Fragments, Agrias and Meliadoul [FFT]
The Temple Knight peers at them from atop a high building, and Agrias finds herself wondering, before all other considerations of combat and circumstances, why the woman had felt that choosing such a position was a good idea. As Agrias sees things, her choice is simply impractical, and delays needlessly the inevidable confrontation.
"Take the retinue," she tells Ramza, eyes never leaving their primary adversary. "I have the queen."
From the corner of her gaze, she sees Ramza's straw-coloured head nod, and as orders go between them, it is enough; she takes to flight, hearing her comerades charge forward behind her as she cuts past the lesser warriors, heading straight for the rooftop. A small tower of crates aids her ascent partway, though the wood begins to rot beneath her feet as she makes her way upward, crumbling so as to necessitate her making a jump for the roof's ledge, then hauling herself the rest of the way up and to her feet by her own power. It is admittedly not the most graceful feat she has ever accomplished.
Though the battle sounds below them, Agrias finds herself fixed on the knight before her. She raises her sword to shoulder level, feeling her muscles begin to warm against the weight of the heavy blade. "Yield, and I will yet let you live." It is a formality, perhaps, but still honourable to give an opponent a last chance at retreating. After all, the woman looks less knight than nun, brow and neck shrouded in the tight fabric of a habit, with no gleam of armour visible beneath her heavy cloak. Only for her years spent with Ovelia at the monastary would Agrias have recognised the woman's profession at all.
"Never," spits the knight, whose own finely wrought blade glows a faint lilac in the mid-day light. "For my brother!" She charges, and Agrias moves to meet her (feeling as she does the surge of a spell's detonating behind her, and being thankful that she had moved not an instant later), their weapons singing off each other. Agrias twists in her step, spinning around so suddenly that the knight's defenses have not the time to ready themselves, and draws her sword across the knight's chest -- where it finds not the purchase of soft skin, but the grate of metal, which meets her blade and rebuffs its advances.
Thrown off her step by the unexpected resistance, Agrias stumbles backward, catching the barest glimpse beneath the torn fabric of finely wrought mail, tight and fitted enough that even the mere cloth of the knight's dress had been enough to disguise its presence. "What--"
Before her, the knight mutters something inaudibly low, then brings her blade crashing down against air, its tip still several feet from Agrias' body. For a moment, Agrias cannot tell why her opponent has done such a thing; then she hears a clatter from her right side as the burden on her sword arm lessens in the same instant. A moment of incomprehension fades into understanding as Agrias beholds the two pieces of her once-fine weapon: the hilt resting in her hand, and the blade lying on the shingles.
"Son of a bitch!" Agrias exclaims, a vulgar oath her father had once tried so hard to wrest entirely from her vocabulary, and which she now saves for the moments in her life of particularly exquisite frustration. With her sword broken quite thoroughly, she moves on instinct, rushing the knight -- whose dark eyes go wide, giving Agrias the satisfaction of knowing that this rejoinder has been appropriately unexpected -- and striking her fair jaw with one heavy-mailed fist.
The knight recoils, stumbling back and nearly falling off the roof. A direct hit, Agrias can see from the blood trickling past the woman's fingers. With a deep growl, the knight raises her sword again, and Agrias prepares to meet the onslaught with what little defenses she is left.
The blow, however, never comes. Instead, a shot cracks in the air, resounding through the alleys below them, and Agrias sees the knight's body jerk backward. She inclines her head in the direction of the sound, only to see Mustadio, perched bird-like on a nearby chimney, bearing cheerful grin and thumbs-up sign as he blows smoke from the tip of his barrel. Trouble though the man may be, even Agrias must admit once in a while that he indeed has his uses.
By the time she turns back, the knight has indeed retreated, edging off the roof's edge, holding her hand no longer to her bleeding mouth, but to her bleeding chest. "The next time we meet is the day you die!" she bellows as she departs the Bervenia street, leaving Agrias to ponder the irritating, expensive mechanics of acquiring a new sword.
Many things about Meliadoul's outfit are deceiving, among them how her skirt is so heavy and full that Agrias does not notice it is split up front and back (presumably to facilitate riding) until she sees their newest compatriot astride an anvil, wielding heavy smith's hammer against the gold-gleaming blade.
Orlandu hovers beside Agrias in the doorway of the smithy, watching every strike with vaguely troubled interest. "I trust milady is handling Excalibur with utmost care."
