|Beneath The Burning Sky
Author: TheColdFlame PM
"War is upon us!" Meras Perelli, King of Altera, Lord of the Council of Nine, bellowed across the council hall. "War is upon us and we must do something!" he stared around the room, "Surely you see this."Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 6 - Words: 18,357 - Reviews: 3 - Updated: 12-28-12 - Published: 03-02-12 - id: 3001899
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Fights and Family
Markas let out a terrifying roar as he lifted Mertal the Iron Wielder from the ground and slammed her back down again, knocking her head into the beaten ground with considerable force. Mertal let out a low moan at the pain whilst Markas pinned her down, restricting her movement. She was beaten.
Markas stood from the ground and held a hand out to Mertal, who took it and let him pull her up. She rose with remarkable grace for a creature of her stature, and rubbed the back of her head uncomfortably, a bump was already forming.
"Well fought," she told him good naturedly. She held no anger due to her loss, she knew before the first blow was dealt that she would not win. No one fought against the Giant and won. The proof to that statement was in the fact that only Markas and one other remained unbeaten that day. The two of them would have to fight and the winner would be Chief Beor's champion and the one to represent their race in the war.
The fighting had been brutal; the fights tiring and long even for a Grey. People from all around the vicinity had been drawn to watch by the sound of the eager crowd cheering each contester on. Men and women from all races followed the crowds to watch the spectacular affair of the Grey's fighting one another, a sight rarely seen outside their homeland. Among those drawn to the fights were King Meras Perelli and his two sons, Keladrion and Aearen, no doubt his wife Queen Irene would follow soon after.
Keladrion and Aearen watched with interest as battles were fought and won in an exhilarating dance of strength and wit. The Greys were not stupid; each move they made was carefully thought out and expertly executed until one of the two Fighters got the upper hand, overpowering their opponent, winning.
The looser of each fight was required to stand down, leave the competition, whilst the winner went on to their next fight, standing down if they lost and continuing on if they won until there were only two left. This had been hard. Standing down from a potential fight was not an easy thing to do for a Grey; it was not in their nature.
There was tangible sense of excitement in the air as Chief Korak Beor led Markas Berenn to the centre of the camp, where he had issued his challenge, and where Markas' last opponent waited. Markas recognised her immediately, he knew every aspect of this Grey, every scar, every feature, he even knew her first words. After all, she was his sister.
Hazel Berenn, Throat Slitter, Haze to anyone who knew her, and Markas Berenn's only sister, the middle child in the Berenn family. Haze, he thought, of course, who else would it be? He and Hazel had fought many times, both in practice fights and serious ones. Call it sibling rivalry, Greys liked to fight to settle their problems, Haze and Markas had had many problems over the years.
Markas looked Hazel up and down, checking for any injuries, weaknesses; they may have been siblings but when fighting the other was their enemy, and should be treated as such, examined for weaknesses and strong points, anything that would help them win the fight. He knew Hazel was doing the same to him.
Hazel stared back at him, examining him as he knew she would. Markas stared right back, taking in her tall frame that was somewhat less bulky than her brothers' as was usual in the women of the Greys. She was as tall as many of the men there, reaching just below the height of their brother Sark but didn't come close to matching Markas the Giant in height, people rarely did. Haze was strong and well built and, although she didn't compare to any of the men in muscle, as was only natural in their race, he knew from experience that Haze had the strength to match almost everyone there. She had proved this by getting where she was in this competition.
Hazel was leaning casually to one side; restring almost all of her weight on her left leg whilst the right remained barely touching the ground. It was obvious that Haze was trying to imitate the casual stance that she took on so often and she was doing so quite well. Most people would have believed her well executed façade but to anyone who had any sort of experience, like Markas, you could tell immediately that she was hiding something- she had a weakness in her right leg, obviously acquired during one of the fights in that day.
Her arms hung loosely by her sides, left hand clenching and unclenching habitually, ready to grab the sword that usual hung by her side. Haze was left handed but, of course, Markas already knew that. Markas knew that just as he knew Hazel knew that his right leg was stronger than the left due to an injury from when he was a child. Hazel had been there.
