Karuna leapt to the front of the battle. Her long, dark, tangled hair spread out like ravenous raven's wings. Her armor shone darkly for the opposing fighters. Her sword flashed like the doom of mankind, as it was for many. Chanting arose around her, dark and menacing, drums providing the background. There were no sounds except the chanting of the drums and the screams of the dying men.

She darted in front of the men in front of her, and stabbed a man from the enemy side right in the chest with a dagger. She did not pause, did not look into the dying blue eyes. She merely moved onto the next enemy. She was a whirlwind of deadly accuracy. Soon, men were fleeing before her, fleeing death. It did not do any good. Then there stood a man in front of her and he refused to flee. Her cold eyes watched his every movement, as she smoothly slid to a stop. He brought her sword up to meet hers. They stood for a moment, their swords touching, the world slowing. They both remained conscious to the world around them, to prevent a sword coming between them; but they both concentrated mainly on the one before them.

He feinted and she did not move. She called his bluff. He returned to his previous position, his head cocked to the side. She watched him, noting the many white scars of a fighting life on his arms and face. She started moving in a circle, sidestepping the gore of the battlefield easily, with the grace of one who was born to it. She never removed her eyes from his form, his every movement. He slowly turned with her, never losing sight of her lithe black figure, her silver glinting sword a deadly weapon. He did not move, daring her to come in and attack. Finally, as the deep chanting and drums reached a crescendo, she lunged past him, her sword going right past him. He refused to fall for it, and instead casually blocked her sword, which had come up from the other side. He returned the thrust, and they were engaged in the deadly dance of steel and skin, sinuous forms twisting and weaving steel cages around each other.

Other men stopped what they were doing to watch the two best fighters engage to a battle to the death. And even more others ran the watchers through. The drums beat to the ever faster beat of the feet, the clanging of the swords part of the death song. For who the drums beat for, neither knew.

She caught a flick on her sword wrist by the man's sword. She gritted her teeth and pulled her lips back, her face contorted in the anger of the injured wolf. Her sword whistled by his ear, scoring a long cut on his sword arm. He grimaced, and switched hands. She did not let her silent growl fade, but she was certain of triumph now. She suddenly disengaged, circling him quietly. He did not let the circling faze him, though he knew that he had met his match.

She read that in his eyes, and let the silent growl slowly be replaced by a carnivorous smile. He suddenly engaged, his sword coming close to her. She jumped back, her hair spreading about her. He pushed forward and she stood her ground, waiting for him to get close enough. His eyes never leaving hers, the man stepped over a man lying on his side.

The dying man lying watched the two fighters silently, knowing that he was going to die alone on this battlefield, and suddenly he decided. He gripped his short knife that he had had since his first lesson, and flung it at the man's back. The man sidestepped without looking behind, and the woman blocked the whirling blade effortlessly. It spun off into the reddened bushes. The dying man glanced at the blade, then at the black-haired woman. The woman didn't look at him, and he watched silently. It no longer meant anything to him. He felt his lifeblood leaking from the hole in his chest. As the darkness descended, he whispered, "Karuna . . ."

The woman did not hear and never looked at the now limp man with open, staring blue eyes. She flicked her sword, and the man's sword spun out of his grip. He stood without fear, waiting for the death blow that would then end the battle. She raised her sword then, and swung. His eyes never blinked.

Finally, she spoke. "Well fought." Her voice was soft and lyrical, at complete odds with everything else she was.

Then the sword connected with his neck and his head flew off into the battlefield. She did not bother to look for it; she merely turned and walked back to the leader of the men she had fought with.

The leader nodded to her and motioned to her sword. She raised her head, her cold, dark eyes meeting the leader's bright, light eyes. She raised her sword with threatening ease. She let her sword do the talking. He stared at her, considering the blade, considering the threat. He nodded to her to acquiesce.

Now it was her time to consider him. He could not meet her eyes. She finally shrugged and walked away, sheathing her sword. Killing him would not be worth the effort.

The leader watched her agile form walk away on the rocky trail that led up the mountain. Soon her shape was obscured by the mist that was rapidly falling. He suppressed a shiver of fear. He would never see Karuna again, but he would never forget.