Twenty paces from the door Shay stopped to look back at her home as it went up in flames. A little behind her, their arms manacled together by the three-foot chain, stood Westmont. For a time all Shay could see was the fire, then she noticed that Westmont was not watching it at all. He was looking directly at her, waiting. He was backlit by the ascending flames and his expression was impossible to read. As she noticed him he slowly lifted her own sword online to point at her chest.
Without any malice in his voice he spoke, “I’m truly sorry for your loss Shayen Locke. I thank you for saving my wretched life, but now I need to go. Give me the key.”
Shay cautiously reached up with her right hand to the key hanging at her neck. As she did so she asked Westmont a question.
“Do you know why my family name is Locke?”
Westmont shook his head and angled the rapier up to Shay’s neck as he held out his chained hand for the key.
“It’s because,” she continued, “my family aided the English King in a time of war.” As she spoke she slowly retreated from Westmont towards the corner of the bakery; towards the pile of weapons the Swordsmen had stacked there. “My great, great grandfathers were entrusted with special keys, to special locks, that kept special things safe.” She was rambling and she knew it, but she needed to keep him moving and distracted. She didn’t think it was going to work but it was the best chance she had.
Westmont sensing trouble moved with Shay and pressed the rapier into the skin at the base of her throat. She grasped the key tightly and took another few steps backward. The chain between their wrists went taught.
“Stop moving, Lieutenant!” He commanded.
“They did this at great personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.” Shay pressed on in her speech and retreated further in her steps. The manacle bit into her wrist as Westmont resisted following her. “When enemies assailed from without, and treachery threatened from within, my family kept safe the most precious things. We were trustworthy, so we were awarded the name Locke.”
By slowly coaxing him they had just barely reached the corner of the bakery when Westmont pulled hard on the chain. Shay was forced to stop. She could see the weapons out of the side of her eye but Westmont could not.
“That is a very pretty story Shayen Locke,” he growled emphasising the family name, “but it hardly matters. Give me that key!” He demanded. He obviously didn’t have to tell her what would happen if she refused.
With her free hand Shay pulled at the leather cord around her neck until it broke. She held up the key between them. She looked Westmont in the eye. As he reached for the key she simply said,
“No.” Then she threw the key as hard as she could into the burning wreckage of her home.
The key flew high. Unable to look away, Westmont followed it’s progressing arc as it disappeared into the flames. Shay took advantage of his momentary distraction and dove for the weapons pile.The linking chain jerked violently and pulled Westmont to his knees. Shay’s outstretched hand landed mere inches from the pile of rapiers, bucklers, and daggers. She scrambled towards them before Westmont could fully recover. She barely grabbed the handle of the closest weapon before Westmont jerked back on the chain nearly ripping her arm from its socket.
With the force of Westmont’s pull she was yanked upright to her knees and spun around in the ash and dust to face him as he regained his feet. Instinctively she struck out with the newly acquired weapon, which happened to be a dagger. Her range was off and she just missed landing a shot in Westmont’s gut. He retreated surprised at the sudden appearance of a weapon in Shay’s hands. His retreat aided Shay to her feet and battle properly ensued.
The fixed length of chain made for close quarters combat. The thrusts and ripostes flew fast and furiously without pause. Shay had the advantage in the close quarters with a dagger but Westmont had the blocking and leverage of the rapier to his. And, he was stronger, much stronger.
Shay felt like a rag doll being whipped about at the end of the chain as Westmont pulled her from side to side, trying to gain an advantage. Her arm that linked to Westmont seared with pain in the shoulder and wrist, severely distracting her.
Grazing shots landed on both sides, in the first few exchanges. But nothing too deep. The two combatants were testing each other, and quickly learning one another’s style and weaknesses. Before long the strikes that landed would be much more serious.
Westmont pulled hard on the chain and Shay came crashing into him. She tried to use this to her advantage but received a shoulder full of quillion and guard for her attempt. She reeled back to the full length of the chain rethinking her plan. Westmont struck out staying as far back as the chain allowed to take full advantage of the rapier’s length.