Like most of the female Fighters of the Greys, Hazels black hair was cut half way down her neck, where it flicked out slightly towards the tips. Markas knew this was not only so that it was harder to grab her hair during a fight, but also because Haze had always found long hair to be incredibly irritating in her every day life, she had since they were small.
The short, dark hair framed her face, the distinctly feminine features set in a small smile as she watched him, no doubt spotting the stiffness in his left hand that he had obtained in his previous fight. Mertal the Iron Wielder had bent it backwards in an attempt to escape his grasp, the sudden pain it had caused granting her a brief moment of freedom before he had thrown her to the ground and overpowered her.
Hazels own hands were also weakened from the day of hard fighting, her knuckles split and bloody. Markas grinned, Haze had always had a strong punch; he would have to watch out for that.
Hazel shifted slightly and winced almost imperceptivity, Markas' eyes flicked immediately back to her injured leg, slightly more serious than he had originally thought. That was Hazel's biggest weakness that day, and it would be one of Markas' greatest advantages. He knew that, if needed, all he had to do was play on that injury and he could win the fight. He knew that just as Hazel knew from the stiffness in which he held his left shoulder that, when his hand had been bent backwards by Mertal Iron Wielder, his arm had also been pushed backwards painfully in such a way that it had created a weakness in his shoulder and arm. Markas snorted to himself, she had probably seen the fight.
Strength was going to be Markas' biggest advantage in this fight and he would have o rely on even more so than he usually did. Hazel may have been his sister, but she was also an exceptional Fighter who could take down almost anything. Her biggest advantage was her speed, he knew that there was a change that, if she was quick enough, she could get around him and perform her signature and winning move. He had seen it many times. He loved the look on peoples faces when they realised that the person they had been fighting was now behind them and holding a knife to their neck, or had it in a fatal hold, as would be the case that day if she got the opportunity. Throat Slitter; Markas often wondered why she had become fond of that particular move.
Satisfied with his assessment, Markas looked up into Hazel's scarred face; she wore the ceremonial scars of every Grey fighter, and watched as a blinding grin spread over her face. Neither had said a word during the affair, each only observing the other, but Hazel broke this silence as they looked upon each others face, her voice low and somewhat deep,
"Hello, Brother," she drawled, "Good day?" Markas nodded slightly,
"I did," he answered, "Did you, little sister?"
"I did," she echoes his previous answer, "And now it seems that we must fight, my Brother." Markas smiled,
"And now it seems we must." He agreed.
The short conversation had taken place in a tense atmosphere as they stared at each other with expressions that could be described as something close to distaste. That was a lie. Both Markas and Hazel suddenly burst into joyous laughter.
"Ah Brother," Hazel said through the laughter, "You just wait until I win this fight, I will never let you forget it."
"That's assuming that you will win, little sister, and we both know that that's impossible." His tone was joking although his mind was occupied by more serious thoughts. Markas knew, although he pretended he didn't, that there was a chance, however small, that Hazel would win this fight. He could not let that happen, not because he didn't want his sister to win, but because he wanted to go on this journey, he wanted to represent the Greys in the war.
It was not selfish; he managed to convince himself, not selfish at all. While he wanted to do this for himself, there was also a part of him that wanted desperately to prevent his young sister from taking on this challenge. The journey would be difficult and the road dangerous, he did not want to see his sister lost. It was these thoughts that accompanied him as they were led to the fighting ground and Chief Korak Beor gave them the signal:
Those words did not prompt the immediate flying of blows, or battle cries, it was followed simply by Markas and Hazel beginning to move in an age old Fighters Dance. They began to circle each other slowly, neither taking their eyes of their opponent and sibling.
Markas watched Hazel intently as they circled each other, waiting for her to make the first move; the first mistake. Hazel grinned at him, realising what he was doing, she was doing the same, although, unlike her brother, she knew he would strike first. Markas had always been the least patient of the siblings, Hazel coming in a close second, but Markas was always the most impatient one. Markas would always strike first if given any amount of time to wait for the fight to begging.
