|Blade of Gliese Chapter One: Riza of Antinome
||[Dec. 19th, 2014|01:44 pm]
Riza of Antinome slipped her foot behind that of the Lancastian soldier, pressed with her knee, then shoved the off-balance man hard into the wall. He sucked air in a noisy bray, the wind knocked right out of him. She laughed when she saw the next soldier rush toward her and easily tossed him over her shoulder and slammed him into the floor. She stood back, cackled, cracked her knuckles, then dived back into her fracas. She'd been stuck on board the Lancastian cruiser for too long behaving herself. It was time to let loose. With glee, she plucked the first soldier off the table where he'd collapsed mouth agape and swung him like a mallet into the second one. Both men made funny noises, now.
The soldiers at this bar felt secure with their reputations as ill-tempered thugs. Other patrons gave them deference. The bullies weren't used to resistance. They were too skilled with cruelty to expect anything from their opponents but pleas for mercy, and mercy wasn't really their forte. Riza knew of their reputation, of course. It was what brought her to this bar in particular. She wanted to stretch her legs--work out those kinks.
And so she waded into another man's fight. At the centre of the circle of sneering soldiers was a small, unarmed foreigner whose only crime was to wander into the wrong pub for a beer. He was a Marrup, from the looks of his peculiar dress. Riza didn't give half a toss about this man. She was just itching for an excuse.
The Marrup held his hands out in a placating gesture to the soldiers and screamed as one slashed at him with a knife. Riza grabbed the soldier's wrist and spun him around, smashing his face into the corner of the bar. The knife spun away, tip stabbing into the floor, hilt shuddering to stillness, and the foreigner plucked up his sarong and skittered out of reach of the soldiers.
Riza had always been an adrenaline junkie, as long as she could remember. When she was a little girl in Antinome, she'd often snuck off to go spelunking in perilous glacial crevasses much to her father's chagrin and her mother's secret pride. It had made her strong and quick on her feet. Her love of adventure was a blessing since a life of ease and comfort did not appeal to her at all. Her musculature was most impressive, with immense, sinewy thighs and a massive lat spread. She looked nothing like an average woman, and stood almost a full head taller than the average man. She was most certainly not an average anything. There could be no surprise that she should become a master of the martial arts, and a magnet for mayhem. Riza loved her life.
Five soldiers faced her now, angered that the foreigner had gotten away. She had ruined their fun. They would make her pay, or so they thought. The Antinomian slid Lifedrinker from its scabbard and took a low stance, ready for the onslaught. Her lips slid back, her nostrils flared, and her throat erupted into a terrifying battle cry. The patrons of the bar stood paralyzed, staring at the woman who dared challenge the Lancastian soldiers.
Two soldiers leapt at her with murder in their eyes, blades thrusting. Riza parried and dipped, piercing one man's throat on Lifedrinker, then smashing its hilt hard against the other man's temple.
Riza held Lifedrinker high over her head, and blood spattered down on her face. "My sword hungers for more," she growled.
The last three soldiers charged, swords swinging. Riza sidestepped, teeth gleaming with her battle rictus. From the shadows, someone hit her shoulder with a chair, and she was thrown off balance for a moment.
Taking advantage of the situation, one of the soldiers slashed downward with his sword, etching a long thin red line down Riza's right arm. Ignoring the deep scratch, Riza moved around the soldier, drawing him away from his cohorts. The remaining bar patrons fled as the two squared off, razor-sharp blades dancing through the air. Riza's war face turned into a pleased grin when she realized her opponent was a worthy one. But she wouldn't still be alive today if she hadn't already mastered every attack, feint, and riposte used on Gliese. Slowly, incrementally, the soldier was forced backward, until with a quick twist and a thrust, the Lancastian's military career was permanently ended.
With a jerk, Riza freed Lifedrinker and turned to face the last two soldiers. But instead of two, there was now only one, and he lie in a crumpled heap upon the floor where the Marrup was rhythmically bashing him about the head with a whiskey bottle, shouting with each hit. "Take that," he howled, "And that, and that!" He breathed heavily with exhaustion and righteous indignation.
Looking up, he noticed Riza and clambered to his feet taking a reverent bow. "My life is yours. Only tell me what to do, and I shall do it."
The Antinomian laughed, wiping Lifedrinker on the bludgeoned soldier. "You'd better run for the hills and pray that the gods protect you."
"Maybe we should both make for the hills," said the Marrup. "One of those soldiers got away, and I don't doubt he'll soon be back with a lot more."
Riza nodded to the Marrup, sheathed her sword, and breezed out into the Gliesean night. She sprinted down the street, pacing her breath with ease. She paused after turning the first corner, peeking back around the closed shop and down the street. Although she doubted reinforcements had arrived yet, she wasn't prepared to bet on it. But as she stopped to look, the little Marrup, sarong held high to give his legs freedom, darted around the corner and ran smack dab into her. Growling, she grabbed him by the collar and lifted him until they were eye level to one another.
"I'm through with you," she said. "Go your own way."
"I mustn't," said the Marrup. "By the laws of my people, my life belongs to you for a year and one day. Since you have saved my life, I am yours and may not leave your side."
Riza cursed and gave the Marrup a shake. "And I suppose that's why you threw a chair at me."
"My aim has never been good," cried the man half in terror and the other half remorse. "I apologize with all sincerity. I was trying to hit one of those soldiers in the head." He drooped in self-reproach.
Riza laughed and let the man go. "Maybe you do belong to me now, and maybe you don't," she said. "We'll sort that out later. In the meantime, do you know this part of the city?"
The Marrup straightened his collar. "Like the back of my hand," he said.
"Then get us out of here," said Riza.
"This way, lady," said the Marrup, and he whisked off into the shadows.
(to be continued...)