“You can fly?” - Taren Elloy
The air was still as the two combatants stepped into the large glowing circle that appeared on the ground. The onlookers held their collective breath as they watched. Both of these warriors were renowned for their skill with the blade, and this was a test to see which was better. It promised to be quite a fight.
Taren and Tarea Elloy circled each other in the ring. They each held standard swords in both hands; Crystal Blades and celestial weapons were not allowed in this contest. Taren was dressed in his thief’s clothes, as they afforded him the greatest freedom of movement. Tarea was dressed in a pair of tight black shorts that came to her knees, and a short sleeveless shirt that left her mid-drift visible.
“Shall we see what you can do, little brother?” Tarea asked, placing great emphasis on the word little, even though she was only about ten minutes older than he was.
She had been trying to goad him into attacking first, but she had not been successful. Taren could tell that she had been trained by a professional soldier. Insulting someone was not something that was generally taught in the army.
Taren just grinned as they continued to circle one another.
“Why don’t you bring your cowardly legs over here and show me what you’ve got?” Tarea tried again.
Taren’s grin widened. He decided that he should join the fight. “You dress like a harlot.” He said, matter-of-factly.
From the steely look that instantly appeared in her blue eyes, and the furious look on her face, Taren new that he had drawn first blood. He only had a moment to prepare himself before Tarea lunged at him. His combat reflexes kicked in and he parried the attack, but he had no time rest before the next one came.
The combat was almost too fast for the onlookers to watch. It was clear, very quickly, that the combatants were evenly matched. Neither competitor gained any ground on the other. Taren wondered how long he would be able to hold out. He had never fought anyone that was Tarea’s equal. Her attacks were relentless and she didn’t seem to be tiring.
For five long minutes they fought, neither besting the other in any way. At the five minute mark, as agreed beforehand, several large divots appeared in the floor, adding terrain elements to the fight. The fight continued.
After a moment, Taren stepped in one of the divots, causing him to lose his footing. As he hit the ground one of his swords skittered across the floor, out of his reach. Tarea took advantage of his predicament. Her swords clattered off of the crystal floor as they struck where Taren’s head had been moments before. He quickly rolled to his feet, jumped into the air, and snapped his wings open and rose out of Tarea’s reach. He stared down at her, pumping his wings just fast enough to hover out of reach.
He had never in his life fought against the likes of his sister. She was truly a master swordsman.
“You think you are safe up there?” She asked as her hair started to writhe around her head. “Did you not wonder why I asked that the ring be so big, or why I did not forbid the use of your wings when the rules were laid out?” Electricity arced between the strands of her hair as she watched her brother. With a malicious grin on her face, she shouted “Surprise” and leaped high in the air. There was a loud sound of rushing air and Tarea rose into the air. Everyone in the makeshift arena stared in awe as the battle suddenly became an aerial duel.
It was quickly apparent that Taren was the more experienced flyer. He was graceful, whereas Tarea was much jerkier in her movements, like she had only recently found out that she could fly.
Several times, she tried to hack at his wings, but she missed each and every time. He was able to anticipate her movements as a felt the changes in the air around her. She hacked at his wing again, and this time he was able to parry with his sword. He used a special trick that the last sword-master that he had trained with had taught him. He slid his blade down her blade, lodging it underneath her sword’s cross bar. With a slight flick of his wrist he sent her sword spiraling to the floor beneath.
For several more minutes they fought, until her second sword spiraled from her grasp. In exasperation, she grabbed the front of Taren’s shirt and, spinning in mid-air, threw him as hard as she could. He was not prepared for the aggressive maneuver, and was unable to recover before his back hit a large crystal pillar.
The pillar quickly elongated, becoming a slide that deposited him safely on the ground; outside of the sparring circle. He had lost.
Saria quickly advanced on him, healing his wounds before he could do anything further.
Tarea landed next him.
“You can fly?” Taren asked, not able to disguise the awe in his voice.
Tarea did not answer, she just stalked silently away.
“What...?” He asked to no one in particular as he watched his sister walk away.
He climbed to his feet, to follow her, but Shaunna placed her hand on his shoulder.
“I’ll go.” She said and followed Tarea’s path.
She found herself standing outside of Tarea’s room. She knocked, and entered when the voice within bid her to do so. Tarea was sitting on her bed looking very somber.
“Are you okay?” Shaunna asked.
Tarea shrugged. “I know he didn’t mean it, but he’s right.”
“Right about what?” Shaunna was confused.
“These are the only clothes that I have to wear.” She said, gesturing to herself.
“I’m sure that we can find more clothes that you can wear.” Shaunna smiled sympathetically as she said this.
“No, you don’t understand.” Tarea objected. “These are the only clothes that I can wear.”
Shaunna just sat there with a bewildered look on her face. It wasn’t just the comment that was confusing her. In the two weeks that she had to get to know Taren’s sisters, Tarea had always seemed the least reserved. Suddenly, here she was looking pensive and dodging around an almost laughable issue.