Unfortunately Markas had also always been the better fighter. His considerably strength and size made sure of that, but for now, at least, Hazel was in charge. And sp when Markas lunged at her, as she knew he would, Hazel that for now she was winning. That would soon change.
Markas lunged at her again suddenly, Hazel dodges him quickly, avoiding his lunge just barely and twisted around, dealing him a kick to the back of his and causing him to buckle briefly. This victory was small and short lived, ending when Markas twisted around and pushed her backwards with some force. This was a childish move but Haze stumbled nonetheless, tripping backwards uncertainly and trying to regain her balance. Markas shot her a cocky grin- he was winning.
The grin, as he knew it would, set Hazels temper off. Anger flared in her chest and she let out a furious roar, charging at Markas wildly. Markas easily sidestepped her, smirking triumphantly as Hazel stumbled past, her arms extended to grab at an opponent that wasn't there and tumbled gracelessly to the ground
Yes, Markas was the impatient one but Hazel had always been exceptionally easy to wind up, and Markas knew all of the best ways to make her angry.
"Having fun there sister?" he jeered, "I know I am." Hazel merely grunted in reply, looking up at him angrily.
Markas grabbed at Haze, who was now crouching on all fours behind him, but she rolled away from him, standing back up as quickly as she could. The floor was not a good place to be when fighting a standing opponent, especially not an opponent as tall as Markas. Even when she was standing she was at a huge disadvantage and her leg made it even worse- making it painful for her to stand.
She was struck, suddenly, with an idea. She would be better off on the floor and with Markas' injured shoulder he would definitely not be. A wide grin spread across her scarred face.
"Come now Markas," she mocked, "You've had your fun, now let me have mine." And with that she ran at him wildly, taking advantage of his shock, and pushed him to the ground.
They landed with a thump, Markas flat on the ground with Hazel above him triumphantly. There was a moment of shocked silence- Markas surprised at the sudden attack and Hazel that it had worked. She stared down at him, smirking; all she could hear was the harsh sound of his breathing and the strong pounding of her heart. She could win this, she knew that she could, she had the advantage now.
Hazel tried to push down on his left shoulder, hoping the pain would take him off guard but Markas saw what she was doing and reacted, pushing upwards hard and flipping their positions. Hazel's eyes widened in panic and she brought her closed fist up to his head, clipping his right cheek and rolling them back over but Markas utilised his impressive strength coupled with the memento of the previous roll to pull them over once more; settling himself above his sister and where she wanted to be.
It had been a bad idea, Hazel thought, to assume that the ground would give her an advantage; she had greatly underestimated Markas' strength and skill. That mistake could cost her the fight and she would never forgive herself is it did. How could she, she mentally scolded herself, she had known Markas he whole life, he was her brother, how could she underestimate him?
"Do you yield?" Markas asked from above her, that cocky grin back on his face. Her anger flared up again,
"Never," Hazel hissed and pushed at his shoulder with all of her strength, this was her last change, and so she smiled at hi stiffly. "I'm really sorry about this brother," she apologised with sceptical sincerity and brought the knee of her uninjured leg hard, straight into his groin. Markas' face screwed up in obvious pain and he loosened his hold on Haze, giving her the opportunity she had been looking for to gain the upper hand. She flipped him over quickly, this time not going with him but instead laying him facedown on the ground and settling on top of him. She dug both of her elbows into his shoulder hard and Markas cried out quietly at the pain, his body arching upwards slightly, giving Hazel the chance to slip her hands beneath his neck.
She tightened her hands uncomfortably for Markas and slid her index figure along his neck,
"Dead," she laughed joyfully, "Do you yield?" and Markas too began to shake with laughter, having finally been bested by his little sister.
"Yes," he said through chuckles, "I yield, I yield!" and he weakly nudged at her and she obediently rolled off him, lying back next to him with her hands behind her head.
