A little late again this week. Well, better late then never, I hope.
A Stone of Contention, Part VII – Out of the Blue
Swaglord’s eyes followed the downward path of the dagger, the glint along the elegantly curving blade a rope of fire against the cloudless sky. It descended on him like the blazing talon of some great reaping bird floating out of the heavens on a timeless trajectory: ever closer, ever nearer, ever and ever in a single moment on the knife edge of oblivion.
He closed his eyes and then, as if it had been waiting for him to look away, time the creeper leapt brazenly forward, resuming its usual, hurried pace.
The rogue finished her leap, touching down between the highlanders and her horse, which wasted no time in galloping away the moment it felt itself cut free of the happenstance anchor. Swaglord opened his eyes to find his sword in his hand, still stubbornly embedded in the trunk of the pine, a few tatters of the leather cord hanging from the guard.
So, the dagger was not meant for me after all…
“I could teach you a few things about knots,” said the rogue, crouching and slashing at the knee of the closest giant. The beast roared and she rolled twice to her right, keeping ahead of the two clubs that beat the ground just inches behind her. Again, her daggers flashed and the beast nearest her let out a loud scream, clutching at a deep gash just above its elbow.
The remaining unwounded beast lifted its club and charged. This time she leapt straight up, soaring high overhead. As the giant passed under her, she came to a hard perch on its head and kicked off again, somersaulting to a graceful landing, and sending the clumsy beast face first into the dirt. The other two, bloodied but more angry than hurt, roared at her, brandishing their weapons and closing on her with caution. The third pried itself up off the hard pack and moved to join its brethren.
“Little help here!” she called, out of another low crouch.
Swaglord’s gaze dropped down to his sword, then back to the rogue—at that moment rolling away from a screaming highlander—then back to his weapon and finally down along the blade to the wide tree trunk, into which the last foot of his sword vanished.
His first pull on the sword confirmed that it was the tree trunk, not him, that truly held his sword. He tried two hands on the hilt, leaning back with all his weight, then pushing the other way, and felt it budge a little. Next he tried a back-and-forth motion, repeated pulling and pushing. He could feel the sword starting to move, but after several tries it had hardly budged at all, and it wasn’t clear whether it was coming free or becoming even more deeply trapped in the stubborn wood.
“Knight!” the rogue called, on the run now with all three of the beasts in pursuit.
“This could take a while!” he called back. He gave the sword another push, straining with all his might. “I don’t know if—“A dagger pierced the ground at his feet. He glanced at it, then looked back at his sword, and then back at the dagger again.
“Today!” The rogue was dodging and rolling, and none of the highlanders had screamed in pain for a little while.
He plucked the rogue’s weapon from the dirt and held it up before him. His gauntlet completely hid its ebony handle; the blade extending from his fist was barely as long as the hilt of his sword.
A weapon’s a weapon, I guess—
He ran towards closest giant, bellowing as he approached. The beast turned and raised its club. Swaglord ran right up to it, stopping a practiced step away, raising his shield and bracing himself for the blow as he had done a thousand times before. Upon feeling the weight of the club on his shield, his warrior’s training kicked in; timing was everything. Instinctively waiting for the moment of impact to pass—a tempo as his instructors had called it—he pulled back his shield and answered as only a knight can: two lightning quick slashes tracing a perfect “X” across the opponent’s vital areas.
Only, this time, both slices came up about a forearm’s length short of the target. The giant looked down at its chest and then up at Swaglord. Swaglord looked at the dagger and then up at the giant.
“Heh!” he said, shrugging.
The giant might have been amused. It beat itself in the chest with its free hand while swinging its club up from the ground in a sideways uppercut motion.
Swaglord dodged, managing to evade the main force of the swing, but the end of the club caught him and sent him careening for several yards across a stretch of ground that sloped downwards. Before he could regain his balance he ran straight into one of the other giants, and before he had realized what he had done the creature screamed right into ear. Turning his head from the deafening blare he noticed his fist pressed up against the creature’s belly, with no sign of the diminutive blade.
The giant threw him down on the ground and clutched its stomach. Moaning, it dropped its club, fell to its knees and slowly teetered over onto it’s side.
“Well done, hero.” The rogue was suddenly crouching right next to him. “We may survive this yet.” She winked and then was gone again.
Swaglord started to get up, then stopped, feeling slightly dazed from the impacts with the giant and then the ground. He looked around to see the rogue sprinting toward the lone giant still left standing. The third was a short distance away bent over with one knee to the ground, seemingly having trouble getting back to its feet.
After a deep breath, Swaglord tried getting up again. His head hurt and the sun seemed too bright. Just as he got both feet beneath him he felt the rogue tap him on the shoulder.
“Tag,” she said, and then vanished.
The ground was shaking. Swaglord looked up to the see the giant just steps away, lumbering toward him, club in hand.
The creature’s bulbous belly bounced with each of its heavy steps. The knight saw to do: as the giant ran into him, he raised his shield high across the creature’s weapon arm and slid the full measure of the dagger into the right side of its soft mid section. When the giant stopped and roared angrily, he decided he had better finish it quickly. Twisting the blade to horizontal, he yanked it hard to the left, and then pushed himself away as the highlander’s intestines spilled onto the ground.
“A little overboard, I’d say.” The rogue was behind him again. “But effective.”
Swaglord dropped to the ground roughly, even more dazed than before and now a bit breathless as well. The last highlander was on its feet again, but moving slowly. The look in its eye told Swaglord it was no threat.
“Leave this one to me,” said the rogue. “I’ve half-kill’t him already—might as well finish it.”
She walked over to it slowly, using none of the acrobatic tricks she had displayed earlier. The giant hesitated, raising its club seemingly in self defense. She taunted it, showing her blades and then waving them threateningly until the creature responded with a half hearted swing. As its club came weakly forward, she dodged around behind it then leapt up onto its shoulders, her thighs closing tightly around its massive head.
She looked once at Swaglord, and then pressed her daggers down into the giant, each behind on of its two thick collarbones. The beast didn’t make a sound. She then rolled forward and pushed off of the daggers, leaving them behind as she executed a perfect somersault and half-turn in mid-air, landing in front of the giant, facing it with her hands lightly on her slender hips.
The highlander stood there for several seconds, blinking at the decorated, black and silver handles sticking up along side its thick neck. Then it closed its eyes and began to teeter, ever so slowly, then wobbling in slow circles before finally falling dead to the ground.
Swaglord felt he knew a little of how it felt. His head was pounding. Feeling weak and suddenly tired, he laid back on the ground, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. In a few moments he felt a light weight on his chest, opening his eyes to the rogue’s pouting face framed against a sky of perfect blue.
“What can I do for you?” he whispered.
The rogue grinned on one side of her face. “The question is, my sleepy hero, what am I going to do with you?”
To be continued…