Miri had never felt fear.
She was bigger than most men, but even the few who outsized her were not able to outmatch her in the arena. Their eyes always gave them away, and she came to recognize that fearful, blank stare. They defeated themselves before the dance with her began. She loathed them for their weakness.
The ground trembled beneath her feet. It sounded as if a storm was raging through the forest. Cracks of lightning, heavy tree limbs crashing to the ground.
But the clear blue sky told her this was no storm. It was coming for her.
Fifty yards, forty yards, thirty...
She planted her feet firmly, pulling her heavy axe for its harness as she had countless times before yet keenly aware of something being a little different this time.
When the Risen had stumbled into camp one night, she recalled that several of her companions vomited when the fighting had ended. Miri herself had felt nothing more than a casual curiosity at the soft, sludgy sound that the invaders’ spilling guts made as she hacked through their bellies.
Twenty yards, ten... louder... faster...
A wide swath of trees flew out in front of her. The ground shook so violently that she had to adjust her stance.
It appeared. Tall and thick as a tower. Hands so large they could pull the mountains up by their very roots. Eyes of fire. Its cavernous mouth opened to let out a wail with such velocity that Miri's body vibrated.
A lump rose in Miri's throat. Her hands were suddenly cold and damp. She was feeling for the first time what she had only ever seen in others: Fear.
She knew that to let him see it would mean she had defeated herself. Instead, swallowed hard, narrowed her eyes and tightened the grip on her axe.
And the dance began...