Ulric and Synne were wearing only light armour and both carried wooden training swords. Their armour was fashioned from the simple but highly effective boiled leather. It was stiff and hard, and perfect to protect against blows deliver by both metal and wood. Synne carried a single-handed sword and wooden shield, whilst Ulric carried a large two-handed sword that stood from the ground to his armpit. It was a vast weapon and when wielded in the hands of an expert like Ulric it was a sight to behold.
“Remember, little sister, the shield must stay in front, don’t swing it aside when you strike, you create an opening.”
The two circled each other, both looking for an opportunity to attack whilst trying to encourage their opponent to make a mistake. Ulric held his longsword up high above his head. It left his body completely exposed to an attack, but also positioned the weapon ready to deliver a series of deadly strikes. Synne was all too familiar with this particular position though, and knew that if she moved in she could expect a flurry of deadly cuts that could come from either side. She would have to position herself carefully if she was to get close enough to strike with her shorter sword.
“I see you’ve been looking at the manual I’ve been translating for father?” asked Synne with a smile.
It was a poor attempt to grab Ulric’s attention and as she spoke, Synne stepped forward and slashed at Ulric who easily evaded the attack by simply moving one foot. As he adjusted his balance, he stepped forward and slightly to one side whilst simultaneously bringing down his blade. The tip slashed down and behind Synne’s shield and struck her in the upper arm and chest. As Synne yelped, she dropped her shield and in doing so she created the perfect opening. With a quick twist, Ulric brought the sword back up in an arc and cut a horizontal move towards Synne. With expert timing, he stopped just a few inches from her throat.
“Don’t lose your head, little sister, you talk too much!” he laughed.
Synne tried to smile but her arm was still throbbing from the cut to her forearm.
“I’m sure you hit me just that bit harder to punish me then, Ulric,” she said with a grimace.
“It is a common enough mistake you made. If you lose your hand or arm in a fight, you will lose your ability to wield a weapon. I know it seems a weak or lazy way to fight but I’ve seen many good fighters take a slash to the inside of an arm and they instantly lose their ability to fight. It is easy to kill your enemy when he can no longer fight. Use the shield, and keep hands and feet out of the way. Strike fast, hard and then recover. Always keep the shield in front and you’ll live, at least for a while,” he said as he thumped Synne.
“Come on, another round,” he said.
The two moved back into position with Synne lowering her stance and placing herself firmly behind her shield. Ulric moved around her, this time he held his sword down low with the point out in front of him and just a few inches off the ground. To the uninitiated, it looked like he was being lazy or possibly even lacked skill. It was all a game though of move and planned move, no different to a game of chess. He made a move forwards as though to attack and Synne jumped half a step, pushing her shield forward and exposing her own defensive plan.
“I know what you’re doing Ulric, you’re not going to tempt me out!” laughed Synne.
She took a few wild slashes but kept her footing and never came even close to striking Ulric, who was able to keep out of distance by simply moving his upper body. Ulric could already see that his sister was being cautious and far more concerned with defending herself than in actually trying to initiate any real offensive action against him.
“Is that your best cut?” said Ulric as he took a light swipe at Synne’s head.
The cut wasn’t intended to realistically make contact, just to keep Synne busy so she didn’t have time to formulate a plan. Synne lifted her shield slightly to counter the movement and made a fatal error by exposing her legs.
Ulric sliced gently and his blade thudded into Synne’s ankle, the impact was light but it was enough to remind Synne that in a real fight she would now be lame.
“Come on, you can do better than this!” said Ulric as he circled slowly around.
Synne took a few more slashes but they were never close enough to threaten Ulric. Sensing the moment was right Urlic moved in and did the same feint and once more Synne readied herself for the inevitable attack. As she moved forward Synne couldn’t help herself, it was simple instinct and her reactions forced her to respond to the feint. Now Ulric could see the tension in the body language of Synne. He could see in her face that she was annoyed being played with, this was where he could expect to use the pent up aggression to his advantage. For the third time he feinted, but this time he started to move forward and to the side. Synne, assuming another feint simply pushed up her shield and rushed down Ulric. This technique was one they called a shield barge and was simply where the fighter forced his shield forward and into his opponent. It could cause damage or injury and often threw the enemy to the ground. There was also a good chance of trapping an enemy’s weapon so that you could then use your own. Any other fighter would have been struck, but not him.
