This may be it for this week boys and girls, got a lot going on. Much more to come.
“While a challenge fight like this isn’t necessarily to the death, people do die in these bouts,” Astra told the group later, back at the inn. “You’re using live steel and there isn’t any kind of limitations on what you can do, aside from no ranged weapons. You’re expected to fight until one or the other is ‘clearly defeated’. As best I can tell, Lugh, being the head elf, is the one who makes that call.”
“I don’t like this,” Rory said.
“I’m not particularly thrilled with it either,” Colin said, “but it’s pretty clear that Lugh and his merry band think we’re a bunch of pussies not worth allying with. We came here to make allies and find out what’s going on out there. I’m guessing Lugh knows more about that. Why are he and his group even here? Fighting Keer is about the only way we’re going to get more information. So far I haven’t done much this trip, maybe this is how I can contribute.”
“I still don’t like it,” she said, frowning.
“But can you think of an alternative?” Dee asked.
“No goddamn it, I can’t.” She ground out.
“Look, you can do a healing spell on me if I get hurt. I’m much safer here than I would be rock-climbing back home.”
“I can’t do a healing-spell if he cuts your stupid head off,” Rory snapped.
“Babe. This is my job. Let me do my job,” Colin said.
“Gah!” Rory said, throwing up her hands. “This leader shit sucks! Fine. Be a stupid, macho dude-bro, but if you get killed I’m going to kick your ass!”
They didn’t sleep much. The next morning they went back to the town hall. Colin added a round shield to his equipment from a local merchant. It was similar enough to one he had trained with at The Settlement that he was comfortable with it. Armor was prohibited by the few rules to the challenge. Hand weapons only, no armor. No help. Anyone outside of the combatants interfering in any way warranted immediate death.
Dee served as Colin’s squire. For reasons Astra didn’t understand, he kept calling her Mickey.
“This guy’s got some serious arms. Big reach. Probably longer than yours. Get inside fast.” She said as they got ready. “Forrest said the elves fight all offense, little defense. He’s gonna come at you like a hurricane.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Rory said again.
Colin replied in a ‘dees and dose’ voice, “‘If this is something you wanna do, and this is something you gotta do, then you do it. Fighters fight.’”
Dee snorted. “You’re an asshole,” Rory said, fighting back laughter. Astra looked confused.
“I’ll tell you later,” Dee said to her.
Colin took off his baldric and drew his sword then took up his shield. He stepped out into the arena. Most of the town had turned out to watch the fight. Keer stepped out from the opposite side. He had armed himself with a battle ax and a short sword.
Colin’s strategy was to goad Keer into coming at him all out, and then surprise him with technique before Keer could get his measure. He did his best to muster up some spit though his mouth was very dry.
“Come on you pointy-eared pussy!” Colin taunted, spitting on the ground in Keer’s direction. “Or are you too used to sucking Other cock to fight me.”
Keer roared and rushed at Colin. Keer swung with his ax and Colin deflected with his shield, crouching under the strike. Had he met it straight on it would have splintered his shield. The bastard was strong, Colin thought, thrusting under his own shield at Keer. Keer parried the stroke with his short-sword and gained some distance, looking at Colin with a little more wariness. The crowd grew noisier.
‘Shit,’ Colin thought. ‘I hoped he’d be dumber.’
Keer came at Colin again with measured aggression. Colin held him off, fighting mostly defensively, observing Keer’s style. He saw an opportunity. Rock had said elves, being ax men, didn’t use shields as much more than mobile barricades. Keer was treating Colin’s shield as a hinderance to his attacks vs a weapon. Colin deliberately allowed himself to become predictable - parry with shield, ripost with sword.
The next time Keer came in for an attack, Colin parried his ax stroke with his shield, but then twisted and attacked Keer with both his sword and his shield edge. Keer was expecting the sword but the shield edge to the face surprised him. He was alert enough to dodge, so the stroke was only a glancing blow to the side of his head verses the full-on strike to his nose, but it staggered him and Colin followed up with an immediate cut to the same side with his sword.
Keer threw up his ax in a desperate parry and managed to take the sword edge on his ax haft, but Colin let the blade slide down the shaft to cut Keer’s hand. Blood spurted and Keer dropped the ax, thrusting with his short-sword. Colin side-stepped and kicked Keer in the knee, causing the man to go down and followed with another kick to Keer’s head, laying him out cold.
Colin kicked Keer’s sword out of reach and laid the point of his own under the unconscious man’s chin. He then looked up at where Lugh was sitting.
“Well?” He shouted contemptuously. “Are you going to make me kill this poor bastard or have you had enough?”
“Hold!” Lugh shouted. “No you don’t need to kill him, but you may as well have. You’ve maimed him, he’ll never fight again. He may not take your sparing him as a favor.”
“Allow me to help him!” Rory called out from where she stood.
Lugh and his entourage stepped into the arena and walked over to the fighters. Rory and hers did the same.
“You can heal severed fingers?” Lugh asked her skeptically.
“I can,” Rory said simply.
“Then have at it,” Lugh said, bemused.
Rory knelt in the dirt next to the man. She closed her eyes and put her left hand over the bloody mess of Keer’s right. The globe on her staff glowed and Keer groaned. Rory took her hand back and Keer’s hand was once again whole, the new fingers clean among the dirt and blood covering the rest of his hand. Rory stood and staggered slightly. Astra supported her as unobtrusively as she could from behind.
“He’s going to be very tired for the next few days and will need to eat. A lot, but he’ll be OK and should have full use of his hand.
Lugh looked to the ground where Keer’s 3 severed fingers lay in a pool of blood and then back at the man’s, now whole, hand, then back to Rory with more respect than he had shown.
“Fighting and healing. Maybe you Settlement humans are worth talking to after all. Come. Eat with me and my woman and we will talk.”