given she was blessed with very little in the way of imagination. She could perform complicated and lengthy repetitions relatively easily. But ask her to be creative and she came unstuck.

“Yes, I am here,”
she echoed. “And I would be delighted to begin.”

Fiach held out her right hand, with her palm facing towards the ground. Her saber leaped from her belt and smacked into her palm and ignited with a snap-hiss, showing the lilac blade.

She immediately took up the Soresu opening stance, holding the blade back in a one-handed grip, angled forwards with the blade arm held parallel, the other hand held up in a challenge. As was the text-book approach, her dominant foot was positioned back while the other was extended forwards and to the side in a brace position.

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Eckaaso Shyn

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The Kaleesh whistled softly as he saw the lilac blade while he flicked his wrist to turn the grip back to normal, and approached her slowly, blade held wide, the tip gently scraping the ground on his right side. It was a rather confident pose, the one of a challenger. Nothing that could be found in any book. A demonstration of, well, the confidence and the pride the Kaleesh had. "So, last time we discussed about the form that was best for your physique and skills, and concluded that Ataru was the best one. But for the moment we'll keep on working on your training on Djem So, and specifically how to counter it. I'm pretty sure you'd know how to do this rather well, given your relative proficiency in Soresu" he said, pondering each step towards the young woman, perhaps attempting to intimidate her, or challenge her. "I see that you've built your lightsaber. Simple but effective, the hilt's design. Lilac, hm? Curious. Purple and its hues is very rare as a colour. They say that the ones that find such a crystal are going to become great in some way, but that's just a legend in a way. Not to mock the Master Windu's memory, of course." By the moment he concluded his monologue, he was like seven or so feet away from her, and at that point he stopped. His yellow, slitted eyes almost piercing through her soul, so fierce was his glare.
 

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Fiach was a regular visitor to the dojo. She sparred with anyone and everyone – preferring to face new people all of the time. Short foes, tall foes, some with two arms and others with six. Some were left-handed and others used pikes as opposed to sabers. Some never spoke whilst others talked as if they could beat you with their words. Some trash-talked her and others sung their own praises.

The Knight, she surmised, was looking to intimidate her. Sparring was something she took seriously. She did not believe it was either party’s role to go easy.

She held still, her pose composed and perfectly balanced. “Yes,” she said, by way of a response. “Ataru.”

She was aware of the shortcomings of Form III but appreciated its role in developing proficiency in Djem So. But still found it a challenge to switch from being defensive to counterattack.

Seamlessly, she shifted position. Now her lightsaber was held above her head, angled back and down at an approximately forty-five degree angle.

She glanced up at her saber’s hilt momentarily. “It took two efforts, but I managed to craft it in the end. As for the colour? Maybe it is just cosmetic? I chose the hilt for its simplicity – and the blade…well, it chose the colour itself.”

As she talked, she was aware the Knight had stopped. For her, he was out of reach, but she was aware that in an instant, he could strike her and she had to be on her guard. Which was when she gave herself to the Force to provide her defence and then corrected herself. Soresu could and did operate this way. But to counter-attack took an effort of will and she needed to see if it was within her to initiate as well as she defended.

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Eckaaso Shyn

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The Kaleesh smiled mentally. The young woman wasn't at all intimidated by his posture. He took his lightsaber with both hands and looked at her, his eyes shining softly in the light... and then suddenly lurched forward with a roar, his lightsaber pointed straight at her chest, most likely that attack would kill her in a single blow if she didn't dodge or parry it!
 

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Fiach remained alert and calm. She was never going to be one to intimidate or bad-mouth the opponent. The Sith had a word for it apparently.

In truth, she was gaining a small reputation for being daunting in a different way. It was her calmness. The matter-of-fact way she seemingly approached duels – not appearing to be flustered. It was in part because she carried out conversations throughout sparring that suggested she was doing little more than going for a stroll through the jungle.

“Technically a bad move – particularly at the outset of a duel,” she said as the Kaleesh plunged his saber directly at her. So the holovids and instruction manuals decreed. Not knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, it was a very brave or foolhardy move to begin with. A duellist more proficient than Fiach could parry and then, with their saber inside their opponent’s, it would be near impossible to parry or block a saber strike counter.

But she was still a relative novice, especially when it came to taking the lead. So, instead she parried – as she was taught – and stepped back half a step to re-set herself in a defensive pose.

