Night had fallen. The moon was shrouded by a thick cover of clouds, and the tiny beams of light that managed to penetrate the mist were quickly swallowed up by the darkness. All was quiet, except for the continuous rush of wind by the southern tents.
A look of concentration dominated the young priestess's face. She shot blast after blast of magic into the practice board, causing gusts of wind to envelope her. Tainte called for storm after storm of ice, pummelling the wooden planks into dust. She gripped her staff and closed her eyes, focusing all her energy into her palms. A glowing light surrounded her, and her stamina was recovered.
She stepped lightly away from the practice field, pausing only to gaze up at the sky.
Tainte's night activities were not oblivious to all.
The officers all gathered by Vincent's tent. Genesis regarded the young healer with appreciative eyes, while Travis actually made a move to stand up and remind her of the curfew. Denzel put a restraining hand on his shoulders, and shook his head minimally to the sides.
Xavier chuckled, and then muttered, "I can't wait to see Temperance's face when that girl beats him."
Travis looked at him as if he had lost his mind.
"Temperance? Lose a fight? I think not; he has so many dirty tricks under his sleeves! In our hometown, people called him Snake. Slippery and cunning- it was always a wonder how he didn't simply turn purple and join the Furies!"
"There is something special about Tainte," Genesis murmured. "She has much unreached potential. I am eager to see the results of the match."
"I too wish for Tainte to win, but Temperance is strong," Denzel said. "Tainte will be challenged greatly, and in turn challenge Temperance."
The next day
Every woman, child and man had assembled by the practice field. The sounds of cheering were unbelievably loud, and both Tainte and Temperance stood in the ring.
Xavier suddenly appeared by the circle. He grinned at the two fighters, and then he said, "Alright then. The rules are simple. Any skill or spell may be used. Food or potions to rejuvenate health, stamina or mana are forbidden. Any potions increasing movement speed, attack rate, attack power, yadda yadda are also forbidden. You must remain in the ring at all times."
Tainte felt a familiar surge of adrenaline as the music began. Xavier shouted over the cheers of the crowd, "Three! Two! One! Begin!"
At once, Temperance was in front of her. He swung his giant sword over his shoulders and then stumbled. He planted his sword into the hard earth to steady himself, then turned around. What had-
Tainte appeared behind him, sweeping her feet on the ground to cause Temperance to fall over. It stirred up a cloud of dust, and then Tainte disappeared again.
Temperance pulled his sword out of the ground in a rage. She dared to make a fool out of him; using tricks from his own book, nonetheless!
Temperance kicked up the dust again with his feet. She had to be somewhere here- it was impossible to just disappear. He swung his sword around in a circle, and then jumped up and drove it downwards, shaking the ground. There- that ought to have reached her somehow.
Tainte was blown backwards from the rush. Suddenly, Temperance appeared hovering over her, his sword tip at her neck. His other hand pressed down onto her collarbone, making her cry out. His knees pressed against her legs, and she could barely move a muscle. He smirked, and then drove the knife downwards.
Suddenly, she wasn't there anymore. Temperance jumped upwards, drove his sword into the ground, creating a crack that split the ring into two. He swung his sword again, but only sliced through air.
The dust settled, and he saw her at the side of the rink. Her eyes were closed, and she was muttering an prayer. Feeling wild with success at her vulnerability, he sprinted to her side and thrust the sword through her body.
Tainte's eyes flew open. A loud gasp echoed throughout the crowd, and it seemed as though the fight was finished.
Temperance wasn't finished. He twisted the sword inside of her, and then pulled it out again. Tainte fell forward, blood gushing out of the wound. Blue sparks flickered feebly around the wound, but the magic was rapidly leaving her.
Temperance knelt down next to her. As he bent to whisper gloatingly into her ear, he realized something. She was still chanting that prayer!
"God can't save you now," he said. "Just sit tight until they announce my win."
Gradually, the wind picked up. It howled and blew the sand around, stinging the eyes. Temperance brought his hands to his eyes, and then noticed a silver aura surrounding Tainte. He realized his mistake.
It wasn't a prayer!
He thought frantically. It was an incantation- but there's nothing she can do about it now. She's lost so much blood, she must be so weak...
Tainte's body rose and a light surrounded her. It must have been a hallucination, but it seemed as though a golden figure hovering in the air caressed her face and showered her with golden beams...
The wind swirled the dust around the ring, blocking the view for the spectators. But inside the ring, there was no wind. It was calm... eerily calm.
Tainte's hair gradually turned white, and her eyes opened to reveal white shocking white irises. The silver aura grew stronger as Tainte was gently lowered to the ground. Temperance froze. What on earth had he just witnessed?
And then, just like that, she disappeared.
He felt a warm rush of air behind him. He swung blindly, and then felt the familiar jolt as his sword made contact with human flesh. The air cleared, and Tainte stood with her arm raised to protect her face. Temperance's sword drove deep into her forearm, and her blood dripped onto the ground. He barely had a moment to rejoice, however, when the golden aura that had saved his life so many times began to envelop the injury. Tainte rushed up to Temperance, and for a second, their faces were millimetres away. She smirked, and then pulled the sword out of his grasp.
All of the sudden, ice began to fall from the sky. Snow and blocks of frozen water as large as if they had been ripped straight out of glaciers! The continuous barrage of ice drove Temperance onto his knees. With effort, he stood, and then tore the nearest piece of ice from the ground. He hurled it at Tainte, but she blasted it back towards him with a ball of magic. Again and again, this happened. The last time, she put the sword in front of her. The ice made a crack in the blade. Suddenly, the sword split apart. Tainte pulled the pieces up, and a silver aura covered her palms. She looked straight at Temperance, and then the pieces of metal shot at him.
Temperance fell to the ground at the same time the wind suddenly stopped. Xavier hopped over the metal barrier into the ring. He looked at Temperance, with the many pieces of metal protruding from his body, and then he looked at Tainte.
The officers had eyes keener than anyone on the field. They saw the white iris gradually flicker and dim into the familiar blue.
Xavier spoke. "I now announce the winner of this fight, Priestess Tainte!"
His words were met with complete silence at first. Then, a timid applause grew into an entire back-slapping, noise-making riot.
When the cheering settled down, Denzel found his voice.
"Tainte," he began, barely choking out the words. "What happened to your hair?"
A thoroughly blank look swept past Tainte's face. She looked down at her waist length hair.
Puzzled, she asked, "What's wrong with it?" And then she did a double take. Her hair had turned snow white, and when she peered closer, there were strands of metallic gold and silver intertwined within the white.
"Oh, my," she said. "Does it look unbecoming?"
Genesis quickly stepped in before someone blurted out The Legend. Tainte needed to be prepared.
"No, it looks lovely!" she exclaimed. "Doesn't it, boys?" The rest of the officers shrank beneath Genesis' death glare.
Vincent chuckled, but inside, he was restless. Despite the issue of the new priest Officer being resolved, a new problem had risen. The Legend was taking its first step, and the Furies no doubt already knew about it. What with the spy within their ranks....