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Meeting the Natives - Part 5

Garrath Sharpsword blocked a hard thrust with his shield, he grunted with the effort but sent his own stroke in return with all the power of his strong arm.

Deville glided backwards, distancing himself from the blow and imposing Enlightenment in the way with a gliding parry. Still, Sharpsword's blow pushed him back and his own riposte met no more success than the last attack. He felt the back wall of the room closing in on him as he backed away from the blows of Sharpsword's heavy iron bastard sword. The Orlanthi moved it in a relentless blur, as if he was using a rapier rather than that huge chunk of Iron.

Deville parried hard and slightly desperately, then somehow squeaked out of the corner that Sharpsword had manouvered him into. The man towered over him and his strength was prodigious but long years of constant bladework had honed Devilles body into a tight mesh of muscle and sinew. He had no magic up so each cut could be his death but that was the only way to improve for a man of Deville's skill; to face death on each stroke yet survive.

They broke apart, both panting hard, neither taking their eyes off the other.

"Yield Lunar!" Snarled Sharpsword.

"To a hairy? Never." Hissed Deville.

Garrath Sharpsword laughed and hurled himself forward once more. He came like the Storms he worshipped and like them he was unpredictable and savage. Deville fought as he always did, a center of calm amid the disorder, with the merest flicks of his blade he directed attacks away that could cut trees in half while he constantly countered with the total finesse of point and edge for which he was famous in the Glamour duelling circles.

Sharpsword had felt those stinging cuts but though his body bled in several locations his speed was unaffected and the pain gave fuel to his fury. He redoubled his attack. Deville stepped a gear, achieving a total focus that he rarely experienced, except in life or death situations

For many minutes they danced with death, blade against blade until the clangour of arms reached a terrible resonating note and the constant sparks lit up the dingy room like a Kralori fireworks display..

The being of total focus and skill that was Deville saw an opening in Sharpswords tiring guard, tiny it was but there nonetheless. He lunged hard, as ever he committed everything to the winning move.

Sharpsword saw it too late and didn't bother trying to parry the deathstroke. Instead, he reacted with the instincts of his people. With teeth bared, he sent his sword whistling for Devilles exposed neck.

Both men stopped their blades a whisker away from the death stroke though Sharpsword weighty weapon had built up so much momentum that the blow followed through slightly too far and cut Devilles neck a little. A line of blood soaked into his expensive garments. The cut healed as Deville gave a wan smile and saluted his opponent.

"You didn't go for the parry." He accused.

Sharpsword barked a laugh. "I wouldn't have made it, as you knew. If I was going to die, I would take you with me."

"Pah! Orlanthi!" Deville shook his head in irritation. "You hairies always surprise me with your capacity for action and sacrifice."

"Huh! You Lunars always surprise me with your capacity for misplaced righteousness and colossal pomposity. Still it was a good fight." Sharpsword held out his hand.

Deville looked dubious for a moment then gripped it warmly. "Yes, it was, thank you again for the work-out, it was most enjoyable. Can I book an appointment next week?"

Sharpsword looked momentarily worried, as if something dogged his mind. "I cannot attend next week, I've have matters to see to."

Deville looked disappointed but inside he felt a growing suspicion. "Ah well, perhaps the week after. Ten wheels wasn't it?" He left it at that.

Sharpsword nodded. Deville flipped him a pouch and took his leave with a gracious nod. Sharpsword turned and began cleaning his weapon and healing his wounds.

Trask was waiting by the doorway of Sharpswords Training School as Deville came out. The street was dark, not even the light of the Red Moon was shining on this day.

"How was it?" Asked Trask.

"Excellent, he was wonderful. I haven't had opposition like that for almost a year. Thank you for finding him for me. Did it take much persuading to have him spar against me?"

"At first, but I told him you were a man of honour and would expect no lenient treatment, nor would you whine over wounds. He seemed to relish the idea of wounding you so he said yes." Trask smiled an ironic smile. Eight years ago he tried to wound Morthander, to kill him in fact. He knew how hard it was.

"Yes, that last cut of his came rather close. Close to cutting my head off! Ah but it was worth it."

Deville chatted about the practice while they strolled down the road, heading back to the Silk'n Plume.

He'd had a hell of a first week in town. After the first, high impact day, he'd spent a while meeting various officials and representatives of the Armistice Commission in civic functions. He'd also managed to fit in some Temple time in and had enjoyed doing the sermons which had been avoided by the Bureaucrats but was well attended by the garrison. They had particularly enjoyed his joke about the Sartarite in the beer barrel.

Still, Deville had needed some real sword work to get the tension out of his system. He felt lose and relaxed now whereas hours before he'd been so knotted with stress he'd felt like he was going to snap.

He was lost in thought over the possibility of converting Sharpsword to the Lunar Way when Trask crashed into him with a yell. Deville fell sideways under the impact and he heard a dull thunk that was followed by a groan from Trask. Deville levered his suddenly limp friend off him and started to rise to his feet. That's when the magics hit him.

A powerful attack spell ricocheted from his Cast Back and Enlightened, snarled in fury at being glued into its sheath. A crossbow bolt and four arrows were deflected by his obdurate sorceries. All were poisoned. He struggled to bring his mind together, filled as it was for the worry of his downed friend who had taken a crossbow bolt meant for him.

