The sword swings—too slow, too high—and Lake needs little effort to avoid the arcing blade
“Not good enough.”
Nemeric grunts. His tunic darkened by sweat, eyes wide and wild, his breath hard and ragged. Not pacing himself at all.
“Like we practiced,” Lake tells him. “One-“
Lake pivots from the hip, weapon raised, sweeping inwards. A clash of his sword against Nemeric’s, the shock of it felt in the fingers and forearm.
Lake pivots into a high, fast backswing and Nemeric dances away to avoid the speeding sword point.
Nemeric is recovering as Lake thrusts forward, a quick jab, no danger of it reaching Nemeric but he oversteps backwards, stumbles, falls flat on the sand as Lake moves in.
“Better,” he says.
The crowd roars in the high stands around them. Not for Lake and Nemeric. The main action is taking place on the broad wide expanse of the Square—in fact a rectangular plateau of bright white marble in the centre of the stadium—whilst Lake and Nemeric shuffle and feint and make a show of struggle, in the shadows near the edge of things.
Nemeric is flailing around with his sword as he struggles to rise, red faced and gulping air.
“Quickly, man, quickly,” Lake tells him. “Much longer and they’ll think your heart’s not-“
A howl from Lake’s right and he spins.
Another man in makeshift armour, rushing from the violent scrum of the Square and after easier prey; a wicked looking axe head high aloft and curling downwards in a killing stroke.
Lake jumps. Not away but forwards, under the blow, close in. Too close for a proper cut work, Lake slams his shoulder into the chest of the charging fighter, a bark of stinking breath expelled as the man takes the impact. A flash of confusion and surprise and-
Lake clutches his sword hilt tighter and smashes that heavy-laden fist into the stunned man’s open face. A crunch of bone and spray of blood as Lake skips away—out of range of retaliation—unnecessary as the long axe thuds into the ground at the same time as the senseless man who held it.
“Now,” Lake says to Nemeric. “Where had we got to?”