So by now you know that when I say "update soon", really it means, "whenever I have the time/and or inspiration to update."
Because someone even reviewed a story and said it had been a year since an update that kinda shocked me. Honestly it doesn't feel like that, most the time I'll wake up (or go to sleep) with an idea and have to write it down. But if the next part doesn't come to me I'll put it off so I don't put up some half finished piece of writing. Anyway, that's my little explanation. Thanks for those that reviewed!
Bear with me for my not-so-good fight scene descriptions.
Horace stood from one end of the clearing, his sword in one hand, hanging limply from the side. It was a heavy, two-handed weapon for this particular duel, (since they were not fighting to the death.) The young knight was confident in his own ability, but at the same time Gilan was in his league, which was a change to the usual contesters to his title of Champion.
In fact, those supporting Gilan had placed a small niggle of doubt within his mind. Perhaps the Ranger would best him in a contest.
"You'll be fine Horace." Evanlyn told him firmly.
"I'm not that worried Cassie, after all my life isn't in danger." He responded, a little defensively. "I have done this before, you know."
The Princess merely shrugged and gave him a small comforting squeeze on the arm before stepping back. She knew he was really reassuring himself more than her but didn't point it out.
"I beat him, because I am more talented at archery. But he's better at unseen movement. And you're better at duels." Will put in helpfully, smiling widely. "Besides, he's joking around more than anything. You'll be alright."
On the other side of the clearing, Gilan stood comfortably, in a far more relaxed state than his younger contender. His sword was also large and broad in style, which almost looked comical for his slimmer frame. Despite the fact that he was much lither and less bulky than Horace, it took little to no effort to wield the huge weapon.
"Ah, this will be enjoyable." He noted joyfully, turning back to grin at his companions.
Crowley had his arms folded and didn't make a comment, preferring to keep his opinion out of the matter. Halt gave his former apprentice a nod, which Gilan took as a show of support.
"Well, Crowley, may as well get this over with." Gilan told his Commandant, giving a nod in his direction.
"Alright, come on then." Crowley voiced and led the way across the clearing to meet Horace.
"This is a duel gentlemen, but I don't want to see you lobbing each other's heads of, you hear?" Crowley demanded as he read out the rules of the contest. "And if the heat of battle goes to your brains, your swords are too blunt to really cause heavy wounds. At the most they'll give hearty bruises."
Horace and Gilan both nodded in agreement.
"Alright, then seeing as you are both willing to follow the rules of combat, let the duel begin!" And with that he stepped back swiftly, making sure to be out of their way when the fighting began.
Like the trained swordsmen they were, neither Horace nor Gilan were first to lash out. After all it was something amateurs did as a form of surprise. Both men knew each other's weaknesses, and strengths. It would now be a case of catching the other unaware and being very unpredictable.
"It's just a friendly contest." Gilan said while he circled his opponent, "I mean I'm always judged against other Rangers, but this time I get to see how-," CLASH.
In the midst of speaking, his sword had flickered out in a side cut to take Horace by surprise. The young knight was slightly slower to respond but managed to deflect the blade nonetheless. He had vaguely remembered Will telling him about that technique used by Ranger's when they were caught in a close confrontation.
Knowing he had been thwarted, Gilan still began a series of undercuts, backhand cuts and overhead cuts to get the duel going. It would be within this not-so-deadly dance of swords that they would be able to find fault's in each other and take the opportunity to overcome the competition.
Horace, Gilan knew, was not a very boastful person, but would have gained a sense of his own ability from being Cassie's Champion. Now, on equal grounds with a Swordsmaster, Gilan believed his superiority would show when Horace's own attacks had no effect on him and his confidence would wane.
Gilan's Ranger training took over; where he began to blend the powerful techniques he had learnt from MacNeil, with basic combat survival from his apprenticeship.
Horace found himself fending off strong overcuts from his sides, as Gilan strafed around him, using his heightened agility against the warrior.
Knowing he had found a technique that worked for him, Gilan pursued his attacks, forcing himself to move faster, taking Horace outside his comfort zone.
The young knight was quick for his size, but had no chance against the lithe Ranger.
Both swordsmen were experts at judging fights, as were most the people that looked on. Horace knew the pivotal point of the fight was emerging and if he didn't react soon, he would be beaten down by Gilan's exhausting attacks.
"Gilan's using his speed against Horace." Halt noted coolly from where he stood.
"He can't keep it up for long though." Will added, feeling that this little contest had pitted him against his mentor on who should win.
