Pierre faced the headsman. I faced death.
Anubis sense that I was the more powerful of the two, and he was wary. Pierre and Shesmu clashed first.
Testing each other's defenses, Pierre and Shesmu charged at each other several times. Charged with ferocity greater than I had ever seen, Pierre slapped aside the demon's staff.
Sparks flew as weapons clashed. Droplets of blood landed on the ground... no one in the room knew who they had come from. The combatants fought on, unfeeling. And I... well, I faced death itself.
Anubis and I stalked towards each other slowly. He had his sword, I had mine. It was no longer the same short sword that he had turned against me so many years ago. In it's place was a bright steel blade, almost as long as my scimitar.
Almost, but not quite.
He struck first, and I deflected it and spun past him, hoping to slip my blade between his ribs, as I had done with Pierre during our sparring.
I hit only air. Luckily, I turned in time to deflect his following blow.
Anubis was more agile than I had given him credit for. And as I felt his blade ring against mine, I realized that he was much stronger as well.
The old me would have been overcome with a sense of doom, and retreated to the nearby holy ground.
But now it was time for me to fight. It was time for me to defeat death once more. Anubis and I danced in the sunlight. Liquid that may have been sweat or blood flew. Neither one of us could gain an advantage. I was too cautious. He was too swift.
Meanwhile, Pierre and Shesmu fought. Pierre was using both hands on his sword, deflecting Shesmu's attacks as best he could. Finally, Shesmu started using both ends of his staff, taking full advantage of the two ends against Pierre's single sword.
Pierre blocked one strong swing of the razor edge, only to find the was swinging back at him with the other end. The side of the double spikes struck him hard, and he fell backwards. Shesmu took another swing at the prone immortal with the razor edge, and Pierre managed to hold out his sword. The sword was torn from his hand by the force of the blow, but it was enough to save him from being disemboweled. Immediately, Shesmu reversed the direction of his staff, hoping to stab him with the tip of the was.
Somehow Pierre managed to squirm out of it. The staff bounced off the ground, and left a mark on Pierre's back, but it did little damage. My friend reached into his coat, and drew out the pair of hand blades I had given him.
Shesmu saw them and jumped back, but not until Pierre swung his blades with full force, leaving a matched set of cuts on Shesmu's leg.
Pierre pulled himself to his feet as fast as he could. He was wounded, Shesmu's blade had left a deep gash in his stomach, and a smaller one on his back when he had been on the ground. But Shesmu was moving slower now. He was injured as well.
My scimitar snaked through Anubis defenses, and he had to twist and turn out of the way. I flew at him with such grace and speed that I amazed myself. He had no choice but to dodge and retreat. Finally, my attack was turned against me, and he cut into my left arm. I let it drop, as if injured much more than it was.
And hidden in that motion, three sheaves fell between my fingers. As he continues his attack, I deflected his blade with my scimitar, and then twisted around him, throwing the sheaves at his unprotected back. He growled, in anger or pain, and swung with full force.
With his full strength, he would have knocked my sword from my hand and cut me in half.
But I didn't give him the chance. My scimitar intercepted his blade, and was swept aside. I felt it fly from my fingertips, but before it could clatter on the ground, I was already stepping back and reaching into my coat. One of my wakazashi came into my left hand, and my katana came into my right.
Pierre held his left arm against the gash in his side. It slowed him, and kept him from dodging Shesmu's attacks as well... but Shesmu was wounded in the legs, and he couldn't attack as fast. The two were on equal ground for now.
Pierre used his right hand, his faster hand to deflect the oncoming blade. Slowly but surely, he was being beaten back... back towards a wall.
And he saw it coming. As a last ditch effort, he tried to spin around Shesmu, putting himself away from the wall.
But Shesmu anticipated his move.
The axe-like blade chopped hard into Pierre's spine, sending him sprawling. Pierre lost the blade in his right hand. Frantically, he grabbed at the sheaves and threw them from his prone position on the ground. Shesmu dodged the first and second, and caught the last only on his shoulder.
Thinking my friend to be wounded, Shesmu closed in slowly... laughing under his breath. "You are a worthy opponant. Your teacher would have been proud."
Pierre could almost see him smiling under his mask as he repeated. "Would have been."
Shesmu stalked closer, toying with his prey. No man could have taken a blow like that to the back and not have been paralyzed.
But no man ordinarily carries a claymore under his jacket. Pierre threw my carbon-bladed knife at the monster, and rolled out of harm's reach, throwing aside his jacket and pulling the claymore from the folds. With a sword in hand, and a smaller blade in the other, he rushed at Shesmu, cursing and screaming.
Shesmu was forced on the defensive as my friend delivered blow after blow from both weapons. The was staff spun in every direction, and it was all the headsman could do to keep from being split open.
Finally Pierred caught an opening in Shesmu's defense. The hand blade struck out, clipping the monster's shoulder, sending him spinning. The claymore slapped Shesmu's back, from too close to cause much damage, but enough to draw blood.
Pierre was about to swing his hand blade at the creature's throat when he felt it.
As Shesmu spun around, it had turned the weapon in his hands away from Pierre.
But the back end of the weapon was a pair of barbed points, sharper than any spear.
Pierre felt the searing cold metal enter his chest. Shesmu turned, slowly and kicked out, ripping his weapon from the younger immortal's hands. Gasping for breath, Pierre crawled towards his discarded cutlass. Shesmu leapt over him and kicked it away. It skittered along the ground in the general direction of Anubis and me.
"There can be only one.", Shesmu said.
Anubis and I danced together. My blades twirled, smaller than his, but faster and sharper. I know I was injured... but the blood spattered on the ground and on my skin could not have all come from me. I crossed my blades to intercept his, and as we came together, I pushed away. He fell back, and had to regain his footing.
Instead of pushing the initiative, I stepped back as well. I held my katana over my right shoulder, next to my head, pointing towards him. My wakasashi crossed it, pointing straight up.
And I waited for Anubis to attack.
Then I heard it. I saw it. The flickers of lightning. The primal scream from Shesmu, the headsman of the underworld.
The quickening. Pierre was dead.
I heard footsteps coming towards us. Anubis and I stood still, facing each other. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Shesmu. He was almost unharmed... the quickening had helped heal most of his battle injuries.
Then he stopped.
And he watched. And waited.
At that moment, I knew that I was going to die. If Anubis killed me, I would die.
If I killed Anubis, I would die during the quickening.
Chance had caught up to me. After all these years... chance had caught up to me.
River's voice whispered inside my head, "She was definately a fighter. She wouldn't give up until it was over."
I had no choice. I could lay down and die right here... or I could fight on.
When the only choice is to make a choice somehow it becomes easier.
Fear means nothing to me now. Shesmu watched his master duel... he didn't try to help him. That is the nature of evil. Evil feeds off of the world, with no thought of giving in return.
Pierre, River, Forrest, Forrest's wife and I... we were all givers. We gave with no thought of return. We were good. I was good. Pierre had been good.
Cold vengeance means nothing. I simply had to remove this evil from the world.
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