Part 1: Not One of my Best Ideas…
‘Sweeter than chocolate with extra icing sugar on top’, I thought.
These girls were just too much for me. I had to get out of this stupid training room. Thinking of this, I immediately grabbed my things and turned on my heels to leave the room, on my way out actually hitting my sister’s shoulder harder than I probably should have just to get away from that frickin’ lucky couple. It’s unbelievable that my sister actually fell in love with this stupid young thing. She was younger than me and I am Nyssa’s younger sister, which means that she was just twice as much too young for her. And she was blonde. Not even a beautiful, golden blonde – more a dirty, lightened-through-sea-salt-blonde. And those freckles and she was short and so not trained… Ugh, this Sara just freaked me out every single time I saw her.
But my sister… I thought her to be smarter, better than this. She was ‘Heir to the Demon’ which happened to be the reason why I had to follow her orders which again happened to freak me out. I was so over this whole ‘I am the eldest and don’t you dare to talk to me like this’-shit. All of this just got me angry in a way that actually made my head spin – my otherwise quite analytical thoughts simply were not able to originate because I was too busy swearing at either my sister and her girlfriend or my sister being Heir.
When I had first heard that I had to do combat lessons with Sara the next day I had already felt a familiar annoyance creep through my veins. But then again, I thought it was a quite good thing for me. I mean, it was combat. People get hurt in combat. It happens and Nyssa wouldn’t be there to help her little birdie. She would have beaten the hell out of me if she had known of my… intentions. Although beating someone up wasn't really her style. Daggers and bow and arrows are her thing, though... Well, who cared, she probably already knew. The two of us both weren’t really the easy going type of woman, had some smaller issues in the past few years. Smaller and greater issues to be more precise. Being even more precise this actually meant that I wanted to be ‘Heir to the Demon’ but Nyssa was. For whatever reason, I mean, I clearly got the better looks and the less distracted heart. Fancying the blonde one had really made her weak. And still, she's Heir and I'm not. A fact that made me act a little too harsh sometimes. At least that is what I assume she thinks about me, while probably rather using the word ‘cruel’ than ‘harsh’.
However, all I did was following my father’s orders. And as they usually told me to kill… I happened to start enjoying my time while getting a job done. Just to have a little more fun in my life. Honestly, Nanda Parbat sounds all cool and stuff and as much as I like being in a fight, training, improving my skills and so on and so forth: it lacks fun. There is no bar or club or anything. Nanda Parbat is located in the frickin’ Himalayas, there is nothing fun anywhere close. I actually did once ask my father whether I could use his hot tub for a change. Turned out I had no place in the Lazarus Pit. I will spare you the details of the message my father sent me. Anyways, nothing fun around here, so I started doing this and that when I was on a mission, mostly to fight the lingering boredom clouding my thoughts, and I actually developed some enthusiasm in cutting people’s throats or piercing their heart with an arrow – which might sound a little weird now. Nyssa used to give me that look all the time, the one that said ‘You are such a poor and yet irreparable thing’ and it was so damn annoying that I may have started enjoying hurting her as much as I enjoyed killing useless people.
And now, just because I had to look at these love drunk freaks like all day long, I really longed for having some fun. I have to admit that they were probably not obviously love drunk to other people… but me, I just always noticed their looks, their smiles, their tiny little movements to touch the other one for just a second – I noticed them and every single time they made my stomach turn.
I didn’t run out of the room. That wouldn’t have been my style. I was more marching out of it, making sure everyone noticed me leaving. Everyone in this case was just Nyssa, Sara and two other assassins. Yeah, I like being a little more dramatic than I have to be.
My sister’s voice was sharp; her tone already telling me that she was not willing to release me from the lesson. And as much as I didn’t want to obey, I had to and while my head told me to just go on walking, my body was trained to follow Nyssa’s orders so I froze in the middle of my move.
“Where do you think you’re going?” my sister asked, annoyingly calm.
Gritting my teeth I uttered: “As far away as possible”.
“You better had yourself back here in a second or I’ll make you” she breathed, forcing me to turn around to face her.
