Ashes of the Fighters (Peregrine x CJ Liston)

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  1. “It’s almost time for the matches to begin,” Lord Aeron Rydell began as he swung the door open. His arrival was accompanied by the smell of sweat, piss, and blood, wafting in from the arena in the center of the building. It was even worse than the smell of this cell, which seemed and impossible feat. Declan Hyrell nearly gagged at the smell of it, before forcibly swallowing his gorge and presenting a tight-lipped smile to the cosmopolitan man standing in front of him. The chains binding his ankles to the floor rattled slightly as he stood.

    Lord Rydell didn’t seem to notice Declan’s discomfort, as his back was turned to the tiny room as he closed the door. Aeron seemed uncomfortable himself. It may have been the first time the nobleman had ever entered the slave pits. Normally that was the job of the slave-trainer. Declan, though, was a special occasion. “You’ve got a hard fight ahead of you. The bribe, well, it was successful. Our “impartial” lots picker paired you against Visrah, the Black Water.” Aeron rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, carefully staying clear of the walls, lest his fine clothes brush up against the dirt. His shoes were already beyond repair. Declan didn’t feel a trace of guilt. It was the man’s fault for wearing such impractical clothes for the occasion.

    “She’s tough. One of the toughest. I’ve seen her fight before, and she’s a beast. Utterly merciless, obedient to the crowd’s every whim. They’re expecting a bloodbath, since she’s paired against someone new in the arena, and all money is on Visrah.” It was far too late for concerns now, but Lord Rydell actually had the gall to look concerned. Even though this had been his idea. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

    “Of course I’m ready, I’m immortal,” he replied, trying to sound cheeky. He almost pulled it off, too, until his heart suddenly jumped up into his throat, choking off his words. “Doesn’t matter how many times they try and ki...” he gagged, swallowed, and continued, smile plastered right back on his face. “Kill me, it won’t work. I could be the worst fighter in the world, and it wouldn’t matter, because I’ll still win.”

    The lord’s expression of concern suddenly seemed to double. “You aren’t the worst fighter in the world, are you?”

    “Of course not,” Declan replied with a scoff. “I’m far from the best, but I’m not the worst. Don’t worry. The audience will get their bloodbath, and you’ll get all the money you’ve planted on my unfavorable odds after my victory. Everyone’s happy.”

    “Except you,” Aeron pointed out. “As you are about to get ripped apart for the amusement of the crowd.”

    This time, Declan didn’t manage to conceal his grimace. Aeron patted him on the shoulder delicately, before subtly wiping his hands off on his pants while Declan pretended not to notice. For a moment they simply stood there like that, before Lord Rydell coughed awkwardly.

    “Well, then...” he said, uncertainly. “Good luck.” Without further word, he walked out the door.

    The fights began only a few minutes later. Had Declan wanted to, it would have been possible for him to turn over his wastebucket and use it as a footstool to peer out the window at the arena below him and watch the fights. He could hear the clatter from the slave pens on either side of him as two others did exactly that. Declan, however, sat back down on the bench and buried his hands in his face as he tried not to think about what exactly he’d just gotten himself into. The effort was thoroughly ruined when there was a sudden roar of excitement from the crowd, which nearly drowned out the sound of a scream of pain. The shouting got louder, for a moment unintelligible, until it suddenly resolved into words. Or, rather, one word specifically. Repeated over and over and over again.


    There was a sudden hush, where it was suddenly possible to make out the muffled screaming of one of the combatants. It went from muffled to bellowing in a moment, before ending in a gurgling scream. The crowd roared its approval.

    “Hehehe!” Came a sudden gleeful cackle, floating in through the window from some of the nearby seating. “Third winning bet in a row! Ah, the gods smile on me today. I’m going to drink well tonight, yessiree, and for the week to come, too!”

    Declan’s fight was not early in the matches. He had more than enough time to listen to the sounds of people and beasts getting injured and dying to begin to think he was going numb to it. A few matches before his fight, although he did not know it at the time, he got up the nerve to watch. It wasn’t until the guard rammed his fist against the door and ordered Declan against the back wall that he suddenly realized he had just watched some of the ways he was about to die. He threw up just in time to hit the guard’s feet, and earned a black eye and a bloody nose for his timing. It vanished, even as the guard pushed him out of the cell and down the dark, stone hallway.

    For a time as he walked the sounds of both combat and the audience faded, and he imagined he was leaving. He pictured silent mountains, a green pasture, and chestnut hair, glowing in the sun and cascading over fair shoulder. Then he was back, as the guard shoved him from behind, and he barely managed to catch himself before landing face first on the floor. But at least he was calm again.

