Chapter 37 - Brawl
Rhuthain backed away, his eyes on Kitaraiya as she approached, her features continuing to shift until her eyes were glowing orbs of pure white and black veins tracked their way under every exposed inch of her ashen alabaster skin.
“Gods, Kit?!” Rhuthain said in shock, fear prickling his skin as she towered over him.
“The door, Thain.” said Silvast, “Now.”
Kitaraiya looked down, her mouth opening to speak, her canines longer and accentuated, “Open it, Thain.” she said at barely a guttural whisper while flexing her fingers, the knuckles popping and cracking as she brought her claws to bear.
He stared at her and nodded in shock, “Aye, beastie, open it I will.” he said, quickly pulling at the pick momentarily before he started hitting it with the hammer, loosening it until it was struck free.
Kitaraiya slipped her tongue over one of her teeth, her lips a deep sultry blood red, “Beastie…” she remarked at a low venomous purr, her smile horrid in its sensuality, “Rhy, am I a ‘beastie’?”
Rhuthain paled as her eyes swept over him. He looked past her to see Rhyker at the ready, sword drawn and his eyes flaming gently.
“Kit.” he said calmly, watching her impatient toss of the head.
She nodded, clenching a fist with force until a light started to build within it and tendrils of glowing mist streamed from her eyes. She stalked to the stone door, shuddering under repeated blows as Rhuthain kept his shoulder to its end. He gave her a look, stepping back and away with wide eyes and a grim expression, quickly grabbing his axe and hefting it at the ready. In a sudden, violent movement she gripped the edge of the stone door and threw it out of the way, tearing it clear off the rails it slid on and into the wall.
A guttural snarl escaped her as the men fell into the room at her feet and those that still stood looked at her in fear in a shocked silence, backing away, almost clambering over those that could not move fast enough. She kicked out, launching the closest heavily into the opposing wall and scattering those immediately in the way. Leaning, she wrapped her long, clawed fingers around one’s neck that fell at her feet and lifted him like a rag doll, crushing the life out of him while tightening her grip before throwing him aside.
She stepped over those grovelling at her feet before entering the passage. Those closest struggling to escape the unexpected monster that was before them. The bandits she left in her wake swiftly losing their lives to Rhyker’s sword or Rhuthain’s axe as they struggled to distance themselves from the visage of death before them. Silvast followed behind, picking her path through the trail of bodies that followed the three, stepping gingerly and holding her side in the chill air that Kitaraiya emanated.
Kitaraiya stepped forward, lashing out, tearing another body under her claws and kicking it aside in a spray of blood. She watched them scatter before her, passing one that stood in solidarity, his stance unmoved by the sight before him. He stood as tall as her as she was, with thick brawny arms, broad shoulders and a deep chest, ignoring those around him as he fixed his eyes on Kitaraiya’s. Her lips parted in a hungry smile, her teeth bared.
“Kit, do you see it?” said Rhyker from behind, to her right.
A faint chuckle escaped her, “Of course, brother. It’s hiding something.” she snarled.
The statuesque burly man rolled his shoulders and set himself before drawing a double-handed broadsword from the scabbard on his back. Bringing it to bear, its grip almost fully engulfed by his big hands, he settled it into a guard and at the ready, his eyes still unwaveringly on hers.
That wide jagged smile came to her lips, an eyebrow rose in intrigue.
“Are you going to offer a challenge before you die, your blood on my hands, spraying over my body as I tear you apart?” the blaze of her eyes almost growing feverish in their intensity, “I have torn larger examples than you limb from limb.”
Kitaraiya balled her fists, the chill white glow growing around them as her legs tampered in readiness. She pulled herself into a semi-crouch, the muscles in her legs cording, ready to snap. Rhyker stepped to her side, his flames bursting to life while he watched the warrior. Kitaraiya’s bare feet clawed into the stone as she erupted into motion, her legs straining, the air snap-freezing around them as the stone cracked and shattered under her. With movements too fast to follow she launched herself, two steps as she covered the dozen yards between them. Her smile widened even further, sadistically noting the look of surprise starting to blossom on the warrior’s face, his sword barely moving as she flashed toward him, closing the distance.
