By the beginning of my next bout, I had regained my composure. My opponent was a Harukan man, heavily armed and wielding a long and short sword, a master of the daisho style of swordsmanship. He was introduced as Izayakaku, the Black Dog and his second was a large, well behaved dog. I did not have time to ponder this oddity as he nearly took my head off with his sword. For a man wearing so much armor, he moved quickly and struck with incredible power, but his strikes were all intended to be killing blows, leaving him open when he accidentally left me alive.
Though I managed to maintain the upper hand, he nearly forced me from the fight when he sliced through my rapier. Fortunately, I had planned ahead and, taking my hammer in hand, was able to bring him to his knees. His code of honor, however, did not allow him to surrender. Khayyam and Iskandar had warned me of such codes of honor and, when he rushed me, I met his charge, striking him dead with a hammer blow to the chest. It was a shame to kill when it was so unnecessary, but Izayakaku chose his fate and died well.
Fortunately, Mehmet had easy access to a few fine blades and was willing to cut me a deal. Unfortunately, I had nowhere near enough money, and I was forced to borrow a large sum of money from the group and from Indira. But what a fine blade I was able to obtain! The blade I had taken from Jaleh was a fine weapon, but this blade, which I have named Nesr, for all good swords should be named, is a work of art.
It made a difference in my next battle, against Dendera Seth. I fought cautiously at first, having seen the effect of her needles. Her style is a defensive one, and, when I failed to penetrate her guard, she counterattacked, striking me with a needle. It burned, but the poison did not take effect. However, my reach overcame her technique and she surrendered. To my surprise, as she left the arena, she told me that “Adil would be proud.”
Who is this woman, and how does she know my uncle?
Coming off two victories, I was perhaps a little too comfortable entering into my next fight. My opponent: Jaleh. I was finally able to return her hand to her, and it seems the gesture was taken in the spirit it was offered.
When we last met, it had been all I could do to stay alive; now we stood on much more even footing, but even still she was too fast for me.
They tell me it was a marvelous sight: as I lay, unconscious on the ground, Jaleh decided to take her revenge and moved to strike off my hand, but Lyr charged in, hitting Jaleh in the back with her mace, buying enough time for Lyr’s new friend Bishoy to activate a magic field, paralyzing us long enough to break up the fight.
Again, Jaleh nearly killed me, but again I have won despite that, for her act disqualified her from the tournament. And, as with last time, it was Lyr who saved me from death.
Because of her disqualification, I made it to the final round of the tournament, where I faced Ramal. We talked as we measured each other. I had not seen any of his previous fights, but he clearly possessed great skill to make it this far, and neither of us were prepared to dishonor the other by throwing the fight.
We learned that Azu-Makeen lives in the heart of the city, a bold move for a dragon, even one who controls so much of the power. And Lyr somehow learned that Ramal was not to survive this night, regardless of my actions.
It was a good fight, both of us giving all we could despite the night’s injuries, but Ramal ultimately surrendered. (Which was fortunate, since I was nearly forced to surrender as well.) As Ramal’s treacherous second—a Xamuss cleric—entered the ring, Bishoy paralyzed us again, apparently due to a malfunction, though I know it was due to the efforts of Lyr…
I shall write more about my experiences later that night shortly, but first I must recount the stories of my companions. The order of events may be slightly inaccurate, as all this information is second hand.
Nessisus had taken up Mehmet on his offer of employment and was lead away, to a tent in the courtyard of the Deep Water Court, where he performed for the merchant lord Dawn al-Quin Feedrayhl. Feng had followed them in secret and corroborates Nessisus’ claim that it was a magnificent performance. He was paid handsomely for his efforts.
Cressida, Indira, and Sehera met Sohail Ghia al-Maeh, sister to Jaleed al-Maeh, a powerful, strong-willed woman, who seemed very interested in Indira. So interested that, when Feng returned (and Indira was lending me a staggering sum of money), she bartered with Feng for her services. This turned out to be a grave mistake, as Indira took this to be the grossest of insults. Fortunately, Cressida volunteered to accompany Sohail instead, diffusing the situation or, at least, postponing the consequence to Feng.
Earlier, they had noticed a familiar Daricassan, the same who Sehera and Feng had chassed outside the gates of the city. (We learned that his name was Isik Hiriz.) He was meeting with another man, Festiz ibn-Hazool, who has connections with both the Cobalt Crown and Igneen Faheed.
Feng approached Festiz later in his guise of a fight-promoter and arranged a time to discuss “importing” more fighters from Haruka. A promising lead.
I shall write more on this night later, for I am still very sore and tired.