    He was given a two-handed sword, which looked impressive with his muscular frame, but he knew was far too heavy for him to be able to swing effectively. It didn’t matter. He didn’t really plan on relying on a sword anyways.

    “Two more fights,” the guard said brusquely as he herded Declan into a small space. There was a gate on each end of the tiny room, more of a holding space than a real room, the one Declan was shoved through, and the one that opened onto the arena. “Then you’re up.” The gate dropped closed, and all that was left to do was wait for his moment to die.
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  2. On the other side of the arena, Visrah “Black Water” stared out from the barred windows set in the huge wooden gate. New combatants were striding onto the field: a behemoth in chainmail wielding a trident and a scarred elder wearing reinforced leather with shield and spear in his hands. Both were well supplied and bore the emblems of their masters, making this more than a match of gory entertainment. Rather, a duel between rival noble houses.

    “Another match between the Chalabonds and Gyrells?”

    Visrah spun on her heel and knelt in one smooth motion. Lord Saffen Ranggard walked next to her, his light eyes fixed on the beginning battle. He snorted with contempt and motioned for her to stand. “Nobles these days. They’d rather show might through dog fights than resolve matters through their own steel and strength. How pathetic.”

    She side-glanced at her master but remained mute. In the field, Chalabond released a roar and charged, using his trident like a lance. Gyrell raised his shield. The distance between vanished quickly. Chalabond released a laugh and lunged to the side, aiming at the older slave’s exposed torso. But the older slave expected this. He twisted his body parallel with the Chalabond slave, and slammed his shield down on the trident. The man stumbled, unbalanced by the blow- right into the tip of the Gyrell spear. He speared his own throat, gurgling and clawing vainly at the older man’s hands. The other slave just sneered and delivered a kick to his chest. The Chalabond behemoth collapsed to the ground as blood sprayed form his slit windpipe. Withering and choking on his own blood, it took him several minutes to die.

    Disapproval hissed through the noble crowd. Quick matches gained slaves nor their masters points in this arena. The Gyrell slave, unconcerned, flicked the Chalabond slave’s blood off his weapon and stalked back to an open gate. Guards rushed out to remove the corpse.

    “Humph. Disgraceful,” Ranggard said as he stroked his salt-and-pepper beard, “Normally, any slave who gave such poor performance I’d have whipped. However…in your case, Visrah,” he faced her, only to meet her eyes squarely meeting his own. Ranggard refused to twitch- but the defiance still unnerved even though he had tried for years to beat the stubbornness out of her. He gave himself a mental shake. “For once, I want you to make your match quick and clean. I suppose you know Talon was meant to fight today, not you?”

    She tilted her head slightly, and blinked. Ranggard harrumphed. “Someone’s rigged your match. And I don’t tolerate meddlers. Especially those who think they can play my men to whatever tune they desire. The only thing I can tell you with certainty is the slave you’ll be fighting is a new blood. No one we’ve seen in action. You know what I want.”

    The lord master turned to look out onto the battlefield, where the final match before Visrah’s rapidly approached an end. The contestants- a starved female and lanky male- leapt at each other with dull knives with the ferocity of wolves. They bled from hundreds of cuts, the female’s eye had been split in half and the male suffered from a torn abdomen. By the cheers of nobles and slaves alike, this fight went much more to their liking. Visrah ignored it. She kept her eyes solely focused on her master as his chestnut colored eyes took on a surreal quality. Weak sunlight reflected across the irises but his pupils remained un-dilated. His wide nostrils flared. His lips set in a rigid line. His fingers into tight fists at his back and his feet spread to shoulder’s width. Dressed in royal purple robes and soft leather boots, Ranggard’s stance was an odd one. Visrah knew it well though. Ranggard’s other slaves would say, “The noble lord has taken his leave and now the high general appears”. In his growing age, Ranggard’s mind often slipped between present and past. He often confused the retired, gamble- loving lord with the King’s high general, a military man at his prime. It was worse when he met with slaves at their training. He thought of them as his soldiers as much as his property, and no one knew which was better to be. Lord Ranggard’s infamous ferocity appeared in all his dealings. He was equally cruel and fair to everyone.

    Glancing at the battlefield, Visrah watched as the man finally knock down his opponent and pounce on her. He stabbed her over and over again, not caring where his knife landed. She threw her hands up feebly and howled with agony. Another long, drawn-out death would ensue- but this time, the crowd cheered wildly, crowing the man on. Visrah even heard suggestions on where to stab her called out. The male went into a frenzy. He thrust the knife down faster, giggling as his tongue lolled out and his eyes popped wide. Visrah’s lips twitched in the faintest sneer.

