Rain poured down through the leaves of the jungle, as quickly as on open plains. Jalmarâ€™s hair was matted down on the sides of his face, and against his neck and back. He stood defiant, unmoving in the downpour, and stared straight into the eyes of the serpent-woman. She was unclad, except for patches of scales along her upper arms and across the front of her thighs. Her face was a grimly set as Jalmarâ€™s, and her golden eyes did not flinch from his gaze. Thin silver markings curled down her chest and across the sides of her face before running down the length of her back. These marks radiated a pale light, as did the pure silver disk that marked her brow. In her hands was a curved sword, almost seven feet in length, of faintly glimmering silvered steel. The design of the weapon was that of a two-handed scimitar, like southern warriors carried. She held it expertly, and continued to keep her eyes focused on Jalmar. Both warriors were waiting for the other to act, or to make a mistake. Behind Jalmar, Anya had taken cover behind a set of fallen trees. The silver disk marked the snake-woman as a chosen of the moon. If battle began, Anya would not be able to help.
Jalmar took the initiative. His fists tensed, and the mark of the noonday sun shimmering on his brow, and with one motion he lunged at the serpent woman. His extended fist ripped through the air, shattering the rain as he struck. A shimmer of light carried him faster than thunder at the chosen of Luna, but his fist did not find purchase. The serpent-woman had flickered to the side, then as Jalmar extended his arm past her she struck out like a coiled cobra. Her blade curved downward in a smooth arc, and collided with Jalmarâ€™s upper arm. The collision rang out through the downpour. As the blade sliced along his flesh, a small amount of blood dripped from its passing. When the weapon completed its motion, a narrow cut was visible along Jalmarâ€™s arm. It did not bleed much, but the rain on his skin made it run and drip from the limb. Jalmar snapped his arm to the side, straight at the serpent-woman, and slammed his wrist against her ear. The lunar woman was knocked to the side abruptly, but rolled back to her feet without trouble. Light mud clung to her body where she had touched the earth, but she was otherwise unharmed.
Without wasting a second, Jalmar spun on his heel and dove at the snake-woman. He grabbed her in his arms, and began to crush her in a ferocious embrace. Her flesh warped, and contracted inward. Before Jalmar could adjust, she had taken the form of a tree-serpent. The tiny form of the snake slipped free of Jalmarâ€™s grasp, and dropped to the muddy soil below. Jalmar roared as the snake struck and bit his left calf. Weakness crept into the limb, and he nearly lost his footing. The woman immediately returned to human shape, and slashed Jalmar with an upward stroke to the chest. Once again, the attack cut but not deeply. The force of the strike knocked Jalmar back several steps, until his back hit a tree. As the serpent-woman approached, Jalmar gathered all his might. He reached back behind his head, and sunk his fingers into the trunk of the tree. Then, with veins visible on his tensed muscle, Jalmar ripped the tree free from the ground. Mud sprayed back as the earth was displaced from the erupting roots. Jalmar brought the tree down like a giant club, until it slammed against two dozen feet of the jungle floor with a calamitous crash. Anya rolled to the side, narrowly out of the way of the falling tree, and continued watching from cover.
It missed. The snake-woman leapt up on top of the tree-club, and raced down its length toward Jalmar. Her curved sword glinted in the dim light of the rainstorm, and swept down at Jalmar as she passed. The edge of the blade caught Jalmar in the side of his face, and he fell backward to the ground. Blood mixed with rain and mud as it pooled over his left eye. Jalmar got to his knees and wiped his eye clear. No sooner had he done so, that the sword made another pass. With a horizontal cut, the snake-woman slashed Jalmar across the throat. While it did not cut deeply, it was enough to drop Jalmar back to the ground. The snake-woman hopped off the tree and landed next to the fallen warrior. With her sword pointed directly at his heart, the chosen of the moon hissed, â€œLeave these lands, and never return.â€
After a moment, Jalmar rose to his feet. The woman kept her sword leveled toward his heart, and her eyes never flinched from his gaze. Without a word, Jalmar simply nodded and began to walk away. He left to the north, which would soon lead him out of the jungle. Anya emerged from her cover, and ran off after Jalmar. She quickly caught up with him as he walked through the pouring rain, which quickly washed away his blood. As she followed, Anya watched Jalmar for signs of remorse or fear, but found none. â€œWhy did you let her drive you away?â€ she finally asked.
â€œBecause she earned it.â€