Wolves at the Door (part 131)

The heavy sword might mitigate some of Gil’s deficiencies on the offensive side of the contest, but he would have no such crutch when it came to defence. Thanks to the drills he had been performing for the last week, he was growing comfortable with the weight of a shield on his arm, and able to move it to cover any area of his body that an assailant might target. But knowing how to move was one thing; knowing when to move was another.

So most of the night was spent with Alfvin taking up the lighter sword to test Gil’s defences. It started out slow, giving Gil time to recognise where the blow was aimed and respond accordingly. Gradually the speed of the strikes increased, until Gil was reacting before he consciously knew what it was that he was reacting to.

That worked well until Alfvin changed things up again, reacting to Gil’s reactions. Gil had particular trouble when a high feint redirected towards his legs while his raised shield obscured his vision. He collected a dozen shallow cuts on his legs before he worked out how to react in stages; to lift his shield without blocking his view, and wait until the attack was beyond the point of no return before fully committing to his response.

Short as the midsummer night was, dawn could not come soon enough for Gil. By the time the growing daylight forced Alfvin to end the training session, Gil’s shield-arm ached as much as his sword-arm had a week earlier. At least it distracted from the stinging of the cuts on his legs. Tired as he was, he took the time to bind his wounds carefully before settling down to sleep through the day. He hoped they would not re-open in the night, and they would be mostly healed by the time of the duel. Going into a duel wounded was not a good idea. It may even be possible to lose by shedding blood before your opponent landed a hit, though Gil had never heard of such a case. He did not want to be the first.

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