Damn, I felt like I was spellbound or something. My body didn’t do what I clearly wanted from him but he just followed her order. Crap. As I stood in front of her, looking into her dark brown eyes, slightly darker than my own, I was not able to read anything from her face, she was not revealing a single emotion or thought. The perfect trained assassin’s poker face.
“As you wish, sister”, I hissed, throwing my bag on the ground in front of her feet clearly showing how upset I was.
Sara was watching from a safe distance looking a little tense, almost afraid. At that point of time, I didn’t know what Nyssa had told her about me but it was pretty clear that she was scared of me - which I actually considered very convenient. I hardened my look, laying as much hatred and anger in it as possible and made eye contact with Blondie. She swallowed hard and let her gaze drop to something on the ground in front of her feet, studying it highly concentrated, while it was absolutely nothing there. I smirked. There it was, I could still get a little fun today. It turned out to be not as entertaining as I had hoped, as Nyssa had noticed my interaction with her object of love interest. She told Sara to back off, sit down somewhere at the wall and then got me into a fight, in order “to show Sara how to defend herself first and then attack back” – which was clearly not the reason why she did this.
Every time I actually got a hit on my sister’s body I found myself on my back, her knife against my throat. Damn. As if I was not upset enough she humiliated me in front of this girl. Again, she had knocked me down and I could feel the impact of her punch and following hold not solely hurting my ribcage but also dangerously bruising my ego. I am an excellent fighter. But Nyssa is older than me and as much as I hate to admit it she’s also stronger and as I had threatened her precious girlfriend with my look, she was not really amused. Maybe love didn't make her weak after all and maybe, just maybe, my father was not that wrong about choosing her as his heir.
That thought alone made me sick. I was fully aware of not being professional by letting rage blur my vision but I couldn’t help it. I hissed, not reasoning for a second but just almost automatically rolling over and in a quick move drawing my knife out of my bag, spinning and with all my strength and precision throwing it at Nyssa. She instinctively ducked and prevented the knife from hitting her chest – nevertheless, the blade effortlessly slid deep into her left shoulder, right under her clavicle.
The power of my throw finally knocked her off her feet and on her back and she couldn't stop the pain from forcing a groan to escape her lips.
I stared at my sister, slowly realizing where my anger just led me while I heard Sara gasping, running over to Nyssa who already tried to sit up again. This wasn’t the smartest thing I’d done. Not that I would regret it. I don’t regret the things I do. Ever. Regret just holds you back. No, I didn't regret it, but I was astute enough to know that this would definitely have consequences. Training used to hurt and usually a training was only effective when you got at least some bruises or scratches. But actually penetrating my sister’s shoulder was too much, even for me. My father was not going to like this.
“I am… alright, Sara, just, I have to get this out of my shoulder.”
I heard Nyssa’s voice, raw from the pain and her confusion and perplexity about my action. But while her voice was raw on the one hand - the unleashing authority of the Heir which made her eerily calm showed that she actually was the eldest.
“No.” she denied Sara’s offered hand and rose in her usual graceful move. And she looked huge and damn scary, even for me. I could see the Demon in her. Swallowing, I stood up, definitely not as graceful as her, and suddenly I was the youngest, most stupid person in the room.
“Your lesson is over.”
That was it. No accusation, no insults, no fury, no more fight. Nyssa walked past me out of the room, followed by a very worried and startled blonde and I winced as the door fell shut. Crap. Crap, crap, crap, what the hell was I thinking? And as much fun as I could have had – things turned out to have set me into a really weak and uncomfortable position. Feeling beyond humiliated and actually not angry but kind of astounded about my own injudiciousness, I walked over to my blood-stained knife, grabbed a fresh black long-sleeved shirt from my bag and wrapped it around this so way too judging weapon. Still feeling kind of numb but not forgetting to shoot some glaring glances at the other two assassins who had witnessed this debacle, I left the training room and headed towards my father’s chamber. This would definitely influence my life at least in the next few days, maybe weeks. And surely there wouldn’t be a combat lesson with Sara the next day.
Part 2: Payback
I was right about my father not being proud of my action.
