Kalaya stood on the roof of the Temple, watching them arrive from a distance. She felt sick. Inviting other Tribe’s Champions to the fight had seemed like a good idea to restore her honour. But now that the day was here, she wasn’t sure if she could do it.
She breathed in deeply and tried to steady her thoughts. This is it, you can’t change the plan now. You trained for this and you will win. Feeling slightly more confident, Kalaya descended the great Temple steps to greet her challengers. The priestess joined her at the Temple entrance.
Ever since the day, Kalaya had told her about her plan, the priestess had been very supportive. She had let her train whenever she could, but never neglected to have Kalaya sharpen her mind with chess and meditation. The plan was a clever one. Every tribe who doubted Kalaya’s honour should send forth their own champion and Kalaya would fight them all. A tribe that wouldn’t send a champion would automatically accept Kalaya as Creator of Tribe Arayeo. And if she won, they had no choice but to respect her. On the other hand, if she lost… If she had put too much on her plate… They would never respect her again. The Legacy of Tribe Arayeo would be over. Kalaya shivered at the thought.
Four champions had come to the fight. And she had to defeat the Temple champion, the Tiger, as well. Some of the women seemed anxious to begin the fight, other signaled outright disrespect for their opponent. They clearly did not believe that Kalaya would be able to win. Kalaya straightened her shoulders.
„Welcome to the Temple“, the priestess greeted the women. „You have come here today to fight Kalaya Arayeo, who claims the title of Creator for her tribe. Please, come inside.“
The women stayed silent as they walked past Kalaya into the Temple. Some of them nodded in greeting, others just scowled. Kalaya followed them into the Temple. She stepped into the fighting pit and turned to look at all of her challengers.
They were all strong and big. Kalaya knew that she must rely on her cunning and swiftness to win. She was rather small and while she was trained, she was not as big as these women. But she would use that to her advantage. The champions were bound to underestimate her, then she would strike by surprise.
„The first fight. Kalaya Arayeo against the Temple Champion, The Tiger.“
The women at the side snickered as the familiar face of the Tiger stepped into the pit. Kalaya didn’t listen. She would show them all. She had fought the Tiger before. She was prepared.
„Fight!“, came the priestess command like a bullet, and the Tiger wasted no time in launching herself at Kalaya. But this time, Kalaya knew what was coming and whirled to the side, leaving the Tiger stumbling.
The snickers faded and were replaced with a tense silence. The fight went on, but Kalaya had the upper hand. A few times, the Tiger landed a hit, but Kalaya quickly recovered and continued dancing around the Temple champion, tiring her.
Finally, she saw an opening and struck the last blow. The Tiger stepped back in a daze, threatening to fall over. The priestess held up her hand.
„That’s enough. Kalaya Arayeo wins.“
Angry whispers ensued among the other champions. „The priestess’s doing…“, „She let her win…“, „Staged…“. But Kalaya didn’t notice. She had won her first fight. Renewed confidence flowed through her. She could actually do this. Win back her honour. Return to her tribe. A quick wave of sadness washed over her at the thought, that her mother was not here. But the priestess had told her, that the second fight of a Creator heiress was to hold in private, as to not pose any distractions and shut out ill-willed spectators. Which sadly meant that her mother was not allowed to come to the fight. She would find out the result either from her, when she returned, or from the priestess if she lost. But she would not. She must not! Kalaya cleared her head and concentrated on the woman who had stepped into the pit. She was large and well trained and she looked at Kalaya with disgust. As if she was an insect, she was about to crush.
„Zeila, from Tribe Geozo“, she announced in a hoarse voice. The priestess nodded.
„Do you agree to accept Kalaya Arayeo’s position as Creator and to pay her due respect, should you lose?“, she asked. The woman nodded curtly as if she hadn’t even listened to the priestess’s words. Kalaya tensed up. She would show her.
Zeila did not make the same mistake as the Tiger and didn’t jump at Kalaya straight away. Instead, they circled each other, Zeila was sneering.
„How does it feel to be a disappointment?“
Kalaya ignored her comment but tried to find ways to strike her opponent by surprise.
„Your tribe will die. How could someone like you ever hope to win?“, Zeila grinned. Anger flared up inside Kalaya. Just shut up and fight, she thought. But she didn’t say anything. She knew that Zeila was merely trying to provoke her, so she could strike her when she was unprepared.
„You will die, old and alone in this Temple, knowing that you were never good enough for anything.“
That was just enough. Kalaya’s temper rose. „Shut -“, she started, but she never got it all out, before Zeila let out a roar and launched herself at her. In the brief moment of distraction, Kalaya didn’t manage to spin away as graciously, but still, the other woman merely scratched her fingernails over her forearm. Breathing heavily, Zeila stared at her as a little droplet of blood oozed from the wound on Kalaya’s arm. But the fight ensued again, shortly after.
This time, Kalaya jumped at her opponent but duck away from a blow and struck Zeila on the back. The other woman screamed and fought back. This wasn’t as easy as the fight against the Tiger, Kalaya realised. The fight continued while back and forth both women struck blows. But suddenly, Kalaya jumped over a low kick and knocked Zeila over with a quick hit.
The other woman fell to the ground as Kalaya stood over her, panting.
„Kalaya Arayeo wins!“, the priestess announced.
Zeila scowled as she dusted off her clothes and stood up. But as a dutiful Amazon, she bowed before the winner.
„You have won this fight honourably“, she said through gritted teeth. „You have earned Tribe Geozo’s respect.“
And while she might have been angry, there was actually a hint of respect in Zeila’s voice. Kalaya was glad about winning, but she knew this was not over yet. There was no whispering this time. An eerie suspense hung in the air as the other champions realised she would not be an easy opponent. Grim-faced, the second champion stepped into the pit.
The many hours of relentless training had been worth it, Kalaya thought as she stood victorious over her third opponent. The woman gave the obligatory respect speech and turned away to join the other defeated women. Only one champion was left now. The violet-haired woman walked into the pit.
She wasn’t as big as the others and she was wearing a smile. But Kalaya saw the hunger in her eyes. She was hungry to fight and hungry to win. Her slender figure wouldn’t make it as easy for Kalaya to tire her or gain an advantage by acting faster. She would be just as swift.
„Ailee, from Tribe Faarang“, she said and after the priestess had asked her whether she would accept Kalaya as Creator: „If she wins with honour, I and Tribe Faarang will pay her our respects.“
Her voice was light and kind. But there was something underneath, that Kalaya could not quite place. A hint of something evil, chained and bound but still there. She felt tense. This was it, the last fight. She was exhausted from the previous encounters, her muscles were screaming, but she would not listen. One more, she told herself, and it will be over. One more.
„Fight!“, the priestess called and instantly both women engaged, trying to gain an advantage.
As Kalaya had predicted, Ailee was just as swift as herself and the constantly circled each other, both landing blows and dodging them equally. Kalaya felt her sore muscles crying out in pain. But she must not lose. She concentrated hard to find an opening in the other woman’s defense, but there was none.
Suddenly, Ailee took a last second turn and struck her hard on the side. Kalaya felt herself falling. No. This could not happen. Her grandmothers face flashed before her eyes. No. She tensed up and caught her fall with her hand, in the same motion whirling her legs upwards, kicking Ailee to the ground and pushing herself back onto her feet.
Both women were panting. But only as the priestess cried out: „Kalaya Arayeo wins!“, Kalaya realized that she had finally done it. She had won.
Next: Chapter 52 – Home