We wait. I bow while they eye me openly, trying to gauge my body, my most likely opening moves. I’m after all the undefeated Desert Beast with an impressive record of kills. They know not to take anything for granted. Plus in their stupidity they forfeited their right to see me handle the rapier. Second advantage goes to me; they already have first: two against one. A set of drums roll and echoes across the keep and a score of trumpets blare the start of the game.
End blog post #96
Start blog post #97
First order of business is to discover their moves. I back out of their instant trap which I expected and parry two thrusts at my midriff. Back more, parry again, back, parry and turn to slash at an exposed arm. Blood. Good, first cut is mine. I get a third advantage now. Back again, circle slowly, warily, drawing them in to see when they combine for a killing stroke or to throw a dagger. I have to move so neither of them can get behind me. And I have to plan my own disabling blow against either of them. Nothing for it but to continue backing away, thus angering the crowd.
Time for my ‘sand dance’ as I call it. I move my feet rhythmically, sliding them through the warm sand, feeling it, feeling the firmer stone under it, finding footing for a deadly crouch. Using the bionic ankle I shovel sand into piles while keeping them distracted with rapid slashes of the rapier, not meant to cut but to sting when contacting bare skin. I land several such and I get a couple also. It hurts, no doubt of that but I remember the floggings I watched and this I need to experience, for those victims who died in front of my eyes. I continue to make a space for later footing then step away from my little constructs. It works. One of them steps on one of the piles of sand and staggers. I was already on the move and thrust the rapier in his groin deep enough to send him doubling over. He’ll be out of commission long enough for me to tire the other. Maybe even permanently.
So to the other one. No more erection. Too bad, lost my target. I am on the move now, attacking with all my power, forcing him to give ground away from my cleared space. Push, push, watching to see if he’s going to go for the dagger throw. He knows better, too soon. He knows I’m still much too fast to give him the split second needed to draw and throw. He continues to give ground to my relentless assault. I prick him several times and watch him wince each time. He feels my sting now and he’s sweating profusely. I am making him work to save his drook hide. Push, push, until my feet are on the firmer spot I worked for earlier. Now I hold my position and mock him with several meaningless rapier whirls. His eyes follow the blade thinking I’ve got some hidden killer move in those motions. That’s what I want, to create confusion. Let him imagine non-existent killer moves: worth it to me, even if it wastes precious energy.
‘Yes drook, use that stunted imagination to see the Desert Beast ready to set her fangs in your soft flesh.’ I use the mind touch on him just enough to goad his rising fear. I can feel it and can almost hear him pleading to his partner to return to the fight. It’s of little consequence now because even if he does he’ll only get killed. I can see from the corner of my eye that the groin stab was totally disabling. It was deep enough to accomplish what I desired.
A great calm comes over me as the noise of the crowd recedes behind my head again. I’m back in the Warmo fight, at the end, when his defeat is inevitable. What are these drooks but left-overs from that black day? Remnants, rags, of a once proud entity. Dregs of male humanity lost in a world created from their own uncontrolled lusts. Lost in their own evil and still falling, unable to check their velocity, like a ship without its drive burning through the atmosphere to crash in flames, all aboard fried with it.
And I’m here to remind them of this fact, not to kill them. I have to talk to them, or at least one of them before it’s all over. Dangerous but something I sense critically necessary. I must disable, not kill. That means playing cat to the mice I’ve cornered in the granary. This is not my idea, so who’s in my mind? The Avatari, Al’Tara. I sense her, know her. But they said they’d not help me here, what’s going on? Ah, of course. I’m incarnating her, them. I’ve reached another level of understanding and can talk to my higher self. Can give myself advice. Not so alone anymore.
The disabled challenger has returned. He’s holding his fist to his side and his pallor is terrible to behold. I can feel sorry for him even in this. He holds his rapier steady enough and is trying to cover for his friend. He knows he’s facing his death now and all trace of mockery or bravado is gone. He lunges at me, hoping to give me a jab or cut that will slow me down. I easily parry even as I handle his partner. I draw my dagger with my right hand. What these poor drooks don’t know is I’m fairly ambidextrous but my right hand is my strong arm when it comes to throwing while the left is the strongest gripping hand.