"Aye, milady swears it." Meliadoul stands and thrusts the blade into the fire again. The intense heat casts a sheen of thick sweat over her body, matting her already-short hair to her head, highlighting in the flame's glow the cording of her bare arms' muscles. Though Meliadoul's frame is somewhat slight, Agrias can see the power contained just beneath her tanned skin's surface. "She is indeed a fine blade -- I've scarce seen finer -- with fine magicks worked into her very core. Yet though far be it from me to insult a man's blade, your (I have no doubt) loving use of her through these years has worked weaknesses into her metal, and if they are not tended to, breaking her will be no difficult task."
Orlandu -- who himself has more than passing acquaintance with Meliadoul's own destructive skills -- grumbles slightly, but falls again to the role of silent observer. In fact, Agrias has heard Meliadoul state a very similar case to Orlandu twice before, though she supposes she cannot begrudge Orlandu his hesitation. After all, Excalibur is a noble weapon, one which in the hands of a careless smith might easily be reduced to ruin.
Yet Meliadoul has the air of a woman who has in her life done nothing save she has done it with great care. Agrias wonders if it is for this, and not for her mention of threats on the sword's life, that Orlandu has entrusted his legendary blade into her capable hands.
Meliadoul looks up from the forge, turning the blade in one leather-gloved hand, wiping ash and sweat from her brow with the other. "Mayhap when I'm done here I should cast you a piece." Agrias blinks for a moment, then realises Meliadoul is talking to her. "Something better than the tin trinket I cut in Bervenia. Have you truly no blade of your own?"
Agrias is grateful for the heat of the smithy, for it disguises well the flush that rises to her cheeks. "Nay. At the time my," her voice catches, "my formal service to the Lady Ovelia was by circumstance ended, I had not yet distinguished myself a member of the order such to warrant that honour."
"Well, I say you've distinguished yourself hence," Meliadoul smiles at her. With powerful arm, she draws the blade again from the fire, examines it for its readiness, judges it worthy to be worked again, and straddles anew the great anvil, setting herself to hammering flat the enchanted steel.
"Aye," agrees Orlandu over the rhythmic song of the hammer, placing a heavy hand atop Agrias' shoulder. "She speaks true."
"I thank you," murmurs Agrias, her heart feeling full to bursting.
The stars have traveled far along their paths ere they settled down to sleep, yet Agrias' eyes are still open, watching them follow their courses. She lies in her bedroll, placed near enough to the fire to feel its heat, yet far enough from it that she will not disturb others with her plans for the evening. Her compatriots have all succumbed to sleep now -- she can tell by the sounds of even breathing, with a counterpoint of heavy snoring from Mustadio's roll -- yet still she remains cautious, patient, unwilling to take any action that might compromise her dignity.
Finally, however, settled by the half hour's worth of silence, she decides there is nothing more to be gained from waiting, and slips one hand carefully beneath her covers, into the light breeches she wears to sleep, down to the damp folds of skin between her legs. Her fingers glance off sensitive skin, and she lays her teeth into her lower lip for security's sake, though she creates neither sound nor movement beyond the slight twitching of her fingertips. She little knows how otherwise to go about securing such relief, as all her own training in the exploration of her body has occured in Ovelia's bed, tucked as far from the princess as the admittedly expansive bed would allow, maintaining her assigned nightly post of watching the princess' dreaming hours. Never once had such careful movements awakened Ovelia -- and if they had, she does not wish to think on it, for such knowledge would mortify her into an early grave.
For the first time Agrias can remember, her accompanying thoughts do not go to the princess, but to the Temple Knight now numbered among their ranks. She is little like Ovelia, the latter soft and delicate, the former lean and powerful; even so, Agrias feels wetness meet her fingers at the thought of touching Meliadoul's battle-hardened frame. She wonders what those sweat-slick arms would have been like at the forge that day, to touch, to taste, to hold as the muscles beneath the skin clenched and released, clenched and released.
So focused is she upon this image, to the exclusion of all other sensory input, that the hand that pulls back the covers of her bedroll gives her a terrible shock, and she finds herself in the terrible crux of having her sword-arm in a position both embarrassing and inconvenient. Agrias can scarce move before Meliadoul has slipped in, wearing only her chemise, to lie beside her fellow knight. "Shh," whispers Meliadoul against Agrias' ear. "Don't let me frighten you." Her hand travels down Agrias' arm, over her still-struck hand down into the warmth between her legs.
"I--" Agrias breathes, her heart racing in her ears surely loud enough to wake the entire camp. Yet no one moves save Meliadoul, her slim fingers slipping between Agrias' thicker ones, sussing out the bud of her skin that sends lightning through her body. "You don't--"
"You're so lovely," whispers Meliadoul, leaning in to press their lips together in a kiss, chaste at first, then warm and hungry. A single finger works its gentle way deep, far deeper than Agrias has ever dared or even been able to reach easily on her own, and that is the end of Agrias' protestations.
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