"The storm is finally waning," Rebecca Horne said, listening to the distant thunder. "Hopefully no one will have taken notice." Pulling her cloak closer, Rebecca shivered in the chill Normandy morning, briefly looking at the headless immortal at her feet, and then at the victor. Amanda had won her first challenge, but only barely. Rebecca found Amanda still kneeling where the first brunt of the Quickening hit her. "Are you all right?"
Amanda was still lost in thought, eyes flickering with the last vestiges of the Quickening. Finally she looked up at her teacher. "You told me what to expect," Amanda admitted, "but I never thought..." She exhaled deeply, cold breath showing in the air. "I have never felt anything like that before."
Rebecca helped Amanda to stand, "This is only the beginning, Amanda." She nodded towards the dead immortal. "There will be more where that one came from."
Amanda seemed to realize this as well, turning towards Rebecca. "More challengers?"
"They'll be stronger ones, too," Rebecca said.
"Rebecca, what will I do?" Amanda asked. "You saw how I reacted when I was challenged by that immortal. I ran like some inexperienced little greenie. I was clearly not ready. I need more training."
"What did I tell you?" Rebecca asked, growing weary.
Amanda said slowly, hearing Rebecca's calm words in her head, like a monk's chant, "Choose your ground, choose your weapon and face what is to come."
"Taking your first head is always the most difficult," Rebecca nodded. Amanda had indeed been lucky to survive her first challenge. Fortunately her challenger made a fatal miscalculation, thinking Amanda barely able to hold up a sword. Amanda used that to her advantage, disarming him, before taking his head. "Your confidence will grow as will your skill with a sword."
Amanda bit her lip. "But I want to stay."
"You cannot," Rebecca said sharply. Amanda drew back, startled at her teacher's rebuke. Rebecca regretted her words immediately. "It is the way it must be, Amanda." Rebecca caressed the rough stone with her hands, trying to find some comfort in the cold rock. "I'm sorry, you must think I am far too harsh..."
"Oh, no, Rebecca, you are the kindest lady I have ever known," Amanda said.
"Please, Amanda, let me finish," Rebecca said. "You may think I am being overly harsh in pushing you out again, but it is for your own good. You need to learn to fight your own battles, stand up to your own challengers. You need to see me as just another Immortal."
"You will never be just another Immortal to me, Rebecca," Amanda said. "You are my teacher and mentor. You are my closest friend. You are the one person who trusted me, even forgave me when I tried to steal from you."
"And I hope you take all those lessons with you on your journeys," Rebecca replied. "As I was taught by my own teacher, so I hope you will go your own way. You have taught this old lady so much."
"You don't look so old," Amanda said casually.
"I appreciate the sentiment, Amanda," Rebecca said, her eyes darkening, suddenly looking much older. "Ageless though we are, though, we do feel the years occasionally." She looked wistful. "I was young when Greece was still in full flower," Rebecca said. "I remember feeling the breeze in my hair on the Aegean."
"Were you an Amazon?" Amanda asked in awe.
Rebecca laughed. "Hardly, I was much like any young girl of a certain age, caring for nothing more than living in the moment." She laughed a little harshly, "Until I was given a new life." She sighed. "I reacted much the same when my teacher found and taught me. I understand why you want to stay," She added, "but it doesn't change my decision."
Amanda's face fell. She pleaded, "But if I go back there," She pointed towards the faraway town in despair. "what will I do with myself, Rebecca? I don't want to go back to the way I was before I met you. You showed me a different life from thieving and scavenging."
Rebecca admitted, "And I thought it impossible when I took you on, turning a wildcat into a lady." She sighed. "You have so many possibilities ahead of you. You don't see them right now. All you see are hunters lurking amongst those evergreens." Rebecca nodded towards the edges of the castle where the immortal had waited.
"I know that," Amanda said. "But I'm not ready. I am not the fighter you are."
"You do not need to be the best, Amanda," Rebecca said. "You need to want to live. Running away will not solve your problems, only make you more afraid of fighting." Truthfully Rebecca doubted Amanda would ever grow to be a great fighter. No amount of training would change that. Her talents lay elsewhere. Rather than discourage her, Rebecca showed Amanda other uses for her cleverness, hoping Amanda would use them for more honest purposes. "And you have more ability for escaping danger than any student I have ever trained." Rebecca said. "Someday you will be grateful for that ability. And someday you will also thank me for making you fight."
Amanda asked, "Will nothing change your mind?"
Rebecca shook her head. "Nothing."
"Then I had best be on my way," Amanda said, startling Rebecca. "I have a long trip ahead of me, if I want to reach the next village." Pulling her traveling cloak closer, a determined and angry Amanda moved down the wooded path.
Color had drained from Rebecca's beautiful face, watching Amanda leave. Rebecca had made the right decision. But she felt like she had ripped out her heart to accomplish it.
Written for the hl_springfever for toshiro who wanted Amanda/Rebecca.