A very useful place, the World Outside The World was; in the formless aether one could find shining paths between existences, the not-crystals of power itself ... and countless land-drifts, glassy and promising some future existence.
One of those very drifts, resembling a broad, smooth plain of polished obsidian, was currently the focus of far more activity than the World Outside The World normally experienced. Chuckling to himself, Nightsilver paced out a broad, wide arena -- scratching the lines into the "glass" with claw and antler -- and, with the task completed, shifted to a more humanoid shape just in time for his counterpart to arrive. By the time the silvery shimmering gate closed behind Telris, he was feeling settled into the new form.
"Ready for our little dance?"
The chuckle in his voice took the edge from the sharp teeth behind his smile. They made a fair pair, really: she in palest blue and ice-white trimmed with gold, striking against her dusky complexion, and he with night-colours and a blouse thin enough to show the silvery coils that traced across his own dark flesh; the one with pertly curving ears and golden horns, the other sporting great vulpine ears midnight-furred and silver-marked, and softly glowing grey pearl antlers ...
Telris nodded, taking in the makeshift arena with a nod and a little smile of her own.
"Yes, I think I am. This is an interesting idea, sparring here where we can't do any damage --"
"Or any lasting injury."
The featureless green glow of Nightsilver's eyes met her own blue, and he flicked his tail once.
"So, then, shall we?"
She grinned, encouraged by his ready acquiesence, and drew a shimmering blade from the World Outside's pale light -- in the same swift motion darting forward, weaving, to feint and jab. Nightsilver lunged backward a pace -- for a moment, blue-black wings, feathers silver-marked with the shadow of the moon, appeared -- howling laughter, and called his own sword, twisted thornlike from lunargent, to his hand to parry her strikes and catch the blade, locked in his weapon's coiling barbs. They struggled against each other to break the lock, and he was chuckling again.
"First strike is not always a successful one, you realize --"
The flash caught him unawares. Dazzled, he dropped the parry and flared wings again, mantling; Telris danced away, and it was her turn to be laughing now.
"Maybe not, but I think I tagged you anyway --!"
"T'cha, fair --"
His turn now, sword almost writhing like a living thing as he closed in, switching grip from hand to hand after each smooth crescent arc whistled through the air, wings held up and wide to snap sideways, box Telris in against the arena's smooth oval that cast false-sparks into the air as the two pressed into the ward Nightsilver had carved into the ground. Another sword blow, the tip biting Telris's flesh and drawing glimmering motes instead of blood --
-- and in the same moment, a knife of light flew and buried itself into Nightsilver's shoulder.
In an eyeblink Telris was away, swerving and dancing lightly, exchanging blade for bow as she gained ground away from her opponent. Half-shifted, Nightsilver pulled the knife from his flesh in a mist of light and lifted his head as if scenting the air, ears pricked high, as Telris formed her arrows, nocked the first two, and let the barrage fly.
The bright barbed lances shattered against a mandala of moonlight runethorns, and Nightsilver smiled through his fall of black hair.
"Not this time, I don't think."
"Well, it didn't hurt to try ~"
Then, from a gesture from its master, the mandala split clear in two. One half re-formed into Nightsilver's gossamer shielding; the other sank into the glassy surface below and sped towards Telris. And where it went, the ground erupted into razor sharp shards before shattering into obsidian dust. Telris took to her heels, weaving around the earthfang's path, firing arrows when the opportunity presented itself -- keeping Nightsilver off-balance, unable to go on the offensive. The thing had to run out of energy eventually.
-- Or collide with the arena's ward and shatter itself. That was also an option. Of course the dust had barely settled and Nightsilver was on the move, loping the length of the arena ... away from Telris.
Really? What was he doing ...?
"I don't think that's the way out --"
But he paid no mind to Telris' cheerful call, no indeed; but, once he'd raced as far as he could reach -- deflecting arrows as he went, mandala shattering with the last pace gained -- he whirled, and laughed, and fell to all fours in a liquid shifting. On paws and blurred wings, now, jaws agape, he charged around the arena's edge, covering ground at a fearful speed, ignoring the arrow that buried itself in one wing's leading edge as Telris weighed her options, took that shot, prepared another --
A disc of silver appeared on the ground a pace ahead of Nightsilver; hitting it like an onrushing train, he disappeared from sight -- materializing again scant lengths away from Telris, and not stopping. His charge took her clear off her feet, bow dissipating from the shock of the blow as she landed --
Her shining blade swung to reach his flanks, but not before strong jaws locked carefully, and warningly, around her throat, his head tilted just enough to keep sharp antler tines from scoring her face. When he 'spoke', his mental voice was thick with amusement.
~Well. I think we've come to quite the impasse, here. A draw, would you say?~
He wasn't causing near enough pressure to cut off her air; Telris answered readily.
"Yeah, I think so. Thanks for the lessons, it's been fun."
~And to you on both counts. You're as unpredictable as moonwings, I swear. Good choice of style.~
Jawlock released, he sat back on his haunches; she dismissed her blade and sat up slowly. Yes, a good show of lessons all around ...