    “How easily men break in war…” she turned at Ranggard’s voice but his eyes were far gone. Her left hand flexed- then she looked back at the wailing slave and grotesque maiming, remaining silent.

    Eventually, the guards appeared in the field. The female’s screams had ended long ago, but the male continued cutting her in his insanity. Only when she had been mutilated beyond recognition did the guards come out and wrench the other slave away. He instantly blacked out but the crowd’s enthusiasm followed him as he was carried out.

    Ranggard sighed, broken from his reverie. “Remember Visrah, quick and clean. Whoever wanted you in a fight against their own mutt will quickly regret it. I hate meddlers.”

    Whipping around, his elegant robes billowing around him, Ranggard marched away as Visrah’s gate creaked, beginning to rise. The din of the crowd suddenly compounded, creating a deafening roar. Through it, however, Ranggard swore he heard one word float to his ears: “Hypocrite.”
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  3. For a moment, as the gate began to creak upwards in front of him, Declan had the wild, irrational instinct to try and hold it down. If it didn't open, he wouldn't have to enter the arena. He bit his knuckles to repress the urge, before gently running his fingers down the side of his face to calm his racing heartbeat. He closed his eyes and, for one brief instant, pictured green mountains and chestnut hair. Then blue eyes flashed open again, and he grinned toothily before stepping out into the arena. He lifted his large sword up into the air one handed, exposing the muscular strength of his chest and arms, only to be greeted by a chorus of boos. Apparently the people didn't appreciate someone brand new to the arena being paired against a veteran like the Black Water. Well, no need to worry. They would be changing their tune soon enough.

    As he felt the hard-packed dirt of the arena under his bare feet, and felt a cold, invisible gel begin to coat his hand, Declan's rapidly beating heart began to still. It had always been like this. He was always nervous, right up until the point where he was about to dive into the thick of the action. Then his nerves stilled, and he was left with nothing but a cold confidence about what he needed to do. Now, he didn't even have to worry about the possibility of losing his life. All he had to deal with was the pain, and even that would only last for the few seconds it would take for him to be healed. There was no way this could go wrong.

    Across the arena from him, his opponent stepped into the clearing. She was a lithe thing, tall and strong, with a mass of dark hair cascading over her shoulders. If it wasn't for the cold murder in her pale eyes, she would have been quite beautiful. Declan grinned at her as well, suddenly finding himself amused by the thought of the face she was going to make when she realized the confidence that practically oozed off of her was completely misplaced.

    They squared off in the center of the arena, both tense as they waited for the signal to being their fight. Declan knew that his opponent, Miss Black Water, was going to strike first. He would do his best to try and stave it off, but he knew she was going to be the first to land a fatal blow. It was only to be expected. She was a master of the arena. But, well, after she "killed" him, then the real fight would begin. His grin widened, as the thought of the pain that was waiting for him fled his mind. He couldn't wait to see what kind of turmoil his existence would cause, both within the ring and without it.

    A burst of flame, produced by a tiny trace of essence buried in the sand, burst suddenly into existence in the center of the ring, and the crowd screamed, excited at the thought of more blood. Declan raised the sword in front of him as a completely clear substance formed over most of his body, creating hard plates over his body, protecting his arms, legs and vital organs. For a moment he had considered leaving the plates of his chest and back, this was to be a demonstration after all, but there was no sense in making it easy for the supposed arena expert. He might as well see what she was capable of first.
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 1
  4. Visrah reflexively took a defense position before her mind registered the enemy was not attacking. Her head cocked, studying him. Clean hair, cocky grin, firm grip on his sword. He was confident- but still only newblood. His overall healthy appearance proved that enough. And his stance was off. She wondered, what did he have to be so confident about?

    Visrah readjusted her grip on her weapons. They were a chipped short sword and rusting flail. An odd combination made by an apathetic guard. Her lips twisted. She had less-than-ideal equipment against the newblood's long sword, assuming he knew how to use it. A direct assault would normally be unwise... yet he seemed in no hurry to charge her. And Master Ranggard wanted a quick fight. She had to comply.

    For a moment, her eyes found his. They locked as she tilted back her flail and twirled the sword until the blade pressed along her forearm. Visrah charged.

    She covered the distance in short bounds, on top of the newblood in seconds. She feinted right, aiming a blow with her flail at his side. Simultaneously she raised her sword, using it like a tonfa, and went for his throat.
  5. Declan felt his heart rate slowing, as his mind cleared. Seemingly for the first time since he had become a slave he felt like he was free from all distractions. It had always been like this when he had fought. It was what had always given him his strength. When the situation got severe, no matter how scared he was, no matter how worried about what was going to happen to him and everyone else around him, he was able to forget it all and focus completely on the matter at hand. It made him cool and calculating. But, most of all, it made him brave, almost to the point of recklessness. The quiet knowledge of his immortality in the back of his head only served to strengthen his brash confidence.

