399 House of Tempest part one

    1005 Gemini Temple

    Nix normally would have noticed his Swordmaster being late, but he was too busy reveling in the newfound fact that Shadow Sphinx Soup was extremely ticklish.  Nix tormented  Soup by tickling the soft, black fur on her tummy.  The sphinx would make squeaking noises until she had enough then she would [shift] away.  Once shifted, Soup would only wait a minute or two before she shifted back and started it all over again.

    The smell of stale booze and body odor caused Nix to finally look up at 1015.  Chiba had decided to sport a very short buzz-cut.  She wore her Inferno armor and had sword hilts peeking over each shoulder.

    "Couldn't you have spared ten minutes to take a bath?"  Nix stood up and placed Soup on his shoulder.

    Chiba frowned at him.  "I did bathe."

    Nix stared at the old woman. "This week?"

    "Um... What day is it?"  Chiba clapped her hands together.  "Time to go Apprentice!"  She stepped onto the platform and paused for him.  "Solomon City awaits!"

    Although Nix spent hours bringing the Dragon Cities together, he hadn't walked through the streets of Solomon City in quite some time.  It was vastly different then he remembered.  According to Commander Mtui, hundreds of Nether folk passed the planar trials and now resided within the cities.  An odd notion since they once tried to take Solomon City.

    The House of Tempest was second largest in Solomon City, only the House of Dragons was larger. It was bordered by a sturdy looking stone wall and a black wrought iron gate.  A round driveway paved with white cobblestone led to an impressive manor that was both elegant and reserved.

    "Impressive right?" Chiba paused at the gate and spoke to a guard who ordered them to wait.  "The House of Tempest is steeped in tradition and blood. Lots of blood."

    The main manor was a wood and brick estate, with three separate wings.  This was where the main family stayed.  There were also three other manors, only slightly smaller than the first.  From Nix's vantage point near the front gate, he could see a large fountain that partially blocked his view of the entrance.

    A wide-shouldered man in a black robe accompanied the guard when he returned a few minutes later. He carried a silver staff with a black stone mounted on the top.  He was about the same height as Nix, but no one would confuse him with a human.  Both of his cheeks possessed ridged plates that started at the lower jaw and extended all the way to his hairline where it became a serrated edge.  His long black hair was tied up in a ponytail and he had beady eyes that were as black as coal.

    "Greetings Guests,  I am Lugly, the invincible."

    Nix bit down on a smile.  "Well met sir.  I am Pon, the Magnificent."

    Chiba cackled loudly. "I'm Swordmaster Chiba.  I believe Sasi is expecting me."

    "House Speaker Sasi is currently very busy. You have the training courtyard reserved for the next four hours.  I will be assisting you until lunch, Talot the Conquerer will be assisting this evening."

    [Whisper: Chiba to Nix]  What's with these stupid names Apprentice?

    [Whisper: Nix to Chiba] I know, right?

    Lugly led them around the manor to a circular training yard.  The yard was covered in soft, black sand.  Both Chiba and Nix grabbed a handful when then entered and rubbed it between their hands before letting it fall to the ground.

    Lugly pointed to a long weapons rack placed against the near wall.  "Grab a training weapon and we'll get started."

    Nix stripped off his upper body armor and grabbed a training blade. Although they looked deadly sharp, they were enchanted not to cut or pierce the skin.  They would however, leave bruises, and on occasion break bones.

    "Regular swordplay to warm-up Apprentice.  Then we'll start working on spell defense."  Chiba had stripped off her shirt, her pale white chest looked like it belonged to an old man.  "Whenever you are ready, Apprentice."

    Nix nodded and immediately lunged in with a thrust, Chiba slid around it and tapped him on the shoulder with the flat of her blade.  "Not bad, you have a gift for sneak attacks."

    Lugly made a noise from his spot near the weapons rack. "Hmph... A child would have seen that coming."

    Nix slashed with his blade, slowly pushing Chiba back, both their blades blurring in the sun of the early afternoon.  Nix feinted with a thrust before bringing the blade upward in a difficult reverse slash, instead of finishing the move he stomped on Chiba's foot and sliced diagonally at her shoulder.

    "OW!"  Chiba hopped on one foot, easily evading the shoulder strike before tapping Nix on the thigh with her blade.  "Sneaky... That was a thing of beauty.  Did you pick that up from the fights in Eidengal?"

    "Yep." Nix nodded while cursing under his breath.  He was sure that strike would land.

    Lugly laughed loudly. "Sloppy footwork, in a real fight both of you would already be dead."

    Chiba ignored him and faced his apprentice.  "Warmed up enough?"

    Nix nodded, his skin was covered in a light sheen of sweat.

    Chiba moved away a few steps and faced Lugly.  "I want you to watch his casting, from the release until it arrives at the target."

