Feathers and Flame

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Chapter 9

Tadhg kicked the head at Faye, who jumped away from it.

The men stood for a moment, and then exchanged very frightened glances. Behind Faye, the old man laughed and brought her back to her senses. The men clearly didn’t like the sound of the laugh, and ran back towards the door.

“Get back here,” said Tadhg, walking after them.

“Are you forgetting about me?” Faye yelled after him. He turned to her, his face contorted and twisted in anger.

He charged at her. She used the axe to parry the first swing of his sword. The sword was nearly twice the length of the axe. All she could do for swing after swing was try to block and defend. He was faster than she had anticipated. She didn’t have any time to hit back.

She jumped back from a swing, and ran in after it. But he was already swinging again and she had to drop her shoulder to avoid it, feeling the breeze as it passed not an inch above her flesh. Faye had no choice but to back up, and back up again. If she didn’t do something he would soon have her against a wall, where she couldn’t avoid the sharp edge. Faye kicked out, catching his foot and making him stumble. She threw an arm up to catch him and he jumped back, staring at the hand that had nearly touched him.

Faye smiled, and began to swing the axe in loose circles. He wouldn’t go far enough away from her to throw, but was afraid of touching her again. Tadhg attacked again with the sword, but was less confident than he had been at first. Faye could hear the old man shouting, but she couldn’t tell if he was yelling at her or at Tadhg. The blood was rushing to her ears as her battle-fever spiked.

Then she got lucky. She had never used the fake sword as a weapon while traveling because of the fault in it.

That was what had let her recognize it as a fake in the first place. The balance was slightly off and it had a tiny crack in the blade just under the hilt.

The imbalance in the sword made Tadhg lean into his next swing, and it hit her axe too hard. The whole weight of the big man came down on the already cracked blade, and it snapped. Both Tadhg and Faye fell back.

After the clash, Faye’s small axe had a small chip in the blade, but Tadhg was holding little more than a handle. Tadhg threw it away in disgust as Faye stood up. He rose up as well, and glared at her. He put his hands up. He would try to grab her hands or disarm her, the next time she attacked him. Faye would just have to be faster than he was.

Faye got ready to attack. She went up on the balls of her feet, ready to swing suddenly at him.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t move.

Every muscle she had became stiff and still. Faye strained against it, but it did nothing to make her move. Faye tried to force her muscles to relax, but she couldn’t even if she had been in full control of them. Not when she knew what was coming next.

Tadhg watched her, waited for her to spring. He hadn’t noticed yet, but soon he would.

Then the pain hit her.

Faye’s eyes began to water. Against her better judgement, and her wishes, she tried to scream. Her jaw didn’t move, and her vocal cords strained, causing her even more pain. She made a small, whimpering sound. Tadhg straightened up, unsure. He would think she was playing a trick. Maybe, if it passed quickly enough, she could use his uncertainty. But the pain continued for too long. Tadhg lowered his eyebrows and smiled.

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