    EHe completely ignored the flail, trusting to his invisible armor to protect him from the blunt-force blow, and therefore saw right through Visrah's feint. He stepped forward and to the side, the exact opposite reaction of a novice fighter who would see something flying towards their body, crashing violently into the head of the weapon. He gritted his teeth, ignoring the pain as the blow was dispersed across his entire chest. For an instant he thought he felt a rib crack, before he forgot about it. The damage would heal within a few moments. The crowd let out a simultaneous gasp of surprise, expecting to see him crumple, only for him to bring up the sword, using the flat edge to deflect Visrah's blade away from his throat. At the same time he swung it down powerfully with both hands, aiming for her head, but preparing to pull it to the side to connect with her shoulder.
  6. Visrah rolled away, leaving his blade to impact the ground. She hopped out his reach and again took a defensive stance.

    She had to re-evaluate her tactics. The newblood had received some training then. Not surprising, but what concerned her was the hit he took from her flail. A normal human would have collapsed from the impact, suffering from puncture wounds, cracked ribs, and bruising. His right side would be a mess. But they weren't normal humans.

    Visrah's remained impassive as she maneuvered from the reach of the newblood's sword. She had felt his rib crack, but something protected him from the flail's spikes. And here he was, standing like her hit meant nothing. What kind of powers did this man possess? Invisible armor? Instant healing? The first...certainly plausible. Visrah readjusted her weapon's grip. The second very less like. Healing abilities, or manifestations of, tended to be rare in her experience. In her whole time as being a slave, she knew of one man who could legitimately heal wounds- and he suffered a high price because of it. Perhaps her opponent had impenetrable skin? Explains him suffering from the force impact, but no puncturing. It did not account how he appeared unharmed. Visrah flexed her fingers and tilted her head slightly. She suspected that Ranggard wouldn't get the fight he desired.

    Deciding on her course of action, Visrah lifted two fingers from her sword's hilt and beckoned Declan.
  7. Declan recovered quickly from the downward swing of his sword, twisting it so that it landed flat side against the ground, and using that hit to bounce it back up into a ready position. He had expected Visrah to use his moment of exposure to press her advantage, and try and drive him backwards or otherwise corner him, leaving her blade free to pierce somewhere his "armor" couldn't reasonably protect. Instead, he was surprised to see that she had backed away far enough as to be completely out of reach of his longer blade.

    he studied her for a moment, surprised by this choice. The way Lord Rydell had spoke of her, Declan had expected a vicious beast, driven by bloodlust. Intelligent, of course, wily, but aggressive. Instead, she had gone on the defensive. Had she, somehow, already figured out his secret? Had taking the blow of the mace been too much of a hint? Should he have been more cautious?

    But Declan didn't have the luxury to think right now. Visrah was beckoning him forward, and as little as he liked to step into whatever she was planning, he had no choice. Aeron had wanted an exciting, brutal fight. Something to make the crowd go wild, so that they might even be forgiving about all the money they were about to lose from betting against him. That certainly didn't entail him standing still long enough to try and figure out what her trap might be, or how much she already knew. Whatever it was, he had to step into it willingly. It would, after all, only hurt for a few seconds.

    He hefted the sword once again, getting it into a semi-defensive position, before charging forward. At the last instant before he would be within striking distance of her sword he stepped to the left, using the weight and momentum of his sword to send it spinning around. His step would make it look like he was going to attack from the left, but the unexpected pirouette would actually send the sword in from Visrah's right.
  8. Visrah stepped into his swing and brought up her sword. She knew that pirouette move- she'd used herself some times before. Declan's execution was nearly flawless, however, and her esteem for his skills rose.

