Corrin shouted, people cried out and began to move but no one was close enough to stop him. Death was never an acceptable end to a duel.
Rill was moving before she realized it as Akerun began to speak. She had trained long to trust her instincts and her instincts moved her body now. She saw the intent in Akerun’s eyes and responded instantly. She reached him just as his sword was starting to fall. Slamming her diamond shield into Akerun with the full power of her legs behind the motion threw him back off his feet. He landed hard on his back, the breath whooshing from his lungs.
“You will not harm him.” She said, enunciating each word with calm certainty. That surprised her a little considering the furious fire that was raging inside her.
Akerun was stunned and unable to reply as he tried to get his wind back..
“I played your scapegoat as you wanted. It held the guild together and that’s all that really mattered to me. As long as I could remain in the guild, unmolested, I was satisfied.” Her heart quavered at the thought of being cut off as would surely be her punishment for her actions today. But her belly burned with fire and the heat of it drove her to speak her mind as she had never done before. It felt good. It felt right.
“But I will not let you kill an innocent man,” She said, her voice ringing out in the shocked silence.
Akerun let out a choked roar and started to get to his feet. Rill encased her heart in the fire.
“This was not a fair trial by combat and every one of you knows it!” She glanced about the room, looking into everyone’s eyes who would meet hers, keeping Akerun in her peripheral vision. She drew her sword.
“Giles was wounded and exhausted. We’ve all been fighting a war. Even you, Corrin, the Celestial Dragon,” She pointed with a flick of her sword at the monarch, “You are soiled with the blood of battle. But Akerun,” She turned back to him, “You look as though you’ve just returned from your Villa after a weekend of pampering. Fresh and clean. You haven’t been fighting. You’ve been hanging out at the back lines, sending in your guild before you instead of fighting with them.”
Akerun finally regained his feet and glared at her.
“And worst of all, Akerun.” She continued more softly, pity in her eyes, “You pursue a quest for personal, petty vengeance when there is a war going on for our lands, our liberty and our lives!”
“But if a trial by combat is the only way to end this then I,” she said, slamming her gauntleted fist to her to chest, “Will fight you.”
Akerun closed his eyes a moment and then began to laugh. Low at first, just a chuckle. Then it quickly turned into loud, mocking laughter. No one else spoke, no one else laughed. They all stared at him until he finally stopped abruptly and spoke.
“So, your true plan unfolds little witch. You are very passionate. And with that speech you just gave you obviously think yourself capable of leading better than me.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Are you challenging me for guild leadership? You would give the guild over to the enemy!”
“No.” She said, plainly and firmly.
“Liar.” He growled.
“You’ve been saying that a lot lately,” Giles muttered, just loud enough to be heard. He coughed and spat blood. He was on his back now, unable to move. His blood was starting to pool on the floor from his wounded side. A few chuckles around the room were quickly stifled but Akerun heard them. Rill brought up her shield but Akerun made no move to attack her.
“Only members can challenge me for leadership.” He said viciously and suddenly Rill felt a wrenching tear inside her mind. She gasped and clutched her head. Akerun had cut her connection to R’za and therefore to the guild as only a monarch had the power to do.
“Mawh take you!” Rugaba shouted and began to come to her aid but someone else was there to hold him back this time.
Everyone watched in shock as Akerun laughed and ran forward to take advantage of Rill when she was distracted. Her diamond shield grounded magical attacks so Akerun would have to fight her in melee. But while Rill was distracted, the move was not unanticipated. She was ready.
Her body took over for her, simply reacting as she had trained for. Hours upon hours of motion dRilled into her body so that even if her mind forgot what to do, her body knew. She trained to be the best she could be for moments like this. Mechanically, She parried Akerun’s strike, surprising him, then she followed up with a counter attack, slicing her spatha through the air as naturally as breathing. Akerun’s surprise was momentary though and he had plenty of time to parry.
Then Rill’s mind was back in charge, setting aside the pain, focusing on the task at hand. They exchanged a flurry of blows. She was more fresh than Giles but not completely. And she was not wounded except for a few scrapes. Yet she seemed to have the advantage over Akerun in this fight. He was fighting more defensively than her, which he was not used to. He was far more powerful and experienced than she was but his powers would do him no good in this fight.