“I know, I know,” she admonished herself. “Defend then counter. Defend then counter.”

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Eckaaso Shyn

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The Kaleesh chuckled softly at her remark and nodded, his lightsaber seeming easily parried, and he stepped back a bit, looking at her, his lightsaber held in a middle guard, a position that would allow him to block hits from roughly any direction. "Fiach. I want you to go all out. This will be a serious duel, not just a spar. If it's risky? Maybe. But I trust you that you won't try to chop me a hand, or kill me. And you shall trust me of the same. I want to see just how capable you are" he said, and then stepped forward, swinging his lightsaber with both hands at a 45 degree angle from his left to his right.
 

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Fiach lunged out with a simple overhand strike, expecting a quick parry to deflect the blow to the side. There followed the crackle and hum of blades of pure energy crossing and immediately Fiach spun away and resumed her ready positions.

The instructions were clear but Fiach was slightly confused by them. In a real duel, she would not go all out – but she surmised the Jedi Knight knew what he was doing and wanted to see how she could manage when she had to press the engagement.

So, she rushed forward, her blade ascending diagonally from right to left in a long, swift arc. Whatever defence the Knight offered, Fiach would look to press her advantage, her saber arcing up from left to right.

Early in her training, her latent abilities in the Force had allowed her to anticipate and react to the moves of her foe. As she learned more and more, however, she realised every opponent enjoyed the same advantage. As a result, victory required a combination of the Force and physical skill.

So, since her early work with the Knight, Fiach had worked on acquiring that physical skill. As this ability grew, she was able to devote less and less of her mental energy to the physical actions of thrust, parry, and counterthrust. This allowed her to keep her mind focused so he could use the Force to anticipate her opponent’s moves, while at the same time looking to obscure and confuse her foe’s own precognitive senses.

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Their lightsabers clashed at roughly halfway of the arc, making them lock at Fiach's chest height. The Knight's eyes seemed to be on fire with how much determination he had. He pushed her back, probably forcing to take a few steps, and he also took a step back, distancing himself from her, and prepared to parry her eventual attacks.
 

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Fiach was patient and focused – two attributes worthy of mention. She was also a Jedi of the school that the Force should only be used for defence, never attack. Maybe that was why Soresu felt so comfortable to her? Perhaps it was a myriad of reasons, but right now she was struggling.

She’d initiated an attack and although it did not feel comfortable, she pushed through that feeling to take the challenge to the Jedi Master.

But could she do that time and time again?

So, as the initial clash ended in a stale-mate and the Knight pushed her back and a small gap opened up between them. Instinct, and to a point training, told her to stay back…to await his next move. But she was supposed to be taking the fight to him.

She took in a short breath and stepped in, to close the space between them. She lacked power but had flexibility and speed as her advantages. So, she performed a manoeuvre she’d been schooled in – the Hawk-Bat Swoop. Essentially, it was a number of short and quick strikes intended to allow the opponent limited chance to react or counter.

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The older Jedi narrowed his eyes as the young woman stopped for a moment, and then she moved forward, attacking him with quick strikes he recognized as one of Ataru's main and most dangerous techniques. Since that technique was based on the Falling Leaf technique, her first attack came from above, so he instinctively blocked her by moving his lightsaber horizontally. He blocked also a few of the following strikes, although at a point he lost his concentration and accidentally left his guard open!
 

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Unlike Soresu, which felt totally natural to the young Padawan, the Ataru Form required constant concentration, to ensure she kept up the momentum. A move, or a series of moves were natural – she’d practiced them enough times. But her tendency to press, then step back and re-group, was a hard habit to break. But she knew that, given Soresu would not be the solution every time, she understood the importance of a second Form. And in many ways, Ataru could easily be the one.

She had speed and balance on her side and allowed the Force to flow through her as she attempted strike time and time again – none would be fatal blows, but in a duel, the multiple cuts and damage would weaken an opponent, both through the injuries and the pain that would surely build with each hit.

She hesitated a fraction – but thankfully caught herself. The opportune moment to strike was presented and she almost withdrew simultaneously. The criticism that she lacked the wherewithal to end a bout was one she’d endured since she’d been here.

