Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ Blood and water (reprise) ( Chapter 31 )
Darkness has fallen and she walks alone, her black boots stomping hard into the sand. Alexandra is determined to seek out any information of the captain’s whereabouts from the ship, to take whatever goods she can from it and outright steal it if possible.
The slim elf, dressed in black leather with white curls tumbling down her back, looks up, the moonlight twinkling in her eyes, filled with hatred. The old, unwelcoming ship, anchored by the water’s edge, ignores her.
The twilight sky blends with the midnight blue water below, perfectly still and calm, the tide lapping gently onto the shore. Grey clouds loom overhead.
As she takes her first few steps onto the wooden deck, the spurs on her boots ring gently across the ship. She pauses, as her instincts take over. It is too quiet. Alexandra listens to the creak of the ship, the stroke of the waves onto the shore. She feels a spit of rain on her forehead. These noises evaporate as a whooshing sound rushes towards her.
She instinctively dives to the side, narrowly avoiding Phoenix’s surprise attack from the crow’s nest. The ginger-haired elf had used her cloak to wrap around a rope and swing down towards Alexandra. But she misses. Phoenix hits the deck hard and rolls forward, cushioning her fall.
The two half-sisters rise in sync, turning to face one another. They are of similar height and frame, two silhouettes locked by fate. Like the water below shares itself with the entire sea, unwittingly, they share their mother’s blood with one another, unwillingly.
They stand still in silence, as fresh rain begins to fall, lightly tapping on the wooden deck beneath their boots. They stare into each others’ eyes with disdain, the moment lingering and tension growing as each elf considers when to make their move.
Rage bubbles slowly inside one, hatred in the other, as they begin to circle one another.
Phoenix speaks, through her red bandit mask, with spite and anger: “After all you’ve done, you dare to set foot here as well.”
Alexandra responds with a sarcastic curtsy, the grin on her pale face belying a lust for violence.
Anger swells in Phoenix. She pulls Heart from its red and gold scabbard. Alexandra follows, removing her lightweight rapier from black boiled leather.
“I look forward to the small ounce of joy your death will bring after what you’ve done,” Phoenix adds, her voice quivering. “You have taken so much…”
The patter of rain on wood grows more frequent as it continues to fall, slightly heavier now.
“And you from me,” Alexandra replies. “But I shall take it back tonight, and kill you,” she adds, a smile curling the edge of her lips upwards as the words linger, masking her own hatred and sorrow. “Just like the others.”
The rage boiling beneath red leather reaches the surface and Phoenix bellows in anger, her battle-shout hanging in the air as she strikes forward, forcing her enemy into a parry. The pair lock swords and deflect each other’s blows in quick succession as the sound of steel on steel breaks the peace of the water’s edge.
Phoenix’s rage is flowing freely now, her mind losing consciousness, completely seized by the red mist of fury that glazes over her eyes. Her subconscious mind is now in total control of her actions. The rainfall gradually transitions into a downpour.
Phoenix loses herself in the moment as the pair fight. Steel on steel, blood on blood, elf on elf. Everything goes black.
The next thing Phoenix knows, her head is throbbing. When she returns to her senses, Alexandra is on top of her, straddling her.
Phoenix looks up to see a face twisted with envy and loathing, and a fist slamming down towards her, right between the eyes.
For a split-second she wonders how she got caught up in such chaos and danger. Phoenix braces for impact, moves her arms up in front of her face and closes her eyes. Her life flashes before her.
Alexandra’s right fist connects with Phoenix’s palms. Her left fist bypasses them, a sharp hook jutting into her cheek. Her right fist is back again before Phoenix can react, this time an uppercut to her jaw. Pain rings across her face.
Phoenix has to act quickly. She raises her knees into a bridge and uses her core strength to push her hips up. This moves Alexandra forward and she is forced to keep her balance by holding her arms out and letting her palms fall to the floor, keeping her upright. Phoenix quickly pulls Alexandra’s left arm towards her, knocking her off-balance again, before turning over onto her knees. This turns the tables, putting Alexandra below her.
This movement means Phoenix isn’t in the same position as Alexandra was moments before. Now, Alexandra’s legs are on either side of Phoenix’s hips, rather than below them. While this gives Phoenix more control, it also extends the distance between her face and Alexandra’s, making it harder for Phoenix’s punches to connect. Regardless, it’s Alexandra’s turn to raise her hands in defense, with her half-sister on the offensive.
