His breath heaved, his body sagging, but alert. Sweat dripped into my eye, and I blinked to clear it. Somehow I knew, I knew that it was coming. He’d seen the opening and the blow was coming. I lifted my own blade, steel meeting steel, but he leaned hard into the blow, throwing me to the ground through greater strength and weight. I saw the shadow against the sun and rolled as he struck the earth behind me. I pulled my knees up and rolled directly into a kneel, scrambling up. He struck before I could get my footing, pressing his attack, forcing me to stumble, then stumble again to get my footing.
He’s too aggressive, I realized. But he was bigger than me, faster. Would it be enough to take advantage of? I might fight magnificently and still, lose. But I would lose anyway. The only thing left was to bet everything on this strike. My life, my cause, my princess. They would live or suffer based on one moment.
I stumbled back again from his furious assault. Again, I fell. Again, he lunged to strike while I was down. I thrust my sword forward as my back struck the ground – combined with my backward motion, the forward thrust was almost motionless, but his body provided the power. He thrust his chest against the blade, his own aggression delivering the deathblow.
“You . . . never taught me that.” Blood dripped down the blade, coating my hands like hot grease.
“I taught you all you know, big brother . . . but not all that I know.” I lifted my foot, bracing his body, and directed him to fall to the side.
Out the window, Jonathon and his brother were playing. Jacob was writhing on the ground, pretending to die, and the younger Jonathon was up and cheering in glory.
“Do you think Jacob lets him win, honey? Is that healthy, to pretend to lose? Or should we encourage it? I just don’t know.”
“They’re boys, honey. Let boys be boys.”