The crowd of onlookers gathered in the hot sand, cheering
rising from the throats of the many watching there. Scorching sunlight beat down
upon their backs, but as the crowd was used to the sizzling heat, it did not bother
them. Nor did it bother the two that they were watching so intently, cheering
on so enthusiastically.
Centered in the ring of onlookers, were two
Krawks, twisting, ever moving, circling each other. To the casual observer,
it would appear as if they were dancing, so graceful and exotic their movements
were. However, they were not, as was apparent when their swords flashed in the
Now it was clear that the two were fighting,
and it was apparent that they were both very good at their trade -- swordsmanship.
One was a dull brown, the earthy scales cooling in the sun. Eyes flashed dangerously
as the other made a feint at him, dodging nimbly out from the blade's deadly
path. The other however, was vastly different.
Ebony scales, so icy black that they seemed
to suck the daylight from the sky, consuming it, flashed. Dull, scarlet streaks
cut and twisted through the obsidian scales. Tall she was, only a bit taller
than the other, which was obviously male, and muscular -- the muscles lining
and shaping her form. Steely grey eyes flashed in the blinding sun. The sword
she was holding was a plain thing, the hilt unadorned yet practical. The odd
thing about this strange Krawkess was simply her feeling -- she seemed as if
she had no place in the world. As if she was a jigsaw puzzle piece that didn't
fit. As if she was made of a completely different substance than the onlookers
and brown Krawk was. Death.
Whisp was her name, though now it didn't matter
to her. She was woven in an intricate dance with death, dodging and thrusting
the dangerous blade. Her opponent was a worthy one, almost as familiar with
swordsmanship as she was. The cheering and gasping of the crowd seemed as if
it was an eternity away; the only thing she was aware of was the connection
between her and her sword, and her enemy. Nothing else mattered -- everything
was simply a moment in time, passing onto the next. This was what made her so
ideal to her lifestyle.
Both lunged forward in another parry, metal
glinting furiously. Whisp was going to win; she could feel it in the other's
brief hesitations, minor exhaustion. She was barely tired at all, could keep
going days if that was what was required of her. Her endurance was limitless.
In another length of timeless time, moments
blinking by as if only a second in eternity, she had the brown-scaled creature
kneeling before her, her sword inches from his neck. The fight was not one to
the death -- they had only gotten into a mild argument and she was certainly
not one to waste the precious life of another. Anger showed in the Krawk's roiling
green eyes however, for he knew he was beat.
"Dost thou accept the defeat?" Whisp questioned,
ignoring the howling of the audience. It was the customary inquiry of one who
believed they had won -- and if the other accepted the defeat the fight was
finally won. Her voice was calm and steady, yet distinctly feminine.
"Yes," came the harsh, husky vocals of the beaten,
broken Krawk at her feet. It was over. She turned to go -- he could not legally
She was suddenly caught off guard however as
he reared up, grabbed his sword and charged -- not at her, but at her blade.
Before she had time to react, to even acknowledge the other's unfair advance,
her beloved sword was scattered in the sand dunes, the metal dulled as the life
bled from the broken metal. The crowd screamed its disapproval, and as the brown
Krawk sneered in humiliation, the onlookers scattered -- already bored with
the finished fight.
Practically weeping in grief, Whisp felt as
if half of her had been brutally ripped away and slain. She gingerly picked
up the shards, aware that her constant companion and only friend had just been
killed. Others may have thought that she overreacted, that because the blade
was metal it had no spirit, but that did not matter to Whisp. To her, the sword
had been a living thing. And now it was dead.
She was suddenly aware of another watching her,
wordlessly perched upon a sand dune. His form was unclear; she could not even
discern his species, as he wore but an ebony cloak. The only thing she could
see was his disturbingly deep blue eyes -- intelligent and sharp, yet strangely
sympathetic, as if he understood her sorrow.
Standing suddenly, leaving the broken sword
in the sand, she regarded the stranger with a shield of icy indifference. Steely
grey eyes flashed in the now unbearable sun of the Lost Desert. Surely he could
not approach her now, not with her glaring at him so. She wished no company
-- not now, not ever.
Despite this, he strode forward confidently,
looking her up and down as if he were analyzing her every detail.
"Come with me," he said huskily, and despite
the deepness of his voice, his vocals were calm and kindly. As if driven by
something in this kindness, she did -- feet trodding over scalding sand bits,
ebony scales drinking the sun that touched her. Whisp did not normally blindly
follow a stranger this way, but something in his nature compelled her.
Dipping inside of a tent, the harsh linen brushing
by her face as she moved in the blessed shade, Whisp immediately observed what
was inside. What she saw made her jaw drop, displaying neat, razor sharp teeth.
"What…?" she questioned, breath stolen. Displayed
in front of her were rows and rows of the most beautiful swords she had ever
seen. The blades were polished until they shined, jeweled hilts gleaming. The
cloaked stranger immediately moved to one, hidden, on a far wall, and removed
"Did you make these?" she asked, moving among
the rows, gazing at them more closely. She was amazed at the clarity and grace
of the weapons, but tried not to show it. These were truly the finest swords
she had ever seen.
