Sweat beaded and dropped down tanned skin to mix with blackened blood. A young girl stared from the ground up at her mentor. “Ge smak daun, gyon…” the older woman’s words were cut off when Lexa moved in a flash, her sword held firmly in her hand and moving with a practiced ease that showed years of use; she swung low and Anya had to move to deflect Lexa's sword. This was her favorite time. When she got to return to TonDC for the weekend. When Titus would send them home to see family and their clans.
She knew it wouldn't last much longer. Jaxson was ailing, they could all see if even if he didn't let it show. He was their teacher and they could see through his facade. He was slower at sparring. His face slightly thinner, his broad shoulders showing less definition. He wouldn't succumb to the curse of the commander they were sure, he would die peacefully in his bed more than likely. Unless he started a war he would not finish just to die in battle. That was a warriors death after all.
Her wavering thoughts left her open and exposed to the low strike Anya threw her way. A deep gash opened on her thigh and black blood quickly began oozing. This wasn't like when she was five and just learning to hold a sword and Anya not even twenty but already leader of an entire clan. No she was nearly eleven years older, Anya no longer took it easy on her. She winced, but quickly regained her balance. Parry after parry was thrown between the two, the sound of metal on metal drawing the attention of the others sparring in the open field until they were the only two left. Blood seeped from open wounds on both young women, red and black mixed in the grass with the sweat of the two.
When Anya and Lexa sparred it was a sight to see. Neither was willing to let the other best them. Lexa no longer the second, but a commander in training. Anya, no longer a first, but a mentor and clan leader. Neither could take the hit to their pride. Lexa spun just out of reach of Anya's next parry, her own sword coming up but being stopped by Anya's own sword. Anya, taller than Lexa and with the upper hand, forced the younger to her knees, Lexa's own blade coming dangerously close to her face. She reached up with her free hand and pushed against the blade, ignoring the pain that shot through her hand and arm.
Sweat stung her eye as she pushed with every bit of muscle she had against the other’s sword. Finally Anya stumbled backwards and Lexa was able to regain her footing. The two were staring each other down when a voice, higher pitches than either woman's or anyone else in the sparring field, rang down from the top of the hill over which the village sat.
Both women dropped their swords to their side and turned their gaze to the hillside down which the owner of the voice came.
“Daun ste pleni.”
Lexa huffed, wiping at the sweat on her brow, but smearing blood from her wounded hand over her forehead instead.
“I'm fine Cos.”
The older blonde laughed and shook her head.
“Your in trouble now, Alex.”
Lexa shot a glare at Anya.
“She didn't inflict those wounds on herself, come both of you.”
The healer had made it down the hill, but now turned on her heel and made her way back up the hill, expecting the two warriors to follow her.
Lexa was only days away from her sixteenth birthday, Anya having just hit thirty a month before, but the two knew better than to ignore the fourteen year old healer’s demands. As much as Costia hated violence, she knew how to hold her own. And so they followed her up the hillside, sheeting their swords as they did.
Lexa shot Anya another annoyed glare, ignoring the older woman's jab at her relationship with the healer.
“I'm not the only one that listens to her.”
She smarted back.
Lexa lay staring at the top of the tent she and Costia shared. The patterns of sunlight and shadows danced across the top of the tent. Costia had stitched up and cleaned her wounds before disappearing to find Anya to do the same. Lexa was sure that was going well. Anya was more stubborn than Lexa, as hard as that was to believe.
Lexa had begun to doze off to the sounds of the village when she heard a ruckus stir up outside. She woke quickly and pushed herself from her bed. Shouts of /Heda/ rang through TonDC, causing a deep confusion in the young nightblood. Why was Jaxon out of Polis? Was he planning one last battle against their northern neighbors? Azgeda had been encroaching on their territory. It wouldn't be uncalled for.
But as Lexa stepped from her bed and towards the tent’s entrance the shouts died off. Lexa's heart dropped as she pushed the flaps of her tent to the side and exited the tent. The banner held above the front rider held the insignia of the Commander, but instead of the vibrant red on tanned skin…. The insignia was painted black on a grey background.
“You gonplei ste odon.” She whispered before ducking behind her tent to find Anya and Costia.
