A bitter laugh escaped her, his rival "It doesn't count if you're already planning your defeat."
He lifts his dead eyes to meet hers and she forces back a shiver- what a horror. The beautiful boy who stood before her; tragedy written in his blood, was now planning to prove his point to the world in the crudest sense.
The way he moved, everything he did- was like yelling at the world 'You don't have to destroy me with your circumstances! I can do it myself!'
It was amusing at first, to see the usually carefully blond become recklessly furious- with the world, with her, with his unrequited love. But she had stopped being amused by his patheticness three days in- all Eliza wanted was a fair fight. A fight to declare the champion.
If she won the fight, she'd get her destiny- written in parchment. Eliza would read it because knowledge was knowledge- then she'd destroy it. Since no one, not even the stars, not even the gods, told Eliza what to do.
It really wasn't fair- Hames of Selonimes just wanted to marry the princess. Clearly there are more ways than one way to marry the girl who doesn't even return your affections. Kidnapping for example- or perhaps conquering a small prosperous kingdom and asking for marriage. That was sort of doable- in a very small scale. For Eliza this was her only shot- her only way to squirm out of her so called pedestal of being 'the chosen one'.
"I never asked for this!" she had screamed at the priest, who shook in his robes- cowering, until she was dragged away kicking and screaming.
"I don't want to be a hero! She" she pointed to a stiff guard "wants to be a hero! My brother wants to be a hero- I want to stay home."
But god forbid 'the chosen one' gets what she wants.
And now- everything she wants- was untouchable even after defeating this sad excuse for a rival.
He was from the city- the central marketplace. Where competitivity was as natural as breathing. As expected as another day of life.
Selonimes' best fighter, they said, telling her that he is a brutal beauty who will destroy whoever dare cross him.
Selonimes' worst warrior they warned, telling her to give in to her destiny.
Selonimes' most cunning man they had insisted, pleading for her to get her dreams out of her head.
"Why must you be so selfish?"
He-he was cunning- he was a brilliant fighter- he did have the steel of a warrior not only in his sword but in his blood.
Her whole family were part of the Nightwatch- a group of guard sworn to their town or city- training as soon as they could walk in a straight line. Being the best was her life- running up mountains, jumping over carts, carrying gallons of milk at a time from the market. But also the actual defensive and offensive straining, she had been thought the ways to use a knife at a sword fight, a sword, even a bow and arrow. She had learned quickly how to hunt and barter.
She had classes and a schedule- like her parents knew she'd be the chosen one. She had languages and chores in the morning- she'd learn how to barter then too. But in the afternoon it was physical and fighting and training and muscle work. Later on, during dinner they'd discuss politics, the way of getting into your foes head. While her brothers listened and chowed on their food, while their younger sisters took note.
Eliza had always been the star child of the family- unlike most of the kids in there she never turned out sickly. She was born with a pretty face and had a sharp memory and something far more valuable- obedience. Even then Eliza was the hero of her small town- that had always been enough for her. She never needed the world, just her small town of people who needed and liked her.
Maybe it was her fascination with politics that convinced the gods to chose her as their champion. She always loved that class, loved probing into the most sensitive part of the human body- their mind. Finding their soft spot their Achilles heel. It was her specialty- if the world invested in some good diplomacy some wars could have gone unfought.
They had practically raised her for this and she had turned them down
"Why must you shame us so?"
Eliza might be a selfish disgrace to her family- but she was still a skilled combat genius- and she knew that if the fight wasn't truly won the Prophet would not answer her- would not tell her her fate and let her sabotage it.
She knew this even though she ad only met him once, a short hunched man with purple flame eyes. The proud purple of the royal family- every member had purple eyes. The Princess had purple eyes and silver hair, the King had purple eyes and gold hair, and the Prince- the one to inherit the throne had purple eyes and copper hair. The Queen wore a veil but every once in a while you can catch a glint of purple eyes. The Prophet was very... difficult. He allowed sabotage but would not accept her win if Hames were to commit suicide.
Suicide in many parts- to spies especially- were considered honorable. But he was a warrior too coward to quit. Not a cornered spy.
"Hames, you are not allowed to be so incredibly selfish as to-"
"You never cared for me- never even liked me."
Eliza of Lertahn was nothing if not in control- but for a brief second- she forgot to mask her shock.
