A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 50: Voan

Gilmir stood by the throne on the top dais watching Voan calmly climbing the curving stairs. The imposing man was in no rush. Further down, the robed man ascended the first stairs. Gilmir looked around on the plateau. Behind the throne, a giant battleaxe rested against the back of the chair. On a small table by the high seat, there were candles smelling of lavender, bottles of liquids, jars containing salves and more incense. Below the stairs, Hobble had arrived and was fighting two guards. By the doors, a servant girl stood staring at the carnage. The robed man collected a shard from the display cases causing a new pitch to the melody between the stones.

Voan was near the top. The robed man clutched the stone and knelt by one of the dead guards. Healing or necromancy? Identifying the resonance from the man’s shard, Gilmir knew the answer. He shifted his attention to Voan, who climbed the last steps now. The man had covered the lower part of his face with the bandana again, hiding any facial expression.

‘A necromancer?’ Gilmir asked while stepping behind the throne and facing Voan on the walkway. ‘You have a necromancer in your ranks?’

‘Oh, why not, elf? Magic is magic. It’s all the same. Energy,’ Voan said, cutting the air with his sword. He shrugged off his cloak, his right hand inside the shirt. Something was odd with that hand—that arm. It was huge. Now that the cloak did not hide it, the proportions became clear. Gilmir wondered what was wrong with it.

‘Let’s get this over with.’ Voan stepped closer on the ledge behind the throne.

Voan swung his longsword, leading with his left foot he took up a position similar to a fencer with a much lighter weapon. With such a pose, the man would not get too much force behind his strikes. However, he could put his considerable weight behind the stabs and lunges. Parrying the first strike had the elf doubting his reasoning. Unnatural strength drove that swing. Even with his deft deflection, redirecting most of the force, Gilmir felt the impact jolting up his arm. He would have to go for speed.

Voan came on, slashing and stabbing. Gilmir backed away while he dodged and parried. Soon he would be at the end of the plateau, backed up against the descending stairs. The fighting started to take its toll. A few days ago, he was dying in a cell. The convalescence had been quick and thorough, but he was nowhere near his best shape. Unfortunately, he probably had to be, to defeat this opponent and live through the day.

Gilmir glanced over his shoulder. Voan did not hesitate. A quick step forward, and he lunged. With his long blade, Gilmir parried and drove the longsword to the side. He took advantage of the momentum and pivoted, coming around with his short sword slashing against Voan’s exposed neck. With his longsword out wide, he was unable to parry the strike. Gilmir had him.

Or so he thought. Voan’s right hand came out from the fold of his shirt. The giant limb caught Gilmir’s blade in a tight grip. Scales covered the back of the hand, the skin shining with a hint of green. In this position, they froze for a moment. Gilmir remembered the reptile smell from the man back in the torture chamber. He could see the grin on Voan’s face just by looking at his eyes.

With a tight grip on the blade, Voan wrenched it out of Gilmir’s hand. Taking a step back, he dropped it over the ledge. The sword clanged down by the foot of the throne, on the lower platform. ‘It’s a bit unfair that you have two blades and I only have one.’

Glad for the pause, Gilmir took the moment to centre himself. Focusing on his breath he did not respond.

Voan glanced down on his monstrous right hand while he continued stepping backwards. ‘It is a fine pair of blades you have, elf. I’ll give you that. Usually, I can do that without a scratch on my hand. Your little sword cut me. But do not worry, my friend, it is just a scratch.’ He placed the longsword in the palm and closed his eyes. Drawing the sword over his hand, a green light danced along the edge of the blade. He was casting a spell.

Gilmir exploded forward, hoping to get a jump on the man. In the last instance, the man opened his eyes and parried the blow. Turning the blade, he hit back with his monstrous fist. Turning and dodging, Gilmir avoided the blow. He stepped back, centring his balance and raising his blade again. This time Voan came forward. Anticipating Gilmir’s back-pedalling, he stepped forward, stabbing. This time, Gilmir could not step away. He turned, but too late.

The sword plunged into skin and flesh. Gilmir gasped.

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