"No, perhaps not." Halt agreed. "But I bet if it keeps going this way, Horace will give in first. He's used to rough and ready battles of people brandishing swords and using sheer weight. Gilan's fighting like a fox against a bear, except this fox has a huge broadsword."
Gilan felt the younger man beneath him falter as his sword once more clashed against his and smiled in triumph. It was only slight, but he knew Horace was beginning to give out.
On his next swing, instead of darting around as he had been, he set himself straight and held his ground as he went for an overcut, which was hastily blocked, and then immediately went for a side cut to his opponent's exposed middle.
Horace sensed it before it happened and quickly stepped forward into Gilan's space, changing the pace of the fight and immediately gaining control. He thrust his sword forward and deftly deflected the cut, stepping forward again to try the Ranger's balance.
Finding himself on uneven footing and too close for comfort, Gilan hastily took a step backwards and when he glanced up, he found Horace's broadsword aimed at his throat, the young knight kneeling before him in exhaustion.
His blood pounding in his ears and the roar of the battle still thrumming throughout his body, Gilan swallowed hard to confine the rush of anger he quickly felt. "You win." He told Horace breathlessly, and managed to crack a smile before his legs gave out beneath him.
Horace merely nodded in response and sank to the ground too, joining his companion as they both fought to catch their breath.
"That didn't go for long." Will accused as he rushed forward to offer both his friend's a drink of water. "I expected it to be much longer."
"The good fights never are," Crowley noted brightly, glad the whole competition was done for the day. It was enough excitement for one birthday, he thought. "It didn't last long, but look how worn out these two are."
Halt stepped forward to offer a hand to his fallen apprentice. Glancing up, squinting slightly against the sun, Gilan sighed heavily and accepted the help as he regained his footing.
"Lost, twice in one day, eh?" He joked, brushing off dirt from his pants as he did.
"You know what you're good at, but there are some things people are better at. Can't be the best of everything."
"I suppose not." Gilan conceded as he fought to catch his breath.
"Though it looked as if you had the advantage for the fight." His former mentor went on, unhelpfully.
"Mhm," Gilan gave a slight cough and then stretched languidly, "He faltered deliberately, as a way to let my guard down. I fell for it. Such a stupid thing of me to do."
"You fought well, MacNeil would be proud." Halt offered.
"And you?" Gilan questioned with a slight smile.
"Stupid question." Halt replied bluntly, and then decided to go talk to his friend Crowley.
Gilan simply laughed.
Will watched as Gilan talked to Halt and listened from the short distance.
Near him, Horace had also gotten back on his feet with the help of Evanlyn. After the fight she had flung her arms around his neck and given him a small peck on the cheek, something she claimed she was allowed to do as a servant and not the Princess, much to Horace's embarrassment.
"I told you, you could do it!" She enthused, unable to let her hands drop from Horace's arms or sides. "You're sure you are okay?"
Horace nodded numbly, still slightly in shock by her open display of affection more than anything. "He didn't land a blow on me so I'm just tired, that's all."
"You did really well, Horace." Will voiced, once he focused back on his friend at hand.
"Thanks Will, but honestly that fight wasn't going for me. I had to play dirty at the end there." He admitted.
"What do you mean?"
"Gilan had me the whole time in a vulnerable spot; he was letting the fight drag on, probably to see if anything interesting would happen."
"What Cass, it's not like I could do anything. I was trying my hardest not to lose the fight, I didn't have much time to be offensive."
"So you faltered." Will murmured, more to himself.
"Yeah, I did." Horace confirmed, nodding slightly. "I gave him what he wanted, which was me to give in, even if it was faked, so I could then make my move. I guess it worked though." He shrugged. In the end the young knight was satisfied that he had kept his honour and didn't feel he needed to boast about it. "Now that the fight's over, I could go for some of the Araluen Chef's sweet pastries." He noted absently. "Come on Will."
"Alright, in a moment." The young Ranger called out as his friend retreated to the food tables.
Suddenly he grinned, knowing that between the two, a winner hadn't really been defined. He wondered briefly whether he should argue about it with Halt again.
After a few seconds thought, Will gave himself a mental shrug and decided that finding out who was the true Swordsmaster, was a contest that could be fought on another day.
So everyone knows I have a soft spot for Horace, so he won, but mostly so he could keep his champion's honour. At the end though, we don't know who was the better player ;) Some could argue Gilan was and gave up the win... I will not pass judgement though :P I like the ambiguousness of it. xD
I hope it satisfied everyone who reviewed the first chapter! Sorry again about the wait!