001 WoeNyl Fights Ankor
I last died 87 days earlier. I strapped my rusted dagger to my right forearm. My hood obscured my face from the crowd’s prying ears. Booing erupted as I stepped into the arena.
An aura of mockery emanated from Ankor, my opponent. A woman leaned on his shoulder.
“Don't kill this hag too quickly; I want to hear her suffer.” she thrummed into him and spat at me.
Bats and spiders vibrate their hands, feet, and the tips of their legs to speak. They feel the vibrations of others to listen. I “heard” her speech with my skin, but could not thrum with my extremities.
The salacious shrieks, of the men in the stadium followed her as she exited the platform. Each man wished she belonged to him.
After the King announced us, Ankor and I sipped pure water from the ceremonial cup. A courier carried away the chalice as soon as it left my lips. Rather than scrutinising my plentiful weaknesses, Ankor thrummed forth his venom.
“Will you murder me today, like you’ve already done to so many others.” Ankor sent vibrations from his feet into the ground beneath us to communicate his words.
'How does he know what I am? Did my mistress tell him or is he just guessing?' I thought.
“I not kill you.” I emulated the vibrations of his language with my mouth, because I could not thrum like the others of my world.
“Everyone knows who you are,” Ankor said. “Don't think you're fooling anyone. You're a murderess and you can't get a man either. You're not pretty enough, nothing like my girl. She's a full-blood and you're a cursed unanimal.”
His words eroded my confidence. They stung so deeply because I knew they were true. I was ever too plain to become Princess. No one wanted or expected a slave girl to progress so far in this contest, especially not a girl with my past. Every man resented me. If I were beautiful, they might receive me. They might overlook my crimes. At least the crowd did not yet know the entirety of my past. Once they did, all hope of becoming Princess would evaporate.
“Are the combatants ready” the King’s question asked through the rumble machines jarred me from my troubled thoughts and shook the arena like a stone-shuddering.
“Ready,” Ankor replied smugly.
“Aye,” I stammered.
'Two more fights and I am heir to the throne. Then I will be free from my past and Gemma and from men like this fool and from Centin.' I thought.
Because Queen Syreeta was barren, the royal couple decided to adopt the winner of a series of tournaments. Whoever defeated all of the fighters in Ildylia would prove themselves worthy of heirship. I promised myself that I would vanquish.
My quivering body tensed as I unsheathed my dagger. The blast of sound that emanated from the arena’s walls initiated the duel and the continuous screeching, which the crowd used to visualize their surroundings with their ears, intensified my perpetual headache.
He advanced first. With each blow from his unseen blade, I scrambled to parry, recovering in time for the next attack. When the metal clashed, something that stung my eyes came off of it. Nightmarish shapes flitted into my eyes and added to the chaos.
When I concentrated, I felt the presence of his emotions and assigned a vague location to my foe. I sidestepped a thrust to my chest and yanked on his arm. As our skin touched, I absorbed some of his aggression into myself. He lost his balance, but recovered in time to parry my slash at his neck with his dagger.
When I seemed to gain the advantage, Ankor tore his arm away from me and spoke again.
“I've seen you with him, did he make you feel beautiful before she replaced you?”
'How does Ankor know? I have tried so hard to conceal my past! Ankor will pay dearly for his insults!' I thought.
I surrendered to my rage and the rage I stole from Ankor. My dagger danced round my enemy in wild manoeuvres, which he countered with ease. His blade streaked across my arm like a swooping bat. Pain seized me as my weapon clattered to the ground. His bare fist slammed into my left eye with the force of a miner's pickaxe. I fell hard.
The tip of Ankor's blade rested on my throat. What I did next jeopardized my life, but I could not surrender. My mistress would have forced me to return to my previous occupation if I did. With a sudden movement of my right hand, I recovered my dagger and slashed off two of his eight legs. As he hobbled away from me, I blasted the pommel of my weapon into his brow. He crumpled as if he bowed before me. His girl rushed onto the platform to her fallen lover. Air whooshed by as she folded her wings around herself in shame. I pitied her despite her cruelty toward me. By loving a half-blood, she became a fool to the crowd.
She collapsed on the platform beside Ankor with quiet sobs spilling out across the arena. As Ankor exited on a stretcher, she followed not. Her champion failed her and left her alone in her shame and rage. She charged me and clamped her clawed hands around my throat before I reacted. My body absorbed her anger and grief, which caused her to release her stranglehold and wander away confused.
I slumped on the arena floor and wept for the loss of Ankor, experiencing the fullness of the girl's grief in her stead.
The warden omitted to declare me the winner of the duel and the crowds filed out of the arena bemoaning Ankor's defeat. The rabble felt cheated that a mere blind girl conquered their best when he should have vanquished her so easily. No one offered to guide me to my dwelling. The journey took hours.
Once alone in my flat in the slums, tears of blood cascaded down my cheeks. Ankor seemed to know what Centin had done to me. I thought I had concealed the betrayal of the man who still haunted the dreams of my two minds. Or perhaps Ankor did not know; maybe he just happened to strike at my deepest wound.
Only time stood as a barrier against what my body would soon reveal. The daughter inside my womb would evidence herself as a bulge in my abdomen. Then all would know and accuse me of terrible iniquities which I did not commit, and Centin would escape all punishment as men always do. No one would believe, or care if they did believe, that he divorced me due to no fault of my own. He was royalty, and I was a peasant unanimal to discard whenever he grew bored.