The Path of the Dagger
Hello. I am Aladnaa. You may call me ‘Ghost’. Throughout the course of this tale, you will come to know why I have this title, besides the fact that I am a white Lupess.
To begin, I am a scholar and a recluse. My time in solitude is better spent acquiring knowledge and strengthening my mind as well as my body. My only contact is my Emperor, Novawolf. It was he who encouraged me to study defense and battle in a style that suited my way of life... This is the path of a rogue.
The dictionary definition of a “rogue” is “a dishonest, knavish person; scoundrel”, or more commonly, a bandit, or a thief. Yet... Not all rogues are dishonorable. Some are quite noble, say, the Zafara Double Agent.
One thing, however, is never discussed in the journals of rogues – their combat training. And there is a reason for this, but you must not discuss it. Telling the story of a rogue’s tactics will place one in great peril. For the sake of proving my nobility to you, I will share with you this story. Should you find yourself in combat with a rogue, take the knowledge gained here with you into the field of battle.
The Silver Sai dagger of Shenkuu is perfect for rogues. Such daggers are light, versatile, while still retaining a strong deadly measure. The actual tip of the dagger is blunt, and the sides are not sharpened. The prongs protruding from the side of the handle – called ‘tsuba’ – are very useful in trapping long swords and deflecting other dangerous weapons. It only seems fitting that this be my weapon of choice.
I trained in a special, sealed section of the Battledome, as my Emperor watched me, cloaked behind one-way glass. My first opponent was no more than a mere punching bag propped onto a wooden post – a target dummy that could take the beating of several prods from a dagger, perfect for training. In truth, training against a lifeless opponent is one of the best ways to train, with no fear of bloodshed or death. I had studied enough books and text to know how to hold the weapon, placing two of my fingers around the handle, and one on the shaft, giving me total flexibility.
I assumed my battle stance, with my good arm forward and my off-arm at my side, allowing one to smoothly follow through with the other, both daggers pointed upward defensively. I approached the target. Once within reach, I tilted the Sai in my main-paw forward and jabbed it into the cloth of the dummy, once, swiftly, before pulling it back again to prepare for another strike. Then with my other paw, I brought the dagger around in a long arc into the side of the mock opponent with the same swiftness I had done with the other.
Obviously, the dummy did not move much, as opposed to if it were hit with a mace or large sword, but that is the efficiency of rogues, to outmaneuver their opponent, whittling them down with seemingly worthless attacks, while in truth doing large amounts of damage.
I continued my assault, jabbing and swinging the dual-daggers into the soft fabric as I inconspicuously strafed around it, always hitting it in a different area.
“Stop, Aladnaa, that’ll do.” I heard the Emperor after a few minutes of practice. I jumped back from the dummy and rested my stance, catching my breath.
“You learn awfully quick. We need to make this a bit more challenging...” He paused for a moment, obviously manipulating the dummy from behind the glass. “Now fight your opponent. This time he will fight back. Don’t worry, though; the arms are full of only sand, and the damage is superficial. Go.”
And I lunged in again, returning to my stance and jabbing once at the chest of the dummy. I did not know that the post on which it stood had been significantly loosened. The dummy, from the impact of my hit, reared back and then forward, its sandbag arms flinging forward and hitting me on both sides of my head, right beneath the ears. For a moment I was knocked off-balance and I stumbled back.
“You’ve got to expect the unexpected, Aladnaa, you know that. Keep trying, you can do it.”
I questioned what was wrong with me. ‘Expect the unexpected’ was one of the most well known phrases and I had forgotten it. I had to redeem myself for that error. I jumped right back into battle with the target dummy and jabbed again into its chest. It reared back once more and forth again. Ducking, the sandbag appendages hit one another with a *thump* and a cloud of dust. I wasted no time. One of a rogue’s greatest strengths is taking advantage of an opponent’s blunders, upon missing, a thousand opportunities to strike presented themselves, and I took one. I quickly lunged up with both daggers, straight under the head of the punching bag, which was filled with straw. I withdrew the daggers quickly again and ducked back down, expertly shuffling to the side of the dummy, swiping once at its side with one dagger. The dummy spun around, one of the sandbag arms coming straight for me from my left. I raised the dagger in my main paw to drive the dagger into the sand-filled appendage. The sandbag was stuck to the dagger, leaving me unharmed. Again, opportunity presented itself, and with the dagger in my off-paw, jabbed hard into the exposed side of the dummy, slightly twisting and then ripping it to the side away from me.
I heard clapping from the direction of the one-sided window. “Well done! Wow. You’re as swift and haunting as a ghost - very efficient. You’re a very dedicated learner, in addition to being a quick one.” Novawolf laughed. “It’s time to test your mettle against a real opponent now. This bag of dirt and hay is already too far below you. One moment...” He fiddled with whatever controls he had with him and a trapdoor opened beneath the target dummy and it was pulled beneath the floor for later use. When the door shut, the floor was flat once more. “Many opponents you’ll meet will be using a sword and shield, generic warrior type... Allurana, enter the arena.”
And a door on the far wall of the training room opened, a blue female Xweetok warrior stepping forward, iron-forged sword and wooden shield in hand.