Phoenix uses the opportunity gained from the surprise move to take a quick look to her left, as she throws a punch towards Alexandra’s face with her right hand. The elf below moves her head to the side. Phoenix sees her sword, and Alexandra’s, lying on the ship deck a few feet away to her left, just out of reach. Distracted, her punch connects weakly with Alexandra’s ear.
Looking back towards her enemy, Phoenix throws a left hook towards Alexandra’s face, and another from her right. The left connects; the right is blocked by a palm. Phoenix continues to punch, left and right, in violent harmony, attempting to connect with Alexandra’s face or skull to do any kind of serious damage she can. Alexandra does well to shield most of the incoming blows, but a few stray punches connect. A spit of blood hits the deck, quickly washed up by the heavily falling rainwater.
The physical exertion from Phoenix’s blackout and all the arm swinging begins to ache. Alexandra begins wriggling left and right as she attempts to flip on top of her sister again.
Frowning, Phoenix rolls off her sister and towards the swords. She gets to her feet and grabs her own rapier, as Alexandra rises. The other sword is at an awkward angle - its hilt is furthest away from her than the blade - and the few extra seconds it would take for Phoenix to pick it up puts her off from doing so. She turns quickly, pointing her sword outwards towards her target, forcing Alexandra to take a few backsteps. She bumps into the beam of the ship’s mast.
Alexandra suddenly conjures a minor fire spell and propes it towards Phoenix. The piece of dark iron nullifies it, as does the rain water, and Phoenix realises her foe must only have a basic aptitude of magic. Still, the sudden display of magic shocks her. Phoenix tries to stay calm, holding her sword out, walking slowly towards her arch enemy. Alexandra quickly pivots and dashes towards the wheel of Fate, running up the ship’s left-hand stairs to get to it. She holds the ship’s helm in her hands.
Phoenix continues walking cautiously towards Alexandra. As she begins walking up the steps towards the wheel, she says: “You take your filthy hands off that wheel. You’re not fit to even clean it.”
Alexandra says nothing. As Phoenix walks up the left-most steps towards the wheel, Alexandra slithers her way down the steps on the other side. Phoenix sees what she’s doing, trying to keep a safe distance from her, and swiftly moves in the opposite direction, back down the left-hand steps and towards the right-hand ones. Alexandra moves herself back behind the ship’s wheel again, safe from Phoenix. She handles the wheel this time, on purpose, rocking it to the right and left to anger Phoenix.
Phoenix cries out in frustration. She starts running up the right-hand steps towards her half-sister, who pelts down the left-hand steps towards her own rapier.
Realising her mistake, Phoenix does what she shouldn’t: allows her rage to cascade. She turns on her heels and dashes past the mast’s wooden beam towards her target, Heart in hand. Alexandra reaches her own sword and lifts it with poise and grace, turning to her sister - just in time. Phoenix makes a lightning fast swipe but Alexandra just manages to kiss the steel with her rapier, deflecting it. Phoenix pivots and steadies herself, breathing heavily. She holds her sword aloft normally, trying to catch her breath and calm herself. Her breaths lengthen and slow slightly as she circles her sister, the pair of them on the centre of the ship’s deck.
Alexandra, on the other hand, has greater control. Her breathing is quiet, her mind is focused and her stance composed. She lifts her rapier up at 90 degrees, then raises it slightly higher than usual, before pointing it downwards towards Phoenix. She holds her stance proudly, patiently. It is an arrogant pose and further aggravates her sister, who lashes out with a series of sword swipes, expertly deflected by Alexandra.
Phoenix moves to mirror her sister’s aggressive pose. As she’s half-way through changing stance, Alexandra quickly lunges forward, catching Phoenix off-guard. She manages to evade the attack by squeezing her body one way, avoiding the point of Alexandra’s rapier, which would have impaled her upper arm.
Alexandra attacks again without mercy a few more times, putting Phoenix on the back foot, forcing her to parry. Phoenix steps backwards as she goes on the defensive, steel ringing against steel as rain continues to fall. Alexandra attacks with control and balance; Phoenix uses her strength to focus and whip her sword in retaliation, blocking the blows. She watches Alexandra’s free arm and looks at how it’s moving in relation to her sword arm. Her style is not easy to read; she doesn’t follow the traditional techniques Trixie taught her. Nervousness creeps in.
Phoenix backs away again, getting flustered but holding steady. She realises she is close to the edge of the boat and must change pace. She deflects an attack then attempts a risky swipe of her own to the base of Alexandra’s sword, in an attempt to destabilise her and buy a few seconds of time. She misses, and Alexandra swipes again towards Phoenix’s upper torso.
