Matched Opponents

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Rowan launched herself down the steps, desperate to reach her brother in time. She darted past Dell, engaged with several rough men, his sword whistling around him. Ducking, she evaded another pirate and slashed him as she sprinted passed. 

Her brother was the only thing that mattered.

She saw with dread, the pirate captain's blade, glinting in the sun, descending toward her brother's unguarded back. 

Andin, his eyes wide, turned to look over his shoulder. Battle instincts, long forgotten, somehow saved him. He dropped, rolling under the weapon's arc, to come up in a crouch. 

It gave Rowan the time she needed.

The pirate, hissed with fury as she stepped in front of her brother. His cold eyes cut into her with hatred and he lunged, stabbing at her middle.

Rowan side-stepped, deflecting his sword with a sweep of her own and a counter that had him pulling back to defend himself. 

He circled her warily, watching her feet as well as her shoulders and eyes. Rowan gave as little away as possible, keeping her movement tight.

Around them the battle raged, but Rowan and the pirate captain barely acknowledged it. She was aware of Andin, protecting her back and engaging with enemy that came too close.

Without warning her opponent leaped forward, his sword swinging wide toward her neck. Rowan raised her sword to block his stroke, but he suddenly changed direction, aiming low instead. 

Rowan pivoted her stance, pulling back her exposed leg. Her blade descended, sliding inside his weapon's edge, blocking and slashing his arm. 

He gasped and recoiled, looking down at the long cut.

Rowan watched his handsome face as the realization dawned. He was facing and opponent as skilled as himself. His eyes narrowed and he licked his lips, as small cracks appeared in that cocky arrogance. 

Rowan had seen it many times. Not in her Myrian Comrades, but in men like this, from the mainland, who thought a woman could never be their match.

Rowan adjusted her feet as the captain circled her. There was a feral look in his eyes now, a desperation. He struck suddenly, but it was half-hearted. Rowan deflected the blow easily. 

He was testing.

As he watched her, she watched him. He was slow to get his left leg under him when he took a step, and he dropped his right shoulder before executing a stab. 

They traded several more tentative blows. Then he launched a tirade of slashes, pressing her back as she blocked his strokes. Yet in the last instance, he left that left leg behind as he pulled back. It was a slight lag, but it was enough for her. With a flicker of her blade, she cut him on the back of the calf.

He stumbled, backing away cursing. 

One of his men bumped into him and he shoved the man at Rowan. She blocked the clumsy thrust of the man's short sword, and killed him. 

The battle was winding down. The Myrian Guard had been out-numbered, but they fought with superior skills and efficiency, defending their homeland. A part of Rowan was aware of it, and a hot rush of fierce pride filled her. 

She stalked the pirate captain. She had made him a promise. "I told you that your death was all you would find here. It is time."

His dark brown eyes widened and the expression of cold arrogance fled. Fear flashed briefly through his eyes, quickly replaced by hatred. With a wordless snarl, her attacked, throwing his full weight at her. 

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