Nyssa focused on staying as present as possible while Sara rattled off her nervous questions, one after the other. The questions were elementary and nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that Nyssa hadn't heard before... numerous times.
She recalled the stream of potential initiates who had made it to this point in the past, braving the trail and the ghastly carapace of the tundra at dusk to simply die hours after sojourning into the mountain.
If they were lucky enough to survive for even that long... So many had perished inside-- she casually wondered whether Sara would come across any of the rotting bodies. Talia used to laugh gleefully whenever she heard the shrieks of an initiate discovering a corpse somewhere inside the echoing tunnels. The thought of her younger sister wrenched Nyssa's stomach... if Talia was here, Sara would surely be dead within the first hour.
Talia had a penchant for almost sadistic cruelty, toying with those she pursued only to give them a faint glimmer of hope before ending their days. She had always been that way, even when her and Nyssa played as young girls. Their father found Talia's spirit to be enthusiastic, much different from Nyssa's wary manner of assessing what needed to be done. Nyssa's superior training in martial arts, acrobatics, espionage, the healing arts and toxicology gave her numerous advantages over her opponents but she believed in fighting with honor; she refused to wantonly end lives.
Her pride in this matter had cost her dearly in the past. Especially here, she thought. She banished the memories to the corners of her mind. She wasn't ready to confront the grisly recollection of her own trials in the Mountain. It bubbled up, unwanted, and Nyssa remembered how Talia almost destroyed her humanity as a child, pushing her older sister to the brink of her morality and cruelty. Yet, it was exactly Nyssa's dark understanding of what it meant to survive and thrive that her father esteemed. It was her ability to act and her incredible intuition that set her on a pedestal compared to Talia.
And how Talia hated her for it...
Nyssa's attention snapped back to Sara. The blonde's eyes were full of a grim determination, yet her body movements betrayed her inner anxieties. She quibbled on, asking about potential food sources, whether another exit to the mountain existed aside from this entrance behind the falls, whether there would be other League members in wait... all excellent survival questions. All of the inquiries were met with bleak responses.
Nyssa observed Sara and began noticing that the woman looked more like a fearful girl-- so lost and alone inside. Was she hoping for a guardian of sorts, someone who could save her from the chaos around her? No, Nyssa thought, she desires someone who could save her from the chaos within. It struck Nyssa that Sara had had a charmed life back wherever she came from.
Nyssa saw Sara glance at the crimson waxed candle. She braced herself up with her bamboo staff and placed the pack over her shoulder. Peering down at Nyssa, Sara broke the assassin's partial reverie. "Nyssa, if you kill me in there, don't stab me in the back. I want to be facing you." The look was back, plastered over Sara's face. Nyssa relished peering at the woman like this-- this was the core of her character. Staunchly determined, stubborn, full of dignity... Nyssa smiled at Sara.
"Then, let it begin," Nyssa stated. As if her words were incantation, the candle extinguished and an inky darkness and the smell of incense filled the cavern.
She could hear Sara's boots echoing off in the distance. Sara was trying to put as much distance as possible between the two of them within that first hour. Nyssa unsheathed her dagger and remained sitting on the cavern floor, listening to her prey's footsteps.
A smiled curved its way along Nyssa's lips. Sara had made her first mistake.