"I respected you as a fighter- you were a worthy opponent."
"Past tense, very subtle."
She clenches her jaw and turns away, the room was considerably bigger-looking when only two people stood in it. It was a round room, with a dome like ceiling shining with diamonds- the ceiling so dark a blue it could be confused as the night sky. The windows, the long curved glass panes that reached the floor to ceiling and showed their beautiful kingdom was clean- not a single fingerprint in sight. She observes the kingdom below her, she would never admit it but it unnerved her to be looking down instead of up. Her height has always been above average, and so was her build. But looking up was always a default, up at the sky, up at her tutor, up at the school, up from her kneeling position at royalty.
"I can hardly consider you an opponent- you are now nothing but tears, skin, blood and bones."
"When I first met you I had you very much figured out" he says as if he hasn't heard her at all. The sky outside was darkening, bathing the room in a warm glow. But all the warmth seems to be deflected by his shadows. Shadows lingering under his eyes and cheekbones. His fair hair tied back in a limp ponytail, his face no longer clean-shaven but rough with stubble. "Seemed like a spoiled brat to me but the more I fought you, the more I argued with you I noticed that you were an intelligent brat."
"You act as if you are so old and wise when you only outlive me by a year."
"Then," he said ignoring her once again "I saw that you weren't a brat. Just a woman who wanted to stay in her small, secluded, familiar hometown. So...I began to appreciate you- after all. It's not often that a woman who can fight appears. Especially not a woman who has been chosen by the gods."
Her back is still to him, her hands tracing the hilt of her sword, her sword strapped across her back. The other hand was near her knives at her belt.
"But you still infuriated me- maybe it is your obnoxious curls, or your ever so politely deceptive voice or perhaps it was that you didn't want to be a hero when that was all i've ever wanted."
She remained silent.
"I'm not going to lie- when I first met you I had some ideas. Maybe I can seduce you into compliance but I learned of your prudishness too soon. Perhaps some money can scare you away, but I saw how you weren't impressed by wealth. Then, it occured to me, I could scare you away."
His tone had taken up a simpering edge, like honey over a knife, "But you don't scare easily- not even when I slipped that snake into your boots."
She actually smiled at that, "I suspected that was you."
He saw her smile on the reflection of the glass and his heart squeezed- how unfair, that someone so amazing had such low ambition. Such meager dreams- she could be a hero, a warrior- a legend and yet- there she stood yearning to go home.
The snake slithered into the room then, Hames glared at it but the reptile simply moved to Eliza who took it in her arms.
"How did you know?"
He asked the question in a way that made everything seem more sharp, the light of the darkening sky, the brightening glow of the diamonds- the coily heaviness in her arms. She traced her foot along the cool smooth carpet, she was wearing boots- the leather type that wore down really quickly but guaranteed absolute silence.
"That you were planning your own death?"
She finally turns to face him, her multi-colored eyes bright with anger- one always seemed greener than the other "You apologized- after weeks of moaning and complaining you walked up to me and said 'i'm sorry'."
"Perhaps," she allowed "but only a fool would apologize before a match...unless they were afraid or not going to show up for it."
He crosses his arms, "I apologized, I surrendered-"
"No, you didn't! Because you can't! Because surrendering means disgrace and poverty on your family- you didn't surrender- you tried to die without hurting your lineage. And that's admirable, it is! But it's also terribly selfish- because then I have to wait years for another fighter to come and offer me a fight-"
"You want to back to your home so badly?"
Except I am-
"If you fight-i'll tell you. I'll tell you what I truly wanted."
He absently traced the scar on the side of his neck, "What do I get from it? I no longer love the princess-"
"And why not?" Eliza looked exasperated, she'd probably throw her hands up if they weren't occupied holding the garden snake "You don't know her just like you didn't before- is she not as beautiful as you wanted? Are you going to throw away your life just because she's not the epitome of your dreams- and you can always changing your wish- you can ask for a quest. If the gods won't grant you greatness grab it for yourself."
"I love another," he admits, not averting his eyes "it's a tragedy since she has no heart and is incapable of love."
Eliza felt like she had been insulted but wasn't quite sure how, "No one is heartless- maybe she just doesn't love you. She wouldn't be the first."
He simply laughs, a boy made of sharp looks, laughter, blood and ambition. A dime a dozen really, but not many made it this far.
"Why love people who won't love you back?"
