Cast of Characters:
Xenia: Amazon adventurer.
Kajm: the Lir warrior, an immortal and a shape shifter.
Ruhk: a Rhokhi dragon, once just a high tech device, a learning machine who gained sentience and a life of his own.
Xenia sat casually at the rough-hewn tavern bar, her back to the entrance. The tall red-head had found some amusement the first day or two: the town sported several toughs- the local militia, part of the on-again-off-again local government- men who thought a woman was something they could just take-
But that had been several days ago, and there was no one left to surprise her. They avoided her now. It was boring. But in the process of
taming the locals, she had learned as much as she could regarding the strange creature that was reputed to be lurking nearby...
The tavern owner approached her carefully, still sporting a black eye. She hadnt quite intended what happened, but hed walked up behind her that first day- he made certain to scuff his feet as he approached her, now. If... If I may, will there be anything more?
She played in the dust on the counter with one finger for a moment before deigning to answer. He should have already known what she wanted by now. No... No. I shall be leaving. She smirked as he failed to hide a sigh of relief. If that is the case, then may I-
She turned on the bar stool suddenly, standing, almost a foot taller than he was, smiling as he backed off a step. No you may not. I will deal with you... when I return.
If she returned to this grubby town at all. Grabbing up her gear Xenia strode for the door, not pausing to look back. She knew he was angry but he was even more afraid. Too bad.
She passed through a small market at the edge of the town, a place where the country folk came each day. Passing a fruit stand she spotted a nicely ripe-looking orange, snatching it up as she passed.
The owner of the stand objected almost instantly, quickly walking after her. Hey! That is some of my best fruit, you cant just-
He froze as her gloved fist flashed up in front of his face. After a long moment Xenia turned her head, giving him an icy stare. You want me to deal with the creature out there, or not?
He nodded affirmative, gulping, staring at the fist an inch from his nose. Suddenly Xenia laughed, flipping her hand upward, tossing a coin over his head. Leaving him to scramble for it as she walked out into the forest, which all but intruded into the town at this point. So there was something out here that needed dealt with? She was bored
she wanted to kick something, and this creature would be It.
Travelling several days ahead of his mate, Kajm had chosen to pause for a time on this world, his curiosity drawing him to stay. It was much more primitive than most of those he had seen recently... but it was still a Human world, and he knew very well what would happen if his dragoness mate showed up. It was however a good place to observe what appeared to be an ancient Greek-style culture, so he had chosen to hang around until the last moment.
Except that seemed to be proving a mistake. He had come into a region which appeared to be on the borders of several nations; there were border tensions and he was always avoiding patrols. The rift valley that had seemed a decent place to camp, especially, appeared to be a contested border.
On top of that it appeared that there was magic being used somewhere... said magic interfering with his higher senses, he had found himself being observed on several occasions where he had thought himself well hidden. Sometimes, hiding in plain sight just didnt work.
So he remained alert, choosing to wander between the nearby villages and a larger town in the area of a small canyon which branched off of the rift valley, where most seemed less likely to travel. If anyone chose to come after him, it was isolated enough to deal with them...
Which lead to his third problem. He had felt the fluctuation in his own abilities begin even before the magical interference. It was going to be one of those down times again: experimenting proved him, at least physically, to be not much stronger than a strong human, and healing factors had dropped drastically. He had come to understand that the fluctuations in his strength were his own doing, something which had happened during his attempts to understand and use the vast powers he had gained far, far back in the beginnings of his eternal wandering. Annoying, sometimes troublesome, but it would make for a more interesting challenge if trouble arose.
And finally: Ruhk was nowhere to be seen, either. The little dragon had taken delight in Kajms problems of late, and was now wandering who knew where, looking to bring back who knew what. A lot of creatures might think a baby dragon would be a good snack, and the little smart-ass had brought some winners Kajms way.
It was with such thoughts going around in his mind that the big lizard all but walked into the company of the only person who actually was looking for him.
Xenia was Bored. Again. For two days she had wandered this barren area, seeking any sign of the creature. Everything she had heard placed it here. Outside of several small thickets there was not much cover. If the stories were true, this creature was big. Why couldnt she find it?
At least she had the axe to spark her interest, playing absently with it as she walked, as though it were a toy. A small hand-axe, with several interlocking loops of leather depending from the knob at the handles end, each loop longer than the handle itself. She had taken it from a wizard... Aanathrax, yes, that was his name... if only she could remember how he had been able to call it back to himself when it was thrown.
But she had killed him just as he called it back. What were those words...? The mage had gone and died before he could tell her anything-
She was swearing under her breath as she entered the clearing. Looked up sharply as the creature she sought stepped out of the trees opposite. Almost as if it had been waiting for her!
