The sweat on Sivid’s brow was only partially to do with the fire. He had found himself face to face with the man they called Frothing Urek, and decided to test his luck. If it were not for the fire, he thought he would be doing better. As it was, he found himself hemmed in by a beast of a man before him and licking flames to either side. The bulwark was far too close to his back for comfort, as well.
He ducked another swing of Urek’s hammer and lost another half-step of ground. I have two choices. Neither of them is good. If he tried to vault over the man’s head, there was an excellent chance he would take a hammer to the head. It might or might not leave the contents intact, but he didn’t want to take that gamble.
His other option, Sivid thought, was to borrow a move from the hall dance. If he kicked for the rafters, he might still be able to get over the flames without getting scorched. Maybe he could even do it in such a way that Urek would miss him. If he was going to try, though, it needed to be quickly. The wolfling deck was going up like a dry forest: either the boat was older than the Vidofnir or the Captain had neglected her maintenance.
He licked his lips. The heat from the blaze dried them immediately. It has to be the rafters. Wait for it…
Urek pulled back for another swipe at the quick man’s chest. Sivid gathered himself: if he didn’t time this just right…
Urek’s hammer whistled through the air. Sivid hopped to the left, pulling his ribs back towards his spine. The air of the hammer’s passage pressed his shirt against his skin even through his maille. Then his toes touched the deck and he bent his knees deeply.
While Urek was still caught in the momentum of that swing, Sivid propelled himself into the air. He kicked his legs out to the side, straining for height. The heat of the fire pressed against his face and his hands, and he smelled burning hair, but it did not touch his skin.
Sivid landed on the deck on the side of the flames nearer to his allies. He paused a moment, still crouching, to catch his balance, and a stupid grin split his features. He’d made it.
That was when the hammer’s backswing clipped him in the shoulder. Even as glancing a blow as that was sent Sivid flying – into his allies’ line, thankfully. He hit the opposite bulwark with a crack and lay on the too-warm deck clutching his broken shoulder.
Einarr watched as Sivid made the landing of his dancing leap. The man was a genius at the dance – but this was a battle, and the hammer-wielding Captain hardly seemed to notice. Einarr opened his mouth to shout a warning, but it was almost like he moved in slow-motion: before the words had reached his lips, Sivid was already tumbling back across the wolfling ship.
Einarr turned hard eyes on the man responsible. Sivid was a good friend: captain or no captain, Einarr would take out the man with the hammer. He adjusted his grip on his shield as he stepped up to take his friend’s place, Sinmora coming up into position.
Urek grinned ferally at Einarr, as plainly in the grip of the fury as if his eyes had been red. Einarr eyed his hammer warily: like a battle axe, he thought, only instead of lopping off limbs it would crush them. Well. I guess I just can’t let myself get hit.
You mean, like Sivid did? He clamped down on the wry voice in the back of his head. The voice had a point, of course – it always did – but Einarr couldn’t let that get in the way of what had to happen.
Urek started swinging his hammer in a figure-eight pattern in front of him. The big man stepped slowly forward.
Einarr frowned, watching. He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, ready to dodge wherever he had to. Whatever his skill as a captain – and Einarr thought it likely low – he was certainly a threat on the battlefield.
Urek’s gaze shifted momentarily and Einarr felt a familiar presence at his knee. Jorir had caught up. The dwarf knew what to do: Einarr’s stance shifted a little. The knowledge that his man at arms had his back meant he could focus on the fight before him.
Urek’s hammer dropped to his side and swung up overhead as he surged forward. The blow was meant for his head, he was sure: Einarr dodged right and then ducked in to slash with Sinmora at the man’s belly. The maille jangled, but Einarr smiled anyway.
There was rust.
The blood of unknown enemies had, in fact, become rust in the joins of his maille as the years went on. Sooner or later it was inevitable… but he was wearing rusty maille. Does he not realize? Or is it simply the best he can get?
It hardly mattered. Einarr sprang back out of the man’s reach before he, too, fell victim to a backswing.
The next blow tried to take Einarr’s head off at the shoulders. He ducked, and while Urek’s guard was still open from the giant swing of the hammer he charged in. The boss of his shield struck against the man’s ribs with a dull clang and he pulled back once more. Urek grunted but seemed otherwise unimpressed.
“Another weakling from the rebels? You are nothing more than flies. We should have squashed you ages ago.”
Urek did not give him time to retort: the hammer was already singing through the air, and for what felt like ages all Einarr could do was dodge. The man was relentless, and there was no denying his skill with his weapon.
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