The Fang of the Lost Hand participates in "Game 1" against the Coral Helix.
"Two hours after first light."
On the second day of school, the Fang of the Lost Hand rises to prepare for another round of the unexpected. A note delivered to their barracks last night demanded their presence at the woodland training ground known as the Glade. They get a small reprieve from the rigorous pace of the academy when Quartermaster Juwinn lets them off morning exercises so that they can make the most of the two hours before they're expected to be ready. Though the students hope she'll be willing to tell them more, Juwinn makes it clear that she has no interest in showing favoritism. Her job, after all, is to foster the growth of all the students at the academy, not just a few. With little else to go on, Gale tells everyone to prepare for a possible extended outing, even multiple days' worth.
With the hope of gathering useful intel, the Lost Hand makes their way to the Glade well before the starting time of the Game. It seems, however, that they've been beaten to the punch. The school medic, V'neef Garavel, is gazing out over the stream that runs through the largest clearing in the woods. He is no more loose-lipped about the upcoming game than Juwinn, but he does have some news to share: Brevin is not cleared to return to duty, so he won't be with the Coral Helix for the competition. In addition, this game, whatever it may be, is something entirely new to the House of Bells. There will be no guarantees of what might happen.
A quick scouting run through the woods reveals that the Coral Helix got to the Glade well before the Lost Hand, and they've almost certainly set up a useful bolt hole. Gale goes over some tactical options with Pyres and Oresta. With a numerical disadvantage on top of the fact that their opponents have obviously had more time to prepare, she proposes drawing them out into an ambush to eliminate both of those problems, though they would have to make clever use of the natural surroundings to pull it off.
The sounding of a horn cuts short any significant preparations. The students are all called to the edge of the Glade, where an audience sits on some quickly-built stands. Two unexpected faces feature among the faculty on the ground: Commandant Tepet Nuven looks on with an unreadable gaze, surrounded by other members of the staff, and a complete stranger wearing Cathak colors quickly approaches. Juwinn introduces the man as Cathak Vieren, a new addition to the staff taking the novel position of "Game Master", a fact she adds with noticeable distaste. If Vieren pays any heed to her opinion, or anyone else's, he shows no sign of it.
With the players and audience all gathered, Vieren begins announcing the game that the Lost Hand and the Coral Helix will be facing each other in. A simple exercise in taking and keeping possession of two large metal discs - each team starts with one, and score will be counted at sunset. If neither team has both objectives, both suffer the shame of having a loss on their record. Any knockout, surrender, or leaving the Glade will take the individual out for the rest of the game. It's all straightforward enough, but with a wide territory and a full day to use it, things could get very complicated indeed.
As the game is set to begin, Pyres takes some time to rile up the crowd, ensuring that everyone watching is fully invested in the Lost Hand's upcoming victory. The two fangs run off into the Glade, ready to face a long day of guerilla combat. However, only a few minutes into the game, the Lost Hand hears the voice of Peleps Corasan calling out to them from a distance. Though Vieren's rules made no explicit call for denying lethal weapons, the students in the Helix are willing to bind and blunt their blades if the Hand will agree to do so as well. Pyres and Gale quickly set about doing so, but no sooner are they finished than Oresta taking off like a shot after the voice. As far as she is concerned, the terms of the parley have been met, and it's open season on any foes foolish enough to get close enough that she can take a swing. Despite not having much tactical advantage, Gale and Pyres run to back her.
Corasan was no fool - his own fang was nearby, with Ragara Gen-Velar even set up in a blind in the trees. The Coral Helix meets the Lost Hand's charge at the stream, crossing with fantastical puissance to bring the battle to fighting range at the perfect time. In spite of the timing, though, Oresta's faith in her own strength is rewarded. With her feet planted atop her own team's disc, she drives Corasan to the ground with an overhead blow and then smashes him across the river with a wide horizontal swing, knocking him unconscious before he can manage a single attack. Pyres struggles to stay in the fight as Gen-Velar and Peleps Fleuvienne come at him both at once, but they can't land a telling blow. As Gale comes to Pyres's aid, all three remaining Coral Helix strike at her, hoping she might be a weak link they can take down to even up the score. Gale flits about like her namesake, with only a shallow scratch on the cheek to show for the coordinated assault. She returns with a strike to Cynis Sientelle's knees, bringing the Wood Aspect to the ground. Pyres and Oresta close in on the last two members of the Coral Helix, who do not try to retreat in hopes of drawing the game out, nor surrender to spare themselves pain. Without even needing to leverage their new numerical superiority, the Lost Hand quickly knocks out Fleuvienne and Gen-Velar
Gale and Oresta immediately see to making sure that the Coral Helix has indeed been knocked unconscious without any additional injuries or complications, and Pyres loudly announces victory for the Lost Hand. Game Master Vieren rushes in, astounded by the sight of the Lost Hand's swift and complete victory in what should have been a long and brutal game. He nonetheless excitedly declares the win for the Lost Hand, and the crowd, predictably, goes wild. Some, however, are not so enthused. Juwinn lambastes Vieren over the undignified spectacle being introduced to the honorable military academy, though her words don't seem to have much effect on him. The Lost Hand, meanwhile, is confronted by Tepet Single Edge and another fifth-year, Peleps Kenton. Kenton accuses the Lost Hand of cheating, citing their apparently-illegitimate presence at the school as sufficient evidence. All three of the Lost Hand have some witty rejoinders, but chasing Kenton off seems to do little to mollify him. It seems this temporary victory has only embroiled the Lost Hand further in the tempest of their fifth year of school, and there is no calm on the horizon.
The following are reactions from viewers' non-canon students.
- "Bold but reckless. To expend that much power so quickly? They would never last in protracted combat." Tepet Aoife, 6th year
- "So the Lost Hand has been found? An impressive start to a climb, but they're still on the bottom rung. More importantly: Coral Helix hasn't been a slouch for the last 4 years. What is it about the emergence of the Lost Hand that's got them so flustered?" Cynis Fallen Petals, 5th Year
- "So, is Gale Whispered a good luck charm or has she been holding out during Combat Training?" Peleps Atlas, 6th Year
- "Well, it was certainly an impressive fight from the Lost Hand, but I wonder on why the format was changed. We all need to learn to work together if we want to be soldiers, so why only learning to fight each other?" Karal Silent Inferno, 5th year
- "The Fang of the Lost Hand are starting to come off as quite the quirky enigma to me. Thirty minutes of whatever the Malfeas happened in that glade and all they have to show for it is a scratch from an arrow on one of their faces? I'm not one to fall for conspiracy theories like some of my class are, but I definitely want to keep my eyes on these three." Tepet Kendra Kai, 5th year
- "Such waste. They had 10 hours and they burn all their resources so fast. ...respect for the ranged show though." Cathak Jak Cuse, 5th year