Chapter 10: Biting Winds

April 28, 2007

1024. WHEE~

The full moon shone on the round arena as the two faced off. Without warning, the young woman raced forward, drawing her dagger from its sheath. The man could barely raise his hand in defence at her fierce attack; her blade landed on his with a sharp sound. She pushed the blade against him with one hand, which he pushed back. As he did, her other hand came up and stabbed him in the gut with the heavy metal sheath of her dagger. That move caught him by surprise; his resistance faltered and she pushed against him, causing him to fall backwards.

He turned his fall into a roll and came up on his feet, ready for her next attack. She did not disappoint, launching herself at him with unusual ferocity. Each attack was precise, orderly, and deadly. He found himself fighting for his life, forced to defend in earnest. This was not the easy job he had been led to believe. The woman he was fighting was nothing like the Priestesses before her. Her skills belonged on the battlefield, not in the temple. Distracted by his own thoughts, he felt her land several blows in quick succession. She had a way of hitting every spot, slicing deep within to cut him at his weakest, but not too near to draw actual blood. Forcing himself to concentrate, he managed to evade one of her blows and punched her in the face, still taking enough care not to scar her face.

She fell back from the blow and jumped back. Instead of pausing to look at her wound, she grinned ferally. Under the moonlight, her ash blond hair looked white, falling all over the place, that she looked wild. Wild, beautiful and untamed. Her gaze was intense, as though she was a hunter, and he was her prey. Each movement she made was calculated and precise. He could see that she was an experienced fighter and quick learner; she had adapted to his style within moments of meeting him. Outside the temple, in single combat she would be deadly, and a prize fighter. Why did the Temple keep this one away?

“Thank you, that will be all,” the voice of the Priestess who had hired him suddenly broke the silence. She moved forward and removed her hood, revealing a young woman with black hair. She had not shown his face to him, but he had expected someone more stunning after listening to her deep and musical voice.

“No, Ximena. We will not shame him. Let the fight continue. Jeani, do not kill him,” someone interjected, a man who had been leaning against one of the trees. He had been there since he was brought in. The fighter did not pay attention to the man except for the name he had called the girl.

So Jeani’s her name. Well, Will ‘O Wisp, let’s see what you can really do, he thought to himself, turning his full attention to her.

If hitting the girl once had brought compliments, he was not about to let it slip away. Compliments meant a satisfied customer, and satisfied customers would pay more if he asked nicely. And she certainly looked like she would give him a run for his money, not an unpleasant prospect for a man who found himself enjoying a brawl if his opponent made him work for it. Even if he was defeated it would not be too bad, he surmised. There were not a lot of people who could say that they had been bested by a Temple fighter. Temple Fighters were legendary on the battlefields, but they were rarely found, and it was rumoured that they were an extinct breed.

~~~~~

He woke up sometime later to see the sun setting down and the maiden he had fought changing the bandage on his wrist. For a moment, he simply laid back and enjoyed the attention, but it did not take long for him to realise just where he was and who was bandaging his arm. As soon as she had tied off the bandage and turned away, he sat up but that was as far as it went. He felt a sharp pain around his stomach as he did so, and he fell back to the bed, relieved. She put her hand on his bandage and closed her eyes, then removed it. She did not speak to him, merely shook her head. Whether she had disapproved of his getting up or the wound, he had no idea, but lying back and looking at the sandstone ceiling was a good idea right now.

Someone knocked on the door as she gathered up the bandages and entered after a moment’s hesitation. The acolyte that entered was a girl with an expressive face and wide smile. She greeted Jeani with a wide smile and bowed before her, balancing the large tray in her hands easily. He wondered how she had managed to open the door with the tray in her hands.

“Good evening Priestess Jeani! Here’s his dinner!” the young woman sat the food on the table. The smells were delicious.

“Serve him, Acolyte,” Jeani spoke in a very raspy but cold voice, and left the room.

The acolyte, who was clearly used to Jeani, merely nodded, having busied herself with preparing the meal. Despite his curiousity about Jeani, he was hungry. His stomach rumbled loud enough for the acolyte to hear. When she did, she giggled, and then helped him sit up slowly. The pain seemed to have nearly gone.

“Pardon Lady Jeani. She’s a nice person, but she can get cold,” she gave him his cutlery. “She must either like you, or Diami does. She’s never had to attend to a fighter she’s fought before.”

“What would Diami want with me? I’m not one of his own… nor will I be a pawn…” he muttered as he ate his soup with the bread.

“Diami likes fighters and warriors. They make good breeders,” she said it very casually, but that still did not stop the man from spurting his soup.

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