    "Why teach him such a useless trick?" Lugly hefted his staff in one hand.  "Outside of training, you never see the release."

    "Focus Apprentice, put your sword away, and observe."  Chiba lowered her blade until the tip brushed the sand.  "Nether Mage right? Cast Uncilliary at me, it's perfect for this sort of training."

    Lugly has cast [Uncilliary].

    A black streak erupted from the end of Lugly's staff, only to be brushed aside by Chiba's blade a moment later.

    Nix wasn't able to see anything other than the flash.  He shook his head at Chiba.

    Chiba lowered her blade again. "That's fine.  Again."

    Lugly has cast [Uncilliary].

    Again Chiba easily brushed it aside.

    Nix shook his head.  "Nope, nothing."

    The drill went on for several minutes, each time it ended with the same results.

    Lugly tapped his staff on the ground, his face locked in a smirk.  "Maybe you should find a better apprentice.  This one is broke."

    Chiba motioned for Nix to approach.  "Maybe the problem is your point of view.  Stand behind me."

    Nix stood about a foot behind Chiba, facing the Nether mage.  "Okay, go ahead."

    Lugly has cast [Uncilliary].

    Nix focused on the cast, his eyes following it until the moment Chiba brushed it aside.

    Chiba looked over her pale shoulder at him.  "Anything?"

    Nix wiped the sweat out of his eyes with the back of his hand.  "It turned."

    Chiba clapped happily.  "They don't turn, but it appears that way when you start grasping the concept."

    "What a load of **.  Buy your apprentice a good shield or he'll die the first time he sees battle."  Lugly laughed at the pair, an ugly old man and his pathetic apprentice.

    Chiba smiled at her apprentice.  "Move closer to me, until your chin is over my shoulder. It's okay if you want to rub up against me."

    Nix scowled at her, the constant heckling, and his failure to grasp the technique was starting to wear on him.  "If I turn this entire training yard into a lake of flames, will you be able to block that?"

    Chiba pursed her lips but didn't answer.  "Why so prickly? Let's go again, ignore the idiot, and focus on the spinning."

    Nix moved until his chin hovered over Chiba's shoulder.  "Okay, sorry Master."

    Chiba's ugly face creased into a smile. "Again."

    Lugly has cast [Uncilliary].

    Nix watched it advance directly toward him, the spinning seemed to slow before Chiba blocked it.

    "What did you see Apprentice?"

    "A rune, then a gap and more spinning."  Nix moved back into position.  "Give me a half dozen of those."

    "Those are the spell runes." Chiba faced Lugly.  "You heard my lovely apprentice.  Six times, please."

    Nix continued to focus on the spell as it advanced, as time passed, more of the runes became visible to him.  After the sixth one his face broke into a smile.

    [Spell Defense: Unlocked] Level One 1/15]

    New Spellsword Skill learned, Spell Defense.

    "I want to try."  Nix walked around Chiba, he sword raised. "Ready when you are Ugly."

    "That's Lugly."

    Lugly has cast [Uncilliary].

    Nix focused on the spell, but found his blade out of position and missed entirely.  The spell impacted his shoulder.

    "Look at the gaps Apprentice.  As you get more efficient, you can flick them away without effort. For now just swat them to one side."

    Nix nodded.  "Again Ugly."

    "My name is Lugly!"

    "That's what I said. Three in a row Ugly."

    Lugly cast again, laughing when the spell hit him in the face.  Nix missed the second as well but managed to deflect the third.

    [Spell Defense] Level One 2/15]

    Chiba clapped loudly. "Well done!  Well done!"

    Lugly laughed at the two of them, his face twisted in a sneer.  "That was just luck!"

    Nix nodded in agreement.  "Probably.  Again Ugly."

    "My name is LUGLY!" Lugly spit when he spoke, his voice rising to a shout.

    Nix gave him a bewildered look. "That's what I said."

    Lugly slammed his staff on the ground.  "No you didn't! You said Ugly!"

    Chiba held out both hands.  "There's been a misunderstanding here."

    Lugly shook his head, his face starting to redden.  "No there isn't!"

    Chiba gave him a deadpan look.  "You see.  My Apprentice can't say 'L's."

    Nix nodded.  "True.  I can't."

    "Bull**."  Lugly took a deep breath while trying to calm himself.

    Nix raised his sword slightly. "Ets go again Ugly."

    Chiba coughed loudly from behind him.

    Lugly roared in anger and spammed the Uncilliary spell at Nix.  "You want it?  TAKE IT!" Over and over the spell zeroed in on Nix, although most of them landed, he did manage to block a handful of them.  The Nether mage cast until his mana ran out, red-faced and gasping for air, Lugly refused to look at either of them.

    Chiba grabbed two towels and handed Nix one.  "Want to grab some lunch Apprentice?"

    Nix nodded.  "I would ove to."
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