Wolves at the Door (part 139)

Sure enough, Fargrim stepped up his next attack. He feinted high and struck low, but Gil was wise to that trick.

In his turn, he hacked sideways at his opponent, as if trying to fell a tree. There was still no subtlety in his approach; he still just aimed at the centre of the target, whichever direction he swung from. He did not want to risk having his strokes deflected harmlessly, as Fargrim’s had been so far. His one hope of winning lay in destroying all three shields before losing his own. He needed every blow to land on the shield, stressing the thin wood to the limit of its flexibility. So long as Gil chopped at the waist, Fargrim could not risk deflecting the blade upward for fear it might take off his head, nor down without endangering his feet. He could angle the shield to protect the wood, but had to catch the force of the blow on the iron boss.

Fagrim responded with another feint, low this time, before driving once again driving for the shoulder of Gil’s sword arm. Caught in a half-crouch to protect his legs, Gil just managed to swing his shield up, but lacked the extra moment to angle it properly. Fargrim’s sword pierced straight through the wood, missing Gil’s neck by inches. His inability to stand up straight had cost him a shield, but it had also kept his shoulder below the line of the sword’s attack.

As he took up his second shield, Gil also took a moment to run the sharpening stone over his sword. The blade had been nicked in places from coming up against the boss of Fargrim’s shield, but a moment later it was as sharp as ever. Gil had been reluctant to take Alfvin’s magical stone into the duel. It didn’t seem honest somehow. But it wasn’t as if the magic allowed anything he couldn’t do with a normal whetstone. It just saved a little time. Besides, he hadn’t had a normal whetstone with him, and Alfvin had insisted that re-sharpening of the sword’s blade would definitely be needed.

Gil was glad he had. He still had two shields to chop through if he was to win this fight.

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