Son Of The Black Sword – Snippet 27
Ashok held up the bloody weapon as if to say, now I have a knife.
That was sufficient to strike fear into a few more of them.
To their credit, most didn’t hesitate. The warriors came at him in a rush. The veteran tagged him in the side, but not deep enough to strike his vitals. The ceremonial blades were short, but they were kept razor sharp. He met them, clashing, striking, then moving aside, but always slicing. Ashok was calm. There was only action, reaction, and blood pressure.
An arm wasn’t withdrawn fast enough, so Ashok split it open from wrist to elbow. Realizing the Protector was too fast to trade blow for blow, a warrior tried to tackle him, but Ashok drove the dagger into that one’s thigh. When he ripped it out a bright spray of femoral blood drenched the floor. He caught another arm and leveraged it around, stabbing that warrior repeatedly in the chest before dropping him into the puddle.
There was a burning sensation as a steel edge parted the muscles of his back. Ashok dove between them, rolling across the stone, palm, forearm, shoulder, and then springing instantly back to his feet facing his attackers. He split a kidney in half, then stepped on the back of a knee to force the warrior down to have his throat slashed. Kicking that one between the shoulder blades caused the body to fall forward and trip up an advancing ally. That distraction gave Ashok the time he needed to put three fast puncture wounds into that attacker’s torso.
That was over half of them dead, severely injured, or crippled and moaning on the floor.
The remaining warriors came at him, trying to entangle him. If he became immobile, he would die. They fought across the hall. Feinting, striking, constantly moving. Ashok was cut again on the chest. He was kicked in the leg. While blocking a knife thrust a fist caught him in the eye. He opened that warrior’s stomach. Rolling round another, he opened that one’s armpit, but lost the unfamiliar knife when the blade stuck in a rib and the slick handle slid from his grasp.
Ashok backed into a table. It was a failure of awareness. Luxurious food fell off the table and plates and glasses shattered. A wounded man sacrificed himself by throwing his body against Ashok. The sudden impact caused the table to collapse. As the rest closed on them, Ashok rolled through the food and blood and broken glass, spied a large two-tined meat fork and picked it up. The warrior grabbed him by the leg to keep him in place, but Ashok stabbed the fork through his hand and pinned his palm to the floor.
Now there were only three. Ashok scrambled for maneuvering room as one of them broke a table leg over his shoulder. It had far more reach than their little dress knives. He spied a lost dagger and scooped it up as the improvised club slammed into his calf. Grimacing, Ashok turned, dodged the descending club, and hit that warrior in the chest. Ashok pushed forward, stabbing repeatedly, piercing between the ribs, until he tripped over his pinned comrade and fell flat on his back.
A collision with the experienced veteran knocked him aside, both of their arms flying back and forth, free hand attempting to keep the other’s blade away from the guts, but a feint and a quick twist of the wrist put a deep cut through the muscles of Ashok’s abdomen. This one was extremely skilled, but Ashok had touched the Heart, and the one Bidaya called Jagdish was only a man. They clashed again. Skin opened. Steel hit bone. Both parted with cuts. The winner dripped, the loser gushed, and the veteran had to stumble away, reaching for the deep laceration that had suddenly appeared in his bicep. Ashok used the distraction to lash out with a boot hard enough to snap bone. Jagdish fell as his broken leg collapsed beneath him.
Ignoring his many wounds, Ashok started toward his false aunt. Blood was running down his back, leaking down his legs, and leaving a trail of bloody footprints in his wake. He should have collapsed, but it turned out that the Heart of the Mountain still beat even on behalf of a casteless fraud. The floor was littered with the dead and crippled. Injured warriors were trying to keep pressure on their wounds. A few of the fops were crying. They’d not expected this sort of dance tonight. All this blood in this place seemed so very familiar. The remaining guests were watching in shocked disbelief. Bidaya wore a mixture of disgust and fascination on her face.
The giant bodyguard was patiently waiting his turn.
“Kill him, Sankhamur.”
Though thick with muscle, there was nothing slow about this one. The giant came down the last few steps and leapt onto the dance floor, a thick blade in each hand. He was as big as Blunt Karno and with the reach to match.
They began circling each other. Sankhamur used the two-blade stance of a westerner, one knife out to create distance and the other down low at his side. That would be the one he’d kill with. For such a big man his footwork was smooth, and he closed swiftly, lead blade flicking back and forth. Ashok stayed ahead of it, and sure enough, once committed, the other blade swept up to eviscerate him. Endless training had prepared him though, and Ashok’s unconscious reaction enabled him to move aside in time and counterattack.
With one of his knives lost and sliding across the bloody floor, the giant walked away with a deep cut on the back of his hand. Sankhamur paused to admire his injury, then looked at Ashok and nodded in appreciation. Now this was a proper duel.
Ashok lunged forward, blade flashing. Then he retreated as Sankhamur countered. Fast as the eye could follow, they went back and forth. Short, brutal flicks of the wrist, aimed at veins and arteries. Blood flew, from new cuts or old, Ashok couldn’t even tell, but even he was beginning to weaken. Sankhamur fought like a sea demon and his fists were like iron. A vicious blow to the body lifted Ashok’s feet from the ground. A rib broke. But he came back down swinging the knife.
Sankhamur intercepted it, edge against edge, and the fine steel nicked and locked together. They turned, and the giant should have hurled him down, but with the Heart of the Mountain, they were equals in strength. Ashok was closer to the ground, however, and he was able to use the leverage to push Sankhamur back. The two of them wheeled about, striking each other, throwing elbows and knees that landed with bone jarring force, both wanting to free their blade, but also not wanting to let the other escape. Ashok couldn’t twist this one’s joints. The bodyguard was too strong and Ashok’s free hand was too slick and wet. Sankhamur hit the steps and tripped back, Ashok still on him. Some of the foolish guests didn’t get out of the way in time and they were smashed between Sankhamur’s bulk and the wall. Both he and Sankhamur ignored the screaming.