    The two blades slid along each other until they smashed hilt-to-hilt. At that moment, Visrah dropped her sword. It dropped hilt-up into the ground. The absence of the block caused Declan's blade to leap forward while Visrah simultaneously spun around. His blade sliced her right side. She grunted- but now she was directly behind Declan. She used her momentum to leap onto Declan's back and wrap her flail's chain around his neck. She used her mass as a counterweight to wrench him backwards, then aimed a kick at his knees. She continued pulling with her full strength and, if her kick sent him down, then his body would also smash into the hilt of her abandoned sword.
  9. Declan didn't hear the roaring of the crowd over the sound of his own blood pounding through his ears. He could feel the chain of the flail blocking his airway, but he knew from the fact that his vision wasn't already going black that Visrah only had him in an air-choke, and not a blood-choke, and he had a few moments before his situation got desperate. Luckily for him, there was no need for Delcan to try and figure out how to get himself out of this situation, it basically resolved itself. Whe his sword had flown forward he had overbalanced slightly forward. Despite Visrah's blow to his knees, her weight had simply been insufficient to drag his bulk backwards again. Instead he threw himself forward against the confines of the chain, feeling it starting to crush his windpipe, and dragging Visrah forward with him. He stepped on her sword, trapping it under one foot. The crowd roared again as Declan dropped his own sword, one of his hands closing around the chain, while the other began to reach backwards for Visrah. If she wanted to escape his grasp she was going to have to relinquish the flail, which would leave her temporarily weaponless.
  10. A vicious growl rumbled deep in Visrah's chest. After a few moments of struggling, she'd gauged the roundabouts of Declan's strength. Conventional means of defeating him were useless to her. Maybe Visrah would have reveled in the challenge...once. Now she just wanted the man to lay rigid and gone.

    Placing her feet on his back, Visrah used him as a platform to vault off. In the few seconds Declan was completely blind to her, her grip vanished on the chain- and one hand grasped a flask hidden at her back. Visrah landed directly in front of him, swooped down, and grasped Declan's sword. Swiftly, she brought it up, ready to slice him from navel to collarbone. But at the last moment she changed direction. She tilted the blade away from his body and threw the flask at him instead. Black water erupted forth and attacked Declan. Visrah made a long blink, sensing the water and moving it to her will. She directed it towards his mouth, nose, and ears, aiming to force it down his lungs. Visrah tightened her handle on his sword and began to move away. It took time to assert control over water and direct it at her will. Taking that action at close range left her vulnerable; if Declan proved better than her predictions, he could retaliate and break her concentrate enough to fight off the water that was now trying to drown him.

    It had been a calculated risk on her part. One that proved fruitful many times before. Visrah released a soft sigh.
  11. The flail suddenly came loose in his hands, and the sudden lack of resistance sent him stumbling forward a step. Even before he was fully recovered he aimed the flail at Visrah in front of him. Unfortunately the action turned out to be preemptive. Had he waited a few minutes longer he would have been able to aim the flail at her head while she worked to pick up his two-handed sword with only one hand. Instead the flail swung completely over her, giving Visrah time to get the sword up in the air. He prepared to use the chain of the flail to block the sword, only to suddenly find a flask flying at him instead.

    Now Declan understood why Visrah was called The Dark Water. Water as dark as midnight swarmed over his face, blocking his vision even as it began to force its way down his nose and into his mouth. Delcan staggered slightly to the side, unbalanced, and lost the one instance he would have had to attack Visrah, and maybe break her magic. It felt like he was suddenly twenty feet underwater as his ears popped and the water forced its way down his nose, burning his sinuses. He felt his eardrums rupture as the water forced its way even deeper down his ear canal, and the world suddenly went completely, eerily silent. He knew the crowd must be screaming, and he figured that he must have tried to scream as well, because the pressure in his nose was suddenly gone, and Declan realized he couldn't breathe. He flailed around wildly with the weapon in his hand, hoping to hit her simply by dumb luck as reason fled his brain. He knew, if he could have seen anything, his vision would have been going dark. He was going to die. He was going to die. This was it. It was all over. He was...


    It was as though the inside of his head suddenly went as quiet as the outside seemed to be. In the moments just before his brain shut down from lack of oxygen, Declan suddenly remembered this was what he had wanted. He had never expected to win this fight, or, at least, not in the traditional sense of the word. He was going into this fight knowing he was going to die at least once. Possibly several times. In fact, that had been the entire point. Aeron had made Declan promise that he would die at least once before the match was over, long before he had gotten Visrah as an opponent. The kind of show that would produce was something that had never been seen within the walls of the coliseum, and the performance would skyrocket Lord Rydell's influence in a nearly unimaginable burst.

    He only wished Visrah had possessed the decency to kill him quickly. A "blade" of water through the heart or neck, a blood choke to knock him out. This, this was painful. His lungs were burning, his throat felt like it was about to be ripped apart, and he knew he must have been thrashing across the sand, because he could feel it digging into his back. His eyes felt like they were about to rupture from the pressure of the water, and he knew his ears must be a bloody mess. He was clawing at his face now, as though he could somehow rip the water off, and that hurt too. He wished his head and chest would just go away, and leave him alone.

    In the last instant before death, he found just enough sense in himself to roll over, in order to hide the fact that whatever wounds he had given himself would likely be the first things to heal.
  12. Visrah watched her water slowly consume Declan's life. The crowd roared with the same knowledge she had- that it was over. One of their favorites had conquered again, even if the match didn't last to their liking, it still had been a show.

