10 v) The moon rides high above the dense jungle canopy

The moon rides high above the dense jungle canopy when Shyan rolls her master’s body into his grave. She’s streaked with dirt, sweat beading at her brow, but her breathing is controlled, steady. When Davit’s form hits the soft earth below, Shyan blinks, then begins filling the hole. She makes short work of this, and soon a mound of fresh soil rises from the centre of the clearing. Shyan stands with the spade at her side, observing the grave a moment. She feels for a moment the urge to speak, to say something, but she swallows it and slips into the jungle’s shadows.

Back at Old Mossy’s cabin, Shyan awakes from her spot on the floor with a gasping cough and wild eyes. Cang, Abia, and Old Mossy watch her carefully, while Fassn is splayed beside her. “I was in Waiiaz,” she says. There’s a ringing in her ears.

“You got the antidote,” Old Mossy says.

Shyan falls back, panting. Her eyes unfocused, she says, “That was the cure?”

“It was for you. Now,” Old Mossy adds, turning to Fassn, “for him.”

10 iv) Shyan stares at master Davit expiring among the vibrant weeds

Shyan stares at master Davit expiring among the vibrant weeds and rich earth. Her eyes are wide, protruding as she struggles to process what’s happened. She bends at his side, sees the spot on his throat where she broke his windpipe, all twisted purple and bruised. Tears well in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, master,” she sobs.

Her only reply is a placid, accepting smile that plays upon Davit’s lips as the light leaves his eyes. Watching him die, Shyan’s blood boils, the hot liquid coursing through her body. Clenching her teeth, with a shaky hand she gently shuts Davit’s eyelids, straightens his form into a more dignified pose. Then she leaves the clearing, returning a moment later with a spade. She begins to dig.

10 iii) Shyan’s hand in Old Mossy’s cabin twitches and grips

10 iii) Shyan’s hand in Old Mossy’s cabin twitches and grips

Shyan’s hand in Old Mossy’s cabin twitches and grips, folding into a fist. The movements are jerky, staccato, but when the fingers reach the palm they stay there, tight and rigid. Shyan’s hand in Waiiaz folds effortlessly into a fist, with flowing movement like a flower blossoming in reverse. She feels the grip is heavy but supple, her form perfect. She squares her stance.

Davit searches her expression. In Waiiaz, her eyes are hard but questioning as Shyan awaits her master’s orders. In Old Mossy’s, her eyes dart back and forth behind lids squeezed shut.

Davit’s lips move as he is about to speak, but Shyan is faster than him. As commanded, she strikes. Her fist leaps for Davit’s throat like a coiled snake. A flash of fear crosses his face as Shyan’s fingers crush the older man’s esophagus. He stumbles to his knees, looking up at Shyan with pain, horror and pride on his features. His linen-clad limbs scrabble at the jungle floor until he goes still.

10 ii) “This does not appear to be working,” Cang observes

“This does not appear to be working,” Cang observes. Shyan twitches on the floor.

“She’s got a mighty battle in her head,” Old Mossy replies.

Catching Abia’s eye, Cang says, “And have you put it there?”

“Golly, of course not. Haven’t got that kinda tech,” says Old Mossy.

In Waiiaz, Shyan completes a beautiful arcing Mesis Cut with her fists. The man in the linen demands another, then another. On the third, her foot skids in her pivot, and the sharp sound of stone on stone cuts through the jungle clearing. As birds fill the air, fleeing their trees, Shyan takes a humbled stance. “I apologize, Master Davit,” she says, her chin on her chest. It takes all she has to will her hands out of the fists she’s made.

Davit squares up against Shyan, his eyes cold. His voice a command, he says, “Strike.”

10 i) Behind the green glow of Shyan’s eyes, a lush jungle

Behind the green glow of Shyan’s eyes, a lush jungle. Broad, waxy green leaves reach out for her as she moves through an open clearing, each of her movements a closely considered act of martial prowess. Front step, parry turn, open palm, spider fist. Rhythmically she boxes shadows in the oppressive, wet heat of the Waiiaz. Insects buzz in the plants around her, but all she hears is her own hammering heartbeat and the whip-strike movements of her arms and legs.

“Good,” says a voice from the clearing’s edge. A man in his middle years, clad in simple linens that match Shyan’s own, observes her with his arms folded. “Mantis kick,” he adds, and it is no sooner said than performed. Shyan arcs off the ground, landing gracefully a couple of metres away. “Well done,” the man says. “Your training is nearly complete.”

On the ground of Old Mossy’s cabin, Shyan’s limbs twitch with vestigial memories of her youth in Waiiaz, her wide-open eyes glowing that weird green.