Her hands went to the strap of her pack as she frankly stared at the creature. She had seen demons before, but nothing like this! The lizard stood a head taller than her, tail waving behind, its bronze-skinned body partially covered by some kind of metallic-looking fur, golden-yellow eyes staring back at her. She growled as she noted it was very clearly male. To approach her like that, and naked!
Kajm stared back, taking her all in. She was the tallest human hed yet seen on this world. His practised eye had quickly noted the strength and grace behind the few steps he seen her take, and despite all that had occurred of late he felt his interest rise. A warrior of some sort?
His deeper senses told him she was here For him. Kajm sighed. Ruhk was no where in sight. Stories about himself must have gotten around, and here standing before him, was the response. Well at least it was a pretty response. Eh. Why do I think things like that? Kajm set himself, hands tightening into fists. He needed to scare her off. You, should move on.
Her eyes widened. He could speak? One hand shifted to the loops of leather hanging out of her pack. What did you say?
His tail began to lash as he took a step towards her. I said Get Out. I dont need to be bothered with killing you. Not that he intended to. Blasted nuisance, to show up just when he was thinking of leaving!
Xenia tensed as he spoke. Kill? Her? A brief shudder of anger ran through her and she shook her head, long red hair spilling over her shoulders as she did so. A monster, and a Male at that, dare threaten her?
She dropped the pack, one hand catching at the leather loops as she did so. The axe slid easily out of the pack as it fell- Xenia placed a hand on one hip, eyes narrowing as she faced him directly. "I've never seen a demon like you... what race are you? well never mind, I'll kick you down in the hell you came from."
Rats. Not words he wanted to hear. Kajm advanced a step. The females fingers worked the leather loops rapidly, drawing the haft of the axe up into her hand. Interesting. Bad move, little girl. You should go away.
Little? Girl? Not without your head.
He raised an eyebrow. You want to challenge Me? Fine, he said, spreading his feet, fists rising. Her timing was bad, but Kajm was never one to decline a challenge. Everything is fair game, he smiled. Can you say the same?
Kajms eyes were on the axe. From the moment shed taken it from the pack, he had felt something odd about it. The leather loops by themselves made it a curiosity... one he was not about to experience first-hand. Getting sliced was never fun. Id lose the axe if I were you, he chuckled. Youre liable to fall on it and hurt yourself.
Shock widened her eyes. Try? Fall? The more the beast spoke, the more he was begging for it. She planned to do a Lot more than try! With a shout the Amazon charged him, moving so swiftly the axe seemed to float along in the air behind her for an instant; then the loops tightened and she swung underhand at the unmoving lizard-
Kajm had to admire her confidence: she was swinging the blade with one finger. He followed the swing as the axe almost grazed the ground; leapt backwards at the last instant, saving himself being temporarily Fixed Hey! Watch where youre going with that!
She snarled in response, lifting her hand as the axe swung up overhead, putting slack into the leather loops- caught at the second loop as she stepped in after him, shortening the range of the swing as she jerked it back and down, slashing diagonally at his chest-
Woah! He pulled back, the blade shaving copper fur from his chest as it passed. She dropped, spinning on her haunches, this time the axe coming about at his knees-
Kajm hopped over it and she changed tactics, completing her turn with a swift side-kick for his ribs, only to be knocked off-balance as he flung out an arm to counter, his motions a blur-
Kajm danced back a few steps towards the edge of the gorge as she halted her attack for a brief moment, turned sideways to him, the axe spinning by one loop about a finger. Afraid to fight, monster?
Afraid I might actually harm you, Kajm responded, eyes on the axe. Something odd about the whirling blade...
Well Im not afraid, she glowered at him. Not afraid to drag your lifeless body back to whomever will pay the most for it. She lifted her chin as if to point. After I remove those. Disgusting animal!
Kajm glanced down his body, then back at her. What, Jealous?
Haaaa! In she came, the blade whirring perilously close to his snout as he dodged to one side, dropping beneath the blow. Again she reversed the blades direction, forcing Kajm to drop and roll on his side, this time lashing out with a kick to her hip, shoving her sideways as she turned.
She recovered swiftly, swinging the axe overhead, to bury it in the ground where he had been an instant before. She looked up just in time to take a glancing blow to the jaw as the lizard swept in with yet another kick. Growling she pulled back, yanking the axe loose, her hands working the leather loops like a cats cradle as she launched a flurry of strikes at him. She had worked out quite a nasty pattern, but Kajm was quite adept at dancing around blades. It was only a matter of time before he took the blade away-
Kajm hey! This looks like fun-
The lizard jumped, head turning sharply towards the source of the words. Xenia looking past him at the same instant, as a small green dragon winged up over the edge of the gorge, finding purchase in a dead tree on the very edge.