    At last, Delcan writhed onto his stomach and laid rigid. The battle was over. Visrah turned on her heel and flicked her wrist. The water peeled from his face and flew to her, swirling and transforming into a wolf's silhouette. Black water, when left active but unchecked, had a mind of its own. She noticed over the years it had a preference for animal forms. It circled her legs and snarled without sound as she began exiting the arena. The crowd's enthusiasim was dying down. Now bets were owned up, gossip ensued, and impatient demands for refreshment shouted. Another killing. Another day.

    Visrah was near the gate when the crowd abruptly hushed. She froze. Her black water lifted its snout, mimicking a mutt tasting the air. It turned, its back arched up, and half its form collapsed in a puddle.

    The sudden, high pitched scream from the crowd made Visrah whip around, the longsword raised in both her hands. For the briefest moments, her mind refused to comprehend what her eyes were seeing. Her breath reduced to shallow intakes. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She involuntarily took a step back as her water dissolved its form completely and instead created an arc before her. Visrah stared with wide eyes and parted lips. You...aren't possible.
  13. The first thing he heard again was the silent murmurs of the crowd. Satisfaction mostly. The rustle of coins.

    His first thought was that Aeron would be displeased, if he didn't get up soon enough to prevent bets from being paid.

    He shifted slightly his back humping as he struggled to get his arms back under his chest. The crowd went silent. Slowly, like a puppet being pulled back up by its strings, he stood first bent over, then his back slowly straightening, until finally his head snapped back upright to lock eyes with Visrah. Black water from his lungs was dribbling down his chin, but a fearsome smile had crossed over his face. Now the match truly began.

    He bolted towards Visrah without bothering to pick up a weapon. He didn't need one. On his hand the same invisible gel he had used to produce his armor began to form, but instead of being thick and strong this one was long, thin, and wickedly sharp. It would shatter easily if met by solid resistance, but even if it broke he would be able to form another one within only an instant. He veered to the side of Visrah, far out of range of striking distance. If he was only using his fists, that was. Instead his hand leveled out, the tip of an invisible blade going for Visrah's shoulder. He didn't want to kill her, only let her know that the scales had just tipped away from her favor.
  14. Visrah recovered quickly and put her back to the arena's wall. She swung her sword, but could not lift it fast enough. Declan slipped past it and her water. A sudden, piercing pain ripped through her shoulder. She hissed and flung her arm out. She did not get close to him- but something shatter against her arm. Small lines of blood appeared on her forearm and the pressure in her shoulder lessened. Swinging again to force him back, Visrah dropped the steel blade and summoned her water. It twisted into a blade around her wrist. She lunged at him, a snarl twisting her face, and aimed for his heart. This time she would ensure he'd stay down.
  15. Now the crowd was truly roaring with excitement. No one could figure out how Declan had managed to wound Visrah, but they knew that someone they thought should have been dead was back again, and he had just managed to wound one of the reigning champions of the arena. It had descended from a battle of blades and skill to a battle of pure magical power, and nothing was more exciting than that. The coins that had been about to change hands were quickly forgotten, as the crowd jumped to its feet, packing tighter and tighter into the edges of the arena, as though a couple of extra feet would somehow get them right on top of the action.

    In addition to the roar of the crowd, Declan also imagined he could feel the pressure of Aeron's eyes on him. At the moment, everyone thought Visrah had messed up, somehow. That she had pulled her water out too early, and had then given him a few moments to recover. No, there would have to be more than that. However against this plan Aeron might have been at the beginning, there was now no denying that the entire plan rested on this fight. If he messed it up, or only got it half right, they would have to start nearly from scratch. The time and effort they had put in so far would be nearly completely wasted.

    Another invisible blade appeared over his hand, this one forming into the shape of a hook. He rolled out of the way of her attack, slashing at her legs more in an attempt to lightly wound an enrage rather than any true attempt to debilitate her. He needed something more than a blow to the heart. He needed something obvious, and messy. He gulped slightly as he forced his way back to his feet, trying to remind himself that it would only hurt for a minute.

    He'd just have to provoke her to the point where she would complete his plan for him, even if he wimped out halfway.
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  16. Visrah skipped away from his attacks, then lunged with a blur of motion. She slashed, kicked, and punched at Declan, letting her magic and body's instincts take over. Mentally- she withdrew.