Lashing out, she batted the sword from his hands, sending it skittering along the floor in the barest of moments before she barrelled into him. Landing heavy blows that sent him staggering backwards, she stopped, standing tall while he struggled for breath, his orange eyes staring her down.
“You are the one inside my head.” Kitaraiya hissed, while side-stepping, “You didn’t expect this, did you, caught you off guard? You know I already could have ended you.”
“Damn it, Kit. Stop playing.” Rhyker said, “Finish him.”
Kitaraiya stepped forward, her hands twisting into fists once again as the brute set himself, his large fists balling, “Finish me…” he said, his voice deep and rumbling, the sound of stones grinding under the pressure of mountains as a challenging smile came to his face.
Kitaraiya’s smile grew again, exposing the fangs that filled her mouth, “He speaks.” she said before rushing forward.
She struck fast and hard, her movements blurring as each successive strike hammered into him, pushing him back until he stumbled to one knee. The brute smiled and spat out some blood, wiping the edge of his mouth with a wrist.
“Stop playing.” he rumbled lowly, mocking Rhyker’s words, “Finish me.”
Kitaraiya circled, her eyes narrowed to thin, sharply glowing slits, “Rhy?”
“I saw, he shouldn’t be standing.”
“Standing…” the brute echoed.
She glared through her confusion, anger building in her movements as she paced. Without warning, she quickly engaged, throwing blows and striking with her claws extended. She barely flinched as a big fist hammered into the tense muscles of her stomach with a dull thud until she blocked the brute against a wall, pinning his arms.
“You are no human, elf or other of the kind.” she growled before throwing him down against those at his back.
She exchanged a glance with Rhyker and gestured to the passage out to the base of the pit before exploding into motion. She launched herself, colliding with him heavily and catching him under the ribs with her shoulder. Stabbing out with a clawed hand she tore into his side, satisfied as a sharp inhumane roar burst from the brute as he responded, his jaw opening further than any human’s should.
As the breath was blasted out of him, she continued the push, driving him backwards until she leapt forwards, throwing them both into a roll. They both tumbled hectically out and into the chamber, trading heavy blows and swiped claws until she broke his grip on her. Kitaraiya managed to throw herself off, rolling back with her reversed momentum. His blood dripped from her clawed right hand as she watched him roll to a stop, just over the crest of sand that had created a small hillock in the bottom of the pit. Flinching slightly, Kitaraiya looked down, touching the shallow parallel cuts that had been opened up along the line of her ribs on her left side, her own blood shining wetly on her hand.
Behind her she could hear the screams and yells of those being carved down by Rhyker as he dispatched those left in her wake. Quickly glancing back to the passage, she saw her brother, eyes flaming and spitting sparks, cutting down any that dared to approach him as he followed her path. A sharp grin came to her lips as she swept her gaze back to her assailant. Her eyes glowing as they narrowed, again she started to slowly pace within the circle of pillars, keeping her distance as her combatant gathered himself. Her grin transformed into a jagged smile as his orange eyes glared through the settling dust and sand.
Those eyes stared back at her, larger and wilder then any human’s, their deep orange rimmed with black on hers. In one smooth motion it rose, scattering the sand, shedding it like a cloak. The striped fur and broad head of a tiger sat atop the thick neck and body of a heavy muscled brawler, his hands now akin to elongated paws. His chest even heavier than before, shoulders broader with muscular arms that could be likened to tree trunks. His russet fur could be seen through his shredded shirt, covering humanoid muscles that rippled. With large and sharp claws extended, it roared in fury, its tail whipping to the side as it tore the remains of its shirt free from its body and flexed its form, stretching its reach as blood seeped and matted the fur from the deep cuts Kitaraiya had inflicted in its side. Ears tucking, it bared its teeth, a deep growling snarl building as it stepped toward her, advancing.
Kitaraiya smiled jaggedly in anticipation, her focus on the beast. Without moving, she felt Rhyker at her side and saw the movement of others on her peripheral. She could feel him reining in his thread, restraining himself where normally he wouldn’t. The risk of burning through the air too high.
She laughed suddenly, a guttural and rough sound that made the closest step back in fear, “Are you ready, brother?” she said, her blazing white eyes glaring at her enemy as it made its way.
