Better to not know which moment may be your last. Every morsel of your entire being alive to the infinite mystery of it all.
-Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides
Every second slowed as Marcos moved through his motions.
He sacrificed his defense as he strove forward with lethal strikes.
The tremulous clang of metal on metal vibrated through his arm and shoulder as the scimitar collided with the edge of his katar.
Scherazade deflected his blow, directing his left arm to cross his body.
She allowed him to regain the very defense he sacrificed but a second before.
He applied enough resistance so his left arm formed a barrier protecting his chest, neck, and head from incoming blows.
He caught the weak point in his opponent’s guard, below her outstretched and occupied weapons.
She staggered back, avoiding a lethal blow as the familiar sensation of slicing skin reverberated through Marcos’ katar to his hand.
A moment before, her blade twisted, aiming to slash him from above as though a mirror to his own strike.
The attack was targeted in the same area that she helped him raise a defense in.
However, the attack was interrupted as she staggered, now much weaker than it might have been.
He allowed her to slide backwards, not chancing the risk of slippery ice to pursue.
The chilling air stung against the slash along his forearm, not even visible beneath his snow-matted black fur.
Scherazade landed her attack, albeit barely, but failed to significantly wound him.
Instead, she lost the perfect chance to return the pressure.
All at once, time accelerated, the adrenaline fueling Marcos against the deadly winter surrounding him. His growl contorted into a startling, ferocious grin.
This is what he lived for!
To fight with life on the line! To exchange rippling blows in a stunning display! To embrace the ebb and flow of danger and triumph!
This is what he lived for!
Life or death. The one and only truth for him was fighting to survive. Fighting to survive and fight another day. Fighting to feel this euphoric high as the impermanence of life itself wrapped around their necks in a vicious vise.
Even more so, the exchange of blows played off far better than Marcos ever hoped for. As fantastical as a gnome and mage battling with witty quips, his opponent not only suffered the brunt of his second strike, but also helped him evade most of her own. He had limited her options, yes, but for her to so splendidly act towards his favor was one of the least expected outcomes.
“Not very bright, are you?” One of the slavers laughed as Marcos struggled to do the more intricate work he was assigned. “Estás a meter água.”
He had gotten used to hearing that saying. He got used to being called a fool just as he got used to the searing sting of the whips at his back. But he didn’t settle for it. He strove to prove them wrong, if only to throw it in their faces later.
In order to rise, like a phoenix from ash, he needed to be clever. He found ways to work faster and harder than his counterparts. He learned by watching the others. He learned by the insults in his ear and the aches and pains thrashed upon him with every mistake. He learned to work in any way possible. He became clever, just not in the typical sense.
This is what saved him from his own mistakes in past battles, he was sure, more so than any whip-”
As Scherazade slid back, the glacier beneath them sounded a warning, snatching another piece of their arena. The part she tripped over -
Marcos’ grin twisted into something darker as he glanced at the ground. They, in their back-and-forth motions, ended next to the same location he launched his first assault from. Between the pressure of his attack, the rolling waves below, and the unstable structure, a crack now lead from one end of the ice to the other. Scherazade stood on the smaller, weaker side, having slid all the way to the water’s edge.
Ready to snap at any moment, all it needed was a little encouragement.
His rival was examining herself and the damage done as Marcos recognized this trap. With shifting steps to offset the tilting environment, he approached the crack and steadied himself into a crouching, cat-like posture, prepared to launch himself backwards in case the unexpected happened.
The freezing air outlined Marcos’ breath in a frosty cloud reminiscent of smoke. It felt like frozen shards in his lungs, stealing away the precious internal heat that his adrenaline and fur struggled to maintain. Soon, the cold would be unbearable for him.
A fervent clash echoed throughout the area as he struck downwards into the crack of the ice. By now, Scherazade rose with a smile of her own. Marcos met her eyes as his fist raised once more. Even if she sprinted, it would be unlikely for her to reach safety in time, and sprinting greatly increased the chance of slipping and falling.
“Tchau, mocinha. Você vai morrer.”
Marcos taunted the woman across the ice and snow, his deep voice bellowing through the sharp wind. Again, his fist sliced downward, colliding with a violent ping. This blow resonated through every bone in his body, from the tips of his fingers, through his spine, and to the tips of his toes. This was not a pleasant strike for him, causing him to grit his teeth as the ice splintered beneath him.
As the two sides of the ice separated with the aid of the rolling waves, the rocking was bound to escalate, too. Furthermore, if the other chunks of ice were any indication, Scherazade would be in grave danger if the broken glacier plummeted into the murky depths below.
Not the ideal way to add some excitement, Marcos thought to himself, but nothing makes for a better show than someone fighting with nothing but their fingertips to claw free.
Even now, he could hear the mysterious whisper in his head, regardless of whether or not it was still present. To the death. To the death.
Marcos released a low chuckle.
A battle of life and death.
Oh, how familiar this was.
**Estás a meter água. - Literally: You're letting water in./You're leaking water. Figuratively: You're making a fool of yourself.
**Tchau, mocinha. Você vai morrer. - Goodbye, little lady. You're going to die.