The Enkan gates slowly opened, revealing a pair of terrified Leothite warriors. Behind them, thirty of their fellow soldiers held swords to their backs. The two fighters reluctantly walked out of the gates, which closed quickly behind them.
The Tigrisians looked at the two in confusion. The pair stood no chance of defeating the overwhelming number of foes they now faced, the terrified look in their eyes confirming that they also realised this fact.
The invaders looked for the direction of the commanding voice. On the walkway above the gate, Nemeses looked down upon those who sought occupation of the settlement he had defended for the past four tenyears.
“I send you a gift. The two men before you do not believe you are a threat. They would not heed my lessons advising them otherwise, and I wondered how to make them realise their error. My solution was to have you prove yourselves to them.”
Hyrcurian looked up to the leader of his opposition, his muzzle wrinkled and sharp teeth bared. “What game do you play? You would sacrifice soldiers?”
Nemeses shrugged his powerful shoulders, the muscle rippling beneath the golden fur. “I can spare some soldiers. Furthermore, lax fighters are not allowed in my ranks. Think of them as sparring practice.” He considered Hyrcurian for a time. “You look familiar. Your name?”
“Ah. Was Hyrcule Tigrisian your father?”
The Tigrisian’s eyes flared with anger. “He was.”
The Leothite leader nodded at his words. “He was a good man. My men had not been challenged as they were by your father and his soldiers. However, that was then, and this is now. You believe yourself a better man than your father, and your army better than his?”
Hyrcurian roared with rage.
Nemeses turned his gaze to the two Leothites standing outside the Enkan gates. “The first of you to bring me young Hyrcurian’s head, I will consider letting you back in. That is, if the other Tigrisians do not get their claws into you first.”
Seeing the futility of their predicament, the pair bellowed as they charged the Tigrisian leader. His subordinates moved to face the Leothites, but Hyrcurian motioned for them to stay back.
“Another sword! Any of you!”
One Tigrisian soldier ran forward and unceremoniously handed his blade to his leader. Drawing his own, Hyrcurian strode forward to meet the rapidly approaching enemy.
Nemeses watched his opposite face off against his own warriors. His fighters, despite their arrogance, were commendable in their sword-fighting abilities. They were using every technique they had learned, and yet the Tigrisian moved with a fluid grace that should have been impossible for one of his height and bulk. He kept the pair at bay as if he had fought at a one-man disadvantage his entire life, never letting either opponent out of his line of sight for more than a moment, and drawing them in so they could not circle him effectively.
The trio continued their fight for a half hour, the Sun beginning to hone the edge of its heat for the day ahead. The Leothites were beginning to press their number advantage, while Hyrcurian continued to reject any offer of Tigrisian assistance. The pair lunged for him at the same time, managing to make him drop one of his swords. Sensing the kill, the Leothite pair pressed towards their disadvantaged opponent, switching sword hands and holding a seemingly sore wrist.
As they moved in for the killing cut, Hyrcurian vanished. The Tigrisian soldiers cheered at the confused look of their opponents. The pair looked around wildly to gain a sense of their invisible enemy’s location, looking down to see footprints appear on the ground as if by magic. They charged the spot where the imprints stopped, yet their push hit nothing. Suddenly, one of the Leothites fell to the ground, a gash appearing just under his calf. In the space of a second, his head lifted and a matching gash appeared across his throat.
The remaining Leothite panicked at the fate of his comrade, turning and running back towards the Enkan gates. The disembodied footprints followed, quickly overtaking him. He suddenly stopped in midstep, his mouth falling open and blood rolling out. The figure of Hyrcurian reappeared, his remaining sword now running through the Leothite’s throat. Drawing back his weapon, his last opponent fell limply to the ground.
Nemeses laughed heartily. “Well done; a worthy spectacle. I have one question for you.”
Hyrcurian glared at him, his chest heaving from the exertion of the last half hour.
“Does one have honour to make use of such an unfair advantage?”
The Tigrisian roared in outrage. “You would have done no less.”
Another laugh. “Indeed. In life, there is only survival. Rules and honour are for the weak.”
“Enough stalling, Nemeses. Ready your men for battle.”
The Leothite leader’s eyes widened for a moment, before a grin crossed his muzzle. “As you wish. In two hours, you and your men shall meet their defeat. Rest assured, your race will not be allowed to survive this time.”
With those ominous words, Nemeses disappeared from view. His mind ran through tactics to address his disappearing opponent. Only one such soldier could wreak havoc, and that worried him immensely.
– L –