World of Warcraft: Azshara's Champion

In the midst of a heated undersea conflict, one Naga warrior proves her worth to the delight of all her superiors but one. In the end, one duel will decide this warrior's future forever.

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2. The Duel

“I’ve been much anticipating this day,” Zalgasz said. He began to salivate.

 

His long tail had curled slightly, a traditional stance held by seasoned veterans of war. He would swing his massive tail in an attempt to topple his opponent, and would then rapidly dispatch his foe. Nar’jira, however, was all too familiar with such tactics, and had in mind her own plan of action. As before when she was about to face off with the Kvaldir general, she began to count.

 

One.

 

Her fists tightened around the hilts of her blades, turning white-green in color. Her eyes narrowed as she tore into those of her enemy. She hissed low.

 

Two.

 

The blood began flowing through her veins at a rapid speed. Her breathing quickened, and she curled the upper half of her body forward ever so slightly. Not one movement of her opponent went unnoticed.

 

Three!

 

She shot forward at an alarming speed towards her enemy. As anticipated, his tail went flying forward. She began twirling rapidly in motion, quickening her speed as she successfully dodged the attack, and swung her own blades at his chest and neck. He, too, proved to be just as swift in battle: he leaned backwards and deflected her blows, meeting her blades with his own enchanted swords and envenomed daggers, igniting brilliant sparks that lit the dim environment around them.

 

Their brethren stood entranced now, and utterly silent. The only sound echoing into the nether beyond was the fierce clashing of blade against blade, the guttural growls of the general and the shrill hissing of the battlemaiden. Two of Nazjatar’s finest warriors fought in intense combat this day, and nothing in all of Azeroth could possibly interfere.

 

Except, perhaps, one thing.

 

Mal’zara drew her gaze once more out to the vast horizon beyond. The sighting of a figure moving towards them was now unmistakable. It was still so far away, perhaps miles upon miles, but noticeable enough to her keen eyes. The thought that something had been slowly but surely approaching unnerved her, and she interpreted this to be some dire foreboding. Now she grew fearful. Even though such duels were a common part of Naga culture, Mal’zara dreaded that she might incur some unbearable wrath upon herself for permitting it. She trembled slightly, and resumed watching the spectacle, albeit with great apprehension.

 

“Give it up, tide-wench! No one has ever overcome General Zalgasz on the field of battle!”

 

Nar’jira said nothing, but only continued fighting, fully focused now upon her one task at hand: to humiliate her enemy so completely that his name would become a byword of keen reproach among all Naga.

 

The general shared this exact sentiment, and he eagerly voiced it. “The people sing your praise, they lift you on high in exultation, and yet…they will move on, unaware of you, as if you never even existed! Their adoration of you is all for show! When this is over, you will be counted among the outcasts!”

 

Nar’jira tensed slightly at these words, but her resolve remained sure. Zalgasz noticed this immediately, and gave a fanged smile through his elongated snout. Her lower right arm swung rapidly towards his scaly torso, and succeeded in nicking even a few scales off his tough, slimy body. He winced and gave out a cry. Blood began to seep out of the infliction, and he grew more desperate to devastate her resolve.

 

“Whore! Don’t you see where you stand in our society? The queen herself has bestowed upon me great honor and praise. And you? You have never beheld her face so close as I. You have never received the Blessing as I have. All you get is the praise of some ill-begotten wench whose remains smear the floor of Neptulon’s domain! Oh how great you are! Forgive me if I do not bow!”

 

The complete contempt and depth of vehemence that came through in his quivering voice were evident now in his fighting. Gone were any pretenses of honorability. He lashed at her wildly, turning completely savage, battling with unbridled rage. His attacks came so quickly that it was proving more and more difficult for her to deflect his incessant assaults. At last, he thrust an envenomed dagger forward and it pierced flesh. Nar’jira dropped one of her own blades to grasp at the wound in her upper-left arm. Pain coursed through her body, and she realized then what he had done to her. She could feel the venom burning through her veins, and her eyes went wide at the realization.

 

Zalgasz did not waste this opportunity. He resumed his flagrant attacks, growling and grunting through a tightened jaw with each swing, driving his blades upon her with all his strength. Blow after blow, his only desire now was to do away with his enemy forever. Yet she did not falter, parrying each blow successfully. She swung around rapidly and her tail knocked him down to the side, giving her a chance to regain her composure. She picked up the fallen blade with her wounded arm; the pain seared her entire body, but she would not yield. She could not.

 

“Perhaps I underestimated you, General,” she wheezed, her breathing now shallow and fast. “I would dare…even to say…that you and I…are similar in mood…as well as strength. Yet…you lack…something…I have…always possessed: integrity.”

 

He spat, clearly undaunted by her words, but he had not the chance to besmirch them with cold mockery. She swung all four blades at him, and he deflected all save one. A sword pierced through his lower torso. It was his turn to gape with horror now, incredulous that this female could achieve something so great over him.

 

In spite of the dizziness and overwhelming weariness that afflicted her, Nar’jira smiled. Her pride had almost fully recovered. She slowly drew out her blade from his body, savoring the moment, and swam back several feet, resuming her battle-ready stance, waiting for the vile creature to endeavor some retort in his enfeebled state.

 

Meanwhile, Mal’zara had become increasingly more anxious as the battle progressed. Each had suffered dire wounds from the other, but it seemed that they were truly equals in battle. Yet it was not their capabilities, nor even their duel to the death that moved her, but it was the figure that she had seen. When last she looked away from the scene of battle out into the horizon, she no longer could see it. Whether she should remain ill at ease or take it to mean that all would be well, she could not determine, and as such, her anxiety had deepened.

 

Zalgasz struggled to regain himself after enduring this humiliating blow. He foamed at the mouth in absolute rage against her, and let out a loud cry that pierced the ears of the Naga around them, turning to his side and grasping at his wound. Nar’jira only continued to smile at him, though she was no better for the wear.

 

“Why not just finish me off, great champion? See how you have weakened me so?” The general gave a sidelong glance at his opponent, hoping to bait her.

 

Nar’jira was no fool. She knew if she dealt him a mortal blow now that it would only serve to immortalize him among the people: the tragic tale of the general fallen in an honorable duel would live on for countless ages. She cursed the thought. No, she would let him undo himself before the assembly through his own destructive bitterness. She would wait for him to make the next move. When word of his defeat finally reached their queen, she would revile him and command that his name be forgotten for all eternity.

 

Though she had been reeling from the poison, Nar’jira somehow began to feel better, regaining some of her concentration. Although Naga were naturally resistant to poisons, the venom he had used had been very potent. How then was she suddenly feeling more at ease than before? She could not interpret if this meant the venom had slowed or ceased, or if it just might take a turn for the worse.

 

The answer she sought had appeared behind all the Naga without warning.

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