She stared. Another demon? No one had mentioned this!
The little dragon, no more than three feet long, looked back at her. You didnt tell me you had a dancing partner!
Ruhk! The little Rhokhis past tricks sprung to mind; Kajm made the mistake of turning towards him. Could you wait? Im trying to have a conversation here-
Kajm yelped as the axe sunk into his ribcage on his left side, favoring Xenia with a startled look. She looked smugly back at him, standing well back, having swung the axe by no more than one finger (because he had already proven that it was best to have the longer reach)-
She gaped in shock as he grabbed the haft of the axe, seemingly unconcerned as blood poured from the wound. That. Hurt. Pulling it out with a wet slurching sound.
Xenia yanked back, hard, on the leather loops, shock turning to apprehension as it budged his grip not one inch. For his part Kajm gritted his teeth, glaring back at her-
And suddenly Xenia had more reason to worry, for a blue glow was rising out of the wound. As she watched, the edges of the deep gash began to close
ribs split by the blow pulled together and became solid again. Flesh closed over the wound-
Kajm smiled at her. Nice axe. Enchanted eh? It wouldnt have done half the damage otherwise- Xenia yanked it towards herself; Kajm yanked it the other way. Finders KeeEep!ers- he began just as she planted a kick on his right hip.
This is boring, Ruhk said from the tree. Theres better targets than his hip.
Kajm gave a vicious yank and Xenia gasped in pain, jumping back to suck at sore fingers as the leather loop was pulled from her grasp. And then the blade was flying, straight for the dead tree Hey! Ruhk leapt to a higher branch as the blade thudded home where he had been a moment before.
Hold that, Kajm smirked, turning back to the Amazon-
Who landed a punch square upon his snout, her strength such that the blow turned his head sharply to one side. A kick landed to his ribs a moment later; Xenia stepped in, aiming a blow for his stomach only to have the lizard sweep it aside, both his hands coming up to slam into her shoulders.
The Amazon landed roughly on her back three yards away. Drawing her knees to her chest she launched herself back to her feet, face hot with anger. The lizard stood facing her, hands on his hips. Thats what I get for being distracted, he said. And apparently, too dumb to give it up. Now... Shall we have a Real fight?
Xenia stood with shoulders hunched, hands balling into fists. You think it that easy? She spun and reached a hand out towards the tree the axe was embedded in. Ritor-
Rhetoric what? Kajm said quickly. Or was that Ricktor?
She shot him a baleful glare. Gah! She had only heard the words once, what were they again? Rita-
Hayworth! Kajm shouted as he took a step towards her. There must be a return spell upon the axe- Rip Torn! Rip cord! Whatever. I am about to punch your lights out!
No! She stood her ground, gritting her teeth, trying to recall. Ill cut your head off-
With what? Kajm snarled, swinging a fist.
Which passed through empty air as Xenia dropped and rolled to one side, coming up on her haunches. The animal walked towards her like he didnt care what she tried.
She lifted to her feet, one foot swinging up and about- missing his belly by a yard. But that was the intent, as she suddenly dropped, still spinning, to plant a back-kick directly across a kneecap, hearing cartilage crack as his knee was turned under him, the creature hissing through bared teeth as she finished the movement sitting upon the ground before him, suddenly lifting up on hands and feet to kick upward-
Kajm caught her foot by the ankle Wrong!, spun to his right, dragging her along; suddenly she was in the air, tumbling roughly over the stony soil before regaining her feet in a defensive stance, hair wild about her face. Still he was stalking towards her. You dont get to play in there unless I Want you to play in there.
When do you not want? Ruhk called.
Xenia glanced at Kajm, then up to Ruhk. Not much to play with.
Score! Ruhk shouted. Kajm shot him a glare, danced back a step as she suddenly lunged forward. Forcing Kajm to hop over her as she dropped into a roll, only to lift to her feet directly behind him, driving an elbow back into the base of his tail. Ducked as he tried to slam an elbow into her back; straightened up with an uppercut to the side of head, wincing as knuckles struck the hard bone of his cheek. A shove of his hip jarred the breath out of her for an instant, the lizard turning as she was pushed away a step, his right knee rising to meet her ribs Oumph!
Xenia staggered to one side, the lizard stepping in with a slash of his hands, claws suddenly visible. Once, twice, thrice... despite the pain in her side she managed to spin, twisting, avoiding each strike, finally shoving him back with a kick to the stomach.
