As Arcturas approached the gate, the sun had not yet set and the guards saw him. They stood up straight and energetic and peered into the gloom, the murmur of their voices sharp with concern. The one on the left, somewhat shorter than the other, visibly scanned the side of the road for hidden threats. The taller one stepped forward and brandished his tall halberd.
Arcturas instantly felt compelled to defy them. Like a frog riding on the head of lion, he saw his own reactions and was puzzled, even as he was caught up in them. His posture dropped into a bent-kneed position of readiness, his mind cleared and focused on his ostensible opponents. His heart thumped loudly within him, and all else went quiet.
Seeing his aggressive posture, the guard on the left backed up, keeping his eyes on Arcturas, until he was just beyond the gate. Looking to his own right, he inhaled to yell for backup, while his compatriot stood his ground.
As he did so, Arcturas sprinted forward, drawing his short sword. He felt his whole body as stretchy thing of meat and sinew, and his legs slung him toward the guard on the right faster than he himself could comprehend.
With a simple deflection, Arcturas turned aside the tip of the guards halberd. Running the flat of his blade up the haft of the halberd, he stabbed the tip of it into the guard’s chain-protected sternum.
Although it didn’t pierce the chain protecting the guard’s torso, it did knock the wind out of him and he fell back, dropping his weapon. As the other guard turned to focus on Arcutras and lowered his own halberd for a short charge, Arcturas kneeling on the downed guard, plunged his sword in the man's unprotected throat.
The other guard, his cries for assistance interrupted by Arcturas’ sudden attack, lunged forward. The thrust of his weapon missed Arcturas, who, already on his knees, ducked further to avoid it, but as the guard pulled back, the hook on the back of his blade caught Arcturas in the shoulder and he was pulled off balance.
Arcturas felt the sharpened hook slice through his clothing and sink into the meat of his shoulder. He growled through his teeth over the pain of it but when the halberd pulled him over, he kept rolling, forcing the point of the blade into the ground and dropping his weight onto the haft.
This ripped the weapon from the guard’s hands and bent his body forward. As Arcturas rolled to his knees, the blade was unhooked from his flesh. Before the guard could straighten and draw another blade, Arcturas grabbed the man’s red tunic to prevent him getting away and stabbed up into his partially protected groin.
The guard screamed briefly before sudden shock and oceanic blood-loss took his voice away. Arcturas tipped him back and as the man fell, yanked his blade out of the man's body.
A moment later, looking down on the already dead and forcefully hemorrhaging guard, he saw the honor of dying in uniform and could not recall what had moved him to leave his own tunics and armor behind.
The murder seemed to mean less this way and he disliked that. Still, it was certain he would not have been able move the way he had just done if he had been covered with armor and its padded underlayers. It had been so long since he had fought without anyone at his side, that he felt simultaneously freed and lonely.
Hearing no sounds of alarm, he looked over the bodies. From the belt of the guard, he retrieved a ring of keys, then he stepped through the gate.