Ulric cried out as he timed it beautifully and as Synne stepped within inches of his side he brought his two-handed sword down onto Synne’s exposed shoulder and dropped her to the floor. As she dropped down, Ulric swung his sword up so that his left hand rested on its flat part, about half way down its blade. He placed the point on Synne’s flank and pushed just enough that she could feel the tip.
“Okay, I know, you beat me...again!” said a slightly irate Synne.
The two stopped and Synne lay there groaning, more in annoyance than pain. She nursed her shoulder and made to stand up before her ankle sent pangs though her body. She stayed for a few seconds more before starting to laugh.
“You never give me a break, you know that, right?”
Ulric sighed as he slumped down to sit next to his sister. He dropped the wooden sword to the ground and pulled over a tankard that was half-full of warm but clean water. The two drank their full and wiped away the sweat.
“I never give you a break because I want you to live. A dead sister will upset father!” he laughed.
Ulric took another sip from the water.
“Seriously though, I know you will be a great swordsman. If I let you strike me, all I will prove is that I cannot be bothered to make you better. When you face an enemy for the first time, he will not stop until you are beaten. It is my job, sister, mine alone, to make sure you and the rest of our warriors are trained and ready to fight and ready to win.”
Synne looked pained to hear the words and Ulric could easily see his sister was belittled by what he had said. Knowing he couldn’t go back on what was a simple truth, he moved to a different topic.
“Father said you have been working on a single sword section in the library, some kind of big knife?”
Synne looked at him, thinking for a moment before the images of the book popped into her head and her enthusiasm for this new knowledge, could no longer be contained.
“Yes, in the one section of this book there are sequences that describe using a weapon that is similar in shape to this wooden sword, the Ancients called it a Grosse Messer,” she said as she raised the battered wooden training sword.
“Can you show me?”
“The book? It is in the library.”
“No, some of the techniques, if you can remember any?” he asked with a smirk.
Synne lifted herself up from the ground, walked over to the rack of training equipment and took out another single-handed sword. She moved with a slight limp but as she returned, it appeared to be easing, much to the relief of Ulric. Synne handed the wooden sword to her brother and then took a step back.
“Okay, the first one I have been reading is a technique to remove the hand,” she explained.
“How convenient, show me and perhaps if it works you might use it next time we spar?”
Synne faced him, with her weapon held low and behind her.
“Funny, brother! Ok, now if you strike down to my head.”
Ulric stepped forward with his right leg and cut downwards in a fast arc that reached towards Synne. With an almost panicked movement, Synne brought her rear leg forwards and out to the right, and simultaneously cut upwards and into Ulric’s wrist. It was a light cut, but it still made Ulric groan and he dropped the training sword and his hand went numb. Synne then stepped to the side and delivered a second light cut to Ulric’s neck.
“Hey, easy now, little sister. Ouch, you got my wrist well and good there,” he said as he shook his hand.
Synne’s pleasure at seeing the technique work turned to concern at the injury she seemed to have caused.
“Are you okay?”
“Not a problem, just a bit numb.”
Ulric picked up the wooden sword in his left hand and mimicked the upwards cut that Synne had just used.
“Excellent, this is a simple but effective technique. Show me another?” he asked, obviously impressed.
“Ok, you do the same and attack my head.”
The two stood in the same start positions but this time Synne didn’t move her feet. As the blade came down Synne lifted her sword so that it pushed up in a horizontal parry. He caught the blade and the impact forced his own sword down. Without pausing she then stepped out to the side, twisted the weapon around and struck Ulric with the back edge of the blade in his neck.
“Nice, very nice!” he shouted whilst nursing the red mark on his neck.
“In the manual it is called a Bogen and it seems to work with lots of weapons.”