Phoenix ducks and swivels at the same time, narrowly avoiding the attack. Alexandra’s sword cuts through some of the ship’s netting. She withdraws for a moment and considers her next attack. In the dark of the night, for a split second moonlight catches the side of Alexandra’s face. Phoenix notices the malevolence and loathing there and her heartbeat kicks up a notch.
Phoenix steps back, putting a bit of distance between the two. She feels a minor pang of fearful determination within her heart. She cannot lose this fight. She must win for her mother’s sake, for Falkor’s sake. Alexandra would surely come after them if she kills Phoenix. Then there’s the crew’s legacy and, dare she think it, her father’s. These are reasons to fight, they are motivation, but they are also a weight on Phoenix’s shoulders, they are pressure. She is still confident, but it is buoyed by her faith in the crew’s training and her inner rage, it does not come truly from within. It is not natural courage. But still, she places faith in her anger.
Alexandra, on the other hand, has nothing left to lose. Her arrogance is natural, Phoenix decides. It is a part of her, just like the scarred tattoo of the feather on her neck, a flawed quality but one that has endured for years.
The arrogance strikes at faith. It holds. It parries. The arrogance swings again and again. The faith taps against it and parries once more. It can withstand it, but fighting back against it is difficult. The arrogance is still. It bides its time, waiting for faith to strike. It does not. It knows that’s what the arrogance wants. So it remains still too.
During this brief moment of solace, the arrogance smirks. Faith is resilient, but a little helpless. The nervousness churns upwards in Phoenix’s stomach again, her rage fading. It is quickly replaced by fear.
There is no time to think. The arrogance lashes, like flames being fanned, as if it can smell fear. The fear recoils, standing up against it. The attacks come swiftly now, forcing fear to do what it can not. To focus, to use every drop of knowledge absorbed from training, to study its foe, try and learn and better its fighting style, to deflect and think about attacking, to fight, or take flight. All while carrying the weight of vengeance on its shoulders. The arrogance does none of this. It just assumes. It assumes it is the better fighter, the superior being, the one who will win the fight. The fear rises still, drowning out the rage.
Doubt creeps into Phoenix’s mind. She realises Alexandra is the superior swordfighter. She has probably been skilled with the sword most of her life, Phoenix just under a couple of years. But yet, she holds her fear, tries to steady her concentration and just focus on deflecting and evading, while looking for an opening. She is struggling to deflect Alexandra’s blows. She is losing the fight. And that angers her.
As the rage is lit again inside, it reminds Phoenix why she is fighting. Of her dead friends, of her mother’s kidnapping and torture, of Phoenix being robbed by the Steelfeathers and their unwarranted hostility towards her. Of Thirteen’s betrayal. She sees his disgusting, cocky face in her mind and for a moment feels like she is fighting him, not Alexandra.
The rage flickers into life. Phoenix takes two quick, long side steps away from Alexandra, who stops and watches, then continues forward. The rage surges. The fear shrivels. But the arrogance still assumes. It is surprised.
Phoenix pirouettes away and sweeps her sword wide, through the narrowest of openings between Alexandra’s sword and her body. Heart comes dangerously close to the heart beating in Alexandra’s chest. She recoils and attacks with hatred. But the distance between the pair is great and Phoenix can study the attack with deeper insight. She moves an inch to her left, allows the attack and brushes it aside. Phoenix invites Alexandra - who is keen to reestablish dominance in the swordfight - to strike again. She parries this attack once more, but this time does not step back. Alexandra ends the move within touching distance of Phoenix, who makes a purposefully weak stab of her sword. Alexandra easily swipes it aside and pushes Phoenix with her free hand.
But Phoenix wanted this to happen. She moves back before Alexandra’s hand connects with her body. Alexandra stumbles forward and hastily brings her sword down towards Phoenix in a desperate lunge. Phoenix, still standing in the same spot, leans back, easily deflects the blow but does not block its momentum. Instead, she allows the force of Alexandra’s swing to continue. Phoenix raises her rapier above Alexandra’s and pushes it in a downward motion. Alexandra, still stepping forwards unwillingly, brings her sword hand close to her sister to defend herself.
Phoenix grabs Alexandra’s hand and pulls it towards her, along with her sword, underneath Phoenix’s armpit. She uses the sword in her other hand to help riposte and prize her sister’s sword free, taking it for herself in her right hand, spinning around and turning to face Alexandra with two swords. Her satisfaction from the manoeuvre is ever so brief - Alexandra instantly pulls a shortsword from within her black tunic and swings it down towards Phoenix in the same motion.