Her leather shoulder guards hung in rags. She looked down at a slight draft: he had sliced her outfit neatly between the breasts, opening a four-inch hole, almost parting it. She looked up with a growl. What are you up to?
For starters, Not killing you-
Hes wondering if you really are a red-head, Ruhk called from the tree. So he figures to take it all Off of you.
Both fighters shot him a shocked look.
I have to agree with him, Ruhk said, clearly enjoying himself. That hair is just Too red, ya know?
Kajm rumbled warning. Ruhk-
Oh come on, girl, cant you tell? The little dragon leered. He fights for fun! And clothing is just No fun-
Xenias shocked look hardened as it turned back on Kajm. There was something not quite right about the way he fought. And he didnt want to kill her? That didnt leave too many options. You think you are going to have me?
The big lizard gestured between his legs. Do I look interested?
That struck her as more insulting than if he was! Xenia slapped a hand to the leather band upon her thigh, coming back up with a knife, cleverly disguised to blend in with the band. Ill have that hanging off my belt before were done!
Kajm snorted. More toys. He sighed. He enjoyed a good fight and, yes, it would be more amusing if she were not so... encumbered, by clothing. But destroying her clothing was as much an attempt to intimidate as anything else.
He gave her a come here gesture. Fine. You want to hurt me, you have to get in close. None of that acrobatics stuff. As if I didnt know youll use it anyway. When I am done you are going home in bare butt, bruises and boots. IF you go home-
You? Are going to do what!?!
You keep asking me that-
Arrogant animal! She set the knife spinning along its long axis in the air before her, snatched it back in her left hand. This to your threats!
She lunged forwards, knife arcing about and in for his ribs, the lizard twisting aside at the last moment- as she thought he might, setting her forward foot, spinning to her right and kicking out, her leg slamming across his belly. The rebound pushed her sideways, Xenia ducking and diving forward, wincing at the sting of claws as he lashed out, catching her along the short ribs. Finishing her roll facing him, tossing the blade from left to right hand, flinging her left arm up to block the fist aimed for her face. Lifting a knee for his genitals, pain exploding as he punched it back down with one fist before it could reach the target. Xenia sank the blade into his left arm near the elbow, ripping back towards the wrist. He growled, yanking his arm back- the wound already closing- right hand coming up with a swift slap across her face, Xenia glaring back at him, her right knee rising to catch him between ribs and hip. She flipped the knife about, raising it high to plunge into his shoulder; getting an oh come on look as he caught her by the wrist, turning away from her as he pulled her forward to flip her sideways off his hip.
Kajm took two steps sideways away from her, watching as she quickly regained her feet, favoring her left leg a bit. Come on. Toys are no fun. He smirked. Little girls play with toys-
Shes nearly as tall as you!
Must you interrupt my insults-
Im going to get you, and your little pet, too!
Kajm gaped at her. You did not just say that!
She lunged forward with an upward sweep of the blade, seeking to ram it up through his jaw into his brain. Kajm stepped out sideways, dropping low to her left as her lunge carried her over him; lifted up, catching her about the waist to send her crashing down behind him.
She landed, hard, upon one shoulder, seeing his tail whip overhead as she braced herself with an outstretched arm and swept her legs back in, cutting his legs out from under him. He fell heavily beside her and she rolled up on her haunches behind him, the blade sinking into his back. Kajm jammed an elbow into her mouth, sending her sprawling back as he sprang forward, spinning to face her-
She rose, spitting blood. Didnt lose any teeth, I hope? He danced in, smiling, threw a side kick at her head. Xenia dropping beneath it, turning, lashing out with the blade-
Which stuck deep in the meat of his tail Ow! Hey! He whirled away from her, glaring back over his shoulder. Reaching under himself with his tail to yank the knife free. You do Not try to stick things up there!
Ill have my knife back!
Are you Kidding? Ruhk? Hold this!
Say wh- Hey! The blade quivered in the tree trunk and inch from Ruhks head. Im not touching that, do you know where its been?
I like your pet.
I should have left him with Thunderwing, Kajm muttered.
Hey! You left a female dragon in the midst of a planet-wide shopping mall! I am Not a shopping cart! No wants! The Rhokhi dragons eyes gleamed. Id rather watch this one here kick your ass!
Consider it done. Xenia stalked forward, ignoring her aching shoulder. She had no clue what the two were talking about but she certainly intended to meet the dragons expectations.
Kajms tail slapped the ground as she approached. Must I beat sense into you?
