He could still feel the deathly frost through the multiple layers of padding and armor. Worst of all was that his feet sunk in deep after every step, only to shovel out a compressed layer as he lifted them back out.
“Curse this damned frost,” the man muttered to himself. His body continued to shiver in an attempt at warmth, but it too, was taking its toll. It had been over a day since he last ate, and despite his rationing, it was just a bit of bread. Not even enough for a young child, much less a man.
The sound of bending bark snapped his body to attention, quickly pivoting his body to face the sound in spite of the slowing white beneath. The fresh powder danced around his feet as he peered through the narrow slits in his helmet. The sound was close, and despite his hunger and fatigue, he’d rather face the disturbance than play the part of mouse.
In just a few paces, he arrived at the disturbance. A few feet away, a strangely dressed man was attending to a freshly snared rabbit. The branch continued to bend and heave as the creature desperately kicked to escape. The other man had already realized he wasn’t alone. Slowly, the man reached toward his waist to his sheathed blade.
The intruder on the other hand, resulting in his sheath long lost, the man resorted to carrying his longsword with his hands. Luckily, like the rest of his body, his hands were covered in a mix of metal, chainmail, and leather.
His opponent on the other hand, grasped the handle at the waist and stood in a low and strange stance. He had seen men like him before, but only recently. Unlike himself, their methods of fighting were foreign. Their armor was light, made up of leather and straps. At a glance, it was substandard compared to the heavy plating and chainmail he endured as he traveled this strange land, but it served its purpose. The man in front of him, likely similar to the many others that he had encountered previously, relied on fleet-footedness than raw strength.
Seeing the man’s intention was not to part ways, and that he himself wanted part in the morsel, he raised the blade and rested it on his other arm, pointing the sharp end towards the strange man. Carefully raising their feet to avoid tripping, the two approached one another, each utilizing their unique stances to keep their weapons aimed sharp. Once close, he twirled the blade into a two handed grip and swung down hard, parting the snow like the red sea. With the snow obscuring his already limited vision, he did not see the lightly armored man roll to the side, but he correctly guessed his next action. Quickly taking a step back, he raised his steel sword and met his opponent’s sharp blade, the sound of his metal helmet scraping from the touch of foreign steel.
Not wanting to become prey, the man retracted his thin blade before the heavier could come down to ensnare, or at worst, break. With a quick somersault back, the two were at a distance again. Neither person’s weapon would reach far enough, but a mere step may easily break their stance.
“Leave now, and I shall not chase. I swear it on my name, Sir Tobias of Brightfield.” Seeing as their stalemate would only wither his already exhausted stamina, he gambled to reach a compromise. He lowered his weapon and awaited the other’s answer, but after half a minute, he sighed and raised his stance once more. “So be it.”
Tobias raised his longsword for a downward swing before quickly shifting into a reverse grip. Taken by surprise, the opponent raised his blade to intercept the strangely angled swing. Sparks flew as the two blades of metal made contact. Without hesitation, Tobias [pushed forth by gripping the other person’s arm and pulling hard, disrupting their footing. Unable to stay balanced, the man tumbled into the snow.
“This ends now!” Tobias screamed as he went back to his earlier double handed grip and swung forward with all his might. This time, his blade did not immediately meet the snow. The man, unable to roll away, chose to angle his thin blade and Tobias’s sword fluidly rolled down the sharp edge and into the snow. Having put his body into his swing, the sword carried forward like a disobedient dog and Tobias too found himself in the powder.
The familiar sound of air rending sent his heart into a frenzy he saw the thin blade race towards his back. Tobias rolled to avoid the blade, but be it misfortune or the devil himself, his torso met with bark and was unable to roll any further. A booming thud echoed into Tobias as he felt his chestplate receive the opponent’s blade.
He obediently waited for the familiar bright light he had heard of often from his fallen comrades, but the light never shined. He soon felt his chest plate rise. The other man was readying his sword for another strike.
“Not this time!” Tobias screamed before launching himself at his opponent. The combination of his powerful muscles and heavy armor made the surprise tackle effective. Easily able to mount himself atop his opponent, he finally saw his enemy up close. Obscured by a strange red mask, he locked with his opponent’s brown eyes. Unable to defend from below, Tobias rained blow after blow, fist after hammer. The man’s own hands could only soften the blow. Confident his opponent’s defense was weakened, Tobias winded back a long hammer fist that finally cracked his opponent’s mask. Shattered into a million pieces, he saw his opponent’s feminine face and was caught by surprise. To seize the opportunity, the opponent rolled Tobias off and retreated to retrieve his weapon. Tobias too, did the same, but he had to dig into the snow as his weapon was far heavier. The two warriors quickly reentered their respective stances, blade tips pointed at the other, eyes locked, bloodlust flowing freely.
A woman’s scream caught the attention of the two warriors, but their disciplined body and minds kept their stances strong. If a new opponent was to enter the fray, relaxing their stance only contribute to their own ends.
“Sir Tobias! Lower your weapon!”
“Lady Eliza?” Tobias asked, hearing the familiar voice.
“Indeed! Now lower your weapon!”
Tobias saw Eliza from the corner of his eye, and after confirming she was far enough away, he warned her, “stay back. I will end this shortly.” Tobias returned his full attention to the opponent and readied to swing his blade.
“I said cease!” Eliza screamed the order as she shoved Tobias into the snow
“What are you doing?” Tobias screamed as he readied himself to receive an attack.
“The same can be asked of you!”
Seconds passed as Tobias kept his sword in preparation for a parry before realizing his opponent had not moved an inch. “What is this?” Tobias mumbled.
“I am ordering you to cease!” Eliza said. “This man is not our enemy!”
“Then what is he exactly?” Tobias shot back.
“Surrender your weapon and lie witness!”
Tobias hesitated for a moment, but relented upon seeing the woman’s determined eyes. Unable to properly sheath his weapon, he stabbed it into the frosted ground below, and watched as his opponent sheathed his back into its scabbard. Tobias watched the man with careful eyes as his frosted breath continued to escape his body.
“Now what?” Tobias asked.
“We made shelter not far from here. You may join us, but watch your manners,” Eliza warned. “Lest you spend your last days in his snow covered forest.” She turned back the way she came and quickly left, leaving behind only her tracks. The strangely armored man, colored in red, gold, and brown, followed shortly after, but Tobias felt the man’s attention was still locked squarely on him.
“Tch.” Tobias sucked his teeth but acquiesced. Taking his blade by the hand, he trudged through the snow after them.