Ok, so I just finished this last night. Aaaaaand I have not even skimmed over it again. So. I KNOW it is horrible and lame and all the action probably FAILS the universe. But what can I say. I’ve never written a sword-fight before. -_- …Hmph. Hehehe =P ANY suggestions…from those of you who know a WHOLE lot more about swords than I do…*cough* I’ll pay you. O_O
…ok, so maybe I’m not QUITE that desperate.
I wasn’t going to post today so I could get a bit ahead. Buttttttt I decided to anyway, because of a certain special occasion going on somewhere over in IL. =) …*coughs* *whispers* ship him a cane. I wanna see if he really does spend alll that money just to ship it back =D *grins* =# =# =#
~Chapter Twenty Five~
Clash Of Blades
I halted once more, and Netya stopped behind me. I glanced at her, unsure, and all the fear of being discovered that I had pushed away when we took the cloaks came rushing back, like a torrent of ice water over my mind. A long silence followed, deep and still as death. I could feel and hear my heart beating, trying to hammer its way out of my chest. If anyone stood on the other side of the door, I knew they would hear it too. I took a deep breath, trying to calm the ringing in my ears.
Netya knelt down beside me in the doorway and pressed her face to the ground, peering under the door. She stood up a moment later, shaking her head. The gap was too small to see through, and the light was dazzling, compared to the darkness we had been walking in. Netya pointed at the latch on the door in silence, and I nodded. She slipped back out of the way, her cloak rustling loudly against mine in the quiet of the stairwell. I held my breath until she was past, then reached out, trembling, my own heartbeat still drowning out all other sound in my head. I grasped the latch, preparing to move it aside and open the door slowly, hoping against hope that the room on the other side would be empty.
As my hand touched the cold metal, I gasped aloud and sprang back, falling against Netya. She grabbed my arm, steadying me, her face questioning in panic. I caught my balance again, placing my hand against the wall to steady myself, then turning instantly back towards the door, reaching for my sword. The latch had moved on its own beneath my hand as I touched it.
Netya took the hilt of her own sword, loosening it in its sheath as she saw me reaching for mine, her eyes a mask of alarm and false courage. We stood with our backs pressed against the wall in the narrow stairway, eyes fixed on the door. As we watched, the latch lifted and slid aside and the door began to swing inward towards us as it was moved from the opposite side. A frantic sweeping gaze assured me that there was no way for us to hide and no time to run back up the stairs. The door swung fully opened, the handle hitting the stone wall beside it with a softly echoing scrape.
The dark material of our cloaks would have been enough to shade us from enemy eyes at a distance, but the man motionless in surprise in the doorway before us was hardly a few feet away. In the split second he was still, I drew my sword fully from its sheath, jumping towards him in the advantage of his shock. Regaining his control, the man before me jumped back and aside, drawing me into the bright living room beyond. I heard Netya’s sword ringing behind me as she followed me, lunging towards the man and slipping unconsciously into the stance Thalon had always started our exercises in the glad with.
As I whirled around, pushing the heavy cloak back to free my hands and arms from its encumbering folds, I got a glimpse of the man who stood faced off with Netya. He wore the black, lynx-emblazoned tunic of Pethnor, but had no cloak wrapped about his shoulders. His mask was missing as well, and I saw the two items from the corner of my rapid glance, lying arranged over the back of a pair of chairs that stood near the opposite wall.
The man seemed to have recovered from his surprise as I placed myself beside Netya, my grip firm on the sword hilt and my gaze flicking rapidly between his face and the sword that he now held, drawn quickly from his side. He smiled evilly, holding himself tensed and ready, but making no move to attack. Slowly he began to step around us, and we countered his movements, treading in the opposite direction. Suddenly, the man lashed out at Netya, striking for her chest. She twisted aside, dodging the blade but not blocking it with her sword, aware of the advantage the man held over us in his greater weight and strength. Leering grimly at us, the man continued his slow pace in a backwards circle. He struck out twice more, and each time we ducked or dodged aside without our blades clashing.