Ulric examined the wooden weapons and tried the movements on both sides. His movement was fluid and precise, and in seconds he was able to see the tactical benefits of the techniques. He stopped and moved back to his sister.
“You’ve been saying this for a long time now and you are right, the Ancients knew a thing or two about combat. I look forward to seeing more of these techniques. One thing intrigues me even more though. You think these manuals are very, very old. Don’t you?”
“Well, the books themselves are old, but I have a theory that some of the material could be up to a thousand years old. There are definite patterns in clothing and some have dates, which makes things a little easier.”
“Okay, so let’s assume that this book, well, I mean the illustrations, let’s say, at least five hundred years old. Did they learn anything else than we know of?”
“Well, don’t forget that I have a theory about this event that happened about three hundred years ago,” started Synne, before being halted by Ulric raising his hand.
“I know, your big event that you keep talking about. I’m sure you’re right, sister, there is plenty of evidence of there being all kinds of things in the past, but now little remains of it. Whether it was just time, or something happened, I doubt we will ever know. Whatever it was, it destroyed most of what was here. For now, I would like to get an idea about the peak of knowledge, tools and fighting skills.”
“I understand Ulric, you want to know about magic weapons and the perfect techniques!” laughed Synne.
“Well, I wouldn’t say no, now would I? But seriously, I would like to know if these armours, weapons and training were the peak of their knowledge. We have come across machines that no longer work and even some have weapons that use chemicals to launch projectiles. Have you come across anything that refers to these yet?”
The two stood and Synne beckoned to the library. They started to move away though both appeared worn out from their sparring.
“I might have one book of interest to you, it is one of the few I have in colour and is about someone called Nelson.”
“Nelson? That is an odd name, for a man I assume?” asked Ulric.
They moved past a workshop where three men were busy working on forging metal parts. The din of tools striking metal reverberated from inside.
“Well, the book I have is only in fragments but it describes great battles on the oceans between two kingdoms. If the text is accurate they travelled in craft that carried hundreds of men,” she said emphasising the word hundreds.
“The greatest battle they fought included about eighty of these vessels and thousands of men. Apparently, over ten thousand died in the battle. Even more interesting is, these ships…” she said as Ulric cut her off.
“Oh, the best I can tell is that a ship was a larger version of a boat, designed to travel long distances.”
Ulric nodded, though his raised eyebrow implied he was less than convinced.
“Anyway, these ships carried weapons called cannons. I’ve been making sketches of them but they seem very simple. A special powder that flashes is pushed down them, then a large metal ball is jammed down. When the powder is burned, it shoots the metal ball out like a crossbow bolt. Some of these ships had over a hundred of these cannon, as they were bigger than a man.”
Ulric stopped and placed his hand on Synne’s shoulder.
“Sister, I know you have done much research but don’t get too confused between adventures and stories and facts. Surely if these things existed we would have found them by now?”
Synne turned her head in disagreement.
“How? We cannot travel too far to the North and the Wastelands surround much of the lands of the League. Anybody that has travelled beyond the markers has either disappeared or come back with terrible conditions and illnesses. When have you ever seen a piece of water that could take a vessel with hundreds of men? Believe me, brother, if you travelled past the Wastelands you would find great stretches of water,” she said in an exasperated tone.
Ulric simply smiled and the two continued their walk to the library. They walked up the short path to the large locked wooden door that led to the library’s valuable collection.
“I’m looking forward to seeing those armoured fighting manuals,” said Ulric as they walked through the darkened doorway.
“I bet you are,” replied a grinning Synne.
As they entered the room they were met by one of Lord Galan’s personal retainers, he bowed slightly at spotting them.
“I’ve been looking for you both. Lord Galan has called for you in the Great Hall.”
* * *
The main inhabited part of Haven had for the last forty years, been enclosed by a sturdy wooden palisade. Dotted along its length were a number of watchtowers as well as two main gates leading into the town. Both main gates were shut and protected by large wooden beams, that hung the width of the doors. The fortification had been required due to the increasing numbers of slavers and Raiders that appeared at intermittent periods throughout the year. Twice in the last decade, raiding parties had penetrated into the city and up to the palisade. Though none had ever gone further, it was a good reason why Haven needed such defences.
