Side A – Yasgrid
Giving up Endings wasn’t hard. As Yasgrid passed the blade over to Kayelle, she saw a fire flash behind Kayelle’s eyes.
Nia and her older sister hadn’t often gotten along, nor had they always had kind words to say to one another. In another family they might have been joined by nothing more than the weakest ties of blood and shared lineage. The M’Kellan family, for all its problems, had what those other families lacked though. Above all else, Naosha M’Kellan loved her children and respected them, and while her imperfect presentation of that love left her daughters vying for it in a few unhealthy ways, there was still enough of it to bind them together as a family.
That was why Kayelle was going to die.
Yasgrid could see it clearly in her eyes. Kayelle had taken on the task of eradicating the Troubles from the Darkwood to escape the expectations which were strangling her, but, left to her own devices, she would have fought as hard, and as long, and as smart as she could have.
At its heart, Kayelle’s quest wasn’t about self-destruction. Yasgrid believed that on little more evidence than a gut instinct, but she believed it without reservation nonetheless. In Kayelle, Yasgrid saw a seabird who’d been bound to land for too long and whose wings were starting to beat frantically on their own, pulling her to the freedom above the sea and below the sky.
Or that’s the Kayelle who Yasgrid had seen in the days of their flight through the Darkwood.
The one who stood before her in the early morning light burned with a heat that came from rage wrapped under iron bands.
Yasgrid hadn’t met Naosha for any appreciable length of time. Just a single encounter, or two if their wordless meeting at the midwinter ceremony counted. In Kayelle’s metallic calm though, Yasgrid knew she was seeing the reflection of Nia’s mother. No wild anger, no precisely directed fire, not even a spark of discontent showed on the surface. Everything was kept inside, coiled and stoked, waiting for a target to loose itself upon and consuming all mercy and hesitation as it burned inside.
“She holds the blade as though she will never let it go,” King said. From the hollow quality behind his words, Yasgrid knew he was speaking only to her, a shadow’s words taking substance only within her mind.
“She doesn’t plan to,” Yasgrid said, silently replying to King as she would to Nia. “She think she’s going to fight to the death.”
“She does not appear to be afraid of losing,” King said.
“She’s not,” Yasgrid said. “She’s afraid of losing me.”
“Curious. She is far more focused than she would be if she was fighting for herself.”
“People can be funny like that,” Yasgrid said.
“You are not concerned about this though?” King asked.
“No. I think I know what she’s going to try to do,” Yasgrid said and offered Kayelle a small apologetic smile. As Yasgrid had thought, Kayelle seemed to take it as an apology for keeping Endings away from her.
It wasn’t, but Kayelle didn’t need to know that yet.
Side B – Nia
The last thing in the world Nia needed was a soft, fluffy feeling burrowing into her gut. The middle of a fight was the wrong time for that kind of thing, not to mention there wasn’t any room in Nia’s gut since Margrada’s rock hard fist seemed intent on driving Nia’s solar plexus out through her back.
It was such a good punch though. Just excellent form and balance.
Crap! Fangirl later! Nia admonished herself as she fell into a backwards roll, letting gravity lend her speed to bleed off the force of Margrada’s hits.
Margrada tried to press the attack by leaping forward but Nia caught her with a double kick to the chest that sent the two women to the opposite side of the caged arena.
Margrada rose as fast as Nia did, blinking to reorient herself after slamming into the iron bars.
“Nice shot,” she said, rubbing her lower ribs where Nia’s kicks had caught her.
“Thanks,” Nia said. No false modesty. No de-escalation. They both wanted the prize that lay before them and they both knew that the only way to get it was to fight as hard as they could and show everyone just what they were capable.
Except, no one else was watching as far as Nia was concerned. The intensity of the fight had narrowed her world down to the confines of the arena. All she could see, all she could afford to think about, plan for, or react to, was the woman in front of her.
Neither of them rested or waited for the other to approach first.
There may have been a battle cry. Somewhere, in another world perhaps, the crowd ate it up and Belhelen cheered to see her best friend at last coming into her own and showing the world the power she’d held in check for so long.
For Nia and Margrada though, there was only each other.
Nia threw a feint with her left before they were fully engaged and then a shot with her right after Margrada slipped past the left. Margrada caught the Nia’s right punch, but it had been a feint too, allowing Nia to follow up with a tremendous left to Margrada’s unguarded head.
Margrada didn’t let go of Nia’s right hand though, despite the punch she took to the side of her face.
Sleeping Gods the toughness of this woman! Nia thought as she felt Margrada drag her off her feet and over Margrada’s shoulder.
The world spun and then stopped abruptly and painfully.
For a lot of fights, a definitive move like that would have been the end, but Nia held on, craving victory even as she lost sight of what her original victory was supposed to be..
With her right hand, Nia locked a grip onto Margrada’s arm and pulled the other woman over and firing a rising left into Margrada’s abdomen as Margrada’s sailed overhead and crashed down to the floor.
A bell rang, somewhere beyond the boundaries of the arena, a signal for the fighters to stop, but their battle was far from over.