Phoenix, forced to wield two rapiers for the very first time in real combat, holding one in each hand, instinctively crosses them over and lifts the hilts up. This makes the blades drop, catching Alexandra’s sword in a single makeshift net of steel, deadening the blow.
Alexandra retracts the weapon and Phoenix immediately makes a double attack with the two rapiers. Alexandra easily blocks the two with her shortsword and goes on the attack again towards Phoenix, forcing her to defend. The pair near the front end of the ship.
As she has barely practiced with two swords at once in the past, uncertainty enters Phoenix’s mind again. She forces herself to think of Thirteen, to keep her anger flowing and her attacks come more naturally as her confidence grows. She swings with one sword, jabbing with the other, sometimes cutting both through the air one after another in a heavier attack, before spinning around with the force of it. Alexandra is forced back and to respond quicker with her single blade.
Phoenix’s fighting style is wild and unorthodox. To Alexandra it may look impressive, Phoenix guesses, but in truth, she is relatively incompetent. Her will, her anger and her luck all combine in this moment to make her appear a steadfast, experienced fighter with both rapiers. The arrogance in Alexandra is surprised, almost sated by her opponent.
Phoenix throws a flurry of attacks towards Alexandra, a mix of single jabs, double-swings, testing jabs and simple cuts. The speed and ferocity of the blows make it difficult for Alexandra to deal with. Phoenix makes another double swing and while Alexandra blocks the first sword with her own, the second slices into her left arm, her free arm. This wound slows the parries and swings of the shortsword in her other arm, and Phoenix finally gets the better of her.
The wooden deck, slick with rain, makes it harder for the elves to move quickly and maintain their grip. Alexandra deflects another blow, loses her footing and is struck by Phoenix again, this time chopping a layer of black leather and skin from her stomach, drawing blood. The wound is not deep, but it is enough to bring Alexandra to the deck.
She looks up at her half-sister, with further surprise and, for the first time, Phoenix thinks, perhaps it is her turn to feel fear. She says nothing, holding her small wounds, in pain. Phoenix stands over her, breathing heavily, holstering her own blade and holding Alexandra’s aloft, pointing it towards its owner. With slight arrogance herself, she motions it to the left, prompting Alexandra to slide her own shortsword away, out of reach. Phoenix points the blade at her sister again.
The pair remain in this moment for what seems like an age, but is only 10 seconds or so. Phoenix, despite all her rage and her determination, hesitates. She brings the sword closer to Alexandra’s neck, implying an impending death blow is about to follow, but in her mind she takes a moment to think as she catches her breath, her ginger hair wet with rain, stuck to the back of her red tunic. In the darkness and the wet, it is difficult to see where her hair ends and the tunic begins.
Humility ebbs her rage away. She thinks about her mother’s words, her plea not to kill Alexandra. We are still sisters, Phoenix thinks to herself. I may have changed, but I am still the same person I was years ago, before mother was taken. What would the young Phoenix think of me right now? Killing a killer, stooping to her level. Perhaps I could just maim her, make her incapable of using her hands, so she cannot attack or threaten or torture ever again.
“You’ve lost,” Phoenix says, withdrawing her blade. “Get out of here, leave this life behind and do not ever find me or my mother again. If I see you, I will kill you. There will be no second chance.”
The rain angrily lashes down.
“Do you understand me, sister?” Phoenix adds.
Alexandra remains in place, sitting up on the deck of the ship. She watches the rapier as it’s lowered and looks down at the rain splashing onto the floor. Her eyes glance upwards at her sister’s for a second, before looking down again. Phoenix sees her mother in Alexandra for the first time. Her ugly nose is her father’s, but her eyes, her contours, are similar.
Phoenix holds out her hand. This was not part of the plan, Phoenix thinks to herself.
Alexandra hesitates. She looks at the hand, the red fingerless gloves, the fingers themselves. They are younger, smoother than her own. Phoenix knows she has shamed her again, taken her dignity, her pride, and she knows that will make Alexandra hate her even more. But she’s giving her a chance to make amends. To live. A better life.
Alexandra reaches out, reluctantly. She takes her sister’s hand. As she stands, she pulls Phoenix’s hand back down with all her strength. Phoenix, unprepared, a teenager with a light frame, still naive despite all her trials and training, is punished for showing mercy to a calculated and cunning fighter. As Alexandra rises, Phoenix falls. She hits the deck and in her panic, tries to recover, to twist herself upright, to move away from Alexandra. She slips.
Alexandra thumps the back of Phoenix’s head with her tightly closed fist. The blow is not unlike the time Phoenix was thrown head-first into the table back at the inn as a little girl, years ago. Another Steelfeather, another time, another knockout.