A gust of cold air blew the heavy brown cloak into the wind, the ends fluttering over the edge of the cliff side. The bearer of the cloak paused as the hard current of air wrapped around them and they held firm to the wall of the narrow platform of rock upon which they stood. They purposefully did not look over the edge, knowing that all they’d find would be a long drop into an abyss, leading to nothing but sharp, jagged rocks at the bottom. The wind died down and, without preamble, they continued moving again.
Using their rough, scaly fingers, the wanderer grabbed hold of the cliff face and after a few more bursts of wind, finally made it to a wide prominence of rock upon which they stopped, readjusted their cloak, and looked out over the vista before them.
In every direction spread tall, brown peaks of rock that reached up as if they were jagged teeth, hungering to tear at the bright sun hanging in the blue sky. Only a light cover of thin, wispy clouds floated above, allowing the sun to shine down perfectly on the mountains below. The wanderer raised their hand and stared up at the sky, watching the rays of the warm sun play upon the lizard-like scales that went from their hand to their elbow, where the scales changed to tanned skin. Unable to keep their instincts to warm themselves down, they took the brief respite to let their long, green scaled tail out to bask in the warmth as well.
Closing their eyes, they sighed in delight. Such small pleasures were what kept them going. Well, that and their mission. They stayed like this for a long time, feeling the cool wind rush against their skin and the warm sun bake their scales, but soon enough they sighed in longing and readjusted their cloak, preparing to leave when they froze in place.
Long, pointed, and scaled ears twitched softly on the side of their head and they sighed, reaching to their side under the cloak. In the near distance the sound of jingling metal came closer until a feminine voice echoed out through the mountains, “WANDERER!”
The wanderer shook their head and continued walking, their hand leaving their side. Once more the shout rang out, but they ignored the attention, not wanting to bother. The sound of jingling increased behind them, and the wanderer continued to walk forward at an increased pace.
“Hey…HEY!” The woman called out again. “Don’t you run away from me! Are you some kind of wuss?”
The wanderer brushed off the insult, not wanting to waste the time on this trash. The woman shouted again, “Oh, here I look everywhere for you and now you run from me? I thought you were supposed to be the greatest swordsman in the whole of Deleor, or is everyone wrong? Did getting your ass beat by the Lord Commander all those years ago chafe you so bad? Or maybe it was your little incident with that Dragon, hmm? Never recovered?”
The wanderer grit their teeth, the newcomers words striking a cord within them. They took in a shuddering breath and pushed the emotions down, finding an inner peace before continuing to walk. The momentary pause allowed the newcomer to catch up however, and their metallic jingling sounded right behind the wanderer.
“Tch, still going to ignore me? Bah, damn Monsters, all the same. Took me six damn months to find you and now you just walk along like you don’t have a care in the world. Solos, if I hadn’t met that horny little bastard in Borne to scratch my damn cooch, I’d probably be a lot more angry than I am now.”
The wanderer kept walking, hoping this annoyance would leave. And she was having such a good day beforehand…
The sound of steel rang through the air and the wanderer spun about, drawing the blade at her side faster than could be believed to intercept the blade aimed at her back. Another blast of wind rushed past the two, throwing back the wanderer’s hood to reveal the mature, feminine face underneath. She grit her teeth, reptilian fangs glittering in prominence, and narrowed her slit pupil, yellow eyes.
“Aha! Now I have your attention, ‘Wanderer!'” The newcomer, obviously human, said, smiling broadly. Despite the wind having ruffled her long, black hair into a mess, her features were utterly beautiful and her blue eyes sparkled with delight. She chuckled as her opponent pushed her back, and the two made distance from each other, watching the other.
The Wanderer looked over her opponent, knowing that there was nothing much to be done for it but to fight. She’d fought many fools who thought they could best her blade, but few ever actually chased her down. This one seemed a little different however, as Tabitha instantly recognized that the woman held her long, faintly glowing blade in trained hands. Instantly on guard more from the stance than the obviously magical blade, she took a deeper study of her opponent.
The woman stood taller than the Monster and had a lean, toned figure that spoke volumes of her training in its own right. She wore armor which appeared functional rather than ornate, yet still managed to show off the femininity her body. Compared to the light, black shirt that the Wanderer wore under her brown traveling cloak, she looked like some kind of war Goddess.
The armored woman chuckled. “See, see that’s what I wanted. That cool, calculating glare and that stance that looks like you’re looking how to chop me into meat.” She tapped her blade softly and said, “Ah, but to introduce myself, I am Alice Nurem, soon to be slayer of Tabitha the Wanderer.”
“You certainly have some big talk for someone who smells like a well used cum-sock.” Tabitha said, voice cold.
Alice cocked her head in confusion, “What, are you saying you DON’T have sex all the time? I thought you Monsters were all about raping and whatever.”
Tabitha growled out, “Some Monsters are, but clearly that doesn’t extend to just Monsters, does it?”
