If only she had thought to schedule the duel with Layth closer to sunset rather than sunrise. The knight had gotten poor sleep so when Olivia came to wake her up to get ready for the fight, Penelope felt as if she had never gone to bed in the first place. The lieutenant stretched out her limbs and rubbed her eyes as she tried to shake the hint of anxiousness she felt churning in her stomach. I should have never challenged him to this stupid duel. She groaned inwardly as she put on her armor. Stepping out of her tent, she was immediately greeted by Olivia, who seemed to be beaming.
“Ready to go kick your brother’s ass?” Olivia grinned, seeming unfazed by her friend’s tired appearance.
“Not really… Gods I dread facing him now..” Penelope sighed, running a hand over her face. “You think there’s a chance he’ll agree to calling it off?”
Olivia pretended to mull it over for a second, tapping her finger against her chin in thought. “Well, this is your brother we’re talking about soooo…. I’m going to have to go with no.” she answered with a small snicker. Seeing Penelope deflate slightly, Olivia gave her friend a reassuring nudge. “Oh come on, Penelope. You can handle a duel with your brother. You’re fierce with a sword and if you need something to fire you up, just think about all the things he has done! I mean, there’s a reason you snapped and challenged him.”
“I guess you’re right..” Penelope mumbled. Trying to listen to her friend’s advice, she began to recount how infuriating her brother had been since she had returned to the camp. She thought of his harsh words towards her, his threats about Crow, and how he tried to derail any plan she presented to the barons. A spark of anger and motivation began to bubble inside her. It felt encouraging and the knight continued to focus on some of the terrible things her brother had done. Normally thinking of such things brought a sense of shame since he was her brother and his actions were out of her control but in this case, it gave her a reason to continue forward with the duel. “Yeah… he’s been terrible.”
“Exactly!” Olivia grinned as they continued walking towards the training grounds. “And now you have the chance to get back at him for it!”
Penelope returned her friend’s grin with a smile and nodded her head in agreement. The two friends soon reached the training grounds. It wasn’t surprising to see that a small crowd of knights had gathered to witness the fight. Whenever duels took place, it was common for rumor to spread and crowds to gather. Still, Penelope couldn’t say she was fond of having the additional pairs of eyes watching her. She let out a breath and focused her gaze towards the sparring area, where her brother was already waiting. Layth, looking eager for the fight, gave his training sword a few mock swings before turning his head to look over at his half sister. As their eyes met, he smirked confidently and rested the blunted blade on his shoulder.
“I was wondering when you were going to show up. I thought you might have chickened out.” Layth sneered.
Penelope rolled her eyes in response as she stepped into the sparring area. She stopped to pick up one of the training swords, gripping its handle firmly in her hand. “I assure you I have no plans on backing out.” she responded coldly. At least, not anymore…. She added to herself.
“Let me know when you two are ready and we can let the duel begin.” Mia announced from the sidelines. The baroness stood near the edge of the area with her arms crossed and an intrigued expression set upon her face. As Penelope looked over at her, the baroness flashed a small smile.
“I’ve been ready.” Layth replied haughtily. “ What about you, sister?”
Penelope glanced at the small crowd around them. Most of their comrades seemed to just be interested in watching the fight but she did note a good handful of knights sneering in her direction, obviously rooting against her. It was difficult to say if they were friends of Layth or simply resented her for working with and eventually courting Crow. The crowd wasn’t all bad though. She located Olivia, who was quick to give her a thumbs up, Gavin, who had a serious expression with his arms folded over his chest, and Tomas; who stood near Mia, glancing at the two siblings with a frown on his lips.
The knight let out a breath, bracing herself for the fight as she took a step forward. Raising her sword defensively, she met her brother’s gaze with a challenging look. “I’m ready.”
“Wonderful then we shall begin the duel. Warriors, raise your weapons and prepare to fight in three.. two...” Mia paused as she counted down, eying both opponents before dropping a raised hand. “One!”
Almost as soon as the duel’s beginning was announced, Layth rushed towards her. It was exactly what Penelope expected him to do though. The female knight had trained, sparred and dueled with her brother for many years so his relentless fighting style came as no shock to her. With the agileness of a dancer, she slipped away from the slashes of his sword, parrying it with her own when it did swing close. Her brother didn’t allow her much breathing room though. He was just as aware of her style of fighting as she was of his own. Layth slashed at her, causing the sound of clinking metal to fill the air as he lunged at his sister once more in an attempt to overwhelm her defense with his attacks.
Penelope swiftly deflected his blows with her sword. When he lunged forward again, she swept to the side, aiming to try and utilize a weak spot in his form. She used the handle of her sword to hit his side. Layth let out a small grunt of frustration at the strike and lashed out a leg to try and sweep her legs out from under her while he had her so close. Penelope managed to get out of his reach just in time, shooting her brother a proud smirk that was not well received. The determination and anger in his gaze was unwavering. It was enough to let the female knight know that he had no intention of losing. Well, neither do I… she thought, clenching the hilt of her sword stubbornly. She lunged forward at him this time, causing their swords to clash briefly before she pushed off of him. Wanting to maintain her offensive position, the female knight aimed her sword at his hand, slashing low with hopes to make herself an opening.