Ritorna da me! Xenia shouted suddenly. Both turned their heads at the sound of rending wood and the axe came spinning back, the pommel slapping into her hand as she reached out for it-
She looked towards him just in time to see stars explode across her vision as his fist turned her head, staggering her to one side. Paying attention to the wrong thing, missy!
He was just a bit surprised when she turned right back into him, swinging the axe up for his chin, tilting his head to one side, feeling the blade slice along one lip. Not bad! He danced back. Good call on the axe, he quipped. Just shouted it out without thinking about it, eh? She let go the pommel, caught a leather loop, brought the axe whistling back down and across his body, Kajm twisting to his left at the last instant, his right foot coming up to tag her chin. Xenias eyes crossed for an instant and then she was back in the game, reversing, the axe slicing air where his belly had been a moment before. Hey! She kept at him, backing him up, the big lizard turning this way and that- Could I get in Whoa a few words edgewise? Hold still! Despite the sophistication of her moves Kajm rapidly gained ground, until he literally appeared to be dancing with her.
Ruhk stared down from the tree, Mystified. Why are you playing with her- Look out! His last words were for Xenia as Kajm suddenly stepped full into the whirling blade, wincing as the blade thudded down into his shoulder, flinging his arm upwards beneath hers, setting the blade spinning off into the brush nearby. He chopped into her ribs with both hands, grabbed leather, yanked-
The halter parted neatly. Xenia rammed both hands into his abdomen, shoving him back as she spun away, looking about wildly for the axe even as the sensation of cool air over her breasts brought her up short.
Kajm danced off to one side several yards distant, to stop and bounce lightly in place, tail waving. Oh! Perky!
She whirled towards him. What!?!
Way to up the ante! Ruhk chirped. Thank you, Kajm smiled. It gets Better.
Xenia felt an icy calm come over her. Hed left her half-naked and he planned to go farther? The things I am going to do to your dead body-
Kajm laughed. Even if she managed it, he would be back shortly after, and a lot more powerful. At his current levels, though, she was making a good dent in his healing ability- You want to play with me? Then Play with me!
Playing. Why did he keep on about playing? Xenia reached out a hand. Rit... Ritor- Whoulfff!
The big lizard dove for her, slamming her hard to the ground beneath him. The impact brought her fresh irritation: the sting of small stones embedding in her now-unprotected back. That sensation below, the feel of him pressed against her above, served to lift her swiftly out of the daze of impact-
She looked up to find him nose-to-nose with her, braced above her on all fours, his knees against her hips. Well Hello!
Snarling a response Xenia rammed a knee to his testicles. A smile rising as the lizard all but shouted in her face Oooofff-f-f-f
Only to look back down at her an instant later, an odd expression on his face. Do that again.
No! Disbelief mixed with defiance in her voice. Xenia planted her hands on his shoulders, gave a powerful shove up and back, setting the animal back on his haunches, knees wide. Eyes popping as she sized him up for the next shot- the blow had garnered a rather different response from him than shed intended!
Demon! What else could he be? She lifted into a kick, turning to one side as she rose, planting her foot in his belly. Barely budging him, as he had braced with his tail-
Xenia scrambled away as the lizard rose and strode after her, her thoughts wild. The axe. The knife. Blows that would disable, if not kill, any male she had fought before. What was it going to take to stop him?
Kajm sensed her beginning to panic. Cant allow that. She gets wild, she may injure herself. He timed his steps, catching up to her as she finally got her feet beneath her. Before she could turn he stepped in and dropped, claws lashing out-
Xenia turned, lashing back with a fist across his snout before the lizard could jump back. What did you do? There was no pain, no sense that he had touched her at all-
She gasped as her leather battle skirt parted and fell away. After a second the thin, snake-hide belt which held up the loincloth beneath, also snapped, the remains of her outfit drifting down about her feet.
She was left wearing only boots.
He titled his head to one side as he looked her up and down. As I said: bare butt, bruises and boots. He raised an eyebrow. I dont suppose you could lose the boots?
Kajm watched as she straightened up. Chest heaving as she caught her breath, her fists tightening until he could hear knuckles cracking. Ohhh, nicely focused. Good.
That. Was. It. This... animal. This... pervert. This... Male! Aaaaarrrgh!
Kajm stood his ground, deliberately wide open, his eyes widened ever so slightly as she charged. Gonna be fun to watch you move- Wincing, knowing Thunderwing was going to ferret that thought out of his memories later. Unfortunately there would likely be worse thoughts-
Damned lizard was just standing there, smiling! You are so about to Hurt- HAAAAA! Xenia was upon him with a flurry of punches and chops, aiming for head, ribs, abdomen. Feeling a moments surprise as he actually backed up!
