The Lesson
Roleplaying Log: The Lesson
IC Details

Barbara Gordon helps Cassandra Cain learn a new word. (Note: No longer canonical within the MUSH)

Other Characters Referenced: Batman
IC Date: December 16, 2018
IC Location: The Batcave
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 16 Dec 2018 20:07
Rating & Warnings: PG
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The Bat Cave is as good as place as any to connect with Cassandra. It's dark, and quiet, and only Alfred really hangs about when Master Bruce is out — and at this hour, Batman is most certainly out even while everyone assumes Bruce Wayne is tucked away in his castle in the Palisades. That means she has reign of the caves beneath the manor.

She told Cassandra to meet her here, down in the dark and damp. They had all trained here, so this was as good of place as any. Her own assessment has told her that Cassandra does not need martial arts training, but it can be used as a medium for other lessons.

Going back to some of her work with the bostaff, she has selected two of them and has them both held together in one hand. She's dressed in simple black athletic clothes, her red hair braided out of her eyes and down her back in a tight rope. She listens to the droplets of water, the light movements of bats above her, and the otherwise peaceful sounds of the cave. It makes her smile — an easy, gentle smile.

If ever there were a mirror for someone like Barbara, easy going and always ready to help out, it is Cassandra Cain, reflecting an earnest quiet that seems to seep into the very air around her. She stands before her teacher, one of a handful that have given her the chance to prove herself worthy of the cowl. Worthy of an ideal. Every day is the struggle she expected it to be, and nothing like the struggles her father had forced upon her. Those things? Those things were easy. Learning to speak is hard.

Even now, she looks upon Barbara and has some sense of what she's going to do next. The tiny tension of muscles yet moving, the smile that she opens with, understanding and patient. Every inch of her mentor bleeds through the opening steps of some opening menagerie, of some plan to help her learn. But it will be hard, not easy like the violence that came before.

Cassandra Cain is looking forward to the challenge.

Dressed similarly, she stares at the staves for a long moment, one of a few weapons that were never particularly important in David Cain's regimen. She was trained to be an assassin, after all, and beating people to death with bo staves isn't exactly what assassins do. Usually.

Still she looks ready, her hair left out and wild, though far shorter than Barbara's, and her laser focus ready to follow her intention, her instruction, and her path forward.

"Alright," Barbara finally says, breaking the silence that has stretched between them. She steps forward, footsteps amazingly light and extremely silent. She's mastered that — but that was even before Bruce. She holds it horizontal for Cassandra. "Before you take it, name it. First letter sound only." She nods to it. "Sss." Letter sounds. That's what she's learned. Start with the letter sounds, and be deliberate.

She waits for Cassandra to produce the sound, her grip on the staff hard. Only once done does she release it. This session between Barbara and Cassandra has rules: they would spar, but strikes had to be called, and they had to be called with the first letter sounds of that limb: 'heh' for head, 'aah' for arm, 'lll' for leg. It linked the sound to the body, crafting a physical link between the learning. It is a start, and Babs is willing to give anything a try.

Once Cassandra has taken the staff does she step back, widening out her stance into a balanced, but simple posture. She flashes Cassandra a gentle smile as she does, and she readies up her weapon, demonstrating the right grip and angle on the long, solid weapon.

The silence continues past explanation, and after a pause for contemplation, pulling intention from more than Barbara's words, she reaches out. It's painful at first, to watch. She knows maybe a handful of simple words. Yes. No. Even a name or two. But this is different. This is putting it in motion, on the fly, and she won't just be learning to speak words, she'll be learning their meaning while learning to fight with this very long stick.


This part she can manage, but the rest of the rules might be difficult. Her brow furrows as she steps back with her ssstaff, feeling it's weight in her hand and turning it over without letting it leave her grip. Soon this becomes a two handed flourish, slow and methodical to learn this weapon as she had learned so many others. When she finally turns to face Barbara again, she is in her fighting stance, one she has constructed by bringing this stave's weight and length into line with it's closest neighbor in her mind: A spear. This she combines with every ounce of skill contained in Barbara's muscle memory, a memory she can see play out in the way she holds the staff, and in the way she handles it. She immediately moves to copy her, learning before any more words or sounds are exchanged.

