The dark early morning had yet to be warmed by the sun lingering far off beyond the horizon. Clear and cold, the receding blackness was only now yielding slowly to the silky hues of impending dawn.
Kalahasi’s skyline was still cloaked in its nightly neon glow, but the mists of an early summer morning were creeping in, hazing the pristine view from the heights of the Priory’s rooftop gardens, blending earth and sky into one sweeping blur of light and shape.
High above the city, the Artimea’s sacred training ring was bathed in its own indigo luminance, lit up for two purposeful birds, clad in tradition and discipline. The stunning vista from the top of the Artimea’s ancient sanctuary held none of their attention. There was little time left before the day began in full and they would have other duties to attend to, but until the sun peaked over the distant mountains to the east, the day was theirs.
The two birds carefully took their paces towards the onyx ringed edge, years of study and practice imbuing their every move. Rikaio and Lark were ready for one last bout. She had grown taller and lither than him, but he was unfazed. Exacting and precise, he readied himself.
Lark glanced back at her sparring partner as she always did. She never took her eyes off Rikaio in the ring - Lark had learned the hard way that one morning years ago when Toláse had dragged them all from their lofts. Rikaio and Lark both bore the now subdued marks from that encounter - their own odd badges of honor and camaraderie and, in the ring, experience. Every morning it came down to their last match.
Lark broke the tense rushing silence of the Priory's gardens. "Winner takes it all..."
Rikaio took his favorite stance. "You're on!"