“Begin battle now. Put your opponent into submission. Drop your weapons and raise your arms upon surrender.” The Emperor gave the order to fight.
“Give me your all, rookie.” Allurana grinned and taunted in friendly coaxing, and she raised her shield and swung her sword down on toward my head.
Already, I recognized the mistake. Bringing a sword directly down on a rogue with Sai was a bad idea. I raised the dagger in my off-paw pointing upwards, and the sword fell between the center shaft and one of the prongs. I twisted it and the sword was trapped in my dagger. Taking the chance, I used my main-paw dagger and jabbed forward, aiming towards my opponent’s belly.
She deflected me with her shield. My dagger impacted the hardened wood of her shield with a discouraging *clunk*. Then, she pushed forward with her shield, and I quickly withdrew my weapon to avoid having it used against me. The shield collided with the side of my face, knocking me back and freeing the warrior’s sword.
I stumbled back, regaining my balance, and then jumping back several times to keep distance between her and I until I saw another opening to strike.
Allurana came at me, her shield raised and her sword back, ready to strike.
I held my current position and waited for her to attack.
She did. She swung her sword again, this time coming from my left.
I raised my main-paw dagger against the sword and caught it again between the prong and shaft with a satisfying metal-against-metal cling. I arched my off-paw dagger at the warrior’s side, completely circumventing her shield and impacting her directly with the blunt-tip of the dagger.
“Aahh!” she cried out and lunged backwards before I could strike again, pulling her sword from the trap of my dagger. Her expression looked pained now. “Lucky shot,” she growled from behind clenched teeth. “Enjoy it, ‘cause it’s the last one you’ll get.”
“I wouldn’t bet your mane on it,” I said, and started leaping towards her in large strides, as if I were a Ruki, holding my weapons in my basic stance, one forward, one back, and both pointing upward. I was approaching her dangerously fast.
Panic flashed in the warrior’s eyes, and she swung her sword once at me in a wide arc, attempting to drive me back.
I swiftly ducked beneath the arch and jumped forward, appearing right next to her, behind all her defenses. Before she could retreat, I drove a dagger once more into her side.
She cried out again and spun around, the steel handle of her sword bashing me in the back of my head.
For a split-second, I was unconscious, and I fell limply, but caught myself as I awoke before hitting the ground. I quickly jumped forward, low and to the side to avoid another attack if Allurana attempted to jab or swing again. I quickly turned around and prepared to strike again.
Novawolf called, “Not the best move, Aladnaa. Careful, now.”
Allurana went into a warrior rage. She reared her head back and roared a battle cry before running straight at me with her shield forward and her sword behind her in a way that I could not tell if she would swing in an arc, or bring it down on me.
I must admit that the warrior’s rage unnerved me. An enraged fighter would be deadly, and would be less vulnerable to pain.
Allurana was within striking range now, and she brought her sword down in a flurry. I heard the “whoosh” as the sword sliced the air.
Bracing my feet, I raised both daggers and crossed them over my head. The sword clanged down between the daggers and the momentum caused the bones in my arms to ache, but the sword was trapped within both my daggers now. I twisted them both to prevent escape, and I quickly stood and extended a leg to kick Allurana. My foot made contact with her shield.
My kick was strong enough to knock her backwards and stun her. Her grip on the sword ceased and she stumbled back, now weaponless.
I let her sword drop to the floor and was ready to strike again, but gave Allurana a moment to consider her options. A warrior was nothing without her sword.
Allurana was forced to surrender. She threw down her shield and held up her paws. “Stop! Alright! You got me!”
Novawolf laughed. “Well done! A most impressive duel! Allurana, you may return home; you must strengthen your own skills another time.”
She looked toward the glass and nodded. “Yes sir.” She then looked to me. “Good duel, rogue. Those things hurt...!” She clutched her side where I had prodded her twice.
I relaxed my stance and took the liberty of bowing to her, but keeping my head raised for honorable eye contact. “Same to you. I’ve never seen a shield used offensively.”
The defeated warrior took her sword and shield and left.
“Aladnaa,” Novawolf said. “That was magnificent. I am truly impressed!”
“Thank you, sir.” I smiled and bowed. “I only wish to perform well in this combat style.”
“And you’re doing it quite well. I can safely call you a rogue now. Carry the title with honor, and nobility.”
“I will, sir. These daggers will not be used on the innocent.”
“Good. Do not forget what you learned here today, and always remember – the journey to success is never complete. You will continue to learn until the end of your days. You are dismissed.”
I nodded and turned to leave the training room. I looked down at my paws to the shining silver daggers and smiled. I shut my eyes and silently repeated my vow. “These daggers will not be used on the innocent.”
I would become one of the few noble rogues, cloaking away in the shadows, blending in with evil until it struck the uncorrupted, then I would strike the evil at its core. And now that I have shared with you the tale of my chosen path, I pray you have one less reason to fear the shadows.
Author's note: I would like to make special mention and thanks to the user "Novawolf", to whom I am not related in any way, but gained her permission to use the name to refer to myself where "Sparkie" is clearly inappropriate. Thank you!