Several more magics bombarded him, most bouncing off but a powerfully backed Shattering penetrated and almost blew his arm off. A magic spirit, whose sole function it was, healed him automatically but as it did a massive spell blasted down his Cast Back and Damage Resistance in one go. He reeled under the onslaught of several mind affecting magics but resisted them with a will of iron.

Enlightened had dispelled the glue spell and was preparing to call Tarnils into the blade. Deville couldn't Bladesharp his sword because of the moon but he was more concerned at rebuilding his magical defences and taking cover than making his weapon do even more damage. He dived into a doorway, two arrows penetrating his hauberk with magic giving them force. The wounds were light but he wasted precious seconds knocking them out of his back.

The sounds of movement on the street told him they were coming for him but his expanded senses warned him that one was moving on him from the shadows, blending into the night with powerful darkness magics until he was utterly invisible and silent to normal men. His movements were cat-like, sinuous and purposeful.

Deville gritted his teeth, anger fuelling him. They would test him would they, they would hurt his friends? He would show them the real meaning of death. "Father Yelm, let there be light!" He roared and his body burst into radiant light, illuminating the whole street with the Glory of Yelmalio. He leapt forward towards the man who stood surprised, no longer hidden by the shadows. The others staggered slightly, temporarily blinded by the glaring light so he had time to kill the leader, then turn on the rest. That was his plan anyway.

His sword hungered and glittered with the power of Tarnils and as he moved he finally called upon Yelm for a Shield to protect him from harm. His body glowed as his defences were partially restored.

The assassins leader was a tall, slim, saturnine figure who moved forward with a cold-blooded elegance as Deville entered range. His thin blade lashed out, lightning quick, forcing a superb parry out of Deville. Deville exchanged cuts for a second and knew instantly that he was in trouble.

This man is amazing and his men will be on my back in seconds, he thought. Deville had hoped to beat him quickly but now retreated with haste, placing his back against the wall. His opponent followed, pressing his attack relentlessly, the others began to follow.

Deville called forth a Glowspot using the power of the Bat in the name of Goddess but he knew it would be too late. He'd have no time to bring more magics into play, he'd be dead in moments. He resolved to sell himself dearly and blazed forth among them, shoulder charging the leader while ramming his sword through the skull of one man and the groin of another. He pulled out his main gauche, an item he rarely used and with a weapon in each hand, he flickered among them. He slew and slew yet there seemed to be a never-ending tide of foes and each one exacted their toll upon him.

The healing spirits ran out of power, Enlightened had cast Truesword three times, each time it was dispelled by magics from someone beyond the fight. His body was torn and sliced, his robes soaked with blood, much of it his own. Finally his Shield spell was blasted down and the leaders blade pierced his left lung through his hauberk.

Deville spat a gout of blood into the mans face, grabbing hold of his arm with one mailed hand and pulled him into a headbutt that broke the assassins nose. The dark man fell back in surprise and pain while Deville reeled, almost drunkenly, into a hack that glanced off his skull, opening a huge cut and almost knocking him unconscious. Devilles instinctive riposte gutted his foe but a whelter of weapons hammered him back against the wall. A spear pinioned his leg to the bricks, a mace broke his sword arm at the elbow and a sickle opened up his stomach but still he stood, snarling his defiance at his enemies. Only the sorceries he habitually cast were keeping him alive but even they had their limits.

Then a heavy blade sliced through two men in front of him, another man fell with a crack of broken spine as a heavy boot landed in the base of his back. A powerful figure smote left and right amid the remaining assassins. The benefits of surprise and the sheer power of this new foe left five dead in moments.

The remaining men broke and ran, the slowest was grabbed by a powerful arm and pulled into a kneck-breaking butt. "This is how to deal with assassins with no regard for life!" Snarled Garrath Sharpsword.

Deville felt consciousness leaving him but he hoarsely whispered to his saviour; "Trask, heal Trask." Then he blacked out.

When he came round he was in the Deezola annexe, his wounds healed. Trask Two-Swords lay snoring on the bed next to him. Sor-eel was sitting by his bed staring at him.

"You're a hard man to kill Deville. Eighteen assassins! They must have wanted you bad. At this rate there won't be any people left for me to govern!"

"How did I get here." Muttered Deville. His head rang and his guts heaved but he had to know.

"The fighting brought the watch of course, they found you and Trask unconscious amid the heaps of bodies. We brought you back. I must say Deville, for a man who'd fought so many, you hardly had a scratch on you, a Dark Moon day too! Incredible. Your reputation didn't do you justice." Sor-eel shook his head, still amazed at the report. Even Radak had been impressed.

"What do you mean , "hardly a scratch"? I'd virtually been torn apart!"

"All you had was a head wound, nothing else."

Deville remembered well a man who'd saved him, a man who plainly wished to be anonymous in his charity but a man who Deville would never forget. I owe him my life, and more importantly, the life of my friend. I will never forget that, he swore and Morthander Deville was a man of his word.

<< Part 4 | The Deville page | Settling In Part 1 >>

May 31, 2000

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