Sara's heart pounded in her chest. She thought of a million ways to escape as she traipsed after Nyssa. Her attention kept oscillating back and forth between staring at Nyssa's deadly quiver and glancing at the path under her feet. Her eyes darted around, begging for a chance to run. She knew in her gut that if her movements even minutely betrayed their path, Nyssa's predatory gaze would trap her to the spot.
There was no hope of attempting escape.
Plus, you're in the fucking Himalayas and your leg is bleeding. Where are you gonna go? she criticized herself sharply. She wished Oliver was here with her. There was greater security in numbers-- and Oliver could usually hold his own in a dire situation. He barely flinched when stared down and Sara had admired that about him. Her emotions were always displayed on her face, caught in her breathing, unable to stay quelled and controlled. She had always been that way... Laurel used to point it out to her all the time, flippantly remarking about how 'easy to read' Sara was; Sara couldn't stand the thought of her emotions betraying her now.
They were in the long shadows of the craggy mountain, the one whose name Nyssa rarely spoke. Sara tried to intuit where they were heading. Nyssa had mentioned some sort of entrance to the inside of the mountain, and the cooling air around Sara's face confirmed that they were nearing their unknown destination.
Sara hated not knowing what was about to happen-- her whole body ached with tension.
For all Ivo's monstrosity, at least he kept her abreast of his twisted plans. Nyssa, it seemed, enjoyed issuing dark riddles... letting only the smallest amount of information terrorize Sara into a frenzy. Nyssa's eyes would light up as she watched Sara's expressions shift to anything other than confidence. Sara's stomach dropped at the thought. The woman she was following was the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, the man who relished torturing Sara for an ounce of information. She was his daughter. What did that make Nyssa capable of?
Yet, Sara weighed, Nyssa has saved me twice... surely she hasn't gone through all that trouble to kill me here in some far off place... she gulped at the thought... without an audience.
A resonant roaring sound surged around Sara, at first distant but growing more powerful. She looked ahead and saw the source, a cascading waterfall carving out a new slope along the mountain face. There was a deep pool at the bottom, and their wet, rocky path descended to the base of the falls.
"If you slip, you die," Nyssa stated, sounding rather bored. "Follow me."
Sara felt a little bile building at the back of her throat and she choked it down with the sound of her own voice. "Nyssa!" she called. The onyx eyed woman turned around, cold mist whipping around her form.
"What is going to happen, once we get inside? Tell me..." Sara stammered, no longer wanting to play games.
Nyssa unsheathed her dagger and slammed Sara against the stone wall, pressing the chill blade against Sara's throat. She hissed, "Let me help you understand something right now... I am the Heir to the Demon and no one, NO ONE, speaks to me in such a manner." She exhaled furiously, nostrils flaring. "Your life is in my hands, and your soul is now in the custody of the League. Obey my commands if you value your life." She released Sara, who felt shell-shocked and angry at the same time.
"You have no idea what I've been through and how much I HATE being here!" the blonde yelled. "I'm not your play thing and I'm NOT your slave. If you want to kill me, then do it but I will not simply follow you into some forsaken cavern to just die without so much as a reason!!!" Standing her ground, legs shaking, Sara stared at Nyssa.
Nyssa's eyes were foggy, yet that fiery gleam still danced in her pupils.
"I admire your will, Sara... I surely have no understanding of what you have been through, but I know all too well what strength and restraint it takes to survive here. And you will need every bit of that resilience in addition to your obdurate behavior."
She bristled with energy when she spoke, "Know, Sara, that I have no pity for you. Life is cruel and dark; you must learn to navigate its depths to really live."
Sara's mouth twitched and she approached Nyssa. "Look, Nyssa, I will do what I have to... just... can you promise me one thing?" Nyssa looked startled, but Sara continued. "If I die here, can you tell my family I love them and I'm sorry... please, tell them."
Sara watched as the woman's face fell behind her silk veil.
"I swear it," Nyssa uttered.