Alice shrugged, “So I like a romp or two. Solos, maybe this is why you’re so crabby, haven’t had a cock in…” She rolled her free hand to prompt a response.
Tabitha sighed out, “Never.”
Alice’s eyes went wide as she said, “Woaaaaaaah. No wonder you’re out in the middle of nowhere! Shit, you have to be like, fifty or something, wow. How have you lived like this?”
“There’s more important things than random sex.”
“Like the reason you’re here, I assume.”
Alice paused, her expression growing serious. “I suppose you’re right.” Her stance grew more relaxed, but the danger was still present. She closed her eyes for a moment and said, “I’m here to test my strength. To prove myself as the greatest swordsman.”
She held up her sword, which glowed a faint blue. “Energieschwert and I have to do this.”
Tabitha searched her expression before sighing and readying her own stance. “Energieschwert is a blade owned by the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood. Does Bla… the Lord Commander know you’re out here?”
“Here? No, but he knows what I’m about. I left a message and that crazy sorcerer should have told him also. It doesn’t matter though, I’m here now.”
“Yes.” Tabitha said before taking in a deep breath. “Very well, I have places to be, but I will entertain your delusions.”
“Thank you, Monster.” Alice said before the twinkle in her eyes vanished and was replaced by hard calculation. She dashed forward with shocking speed and drove her blade in a furious thrust toward Tabitha’s abdomen.
The Lizardman parried the blow with contemptuous ease and made for a counter strike when the woman twirled out of the way in a show of amazing dexterity and came again at Tabitha’s right side with a slash. Tabitha pushed herself out of the way and deflected the blow from making contact before sliding under the weight of the strike to make a slash of her own, which Alice greedily blocked.
Back on equal footing, Tabitha surged forward, moving her blade in furious arcs and patterns which Alice blocked one by one, throwing out a counterstroke every now and then which forced Tabitha to change her pattern. Every attack by the smaller Lizardman forced the woman to step back however, and in only a handful of moments Alice reached the cliff face, her armor clinking softly as she contacted the rock.
As Tabitha made to strike the woman and end this farce, Alice smiled and moved into the blow, placing her sword to her side of her body and sliding off the blow, allowing her to flip the tables on Tabitha. The Lizardman briefly remarked on the ingenuity of the feint, but she wasn’t hatched yesterday. As the woman set up to thrust from behind, Tabitha’s whip-cord tail slapped her legs out from under her and Alice gave a brief cry of alarm as she tumbled.
Tabitha whirled about and drove her blade down where Alice lay, but the woman recovered fast and rolled away from the blow and onto her feet, driving at the Lizardman with barely a delay. The two exchanged blows again, this time Tabitha on the defensive, but she made certain that she wouldn’t be cornered. She led an aggressive attack in retaliation, driving the woman to the side and away from the wall of rock to achieve this effect.
They were both sweating soon, yet instead of tiring they grew even more determined. Tabitha knew that this woman was competent, but did not expect her to give so much of a challenge. She felt her blood rushing faster in her veins, her heart beating furiously in her chest, and her breath coming faster and faster. She felt the corners of her lips rising as she parried a rather well performed thrust by Alice and she realized that she hadn’t felt this way about a fight since twenty years ago when she fought Blake in the coliseum.
Alice herself had a smile on her face as her black hair fell down in front of her face, an issue Tabitha didn’t have her with own long, brown hair thanks to her pony-tail. The woman parried a blow and then jumped backward, creating a space between the two. They both took in hungry breaths of air during the respite, running over the other’s stances and attacks to find a weakness. It was Alice who made a move first, placing her sword in a stance that she’d used before with moderate success.
Tabitha was prepared for it though, and when Alice’s blade struck as Tabitha knew it would, she made to parry and finish this. As she moved the blade forward however, Alice did something unexpected: She dropped her sword.
Tabitha blinked in surprise as both the woman and her blade dropped, and the momentary lapse in concentration allowed Alice to grab her blade again and make to drive it up into Tabitha’s chest. The Lizardman’s mind recognized the threat, but her sword arm, fast as it was, could not react in time. She was forced to do the next best thing, something which COULD react in time.
She kicked Alice.
It was not, however, a normal kick. Alice barely registered the attack until it was too late and a gleaming slab of silvery metal slammed into her chest and threw her ten feet backward. Her sword flew into the air as it left her grip and she hit the hard ground with a forced cry that echoed through the mountains and as all her air was forcibly expelled from her lungs.
Tabitha caught the glowing blade in her free hand as it tumbled through the air and looked over the perfectly forged blade, which was free of wear despite the battle. She nodded her head and walked over to the groaning Alice who lay splayed out on the ground. Tabitha stood over her, two swords held in her hands and the woman looked up into the eyes of the one who had bested her. Despite her loss, she still had a smile on her face, though it had a far more rueful cast.
“F…finish it then.” Alice said, voice hoarse.