But he was not backing off. For each move she made he had a counter, twisting this way and that as she lashed out at him, his arms almost a blur as he blocked each blow. The odd gleam in his eyes, the slight smile, only served to keep her angry, and keep her anger focused.
His smile grew more vicious. The air was rent by the whip-crack of his tail, close by her head. Taking advantage of her involuntary response he whipped a fist out, clipped her chin. Xenia bit back a curse and kicked for his genitals; the lizard was faster, catching her foot between crossed wrists just shy of completing the kick, his hands wrapping about the ankle-
He lifted, throwing her over. Xenia kissed dirt; then her body slammed to the ground. There was a sense as of something cushioning the impact. She looked up, wondering-
He was in the air above her and she rolled leftward, narrowly dodging the blow as his feet slammed into the ground, close together. That would have caved in her ribcage...
She gathered herself, lifting to her feet with a push of both hands: testament to her strength even this far along in the fight. Dropped to her haunches an instant later, the lizards roundhouse kick passing over her, sounds of the little creature in the tree cheering her moves-
Kajm waded in, backing her up with a barrage of punches and chops. Arent you out of breath yet? She was holding up like a Lir. Ruhk, take readings on her, please.
Already doing. Are you about done playing with her?
I am Not playing-
Riiight. As If you didnt get it up for the kicks.
What have I done to deserve that?
Outside of being yourself?
Xenia managed to reverse her situation and took it back to him. Meanwhile Ruhk was having a grand time. Cmon, girl, hit him! Yes! Hey, kick like that again! Kajm, she is a red-head! Dont look at me girl, watch- Ow, that had to hurt! Look, hes practically offering himself to you, just reach in and grab! Yikes! Your face is all red, girl, you gonna let him slap you like that? Hes gonna kick, duck!- Ooooh, nice punch! He felt that!
Hey. Dont look at me like that. Kajm? Stop kicking the tree Hey! Why are you kicking the tree, Im on your side! No picking on the peanut galleryyyy
The trunk of the tree cracked under the combined assault, tilting as roots pulled free, to pitch over into the canyon. Both combatants watched, leaning out over the drop as the tree smashed to bits against the wall of the gorge, the little green dragon gliding away and out of sight, shaking a fist up at them.
Xenia leaned out over the drop, panting, watching him go.
How does he fly with those puny wings?
He doesnt need wings to fly.
That made no sense at all- wait. Wasnt that the lizards breath falling on her shoulder?
Shall we call it a draw? his lips had to be right by her ear-
She jerked violently away, swung an elbow up and back, rocking his head back. How about you die? she screamed, turning with a kick to his abdomen. Been there, done that! Kajm laughed, backing off. Commmme on, play with me! he said. She stared in outrage as he waggled his hips, smiling.
You are so dead.
Not on your best day. Which this just happens to be.
Both of them knew she should have gone down before now. Kajm understood why; Xenia did not. Neither one cared at that moment.
Kajm settled things by charging first, forcing Xenia to dive away from the edge of the cliff, the bumps, bruises and scrapes of numerous small stones only serving to keep her anger focused. She wasnt going to look pretty for weeks!
Kajm laughed as he slid in on all fours where she had just been standing, his empathics telling him what she was feeling. Oh come on! Move those curves! Worry about your pretty face later Eeeep! He pushed off with feet and hands, lifting off the ground as she lunged in, dropping beneath him, a vicious kick just missing its intended targets as it passed beneath his tail. Shouting as she slid painfully over the rocky soil, scrambling to stop herself from going over the edge-
Falling back, Kajm spun away from her, lifting to his feet- only to find her once again lunging upwards, grappling him about the waist to bring him crashing down on his back beneath her. She sat up astride his belly, trying to pin his hands down with her feet even as she batted his head from side to side with a barrage of punches. Suddenly choking, the lizards tail about her throat. Shoving her forward with his tail until they were almost nose to nose- One more minute. Then you are Mine.
No! she gagged, eyes bulging. Kajm whipped his tail to one side, sent her tumbling, rolled the other way. Both gaining their feet at the same moment-
Kajm was ready to end the fight, wishing it hadnt been necessary, disappointed that he had not been able to cut loose completely. At least she was a good show.
He came in swinging, backing her up, feeling her strength finally begin to fail as she blocked his assault, watching consternation spread across her face as she realized their proximity to the cliff.
She fell backwards. Kajm stepped in with a shout, alarmed, believing she was about to go over-
Arching her back, Xenia planted her hands palms-down, lifted into a kick, both heels slamming up into his chest. Dropping to her left as he staggered back a step, anger and adrenaline keeping her moving. The creature had acted like he was about to lose his prize!