The mountain remained so quiet except for the roar of the Falls; they both continued the descent toward the pools, Nyssa motioning left and right to demonstrate how to avoid slippery, treacherous rocks. Sara began to understand what to look for, taking note of the grime patterns that laced their way along the jagged rocks. She ignored the cut on her calf that stung even more fiercely from all of the airborne moisture.
Time seemed to pass slowly for a while and Sara relaxed, becoming more in tune with her surroundings and more accustomed to Nyssa's manner of leading them forward. With the sounds of the waterfall, she almost felt at peace but a wellspring of worry kept finding its way back into her gut. She ached to trust Nyssa but had been put back in her place numerous times now. She didn't know what would set the woman off... or even worse, what Nyssa had meant by 'making her bleed or not letting her find you.'
Sara had been taught how to fend for herself but not against a born and bred assassin. Her bamboo staff had nothing sharp about it, the silk that Dawa gave her seemed pretty useless and her pack was incredibly light-- she wasn't sure what was in there. The prospect of going on an offensive against Nyssa was pretty laughable.
They had stopped now at the base of the falls and Sara gazed up as the torrents of water rained down in front of her. Nyssa motioned for Sara to follow her along a wet and winding path toward the spine of rock supporting the water's downpour. She followed quietly; Nyssa seemed to be humming something. It was almost eerie, listening to the echoes of Nyssa's soft melody playing against the thunderous caterwauling of water and rock, percussive in nature. Nyssa's veil was up again and she turned time and again to make sure that Sara hadn't slipped off the narrow pathway to the back of the falls.
The air became much colder and a draft moved up from inside the aqua-lit cavern behind the curtains of water. There was a strange inscription along the wall of the cavern, and Nyssa had stopped, kneeling and bending her head, her humming growing louder. She uttered beautiful words under her breath and took one of her arrows from her quiver. Letting the arrowhead scratch against the surface of the stone, she wrote another inscription.
من فضلك أعطني قوة
Her head bent, black hair spilling forward, Nyssa rummaged through her pack until she took out a candle with crimson wax and lit it with a match. Sara was moved by the poise and beauty of the woman's movements and the simplistic joy of the ceremony itself. Nyssa's new inscription glowed along the cavern wall, the flickering of the flame merging with the turquoise shadows from the watery wall nearby.
Nyssa placed her quiver and pack on the ground, and took off her overcoat, hood and veil. She sat on the cavern floor clad solely in her red tank and black leggings, her ebony hair falling gracefully over her toned shoulders. Sara felt wiry and disheveled compared to the woman in front of her.
"Sara," Nyssa's hushed voice began, her dark eyes glinting in the light. "Now is the time for your most pressing questions. We have a short reprieve before we go our separate ways, and your inquiry will determine your preparation. I am able and willing to divulge whatever answers you seek until the wick burns out. When that happens, I will give you an hour to make your way away from me... into the mountain. Then, I will come find you. If I succeed in bleeding you first, then you forfeit your favor with the League... which means our arrangement will be cut short and you will perish. If not, if you manage to survive here for three days without my harming you, then you will have earned the right to be trained. If you manage to bleed me or injure me in some way, then not only will you have earned your training, but we will also be released from our time in the mountain."
The expression on Nyssa's face proved that she was indeed the heir to the Demon, or some demonic presence... Sara watched for a portrait or semblance of any emotion on the woman's face, but Nyssa's lips were tight, her eyes glaring. Everything that characterized the softness, the elegance of her personality moments ago was gone, totally darkened by circumstance and, Sara thought, duty. She had seen that kind of gaze before-- the kind where everything you loved slipped beyond your grasp and you were staring through a short of shroud. Slade had the same look in his eyes when he lifted Shado's body off the ground and cradled her in his arms... Oliver's eyes had sunk into darkness when he shot the men on the freighter.
There was a moment for all of them, where time seemed to elapse only as mockery of their actions-- it cavorted away before their eyes. Sara wondered what horrors Nyssa had experienced in this place to make her so devoid of emotion. The thought of such horror now being sprung upon her, with Nyssa as her huntress, worked its ways up Sara's spine.
Dignity... her father's advice came. Sara looked into Nyssa's eyes and drew in a deep breath, allowing herself a moment to savor the air in her lungs before launching into her questioning.