From the crowd came a single clap followed swiftly by the noise of many others and their audience. Greys and Dwarves and Witches and all of the races present showing their appreciation to the spectacular fight between brother and sister and their congratulations to Hazel, the new champion of the Greys and the person who was going to lead them into war.
Among those clapping was the entire Alteri royal family; Aearen the most enthusiastic of all. Meras watched in silent approval with his arm looped around his lightly smiling Queen; Irene had always enjoyed a good, friendly fight. Her smile widened as she looked on at her youngest son who was leaning casually over the temporary fence that they were stood behind. He was still watching the two opponents in fascination even though the fight was now over.
"Something interesting, son?" she asked curiously.
"Yes," he murmured in reply, eyes still fixed on the two Greys. "The two fighters, I believe they are related."
"Yes," Meras confirmed, "They're siblings, I talked to Chief Korak Beor and he informed me that they are two of his best fighters; the big one- they call him The Giant- is the best."
"And yet his sister still beat him," Kel responded,
"Yes," Meras agreed, "I believe she is the more intelligent of the two. The Giant looks like the type who prefers brute force to thinking things thought."
"No," Kel told him, eyes still trained on the two siblings, "I think she just manages to beat him this time. Did you see them at the beginning? They both studied each other so closely, undoubtedly looking for weaknesses. It's more than likely that his weakness was just greater than hers and or that she used it to her advantage more effectively. Either way they are both exceptional fighters and a good choice for the Greys representative. She will be a good asset Father; she will keep the group safe."
"I know," Meras replied stiffly,
"And I have no doubt that the other representatives chosen will also be great additions, the group will be very strong, very safe."
"I know," Meras echoes, and suddenly Kel had spun around quickly and grabbed at his fathers hands desperately.
"Please father, I need to do this," he pleaded desperately.
"You could die," Meras whispered,
"Yes," Kel exclaimed. "Yes, yes I might die but if I stay here I will die and I will die quickly. And if I go I sill still die but I will die doing something good and something that I want to do! Please father, I will not sit back and wait for death any longer, because that is what I am doing! I could be helping people father, I would have a purpose and that is what I desperately need right now- a purpose, something to keep me going, please," and Meras just stared at him wearily and shook his head at his desperate son. No, no he would not loose him.
Kel's face dropped and he snatched his hands away from his fathers' loose grasp and began to walk away, his back straight and his fists clenched tightly at his sides.
"Meras" Irene murmured as they watched him walk away, "Just let him go."
"I am Irene," Meras snapped and Queen Irene shook her head sadly.
"No Meras, you need to let his go," and she took his face into her hands, staring softly at his eyes, "I know that it's hard for you Meras, he's your son- he's my son too- but you need to let him go. You need to accept that our son won't be around for much longer and it is our job to be as happy as he can be in the time that ha has; even if that means letting him go into danger. Our son deserves to be happy Meras, and as parents it is our job to make sure that happens."
"And father," Aearen said from beside the, "he's my little brother and it pains me to say this, but we all know that he can take care of himself and that he will be a great member of that group. He is one of our best fighters and were he not your son and my brother he would have been one of your first choices as the Alteri representative."
"But he is my son and he is your brother!" Meras exclaimed desperately, his eyes filing with tears.
"Yes, he is and I know you think you need to protect him, and we do sometimes, but right now we just need to let him do this; let him protect himself from himself."
And so King Meras Perelli looked on at his family with sad eyes, missing the presence of his youngest son, and it was in that moment that he finally accepted that soon he would be missing the presence of his son all the time. So he gave his wife and heir a sad smile and reached out to Aearen, the proud Crown Prince of Altera and his eldest son, soon to be his only son. He pulled him into a fierce hug that Aearen returned cautiously but tightened when he felt a wet patch of tears forming on his neck. He looked over to his mother, who had tears in her eyes, and gave her a weak, comforting smile.
"If we're going to lose him," Meras said quietly, "If he's going to die, then he might as well die properly; he might as well die well."