“I... I guess you are right. I don’t understand.” Shaunna replied, trying very hard not to laugh. She didn’t want to hurt Tarea’s feelings, and she wasn’t completely sure that she would win if it came to a fight.
Tarea sat looking at Shaunna as if she were about to cry. Without warning, she grabbed the left side of her short shirt and bared her left breast.
Shaunna was not usually shy around other women, but this situation was several levels of uncomfortable, so she looked away.
“Look.” Tarea commanded.
Shaunna looked at the other woman. She had heard tales of the marks that the princesses had been born with, and she assumed that this is what she was seeing.
A golden dragon wound around her breast, the tail on her shoulder and the head facing the nipple. Flame shot from the dragons open maw, forming a circle around her areola.
“When I am in danger, the circle closes, and whatever is touching it bursts into flame.” Tarea explained as she recovered her breast. “It scared me the first time that it happened, but it did not harm me. Apparently, I am fire proof. This is a special cloth from the world that I grew up on, there was only enough to make these clothes. They are fire resistant, but the heat still ignites any clothes that I wear over them.”
“Have you spoke about this with your sisters?” Shaunna asked.
Tarea shook her head. “It’s too embarrassing.”
This time Shaunna could not hold back the laugh. “Tarea, you are the most forward person I have ever met. It is hard to believe that this would embarrass you. The stories say that each of the princesses were born with a mark. Based on what you just showed me, I would say that the stories are true.” She paused for a moment to let that sink in. “It is very likely that they have a similar issue that you do. Not to mention, Morganna is a magic user, she may know a way to fire proof some clothes for you.”
Tarea’s eyes lit up. “I hadn’t thought of that.” She said.
Shaunna held her hand out to Taren’s sister. “Come, let us go find your sister to see if she can help you with your predicament.”
They returned to the makeshift arena where the sparring match had taken place. The small group of spectators had dispersed. The glowing circle had been cleared, and the area looked just as it had before. On the far side of the cavern Taren, Cera, and Maxx were having a conversation about something. It was too far to hear what Taren was saying and it was unlikely that they would have been able to hear what the others were saying, even if they were standing right next to the group.
Tarea stopped and watched her brother. She was still not used to seeing swords floating around without their wielder, much less being able to talk. She remembered the first time that her twin swords had introduced themselves to her. The memory caused her to shudder. She didn’t like to use the swords, if she didn’t have to, but they did come in handy if she were vastly outnumbered.
She almost shrieked as a small sword emerged from the crude stone dwelling that she was standing next too. She was not put at ease when the weapon disappeared into thin air. The Crystal Blades had been doing that a lot over the past two weeks as they heeded Maxx’s call to go out and find wielders to help fight in the upcoming war. Most of them were gone, but there were a few that had resisted the call to arms. One by one, they were coming to their senses and going out to join the ranks of their brothers and sisters.
“Are you okay?” Shaunna asked.
“I’m just a bit jumpy, I guess.” Tarea answered. “I guess I am not used to having two weeks without any threat to my life.”
Shaunna smiled. “Let’s go find your sister.”
Not far from the makeshift arena, behind the castle, a small stream flowed into the cavern. The water was clean and crisp. Morganna had mentioned that there was a magical quality about it. She’d spent much time there, either studying or just relaxing as the gurgling water rushed by. It was towards this that the duo headed in their widening search.
As they approached the babbling brook, they could hear the slight hum that was caused by the water sliding over the crystal, causing it to vibrate. The bed of the stream seemed unnaturally shaped if you took into account natural erosion. Given Cera’s control over the crystal of the cavern, it was entirely possible that it was not natural.
They could see Morganna sitting at the edge of the stream, listening to the relaxing melody of the water. She was visibly more relaxed than they had seen her at any other time. Her eyes were closed, and there was a smile on her face as she let the sound of the rushing water engulf her.
Tarea stopped a few feet from her sister and grabbed Shaunna’s arm. “Maybe we should try and catch her later.”
The answer came not from Shaunna, but from Morganna. “It is okay, sister. You are not bothering me. I was getting ready to leave soon anyway.”
The three women chatted politely as they walked back to Morganna’s room.
Their conversation died down as the settled into the chairs that had grown out of the floor when they entered the room. Morganna turned to her sister with a business like air about her.
“How much temperature does your outfit need to withstand?” Morganna asked.
Tarea thought for a moment. “I am not sure. I am not exactly sure how hot the fire from my mark gets. I do know that I have withstood the full fury of a dragon’s flame. As did the cloth that my current clothes are made out of.”
Morganna and Shaunna stared at her open mouthed.
Tarea flushed in embarrassment as the two women gawked at her.
Morganna was the first to regain her composure. “Strange abilities seem to abound in our family, especially with you and Taren.” She walked over to the desk on the far wall and sat down. Pulling a pad of parchment, an ink bottle, and a colorful feather quill she turned back to Tarea. “Do you have a specific style of clothing that you prefer to wear?”