But this is where she must wait, because she does not yet know the various sounds, does not know the right word for each limb or what it might be called if she were to hit her in her side, or at her ribs. She looks through Barbara, waiting for the next step of the lesson to begin. Her stance widening, a little to wide, perhaps. Her grip going slightly slack, the top of her staff dipping.

In truth, she is preparing for what comes next.

Let the lesson begin.

The long drawn consonant sound is met with a small nod, and then she smiles a bit encouragingly. It is impossible for Barbara to ever be the same teacher that Cassandra's father was; there's too much heart in her being to be that harsh. But she is also quite serious when she needs to.

So, that smile is a quick break to her expression before she sobers back into the teacher mode once more. She watches as Cassandra takes on the same stance, and it encourages a gentle nod of her head. Then she makes a sudden move, and before she commits to it, she sounds out a hard aaah sound as she aims to smack the staff at Cassandra's left arm. She's still moving forward, shuffling her feet as she tips the butt of the staff down just a heartbeat later toward Cass's feet.


This is where Cassandra Cain lives, in the moments between action and reaction. She moves in tandem, sees it coming before teacher finishes her motion, her staff swinging in to meet Barbara's with a technical proficiency that should be impossible without her knowing this weapon inside and out. But she knows it well enough, knows it from Barbara's motions, from her first attack before it's even launched, and she counters with a thwack of wood against wood, and follows it with a swinging counter to send the butt of her staff into the mat between her feet. This she uses to pivot, to launch, whirling up and over Barbara's head in the whirlwind dance of destruction she is known for, the uncanny skill that let her strike out before knowing it all, that have impressed Bruce enough that he gave her a cowl.

A swing comes for Barbara's head.

It stops, because she doesn't make the sound, hesitating. Then she goes for the leg, but she stops, because she doesn't know that one yet. It might seem like a failure, since she did not emulate her. Because her instincts told her countering with a perfect mirror is inviting defeat. But in the seconds that follow her reset, Barbara will be aware that she did make a sound.

It was quiet, it was hard to hear over the smack of wood against wood, but with each block where staff met staff, a hissing 'ssss' left her mouth.

It seems at the very least, she understands the game, and she watches Barbara for what comes next, whirling her staff into a ready position.

The abrupt launch from Cassandra surprises her, and she ducks low out of the threat of impact from the somersaulting Cassandra. She spins, only to get her staff up in time prepare to catch an attack from Cass. When the girl hesitates — both times — the teachers nods her head. She points to her head with the staff. "Heh," she says, sound long and purposeful. Then she uses the opposite end of her staff to gesture to her feet. "Fffff."

The soft sss that comes from Cassandra is welcomed by a warm smile, and then she nods gently. "Repeat the sounds… hehhfffff… then attack, Cass. Show me what you got."

It's still so difficult to announce her attack, even AS it happens, something that goes against every natural instinct. For Cassandra, it is betraying everything David taught her about how to fight. But this, she understands, is not about fighting. Not about David. In many ways it is exactly the counter to his ways, and so she forces herself to let go with a steadying breath. She gives a nod to Barbara, something that's at least a universal starting point for what little language they share, and then she engages in a more literal language of violence than she ever has.


The staff dies in, stabbing more like a sword than swinging like a staff. It repeats, a stutter-step launching her closer to repeat the action. "Fff! Fffff!!" Again and again, until her other hand joins the staff and she whirls low, but swings high, aiming for her mentor's head with a resounding "Heh!!!" that splits the air as a momentous battlecry!

