Immediately, she stepped back to avoid the spray of blood from his neck, and with a twist of a wrist she pulled the other dagger out of his gut and let his body fall to the ground. As it fell, she bent down and cleaned the blood off of her daggers by wiping them on Bezzum’s shirt. She was conscious of the fact that there was total silence in the arena as she did so, but she ignored it for the moment. All she wanted right then was to savor the fact that Bezzum had died at her hands.
Finally, she stood up and surveyed the crowd in the arena. There was a look of total shock on every face. Every eye that looked at her was round in astonishment. She turned around slowly and made eye contact with every single person surrounding her, and as she did so, she was confident. They knew. They knew that she was the best, that she deserved to be the Master of Clan Mekoval. Finally, she had what she’d spent her whole life chasing.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, Vegora stepped forward, and grasped her wrist to lift it up in the air. “Behold, the new Master of Clan Mekoval!” he yelled in his thin, reedy voice. He looked as stunned as everyone else in the arena, but his voice was strong and clear as he called out. There was no response, but as if the sound of Vegora’s voice were a charm that broke the magic spell enthralling the room, the silence disappeared, replaced with the sound of muttering as the members of Clan Mekoval began to discuss what had just happened.
“We should go up to, er, your study,” Torea said, stepping forward. “Give everyone a chance to process what just happened.” Alessandra nodded. Part of her wanted to gloat, to rub it in everyone’s faces how wrong they’d been about her, but she knew that was not how she wanted to kick off her tenure as the Clan Master. She needed these people, needed them to, if not like her, at least respect her, and bragging about how she was the greatest probably wasn’t the best way to accomplish that.
Torea led the way up to what used to be Bezzum’s study. Alessandra allowed her, even though she obviously knew the way. It’s my study now, Alessandra thought in a daze. She wasn’t sure why she was dazed. Maybe just because the thing she’d wanted for so long, the thing she’d thought had been taken away from her forever not that long ago, that thing was finally hers. She was the Clan Master of Clan Mekoval. Even though there had been no doubt about the outcome of her challenge, thanks to the new powers she’d obtained from Ilimay Ladron, she still couldn’t quite believe it was real. Just an hour ago she’d been an exile from her clan, and now she was its Master.
Torea, Vegora, Alessandra, and the other two Clan Leaders, Meachen and Ilnorat, entered the study, and as they entered, Torea turned to Alessandra. “I can’t believe that what just happened is real,” she said. “How did you do it? How did you beat Bezzum? You’ve been in exile for three weeks. By all rights, you should be weaker than you’ve ever been. And you did something that I’m certain none of us Clan Leaders could have done. How?” Alessandra smiled a small, secretive smile.
“I think I’d prefer to keep that a secret for now,” she said mysteriously. “In the meantime, I’m sure there’s work to be done. I’ve been out of the loop for three weeks. I have no idea who’s out on jobs or what’s being planned or anything.”
“We’ll prepare a report for you as soon as possible,” Vegora said. “Until then, I can tell you that there are only two teams out right now, Hesikal’s team and Zenmor’s team. Bezzum was planning to send out Niechao’s team tomorrow night, but of course it’s now up to you whether that job goes ahead or not.”
“Show me the writeup for that job, and I’ll make a decision as soon as possible,” Alessandra said, and then she yawned. “I could use a bowl of stew and a nap in a real bed.”
“I can imagine,” Torea said, and then she smiled. “I’ll have somebody clean out your quarters and bring you up some stew.” She turned to the other Clan Leaders. “I think it’s probably best if we leave the Clan Master to get used to her new study for a little while. I’ll bring her up to speed about the clan’s situation.”
“I think that sounds good, Torea,” Vegora said, nodding. “Meachen, Ilnorat, what about you?”
Meachen was a short, bluff, bald man with a thin beard and no mustache. He made up for his lack of stature by being thickly muscled, but despite being short and stout, he was one of the quickest and quietest thieves in the clan. He nodded as soon as Vegora spoke and turned to leave immediately.
Ilnorat was not so agreeable, however. She was a tall, thin woman with olive skin and close-cropped black hair. She had several small scars criss-crossing her face, including one near her mouth that gave her a permanent scowl. This was appropriate, as it suited her personality perfectly. Of all the Clan Leaders, she had always been the one who liked Alessandra the least.
“I’m not ready to just accept this child as our Clan Master and be done with it,” she said in a petulant tone. “We all know that Bezzum was more skilled than her! There is no way she should have been able to kill him, and so easily! Aren’t we going to investigate this? Are we going to just let her usurp a position she doesn’t deserve without a whisper of protest?”
“What is there to investigate?” Torea said wearily. “The rules governing this sort of thing are pretty simple, as you well know. She challenged him. He accepted. She killed him in full view of the entire clan. Are you accusing her of cheating somehow? How would that even work? There are no rules in the arena!”
To be continued…