Tabitha looked down at the annoying, cock-hungry, and admittedly skilled swordsman. She closed her eyes and remembered the foul mouthed insults and the look of determination to win or die the woman had. She could easily end her life and no one would care she suspected. And yet… Tabitha couldn’t do it. She couldn’t end the life of someone who showed such promise and skill, someone who could make her blood race as it hadn’t in so long.
Alice watched in confusion as Tabitha sheathed her sword and then held out her hand for the fallen woman. She looked at the scaled hand, then to her blade, and then once more to the hand before biting her lip. Eventually, she sighed and pushed herself up enough to take Tabitha’s hand, shuddering slightly after she was up.
“Uggghh, it’s so scaly and gross.”
“Maybe I should have killed you after all.” Tabitha said, expression going flat.
“Yeah yeah.” Alice said, rolling her eyes. “Why didn’t you though?”
Tabitha looked down at the magical blade in her hand and shrugged. “I would be remiss to remove from the world as skilled a swordsman as yourself. Despite your obvious flaws, it was a good match.” She held out Energieschwert to Alice and nodded to the blade.
Alice blinked a few times before gently taking her sword back and looking it over. She sighed and sheathed her blade before nodding. “Thank you. Yes it was a good match I suppose, though again I lost because of…” She frowned. “How did I lose anyway?”
Tabitha smirked and pushed aside her cloak revealing a pair of formfitting black spats that terminated over a set of gleaming, adamantium legs. Alice whistled softly and held out her hand to touch them but paused before doing so, looking into Tabitha’s eyes. The Lizardman rolled her eyes and the woman continued, running her fingers over the solid, metallic thighs down to the lizard-like toes shaped in metal.
Alice whistled, “Ahhh, that’s why it feels like you broke my ribs. Tch, should have known the whole ‘steel legs’ thing wasn’t overblown.”
“No, it isn’t.” Tabitha said, readjusting her cloak. “Now then, I must continue forward. If you’d like to challenge me again someday, then I will look forward to it.” She made to walk away when Alice sputtered,
“W…wait! Wait!” She ran up to Tabitha and placed a hand on the Lizardman’s shoulder. “Wait wait wait wait.”
“What.” Tabitha said, somehow as a statement instead of a question.
“Look, I know you beat me, but that means I have a lot to learn still!”
“So, I want you to teach me.”
Tabitha slowly turned her head over to Alice and blinked her eyes once before saying, “No.”
“Yes.” Alice said, eyes growing hard.
“Seriously, you need to stop.”
“Yes.” Alice said before pausing. “Wait, I mean, ugh, damn Monsters and your trickery…”
Tabitha rolled her eyes. “You decry Monsters and you want one as a teacher?”
“Well, you’re not just a Monster, you’re a better swordsman. It’s a little different.”
Tabitha narrowed her eyes and said, “I am not looked for an apprentice. I have my own duties to take care of and cannot take on some simpering cum slut.”
“Man, if I had a copper for every time I heard that!” Alice said, chuckling. “I’d have like, I dunno, eight coppers.” Tabitha gave her a flat look and Alice sighed before releasing the Lizardman’s shoulder.
“Look… The reason I sought you out was because I needed to improve.” Alice closed her eyes and took in a deep breath before continuing. “I recently found that I was not as good as I thought. I had my chance to save the world and ended up on the floor, out cold.”
She tapped her chest and looked hard into Tabitha’s eyes. “I realized then that I couldn’t afford to fail like that again. I know that if I wasn’t the best I could be, then I would fail the Lord Commander, the Order, and Solos. I swore to myself that I’d find you and become the strongest swordsman in the land… no, the World!”
“So…” Alice said before drawing her sword and looking at it. She nodded her head and knelt down, holding the blade before her to Tabitha. “I humbly ask for your help. Please.”
Tabitha looked down at the proud woman, now humbling herself before the Lizardman. She knew it was tearing Alice apart to do this, but she’d met many people in her travels over these past twenty years and knew that despite all the woman’s bluster she was earnest. Tabitha closed her eyes and thought of her quest, running it all over in her head. Eventually she sighed and said,
“I suppose taking you along wouldn’t be too bad.”
Alice blinked a few times in surprise and looked up at Tabitha with a sparkle in her eyes. Before she could speak however, Tabitha held up a clawed finger and said, “However, I have a reason for being here, and if you get in the way, I will push you off the mountaintop.”
Alice stood and sheathed her sword before puffing up her chest. “Alright then! I promise you, I won’t let you down in whatever you’re doing.” She chuckled and patted her sword, “Besides, it’s like more training, right?” Alice blinked a few times before cocking her head.
“What are you even doing out here anyway?”
Tabitha turned her expression off to the mountains beyond and watched as a thin trail of smoke drifted off from a distant peak into the sky. Her expression grew hard and she gripped her sword, saying, “I’m going to Blackfire Reach. I’m going to take back my home.”