Winds of Change

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Rick goggled at the men running toward him and Derrick. This was ludicrous! He didn’t know what to do with this sword! Just because he’d been waving one around for the past few months didn’t mean he knew what to do with it! The fellow in leprechaun green pants seemed to have set his sights on Derrick, which left Rick to the man with the black pants and red sash. The very big man. Why was this happening in slow motion? And where was the stop button?

As the man drew closer (he wants to kill me) Rick noticed a wicked looking scar running down the man’s face and across his cheek. Lovely. A man, correction, a Kin’keska, who had participated in enough combat to boast battle scars was running toward him, sword drawn, and Rick had ‘target’ written all over himself. Now mere yards away, Rick managed to hastily assess his impending adversary, and he was big. Bigger than Rick. Oh, he was about to die! At the last minute, he remembered to bring up his own sword (yes, that might help). He felt at that moment, with his attacker bearing down on him, like that proverbial deer dazed by approaching headlights.

The strength behind the Kin’keska’s swing stunned Rick, convincing him that his sword had been shattered. Amazed to discover it still in one piece for his arm certainly didn’t feel thus, Rick steeled himself as the man sneered snidely and pull his sword back toward Rick again. This time Rick chose to jump out of the way. The swoosh that ripped through the air finally brought Rick to his senses. That would have sliced right through me!

Hot anger suddenly seared through him, lightning-quick. Rick clenched his teeth as he brought his sword around again and blocked another incoming assault. Rick, oblivious of the fact that he might die if he miscalculated his timing, slashed at the Kin’keska in a manner that some idle part of his mind realized would force a master swordsman to cringe. The sole triumph he encountered in this endeavor, however, was causing his attacker to block him, though Rick noticed an expression of surprise register across the man’s discordant features.

“So, what were you, born with that thing on your face?” he inquired conversationally, as though they reclined in comfort on the stage of a talk-show and not in a forest battling to the death with primitive weapons he illustrated derisory skill in the use of. The Kin’keska said nothing, but his black eyes narrowed and he resumed his attack on Rick perhaps a bit more vigorously. That renewed Rick’s courage. If he could just rattle the man enough to kill him before he was killed himself....

“Or did it grow there maybe? Bet you’re real popular with the ladies, huh? Quite the stud?” Rick wrested himself out of the way in time to rescue himself from a lethal maneuver devised, it appeared, to quite efficiently hack his head off. “I’d loan you some of my girls –” he cocked his head back in the direction of Fiona, Gabriella, and Elise – “but you know, scars. Just not their thing. They like a more clean-cut kind of man, you know?” He ran his finger down his face in mockery of the Kin’keska’s scar. The Kin’keska growled and thrust his sword with amazing alacrity in Rick’s direction; he managed to flinch back with scarcely enough space to avoid being speared.

Awash with amazement that he as of yet still lived, and praying that Gabriella hadn’t been privy to his latest insult, dismay crept through Rick as he acknowledged that his only strategy was to tire his opponent by dodging out of the way and forcing the Kin’keska to do all the work.

But… if he could push this guy’s buttons enough at the same time, then his attacker would exhaust himself and possibly leave himself open so that Rick could either score on the guy or run. Or both. He may not be able to skin fresh game, or chop trees, or cook, or use this new language, or shoot arrows from a bow, or swing a sword worth a damn, but his tongue he could wield very well. And that would have to suffice as his advantage.

They engaged in skewed battle for a while, probably only bare seconds, though each second delayed its passage with great success as if it had acquired a mind of its own. The Kin’keska swung and Rick shrank back away out of reach, using his sword only to block. Breathlessness was starting to affect Rick, which was not the desired outcome. He was trying to weary the other guy, not himself. He elected to insult the man a little more. (Think the Richard Frank show… Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien…you can do this – you’ve got to.)

“Don’t you ever smile? I mean, you seem to delight in making such a fool of yourself...” Limited to those insults he could construct in this new language left him much encumbered. If he could just avail himself of his native language, victory indubitably would be his….

Instead, Rick recoiled just in time as the man heaved his entire weight behind his swing. It seemed his ploy was effectual - he threw himself out of the way yet again and danced back before his attacker could score on him. To onlookers, he expected it gave more the impression of a marionette show than a talk-show, the way he persisted in dodging and darting about….

“Bet they call you Scarface, don’t they,” Rick panted with fake sympathy. The Kin’keska growled and attacked Rick again with zealous fervor.

“Oh, so that’s why you don’t smile. Those teeth – wow. I’d hide them from people, too. They probably use you to frighten children into behaving….” Rick hastily sidestepped a sharp jab. “‘Be good or Scarface will get you. Aargh!’

Fatigue was starting to impair him, and his arm throbbed from that initial swing. Gabriella better hurry up and get over here, providence would not protect him forever, and his scarred opponent bore a personal stake in this now. Rick spared a frantic glance toward Gabriella, but still she fought the chief Kin’keska. Rick’s assortment of insults was waning. As was his energy. And luck.

Mindful now of Rick’s attack tactic, the Kin’keska awaited him with narrowed eyes to employ an offensive maneuver. Rick voiced a silent prayer and slashed out with his blade. The Kin’keska sneered and hooked one of the quillions of Rick’s sword with his own before Rick realized what had transpired, thereby disarming him.

Panting now out of sheer panic as well as exertion, Rick scrambled back out of the range of the Kin’keska’s sword. His own was now in the bushes, and no apparent way existed to retrieve it without getting killed, although, Rick mused sourly, he could get killed without trying to do anything. He crouched down in a kind of attack pose; albeit he had no idea what he was going to do, it made his attacker hesitate.

Just then, a panther screamed. Stricken, Rick wondered if someone – Elise – had been hurt or (killed!). He ached to find out how his friends were faring, but with an effort, Rick forced the distraction from his mind.

That was when his attacker’s attention faltered. That was right, Rick thought with the beginning of hope for ending the impasse. His attacker didn’t know there was a zary’andu here! That fraction of a second provided Rick the opportunity he needed. He reached down and tossed a handful of dirt in the big Kin’keska’s face. The Kin’keska reacted with a roar of rage as he swung his sword blindly, easily swishing past Rick. Rick scrambled for his sword in the bushes behind him and spun to evade another inevitable attack - but instead an arrow protruded from the Kin’keska’s neck....

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