Unexpected Aid

Thrust and parry. Attack, dodge, counterattack. We had been going on like this for what seemed like hours, though I knew it was only minutes.

Blood seeped from a dozen or so shallow cuts all over me. I hadn’t even managed to get him to sweat. Every attack looked casual. Every dodge, bored.

He was playing with me.

I thought, He goaded me into making this challenge, and I fell for it! The duke was, by reputation, the deadliest swordsman in a hundred leagues. A reputation I had thought overblown. I was wrong. And I was going to die for it.

Then take my aid. I glanced quickly about, but there was no one else here but the arbiter. Parry high left!

Without thinking, I did what the voice said, and blocked a death blow I hadn’t even seen coming. I felt the sword guide my hand, my arm, my whole body. No more defense, now. Only attack. For the first time in his life, he was on the defensive. I… No, we struck him in the face, drawing blood.

I knew we would win.

And the sword purred, hungry for more.

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