Wolves at the Door (part 140)

Just as he would with a tree, Gil varied the angle of his next chop, coming slightly upward. Once again Fargrim parried with his shield, but this time at such an angle that the blade skidded right off, over the top of the boss and kept going. Gil almost lost his grip, but managed to halt its motion as it cleaved the air where Fargrim’s head had been a moment before. The edge might have taken part of his ear, or worse, if he hadn’t instinctively ducked his head out of the way. Despite some grumbling from the crowd, the consensus seemed to be that the dodge was within the spirit of the rules. It had just been a reflex, and anyway, he had used his shield first.

Fargrim seemed to change his approach, now that they were back on even terms and he had got a good look at Gil’s defensive capabilities. The shield always seemed to get into the right place, but the younger man’s inexperience showed in the way he angled it, often good enough but never quite ideal. That was a weakness a skilled opponent could exploit. And he clearly couldn’t parry with that ridiculous sword. Once the monster had no shields left to hide behind, he could end it once and for all.

His next blow mirrored Gil’s almost exactly, a sweeping backhanded slash towards the hip below Gil’s sword arm. Gil got his shield around, awkwardly, with little control. The blade clanged off the boss, turning to slap against the wood harmlessly.

Gil stuck to his tree-lopping style, sweeping this time on a downward angle. Perhaps the near miss had left Fargrim feeling cautious, but the heavy blade struck his shield squarer than he would have liked, biting into the wood. Once again, Gil struggled to keep hold of his sword’s hilt, as Fargrim twisted the shield with all his might. In a battle situation, the move may have disarmed an opponent or bent his weapon into uselessness, but this sword was made of sterner stuff. The loud crack that followed was not from shattering iron, but splintering wood.

Gil had been incredulous when Alfvin had told him that Fargrim’s combat experience could be a disadvantage. But he was beginning to see it: a move that could have won the fight in ordinary circumstances had cost him his second shield. Gil hoped it would not be the last time those hard-earned battle reflexes led him astray.

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