Monday, 1 November 2010

The Shield

Once again in a fit of avoiding my MA work, I've managed to knock out a little bit of Tefr narrative. This time to head up the Prelude to Rhapsody chapter on combat. It was an odd one to work on, I think writing action is quite hard work, and I found myself editing it over and again. I'm fairly happy with the results for now, but it will doubtless alter again before publication. In this piece, I've also sprinkled a few italicised Tefr places and terms, to get the reader into the idea of using them with their own characters.

The Shield

The shield was still propped against his pack on the other side of the campfire, where Meres had left it the night before, and now Camore was lying right beside it, a long shaft, with goose-feather flights still sticking up from his back like a ridiculous pennant. It was hard to tell if he was dead, or just pretending, either way, there was no chance of getting to him, and finding out. Not without gaining a little pennant in the back himself.
  Meres looked away and cursed; the shield would have been the best protection he had against an unknown archer, but there was no help for that now. He kept his back to the tree, it was big enough to hide him from sight for now; he was fairly sure the arrow that caught Camore had come from just up the slope behind it.
  ‘Yaruk, are ye’right?’ he shouted across the clearing in Gal. If he was guessing correctly, their assailant was probably a local scout, who might know these forests, but nothing of the tongue of the Northlands. Annu Cheviel’s men had been close on their heels for three days now; hardly surprising, considering Meres and his companions had taken the stone of Uregh from his chasator. If they could just survive long enough to get it back to the priests at Parlin before Yearsend, it may yet prevent the whole of Shelir descending into bloody war.
  ‘Aye, I’m fine.’ Yaruk called back in the same language. ‘They shot Camore,’
Meres could just see the tips of Yaruk’s horns moving behind the broken log on the far side of the camp, no-doubt so could the archer.
  ‘I think there’s only one, or there’d be two of us lying with arrows in our backs. He’s probably trying to keep us pinned down long enough for reinforcements to arrive,’ said Meres.
  ‘What’s the plan then?’ said Yaruk, horns bobbing higher. If he, stuck his head up any further, he’d find an arrow between his eyes.
  ‘The plan –we rush him.’
  ‘Simple and straight to the point, eh Meres. Very well, I’m ready when you are.’
  ‘On the count of three then,’ said Meres. ‘One, two...’ he flung himself out from behind the tree, rolling once and regaining his feet at a run; if he was going to draw fire, he wasn’t going to make it easy. He’d been right about the archer sighting on Yaruk; Meres could see him in the scanty bushes, not four standards away, swinging his bow across in his direction. He pumped his legs beneath him, his sword swinging ready in his hand, he wasn’t going to reach the archer before he could shoot, but if he missed, Meres was going to make sure he wouldn’t get another opportunity.
  He saw the bow shake as the arrow flew towards him, and Meres instinctively ducked away, but it wasn’t enough; a heavy blow slammed his shoulder backwards, almost spinning him round. There was no pain yet, but he could feel the solidity of the arrow head, a sort of wrongness that shouldn’t have been there, grating as it was held firm in his flesh where it had penetrated the stiff hide of his armour. Too bad for the archer it was his left shoulder, and with barely a check to his momentum, Meres swung his sword back round and closed the gap. Meres saw the fear in the archer’s eyes, as he flung his bow ineffectively towards him, before clawing with desperate fingers to draw the sword hanging at his belt. At the last moment the archer tried to dodge the charge, but not fast enough, and the tip of Meres’s sword caught him across the midriff, tearing through leather and flesh, to leave a deep gash.
The archer gasped in pain, but he wasn’t beaten yet, he was quick to recover, and with his, now unsheathed asafr sword, he struck towards Meres’s vulnerable left side, only to have it met by a length of good Sayanay steel as Meres parried. With his opponent still off balance, Meres stepped past him and threw a another blow at the man’s back. The archer tried desperately to reach behind and parry, but his skill as a swordsman was inadequate, and always would be; Meres’s felt his sword bite deep, and his opponent stumbled forward, then fell to the ground. He, could hear the dying archer wheezing in rapid gasps, fighting for his last breaths.
  Before Meres could do more, there was a sudden yell from behind, and, turning to meet this new threat, saw Yaruk hurtling past, to sink his axe deep into the man’s chest. Finishing it all.
  Meres lowered his sword, feeling the first sharp pain clutch his shoulder, and turned to examine the arrow sticking from it.
  ‘Where were you? The bastard nearly nailed me,’ said Meres, putting a tentative finger on the wooden shaft, it was painful, but he’d been lucky, it looked like his armour had taken most of the damage.
  Yaruk pulled his bloodied axe free, and shrugged.
  ‘You didn’t say three,’ he said.

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