It's harder for her to make these sounds that Barbara could ever really know. Her brain simply is not wired for speech. Raised in isolation from any language, from anything but the words the body can make with motion, she is not meant to make any sounds that ever have meaning. It is a struggle beyond anything that a child will experience when learning the alphabet, and yet she persists in her quest, and all because Barbara draws it from her, blood from stone in the form of Heh and Ffff that echo as she continues her pattern, her attacks slower for it, her motions perhaps predictable, but never in her life had any motion had as much meaning for her as these, her first steps toward another kind of language.

Barbara engages quickly the moment the dance of staves begins. As Cassandra calls her strikes, the teacher is ready to counter them in precise, exact moves. The slap of wood hitting wood resounds in loud echo around the cave, stirring the bats that have not yet escaped the dark, damp recesses. When Cassandra goes for the head, she ducks down to let the staff swing past.

She knows how much this takes Cassandra, so there is nothing more to this lesson than forcing her to attack, but only after she calls the attack. She lets the girl go through several strikes and whacks until she advances a sudden step. She aims for Cassandra's leg, and she sharply vocalizes, "Lll! Leg!"

It passes on from a dance of staves to the dance of understanding. Maybe she won't say a whole word tonight, but as that the give and take continues, with Cassandra's offense stifled in a way she never thought she'd be more thankful for, she anticipates the reversal and the counter, leaning her shin into the incoming wood with a stoic silence.


Even now, so focused on understanding which sounds go with which bodyparts, she looks for a way to win, and it means losing first. It hurts, no doubt, but Cassandra has never shown that she minds pain even a little bit. Through and through gunshot wounds were once a wakeup call, and she takes the resounding crack to her leg not just because it lets her whirl her staff into a sweeping motion for Barbara's legs, but because the pain will help her remember this sound, perhaps more than others.

In her own way, she uses David's lesson plan, layering it over Barbara's. It isn't just combat, reading the incoming attack, or retaliating. It was always pain.


Almost, but it is clumsy in her mouth, that sound, and weather her sweep succeeds or not, she speaks it alloud again, stopping in mid-motion to repeat it, her brow furrowed. Because she wants this word. She needs it.


A huff of breath. A focused gaze. "Le…le-eg."

Barbara is patient as the lesson continues. Cassandra is undeniably more advanced in her martial skills than Barbara ever was or will be. The redhead is a martial artist, but Cassandra is a martialist. It's a distinct difference.

Then the letter sounds begin, and Cass makes her attack. And this is where the teacher in Barbara comes out, for she lets her student land the hit soundly with a show of defense. She earned it, and the L sound followed by its vowel and ending consonant is awarded with a strike to Barbara's leg.

"Good," Babs responds, wincing and stepping back with a light laugh. "Good work, Cass. That was perfect." She rises slowly from her attack stance, letting the staff rest in her hands in a relaxed hold. She breathes out a slow exhale. "And good hit." She rubs slightly at the top of her hip of the struck leg.

The calm after the storm brings introspection, and Barbara can see it in the downward turn of Cassandra's gaze. She looks to her staff as if it had some hidden meaning, a quiet amazement lingering in the moments beyond Barbara's words.

But words are still not so simple for her, they are things that require concentration far beyond combat, because that is her first language. When she looks to Barbara, she repeats her single, lonely word. Every inch of it earned, and not just by her, but by the both of them.


Never quick to smile, she finds one now, pride welling up in the turn of her lips. It's one more victory, so very small and so very precious, and it comes with another word she has learned. "Good." Her vocabulary is now something like twelve words, perhaps, and each one of them is an accomplishment she could not have achieved without Barbara.

"Leg." Barbara repeats the word, and it brings her own bright smile to her lips. She steps forward, and gently — tenderly even — rests a hand on Cassandra's shoulder. She squeezes gently at the muscle and bone there, conveying her own pride and acceptance for her student. "You're getting there. Remember, everything takes time."

Then she steps back, and gives the staff a little swing and spin. "Alright. Again." Then she adjusts into a stronger stance once more, and this time invites Cassandra to make the first hit. The two engage swiftly, easily, and the rules bind Cass to her letters, to the sounds they make, to the association. Babs lands her own strikes, but Cassandra proves her finesse with the weapon and the words as they come.

