"Good luck son."
"Thanks," Xaine said and just before the elder was about to repeat his name he stood and made his way to the platform from the stands. Others wished him luck as he passed by. Xaine heard his friends and acquaintances in the back of his mind but was too nervous to reply to any of them. Xaine was a fairly level headed young man and understood that he had been alive for a relatively short time and others saw him as still just a child. But even though his time had been short, for as long as he could remember, he wanted to be a warrior like his father. He knew that this is what he was meant to be and that he would have to prove that. And finally here and now he would be given the chance to literally fight for it.
Xaine had arrived at the platform and without hesitation walked up the few steps onto the large wooden arena. He moved over to where they had some simple leather armor, a helmet, and a variety of weapons to choose from. He lifted and replaced a few of the swords getting a feel for which was most comfortable and balanced for him. Deciding on a long, slender, double edged sword he moved to a point several meters opposite his opponent.
"Xaine Kaider, your father has told me a lot about you. If everything he says is true then I should get to have a little fun here. I"m Torin, I"ve been on a mission or two with your dad. Now I know you probably know the rules but just in case we have to go over them. Unless requested by the veteran, that"s me, there are two rounds only regardless of who wins the round. You are out if you take a blow that would be considered fatal, if you are knocked out of the permitted area, which is this platform, or if you are disarmed. Are you ready for this Xaine?"
Xaine nodded his agreement and understanding of the rules and Torin waved to the elder to signify they were ready. They both stood in a loose fighting stance, weapons in hand, listening for the signal.
"Fighters ready! ; Begin!" The elder called loudly and immediately Xaine and Torin began the usual circle around each other to look for openings when the other might lose focus or break their guard. Xaine knew from the fights he had watched the veteran made the first move, probably because the other was too nervous to initiate. He wanted to make an impression, so he decided he would attack first. He only hoped he was not being too sure of himself and acting out of false confidence. However, he also knew if this were a life or death battle, he would have to risk everything in order to succeed. And he would do so here and now.
Xaine moved forward quickly keeping his forefoot leading, he plunged his sword tip at his opponent"s heart. The veteran made a quick move with his wrist and parried the blow. As his sword moved up he brought it in a fast arc and back down on Xaine. Xaine had to take a step back to catch the swing with his own sword and did so successfully.
"You move well Xaine! But that"s not all there is to a battle." The man picked up his pace and jabbed three fast blows at Xaine forcing him back another step. Xaine caught the blows again, but somewhat slowly. The man continued his speed and vigor and pushed Xaine another step back, then another, and another. Xaine knew he was losing ground and he needed to counter his attack. As each blow came he was able to read it better and slowly he was catching up in pace with his opponent. Suddenly, Xaine knew something wasn"t right. His opponent was smart and it seemed odd that he would keep using the same pattern over and over. He glanced to the ground behind his attacker and realized there was quite a distance between them and the other side of the platform. Xaine noticed his mistake.
It couldn"t be many more steps before Xaine would lose his footing and fall off the other side. The next attack came in and Xaine blocked the first two as normal but parried the third down and to his left as he swung himself to the right to pivot his direction. He immediately shot a counter attack at Torin but it was blocked.
"Fantastic Xaine, this is getting quite fun indeed." The man smiled at him and drew back a pace or two allowing Xaine to follow forward. Xaine took the opportunity and doubled his pace forward. He struck with as much force as he could muster, realizing too late he had walked into a trap. As Torin saw his pace quicken he reversed his direction quickly and met Xaine"s sword with full force. Xaine felt the jolt of the impact up to his shoulder and to his chagrin his sword was forced loose from his grip. He tried to grasp for it before he fully lost it but he only made it worse by hitting the end of the hilt with the tips of his fingers and the sword clattered to the ground.
Xaine was so frustrated with himself he almost didn"t hear the elder call the match and allow him to get his weapon. As he went over to pick it up he couldn"t help but beat himself up mentally, he knew he had fallen into a trap and that he was smarter than that. He knew he could have done better but he rushed in and fell for it anyway. But he had one more match and he was racking his brain to find out how to make this work for him before the call was given to start. He got his weapon and the two fighters took their positions again and just before the call the thought hit him. He knew he was better than this, and he knew he was smarter than this but his opponent didn"t. Torin had already complimented him on his performance multiple times so as far as he was concerned he was already doing well.