He listened to my explanation, his eyes studying my knife in his hands, otherwise not showing any reaction at all. When I had finished talking he raised from the leather armchair he had been sitting in and with a small gesture ordered me to follow him. I was fraught and all my senses told me to stay alarmed. Ra’s al Ghul wasn’t the forgiving type of man; he would not simply let me go unpunished. By intentionally hurting his daughter, the Heir, my half-sister, I had failed his honor, The League’s Code of Honor to be precise, and for anyone else than me this failure would have meant a fricking death sentence. He stopped in front of a door behind which, I knew, was the ward, the chamber where healers were doing everything they could to medicate all the scratches and cuts and contusions. Probably the room, where my sister was being taken care of at that moment.
I was about to open my mouth to ask my father why exactly we were standing in front of the ward’s door as I suddenly felt a sharp burning right under my left clavicle. My father had just slammed my knife through the exact same part of my body where I had hurt Nyssa before.
Damn it! I gasped, inhaling the cold air around me, the pain causing me to writhe. When the door swung open my father had already disappeared without saying anything. The blade in my shoulder was message enough. Apparently, blood had to have blood in return. The people in the room raised their heads focusing their attention on me for barely two seconds and I made eye contact with my sister who sat on a wooden stool; shirtless and pressing a cloth on the still bleeding wound.
Her eyes went to the knife and she signaled one of the healers to take care of me. And again I was the younger sister and it sucked as much as nearly being impaled. The healers made me sit on another stool next to Nyssa, drawing the blade from my body, helping me undress to the waist and handing me a cloth dipped into some herbal essences. There was silence in the room, apart from some low moans every once in a while and the sound of the healers’ footfalls. No one talked, people were obliged to be quiet and let the healers do their work. Nyssa’s wound was stitched and so was mine and we could leave ward after an hour.
“Father?” she asked when we were standing in front of the door again. I nodded once and I couldn’t help but quipping dryly:
“So, we finally managed to get a family tattoo, isn’t that at least a little amusing for you, sister?”
“We don’t have the same kind of humor, Talia.” she responded and headed towards her own chamber.
Part 3: Recovery
I was glad to be back in the game, no, what am I saying - I was thrilled when a week later my father told me that I’d get a chance to regain his pride by going on a mission. Holy smoke, I longed for some fun time, I actually felt something like a primitive bloodlust taking control over my senses. I needed this change of scenery so badly, far away from Nanda Parbat, far away from those judging other members’ eyes, filled with depreciation rather than fear of me and as far away as possible from my sister and her beloved. My shoulder still hurt a little but since I’m a right-hander, I was barely limited by the injury.
It was only a small job but even those nine days were a huge relieve for my body and soul. It felt like watching my sister being, well, not actually being happy, but… different - still an assassin and still strangely majestic in her position as Heir to the Demon but with something new added to her aura; a touch of love letting her shine even brighter and (and I just couldn’t help but hate Sara for actually doing this to Nyssa) brightening her life - it felt like this new side of Nyssa's personality was slowly choking me to death. That had been supposed to go in a different direction. Anyway, watching my sister shine and actually being in her shadow again and again and again sucked a lot. So I was really enjoying my time in Italy, being wide awake and aware of everything surrounding me and yet everything else that kept on bothering me was buried in oblivion for the short period of bringing death. I tried to soak in every second of ending that negligible married couple’s life, opening their throats with a clear cut, perfectly noiseless, cold-blooded and really feeling myself again, finally, after weeks of redundancy high in the mountains of Tibet. I left the small flat they had been hiding in, taking a deep breath, inhaling the fresh night air, and walked through the streets of Mazara del Vallo – heading towards the port, where a ship lay at anchor to bring me back home. Well, getting to Nanda Parbat is actually not that easy – we had a quite long, boring and exhausting journey behind and ahead of us.
With the first shimmer of sunrise on the horizon we left port towards India. We changed the freighter against a smaller boat when we reached the mangroves of Magdhara, the air thick and damp, travelling up on the Padma River which later turns into Brahmaputra River, reaching the city of Guwahati after three days. This was where the fun part of the journey definitely was over. I love the ocean, I love its crashing waves, its violence and the immeasurable depths of black beneath and all around me.