Rhyker grimaced, rolling his right shoulder while he glanced back to Rhuthain standing at the entry to the passage, axe at the ready with Silvast behind and watching.
He shook his head slightly, appraising their opponent, “Ready enough.”
She chuckled, watching the beast, its eyes catching the light from the many sconces as it suddenly charged. Rhyker circled to the side as Kitaraiya sprung into motion, explosively launching herself forward and meeting the beast at a rush. Opening up its shoulder as she danced to the side at the last moment, sinuously avoiding it as blood lashed through the air and a resounding roar followed in its wake. It pivoted, pirouetting before she could respond and catching Kitaraiya off guard, its massive fist unrelenting in its path as it ploughed through her raised arms and landed heavily, throwing her backward. She rolled with the blow, the air growing frigid around her defensively, her breath coming in sharp bursts as she danced out of reach.
With her eyes narrowing she watched it test its torn shoulder before resetting its form to compensate. Before it finished, she rushed within its reach and repeatedly hit in hard, raking her claws down, blood trailing her movements in the split second before she was thrown off. Backing away quickly she avoided one large fist but not the other, the powerful right hook catching her face and sending her sprawling. She shook her head, spitting blood and quickly returned to her feet, gasping as sharp pain flared like fire on her shoulder and chest. Kitaraiya frowned, grasping at her shoulder to see her own blood on her hands. She stared at the beast, watching the sly look it gave her, blood tracking from its maw.
She shifted position, the air growing chill around her as she clawed at the faint remnants of moisture in the air. Frost quickly coating the sand at their feet as the temperature plummeted. A faint mist formed within the Sanctum, condensing over the sand as she kept her distance from her foe. She smiled in return, watching as it shook the ice forming off its coat.
A deep chuckle came from it, a rumble that could barely be heard, “Not just a beast…” it said, musing to itself before it licked at the blood, bending its whiskers back on one side, “What are you?” it said with curiosity.
Kitaraiya stared at it, her eyes widening as she backed away. Gesturing, the temperature continued to drop, forming on its fur and whiskers quicker than it could act. She continued to back away until she felt Rhyker’s scorching hands on her upper arms and her back press against his chest. The white glow of ice, the freezing mist and her power filled the very centre of the floor. The frozen sand crunching under the beast’s slowing steps as the core of her self-contained blizzard dropped dangerously, the air growing sharper as every sound was magnified in crystal clarity.
“… are... you?” came the final deep sigh as the beast’s breath froze within it.
Kitaraiya stared in the strange silence, the cracking sounds of ice expanding echoed in the chamber as the mist dispersed to leave a frozen statue, the tiger-headed beast frozen solid where it made its last step. She felt Rhyker squeeze her arms gently and she stepped away. Looking about in confusion.
“I see it too.” he responded, his sight washing over the surrounds and among the pillars.
Their remaining assailants all stood in their last positions in thrall, standing still with their faces raised, looking at nothing in particular. Simply existing, eyes glazed and making no more of a sound than their own breathing. Rhyker quickly looked back to Rhuthain, he watched the dwarf circle one of the bandits with a curious expression and a shrug before drawing his blade and stabbing the man in the chest, almost experimentally. He watched carefully as the bandit’s expression did not change, even when he slid to the ground with his life’s blood pumping out, that blissful expression remained even as he passed into death. Hearing the crunching of frozen sand, he looked to Kitaraiya, her own blood trickling from her shoulder to drip from a finger leaving a trail of crimson stain on the white.
The crunch underfoot echoed, the chill in the air giving clarity to Kitaraiya’s thoughts as she reached the beast man that stood in place near the top of the mound. Its rich orange pelt now frosted with white, its eyes now just ice, and jaws slackened in its attempted last breath. She looked at it in contemplation, the cast of her ashen skin reflecting in the ice that entrapped it.
A sharp crack split the air, and again. The sound of a slow applause echoed with resounding clarity throughout the pit, bouncing off the ceiling far above, reflecting off the tiers and walkways that ringed it. Her glowing white eyes snapped upward, searching for the source until they rested on a shadowed figure, perched on the balustrade four floors up, outside the entry to the library where she and her brother had stood behind earlier. Her lips drew back into a terrible smile, exposing her sharp teeth as a deep rasping chuckle echoed down to her.