The man laughed abruptly, drawing back a step and coming out of the fighter’s stance. Smiling at Netya and I, he said with grudging, cold approval, “You know your stuff, little girls. At least, you know enough to dodge and hide. Wherever did you learn it, I wonder? And are you as good with your blades as you are in your footwork? But we shall soon see. You have the advantage by number, but what can two stowaway girls do against one of Pethnor’s throng? I will destroy you. There will be time for questioning later. Pethnor will wish to know how and why you came to be found here, so far from the prisons where you belong. He will also wish to know which jailer let you escape, and where you procured swords and cloaks to disguise yourselves. He will be angry. Neither you nor the jailer you bribed will escape his wrath.” His eyes traveled meaningfully down over our bodies as we stood trembling but resolute beside each other, and he laughed softly. “Oh yes. The jailer will not go unpunished. But if you bribe me as you did him…perhaps I can lighten your own sentences.”
Growling with anger, I lunged forwards again, catching the man once more into the rhythm of the circle. I flashed a warning glance at Netya as she opened her mouth to respond, the flush of hatred burning in her cheeks, and she caught herself, nodding quickly and stepping back beside me. I saw in my head for a moment the glade back by the castle, Thalon giving us one of the first lessons in swordplay we had received from him. His voice rang softly in the back of my mind: “Your opponent will fight you both with his weapon and his words. Do not let the things he speaks get to your heart, or they will travel from there to your head and you will become blind in your anger. The blow struck rashly out of hate goes astray and will fall back upon your own head. Keep your focus instead, and do not hear his words, and you will have the advantage. Do not descend to the level of your foe.”
We circled slowly, each step seeming to take a lifetime. Suddenly, the man lashed out in earnest, and the battle for our lives began. He struck, again and again, the scream of steel whipping through the air filling the room. He did not call out for help or reinforcements, seeming sure of his own advantage in strength and skill. He laughed as he struck, and I found in a matter of moments that I could no longer simply dodge the weight behind his blows without being caught beneath their rain. Settling my grip on the hilt of my sword, I swung it up at last, parrying and blocking the deadly point of his weapon. The clash of sword on sword jarred through the air, and I felt the full weight of the man’s strength behind the blow. Stepping back, I twisted my weapon away, closing in again instantly. Netya fought beside me, and together we warded off blow after blow with our swords, occasionally lashing out with a strike of our own. My mind worked quickly, searching ever for the opening that would be the downfall of our enemy. Provided he did not take advantage of it first.
We moved quickly, back and forth across the smooth stone floor before the door. The man strove to drive Netya and I away from the wall and into the center of the room, where the obstacles of an unfamiliarly furnished space would confuse us and hamper our movement. I could see in rapid, stolen glances back that beside the chairs on which the man’s cloak and mask lay, a low-backed couch stood before a wide, knee-high table. A rough rug lay on the floor in the center of the room, and I flinched as I envisioned what would happen should our feet become entangled in its snare. I struggled to keep my every thought focused on the deadly peril that lashed out again and again with brutal speed and agility, but panic began to settle slowly over my mind, dulling my senses and blunting my focus. I knew that should we move away from the wall, Netya and I would have an advantage, being able to slip around on both sides of the man at once, but the danger of the obstacles that lay spread throughout the room kept me from taking the bait that the man dangled before us.
The man feinted towards Netya, spinning around as she dodged the blow that never fell and bringing his sword down with great strength towards my head. I was pulled instantly from the haze of fear that clouded my sight as the power of the blow bore me back. I struggled to keep his blade away, but the point slipped ever closer to my face as my arms trembled beneath the weight. He bore down above me until I had to struggle to even remain on my feet. It seemed as though an age passed, each beat of terror in my heart lasting a decade as I watched with staring eyes the sword point lowering and my hands, knuckles white on the hilt of my own sword, shaking with exhaustion. The man above me leered, his face contorting into a mask of pleasure and gloating evil. I lost my footing and fell to one knee, still struggling to press off the blade that glittered with malice inches from my neck.
In a second it was over, barely enough time for me to draw breath twice. Netya had taken the man’s feint as a real thrust and attempted to parry it as she twisted away, losing her balance when no opposing sword met hers. Regaining her balance as the man bore me to the ground, she had leaped upon him from behind. Taking advantage of his preoccupation with me, she landed a blow upon his unprotected back with the flat of her sword, hesitating even in our desperation to use her blade for more than defense. The man above me suddenly cried out in pain, staggering back a step. I dropped fully to the ground as he howled with rage, recovering in an instant and striking out hard at the spot where I knelt. His blade smote with deadly speed against the floor, slicing through the heavy fabric of my cloak as I screamed, rolling quickly aside. My head struck against the stone floor, black stars popping in my vision. My eyes went dark for a moment, and I lay still. I heard the man whirling around again, leaving me on the floor and turning back to Netya. A clash of blades set the darkness in my head shivering.