The climb became much more arduous and Nyssa's body ached with the joy of being so alive and free. The looming promontory of the mountain before her no longer gave her pause. She relished the chance to challenge herself once more... this time, the true danger was Sara's, not her own. She turned around once in a while to make sure Sara could keep up.
Every time they caught each other's gaze, Sara's sapphire eyes would glint and she would grit her teeth together, bracing her body for another push, another step forward. Nyssa could tell the blonde was growing tired as they swiftly ascended the rocky trail. Nyssa turned around to watch Sara's climb. She observed the struggle in the woman's limbs, noticing that Sara was completely devoid of trail knowledge. She proved oblivious to the fact that the smaller rocks were more treacherous to step on than the larger boulders that callously jut out here and there along the path.
But it wasn't time to guide Sara. Not yet. She had much to prove before she had the privilege of listening to an insider's recommendations. Instead, Nyssa smiled as she watched Sara struggle-- she was at least twenty paces away, lagging behind significantly. Sara frustratingly pushed some damp strands of golden hair away from her face and looked ahead at Nyssa, catching sight of the assassin's knowing smile.
"You think this is funny..." Sara huffed, "am I entertaining to you?"
About to respond, Nyssa's eyes fell on the slight shifting pattern on the ground close to Sara.
While disappointed that Sara wasn't watching where she was stepping, Nyssa didn't vocally correct Sara's almost fatal mistake. Instead, she drew an arrow from her quiver and pulled back until she felt the bow's sinews stretch to their limit. The red fletchling rest quietly upon her cheek; an instant later, the arrow sliced through the air and pierced the skin of a snake, which lay completely dead and inches from the soles of Sara's left boot.
"AGHHHHH!" Her face blanching at the sight of the skewered snake, Sara drew back instantly, falling to the ground. Her legging tore on a jagged rock and she used a hand to cover the wound, while her other grasped at the bamboo rod that had clattered to the ground. As quickly as she had fallen, Sara propelled herself back up into a partially defensive standing position. Nyssa was impressed with the girl's reflexes-- they bode well for future... incidents.
"Holy shit!" escaped Sara's mouth.
Sara stared at Nyssa, whose bow arm was still flexed and ready to strike, another arrow nocked.
Nyssa couldn't help but let out a laugh.
"Yes, I confess you are terribly amusing," Nyssa responded to Sara's former question.
Sara's expression went blank for a second and then she smiled ever so slightly. "Thank you, Nyssa."
Nyssa immediately stopped laughing and she entreated, "For what?"
"Saving me. Again..." Sara said while glancing into Nyssa's eyes.
Nyssa felt her cheeks flush at the thought of Sara remembering what had happened in the Lazarus Pits; she quickly covered the sensation up by barking, "As of yet, there is no need to offer your thanks. Save that for when it's truly deserved."
Sara nodded, though her brows drew together in confusion. "I already think you deserve it. You pulled me, mostly dead, from that wreck and somehow now my body is healed except for the lashes your father's man gave me in the tower... and I have had plenty of opportunities to die so far, but you have kept me alive." Her voice trailed off, and Nyssa's eyes glowed.
"Why?" came the simple question.
Nyssa contemplated what answer to give. Many swam through her thoughts and betrayed her calm exterior. Because your soul is pure... unlike everyone's here. You have knowledge of the miracle substance and your time on the island is critical to my furthering a position alongside my father... I deeply fear what is to befall me if I fail to uphold the Laws of the League... All logic passing through the channels in Nyssa's mind culminated to one thought. Her lips vibrated at the memory.
Because you are special. You simply are.
Staring at Sara, Nyssa said, "I recognized the pain you have been put through and thought that if you could survive the ordeal you witnessed, surely you deserve a chance to prove your merit and forge a better life... That is why we are here."
Her hand motioned to the mountain and its looming shadows. "Here, begins your training. Should you secure your survival, you will earn the privilege of being trained as a member of the League of Assassins and I will be your mentor."
The influx of information washed over Sara, and she stayed silent, listening.
"I will be with you for the first hour, guiding you, after we pass through the mountain gate. Then you are on your own. Your ultimate goal is to find me and make me bleed. Should you fail this goal, your secondary aim is to design a way to prevent me from finding you... while surviving the conditions inside the mountain depths."
Sara's eyes turned to ice. Nyssa could sense the fear prickling along the blonde's skin. She had felt similarly years ago when her father, empty of any compassion, told her the same... either kill or be killed. Have conviction to act or be destroyed by reacting.
"As I said before, Sara," Nyssa controlled her voice so it was as comforting as steel, "there's no proper need to thank me yet."