The leaves in dappled hues of oranges and browns powder beneath my sandals as I approach the time and place. Everything has guided me towards this moment as if I were a green twig, tossed about in some great maelstrom only to wash ashore in a tranquil lagoon. The air is sharp. Sticky pine sap from the evergreens, with overtones of sandalwood and clove, someone burning prayers.
There is a thunderous crack and raindrops begin to fall like the tears of a broken god. My second waits in the clearing up ahead. Servants have raked aside the leaves revealing a circle of perfect green. Thin plumes of scented smoke spiral into the still air. Now the rain is here ladies hurry to shelter under oiled parasols in verdant greens and flaming reds.
My opponent is a highlander, Murrain is his name. A dark brooding presence, squatting like a black toad at the end of the circle. Surrounded by toadies and hangers on, he has no legitimate complaint with me. I am simply a stepping stone on his perceived path to greatness. I should give him the opportunity to take quarter now. I should. However, his lackeys have vexed me greatly these past weeks and I am in a less forgiving mood.
A hush ripples around the circle as I make my entrance. Wicke, faithful Wicke, takes my hat and coat. I, of course, bow to the ladies and engage in some idle banter with the gents. I ask the servants to rake the circle a little wider, fearing some arterial spray might sully a pretty dress or two. This Murrain fellow appears larger close up than I had been led to believe. Still I am unperturbed. All that I am rests by my side and while that remains true I am unafraid. Syryn, my cold steel bride, my razor edged soul.