Shiir'fhayah's heart hammered in his chest like a drum skinned too tightly, threatening to burst if he did not calm himself. Closing his eyes, he drew in a slow, shaking breath to try and steady himself before he raised his hand rapped upon the ancient-looking wooden door. And then he waited.
The wait was nothing short of agony.
"Enter." The voice called coolly, making him startle slightly. He gritted his teeth, angry at his inability to control himself; he was in no way the disciplined warrior he was trying to portray, but it was too late to turn back now. An icy knot formed his chest, filling him with foreboding. He did not think this would go well.
Pushing through the door, squinting as the room turned out to be well-lit compared to the hallway, he entered. Attempting to remain humble, eyes respectfully downcast as his mother had advised him, he padded quietly towards the middle of the room. As subtly as he could muster, he took stock of what appeared to be a study.
To the left was a curtain - presumably which lead to a bedroom - and upon the floor were a few padded stools to sit on. To the right, four sets of shelves lined the walls, full of assorted things one might find in the study of a Tir'ay master; books and statues and the assorted weapons and items of assorted values. The whole room was arranged with a certain random, yet harmonious, balance to it. He was impressed.
Slowly, he turned to the right to face the divan situated at the center point of the cul-de-sac of shelves, upon which a woman had draped herself with all the leisurely grace of a great cat, idle strength in all of her lines. Though her tunic and trousers were likely of silk, he paid it no mind and found himself staring instead at her face for the first time in his life.
It was beautiful, he thought, in the same way he thought his mother's face was beautiful, though this woman's face was far more stern. The resemblance was certainly unmistakable, despite the fact that her face held no love for him and her sharp jade eyes carried a baleful glare that both shriveled and fascinated him. This fierce matron was truly his mother's mother!
The woman regarded him in such a manner that he felt smaller than usual, and it took every effort keep himself standing. It wasn't until he startled again as she snapped the book in her hand closed that he realized he'd been staring. He cursed himself again and looked downward, heat rising to his cheeks.
"This is my leisure day. Why are you disturbing me?"
"Ah... I... I have come to ask permission to bear the Four Winds tattoo. Honored Master." He managed to say, though his voice sounded weak in his ears. Her eyes narrowed sharply and he felt the heat of her gaze on him.
"You are no student of mine."
He froze, realizing his mistake and tried not to wince. She was making him be specific.
"No, H- honored master... n- not the Tir'ay seal. The... the Rustul family seal."
The heat of her gaze seemed to worsen, but the chill within him only deepened. He could not comprehend why this woman intimidated him so, but her presence seemed to fill the room and threatened to swallow him with it. Only the fact that the mere idea of shaming his mother by fleeing after coming thus far filled him with revulsion kept him in place.
"Who are you, boy?"
"I am Shiir'fhayah of the Rustul Family. Y- your grands-"
"Stop." She interrupted sharply. "You have not earned the right to call yourself that."
He paused, swallowing past the lump in his throat, and nodded once.
"I... am Shiir'fhayah, son of Sima'dzel Rustul, daughter of Sima'tuulin Rustul."
"Good. You are thirty?"
"Mm." She paused a moment, and the heat seemed to lessen. "Tell me why I would allow a mere male to bear the mark of my family."
His ears perked at her tone. Though he bridled at being called a 'mere' male, even from a hallowed elder, it was the challenge that lay beneath which rung against the steel hidden by the fog of his fear. He flexed his hands slowly, his mouth suddenly very dry. His heart hammered furiously.
"Because I am your grandso-"
"Stop. I already warn-"
"I AM YOUR GRANDSON!"
His ringing shout thrummed in the air, and heat filled his face. Sima'tuulin's stare intensified, and she leaned forward in interest; he'd gotten her attention for real, now, much like quarry attracted a hunter's unerring gaze. A predatory smile spread slowly across her face.
"Oh, we shall see about that, boy."
He barely managed a surprised squawk as she leapt at him from her deceptively relaxed pose atop her divan, clearing the distance between them so quickly he barely brought up his arm in time to avoid a kick to the teeth. He rolled back with the force of her strike, his arm from elbow to the tips of his fingers ringing with numbness from the blow.
Goddesses, but she was so fast and strong!
His mind was useless, frantically trying to process the events as they were happening; the random thoughts flying through his own head fell away as though some bustling crowd was off in the distance. He let go of his useless mind and let his body do what it had trained for since his earliest memories.
She was too strong to block and deflecting strikes brought him perilously close to vicious counterstrikes. He twisted and weaved through the flurry of attacks she sent his way, rolling and tumbling in vain attempts to open some distance in the small room. He abandoned all pretense of direct confrontation at this point, knowing full well it would only get him thrashed, and desperately searched from some way to - at the very least - disengage from the fight.
Shiir kicked one of the stools into her path, unsurprised as she sprang over it easily, though she was force to cross her arms to block its twin which he had launched to intercept her as she jumped. She shrugged the blow off easily, her smile fixed to her face, as she pursued, backing him towards the divan.
He dove over the back of the seat to avoid another vicious kick, rolling back beneath the piece of furniture and upending it towards where she would land as she leapt after him, continuing the motion and pushing off the ground rise into a low crouch. Alas, she had already recovered from having a couch tipped into her and prepared to level another series of blows at him.
Knowing he would never be able to keep this pace up, he feigned a darting run in one direction and turned, parrying blows what blows he dared while shifting momentum and springing back towards the shelves, using the overturned divan as a step up to his new goal. Sima'tuulin, sensing he was going for a weapon, moved to retrieve it first.
Both sprang away from the shelves and landed in the center of the room. His assailant was breathing deeply, but remained controlled, a drawn sword in hand while he was gasping for breath and drenched in sweat, a very plain-looking statue in his.
She froze as he raised his hand sharply, ready to dash the piece against the wall at the slightest provocation. The sudden silence was deafening.
Finally, Sima'tuulin relaxed her posture and tucked the sword to her side. "It appears I underestimated your understanding of effective weaponry." She said, vaguely, looking like she'd swallowed something foul-tasting. He managed a faint smile in response. 'Mere' male, indeed. He thought, thoroughly grateful the little statue was as valuable as he'd hoped. He felt like he was going to pass out.
"Give me permission, honored master."
"Is this duel concluded?"
Shiir released his breath with a noisy whoosh and sat on the ground heavily, his whole body trembling as adrenaline still raced through his system. He completely didn't care. Setting the statue on the carpeted ground before him, he looked up at the woman, who seemed to be looking at him with new eyes.
"I thought you were going to kill me."
"If you had broken that statue, I would have."
He wisely did not reply that he wasn't the one who started a fight in their study filled with valuable treasures, he only smiled. Sima'tuulin walked over to Shiir and thumped him on the top of the head with a closed fist. "That was for threatening to break my statue." Then she pressed a kiss to his forehead. "And that is for surprising an old woman. Now get out of here, boy."
Shiir nodded and rose to his feet, exhausted, as pain began to creep into his sense. He managed to remember his decorum enough to bow to her - earning a bow in return - before turning to head out the way he came.
He stopped. Hearing her say his name filled him with warmth in ways he hadn't even thought possible. He turned back to look at her, his stomach fluttering.
"I am your grandmother."
His heart soared.