Points of Departure, Chapter 24

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

đť”’ne of the oncoming riders, carrying a shield of ebon, two chevrons argent, raced ahead of the others, his horse sprinting as it carried him into the midst of the town. The mail-clad man there met him with his sword upraised, shouting at the man without words but with great vigor. The shouts attracted the rider’s attention, and he bore down on the mail-clad man, leveling a spear at his breast and spurring his horse to greater speed. But at the last moment, the mail-clad man stepped to the side, crossing the path of the horse and lifting it as if thrusting its point toward the heavens, so that its blade slipped under the rider’s shield and up into his arm. And such was the force of the blow that it lifted the rider from the saddle, and his horse sped onward without its rider as the argent chevron knight crashed to the ground heavily, and his helmet was dented. The mail-clad man stomped upon the chest of the fallen rider and broke him, so that blood rushed out from his mouth in a gout, and he pulled his sword out of him, turning to face the others oncoming.

For their part, the riders behind saw what had happened, and many of them reined up their horses at the display, reconsidering their attack–for it was clear that they had not thought there were any in the town who could oppose them at all, much less with might and skill. But not all of them did so, and others rushed in, closing upon the mail-clad man, for they knew him to be a threat to them. But he grabbed up the spear that his first foe had let fall, and he took its weight in his hand, and he threw it, and his throw was straight and true. Into the chest of another rider it sank, going in even past the socket and bursting through the mail of his back. When he fell, another rider came upon the mail-clad man, veering aside to keep his shield-side away from him, thrusting out his spear to the side as if to cut the mail-clad man as he passed by. But the mail-clad man stepped outside it and avoided the blow, and he cut the head of the spear from the shaft as it passed him.

Then did the rider turn and draw his sword, but before he could come about and strike again at the mail-clad man, another rider charged upon him, thinking to use the distraction of the earlier to advantage. And nearly did it work, for he was able to close upon the mail-clad man with leveled spear, but the mail-clad man ducked under the spear and cut upward, and the horse itself fell to the ground, slain, and it crushed its rider as it fell, pinning him to the earth. The man screamed, and the sword-wielding rider pressed in upon the mail-clad man, hacking at him from on high. The mail-clad man ducked and dodged away from the blows, and the rider could make no gain with his sword, but he put the mail-clad man to the test in his assault, and pushed him back–and other riders approached yet.

As the mail-clad man stepped back, his foot struck the shield of one of those he had felled, and as he ducked another blow, he lifted it up and held it above his head against the sword-wielding rider. Then did that rider draw back, for he knew well the price that a thrust from the mail-clad man commanded, and his comrades pressed upon their common foe. With his shield, he turned one spear aside; with his sword, the other; and he stepped between them and turned, facing their backs. The flat of his blade flashed twice, and both horses reared from the pain on their rumps, rising up to the surprise of their riders, and one of them fell at the mail-clad man’s feet. The blade flashed again, and the fallen rider’s throat opened to the sky, and a great welter of blood flowed forth from it. His companion wheeled about to try to thrust at the knight again, but he avoided it once again, letting the point pass him by and turning to meet another rider oncoming.

And as he fought, the green-clad man looked on, and the people of the town saw the feats of arms he performed and were inspired by them. Then they took up such weapons as they had; the smithy gave of its hammers, and there were pitchforks at hand, and spears were found that the fathers of the people and their fathers had kept after wielding them, and rocks were hefted in hand and sent in showers at the invading riders as the rest were roused to meet them by the mail-clad man’s marvelous deeds. Then those riders who had held back turned and left, for they had sought easier prey upon which to feast, and already had more of them fallen than they had thought would or should. And several of the others who had gone into the town themselves turned and fled, seeing their fellows retire from the field. But there were still some who fought on, and they did manage to slay some of the townsfolk before they were themselves slain, whether felled by a lucky cast of a spear or knocked from horse by a hammer that swiftly swung again, or else grabbed by many hands and pulled upon and beaten.

But the mail-clad man fought through the whole of it, and all who faced him fell, but none of them could touch him. Then the people remarked that he had clearly been touched by God and given strength to ease their plight that day, and they cheered for him who did not mourn at the deaths of their fellows–yet even they were hopeful, for if their fellows had fallen, they had at least done so in victory, and their town had been preserved against assault.

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