    Declan had died. He drowned in his own lungs. His senses burned with oxygen deprivation and his mind was the first to die. Visrah knew this; she felt it through her water. She felt his body's desperate struggles to live. The spasms of his muscles. The dying flutter of her heart. His heart. He had been rigid and gone. Yet he was fighting in front of her, like their battle just began- Visrah suddenly remembered the flail crushing his side. A barrier protected him from puncture wounds, but he brushed off the rest of the damage in moments. No healing powers, she believed, were capable of such fast work. No healing power could bring its user back from the dead. He also was attacking her with objects she couldn't see. Either this newblood possessed two powers or... he paid the steepest price.

    Visrah twisted and kicked at his chest. Her water dissolved its blade form, rushing forward, blinding Declan momentarily. Then it cleared. Visrah stood several paces from his reach, staring at him. Her head cocked to one side. Now she could see it. The black water stuck to Declan like glue, coating his invisible gel and giving it shape. She saw his weapons and the armor he had left. She confirmed his power, then. It was time to prove her own suspicion.

    Glancing down, Visrah bent and picked up her short sword. The one she'd dropped when attempting to choke Declan with the flail chain. As she did, pain spiked in her right side. The wound Declan gave her earlier bled down her side. She placed a hand on it and looked at Declan. Her pale eyes flashed; she charged with nothing but the sword.
  17. They exchanged a rapid flurry of blows, so quick that it was almost impossible for the surrounding audience to tell what exactly was happening. They loved it, as blood, both his and Visrah's, began to spatter the sand. Declan moved with careful efficiency, using his own blade to redirect Visrah's dagger-like water, allowing the rest of her blows to fall mostly unheeded, only making sure that her strikes didn't unbalance him. Indeed, her punching and kicking was far more likely to damage her own knuckles rather him; it was like punching a thick pane of glass. Whenever cracks began to form more of the gel would ooze down to fill the gaps, once more solidifying his invisible protection. He wished he'd thought to put spikes on his armor, see what her hands and feet were like then. He's have to remember that for his next fight.

    He aimed his blade downwards as her leg flew at him, forcing her to redirect the blow, but he realized only moments later that kick had been another feint on Visrah's part. The leg flew off to the side and he overbalanced forward slightly, only for water to once more fly up into his face. He clamped his jaw tight and forced his tongue tight against the back of his throat, ready for the water to start choking him again, even as he began to move towards Visrah, hoping he'd be able to catch her before another slow, agonizing, and remarkably uninteresting death claimed him.

    Instead, the water lifted suddenly away from his face again, barely giving him time to blink his eyes clear before Visrah was flying at him again, a real sword in hand. He lifted his own magical blade to counter it, only to suddenly see that it had been covered in Visrah's water. The blade now looked as black as midnight, and was, far more importantly, completely visible. He didn't have time to try and do anything about it.

    The fight began again, blows flying even quicker, and more viciously. The crowd was roaring, utterly thrilled, having already completely forgotten the rather lackluster beginning. To them it was still neck and neck, a thrilling fight that no one had expected between a rookie and a veteran. Declan, however, quickly began to realize that without the advantage of a blade Visrah couldn't see, and therefore couldn't block properly, he was quickly becoming outmatched. Visrah's blade was darting through his defenses, striking quick, sharp hits that shattered his armor and left wider and wider holes in his defenses. At this rate he would start taking small wounds, before Visrah finally managed to land a deadly hit. But it would be small. Uncertain. He needed something bigger.

    In that moment, he realized suddenly he was going to have to take a risk. The fact that Visrah was once more fighting with a normal blade revealed something about her own power, she was limited, quite strictly, in the amount of water she could use and manipulate. If the water she had right now vanished from her control, she wouldn't be able to create more. Right now all of it was in contact with his blade and armor. If he wanted to get rid of it, all he had to do was dissolve all of it, and use it to trap the water in a bubble that became embedded into the ground.

    But to do that, he would have to leave himself completely exposed for a moment. There was no question Visrah would seize the opportunity.

    Well. Hopefully it would be messy enough.

    The water was suddenly enveloped, trapped within several thick, invisible bubbles, before landing on the ground, contained down to a drop or two. But Visrah still had a sword, and Declan was temporarily defenseless, except for his bare hands. He coated them, before rapidly hardening the gel, hoping that would keep his hands from being too badly cut when he tried to redirect the blade. No matter that it would, of course, be futile.

    He just hoped he wouldn't have to do it again.
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  18. Too easy. He left himself vulnerable and Visrah sensed the purpose. No trap- an opening. He wanted to die and the look in his eyes said he wasn't afraid of that. Only of the moments before.

    Declan began to raise his hands. It almost confused her- then she understood. He'd covered his hands with armor like substance. Smart move. Visrah stepped forward and to the side, acting like she would strike from the left. Instead her sword snaked under and up between his arms- bypassing his last desperate defense. She thrust upwards and pierced his mouth through his throat. The blade's tip lodged in his nasal cavity.