Shay had to charge, she had to get in close to have a chance at survival. She had to negate the effect of the chain. She took one step forward and as she did so she wrapped the chain once around her wrist thus shortening the space between them ever so slightly. Westmont replied with a flurry of strikes most of which Shay parried while taking another step forward and wrapping the chain once more around her wrist.
This progression was repeated over and over again, one step at a time, shortening the length of chain between them with each step. All the while Shay was thanking Evanlyn in her mind for helping her study better blocking.
The fight intensified to the point where neither combatant was effectively implementing carefully honed techniques. It became a dance like, tug of war, in a rain of ash and sparks; the whole scene back-lit by burning homes and trees.
The bout had begun so quickly, and on the other side of the burning bakery from the bucket lines, that no one from the Order had yet seen it. With the roar of the flames and the shouting of commands going on, Shay was sure no one would hear her if she cried out. She instead saved her breath and focused her breathing to keep her head clear. She advanced again and shortened the chain once more. They were now so close the fight was about to devolve into a wrestling match.
Then Shay could see what she had to do. In these tight quarters, and matched against his height and strength Shay had spent most of the fight blocking overhead shots. This left Westmont’s legs open for attack.
Carefully she analyzed his stance, calculated his rhythm, and tempo, then guessed at the timing of his next shot. Twenty five percent of any fight was luck, she hoped it would be on her side. As Westmont recovered from his own attack, Shay initiated hers. She cleared his blade using her wrist covered in chain to block any new overhead strikes then she lunged fast and angled her shot down towards his forward leg. It struck hard, piercing through the outside of his thigh. She pulled back as he came crashing down to one knee. Then she struck again before he could regain his defenses.
He managed to parry enough to prevent being fully skewered, but another of Shay’s shots landed, biting deep into the upper arm of his manacled hand. He shouted out of pain and frustration, then took a swipe at Shay. She released all the chain she had so carefully wound around her wrist, and skipped out of reach, but only barely. His shot grazed the side of her face nicking her ear as it slid past.
As she ducked away from Westmont’s shot he quickly put down the rapier and grabbed a fistful of ash and sand which Shay didn’t notice. Thinking he was weak she charged in for another strike. He staggered to his feet as she rushed in and threw the ash and sand in her face. She screamed as the heat and grit hit her eyes. She fell back, and kept falling back, waving the dagger blindly in front of her. Unable to resist effectively with a damaged leg, Westmont was pulled along by the chain further and further from the rapier that he hadn’t had time to retrieve from the ground.
Shay’s scream caught the attention of some of those fighting the fire. Westmont saw them as they came running around the corner looking for her. The Swordsmen hadn’t noticed them yet because they were looking towards what remained of the side door thinking Shay was still trapped inside. He had mere seconds to decide on a plan.
He used both hands and pulled hard on the chain, Shay came flying towards him dagger outstretched but unguided because she still couldn’t properly see. He easily deflected her shot then brought the full force of his interlocked hands down on her forearm. The dagger dropped from her shocked and numbed hand and again she screamed.
Westmont picked her up around the middle and threw her over his good shoulder. All the air in her lungs came rushing out as she landed. With his shoulder digging into her middle, Shay couldn’t take in enough breath to shout again. Westmont limped as fast as he could towards the trees. Within moments they were in a densely covered area of bushes and trees, and completely out of site of the village.
Shay used her free hand to beat at Westmont’s back. She kicked out as much as she could but he held her legs pinned tightly against his chest. She struggled and twisted and soon what little air remained in her, was insufficient to let her think clearly. Combined with being in a nearly upside down position, with too much blood pumping to her head, she was soon unconscious.
Her last two coherent thoughts were for her family somewhere in the night, hoping they were safe, and for the monumental mess she was going to have to clean up in the bakery if she survived.