He smiles, "Just the foolishness of it- chasing after a star. To big and bright for a mere mortal to touch. Besides it's not like it's a choice really- it just happens."
"Why not use her as your reward? Why not do this for her?"
"She'll have my head."
A shadow crept behind a curtain, unseen.
"Better than nothing," Eliza said before she could stop herself- oh lord, she was familiarizing herself with his company. She was familiarizing herself with him as she persuaded him to participate in a duel with her. A duel to death.
How odd- the stars said that they were meant to be intertwined, there was no escaping that. As rivals, as lovers, or as friends. She had assumed it was the first- but was it possible that her dislike of him was simply because of the inconvenience and not himself. That they could actually be...friends?
"You silly woman- thank the gods Rodney is dead he would have died of shame if he saw you now-oi! get back! Get back here!"
Except I am not welcome back to my hometown- kicked out, I have nowhere to turn. My only hope is to destroy my destiny before it has the chance to fully destroy me.
Finally acknowledging brought a burning pain in her ulcer.
"What if- we helped each other" Hames said abruptly, sitting up- something akin to hope lighting his features.
"You don't make sense how can I help you? And how can you help me?"
He stands, no longer looking lazy or at ease but like the tense and ready to fight warrior she first met "We can forget the competition and go off together- I will help you rewrite your stars and you will help me win over my lady."
"You make it sound easy."
He extends his hand to her, "That's because it is."
"It's ridiculous how can you assist me in beating my destiny? And how can I make a woman fall in love with you?"
Hames frowns "I am a stunningly attractive male- it shouldn't be hard to keep up your end of the bargain. And I...know a werelock who has a soft spot for heroines and god's chosen- you might get something there."
She didn't want to kill him.
She wouldn't have been able to the second he apologized to her.
This was ridiculous.
"YOU WILL NEVER BE WELCOME! LEAVE! RUN, YOU COWARD!"
"This is probably the most ludicrous idea i've ever heard," she arched her back in a catlike manner "So why am I considering?"
His green-gray pierced her, she kept her dark eyes on him- observing him for any signs of deceit. According to the conditions, sabotage was allowed. Was he trying to get her to drop out only for him to take the glory later?
"I'll put in my resignation first," he soothes as if reading her mind.
His only time of sabotage was the snake, which wasn't even poisonous. He was a fair fighter for the most part and so was she. An honest foolish man.
The shadow put a hand to her mouth, muffling cries of grief- she turns on her heel and runs to her grandfather- the Prophet.
She races up the stairs their soft murmuring fading the farther she goes, how? How?
The wide hallway was empty but it only lead to one room, His office.
"Oh! Popa! You won't believe what I heard!"
The Prophet keeps praying and addresses his granddaughter, his Princess, a few minutes later.
"Have you been spying on that poor fighter agan?"
Adelie, Princess of Yrrah flushed a deep crimson, "I-I, thats is not the point! That poor fighter has decided to leave the competition!"
The Prophet stood, squaring his thin shoulders, "And that is allowed- I don't see why you are so distressed."
"Yes you do! Help me make ‘e stay!"
His office was oftentimes admired, with glass windows and candles surrounding his circular floor. Tiles that shimmered with or without light, and carefully placed parchments of destiny- rolled up and sealed with wax.
"You can do what you wish," the young beauty looked up at his level tone "but if you do, your fighter will come to hate you. And you wouldn't be able to stand that."
"E-Eliza wouldn't hate me."
His eyes were flat and understanding, so unlike his serene calm "Yes, she would. She'd resent you for keeping her where she is so clearly unhappy."
The princess crumbled to the floor, and her voice was heartbroken when she asked her last question.
But her eyes burned with heavenly anger- anger at the beautiful boy who tried to win her heart but then changed targets and fell in love with Adelie's love interest.
A boy with weird hazel eyes and fair hair, a boy with an obnoxious smile and the biggest hero-complex in all of history. A boy who took the only thing she's ever wanted, Eliza. Eliza’s time. Eliza's attention- and if he gets his way, her love as well.
“Wise Prophet, can you help me convince my father to let me join Eliza in the quest? Please?"
"How will you convince her to take you-"
"I will give her The Scroll, as an offering only if she lets me go. I just need to convince father will you help me?"
The Prophet turned back to his candles, watching the flames dance and all he says is "Let me pray."