Follow the adventures of Ragnar Grimfang a Nordan exile, in my little serial.
What separates a seasoned warrior, a hard hand as they say among my people, from a lesser fighter is the ability to recognize a call to action and to answer it without hesitation. A man who is merely perceptive will often see the same queues, but will rarely respond with the same celerity. A man who reacts quickly but lacks the judgement of a veteran, is easily lured by feints and other tricks, becoming a victim of his down swiftness. Among the Nordan, the second is the object of more derision; a man who overthinks is rarely a danger to others, while a jumpy man frequently misfires.
My ears caught the faintest sound of movement, almost lost amid the rush of air from the door closing behind me. No mere gutter rat this, only a skilled skulker could get so close. Instinctively, I knew someone was behind me and I pivoted on the balls of my feet, raising my hands to protect my vitals. My attacker shuffled, redirecting a blow that had been aimed at my throat into my shoulder. I grunted as the cold blade bit deep.
The reaction to pain is another element of a hard hand. Some people fear pain. Some people ignore pain. To people like myself pain is a gauge and a spur. It is a gauge because I have seen so much battle that the pain that comes from wounds, exertion, broken bones, and all kinds of fighting are as familiar as the smell of roses are to a Loragonian florist. I have a pretty good idea of how bad a wound is, short term, merely from the impact and the pain. As for the spur, well, nothing gets my adrenaline flowing like taking a good hit.
My fist thundered out, a hard right hook fit to kneecap a giant! sadly, only the air felt my wrath as my assailant ducked and came in low. I caught the flash of light reflecting off of bright steel darting toward my groin, or more likely an artery in the leg. However, my assailant was a blue of colours, almost nauseating to look at. I concentrated on the blade/
My opponent was vastly swifter than I, possibly even ascended. However, reading their move allowed me to defend adequately, stepping into the attack and making a grab for the blade hand. The assassin, twisted out of the way smoothly, raking the back of my hand with their blade. My leather gloves, tough wyvernhide, took away most of the sting.
I could see my opponent now. Lithe, but smaller than expected, possibly a woman. The assassin had some kind of scent mask on, conspicuous only in it’s lack of odour, as well as as suit shifting garb — clothing favoured by skulkers that acted both as camouflage and also confused the eye with bizarre patterns in combat. One hand held a Myrrhnese razor, a thin slice of metal that could slip through all but the best fitted armour plates on a thrust and yet sharp enough on the cut to open a man’s throat with no more effort than a horse flicking its tail. Lovely little weapons, proof that not everything that comes from streets of Myrrhn is lacking in grace and refinement.
“Shadvarg!” I bellowed. whirling my cloak and reaching for my weapons. Most assassins are not fond of noise, especially those who are forced to attack during the day. My assailant lunged, seeming to blur. I twisted, trusting to the cloak to help obscure my movements. Nonetheless the assassin pricked my shoulder, sharp blade piercing the light mail I wore as force of habit. By now, however, my hands had found my weapons and I was longer defanged. I swung my pick low and my hammer high, hoping to draw the assassin’s attention away from the deadly spike with the descent of the heavy hammer. The assassin did not fall for it, instead trying for a lunge that would bury the their blade in my heart. I let it come, twisting slightly to avoid a fatal wound, ready to pounce. The assassin, eager for kill, took the bait. The razor bit my flesh, but did not end my life. My hammer connected with the assassins shoulder a moment later. Her weapon fell to the ground. A yelp, a woman’s voice, issued forth. I met her eyes and brought my pick in for the kill as she twisted away. The fight was mine.
Or so I thought.
Just before I could strike, I felt a powerful impact and slammed into the wall. A massive bolt, arbalest, buried itself in the stone beside me, dripping blood from where it had grazed me. I looked around wildly. The assassin recovered and sprinted away while I sought cover and silently wished that today had been a shield day for Ragnar. A card provided the safety that I needed. After a few tense moments I hear a scraping from the rooftops nearby as the unseen bowman left. I breathed a sigh of relief and took stock of my wounds.
All in all I felt that I acquitted myself well. The assassin was good, possibly exceptional, but I had risen to the occasion to fight through her initial attack and then nearly sealed her fate with a sacrifice lure. That she was working with a partner was unusual, especially since I expected it would have been smarter for the pair to shoot me as I came out of Git’s shop and then finish me while I was down. Understanding that would help me understand the attackers.
I grinned. At least I was near a place that sold healing salves.