The walls would not protect the farms and workshops that lay outside of the main town, however but they did provide a defensive refuge behind which the warriors and citizens could put up a stiff resistance. The most important buildings such as the library, armoury, granary, treasury and the Great Hall were all deep behind the high walls.
This time however it was late at night and a small group of Raiders had made it deep inside Lord Galan’s lands and were approaching the town. These men were covered from head to toe in long, dark robes that masked their shapes and made them almost impossible to see in the darkness.
As they reached the palisade, they ducked down into the undergrowth and watched the towers and gate for signs of the ever-present town guards. From their position, it was clear that only one man was present at the gate and another two stood watch at the towers. The taller man in the group gave a signal and each of the men raised a large wood and metal crossbow, each loaded with a wooden dart, tipped with steel. There were eight Raiders and between them, they had more than enough shots to remove the guards. With a flick of his hand, the leader gave the signal. Four of the men pulled the long triggers and released the almost silent bolts. The first two struck the man at the gate, one bolt embedding in the man’s shoulder whilst the second hit him in the centre of the forehead. He disappeared inside the fortified town with a thud. The next two bolts neatly disposed of the two tower guards and the route was now clear.
The leader moved slowly forward until he had reached the palisade. The wooden barricade was almost twenty feet high but this was no problem for him as he had come prepared. From his bag, he removed a grapple and with three swings hurled it up and over the crest. In seconds he was climbing the wall and at the top. Before he disappeared inside he gave a hand signal to the others waiting at the bottom. They moved into position at the gate, ready to rush inside the minute the door was open.
* * *
“I’ve had word from the League that our border operations in the North against the Raiders are achieving great results. Our combined efforts with the Brotherhood have cleared an area of almost thirty miles,” explained Lord Galan.
His two children and a dozen other warriors were sitting around the long table in the Great Hall. Of the group of warriors most were in their thirties or older and two were woman, all experienced and all veterans of battle with the Raiders. As always, Galan’s mute bodyguard stood nearby, ever vigilant and ever quiet. Each of the warriors wore their armour even though they were in the safety of the Hall. A breastplate and helmet were the basic equipment each warrior had to supply before they could start their training. In four stacks in the Hall, there stood a number of spears, axes and swords, whilst their shields hung on the walls.
“Ulric, can you provide us with an update?” asked Galan.
Ulric stood and nodded to Lord Galan.
“Father,” he said and then turned to the rest of the assembled party.
“Our current standing force consists of thirty two full-time warriors with another hundred fully trained in the reserves should they ever be needed. We have ten warriors plus forty reserves operating alongside our brothers in the Guild and a similar number from the Brotherhood. The combined army is close to three hundred and so far all objectives have been completed. We have cleared the farmlands and discovered three Raider outposts on the outskirts of the Wastelands. The Brotherhood has sent most of their forces into the Wastelands, where they say they have leads on Raider supply posts.”
“Are you sure we can trust the Brotherhood during these operations?” asked Maria, one of the female warriors.
“We can never trust them but whilst they are away and helping us in the field they are not at home plotting,” replied Galan.
“I don’t understand?” asked Bernard, a gruff, seasoned fighter with a long, dark beard. “How are they able to travel into the Wastelands and we cannot? Are they not affected by the sickness?”
“We are talking the Brotherhood here, aren’t they already mad?” asked Maria with a laugh.
Several of the other warriors joined in with the laughter but stopped when they realised Lord Galan was silent. He scratched his chin whilst looking to his children.
“A good question and one I am working on,” answered Galan.
Synne and Ulric looked at their father but gave nothing away with their expressions.
He placed a large map on the table and several of the warriors helped stretch it out so they could all see it.
“Now, to the real task at hand, the Contest. As you know, each of the Houses in the League and the Brotherhood will send a party of no more than five warriors to the arena. I have received word from three of the three of the great Houses of the League who say they will pledge their support to our faction. Only six groups may enter and as is the law, the current leading House guarantees us a place in the final six groups.
