She sat alone.
Her long dark hair was already pulled into a tight plait. Her hands, wrists and forearms were wrapped tightly for protection in white bandages. The white tight sleeveless tank top clung to her form in direct opposition to the flowing white cotton pants she wore. Both afforded movement. Both were traditional.
The white would show blood. It would be a mark of any weakness on her part.
Her feet were bare. Her toes icy from the concrete floor.
She sat alone.
The room dark save for a little light coming through the slightly ajar door. She sat on a small flat bed with a thin mattress. There were no pillows no blankets. A small wash basin was in the corner of the room next to a single wooden shelf upon which she had neatly folded her clothes.
She sat alone, staring at the blank whitewashed wall ahead of her. Her mind was calm. She was relaxed. The dagger which rested across her thighs was sharp and polished to a high sheen. The blade was nineteen inches in length and the tang fit snugly in a polished dark wood hilt. The hilt was further wrapped in tightly packed leather. The grip would not slip. The dagger was perfectly weighted and splendidly lethal.
She let out a breath as a bell sounded in the distance, each ring bringing a clench of fear around her heart. Once. Twice. Three times. The time had come. Slowly she stood, stretching out her back and legs. She gripped the dagger firmly in her left hand. The dagger transformed from a separate weapon to an extension of her arm. She was complete now that she was holding the weapon. It was familiar. It was comforting.
Walking towards the door, her steps were deliberate and placed with care. There was no glancing back. Nothing sentimental lay behind her. All that there was lay in front of her. A moment. One moment which would determine the rest of her life.
She walked down a corridor, her arms hanging loosely at her side. The dagger brushed past her leg as she walked. It took her fifteen steps to reach the end of the corridor. She counted each step. Taking a deep breath, she paused for a second, before exhaling any nerves which had crept in during her short walk. She waited another second before pushing the heavy, rough oak door open.
Ahead of her was an open courtyard.
The courtyard was easy enough to traverse. It wasn’t a vast expanse nor was it small. It was enclosed by towering dark grey granite walls which loomed menacingly up toward the sky. The only light which could penetrate such monstrosities was the midday sun. The ground was covered in fine white sand which was perfectly flat and smooth as a pond. There were only two entrances to the courtyard. One lay behind her, the other directly opposite. It was through those doors she intended to leave, or not at all.
As she waited, her opponent entered the courtyard. She stared in fascination at the imposing woman who stood facing her. Her opponent had short hair the colour of a winters fire. She too wore a white tank top and the white flowing cotton pants. Her opponent was tanned yet formidable looking with white scars in stark relief on her perfect skin.
She tightened her grip on her dagger. She knew what was coming, and took a step forward before fear could take root and cause her to turn and flee.
For each step forward she took, her body responded, anticipating the fight ahead. She changed the grip on her dagger, so that the blade rested against her forearm. Her right hand subtlety moved up towards her waist. The last bit of tension left her shoulder blades and she became completely relaxed once again. She came to a halt in the center of the courtyard, waiting for the fight she had been preparing for to begin.
Her opponent started circling her, waiting to tango with her to gauge her fighting style. A quick feint to her right, then one to her left. She waited and watched, as still and motionless as the air within the courtyard. She used her periphery and other senses to gauge what her opponent was going to do next. Her opponent continued to circle her like a predator stalking prey.
It was the slight sound of sand shifting which alerted her to her opponents attack from behind. In the blink of an eye she shifted her weight to her right, turning as she perfectly deflected the blow in a clash of metal. The fight had started in earnest now, and would only end with blood.
As quickly as she defended, she attacked. Her right hand circling around her opponents dagger arm. As she reached the top of the circle she bought the butt of her hand crashing down onto her opponents forearm. The blow was true and her opponent’s grip loosened on her blade. Taking advantage, she allowed her hand to travel along her opponents forearm, taking grip of her thumb. Using the distraction of her right hand going for her opponents dagger, she gave a quick shunt using her own blade sending her opponent off balance. As her opponent started to topple, she quickly gripped her elbow to prevent her opponent from regaining balance. While her opponent was floundering for the stability she needed to continue to fight, she slashed neatly across her opponents neck. Blood, hot and thick, gushed out covering her blade and arm. Soaking the bandages and turning them a pinkish red.
Her opponent dropped her dagger as she fell to her knees, her eyes wide in shock as her hand gripped the wound on her neck. Her opponent tried to stem the flow of blood. She just looked on to the doors and wiped her blade clean on her pants. Turning, she walked deliberately and slowly towards the doors which would lead her to her salvation. She walked with care, knowing she was being observed.
She pushed the doors open and walked along another short corridor to another sparsely furnished room. The bed with a flat mattress was in the corner, opposite a wash basin. She walked over to the basin, set her dagger down on the already cleared table and washed as much of the blood off her arms as she could. A servant entered and bowed, waiting to take her blade off to be cleaned and polished. She took one look at the dagger and offered it over freely.
She sat alone.