For a moment, the two stood silently, waiting for the other to make the first move. After a while, Melothil spoke.
'You're a clever one, I'll give you that. And sneaky for a member of the Royal Guard.'
His attacker remained silent.
'Give it up, I know your identity. So what did you do with the king? Is he in hiding in Haven? Or somewhere else...?'
Once more, silence.
After a pause, Melothil lost his patience. 'Answer me!'
'Losing one's temper is not something we hold highly.'
That voice brought back memories...
With a stick of bamboo in his hands, Melothil swung at Freth, who easily deflected his blows. Each unsuccessful hit frustrated Melothil more and more, until he eventually screamed out in anger, lashing out without care, swiping and lashing at Freth, until he finally struck.
Melothil couldn't believe it. He had recovered so swiftly, and had followed him all this way.
'The disguise is effective, wouldn't you agree?'
'An excellent hit, young one. But the means of the hit are far from acceptable. Lashing out is not a noble act in a fight. The red mist will cloud your judgement, and you will fall. Losing one's temper is not something we hold highly.'
'Freth?!' Melothil shouted.
'Ah, there's that temper again. It always ruled you, did it not?'
'You won't kill me. I'm trying once more to capture and destroy the menace that holds Hated in its jaws. I mean to kill King Zephiel!'
'You cannot. You will fail once more. You are like a stray dog. Rabid with rage. You will continue to be reckless in your hunt, and you will cause more death, more damage to the Guild. We need to put you down.'
Melothil sensed the blade move slowly across his throat - a warm-up he had seen Freth use time and time again against his foes. He had to act swiftly, or it would all be over.
Throwing his head back, it connected with Freth's groin, causing him to shiek out in pain and stumble backwards, still, however, with a firm grip on his sword.
Lifting himself up, Melothil ran towards Freth and launched himself into the air, soaring like an eagle, until he came to a branch, which he grabbed onto with his left hand, swinging down and bringing his foot firmly into Freth's jaw.
The mighty assassin was thrown back once more, and Melothil dropped to the ground, rolling to avoid a sudden recovery swipe from Freth's blade. It seemed he was also a victim of the red mist.
'You have disgraced the Guild...'
Melothil ducked as another fierce blow came overhead, and used his low position to knock out Freth's legs from underneath him, throwing him to the floor. Freth, however, recovered by rolling backwards and getting back to his feet.
As he charged forwards he screeched: 'You have cost us our greatest target!'
Melothil did all he could to avoid the fiersome slashes that were now being dealt from all angles.
Ducking, dodging, diving to avoid even more pain.
A fourth blow was sent straight towards Melothil's stomach, and he leapt to his left, dodging gracefully.
A sharp pain coursed through his right arm. He ignored it, knowing it was only his sprain playing up again.
He saw a smile creep across Freth's face. Why was he smiling, he had not won.
Looking down to his right arm, which was now throbbing with pain, Melothil was horrified to see that there was little more than a stump where his lower arm should have been, but instead, it lay on the floor, in a pool of blood, surrounded by leaves and mud.
Melothil fell to his knees, feeling faint. He had no problem with the sight of blood, but when it was blood from his own amputated arm, that was entirely different.
'I leave you here, Melothil. You will die of blood loss, or of starvation. I care not which comes first. I shall hunt and slay the king myself, and I shall feel the glory shine down upon me.'
'You can't- You cannot...' Melothil tried to speak, but his face was growing paler, and the effort it took was too much.
'I cannot what, old friend? I cannot win? But I can. I will find the king, and kill him. And his guards. And all around him. And I will not stop until this Empire is great once more! I'll be taking that map,' he snatched said map from the carriage driver's body. 'And I shall be victorious.'
With a wicked cackle, he ran off into the distance, lost himself in the trees of the forest.
He now knew where to go to find the king, and Melothil had no heading.
He was broken, and he had no choice but to lose. His one refuge lay in the village of Haven. He had to make it before sunset, or he would die of blood loss.