(Fun fact: My sister saved her Beloved from the fierce grip of the ocean only hours before she would've vanished from this planet's surface for good - can you spot the irony here?)
Still, I love the sea. And there is little that I like less than having to ride through the mountains on a horse’s back. Which was what we actually were supposed to do for the next two days. We had to travel through Bhutan and the Himalayas in order to get back to Nanda Parbat – and damn, this part of the way is the one I actually hate. It’s uncomfortable, it’s sweaty and you’re always bouncing up and down so that you feel like a rubber ball being smashed on the floor over and over again. Riding is just annoying. I mean, not that I don’t know how to do it. I’m not bad at it, but I just don’t like it. I definitely prefer riding a motorcycle (also appears more badass to me) but where we were about to go, there are only two ways to travel: by riding a horse or by foot. (Or with a fancy helicopter but as neither the members of the League nor my father looked at me with pride at the moment, this option was about as considerable as dipping my toes into the Lazarus Pit.) And as a two-day ride would take a lot longer if you actually decided to walk… There was only one option left.
When we finally caught sight of the southern city gate all my muscles were sore and I once again noticed that coming back could still make me feel relieved. At least until the next day I would just get my rest, maybe take a bath and go sleep early.
Yeah, only because people think that I’m egoistic and cold and sadistic it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t appreciate my peace and the warmth of my bed so welcomingly soft after completing a mission. I am mean, I know that. And I kinda like it. I like being feared and, as stated, I also like hurting people; it is actually one of the few things on earth giving me chills of excitement. Most of the time all it needs for me to hurt someone is boredom. I hate being bored and I just have to get myself distracted then. So, yeah, I am egoistic and cold and probably a little sadistic as well. But yes, I still love to get home after a long journey, letting everything go, meditating and finding myself in a place I can call my own and just enjoy the silence and peace of being me, alone with myself.
I mean, I’m still human, am I not?
Part 4: Too Close
“What is it, that you really want, Talia?”-
I wondered whether she had actually meant that as a serious question. We were standing in a training room as I was ordered to show her some defense moves in hand-to-hand combat.
“World peace and personal satisfaction – though not necessarily in this order.” I replied dryly.
What kind of a stupid question was that supposed to be? Everyone ten miles around this place knew exactly what I wanted. Usually and under different circumstances I am willing do whatever it takes to get what I want and what I wanted was being Heir. The problem there was that the only thing that would make me Heir was Nyssa’s death and by causing Nyssa’s death I would definitely have no more right to follow my father in any kind of hierarchy – he would probably kill me just the minute he’d hear about it. Like he almost stabbed me because that was what I did to Nyssa. He would not grant me another favor.
“Look, Talia, I know you hate me. For whatever reason”, Sara continued.
For whatever reason? What exactly was she up to? She could not really think I would want to talk about my feelings. Especially not with my sister’s lover. A small laugh escaped my mouth.
“But-” she sighed “I just want to tell you that whatever is going on between you and Nyssa, I don’t want to be in the middle of your fight. But that if I had to choose, I would always choose her side.”
I couldn’t do anything else than stare at that serious, pale face, concerned and yet dangerously ignorant. I wasn’t exactly sure if she was either really brave or rather absolutely stupid.
“For your own sake I hope that this is not supposed to be a threat.” I said, giving her a cold smile.
She swallowed and hardened her look. “You won’t hurt her again. Do you understand?”
She really meant to threaten me. Part of me just wanted to laugh out loud and tell her to back off – but there was another part of me – the more dominant part in fact – that got angry. This was ridiculous. And I lowered my voice, stepping a little closer, close enough to make her feel uncomfortable, stating:
“I am pretty much sure that my sister appreciates your concern about her well-being but I can assure you one thing: you just made a huge mistake, Sara.”
My eyes were locked with hers and I added “And you do already know that you are right in the middle of our fight. So let me warn you one last time: from now on, you should better watch your back.”