When another hard strike lands, earned by the word associated with the target, Barbara withdraws back into a rest position. She's proud of her student, and the kindness and warmth is genuine and gentle.

The lesson ends, and Barbara sits on the ground of the training mat with her legs folded in front of her, staff balanced along her lap. "Cass… I need your help on something," she starts, gesturing invitingly.

In the aftermath of the battle of wills, staffs, and even words, Cassandra takes up a similar position, but she's mid-chug from a water bottle when Barbara says one of the few words she knows.


It's the one she hears most often from those she swoops in to save, a primal cry for the darkness to leap out and answer a singular prayer. The Black Bat does her best to do just that, and now the tone is different, and her teacher's body language is different from those she swoops in to save. This is different.

Mostly because no one else in their little family has ever asked her for anything. It has her complete attention, and she sets the water bottle aside, shifting to square up with Barbara and look her over, silent prompt to continue so that she might read her intentions in her musculature, if not entirely in her words.

The pivot of Cassandra's attention, the wordless focus. They are things Barbara are learning is part of communicating with Cassandra. Her little bits of research into helping communicate with someone who is nonverbal — because that's what Barbara does, she researches. She makes steady eye contact with the girl, nodding slightly.

"In the Underground, there's something… new. Magical. I'm not sure what experiences you have with magic, but I need you to get up to speed. I'm taking a small group down there and track and surveil it. We need information, and so we need to go in there quiet, observe, and get out." Her smile softens a bit. "I think you can help me with that."

The slight narrowing of her eyes is all the reaction she has apart from the part of her lips. Her gaze goes distant a moment, because she knows the general implication. Magic, however, is not something she has experience with. But the emphasis on the word before helps her understand the importance.

A moment later, Cassandra rises, and moves to where her bag is against the wall. From it she pulls her costume, and there before Barbara she tosses the small device she uses to get picture messages and directions to various places around the city.


Seeking directions to this place, she begins to suit up, apparently all ready to undertake this mission herself, or at least some sort of preliminary scouting. But this is her way. When there's something to be done, she does not hesitate. And for this, the first thing Barbara has ever asked of her? She would not wait a moment longer than she needed to.

When Cassandra rises, Barbara has to show patience. Others speak their ideas aloud, but her student must show her what she means through other methods. So, she waits while Cass gets up and fetches her costume. When the little device is flung at her, she catches it in surprise. It takes her a moment to realize she's suiting up, getting ready to go. "Wait, wait, wait." She gets to her feet, casting the staff aside with a small thunk. She steps forward, reaching to touch the girl's shoulder. "Hold on. Not yet."

She exhales a breath, steadying herself. "Not alone. You understand?" She hesitates. "I want to come with you, and I want to take an expert to help us understand what we're seeing."

This part is easier for Cassandra to understand, and she stops in mid-motion, looking to where Barbara touches her on the shoulder before she reaches out to take her little handheld back. Before long she gives a nod, because she can tell there was a question and she understands well enough.

And yet, she still begins putting her costume on, tattered cape and all. In the end she reaches out to take hold of Barbara's shoulder, giving her a squeeze to show how thankful she is for everything she's given her tonight: Friendship, Knowledge, and most importantly, Trust.

That done she shows Barbara on the handheld what her patrol route looks like, just ten square blocks that Bruce has given her make safer and bring justice too.

It's Cassandra's way of reassuring Barbara she doesn't meant to go on her mission without waiting for everyone else.

"I want to walk you through everything first… tell you about the Whispers, and everything that's happened… it's going to be dangerous, Cass. I want you to walk in ready to face what's happening down there." Her tone is steady, confident, and unwavering. She cares, there's no doubt there.

Then she steps back, letting her continue to dress. When Cass's own hand settles on her shoulder, she looks up to meet the girl's eyes. Babs's expression softens a bit, and she nods at the display. "Go patrol. When you come back, meet me back at the Belfry and I'll give you the information."

She hesitates just a heartbeat before she smiles. "You did good work today."

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