Steel at Sunrise

Before the sun rose, the small arena in the academy was packed full of swordsmen and citizens alike, earger to see the spectacle that the young warriors often provided.

The rules were simple. Combat was with wooden blades with slightly rounded edges, of an equivalent weight to that of a metal sword. The fighters had an all over protection of tough leather hide, to deaden the impact of the blows. The first to submit, or to be dehelmed, would lose.

As the sun rose, the two opponents walked out on to the hard-baked earth, up to the deeply scored lines which denoted the starting positions. Luke gripped his longsword tightly, conciously aware of the cold sweat running down his fingers, making the hilt of his weapon slippery and hard to hold. Opposite him Ursalis gripped his large Zweihander with both hands and grinned. He no longer looked worried, but confident. As the howl of the crowd reached a deafening crescendo, Luke wondered if he was out of his depth, whether he was facing defeat. The gong sounded.

As the crowd cheered, Ursalis lept at Luke with a speed that belied his size. Luke dived, rolled and landed on his feet, only having to duck another great sweep. Ursalis continued to press, leaving Luke little time to think, less to react. Luke was forced across the arena, having to duck, dive and leap to avoid the blade as it sang a song of defeat in the still air. Luke caught a flash of Jorzen's worried face, and then...

Powys, staring straight at him. Luke remembered the knight's saying: "It's very easy to lose when you tell yourself you will. Think you can win, strive to win, and never give up, and you shall."

Luke's vision cleared in time to see Ursalis take a huge lunging swing at head height. Instead of backing off, Luke dived forwards, under Ursalis' blade and came up with a blow to Ursalis' face with his sword pommel, staggering him.

Luke pressed home, using the lesser weight of his own weapon to deliver a lightning succession of strikes, Ursalis manically defending. He noticed Ursalis' loosening grip and struck the mighty sword with all his strength.

As it spun off onto the floor, Luke looped Ursalis' legs from under him with the flat of his blade, then, as his opponent fell, triumphantly flicked his helmet of with a quick flourish of his blade.

The crowd went wild, howling and whooping. Luke felt a wonderful euphoria creep over him and, holding Ursalis' helmet in the air as a trophy, he set out for his changing chamber.

The lasting image was one of Powy's lopsided face spread in a huge smile of glee at the sight of his pupil's triumph.

The End

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