Suddenly, Akerun flung a spell in Giles’s direction, the people gasped but Rill’s reflexes were lightning quick. Her refusal to use any magic gave her a unique sensitivity to its presence and she sensed the spell building. She assumed Akerun’s target was not her. Not her with her broad, magic-absorbing, diamond shield. She leapt to place herself between Akerun and Giles before the spell was even away. She ducked behind her shield and it did it’s part, absorbing and dispersing the blast of force. Still there was such power behind it that she slid back a few inches.
Akerun’s strike fueled the fires of her rage. First he used her and threw her away like trash. Then he severed her connection from the guild, R’za and Bob. And worse he tried to take advantage of her in that moment of pain. Worse still, firing at someone not involved anymore in the duel was despicable. It was one more offense, one more hypocritical, dishonorable act piling up against him. Many considered the Knights of Ird fallen from grace. Many thought they were no longer an honor guild. And seeing Akerun now, acting as he was, Rill understood why. He was the monarch! He was the most visible symbol of their guild! He was supposed to be better than this!
Akerun continued to barrage her with his spells, circling, forcing her to move as well to keep herself between Akerun and Giles. Her shield arm began to ache with the repeated blows. But she could not close with him. It would leave Giles vulnerable. Akerun shouted obscenities at her, taunting her, but she ignored him. Desperately she tried to think of something. What Akerun didn’t know was that her diamond shield was running out of mana. She wasn’t sure how many more attacks it could absorb.
Then Ru and Giles’s vassals darted into the arena. The vassals grabbed Giles and began to haul him away. Ru had his shield up, facing Akerun, defending them should he chose to strike at them but Rill too was between Akerun and the rescuers. He stopped casting and let them go but Rill’s attention was momentarily divided.
Akerun raised his sword and rushed forward. Rill saw the movement out of the corner of her eye but just a little too late. Akerun’s short sword snaked in past her guard and raked across her hip and thigh before she disengaged him. Rill cursed herself and backed up a few quick, long steps to gain a moment to assess her injury. Not too bad. Shallow but long. She would have to be more careful. Akerun had a taste of her blood now.
It didn’t take her long to return the favor, giving Akerun a gash across his shoulder as he twisted away from a flurry of her attacks that he had no choice but to dodge since he carried no shield. Rill felt a smile tug at the corner of her mouth. Akerun saw, snarled and attacked again. But he would not beat her.
From her first steps in this new country, she focused on one skill. Wielding the sword and shield. Most people who came to Drieebos picked up all sorts of new skills made available to them; many different kinds of weapons and magics. Not Rill. She was one of a few purist melee fighters. Every moment she wasn’t fighting, knee-deep in the corpses of whatever enemy was threatening Drieebos, she spent training, getting stronger, building her endurance. This was her element and though Akerun was older, more powerful, and far more experienced, he could not beat her. Not this way.
For the first time, Rill stopped trying to hold in the fire. She let her rage out. Its heat boiled out of her stomach and raced through the rest of her body, filling her like the light of dawn on the world. Her attacks became faster and stronger with every step. People later told her that her eyes glowed in that moment and she became surrounded by a fiery aura. Some people said they thought they saw a bird flickering along her blade as she wielded it.
Rill, focused on the fight, neither saw nor felt anything but the fire inside her. But she did sense a change in the room as she battled her monarch. There was definitely more light. She spared no extra thought for it but a part of her mind registered the presence of the telltale blood red glow of a portal and the many people coming through it. They were not hostile though because there were no shouts or signs of other fighting, so she ignored it for now. The only thing that mattered was the man in front of her.
Finally, Akerun’s grip slipped. His magi gloves were not meant for a prolonged sword fight. His palms must have started getting blistered. Rill smiled, remembering her own blisters early on. But her hands were well calloused now, having seen many battles and helped many guild members with their hard labors in building homes in this new land. The work had conditioned her for this moment.
With a shout she delivered a blow that flung Akerun’s weapon from his grip. It skittered across the floor. Desperately, he flung a spell at her but her shield was raised, anticipating the move. Once more it did not fail her, absorbing the attack. He danced backwards and she pursued. He moved toward his fallen sword but she was too quick, intercepting him, forcing him to spin away again.
Akerun then began to mutter the words of a recall spell, an attempt to bring his sword back to him but it fizzled. He looked down at his orb in amazement as though he could not believe his magic failed him. Then a quick flick from Rill’s spatha shattered it and sent the pieces flying from his hand. A reverse of the sword’s momentum and she had the tip at Akerun’s throat before he could move again. He swallowed and Rill saw the fires of her righteous fury reflected in the fear in his eyes.
To Be Concluded on 10/06/2014
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