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The Valley of Humanity – Part 18

August 2, 2016

The bolt left the crossbow faster than a flash of thunder, yet somehow, to Drala’s horror, Hyde sidestepped leaving enough space for it to ram with a thud into the tree behind him. It was still after that, just another branch sticking half an inch away from the hunter’s ear. Hyde smiled a nasty and self-pleasing smile. The other two hunters sprang into action. Drala ducked a hard swing from a blade and whilst stepping beside the attacker, drew her own blade and sent a counter swipe at his back. It missed, but Drala was able to steady herself and prepare for the next attack. The other hunter was circling around them and waiting for his moment to strike, to prove himself in battle. The first hunter had no such patience. He charged at Drala, low and ready to strike, but Drala took one step backward and swung the heavy crossbow hitting the hunter across the head, sending him off his line of charge and into the ground.
The other hunter, now seeing his opportunity, drew a second blade, holding both weapons confidently. Drala had never seen one of her own kind so joyful in the face of danger. It disturbed her. What has he done to them? The thought stabbed through her mind almost as quick as left it. The eager hunter stepped toward her, blades shimmering slightly in the small columns of light from the uneven canopy above. Drala dropped her crossbow and readied her own blade. Off to the side, Hyde looked up at them every so often. He was leaning against the tree and studying the bolt that should have pinned his limp corpse to the wood. The eager hunter began his attack and Drala was pushed into a defensive position, their blades clashing in a flurry of flashing metal and loud clanging that rang through the woods around them. She had to admit, he was good. There was a youthful speed to his attacks and Drala found herself struggling to block each blow. She moved round him, trying to keep on the outside of his dual attacks; she remained constantly aware of Hyde’s presence nearby, waiting for when he would finally get bored and decide to join in. The young hunter was fast, but Drala was faster. As he took mostly short steps whilst skilfully manoeuvring both blades to attempt to strike her, Drala was light on her feet, ducking and parrying when she needed to. She was sweating and could feel her body heat up and her muscles work twice as hard, but she held her ground. The young hunter was becoming sluggish – only slightly – but wielding the two swords was costing him strength and Drala was still full of it.
Now it was her turn.
She launched her own flurry of blows at different angles and heights, forcing the young hunter to retreat backwards, his exhaustion obvious and Drala could see defence begin to fall, bit by bit. Their blades clashed and clashed; two hunters in the moment, both together and alone: two souls fighting to stay in the world.
An opening appeared.
As the young hunter swung a lazy attack downward, Drala dodged sideways and thrust her blade into his side. It wasn’t a deep wound, the layer of light armour had kept all but the tip of the blade out of his flesh, but it was enough to make him yelp in pain and cower backward clutching his side. Dark spots appeared on the wet grass as he moved back. Drala took very little time to recover and turned to face Hyde. He was still leaning against the tree and glanced up from the bolt he’d been casually studying. He smiled and cast it lightly to the floor. ‘You two, get out of my sight, now!’ The wounded pair crawled between Drala and Hyde, then with a collective moaning of pain they got to their feet and broke into limping run. They disappeared from view.

Drala and Hyde stood opposite each other; the woods watched them in silence. ‘I’m going to enjoy this,’ said Hyde. And with that, he lunged forward.

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