Editor's Note: If you have not yet read the previous chapters to this story, please go to the Fantasy Archive and read those, first. Thank you, TDS.
Authorís note: Caution, this section contains scenes of graphic violence.
There was one soldier who had not yet joined in the fighting. He stood at the rear of the campsite with his sword drawn and watched the small but deadly battles which surrounded him as he tried to decide who among his comrades he should assist. To be more precise, this soldier wanted to know which of the ongoing battles he should join that would give him the best opportunity of not being killed or sorely injured. To his left, Lepi, the biggest and strongest of his comrades should have little trouble disposing of the young man who foolishly attacked him. In the foreground, their captain was already slain by the dark stranger, but two more soldiers now pressed an attack on him, and on his right one man was down with a serious leg wound. As the undecided soldier saw the white-haired old man block a sword blow and rise to his feet, he moved to aid his comrade against this assailant.
Barker saw the late comer moving toward them and side stepped to his left as he blocked another overhand slash from the soldier in front of him. The Innkeeper then brought his own sword up and over from his left, which the soldier easily blocked, but Barker kept his blade moving after they made contact, forcing the otherís sword down and out of the way. Too late the soldier saw Barkerís axe following the same path his sword had taken and unable to block it, the axe struck him between his neck and right shoulder. The heavy blade easily cut through his chain mail and crushed his collarbone, as well as two ribs below it. The blow caused the manís knees to buckle and with a howl of pain he twisted away from Barker, unfortunately taking the axe out of the Innkeeperís hand as it was deeply embedded within bone and muscle. Undeterred, Barker quickly bent and snatched up the sword dropped by the wounded soldier and turned to meet his new adversary with a pair of leveled blades.
Bruce spent the last few moments simply attempting to stay out of the giantís range as he rained heavy-handed blows at the squire. The soldier did not exhibit much skill in his sword workóhe obviously used his size and strength to wear down an opponent and came in for a killing blow when the other was too worn out to defend himself any longer. Since Bruce knew he was no match for this creatureís strength, he would have to use his intelligence to defeat him, a quality the huge man seemed to lack. Bruce continued to back away and sidestep the giantís blows, only blocking an attack when he had no other option. He finally dropped to one knee, feigning exhaustion and raised his sword in a weak-looking attempt to block a killing strike. The giant laughed and approached with his own sword held high over his head with both hands, intending to cleave the young man in twain with a final blow.
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