"Yes," he replied quietly, moving toward her
with the sword he had chosen. "It is my trade, I labor many hours to make these.
Not many are worthy of them." His words may have seemed proud to a casual observer,
but Whisp knew he was speaking the truth.
"This is yours," he murmured, parting with the
blade with the air of a father giving up a precious son. Whisp's breath caught
in her lungs at the stunning weapon. Its blade was narrow and long, exactly
right for her arm length and height. The hilt was made of the same metal, a
dragon carved onto the top portion of the hilt with loving elegance. The strange
part about the sword was the metal it was carved from. It was the purest ebony
-- like her. Only the dragon's eyes were a deep red. None of the other weapons
in the tent were carved from this. It was truly a sword of kings.
Dipping her lean body in a fighting stance,
testing the sword, she was breath taken with the absolute perfection. The weight
and length… even the way it fit perfectly into the curves of her paw -- it was
perfect. It was if the sword and her were two halves of one absolute whole --
neither could exist without the other. Abruptly she wondered how she had lived
her life without this glorious half of her.
"I cannot pay for it." Whisp's voice was reduced
to a mere whisper, still awed at the blade yet heartbroken that she could not
Almost crying out in pain as he removed it from
her clutching black paw, she restrained a burst of rage. He would introduce
this thing to her and rip it away again? However, her initial thoughts were
not based in truth, as was evident when he returned the sword with a crimson
scabbard -- almost as beautiful as the sword itself.
"Think of it as a gift," he whispered in reply,
his voice serious yet playful, still nothing visible of him but unearthly cerulean
eyes. "Its name is Darkenbringer."
Before she knew it, she nodded, wordlessly thanking
him because her voice had failed her in her amazement. Before she knew it, she
had left the tent, grey eyes squinting in the sun, sword slung at her hip as
if it had been there all along -- already familiar with its presence.
* * *
Sliding into the dimly lit tavern as graceful as if she were liquid, Whisp
maneuvered her way through the crowd, making for the bar at the back of the
dingy place. This was the place where those of all natures lurked, sometimes
drunken brutes but sometimes only those wishing peace from the rest of the world.
Whisp, as a mercenary, got most of her jobs from here. However, to those who
directed their greasy stare at her for more than a second, she shot a fierce
raptor's stare at -- unwilling to speak to anyone but her only friend, whom
she now strode confidently toward.
Without a word to anyone, she pivoted herself
onto one of the worn leather stools, gazing at the bartender. Her only friend.
The cloud Krawk looked up and grinned at her, the expression of amiability hanging
lopsidedly off his jaw. "The usual?" he questioned dryly.
"Renah, what kind of greeting is that for a
friend?" she teased lightly, nodding her approval at his query nonetheless.
"Dark chava with ice, please."
The chava, a popular drink of choice, was rich
with coffee and chocolate -- an intricate balance. Also mixed was vanilla and
mint. It was one of Whisp's favorites -- she loved the cool drink. As she picked
up the glass, sipping the delightful icy flavor, the rich texture soothed her
"Look at this," she whispered in delight, pulling
the sword easily out of the scabbard and laying it before Renah. Even in the
dimly lit tavern Darkenbringer practically glowed with radiance. A desert Lupe
at the counter shifted slightly as his gaze lit upon the deadly weapon.
Renah gasped and choked, the glass he was carrying
slipping from nerveless fingers. "Where did you get that?" he demanded. "You
"No, I didn't steal it," she snapped back, hurt
that he would immediately jump to conclusions. Despite her playful greetings
to Renah, she was extremely reserved, even for a mercenary -- preferring cold
isolation to kindness of any sort.
"Excuse me," the Lupe at the counter voiced
mildly, staring at Whisp as if he were gazing upon a horse he was considering
purchasing. It was deeply unnerving.
"What?" she snarled at him, grey eyes flashing
in reserved tones of anger.
"I was considering, miss, offering you a place
to work in the palace."
She pulled a mask of cold indifference, pretending
to consider the prospect, but in truth she was stunned at the offer. It was
a rare thing indeed, and the pay from the Sekhmet royalty was the best in the
entire Lost Desert.
"And what would I be required to do?" she finally
"You would be the bodyguard to the princess.
The king has gotten more frightened of enemies in his old age, and the thing
he most cares for is his daughter. He wishes a good fighter to be her constant
companion and bodyguard."
Great, Whisp thought to herself dully.
Just what I need, to watch some arrogant young brat all day long. Even
so, the prospect of so much money was tempting, and it wouldn't be all that
bad. Renah watched the exchange with a shamefully stunned expression; head tilting
from one to the other in amazement.
"I will do it," she said mildly, weaving clever
indifference into her voice. She carefully stood, and replaced Darkenbringer
to her scabbard, following the desert Lupe out of the tavern. Only once, for
a brief moment, had she wondered what she might have gotten herself into. If
only she knew that her life was going to drastically change -- both for the
better and for the worse.
To be continued...