“I don’t understand, what if more than six Houses wish to enter?” asked Elgar, one of the younger warriors.
“A good point. If any House wishes to take its place with the Thirty it must challenge ones of the Houses already selected. It isn’t a perfect system but it does reduce the chance for large numbers of warriors being lost and it turning to a bloodbath. A maximum of three groups from the Brotherhood and three from the League may enter. This keeps the sides even and the chances equal,” said Galan.
“What about the rules for the combat? How does it work and who determines the winner?” asked another.
Galan waved a hand indicating Ulric to explain. He leaned in over the table and spoke slowly.
“The Contest is pretty simple. The six groups meet at the allotted place, usually the ruins in the Black Mountains where they face off against each other in a circle. At mid-day the battle starts until one group remains. Anybody can yield and leave the field, if so their team forfeits and they may not return to the Contest.
“Ulric, what if one group refuses to yield?” asked Arthur.
“Then they must be killed or they remain in the Contest. Only one group can be victorious and whoever wins becomes the leader of the alliance between the League and the Brotherhood.”
Lord Galan nodded his head in agreement before grabbing a tankard and downing half of it on one go.
“We already have two groups on our side, that gives us half the warriors in the Contest. Once we defeat the other fifteen our two allies will yield and we will continue as rulers whilst the Brotherhood will be placed firmly where they belong. We should come out of this stronger than ever before,” said Galan with a grin.
“It is a good plan, father, assuming we prevail of course,” replied Synne.
“In all of the past Contests our superior training and co-operation has left us as the winners. The inner rivalries and competition in the Brotherhood means they usually turn on each other in minutes. With your brother Ulric, and his best warriors at his side, how could we ever lose?” asked her father with a telling look.
As the rest of the group at the table continued discussing the Contest, Synne leaned over to her father.
“I have been training for two years now, I must be part of the Contest,” she pleaded.
“No my, daughter, I cannot risk both of you at once. Ulric is the most experienced warrior we have and he has already chosen his four strongest and most seasoned fighters.”
Synne looked hurt and turned to her brother for help.
“Father is right, sister. Your training is coming on well but you have never been in battle. The Contest will pit the best warriors of each major House. At the last battle only three remained and the rest were either dead or maimed for life,” he said whilst looking casually to his left where Galan’s mute guard stood.
Lord Galan brought his fist down to the table, indicating that the meeting was over. As the warriors stood to move from the Hall, some took their equipment and left whilst others stopped for a moment to speak with Galan.
A great horn blared through the town, the very noise penetrating the walls of the Hall. It was loud and continuous, its sound dominating the entire Hall. Three of the warriors who had just left came running back inside, their weapons at the ready.
“That is the warning!” shouted Ulric as he stood and reached for his sword.
Another warrior ran inside and collapsed to the ground with five arrows sticking out from his back.
“To arms!” shouted Galan as he stood.
Two retainers stepped forward, one with his helmet, the other with his chest armour, a specially crafted breastplate with armoured sections around the neck. Another warrior appeared at the entrance and then turned around and forced it shut, quickly helped by those still inside. As they moved in the horn went silent and was replaced by the din of fighting and screaming.
“There are hundreds of them out there, Raiders inside the walls!” cried the most recent arrival.
The rest of the warriors rushed to the door and reached it just in time for the main entrance to burst open. Through the gap rushed a group of Raiders, all armed and all intending to kill. Without hesitating Ulric and his three nearest companions rushed the door and held off the attackers, whilst the rest fought the small number that had made it inside. All of the attackers wore dark robes that made it hard to see what they were doing. Ulric stabbed the first in the chest with his sword and then kicked and pushed the others back to the door. The man to his left took a spear in the stomach and crumpled to the ground, only to be replaced by another warrior. As Ulric stabbed again a section of the Hall’s wall ripped open to reveal another party of Raiders, all of them armed with two-handed swords and large axes. Synne, Galan and the mute guard Gratus were the closest and with great care, they inched forward, each of them protecting the flank of the man next to him. The largest man in the new group stepped forward, swinging a massive two-handed sword. Galan parried his attack and tried to strike back only to receive a heavy blow from another man’s axe. The weapon struck him hard in the chest but failed to penetrate his armour. Gratus rushed ahead but one swift strike from one of the Raiders sent him flying backwards and to the floor.