A fraction of a second was a small measure but might still be enough to negate the opening she’d created as she followed though with a simple strike – although with her saber set to low power, it would singe and smart, as opposed to cause serious damage.

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Eckaaso barely managed to block the strike, still receiving the hit, making him grunt as the lightsaber's tip briefly touched his side, and he responded by pushing her away with a strong strike.
"Not bad. But you hesitated. If you didn't, you could have hit me better" he said, stepping back and returning in a guard position, glaring at her. "Hesitations can be your downfall in a real duel Fiach. Anyone good enough could exploit your hesitations to disarm, maim or even kill you. Focus is something that's of crucial importance while fighting for your life."
 

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Fiach froze slightly as her saber made contact with the Jedi Knight and she was immediately thrown back by a counter. Once more, her desire to re-group and re-assess the duel was rooted in her reliance on the third Form – which should not have been her mind-set, even though this was a training bout.

She nodded at Eckaaso’s words – she knew he was right. Regardless of your role as aggressor or defender, hesitation was never the answer. It was a visible manifestation of doubt, which was never a good thing when you were in a duel.

She took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and then nodded to the Knight before coming at him again with a volley of strikes. Nothing fancy, nothing acrobatic, just simple but effective moves that picked up pace as she went.

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Initially, Eckaaso struggled a bit to defend himself against the young woman's strikes, more than once having to step back to avoid being hit, but then he got better and better, to the point of fluidly parrying each and every of her hit. "After a while... you become predictable if you use the same schemes of hits over and over again. Additionally, if you're a good observer, you can actually predict what kind of blow your opponent would attempt" he said, with a bit of a mocking tone. Unknowingly to Fiach, he wanted to test her patience by employing Dun Moch, a technique mostly used by Sith to bring down someone's mental defenses by mocking and insulting their opponent.
 

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Fiach was many things – but a lazy student was not one of them. An inability to pick up on social clues, such as sarcasm could be counted against her. But what made her something of a cold fish to the other students was actually a boon when it came to duelling. Emotions were never part of her make-up and she relied upon logic alone. Yes, she used the Force but actually saw this as an extension of that rational approach – given it gave her an added dimension. Yes, it did also help other Force users, but to ignore it would be to hand them an advantage.

“You have cited the benefit of Soresu, which has been my preferred Form since I arrived here,” she said, speaking as if they were talking whilst out for a stroll, not locked in combat. “Patience and observation. Most opponents have ‘tells’ or at least preferred combinations of moves. If I wait long enough, I can detect these patterns. And by being defensive, I give nothing away of my own preferences. But being on the offensive all of the time, I believe it leaves you open to someone who is prepared to play the long game.”

“I know you believe this Form is my best bet, but I am inclined to believe it is my second option. For when I want to switch having seen an opportunity. But it is really important I practice this often, or else I feel I will become too defensive and lack the ability to act when the opportunity arises.”

What are your thoughts?”

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"Only one thought: practice makes perfection. And now, let's make things... interesting" he said, grinning behind his mask, and after a last block, he counter-attacked, although she would notice a shift in the man's stance, reminding her of the combat stance used for Makashi... but mixed with Djem So. "Focusing on one or two forms is good, but making your own fighting style by mixing stances, attacks and such coming from different forms is much better. It makes you less predictable, and more flexible" he said, and suddenly attacked her by attempting to stab her in the chest, in a way typical of Makashi.
 

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Interesting was a term Fiach used often. It was, in her parlance, a euphemism for something relatively unpalatable, but she was too polite to say so.

She therefore felt that what was about to follow would not be pleasant, albeit she knew it would be entirely useful.

And she nodded at the concept of practice being a key component of development. She ascribed to the philosophy of time spent honing your skill being more valuable than natural talent. But she also believed that practice made permanent and that it was more accurately guided and relevant practice that helped most. Hence why she was here. She took every advantage to spar with someone new – given it allowed her to learn so many different styles and approaches to using a lightsaber.

Had she been using Soresu, the sudden change in Form (or rather the blending of them) would have more likely have been taken in her stride. But she was attempting to be on the front foot, figuratively speaking and so his moves caught her unprepared.

She saw the stab late and although managed to deflect it from her chest, the blade was pushed towards her shoulder, where it made contact.

“That makes us even,” she said, calmly. “And I fully take your point…surprise is often the greatest weapon at our disposal.”

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