This, “beast,” as it turned out, was truly deserving of the title. If she was a less well-trained combatant she would have hesitated, given him the moment he would need to take the advantage and get her on the defensive. It shouldn’t have been possible, aiming and blocking a strike from an unforeseen angle while firing with the opposite hand into her face with a blowgun. How he had even managed to get the long way around her axe head and make meaningful contact she couldn’t have said. She was fast, and moving in a straight line to his head. He was faster. So much so that he precisely calculated the angle of her strike, the dimensions of her weapon, and managed to get around the axe head in a blow that even without the slightest bit of thought should have taken longer to reach from his angle than it would take from her angle, and he was reacting! Should he manage to become the proactive opponent she would invariably lose, die here on these sands, and never return to her school, her students, never even manage to spend the small fortune she had been paid for accepting this bout in the first place.
This was something she would not, could not allow. As contact to her weapon came from the wrong side and at the wrong angle her hand was already off of the blade, less so because she thought it through and more so because she was missing a pinky and much of a ring finger on that hand. This didn’t matter with a two handed grip, nor did it matter for the blow she had attempted even one handed. It was the kinetic reverberation that challenged grip, not the forward momentum of a swing, and it was the signal she had been waiting for to go with plan B. The halberd had thudded, hard, into the beast’s pauldron, but not only was he faster than she, he was a veritable outsider. His arm was gripping the halberd she had just loosed from her grip in time with her own right arm going for her punch dagger, her left leg moving forward and toward the enemy. He wouldn’t have time to reposition the awkward halberd or his axe, not meaningfully enough to matter. In the moment it would take to grip the blade her left leg was moving toward him, punch blade gripped in her right hand and her left arm extended to contest any weapon that made it’s way into her threat zone by accident or otherwise.
She had him. Flanks exposed, belly exposed, arms occupied and too high to react. His blood was her’s, and none too soon. An extended bout with this monster couldn’t be won. But as she took the two feet necessary to extend and thrust, he was another foot, another half-step away. If she took that step she could no longer guarantee success. It wasn’t possible! What kind of monster was this, that could float across the sand as though an Outsider possessed, the mocking face carved into its mask of steel and death the only emotion it gave, breath hot enough that she could feel the phantom traces of it in the ground she had just covered should she have had the time to think. She didn’t. A quarter of a second was all it took to make the difference between life and death on these sands, and the law of blood and sand demanded the death of her opponent or, in her defeat at the hands of this flesh and blood monster, her own life extinguished and forever cast into the void nothingness of the end. Aibhilin was ready neither to meet that fate nor to allow the Imperials the satisfaction of watching their pet monster, so fast it moved beyond anything she had ever witnessed and mocked her at every turn, of delivering her to it.
She didn’t consciously understand what was to happen, but the lizard-brain tempered by years of blood, sweat and tears in the brutal training endured by those who bring death upon the sand told her all she needed to know. He could reposition now, if only with the eighth of a second and half-step the monster had somehow snuck into the equation of the blood game in defiance of convention and expectation, but it would be enough to counter her punch dagger. It would be what he would naturally understand to be coming. She had seen his eyes pass over her hidden right hand with the other eyes, the ones of reptilian wings and mocking silence which told you that someone was watching you though you could not say how you knew, and were usually proven correct. A strike to the likely places would be met either with the flat of a blade or the point of a spear, though there wasn’t time for even this beast to make a meaningful thrust or bring down a meaningful blow, or so the lizard-brain told her. There was time now for one, and only one course of action should she intend on returning home after today, and she did intend on returning home.
Her hands showed all the signs that he would have expected to inform him that she would strike with her punch dagger toward his mid-section despite the sudden change in distance, and she knew that if she did it would be her final mistake, not in her conscious mind but deeper, in the dark, dripping cavernous places of the before-mind passed down to her by thousands of generations of no-women, the pre-humanity of the primordial ooze of the world before the old world. She instead of taking the half step with her right leg and thrusting with her punch blade in time for the opponent to have repositioned and prepared for her now obvious strike pushed off of her planted leg and shot down, low and with the confidence of an experienced grappler, extending her arms and tucking her legs to her chest in the air, intending on taking the monster’s legs simultaneously and moving through them to the opposite side of his body, sliding on the sand after contact and all the while as she dragged him and slowed. She knew somewhere in the background that there were claws on his boots, but she also knew that they would be seeking the confidence of firm ground at the moment, positioning themselves to allow the monster upon whom they stood the capability to block her thrust, turn it away from himself, or simply put the tip of her own halberd in his left hand in the path of her charge.
