The End of Illusion
Part 3 - Challenge to a Duel
The next day Allana decided to follow Elian's advice and, after taking her breakfast in the kitchen, which meant a plate full of cheese, ham, strawberry jam and other similar delicacies that she hadn't had since she'd left Everlyn, she headed towards the library. She'd spend some time there before visiting Kahor, avoiding having to wake her up too early in the morning.
She decided to dedicate her free time to History, choosing a heavy leather bounded book, which she carried towards her usual table. At that time Karl and the others would be starting morning practice, Larrisse and company included, and she couldn't help feel glad she didn't have to join them. Right now it would be very hard to contain her fury and she'd probably end up jumping one of the older girls if they simply appeared in front of her.
Her eyes wandered over a map of the Continent of Altier, as she tried to forget her anger. There both Eastern and Western Kingdoms had been marked, as well as their main cities. North of Altier started the Forsaken Continent, or Continent of Endnor, from where all legends related to Dragons and other magical beings originated from. And, to the south, the Sacred Islands and the Continent of Asthenia, also called Continent of the Chosen, thus named for how hard it was to reach its lands, since most ships ended up at the bottom of the ocean due to the huge coral reef that stood in between them.
On the next page began a huge text written in small letters, to which Allana dedicated her full attention. Time passed by without she even noticing it, and only when her stomach rumbled with hunger did she raise her head from the book she had half devoured, looking out the window. With a curse she realized it was past midday and that she had probably missed lunch time, not to mention her intention to visit Kahor in the morning. Thinking it was better late than never, she stood up and carried her heavy book to its rightful place on one of the long library's bookshelves. Her gaze fluttered for an instant over other interesting titles she mentally marked as to read, thinking that even suspended she wouldn't lack things to do to help pass the time. She was about to leave when the sound of angry voices froze her in place.
She identified them immediately but, even so, peered towards the door from where they'd just entered. Elipson and Denar argued violently, which, she had come to understand through her talks with Adira, wasn't all that unusual. She should make her presence noticed, she thought, but they seemed so angry with each other that she simply couldn't master enough courage to interrupt them. Besides, Denar was already quite furious with her as it was, and she couldn't help feeling that coming out right then would only make things even worse. Not that it wasn't the proper thing to do, she wavered as the fight went on. It wasn't as if she wanted to spy on them. But then, coming out now would be too strange, since she practically had been hiding up till then ...
"What?! How dare you!" Elipson was demanding, the outrage in her voice and the cold glow of her gray eyes making her decide to hide again and simply wait until the storm had passed.
"You're always the same!" Denar replayed in a spiteful tone that seemed to angry her even more.
"And why is that?! You still think that because I'm a woman I'm less competent than you?!" she demanded.
"And what does that have to do with anything?"
"Of course it does! How dare you counter an order I gave?!"
"Can't really allow you to keep endangering the younger ones, now can I?"
"I'm the one responsible for them! Not you! They're my group! But you simply can't stand that my way of doing things is different from yours, can you?!"
"Of course not! Not when the decisions you make result in events like what happened yesterday! If you'd only teach them right! It's because you always do things your way that you now have one of your students in the White Order's infirmary and another one suspended, is it not? All because they don't have the slightest notion of limits and boundaries! You and that obstinacy, always trying to be better than everyone!"
"You can say whatever you want! Truth is my students always pass their Tests while yours don't!"
"If it's at the cost of their future or their health, I rather they don't! Truth is you aren't qualified in the least to teach anyone! And whether you like it or not, I'll intervene whenever I feel the need to do so!"
"Enough!!" Elipson shouted, raising her voice, and Allana couldn't help jump and cower against the bookshelf. She had never heard her use that tone before and, somehow, she couldn't help feel it was kind of scary, as if something terrible was about to happen. "I'm fed up with your male arrogance! I challenge you to a duel!!"
The room went deadly silent for an instant as Allana's heart beat hard in her chest. A duel?! From what she'd learned duels were strictly prohibited in Mithir, except when part of a Tournament or some other public event.
"Elipson, stop spiting nonsense!" Denar practically order, the despise back to his voice, although he sounded somewhat quieter. But she wouldn't allow him to avoid the subject.
"Have you no honor, oh big sir Knight?! Or are you afraid?" she asked, clearly trying to aggravate him, and went on when he didn't reply. "Come on! Here's your chance! Prove that you're better than me! I'm offering you the opportunity of a life time!"
"I will not fight you. And you know all too well that duels are not allowed!"
"No?! You prude! Shamelessly refusing a duel requested by a woman, nevertheless!"
"Just stop it!!" he demanded, raising his voice, but she went on unfazed.
"Be a man already and accept my challenge!! Or have the balls between your legs dried up and fallen?"
"Fine!! Have it your way, then! You'll be the sole responsible for whatever happens!"
"As soon as night falls, near the river, under the bridge!" she replied without the slightest hesitation and Allana heard de door close with a bang as an answer to her challenge.
Allana took a deep breath, trying to get rid of the tension she'd amassed. She had no doubt now. She should never have overheard that discussion, she thought as she left her hiding place, half fearing the other woman's reaction when she made her presence noticed.
Elipson was leaning against one of the tables, her head resting in one of her hands, looking obviously disturbed. Which was to be expected after an argument like that, Allana thought as she approached her. Somehow she didn't like seeing her like that. The Elipson she had come to know and admire was a strong woman, so strong that Allana had began to see her as a role model.
Holding her hands behind her back, Allana cleared her throat, since it would seem she wouldn't notice her otherwise; which, in itself, was sign enough that things weren't quite right.
"Oh! Hey, kid!" she said as she raised her head, and then her eyes went icy cold with realization. "I didn't know you were there."
"I'm really sorry ... I didn't mean to ... But I ended up listening to your fight ..." she honestly replied, hoping Elipson wouldn't be too angry, and she took a deep breath, straightening her back.
"Nothing to worry about. It'll be over soon."
"I also overheard you're going to fight him!" she added with unavoidable concern, and the older woman shrugged as if that wasn't such a big deal.
"Well, yeah. I did challenge him after all. But I'd really appreciate if you could keep quiet about that. It's not like we're setting the best of examples, and Elian has enough problems to deal with as it is."
"Do you think you can win?" she suddenly asked and Elipson turned to face her, her smile surprisingly gentle.
"Honestly? No. Denar is really good with his sword."
"But then ... I don't understand ..."
"Well, there's not much to understand, is there? He pissed me off!" she retorted, her voice ice cold again. "Oh, I know! Why won't you be my witness? I'll need one. And since you already know what's happening I won't have to tell anyone else," Allana seemed unsure. If she could choose she'd rather they would not have to fight at all. Elipson smiled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Don't worry. I promise I won't get you into any trouble. Witnesses are, to begin with, anonymous. They're basically an old costume. Nothing to be worried or nervous about. What do you say? You'd really be helping me out."
Well, she'd certainly feel worse if she had to stay in her room, knowing they were fighting somewhere, hidden from everyone else, Allana thought as she nodded.
"Okay. But I don't have the slightest idea of what I have to do ..."
"Ah, that's easy, you'll see. For starters I'll have to get you a new uniform. That stupid ass will have a fit if I don't show up with a Knight as my witness. And then I'll explain all about your role as we grab something to eat. It's good that you're no longer sleeping in the dorm. No one will notice even if you come back later," she went on, apparently excited, almost as if she was getting ready to attend some party, but Allana knew better. The air that surrounded her was heavy, dark, cold and sad, and her gray eyes, always so alive, seemed half dead.