The two began to circle one another again. Xaine had the plan in his head and ready to go but he knew he had to be convincing, he had to treat this as if it were life and death if he were truly going to make it. The minute the match had begun Xaine lunged forward and struck at Torin. His sword was deflected by the more experienced fighter and immediately he launched a counter attack. Striking fast he knocked Xaine back a few paces but Xaine deflected each blow. Finally Torin set the trap again and Xaine didn"t miss his chance. Xaine used the frustration he felt at himself from the previous match to sell his recklessness all the better. As he moved forward he saw Torin begin to step forward and watched his sword point streak through the air to hit his. At the last second Xaine stopped his forward motion and simultaneously dropped his sword and ducked, dodging Torin's blow completely. In a flash he brought his sword down, between the two of them, then back up and clanged the metal against the right side of Torin"s neck armor.
The crowd went silent as they tried to process what they had just seen. There was blatant look of surprise on Torin"s face which slowly changed to a smile. The match was over and for the first time that day a candidate had won a match against a veteran.
"Well done Xaine! You really caught me there, I walked right into your trap. Let that be a lesson never to underestimate your opponent." The two broke their stance and Xaine waited to be dismissed. Torin looked to the elder and raised a hand as if to wave but held up 3 fingers instead. The man nodded enthusiastically and the veteran turned back to Xaine.
"Well Xaine you"ve earned it, round three. But this time is going to be much harder." He walked over to the weapons rack while speaking and replaced the sword he was using onto the weapons rack. "I won"t be using this, I was never a very good swordsman anyway." He returned to the center of the platform with Xaine having nothing in his hands. Torin held a hand out and his palm began to glow with the runes that symbolized his lineage. The runes were quickly covered by the weapon that materialized in his hand. It was a large war hammer with a long spike on the back end of it. The weapon was decorated with gold and silver etchings of runes that no doubt matched or had some semblance of the ones that glowed in his palm. There was an audible gasp from the crowd.
The reality hit Xaine, not only was he about to get a third round but, he was about to fight against an ancestral weapon. Xaine knew, the same as anyone at that arena, that those were the pride of their people. The ancestral weapons were the power that put humans on par with the other races in this world, and sometimes it even put them higher. Xaine knew immediately that he would not win this match regardless how well he had trained himself. All he could do now was last as long as possible and show as much of his skill as he could.
"You may claim a shield for this fight if you wish. I would highly recommend it." Torin said to Xaine who was in somewhat of a daze. Xaine followed his instruction as someone assisting the fighters brought up a shield and offered it to him. He strapped it on his left arm and continued to wield the same sword. He nodded his head and waited for the match to begin.
The call was made, Xaine was constantly trying to evaluate his situation. The only advantage he could think of was his speed. Maneuvering a large war hammer was a difficult task, they were heavy and hard to control. Each attack had to be committed to and had to be followed through. But an experienced veteran such as the one he was against would know how to work around those problems. And there was the issue that with an ancestral weapon came unique abilities. Whether Torin would even use something like that here Xaine had no idea but he had to be prepared either way.
Another disadvantage to Xaine was that he had not trained himself much in the use of a shield, however, the concept was fairly simple and he was confident he would do better with it than without. The first blow struck Xaine out of his thoughts as Torin thrust the flat top of the hammer straight at him. Xaine took the opportunity to get a feel for the shield and blocked. He learned quickly the wrong way to hold a shield. Without proper bracing the shield slammed back into Xaine pulling his shoulder at an awkward angle and slamming the rim into top of his shoulder.
The pain shot through Xaine"s arm and through his neck. He couldn"t let that happen again, especially on a heavier hit. His shoulder now ached from the weight of the shield and any movement from there on. Xaine took a step back then rushed forward to strike hoping the feint would catch his opponent off guard. But again he quickly learned the value of using a shield properly as the hammer came down on him in an overhead blow. Xaine brought his shield up to meet it just in time for it to take the impact. But with more leverage behind it the hit still felt like getting kicked by a horse, which Xaine had actually had the displeasure to experience on one occasion.