If they somehow perked up and caught her in the shoulders or neck it would be through, but she subconsciously knew the opponent wouldn’t likely have predicted this course of action. His concern was the punch dagger, his step backwards to offset her footing and purchase the half of a quarter of a second needed to reposition his hands, and the weapons held within them. He was moving backwards, seeking firm footing. She would take this from him. He was eying her right hand, and focusing on his own hands, weapons carried in each. She would strike where he was unconcerned, momentarily unaware of lost in other concerns. It was the best chance of success she would get against this foe, this Outsider who defied the bounds of anything she had ever witnessed in the arena in just a fleeting moment, defying her at every turn. If she succeeded in taking his legs she expected it would send him falling, face first toward the ground. He would attempt to spin in the air and land on his back. This too she would attempt to take from him. She wouldn’t release her grip on his ankles as she pulled forward, instead wrapping her arms tight around his ankles unless her opponent had managed to avoid the strike entirely.
No doubt he would try and turn in the air, though if she had her way he would find that his hips, bound to the whims of his ankles, would not spin in Aibhilin’s grasp, turned just to the sides away from her head and shoulders and held with the absolute confidence of a grappler. As she slid, assuming she had struck and managed to keep control of the opponent’s ankles, he too would slide, and if held at the ankles would be unable to turn in the air and would find himself in danger of running himself through on his own weapons. She had tucked her legs to her chest after lunging forward and down for just this purpose. Not only would he be unable to fall with the sharp of his axe upon one or both of her legs, but if this course of action had occurred to this point whatsoever he would either have to cast them away or turn his wrists to turn the sharps of the blades flat side to himself, easier said than done with a locked Halberd with both an axe and a pick held in a single hand. More importantly this would mean he would have to be using his hands to control the direction of his weapons in his own grasp as he fell, and if he caught himself it would be on his elbows rather than his hands, with said hands likely below his forward falling weight or awkwardly held away from his body at diagonal angles to the rest of his body, right to the right diagonal and left to the left diagonal. The hafts of each would be below him, and though there was a chance he could recover the Sparth after falling the Halberd, should this course of action have occurred at all, would be denied him for the rest of his time on the ground.
Its haft was eight feet long, and should be below him if she had her way. Recovering such a long handled weapon one handed from below your body while trying to turn onto your back would be absolutely impossible. As she was lunging he would be concerned with the expected strike from her punch dagger, his own retaliation against her or whatever preemptive measure he might prefer, as well as finding firm purchase on the sand below with his own feet, hopefully to concerned and preoccupied to react intelligently to her probably unexpected takedown with his clawed boots or a simple sprawl. Should she take his legs as he was adjusting to falling his mind would be preoccupied with his blades potentially running himself through, looking for her legs below him to run them into and finding none within striking distance, and trying to turn in air or find purchase with his clawed boots, all of which should deliver him no purchase if her precision was correct. Can’t turn at the hips in opposition to your ankles, can’t cut with clawed boots that are held firmly by the opponent, or so Aibhilin’s life would depend upon. This all would take a half of a second, from the quarter second spent finding only an axe that nearly took her fingers and would have should her grip not have been already compromised by missing fingers from previous encounters and a pauldron covering an undaunted shoulder beneath with her slash, to her step which found her a half step and a half of a quarter of a second behind her opponent, to her lunge, attempted takedown, and the associated grips, tucks and movements.
In the next quarter of a second, should this all have come to pass Aibhilin, still gripping the ankles of her opponent, would work her left arm around her right, Zande’s left ankle tucked into the inside of her right elbow and locked by her crossed right arm, his own right ankle still tucked into the inside of her left elbow and pulled tight to her ribs after having been attempted to be pointed with the blades away from her during the fall, at which point she would make a last cross at the wrists, and using her tucked legs and whatever purchase and upwards momentum they offered her, would violently and methodically jerk to the right, in the opposite direction from his body and pivoting at the shoulders and outward with both of her own elbows. This would not be the kind of jerk given to inform an opponent that you have them in a lock during sparring, but the controlled, calculated motion of a fighter who knew how much force would be necessary to break an opponent’s bones, and delivered if successful with an easily sufficient amount of force to shatter the right ankle entirely. The beast may have floated across the sands before, but should this all be successful it would no longer.