October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
Red hair, shaggy and unkempt, unwashed in weeks, soaked in his sweat and in blood. It hung in lank strips in his face as he panted and whipped back like grain in wind as he pulled to the side. The blade that would have buried itself in his eye instead dragged a line across his cheekbone. If there had been time he would have cursed his lack of a helmet. There was no time. There had been no time to put it on and there was no time to bemoan it.
Four of them, armed with swords and bucklers, in solid boiled leather. Him, no shield, no breastplate, just the leather plates on his legs. If they’d attacked a few seconds later he might have been entirely naked. Needing room, feeling the ground behind him quiver at the largest of the four tried to hem him in, he whirled and sank his teeth directly into a nose. His eyes were so close he could see the other’s pupils expand as his teeth met and he wrenched his neck back, spitting the nose back where it had been wrenched.
He was taller than any of them, and broader than all but noseless. It didn’t balance the odds. He knew he had to kill one in the next few seconds or he was certainly going to die. He shifted his grip on the knives in his hands, felt the leather wrappings scraping at his hands, and dropped into a roll to get behind one of them.
The knives were in the air even as he came back up. Noseless was spared by his having staggered back out of the way clutching the bleeding hole on his face. The large, red faced woman (Mark wondered if she was Hentre, then stopped caring) with the large square chopping weapon, more meat cutter than sword, went down with a knife in her eye. The man next to her, short and pale and wearing an Alronian legionnaire’s helm, managed to avoid taking the point in anything vital by throwing up his left arm. It was impressive. It also meant that one of them was dead and two were bleeding.
“You know, this is sad.” Mark drew the huge curved sword he wore on his back, with the sparkling gold and platinum worked into the blade. He’d taken it off of a Tarsi fifteen years before, the extended handle and sweeping blade entirely unlike anything he’d seen before fighting in the south. “Who hired you?”
The only response was the wind shifting through the trees and the sound of heavy breathing. Behind Noseless, the only one of them who’d stayed out of the fighting was trying to get a shot on him with what looked to be a horse bow. Mark kept trees and bodies between him and the archer, unable to see his or her face. An arrow drew back and shot forward faster than he would have expected, just barely missing as he circled behind another trunk.
He didn’t come back around. The archer scanned, looking for him where he should have tried to cut between trunks to close the gap. It occurred too late to do any good what had actually happened, and the bow whipped upward to try and track a shot.
He was already coming down on top of the bow, the long wooden spar unable to stop the sharp Tarsan blade. The stroke cut right through the bow and the head of the archer alike. The blade was so sharp that the head didn’t even pulp from the impact but bone and tissue neatly divided. It was horribly bloody, of course, but at least bits of head didn’t scatter. Instead a diagonal line dumped half a head on the ground, pocked with what looked like scars from a childhood pox. Mark took the impact that the strike didn’t deliver in a roll and came up swinging the giant crescent blade in a strike that cut right through buckler, forearm and then shoulder, leaving the now noseless man dying in the leaf litter.
The one who had taken the dagger in his hand stood his ground with a look of complete bleakness on his face. Four to one odds and now three were dead. Mark admired the self control it must have taken to not break and run. He himself would absolutely have run.
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