    Gripping the hilt with both hands, Visrah yanked the sword out. His jaw broke as she pulled it free at a bad angle and blood poured from hsi mouth and nose, splashing her hands. Visrah brought the sword up again and struck his neck. The arena exploded in caterwauling. They'd worked themselves into a blood frenzy; this fight proving to be pure ecstasy. Visrah almost believed the ground shook beneath her feet as slaves rattled and banged their confinements. She fell to the side with Declan, hanging on to her sword stuck in his flesh. She wrenched it out and struck again. The newblood choked and gurgled on the blood clogging his damaged esophagus. She wouldn't wait for him to writhe out this time. Getting to her feet, Visrah raised her blade in executioner's form.

    The roar of bloodlust reached fevered pitch.

    She brought it down, swift and final. The arena suddenly hushed. Everyone clenched their voice in breathless anticipation. Declan's body crashed in a heap, blood pulling from his neck. Stumbling back, Visrah panted as the black water moved sluggishly to her feet- freed from their invisible bubbles. Her hands, chest, and face were spattered with blood. Wiping at her eyes, she smeared the blood on her cheeks. She coughed. The sound echoed grotesquely in the silence. The black water collapsed and remained still in the dirt.

    Visrah tightened her grip on her sword. She forced herself to stand straight and stared at Declan's corpse. She had to see it with her own eyes. She waited with the crowd.
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  19. He knew it was over the moment he saw her sword going for his jaw. He didn't need to feel it slip past his hands, didn't need to feel the sharp tip reach his throat, and further, without hesitation. Some instinctual part of him knew it was over, knew that he had finally met some insurmountable foe. That part of him gave a silent order, and everything else obeyed. He froze. His body went weak, nearly limp, and he dropped to his knees. His mind, though, was sheltered, protected in some quiet place that was only supposed to be accessed moments before certain death. Silently, almost passively, he found himself wondering how often he was going to end up returning to this place. Maybe someday even that instinctual creature that lived at the core of all animals would realize that even certain death didn't mean death. Maybe then he'd be able to face it without even so much as blinking. Without staggering. Without falling to the ground, suddenly realizing that he was able to see his own body, even if only for a moment, before everything went dark. Maybe someday death would phase him so little that it wouldn't even be worth pausing to realize it was happening. Someday. He would reach it, someday.

    After all, he was a man without mortality.

    It was possible to miss his by so much as a simple blink. Declan's body seemed to waver for a moment, barely an instant, wherever there was anything wrong with him. It was as though those pieces of his body were not properly there anymore; as though they were disconnected from time. It always happened that way, but normally the things that were wrong were so small. Now it was so large. Bloody. Gruesome. Just what he'd wanted. But, in that instant, that space between thinking, it was all gone. Everything was back to normal. Declan's eyes flashed open, the memory of his death nothing but an echo in his eyes. The blood was gone from Visrah's face and body. His blood was gone. He pushed himself back to his feet. Slowly. Dramatically.

    The crowd was too stunned to even make a sound.
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  20. Visrah's eyes closed.

    A sudden, old proverb had come to mind, one originating from her birth country. Her lips parted...forming silent words. The rigidity of her face softened, as if she had found relief in something clouded to her before. Curious how such long forgottens come to mind.

    Visrah opened her eyes again and made for Declan. She covered their distance in two short gaits. Throwing aside the sword, she reached out to grab the front of Declan's shirt. The last moment she stumbled. Her hand closed on him as half her weight collapsed against him. Visrah was a seasomed warrior; if she wanted, she could fight several more bouts before her body finally gave out- neglecting she sustained any heavy wounds up to that point. She knew when to keep calm...or become the opposite. Adrenaline was a powerful thing but only in spurts. She allowed herself to get excited, to build the adrenaline rush she needed to brutally kill Declan. Now it was fading- taking its toll. The newblood was new and fresh like he appeared when he first entered the arena. By contrast, Visrah still bled from her shoulder, side, and all the cuts she'd sustained in their flurried confrontation. It was almost funny. They must be of similar age yet Visrah suddenly felt a weight of centuries pressing down on her, adding to her body's exhausted state. Declan, to her, appeared the rookie soldier. A virgin to battle and blood. The thought actually made her scoff into his ear. She continued holding him with a vice, her head positioned on his shoulder, using him as her personal leaning pole. Their proximity was hair-raising. The crowd of nobles whispered and peered desperately to see what would happen next. The slaves uttered nothing at all.

    Slowly, her vision blackening at the seams, she turned look into Declan's eyes. She held them, her pale depths unchanged.

    "Give me a name," she said.
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