Part 12

Nathan pulled his two swords in fluid motions.  They were a gift from King Michael when he'd accepted the Call, fashioned to be like the great swords used by warriors of the desert.  His ancestors were warriors of the desert until they'd been conquered and enslaved by another tribe.  His tribe had been scattered after that, sold to different tribes and sultanates until no one was left who remembered what it was like to be free.  But Nathan knew what it was like now and he would make his ancestors proud.

The soldiers came at him one at a time--a foolish old technique.  His sword moved like it was part of his arm, reaching out to smite his enemies.  They were decent fighters, but not good enough.

Vin blocked the swing coming towards his head.  He was a much better bowman than a swordsman, but he wasn't half bad.  He swung back and cracked his enemy's face with the end of his large sword.  He carried the traditional elven sword--long and heavy with a curve coming to a fine point.  Too heavy for most humans, but Vin had started training with one when he was just a little thing.  Its weight was comfortable to him.  It gave him an advantage, too.  The extra weight made his blows heavier.  Took many a man by surprise.

Vin ducked as a sword swished by his head.  What was that smell?  "Guys!  Don't let them cut you!  Their blades've got goblin blood on them!"

Chris pushed back his opponent with a smoldering anger in his eyes.  Goblin's blood!  It was outlawed to use on weapons because it was such a powerful poison.  It wouldn't affect him, but the others were vulnerable.  Chris jammed his sword through his enemy's stomach then pushed the man off the end of his blade with an angry boot.  A sword raked across his arm, not even making a dent.  The soldier died with a look of surprise on his face.

Buck used a regular soldier's sword like Chris--nothing fancy, but strong and sharp.  He dropped one man with it before turning to punch another guy in the face.  The soldier hadn't been expecting that and dropped to the ground in agony.  Buck smiled.  Probably broke his nose.  Buck always liked to mix up a little hand-to-hand with his sword fighting.  It made things more fun.  He glanced quickly over to where JD was fighting.  Kid seemed to be holding his own.  Buck was relieved.  He really liked JD and didn't want anything to happen to him--especially not on his first mission.

Josiah carried a monstrous broadsword, but usually didn't even use it in a fight.  He carried a staff that, with his great strength behind it, could cause more damage that a sword.  Josiah cracked one man's head with little effort and sent two more flying with a well-placed swing of his staff.

Ezra had managed to evade most of the fighting by edging himself closer and closer to the trees.  If he could slip away during the melee, none of them would ever be able to catch him--and he still had the gold he'd taken from the Hunters.  That would have to do until he could find more.

His bad luck was still holding, however.  Every time he thought he could get clear, one of the captain's buffoons would attack him and he got dragged back into the fighting.

A body went flying past him, crashing into a tree.  Josiah Sanchez's doing, no doubt.  The man seemed to possess the strength of several men.  All the Hunters seemed to be uncommonly good fighters.  Ezra was awed by how well they fought together and apart.  Ezra's only experience with warriors up to that point had been when he watched Pells and his men practice on the grounds of Royale's manor.  He'd secretly gone in and out of that place, spying unseen on the inner workings of the Baron's home--and taking a few things while he was at it.  He'd thought the Baron's men were good and had modeled a lot of his own fighting style on theirs.  But now he'd have to revise his opinion.  Seeing Larabee and his men in action showed Ezra how mediocre Pells and his men really were.  It's too bad Ezra didn't have the time or opportunity to watch the Hunters more carefully.  He could learn a lot by observing them.  "Behind you, Wilmington!"

"Thanks, Ez."  

Ezra noticed that Buck was smiling like he was having the time of his life.  Josiah also seemed to delight in busting the heads of his enemies.  Even Larabee sported a look of unholy glee when he dispatched a soldier.  What were they so happy about?  People were trying to kill them!  Ezra wasn't sure he'd ever understand human behavior. 

Chris faced off against Pells, who had been content up to now with letting his men do all the work.  "What's the matter, Craddoc?  Running out of men to do your fighting for you?"

Pells looked around at the carnage.  Most of his men were dead and the fighting was almost over.  He would not let this arrogant nobody best him!  Pells charged with a mighty battle cry.  Chris wasn't impressed.  You couldn't let anger control your actions in battle.  It was easy to block Pells when his body language revealed his every next move.  People often thought Chris fought in anger, but that wasn't entirely true.  He let it come to the surface where he could harness it, controlling it just enough to make him focused and motivated.  He had no problem with his anger during a battle.  It was afterwards, when he couldn't let it go, that was the problem.  

Pells couldn't fight like this.  He had to rein it in.  He took a deep breath and blocked out the bloody sight of the Hunter's previous kills.  He was not going to be one of them.  Let Larabee come to him.

Chris glared at Pells from several feet away.  Then with a surprising burst of energy, he charged at the captain, sword mid-chest.  

Pells deflected the blade with his small shield and sliced at Larabee with his other hand.  He was sure he'd cut the man.  Why wasn't he bleeding?  Pells didn't even see a cut!  He lunged at Larabee, trying to get him before the other man came at him first.  He hacked at the Hunter's arm and then slammed his shield into Larabee's face.

Chris staggered back from the impact of the blow, but he felt no pain from it or from the touch of the other man's blade.  His gift protected him.

Pells stared wide-eyed at the Hunter.  He should be writhing in agony!  He should be bleeding like a stuck pig!  Why wasn't he wounded?  Maybe the rumors were true.  Maybe the Hunters did have magic powers.  A chill ran down his spine.  How could you kill a man who couldn't be hurt?

Chris gave him his most menacing snarl.  Time to end this.  Chris charged again, but moved his s word lower at the last moment.  Pells's fear made him hesitate just a fraction of a second--too long in the heat of battle.  Chris's blade skewered him.  

JD's opponent was a head taller and had a longer reach, but the young Belenite was faster and had learned how to fight tall enemies.  After all, Belen's worst enemies were giants.  JD sliced at the man's thigh, dropping him to the ground.  It's awful hard to fight if you can't stand.

JD raised his swords to block a blow from the left, his concentration intently focused.  He'd been in plenty of practice fights and skirmishes back in Belen when he was training in hopes to become a dragonrider, but this was his first real battle--one with people actually trying to kill him.

Larabee pulled his sword free and looked around for more enemies to fight.  No one was there.  It looked like the battle was almost over.  Some of the Hunters were just finishing off their last opponents.

JD wasn't a bad swordsman, but he knew he could still use a lot of experience.  This wasn't the kind of experience he had in mind for his first mission as a Hunter, though.

"Hunter Dunne, to your right!"

JD hoped he wouldn't get injured or Buck would never let him forget it.

"JD!"  Ezra saw it all in slow motion--the soldier, the sword, JD looking the other way.  No one was close enough.  Not even Ezra.  Unless...

Out of the corner of his eye JD saw an enormous blur of green that snapped him out of his thoughts.  He spun to his right just in time to see a soldier crumple to the ground with a gurgle.  Blood oozed from several deep, vicious claw marks in the man's side.  Claw marks?

JD slowly raised his eyes, following the line of green in front of him.  His eyes took in the tall body, the hard green scales, and the pair of large emerald eyes set in a smirking reptilian face.  It opened its mouth to speak.

"I advise you to be more alert to your surroundings in a melee such as this.  Tunnel vision can be quite deadly in a fight."

"Ezra?'re a..."

"Yes.  I am."

Part 13