The fall had sobered him, let alone the danger. He nearly took in a deep breath, but stopped himself and coughed out, “I take it back, I take it back! Forgive me for such words!”
“As we will!” Reem proclaimed. She retracted her spear immediately and Azzah followed suit. “You may say whatever words you like of us, claim whatever you wish of our ability, but you shall not insult our Lel’ul. Nor his belief in what we give to him. He asks of us, knowing what we are capable of. If he wishes we defend his house, with or without his presence, then we do so. And proudly! For we are two of few who are trusted to do so. We shall follow this path for as long as he desires.”
Whooping calls came out as Reem finished her speech. Hasani’s face flushed, not because of drink now, but from embarrassment. Azzah could not care less about his feelings, as she still rankled from his previous comments. Yet the negative feelings had to disperse. The cheers Reem’s words brought to those around them brought forth the solidarity of Hirka. She could see Waseme joining in, hands cupped around her mouth.
“Why does the Lel’ul have you guard an empty house? He isn’t even here. Unless you aren’t anything like you claim-”
Reem spoke up, her voice drowning out Hasani’s. It caused everyone else in the vicinity to fall silent as well. “Watch what you say, man. We are warriors of the Lel’ul.”
Azzah took a deep breath.
“Then why don’t you do anything?”
That was too much. Azzah tore her eyes from her bowl to Reem’s face. Reem looked back at her.
As one, they stood up. Azzah set her bowl on the ground without spilling. She immediately crouched down, sweeping her leg under Hasani. It knocked against his legs hard. At the same moment, Reem reached forward, swinging her spear from her back and jabbing the butt of it into his chest. Hasani went down in one. As Azzah straightened upright in one fluid motion and she pulled her own spear out.
She and Reem took off their head covers at the same moment. Azzah placed her tip against his stomach. Reem placed hers against Hasani’s throat.
In one moment, the atmosphere changed.
He reacted without a second thought. The insult had run his anger past the point of thought. Rational thought dissipated as the muscles in hands made them clench. A moment later he straightened his fingers, pressing his palms down on the table. The part of his mind which wanted to attack was, perhaps, all of his mind. Which was why pressing probably wasn’t the right word for what he did. From the sound he made, slammed made much more sense.
Before he could stand up, before he could swing, she attacked. Instead, his hands rose in front of him to catch her by the shoulders. Her teeth grazed his neck, unable to make a proper mark there.
She was feisty, her fingers at his chest, long nails reddening the skin under his shirt.
He raised up and hand and clocked her in the forehead. She reeled back and fell to the ground. He took a breath.
“Someone might think I wronged you.”
She mumbled something that might have been screw you. He kicked her in the stomach. Yep, someone was going to throw a fit about this. As if she didn’t insult him first, as if she didn’t attack him first.
Damned double standards.