With rapier in left, dagger in right, bionics fully functional I go on the attack again. Left to parry, right to feint. I force the weaker one to come at me again, leaving a tantalizing opening. He takes it, no choice in the matter as he’s weakening. I block, stabbing in his right arm this time, the rapier cutting clean through the muscle then out in one move. That’s it for that one. He collapses in the sand and I kick his sword away from him, sand in his face and move on to the other one who is now pressing me in a desperate attempt to take advantage of his friend’s last efforts.
The fight is not over, not by a long shot. Actually it is now swinging in his favour since he realizes he has no support while I’m certainly tiring. We’re one on one, as it is supposed to be and he becomes more self-reliant. He’s got his dagger out too now and the question in our minds is who throws first? Who commits? We move slowly around, facing each other, looking for that one opening the professional knows will inevitably come. I back away from him to test him. He does not take the bait and backs away from me in turn. Tit for tat. I turn my body sideways, keeping the rapier pointed in his direction, weighing my chances for a dagger throw. Not good, he’s still too fast and would block it, taking away my back up weapon. I walk backward through the sand, feeling its warmth between my toes. I smell male sweat in the air coming from the stands and realize the crowd is almost silent. They sense the tension between the challenger and I. While we measure each other again they wait. The disabling of the other one put a serious dent in their exuberance.
My challenger turns slowly to keep his eyes on me as I continue to walk backward around him. I don’t want to press him yet – his dagger makes me nervous. It looks very deadly in his hand. I am fully aware that he knows when and how to throw, that’s what I read in his mind. I have to come up with a feint to get him to commit himself. I move slowly back to the place where I’d created the sand pile and cleared some stone for footing. I repeat the process to regain the firm surface. Now what? I pretend to stagger on the piled up sand and that does the trick. In one lightning move he has thrown his dagger. The only way to block the direct throw is with my right arm. I take the dagger through the lower arm and deflect it just as it penetrates through. Gritting my teeth I set my mind above the agony, jump back, throw my dagger back in its sheath and rip his out of my arm. The blood is pouring out now, not fast enough to cause immediate death but still a dangerous cut.
I pretend to be seriously disabled, holding his dagger under my upper arm and bringing the rapier into play slowly. He commits himself to the death blow too soon. I drop the rapier in the sand, grab the dagger with my left and whip it in a sharp throwing arc, letting go just as it enters his lung. Tearing the other dagger out of its sheath I jump in the sudden opening he makes and drive it in his heart. I retrieve my rapier and go to inspect the other challenger who has rolled on his side and is moaning pitifully. Before I beseech the crowd for mercy I bend down and speak to him.
“Listen, I did not want to kill you. I don’t want to kill you. Most of us are not men killers but you force us to do this. Why? You must ask why. You are going to die now even if the crowd gives mercy because that cut in your groin cannot be repaired and you know it, being a trained fighter. Before you die, I want you to realize this: we women are intelligent people. We know what you are doing to us. We know things are supposed to be different. We also know that we have a great friend in the goddess who has awakened and is going to help us get out of this horror you have put us in. Understand this drook. We do not want to hate you, hurt you or kill you. We defend ourselves. Ask then, why must you hate us, hurt us and kill us? Wouldn’t you rather be lying down somewhere soft with a young woman’s arms wrapped around you after making love instead of lying here bleeding to death from a woman’s weapon? Ask the goddess to forgive you and ask me the same thing, now.”
He emits the death rattle once, recovers and says, “I ask forgiveness…” I reply immediately “And I grant it. You will remember when you awaken.” I don’t think he hears me but still I got a confession, of sorts. I cannot let the crowd know he’s already dead. I stand and give the “mercy” signal, raising one arm straight up, fingers splayed and wait. The cry of disgust and anger is unanimous: “Kill!” So I thrust my rapier in the body, turn and walk away to the exit to be escorted as usual by my handlers.
End blog post #97