My sword and javelin had just passed safety check. As I left the inspection line, a voice asked, "So you fight with the javelin?"

I turned. The girl addressing me was a vision from a B-grade fantasy movie. She was about my age, slender, with her hair bound up in braids. Her medieval battle-dress was both revealing and functional, with a slit up the side to allow freedom of movement. I was immediately in love - at least for the next four hours.

I answered truthfully. "Not well. I've only been doing this for a week."

"I'm not great, either. Care to practice?"

We faced each other in the parking lot. She moved her javelin tip in a rapid figure eight. Her attack came suddenly, the foam javelin head shooting forward like a rattlesnake strike. I parried frantically, stepping back. I had a moment to savor my successful defense when her follow-up attack smacked me in the chest, knocking me off-balance.

"Keep your javelin moving so your opponent doesn't know which way the next strike will come," she explained, then offered brightly, "Best two out of three?"

***

After an hour of waiting for the enemy to attack us at our hastily constructed fortress of fallen trees and branches, we were growing impatient. Most of our army, the Griffins, had gone off on the offense to capture the flag of the enemy Dragons, leaving us to hold the fort - literally.

Fey, my instructor from the parking lot, was much less talkative once she'd gotten into character. The heralds - the referees - had informed us they'd award nearly equal points for good roleplaying as for combat victories, so we were all playing our characters to the hilt, hamming it up when the heralds came by. Apparently, Fey's character was the silent type.

Rose, an archer standing outside the fort's walls, sighed, "We should have received some casualties by now." She was referring to the rule where those who died in battle would be sent to a central location called Valhalla. They'd have to wait 10 to 20 minutes before rejoining their army, often returning to their home fort where they could easily find their allies.

"Is the enemy always this slow to attack?" I asked.

Rose peered over the wall at me. "This is your first battle, is it not?"

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"A virgin?" an eavesdropping girl in elf ears asked. "Have we a virgin in our midst?"

"It is my first battle," I responded carefully.

The elf-eared girl began to chant playfully, "A virgin! We've got ourselves a virgin!"

Rose chuckled. "Not to worry. You will have plenty of experience soon."

***

The sound of fighting erupted from the ravine below us. Roars of combatants mingled with the thumps of padded weapons. I strained to see, but the ridge and trees blocked my view. Eventually, the sounds died out, and our tension slowly filled the silence.

Minutes later, friendly troops emerged from the woods. Rose called, "Griffins! Are you the victors?"

Our commander, Kaltor, shook his head. "Survivors. Most of our people are in Valhalla, and the Dragons have all of their shieldmen back."

Rose administered her healing prayer to the wounded. As one of our team's designated healers, Rose could restore health to a player who had taken a non-fatal hit by touching them with a scroll and reciting a poem out loud. Skilled healers, like Rose, could rattle the poem off in under thirty seconds.

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