Chapter 10, Part 1

The sun was about halfway down to the horizon when Alessandra stood in front of the Mekoval clanhouse once more. Nobody knew she was there, of course. She was completely invisible, to sight, sound and touch. As far as the guards squatting by the door were concerned, the street in front of them was completely devoid of the presence of a young woman named Alessandra. She grinned as she watched them, highly amused at their ignorance. Of course, she would have been just as ignorant as they the last time she was in their position, but she ignored that fact. There was no way the guards would know she was there, not until she was where she wanted to be and she chose to reveal her presence.

The problem was, the door was closed. Alessandra suspected there was some way she could use her power to pass through a closed door, but she didn’t know how to do it, and she didn’t want to experiment with her powers now. She wanted to keep herself and her powers a secret until the appropriate time, so instead she just waited. She would wait for someone to leave or enter the clanhouse, and then she would slip through the door before it closed again.

Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait very long. Alessandra was perfectly capable of waiting for long periods of time. It was an essential skill for a thief, but that didn’t mean she liked it. This time, however, she’d only been waiting about fifteen minutes when a woman she recognized as a member of Clan Mekoval appeared and headed for the door. The guards nodded to her as she approached, opened the door for her, and she and Alessandra passed through. As soon as she was inside, Alessandra made a beeline for the Clan Master’s quarters.

It was strange being back in the clanhouse again. Even though it had only been a few weeks since she’d been exiled, it felt like it had been an eternity. So much had happened in those few weeks, and Alessandra felt like a completely different person now. Added to that was the fact that this place still wasn’t actually her home anymore. She walked its halls, but she was still an exile. Gaining fantastic new powers hadn’t changed that yet, but it would. She was about to end her exile, and accomplish so much more.

She found herself outside Bezzum’s quarters. Looking around, she saw that there was no one in sight, so she decided to try and move through the door without opening it. In a few seconds, she would want to be seen anyway, so she figured at this point it was okay if she screwed up and had to just open the door herself and walk in. Closing her eyes, she thought for a second, and then did what felt natural. She felt something…shift, and then she heard a scream and a thump. Opening her eyes, she found that it had worked, but that she had become visible in the process. Bezzum was sitting at his desk, his eyes round in shock, and Torea was standing next to him, looking nearly as startled.

“What in the seven levels of the Abyss are you doing here?” Bezzum roared, getting up from his desk. “And how did you get in here?”

“I’m here,” Alessandra said, in a surprisingly level voice, considering she was almost as surprised as Bezzum, “to issue a challenge to you.”

“Girl, don’t be foolish,” said Torea, coming towards her. “Promise to leave here at once, and never return, and I will give you safe conduct out of the clanhouse.”

“Absolutely not!” Bezzum bellowed. “I should kill you where you stand! Issue a challenge? You can’t issue a challenge! You’ve been exiled! I’m going to cut you down like the dog you are!”

“What’s the problem, Bezzum?” Alessandra said with a sly grin. “Are you scared?”

“Scared!” Bezzum shrieked, his face turning red with rage. “I- You- How-!”

“You’ve always wanted to kill me, Bezzum,” Alessandra purred, emphasizing the Clan Master’s name. “Now’s your chance. Just you and me in the arena. You know I’m no match for you. You can finally finish me off, once and for all.”

“Alessandra, what is this nonsense?” Torea said, a note of desperation in her voice. “Did you forget what I said to you?”

Bezzum held up a hand to cut her off. “You’re right, chiela,” he said to Alessandra, his voice turning cold. “I have always wanted to kill you. I never thought you’d be so foolish as to challenge me, after what I did your precious Kriesaio, but so be it! I hereby revoke your exile! You are now, once again, a member of Clan Mekoval, and as such, I accept your challenge.” He grinned, a cruel smile without a trace of mirth in it. “Enjoy the last few minutes of your life, chiela.” Then he brushed past her and left the room.

“Alessandra, what are you doing?” Torea asked in a low, worried voice.

“I decided that if I’m going to die, I’m going to do it as a member of Clan Mekoval,” Alessandra said proudly. “Exile was hell, and I have no desire to go back to that life. Death is coming for me, sooner or later, and I’d rather face it on my feet in the arena, then lying on a gutter in the outskirts.” Then she flashed Torea a grin. “Besides, you never know how a challenge is going to turn out until it happens.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Torea said fiercely. “You know how strong he is. This isn’t going to be a quick death! Remember what happened to Kriesaio! He is going to toy with you, make you suffer! He’s going to shame you in front of the whole clan! Is that really what you want your legacy to be?”

“He’s already shamed me in front of the whole clan!” Alessandra roared, rounding on Torea. “Have you forgotten how you dragged me, kicking and screaming, and threw me out of the clanhouse? Have you forgotten how he made sure that the guards on the gate were my two best friends? I have nothing left, Torea! The clan was my life, and he took that away! Just let me choose my own death, okay? At least this way I have a chance of regaining my honor!”

To be continued…

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