For only a second, I could see fear in her eyes - then she broke the connection between our gazes by turning away and she started moving towards the door. In the middle of a step, she froze and straightened her back. She turned, facing me again and I could see rage written all over her face.
“No. I will not just run away now. You want to hurt her, I know that. She told me about you. She told me who you are, she told me I should be careful because you wouldn’t mind hurting her by hurting me, she told me how you enjoy being a killer. You know what? All you are is a cruel, sicko psychopath asshole – you are as far away from being ‘Heir to the Demon’ as I am and you know I’m right about it and that is exactly what grinds your gears.”
I had been right about her – she was stupid. Even after giving her a second and a third chance to turn away, to leave and by this to save her life, she still was reckless enough to provoke me. With a smile on my lips - I did not even have to fake it - I approached her, already feeling the thrill of adrenaline pulsing through my veins, feeling the rush of being a death-bringing predator, just about to kill. Do I have anger management issues? Maybe. Usually people just aren't stupid enough to really make me angry. And honestly: nobody can blame me for not warning her.
Sara stood paralyzed which was actually a little boring. I would have had enjoyed a little chase. I could watch her realizing that she probably shouldn’t have tempted fate this much, calling me a psychopath asshole while being alone with me in a room full of weapons – not that I was up to using any one of these. I circled her, my moves slow, watching her chest lifting and falling way too fast from breathing heavily. I could feel fear dripping from every pore of her body and I hoped that some kind of survival instinct would set in – something more challenging than this. But to be honest, not being challenged made it even clearer to me that she wasn’t worth becoming one of us, a member of The League. This was pathetic; she should have learned at least something by now. I thought my sister had been training with her but it seemed as if I was wrong –
A sudden move of the blonde confused me for just a split-second and this brief moment of inattention was all she needed to punch her elbow into my stomach, eventually causing me to cough. There it was, that was the sign of survival instinct I had been waiting for. She didn't come too far, though. After two quick steps I stood in front of her. Tilting my head to one side. Feeling a well-known, kind of sadistic smile on my lips. My look as cold as steel. Oh, how I loved being the huntress. I briefly considered telling her to run and then actually go chase after her but I decided that I didn’t want to risk her dying due to stupidity or something else that could easily take away from me the deep pleasure of ripping her head off. Within a glimpse of an eye I turned her around, my hands firmly gripping her head.
I was about to break her neck with a clean, rapid move when I felt my own instincts kick in, an ice-cold shiver running down my spine, sensing death. Spinning, I let go of Sara and caught Nyssa’s arrow right before it pierced my eye. We stared at each other, both our gazes filled with hatred. Sara broke down behind me, breaking the deadly silence filling the room.
“Nice one. Kill and get killed, huh?” I spat. “This appears almost a little too dramatic to me, even for us.”
“You would have been dead the second you snapped her neck” Nyssa replied, now without showing any emotion, her voice freezing cold and dead serious.
“Yeah, no doubt.” I snorted, lifting the arrow in my hand.
She walked through the door where she had remained standing, still ready to grab another arrow from her quiver, an arrow that this time definitely would not miss its target. I didn’t move, my body still filled with rage and I am sure the scene was more than frightening for poor young lovely Sara. My sister’s gaze looked exactly how I felt when she stopped in front of me, and it wasn’t more than a harsh whisper that made time stand still.
“You want to hurt me? Fine, do it. I gave up hoping that one day we could be sisters as we were supposed to be. But if you dare to hurt her again I promise I will hunt you down and I will find you no matter where you try to hide and I will kill you.”
I felt Nyssa’s arrow splinter in my hand as I had clenched my fist a little too hard. Because I knew, as she had never broken a single promise she had made in her whole lifetime, that my fun with Sara was over.
Well, Sara was supposed to learn a lot about moving without making a sound, killing, weapons, martial arts and sensing death before it actually got a hit on her. Which meant that I could still get a chance to work with her. Or against her. Or make her body scream from pushing every single muscle to its limit. Or even if I was to be supervised, which I actually could imagine happening (my sister's got some safety-issues) - at least I could still scare her.