The Half Light

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[3.1] - The Makings of a Spy

Aryial always hated lazy afternoons such as this one, especially since she had stayed awake for the entirety of last night, watching a door. The afternoon made her want to sleep like the dead.

A zing of metal zipped through the air, impaling the ground with a thud. It landed right next to Aryial’s head, inflicting the smallest of cuts on her cheek.

“Was your head so deep in the clouds that you couldn’t even sense me standing here?” A disapproving voice said.

It was indeed, for Aryial’s mind couldn’t help but go over what happened last night and early that morning. After waiting all night, Aryial had decided to check on the women and help them, against all of her instincts.

There could be more men there! Her common sense had said. The people would’ve covered their tracks, they don’t want to be caught!

But Aryial hadn’t been able to stop herself, she thought that if the women were still alive, perhaps she could help them, return them to their families.

But there had been nothing in that room. It was as if no one had been there, or it would’ve been if Aryial hadn’t spotted the splatter of blood against one of the walls.

She tried to dispel the thoughts, turning around to watch the woman wrench the dagger from the wall.

No other weapon was visible on Evhanna if you didn’t count the wickedly sharp cuffs that adorned both of her delicately pointed ears, but Aryial would bet her entire savings that there were concealed blades hidden along the leather vambraces that adorned her teacher’s forearms.

She had at least three inches on Aryial, standing proud and firm, cloaked in black from head to toe.

As if the fact that she could snap someone’s head before they even knew she was there weren’t enough to terrify people, Evhanna sported a cold, calculated look that only an experienced killer could have.

Aryial often wondered what Evhanna’s life was like before she became Ivan’s assassin and protector, as well as Aryial’s teacher.

That’s what Evhanna was here for, to teach her. Aryial’s blood raced at the challenge.

In one precise movement, her foot flung out to sweep Evhanna, Aryial’s body dropping to the ground as she placed her hands on the floor to steady her.

Evhanna leapt back, a bark of laughter escaping her lips as she settles herself into a fighting stance.

“Come at me, fledgling,” her voice was low but seemed to hold a hint of amusement.

Aryial stayed crouched down, eyes flickering over Evhanna, calculating her next move.

The slightest tensing of Evhanna’s foot alerted Aryial and she quickly raised her hands to shield her face as dust was kicked towards her direction.

Aryial countered. She swung her leg around, hooking onto Evhanna’s still out-stretched leg. The assassin was faster though, thigh tensing as she moved away.

Laughing, Aryial turned to run once again through the clothing lines and away from the buildings. She did not stop until her feet padded against the soft and slightly damp earth.

Aryial closed her eyes for a few heartbeats, savouring the smell of the earth and the warmth, swelling rays of sunshine. Though it was not connected to the other lands, the field still belonged to the High Lord and was used for picnics and garden parties. Or so she was told.

Currently, it was deserted. The soft wind tickled by like feathers, carrying the distant buzz of the market. But the grass wavered and danced without a single figure near-by.

Aryial heard the padding of feet behind her and ducked just as a kick flew above her head, the air that blew into the back of her head was a testament to how close the attack was. If Evhanna truly wanted to sneak up on Aryial, she would never know, but the teacher had to play fair with her student and give her some opportunities to strike.

Aryial had to be more careful, she couldn’t get distracted again. She turned and slammed her foot into Evhanna’s soft stomach.

Right leg, left leg. Again and again. Back and forth.

Evhanna threw out comments on Aryial’s form every so often, reminding her to watch for bodily clues and to switch between fighting offence to defence.

The two figures moved like a dance, flurries of fists and kicks that disturbed the dirt and grass on the ground and sent it scattering in a declaration of the violence being shown. A deadly dance formed from years of training that could be seen from the elegance in which both women carried out their attacks.

Tiredness drained Evhanna’s energy, faster every count. She was almost bent over in exhaustion, while Aryial only had a faint sheen of sweat over her brow.

Evhanna’s head snapped up at the force of a punch she did not block in time. Aiming for Aryial’s head, Evhanna brought her leg up in retaliation.

Duck. Spin. Kick. Aryial blocked and countered. Kicking the side of Evhanna’s knee, Arial pinned Evhanna down.

Her muscles strained as she struggled to keep her on the ground, to no success. Evhanna lifted her leg and swivelled her hip, pinning Aryial down.

“Come on, Aryial. Remember your training, we did this last week. What is my weak spot?”

Evhanna chastened, her breath rasping out in bursts. Aryial thrashed, eyebrows strung together in concentration. She brought her knee up and grunted as it came into contact with Evhanna’s side. She shoved her away and stood once more.

Several strands of hair had fallen from the neat bun that was standard of all maids. They stuck to her face causing the heat that the brown tendrils of hair had absorbed to transfer itself through her skin.

Aryial heaved with small, ragged and uneven breaths, her entire face seared with heat and her parched throat begged for water. She didn’t have to beat Evhanna’s speed or strength, she just had to outlast her.

With a yell, Aryial flung herself back into combat. They trained until Evhanna had been pushed to her limit and the throng of the bells started echoing in the air, signalling the start of the evening.

Aryial leant against a lone tree near the edge of the compound. Before they had stopped, Evhanna had taken the offensive and pressured Aryial into a tree.

Rough bark dug into Aryial’s skin through the coarse wool of her shirt. The sky had melded into a dark purple canvas, dappled with the occasional ray of the setting sun.

Evhanna gave a curt nod, indicating that she was happy with Aryial’s effort today as she walked away from the field to the stream.

Aryial looked into the endless expanse of darkness and brought her legs up to her chest. The crisp dusk air nipped at Aryial’s exposed skin, cooling her instantly.

“Hey,” Aryial whispered, testing out the sound of word brushing past her lips. Nothing replied to her other than the quietened hum of the city brimming with life.

Her eyebrows furrowed as she rested her head gently on her arms. The expanse of purple and blue gave no answer when her eyes gazed off into the distance.

Evhanna inhaled softly, standing to leave.

Aryial sat there for a long time, until the sun’s last sliver of sunlight filtered out and the moonlight took its place, cascading along the grass in a river of silver. She sat, with her head bowed and her eyes shut.

She shuffled to the side and laid on the floor, opening her eyes to stare at the sky. The moon hung there, surrounded by her lovers immortalised in the stars, watching over the creatures of Everluh.

At least, until the sun rises once more in the North parameter to bask the world in its warmth and to wave at all the flora under its rule.

Aryial sighed softly as she stared into the endless void. Her mind plagued by what she saw that morning.

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