Layth deflected her attacks but not with ease. The male knight was tense and focusing heavily to make sure not to give away any weak points. With his jaw clenched, he knocked back Penelope’s sword and charged forward. Unprepared for the sudden thwack to the side of her sword, the female knight had been forced to make an opening and Layth took advantage of it by sweeping his arm out to knock her to the ground. Due to their size difference, Penelope went down with ease.
She groaned as she fell on her back and hurriedly blocked his second attack as he swung his sword down at her. Layth glared at her and pushed against her sword. “I hope you’re ready to lose.” he sneered.
The female knight rolled her eyes. “It isn’t over yet, bastard.” she growled in response. Taking advantage of his focus on getting his sword at level with her throat, she swept her leg out and knocked her brother down to the ground beside her. He landed with an undignified yelp that made a smirk cross her lips. Apparently Layth had thought his footing was more solid than it had been.
Penelope rolled away from her brother, lunging to her feet as swiftly as possible. Layth was just as fast to recover though and was already climbing back to his feet by the time she moved to face him again. Halfway up to his feet, their blades bounced off of each other once more as the male knight deflected his sister’s attack. His jaw was tight with frustration and beads of sweat began to form on his forehead. Winning wasn’t coming as easily as he had hoped and that only added fuel to Penelope’s fire. Her next onslaught of attacks came relentlessly as she buzzed around him, trying to strike at every possible angle. The female knight was intent on using his own form of fighting against him now that he was becoming stressed about the possibility of losing. The close clashing of metal caused no strife for Penelope but Layth was a different story as his eyes darted from her to her weapon in an attempt to calculate where she would strike next. She had successfully gotten into her brother’s head.
Though Layth’s skill with defense was decent, it wasn’t up to par with his offense. Between her tricks and her skill with a sword, all Penelope needed was a small opening and as soon as one presented itself, she took it. Her brother leaned slightly too far left as he deflected one of her onslaught of attacks, leaving his right wide open. Instead of making an obvious attack for it with her blade, Penelope swung a fist forward, catching the side of her brother. Layth grunted and stumbled. His recovery from the hit wasn’t fast enough to stop his half sister from raising her blade to his neck.
“Yield?” Penelope asked with winded breath. Forcing Layth to be on defense was no easy task and she was feeling the full effects of it.
Backing down was never something that came easy to the male knight. As the two siblings stared each other down, there was a fire inside his gaze that looked ready to engulf her if given the chance. But with one look down at the blade pointed at his throat, the fire was trapped to his eyes alone. The next words out of her brother’s mouth came out slow and bitter. “I yield.”
Penelope’s sword lowered upon hearing the words and she turned to look to Mia. It was custom that the match’s victor needed to be approved by the referee before the duel’s results were finalized. Mia’s lip twitched upward into a smile. “The fight was fair. Penelope Vermillion is the champion of this duel!” she announced proudly.
With the thrill of the duel dying with its end, Penelope became aware of the crowd around them for the first time since they had begun trading blows. It appeared their audience had grown and from the sound of it, she had not been the fan favorite. Murmurs and awkward glances erupted from the larger majority of the crowd, who now had to deal with watching their favored Vermillion accept defeat. It hadn’t been her intention to make an example out of her brother to his followers and those who looked down on her for her actions but regardless, it appeared she had.
On the opposite spectrum, a smaller amount of the crowd responded with claps and cheers. The strongest of her supporters was naturally Olivia. The other female knight gave loud cheers, grinning like a fox as her friend was announced the winner. Tomas let out a breath and as he caught Penelope’s gaze, he shot her a friendly smile and joined amongst the friendly claps. The female knight managed to catch Gavin’s normally stoic face break into an amused smirk as he cheered softly for his friend and the defeat of Layth.
Penelope faced the crowd with a proud grin but didn’t indulge in her victory any further than that. Instead, she turned her head back to address her half brother, only to find that he was already making his quiet exit from the sparring ring while most of the focus was on her. Her grin dissolved slightly as he looked back over his shoulder to meet her gaze with one final glare before cutting his way through the surrounding crowd. While he was being greeted with words of sympathy, Penelope turned and put away the training sword before making her own exit. Her supporters were fewer than Layth’s but she still received a few words of congratulations from her comrades.
“Excellent swordsmanship out there lieutenant!” grinned one of the older knights named Robin, who gave her a firm clap on the back.
“Thank yo–” Penelope began before an arm wrapped around her shoulders and pulled her away with clear enthusiasm.
“You’re damn dangerous with a sword! I don’t know if your brother’s pride will ever recover from that.” Olivia laughed as she now walked with her friend. Alongside her sudden arrival, the knight realized that Gavin had also quietly made his way up besides the two.
Penelope smiled at her friend. “I’m sure he’ll bounce back just fine. I just pray it was enough to keep him from constantly irritating me.” she paused before a more mischievous smirk crossed her lips. “Though, I must admit, beating him into shame was quite satisfying to some degree.”
“It was satisfying to watch.” Gavin admitted with an amused expression.
“No kidding! Your poor viceroy is going to be sad he missed the clash of the Vermillions.” Olivia joked.
The female knight gave a laugh and nodded her head in agreement. “True but if Layth honors our agreements, he’ll at least get some entertainment from my proud brother congratulating us on our courtship.” she pointed out. She shrugged her shoulders and continued onward. “Anyways, come on, let’s go get breakfast. I’m starving now!”