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… and the immediate aftermath, for clarity’s sake.

You asked for it, you got it! Since this week’s WIPpet is rather long, I’ll just jump right on in with 881 words = (month+date+last two digits of year)squared – [first digit of month x (first digit of month+second digit of month+date+last two digits of year)]. Have fun with that.

We last left Arvid trapped in the Romanesque steam room with the biggest, badest, nakedest warrior in the tribe and a dozen of his cronies…

Arvid crouched into a ready stance. A bead of sweat trickled down her neck. She breathed in. The muggy air was heavy with male pheromones and aggression. These men were angry. And worse. Be smart, she told herself. Jedrek won’t be fighting alone.

Jedrek quirked a finger at her, smiling smugly. “Come on, then.”

Arvid stayed put.

“What’s the matter? Afraid to tangle with a man?”

The left side of his mouth pulled a little higher than the right when he smiled. Left-handed, then. That was the side he’d start on. Arvid did her best to keep her own face from betraying any secrets.

Jedrek’s smile quirked into a leer. His eyes trailed painfully thoroughly over her body. “Or perhaps you’re afraid you’ll enjoy it too much.”

The other men joined in with graphic descriptions of possibilities. Arvid held her ground, suppressing the icy shiver that tried to sneak its way up her spine. People who fell for jeers made easy kills She refused to be one of them.

Bare feet slapped against the stone floor, inching closer to her unguarded back. If Jedrek didn’t make his move soon, Arvid would have to make hers first. She struggled to keep her breathing even . Be patient. Focus, focus, focus.

Jedrek charged. Arvid stomped hard on the bench, lifting the opposite end, and shoved it at him. Without waiting for his reaction, she yanked open the door and ran. People blocked much of the hallway. She ducked and weaved between them as fast as possible, aiming for the rectangle of light leading outside. Squawks of surprise quickly turned to indignant shouts, startled shrieks, and heavy thuds Arvid guessed to be bodies hitting the walls. Jedrek’s war cry echoed in the hall.

Arvid reached the door. She bolted into the arena. The sun dazzled her eyes. She ran blindly toward the rack of weapons on the other side, blinking fiercely to adjust her vision.

Feet pounded the dusty ground behind her, too close. “You’ll be sorry for that, Warrior Woman! I’m going to beat you into a pulp!”

Her eyes cleared.

“Then I’m going to take you right here in front of everyone!”

She reached for a net.

“I’ll make you scream my name!”

She grabbed a spear.”

“Then I’m going to kill you and show everyone what a fake you are!”

She spun, swinging the net in the direction of his voice. The ropes tangled around his ankles. He fell. She threw the spear.

The arena hushed.

Jedrek stared wide-eyed at the spear pinning his shoulder to the ground, his breath coming quick and shallow. His friends from the steam room stood frozen in their tracks, expressions of horror on their faces. A crowd of gawkers looked from Jedrek to Arvid and back.

Arvid dropped her arms to her side. She forced her lungs to inhale on a count of eight to still her pounding heart. A cacophony of emotions screeched wildly in her mind while adrenaline ebbed from every muscle in her body, leaving her limbs exhausted. She exhaled to a count of ten and thought about a recipe for helenberry cakes, her favorite dessert. “Think about stuff you do every day,” Kiano told her the first time she landed a blow that hurt an opponent, “something simple and ordinary to clear the conflict.”

Jedrek lie on the ground, naked. Knowing his intentions, Arvid was tempted to leave him pinned there until one of his cronies or someone in the crowd let him up. Regardless of his conduct, though, she felt it unbecoming of her to treat a member of her own tribe with such callousness. She took one more deep breath and selected a sharp sword before crossing the space between them.

The toweled men scattered. Arvid didn’t bother to watch where they went. Jedrek’s eyes widened further on her approach. She shoved aside a naughty thought that it might be nice to hear him scream in fear of her and grasped the butt of the spear. She lowered the sword until Jedrek’s eyes crossed looking at it.

“Bite the net,” she commanded.

Jedrek, his body perhaps already in shock, didn’t seem to hear. Arvid slashed the sword through the shaft of the spear, cutting it as close to Jedrek’s body as possible. His eyes rolled back in his head. Great. Now he’d be of no help for the next part.

Careful to avoid tangling her own feet in the net, Arvid moved one leg to the other side of Jedrek. She squatted over him, being sure to keep her legs and breasts from touching any part of his body, and worked her hands under his shoulders. With a few quick breaths for preparation, she heaved the large man off the part of the spear still lodged in the ground. He roared in pain, no longer unconscious. Arvid shuffled her feet to the right until his side cleared the shaft before letting his shoulders fall back to the ground.

The crowd burst into applause. Several people ran forward. “I’m going to cut a piece from her tunic!”

“Well I’m going to get a piece of Jedrek’s tunic because he was her first kill!”

“He’s not dead.”

“And he’s naked.”

“I’m going to get the spear!”

“No you’re not! I am!”

A Companion of Diana by Jean-Louis Lemoyne, 1724 Arvid once suffered a wardrobe malfunction while sparring with one of her early crushes. After that, she started using double knots on her armor ties.

A Companion of Diana by Jean-Louis Lemoyne, 1724
Arvid once suffered a wardrobe malfunction while sparring with one of her early crushes. After that, she started using double knots on her armor laces.

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