This image is the work and property of user ‘Josu Herniaz’ on Artstation, and is used here with the artist’s permission.
I forced him back. His sword came at me again, heavy and overpowering. I deflected it with my sword, but it wasn’t enough. I leaned the angle of my shoulder into the blow to glance it off my armor and despite all I had done to divert the force of it, my joint complained, something inside burning painfully. Now past his sword, I rammed the hilt of my sword into his throat. He went down like a tree, clawing at his throat, and I leaned over, sword poised to strike. His left eye, steel grey, the target of my sword, filled my vision as the target of my strike.
His voice came to me, hoarse and gravelly, and I realized that he’d been trying to stop me for a while. “Yield! I yield, gods above woman, stop!” I froze, the sword’s blade a moment from his eye.
“You yield?” I trembled, and the sword’s point magnified the motion, shaking in anger. “You yield? You looked at my crotch before you looked at my sword, and now you ask a warrior to yield to that insult? NO! Don’t you dare look ashamed. Pick up your sword and answer your goddamned insult!”
“My lady — er, warrior. Warrior, I was wrong. You’ve made your point.” He held his hands up to either side of his frustratingly handsome face, offering a frustratingly sheepish smile. He was handsome, and I hated him for it.
“I have not made my point! We steep our blades in blood – would you forgive me if I said you weren’t worthy of your sword because of your dick?” I put my armored boot on his kneecap; I didn’t bear down, but it was an injury that would end a fighter’s career. “Stay on the ground, and I will destroy you a joint at a time.”
His eyes hardened. He wasn’t fighting a girl anymore. Not even a skilled girl. He was finally looking at a ruthless warrior. “You asked for this.”
He reached out to pick up his sword, and I stepped back several feet, taking my stance and angling my sword. “If you hold back on me this time, I swear to all that is holy I will leave your body for the vultures to shit out.”
He eased closer, and everything was different. He was poised, he was balanced. There was none of his earlier brutish clubbing, none of his playfulness; he would try to kill me, and he was strong enough that he just might. He had reach and power on me, so I’d have to be more than just better.
I smiled, my blood singing with the intensity of his eyes; I’d break those pretty teeth and smash that pretty face, I’d break all the pretty faces that had used me so wrongly, I’d bloody them all.
I was too far gone to question the source of those thoughts. My wild thoughts caught a turn of his foot, but what I saw was the full stroke. I stepped past the sweep of his strike, my blade leaping to cross his throat. He used the swing as a counterweight, though, hurling his body aside against the weight of the sword, and then he traded momentum, his body becoming the fulcrum around which his heavy sword lashed out like a whip. I leaned back in time to save my eyes, but it caught my noseguard, ripping my helmet free. I threw my hand out, folding my hand so that my gauntlet flew off. I heard his sword strike it aside, but that was one attack that hadn’t struck me. I had my stance back and was rushing forward again before he got his sword back up.
We might have fought for minutes. It felt like hours. I lifted my sword, gathering the little strength that remained to swing it weakly. He swayed to avoid one blow, letting another hit his shoulder guard. He dropped his sword, too heavy to wield in his exhaustion, and punched me square in the chest. I barely felt it, and I laughed in his face.
He stared at me . . . then started laughing with me. I think I collapsed first, but it was long minutes that we both lay on the ground, laughing in hysteria. After we finally quieted, he was the first to speak.
“If you think I’m going to let you live . . . ” Anger began rising, threatening to consume me again.
“For now. We can’t fight like this.” He took a swig from a waterskin, then passed it to me. I took a sip, but suddenly I was gulping it down greedily. “We go our separate ways. We’ll kill each other next time.”
I took the waterskin from my lips. “Agreed. Next time we meet, I’ll kill you. I promised Quiet your blood.”
He turned to his side, curious. “Quiet?”
“I named her. She keeps her secrets, and she brings people to silence. I named her ‘Quiet’. ”
“Huh. Well. Until next time, lady warrior.” He rose, picking his sword up from the ground, and I pushed to my feet as well, careful to remain steady. I wouldn’t, I refused to show weakness now. A draw wasn’t good enough to earn respect, I had to be better.
“Stay. I’ll make a fire, we’ll eat. Then we’ll leave.” I didn’t know why I asked him to stay. He was too pretty to be decent. I knew what his kind was like. But the offer was made, for better or worse.
Tonight, we’d eat together. Tomorrow, we’d kill each other.