And he was still coming after her! She kept rolling, lifting into a cartwheel, trailing foot rising to meet his ribs. Not what she intended, as it threw her off-balance. Dropping heavily into a crouch she looked up to find him almost upon her-
Looking down he found he could not settle his eyes upon any part of her. Not the best way to conduct a fight, for suddenly she leapt straight up, one booted foot slamming his mouth shut on yet another bad joke at her expense as she kicked upward as hard as she could. Falling back to her feet, dropping slightly before ramming both her fists into his stomach. Kajm spat blood from a bitten tongue as the blow doubled him over. Now she brings out her best shots!
She spun to her left, right foot rising in a back-kick to his abdomen, only to find her left leg cut out from under her as he turned and dropped, tail swinging low. Shock of impact drove the breath from her; she barely managed to dodge as he raised one foot high, stomped down at her. Up, up , up! his hands catching at her arms and hair as she scrambled for her feet. Move your AOumph! Xenia pulled up short, ramming an elbow back into his gut. Swung the other way, doubled fists slamming across the side of his head, the blow staggering him a step leftward-
He seemed stunned by the blow. No time to let up! A kick to the short ribs. Turning, she clipped a kick across one knee, pulled back, slammed a kick deep into his stomach. Panting with exertion, she swung an uppercut to his chin.
Stepped in before him, her hands slapping down on his hips. Play with this! She shouted, ramming her knee between his legs with all she could muster.
The force of the blow lifted him to toe-tips, the lizards head rocked back as he howled, dropping to his haunches before her, knees wide as he held himself, tail arched and quivering behind him.
She stood tall, triumphant. Hah. Got you. Cast about, attempting to spot the axe. Damn... it had gone over with the tree. But- Ritorna da me!
Shed remembered! Mere seconds later the axe came whistling upwards out of the gorge, the haft slapping into her outstretched hand. Without hesitation she swung it high, looked down at her opponent as she swung for his neck-
The blade jolted from her hand, her wrist nearly breaking against Kajms as he blocked the blow. The big lizard rose to his feet, body shuddering, tears streaking his face. Nice shot.
His blocking hand became a fist. Swinging even as she voiced outraged protest. This time, putting all he had behind it, lifting her from her feet to send her spinning to a face-first impact some yards away.
Then he dropped to one knee, allowing the healing factors to catch up on all the damage she had done. Glancing over at her prone form, looking away just as quickly. This fight would be in his dreams for a while. Thunderwing would not appreciate that.
Ruhk appeared shortly afterwards. Kajm looked up as he arrived, trying not to laugh as he alit on the unconscious woman's back. Ruhk! Thats impolite.
More comfortable than that tree!
Off! She deserves your respect, too, Kajm said, climbing to his feet. She did pretty well, considering what she was up against.
Yes, alright, fine- The RhoKhi dragon produced her knife seemingly out of thin air, laid it beside her as he climbed down. Glanced askance at his much larger companion as he did so. Did you get what you wanted?
Kajm looked away. Dont ask. He was still shaking a bit. That was a great shot. Tell me what you got.
Nothing conclusive, Ruhk replied. The Powers are there, of course. Just like in every living thing. But I could not record anything focused
Of course not. Shes not trying. Kajm hauled to his feet. I felt... something, when she was using the axe. All that potential... he waved a hand in disgust. Shes a great fight. But shes out for herself. Thats... just...
Well, what do we do about it? You do realize that you could make her a worse person by showing her what shes got? Ruhk countered. We cant stay much longer in any case. Thunderwing will portal into this world if we do, and shell kill this female without a second thought. Oh! Speaking of which-
What? Kajm turned, eyes rolling. What have you done now?
As if you didnt know! Ruhk said, play-dodging as Kajm took a half-hearted swipe at him. "I recorded almost the entire fight. He tapped his head. Got it all right in here. Managed to get those final moments, too!
Wheres that axe, Kajm muttered.
She sat at a small table in the far corner of the tavern, facing the door. One finger tracing along the haft of the axe, never quite touching the blade itself.
She had woken up late in the day. Sore, stiff, sandy soil crusted to her body from the sweat of the battle. Back and buttocks scratched, scraped and bruised. Every limb had screamed in protest as she forced herself to sit up; it was no use trying to move faster, for the creature appeared to be gone.
Bad enough that hed destroyed her best battle outfit, one that shed forced a master leather craftsman to make for her. Taken both the axe and her knife away from her. Laughed in her face as theyd fought.
