“The warrior did not have a weapon.” His eyes were wide with fear. Blood gurgled from his mouth and the puncture marks on his neck, and the woman frowned at him.
“Do not speak. Your suit must remain still to be repaired.” She opened a jar of creamy brown paste and smeared it across his wounds. He had already done the same for her, once the glass was removed. She turned away from him, moving to stand under the air conditioning vent while she tended to her hands. The suit had been burned in a way that she was certain she had not seen before, but still was familiar. The fingers were completely black, and covered in dark purple blisters. The color of dead flesh faded in an ombre pattern across her palms and up her wrists – ending in healthy flesh midway to the elbow. Most of the fingertips were completely gone. There were holes in the suit that revealed her body underneath.
The damage to the human flesh was a nuisance. However, that was not her primary concern. She held her hands up before her, examining the jagged edges of skin. Her claws extended from her real fingers, through the suit where human fingernails would have grown. Two of them were broken. One had been ripped from her body, leaving a torn stump of waxy grey tissue and exposed bone.
Never before had she been injured by a mere human. Even the ring warriors, with their training and weapons, had never drawn her blood. She had fought them many times, in the first years, and even once faced ten of the twelve ring warriors. An army of her kind met them on the battlefield, and many were slain, but she survived with the dark heart’s blood of a ring warrior in her mouth.
This human – this infant girl child – had done that which her sworn enemies had never succeeded in doing. A snarl twisted her lips. She had come to the stinking hot little city to find the ring. She intended to command it and with it the ring warriors themselves. If she could not, she would destroy it. Her ambitions had been thwarted by a fading champion of humanity – one who did not even keep his weapon at hand – and a simple mortal. Such irrational brazenness, such outrageous temerity, would not be borne.
“Do not fear the warrior,” she instructed her companion. “He does not carry his weapon, and he has the faded scent of the decrepit and aged about him. His experience overcame yours, but his strength is greatly diminished. When we meet him next, rip out his throat and be done with it.” She dipped her hand into the jar again and rubbed the stinging oil into her damaged suit. The suit would be repaired in time, but her claw might never grow back. Her reflection in the window bared its teeth at her. “Leave the mortal to me.”
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