Surely the guard was there for her. If Heda was dead then the Conclave would be soon to commence. She wasn't leaving with Costia and a farewell to Anya. She ducked into Anya’s tent, glad to see she seemed to be resting under Costia's watch. Trust the smallest of the three to keep the oldest under control.
“Cos…. Jax is dead. The guard is here, go get our things.”
The words were rushed and when it seemed Costia was going to complain, Lexa continued.
“Please, I need to talk to Anya and I can't let the guard know where I am. They'll make me leave.”
Costia nodded and bowed out of the tent with a heavy sigh. Lexa knew she was mad, but she needed to do this.
“Anya I need you to listen to everything I'm about to say.”
“Come on Alex… you'll be okay.”
Lexa shook her head, holding her hand up to silence her mentor.
“No, I don't want to hear that. I know the other noviates. I know who I am likely to end this thing with. And I know her skill. I need you to promise to look over Costia. When you come to pledge allegiance to the new Commander, bring her back to TonDC. Keep her safe… for me.”
Lexa's eyes were watering as she spoke.
“Alexandria! You cannot think like that.”
Anya had moved from the chair she had been resting in and was almost instantly in front of Lexa, the younger’s chin held firmly in the older’s fingers.
“Swear it, Anya.”
Lexa demanded. Anya sighed and released Lexa's chin with a nod.
“I swear I will look over her /if/ you die.”
Lexa sighed in relief and turned to leave the tent. She couldn't stay any longer, couldn't bare it. She was glad to see Costia heading back towards her, not so glad to see the guards following her. One of the guards had a horse in tow. The man said nothing as he helped Lexa onto the horse and she was fine with that. She leaned down and held her hand out to Costia to help her onto the horse. She turned the horse and dug her heels into its side to take off in the direction of Polis.
Lexa had never expected to win the Conclave. She hadn't expected Luna to run either. As she sat in the Commander’s quarters, she stared at her reflection in the mirror across the room. Black blood seeped down the right side of her face, dripping over her eyebrow. Black blood was embedded under her nails. Black blood painted a macabre piece of art down her left arm from a gash. And black blood stained her pants from another gash on her leg.
She was silent and solemn as she awaited Costia. She had to Cleanse. But first she had to get her wounds tended to. When Costia finally did join her, words were not exchanged. Neither wanting to break the silence in the air. Wounds tended to, a bath was drawn and Lexa washed all the black away. Soon the water was murky and Lexa stepped from the water.
Hours later Lexa stood before the clan leaders. A truce was called on this day, her Ascension Day. Her eyes fell over each of them, holding for a few seconds longer than needed on Anya. Her face was a mask of indifference. The Conclave, killing those she had come to see as brothers and sisters, had changed her. A quiet had fallen over her where once there had been the hyperness of youth. It seemed she had aged in no more than a day.
Her eyes found Costia, seated in the back of the room, while Titus recited the ceremonial speech. She had received the flame and could feel a buzzing at the back of her mind where there had not been one before, as if something were just waiting to break free.
“Heda Lexa kom Trikru please recite the lineage.”
And just like that the buzzing was a full blow over taking. Each previous commander coming forward seemingly all at once and shouting their names. She stood from the antlered throne, but was silent, trying to clam the cacophony in her mind. When she finally was able to pull herself away from them, her eyes fell once more on leaders looking at her with expectation.
“Jaxon kom Trikru.”
The words were whispered, the man having been like a father to he, his death hurt the most of the commanders she had lived under. The clan leaders all repeated his name.
“Saharn Kom Sankru.”
And once again the name was repeated.
“Lina kom Azgedakru.”
The name repeated once again. Lexa barely remembered Lina, she had only been a toddler when she died.
“Diana kom Trishanakru.”
The names came faster, the memories fading and just becoming new faces and names to out with them.
“Reston kom Trikru.”
“Imani kom Boudalankru.”
“Chiton kom Yujledakru.”
“Errien Kom Podakru.”
“Otto Kom Azgedakru.”
“Ana kom Trikru.”
She paused, looking out at the clan leaders and finding Anya’s slight smile. A feat for the warrior, the most minor sign she was proud.
She finished, seating herself once more upon the throne. Each of the clan leaders fell to their knees, swearing their allegiance.