She approached the hooded man silently from behind. Her sword was drawn in her leather-gloved hand and adrenaline was pumping hard through her veins. Her armored breastplate was smeared with blood shed from a gash across her cheekbone and the metal plates that made her short skirt were caked with dirt stuck to the grease that kept her from creaking as she walked. Her knee-length soft leather boots made no sound on the marble floor of the dimly lit hall. The man was silent as he kneeled at the foot of the empty altar in front of the throne her horrid mother was supposed to fill."Rise and meet your fate, Gallan," she said loudly, hearing the echoes in the high rafters of the vast hall."Do you wish to fight, Princess? I do not believe your mother would approve," he said in a quiet voice that penetrated the stale air like a warm knife through soft butter."Do not speak of that horror you call a queen. She may have given birth to me, but she was not my mother. She is dead," She said strongly. "And no need for niceties here, Gallan. They are meaningless.""So be it, Rebecca," he said from under his hood, still not rising. "It surprises me to find you have led your army of renegades well. But do you truly believe a band of farmers with pitchforks and crude weapons can defeat an empire?""They are well-trained soldiers. And they fight with a purpose. They want their lands back, their families back, and their homes back. That's more than you can say about your hired men who have no pride for their purpose," said Rebecca. "Now rise and meet me!"The man slowly stood with his back to her. His heavy hooded cloak rippled around him as he rose. He turned and faced her, lifting his head and revealing his face. Rebecca saw the familiar curves of the face that had trained her all through her childhood, the familiar scar running diagonally across the older lips. She involuntarily balled her left hand into a tight fist and felt her face go into a fierce glare. She raised her sword in her right hand and pointed it at Gallan's heart."The time has come to face your past." The blade point never wavered."Tell me, Rebecca," Gallan said, slowly moving towards her. "Do you expect to win in a fight against the same sword that taught your own?" His cloak parted slightly down the middle and Rebecca saw his hand go to his sword, his legs still slowly moving him forward. "Every move you have in your mind came from me. And do you think I revealed to you every technique in the vast expanses of my knowledge?" In a lightning-fast gesture, Gallan drew his sword and swung it in front of him, coming within an inch of Rebecca's blade. She did not flinch. A menacing chuckle escaped her opponent's lips as he dropped his heavy cloak to the floor, revealing plain leather fighting gear."It has been ten years, Gallan. The last time we fought I was only sixteen, a girl. Do not doubt the experience I have gained since then." Rebecca glared at him, the memories of their last, horrid meeting coming to her head.A young girl gripping her sword with deadly hate. The older man, maybe twenty years older, circling with his own glinting blade. The smile never leaving his face.The flashes of steel, the harsh sounds of the swords meeting. A gash appears across is lips from where she has briefly penetrated his defenses.The fight goes on. The young girl is losing. Her mother watches in amusement as the man beats her daughter down. The girl is beaten. She is taken to the man's quarters for him to do as he pleases with her.Rebecca shook the more-than-awful memories from her head. The two began circling each other, like birds of prey circling a dying animal."Do you remember this?" Gallan asked, drawing a finger of his free hand down the scar that crossed his smiling mouth. "Do you remember what I did to you after I won and had this bandaged?" He chuckled again. Rebecca's glare intensified.Suddenly, Gallan lunged. Rebecca easily stepped aside, and blocked his blade. They regained their balance and faced each other from the circle again."I remember," Rebecca spat. "I remember every awful moment you pig!" She launched herself into a frenzy of thrusts and blows. She was using all the moves Gallan had taught her, and she knew that would make her lose. He knew everything that was coming next.But, she realized, he was using all the same moves he had taught her. Why was he doing that after boasting about all his secret techniques? But the time for thought was over. She was blocking all his blows, and all hers were expertly parried. The fight was going nowhere. With a shove, Rebecca was ten paces back from him again, circling, regaining her breath.They just stared at each other for a moment, the hatred bubbling inside her at the scarred smile he always wore. Then he came at her in a way he never had in their lessons, hunched low and defensive. But Rebecca was ready, and she stepped aside, shoving him down when he passed her. Her sword was immediately swinging to where he had been, but he was up and running at her again, swinging his sword with deadly desire.They fought again, him in his new style. It was all she could do to block his attacks.And then there was another lull in the fight as they backed up again. This time Rebecca did not look directly at her opponent, but at the surrounding area: the throne-laden dais, the long, low tables lining the room, the huge, floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows. He was speaking again."I will enjoy beating you again, princess. I will enjoy it in the same way I did ten years ago. You remember. Was it not enjoyable?" His smile took a sickly turn. "You are no match for me, Rebecca.""What you don't know," Rebecca said through the hate that was trying to cloud her senses, "is that I have some hidden moves too."And, with that, they launched into a whole new way of fighting. Rebecca was moving all over the place, jumping from the floor to a table and running along its length before chopping down at her mentor's head, her blade being blocked ferociously and almost knocked from her hand. She jumped down over the swing at her ankles back to the floor and back towards the dais. Her back bumped into the altar at the foot of the steps and she reached back to throw the golden bowl through the air, following it as it soared toward Gallan.He knocked it down, and Rebecca sliced his left arm before he could block her, leaving it useless and limp hanging from his shoulder. He screamed as he struck out at her, but she was too fast. She was back again, slowly moving toward the window. He followed in a rage, running at her. She ducked at the last moment and shoved upwards with her sword, the blade finding its mark through his abdomen.The tip of the blade emerged out his back as she crouched below him, twisting her sword. He looked down at her, his right arm with the sword swinging wildly in his last few moments of life. She pushed him off of her and stood, yanking her sword from his body. She watched her mentor die before her, the wound from her sword in his stomach killing him.A sound behind her made her turn. Evan burst through the doorway into the throne room and stopped short when he saw the crumpled figure at Rebecca's feet. She was standing there, splattered with blood, breathing heavily, and looking like she hadn't slept in weeks. He ran over to her when he saw her waver.He caught her in his arms and looked down at her, at the cut on her cheek, pushing the hair that had come loose from her braid out of her eyes. They went over to the dais and sat on the lowest step."It's over," he said. "The army has taken over the town. You have defeated their leader. We can go home.""Home," Rebecca whispered. She thought of the grand palace life she had lived the majority of her life in, the horrible beatings she received, the dread of one day becoming queen. Then she thought of the place she had escaped to. The little huts, the poor farms, Evan's little shop, and cried. She cried for all her wasted years putting up with the torture. She cried for the seven years she had spent running, hiding, living off of nothing. She cried for the last three years, when she had found the town, met the people, and began the war. She cried of relief that it was all over.Evan held her, knowing what she was feeling more than anyone else in the world. He could practically feel the weight being lifted off her shoulders. He let her cry, knowing how good it must feel to finally be free of the burden she had been carrying for so long.Presently she stopped her tears, and wiped her cheeks. She looked up at Evan and smiled. She leaned towards him and kissed him softly. It was a short kiss, but meaningful and heartfelt nonetheless. They kissed again, for longer, and she smiled at him again, and then he helped her to stand.Rebecca looked back at the figure of Gallan lying motionless on the floor, her smile vanishing. She stood and walked over to him, and reached down to close his eyes. Evan followed silently."Farewell, Gallan. You shall torment me no longer." Then Rebecca stood, and Evan wrapped her tired arm around his shoulder. The two of them headed out of the castle, into the town where the rebel soldiers were celebrating their victory.Related articles：
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