But the most galling bit had to be the final moments of the fight. She had struck him with every bit of strength she could muster. She swore she could see death in his expression. To take the axe to his neck would have not been so much insurance as adding insult to injury.
And yet hed stood back up, that odd gleam in his eyes once again, still looking quite ready to have his way with her- That was the last she remembered.
And then hed walked away! Just left! He hadnt even tried anything! Infernal beast, to taunt her like that and then just... do... nothing!
So what the Hell did play mean?
Having donned a fresh outfit from her satchel, Xenia returned to the same small town, walking in proudly despite rising internal anger and the aggravating desire to limp. The lizard had gotten away! She could recount the battle- and did- but the ending the villagers cheered, and the ending she had experienced, were two different things. Events favored her version, for the animal had not been sighted again, despite increased numbers of patrols from virtually all of the varied governments who laid claim to that region.
Xenia watched out of the corner of her eye as the innkeep entered the room, herding his older children, who tended to the tables each day. Children who had not been allowed out while she had been there the first time.
He seemed cautiously cheerful. Perhaps it had to with the fact that shed paid her long-delayed tab from before the fight. Xenia wasnt sure why she had been in such a generous mood upon returning. Or maybe she did know why.
She reached out a tentative finger, touched the blade of the axe again. Pressing down with such force that the flesh of her finger turned white. She would not shy away from it like she had the first two times.
The axe before you. Do you understand what you have? Not in the axe, but in yourself.
To most people, it will always be just an axe. Even if they knew the words, it would not respond to them.
Do you see what I am saying? The axe works the way it does because you were handling it. Because you have the potential to use it!
You are Wasting that potential.
And I wonder: am I wasting my time, trying to point this out to you?
You think you know everything. What you want to be, where you are going in life, that no one and nothing can beat you. That you can take what you want.
So wrong! On all counts.
You know Nothing. Could you tell me about the wizard you killed? No. He was just something to be killed, to make you look good in the eyes of those who fear you. As if Fear was any way to be remembered.
You are going nowhere. No one will remember you, save perhaps as some bully, who deserves to be forgotten.
You are a great fighter... but even had we been equally matched, I would have beaten you. Because you dont think, you havent even tried to use what youve got.
The axe is nothing. You use it to fight monsters. It will get you killed. That, and your attitude.
Your mind is your greatest weapon, but you dont use it!
Especially with the potential within you. It is the reason you stood against me so long as you did. I cant begin to tell you exactly what it is. You would refuse to understand, anyway. You think that axe is the best thing that ever happened to you?
It is a Toy. It should be beneath you, a waste of your time. You are certainly wasting time with it.
You could lead armies. I see this in you. You could tie nations together...
But no. Youll just come up against something you cant handle. Like me. And no one will remember you a day after you are dead.
Part of me would like to stay and teach you. But I have a jealous mate who would not stand for it. My companion and I shall have been long gone by the time you wake.
I... appreciate a good fight. Especially that finishing move of yours. You have no idea. tis too bad we could not have played longer. Fortunately for you, I was being... much more of a gentleman than usual.
Ruhk, I am going to get that knife back from her and show you just where she stuck it-
Xenia shoved the axe across the table, where it teetered precariously on the edge. What the Hell is playing? she grumped, rising, the chair falling back against the wall as she stood.
She glared at one of the children, who had been bold enough to stare at her outburst. Stalking over to one of the few windows low enough to look out through, she leaned upon the sill, watching villagers mill about the street shops.
Lead? Whom? These peasants? The toughs who thought they were soldiers? Rule over this barren region?
I dont need advice from a male, especially you, she snarked, pushing back from the window. Besides, I kicked your ass.
But as she turned away, a faint, deep-throated sigh came to her ears. No imagination. It is no wonder. Power just within your grasp, but youll never know it now.
The blue sky beyond the window seemed to fade, a golden glow replacing it, bronze hues about the edge deepening as she leapt back to look out. He was here! Somewhere, just beyond the village-
I think I shall regret not being able to teach you-
Something brighter flared. Winked out. In the streets beyond the tavern people stood stock still, all looking towards wherever he had been-
Xenia felt an odd emptiness in the world. The creature was definitely gone. She could feel it. How was that possible?
She continued to watch the sky for a long time afterwards. Evening came on, and yet she stood. Had those entering the tavern not been more interested in not gaining her attention, they might have seen a dawning comprehension on her face.
And perhaps a bit of resignation. But only a bit. Advice from a male, and him, at that!
Xenia stood tall, pulling herself together. Alright. I... shall think about it.
(Begun October 2008, finished ...)