Wolves at the Door (part 141)

Chop. Chop. Chop. Gil kept his attacks away from Fargrim’s sword arm. A little variation to keep the opponent from feeling too much in control. Not so much that the blows land on a different part of the shield. It had worked twice already, and it worked a third time, though not before Gil lost his own second shield. Over the years, Fargrim had perfected the art of hiding his fear, but now Gil thought he could see panic rising behind the eyes. Time was running out. Fargrim launched a bewildering series of feints, culminating in roundhouse sweep that lodged his sword in Gil’s shield. Gil took the opportunity to give a twist, splitting the shield but bending the blade in the process.

Although the enchanted whetstone could sharpen his sword in the blink of an eye, Gil took his time preparing for his next attack, letting Fargrim’s fear grow. What should have been an easy victory for the older man had turned into a desperate struggle. Now the ground had shifted again, as the two men faced each other without shields. Gil had been careful to avoid giving Fargrim any opportunity to parry with his sword up until now, and had made no such effort himself. What would happen next was anyone’s guess. Even with a bent sword, Fargrim might be able to block Gil’s next attack. Then again, Gil’s sword might be too heavy to turn aside.

Gil was no stranger to uncertainty. It was the state he had lived in ever since the challenge had been issued. Frankly, he was amazed to have lasted this long. He hoped it was causing Fargrim more trouble.

Alfvin had said that Fargrim’s fear would be Gil’s ally. The fear was evident, not only in his eyes, but in all he had done before. It was why he had tipped Arnulf overboard in the first place. It was why he had spoken out against Gil at the hearing, three years ago. It was why he had tried to arrange the duel for a time when he thought he could not lose.

Fargrim feared a beast, so Gil did his best to play the part. He took his sword in both hands, staring into Fargrim’s eyes. He began panting, working himself up into at least the appearance of a frenzy. Finally, he let out a roar as he heaved his blade overhead, ready to split his target right down the middle.

Fargrim had plenty of time to get his sword up into a blocking position. Then, at the last moment, he side-stepped, swinging his sword around to strike Gil’s exposed side.

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