“Ulric!” shouted Synne and she lifted her sword and tried to protect Galan.
Four of Galan’s warriors rushed forward and forced a defensive wall in front of Galan whilst Synne pulled him backwards. One of the Raiders managed to slip past and reached within a few feet of Galan before Synne struck him down with a savage cut to the man’s arm.
“Fall back!” cried Synne.
The four men at the front stayed close together and as a group moved slowly backwards, they tried to stave off the repeated sword and axe strikes. One of the warriors flew back as one of the largest Raider sent him flying. With a gap in the line, the man swung a two-handed sword and took the head off the closest warrior and within seconds, the defensive line consisted of just two men. Synne rushed forward and tried to tackle them but was knocked back by an axe-wielding Raider.
The defenders managed to hold back one of the breaches but as they pushed the enemy back outside, a dozen torches landed on the outside of the building and quickly caught alight. The warriors fell back but none were able to tackle the blaze as there were even more Raiders trying to make their way in.
Several more warriors arrived and the inside of the Hall erupted into a furious melee. Swords, maces and axes swung but the increasing number of Raiders quickly outnumbered the defenders. Another section of the wall tore open and more Raiders rushed in. Ulric, Synne and Galan retreated to the centre, but the numbers of the Raiders had already reduced the defenders and it was only a matter of time before they were totally overwhelmed. The small number of warriors retreated to huddle around Ulric, Galan and Synne as they fought in the centre of the room. The large Raider knocked another man to the ground before bringing his blade down onto Ulric. With precision timing, he dodged to the side and slashed against the man’s shoulder. The cut should have felled the man but instead the blade slid against some kind of arm and tore open part of the robe.
Synne stabbed forwards with her sword into the man’s chest but his hidden armour easily glanced the blow to the side. One of the rafters dropped down and struck two of the Raiders as well as the massive man with the hidden armour. The small group disappeared in the dust and smoke, and left Synne choking. With the disruption caused by the collapse, the small group of defenders were given a chance.
“Father, we need to get you out of here!” shouted Synne.
Two Raiders jumped past the debris whilst the rest tried to drag the big warrior from the burning wood. Ulric stabbed the first into the chest whilst one of his youngest warriors flipped the second onto his back whereby Synne finished him off on the ground.
“I know that man, I’ve seen him before somewhere!” shouted Ulric.
“You two, clear a gap in the wall, we need to get Father to safety!” Ulric ordered as he fended off more attacks.
The two men moved quickly to work, each of them hitting away with their weapons to create a gap large enough to escape through. As Galan moved backwards and towards the breach they were making, he spotted movement on the floor. Looking down he found Gratus, his mute bodyguard squirming on the floor. He reached down and turned him over. The wounded man looked at him in an odd manner. He tried to say something but as always, it was just a gurgle from the man with no tongue.
“Gratus, come on, we are getting out of here!” shouted Synne as she blocked the attacks of another Raider who took his chances in the fight.
The smoke was becoming thicker and it wouldn’t be long before they passed out from the effects. Galan reached down to help Gratus, he noticed something in the man’s hand, it was an icon of some kind. He tried to touch it and then in a split second spotted the glint in Gratus’ right hand. Before he could moved the mute warrior plunged a thin, curved dagger into the collar of Lord Galan. The blade pushed in deeply and a great spurt of blood indicated he had struck a critical blow. Ulric spotted the attack and turned around to help.
“Father!” he cried as he clambered over the bodies.
The large Raider was now on his feet and with a roar he pushed ahead, moving directly for the mortally wounded Galan. As he swung with his mighty two-handed sword, Ulric jumped in and grabbed it around the grip. He punched the man hard in the face, breaking his nose and sending blood in a fine spray across his cheeks.