The force knocked Xaine off balance and nearly over. He quickly regained his stance just in time for a second blow that began during his stagger. Just before the hammer hit he had an idea and had no time to weigh his options so he went for it. He tried his best to move the shield slightly to help guide the hammer down and away from him. And at the same instant the hammer hit he used the force of the hit to swing the left side of his body back and the right side forward to strike with his sword. To his surprize, Torin pulled the long handle of his hammer up to block his sword strike. The sword clanged against the handle between Torin"s hands. Following his instincts again he turned the sword to flatten it against the handle then slid the blade down along the handle toward Torin"s hand.Torin
Torin had no choice but to let go of the bottom portion of the hammer like Xaine had planned. As Xaine"s sword slid passed the end of the handle Xaine dropped to one knee and thrust the point of his sword up towards Thorin's chest. His opponent sidestepped the motion and took a step backward away from Xaine.
"Very impressive! Dare I say you"re a natural! You"ve done really well this match, you even managed to get one of my hands off my hammer. But it"s time for this match to end, do your best, I"m not going to make this easy."
With that Torin lunged forward and swung his hammer at Xaine. The hammer came faster than Xaine thought was possible but he got his shield up in time. The force knocked him backward several paces and it was all he could do to not fall to the ground. As soon as he regained his composure the hammer slammed into his shield again, this time knocking him to the ground and several feet back. Torins speed with such a heavy hammer was unbelievable. He was well built veteran but Xaine didn"t think he should be able to move it quite that fast. Xaine barely saw the next blow coming and instead of trying to stand back up, rolled out of the way. The hammer hit the platform where he was and made a slight thunk. Xaine was impressed by Torin"s almost inhuman control over his hammer,his swing was much too fast to have such little impact. The hammer should have destroyed and splintered the wood beneath, yet it only barely tapped it.
Xaine could barely keep up analyzing his enemy was all that was possible with the speed and power of Torin"s blows. All Xaine could do was continue to try and defend or dodge each attack with no time for a counter attack. Hit after hit rained down on him until the shield strap began to break and xaine knew he had to act or give up. He waited as long as possible and looked time and time again for an opening but continued to find none. Torin"s attacks were too fast and the only respite he got from the hammer was when he were knocked far enough away from him that Torin had to charge him to attack again. He figured he would have to somehow aim for that small window.
The next time he was knocked to the ground he tucked his shield in and rolled back onto his feet. Before he went back to the ready position he undid the straps to his shield and simply held on to the handlebar inside. Xaine knew it was now or never. As Torin was charging forward Xaine threw his shield at the veteran hoping to cause him to dodge or falter. As soon as the shield left his grip he dashed forward toward his enemy to strike the second he had the chance. However Torin was even faster than Xaine had anticipated and in a lightning fast movement, he knocked the shield out of the way and quickly did the same with Xaine"s sword. Xaine saw the sword fly from his grip and barely had time to register that the spiked end of Torin"s hammer rested only millimeters from his chest. The match was over.
The crowd was silent for a brief moment then erupted in cheers. It was a spectacular match for a trial but everyone knew and felt the honor that it was for such a young warrior to be tried so intensely. Of course nobody felt it as strongly as Xaine. He had gotten beaten and bashed around, but he was ecstatic. He fought against an ancestral weapon, and even got a glimpse of the true power of the wielder. As soon as the match was called and Xaine was allowed to break stance, he looked at Torin and smiled.
"Thank you sir it was a great honor to fight against you today." Torin"s weapon vanished and he reached out a hand to Xaine, Xaine took it.
"The honor was mine Xaine, you are a very skilled young man and you can expect a recommendation from me. Just remember I am not the one to make the final decision."
"Thank you very much, you have no Idea what that means to me."
"After what I saw today I think I have a pretty good Idea, also knowing your father helps a bit too. You"re dismissed, you will be called when it"s time for a decision. It was very nice to meet you Xaine."
Xaine didn"t know what else to say so he simply smiled, replaced his equipment and left to go find his father. After mulling through the crowd he eventually found his father who immediately embraced him in a tight hug.
"I"m proud of you son, you fought well." They let go and began to talk about the match. Xaine learned that as his father found out from the people around him that Xaine was the only one to get a third round this trial. That news made Xaine fly even higher. He knew it wasn"t a sure thing, but hearing that meant he probably had the best chances of anyone to join the warriors of his people.
The rest of the day was a blur- all Xaine could think about was the match and what the outcome would be. Even though he didn"t know the answer yet, he felt good about himself. He had tried his best in everything he had done and could only hope it would pay off. After such a satisfying and tiring day, it was no wonder the trouble sleeping he had the previous night was completely gone.