The hole in the side of the Hall was now big enough and two of the warriors were through and calling to Synne to get Lord Galan out of danger. With great effort, she and Maria dragged the man to the gap and started pushing through the breach. Behind them the last five warriors fought off five times their number, but with each parry or block another of them was felled by a blow. Ulric, still engaged with the mighty Raider continued a separate battle which none of the other Raiders would become involved in. By the time Galan was safely out of the building, only Ulric and Synne remained. The remaining warriors were, either safely through the breach, or had perished in the fight. Ulric punched the Raider several more times and then slammed him against the wall. He turned briefly and sighed with satisfaction as he noted his father was out of the building.
“Synne, go!” he cried before turning back to the great brute.
More of the ceiling collapsed and Synne was forced to jump backwards to avoid the debris. From her position, she could see the two warriors hacking away, Ulric was faster and more agile but the Raider was massively strong and his armour was almost impossible to break. An arm pushed through the break in the wall.
“Come on, get out!” came the voice, presumably from one of the warriors.
She turned back and could no longer see Ulric, just the flames and smoke from the fires. She paused and then dragged herself through the gap. As she lifted herself up, choking from the flames she realised she had simply moved into an even more dangerous place. Lord Galan lay on the ground, tended by two of his retainers whilst the rest stood along one side, each being watched by the Raiders.
“What do you want?” she cried as she tried to reach Galan.
Two of the Raiders grabbed her and held her away whilst more arrived through the main gate. Only a few people were left fighting, most were being dragged away in chains and many of the buildings were already burning.
With a great crashing sound, the big Raider burst through the ruined wall of the Hall and stumbled to the floor. Ulric rushed out, an axe in one hand to finish him off. His first strike was perfectly timed, and arced down to the man’s hooded face. Just as it was to make contact, he was struck in the side by a spear from one of the many Raiders scurrying about the town. The blow was serious but it didn’t stop Ulric who lifted the axe and swung it hard into his attacker and easily removing the man’s head. He stopped for just a moment as he pulled out the spear tip from his flank and turned back to the monster.
“Prince Ulric, Lord Ulric, King Ulric!” shouted the man sarcastically as he lifted a sword from the ground and stood up to face the wounded warrior.
“Synne, how is Father?” shouted Ulric as he circled his enemy.
Synne tried to move but the firm hands kept her in place.
“I can’t reach him, it looks bad!”
One of her guards slammed the pommel of a sword into her belly, she doubled up and dropped to her knees.
“Shut, it little girl, and watch!” said one.
The two wounded but still capable warriors fought with all they had. Ulric managed to deliver several heavy cuts to the man’s left arm, whilst he took a nasty cut to his leading leg. Both staggered on and for almost a full minute, they exchanged blow after blow.
“Synne, your father is dying, he doesn’t have much longer!” called one of his retainers.
Summoning all her strength, she lifted herself up and slammed into the guards. The first man was taken by surprise, and that was all the time she needed. Ripping the man’s sword from his belt, Synne slashed the man across the neck and rushed over to her father. As she moved, the rest of the prisoners tried to copy her example. Some were held back, but nearly a dozen broke free and a vicious, though very one-sided melee broke out. Synne managed to reach her father but it was clear it was too late, his eyes were open but there was no life left in them. She turned and rushed towards Ulric who was still fighting the massive brute. Two Raiders blocked her path but as she reached them one of the younger warriors jumped on the nearest and gave her the chance to get past. She kept on moving and before the great warrior could see what was happening she slashed upwards and cut a great chunk out of the man’s arm.
“You bastard!” shouted the Raider as blood poured from the wound.
Ulric was on one knee and at seeing the wound caused by Synne he jumped forward and kicked the beast of a man in the stomach, forcing him to drop to the floor. He tried to finish the man off, but was leapt upon by three more Raiders. Synne tried to move over to help but the nearest man lifted something and with a single movement the scene of battle vanished into darkness.