“You’re fast, but too predictable,” Malthus told Blacknail with an amused chuckle.
The hobgoblin grunted in annoyance. He then raised his guard again and silently stared his opponent down. Neither one of them looked away as their eyes met. Without warning Malthus struck.
Blacknail hissed angrily as he burned Elixir for speed. A hot wave of energy ignited within him as he jumped backwards. The tip of Malthus’ blade cut though his shirt and drew blood, but it was only a scratch.
The master assassin immediately stepped forward and followed up his last attack with another one. This time it was a horizontal slash aimed at the hobgoblin’s chest. Blacknail stepped forward to meet the blow and swung his own weapon. There was loud clang as the blades collided, and Blacknail felt the pommel vibrate in his hands.
A second later the blades slid down against each other until the swords locked. Both fighters eyed each other as they fought to keep their balance and their swords up.
“That’s very hard on a sword, you know. They…” Malthus remarked snidely.
Before he could finish though, Blacknail’s left boot shot up towards his groin.
“That’s not very sporting,” the assassin joked as he easily twisted his hips out of the way of the low kick.
However, his move forced him to shift his balance and push his locked blade up higher. Deep with the hobgoblin’s mind instinct and experience sparked. Blacknail lunged forward as he instantly acted on the sudden thought.
With lightning-like speed the hobgoblin’s open mouth snapped towards Malthus’ hands. The assassin’s eyes opened in surprise as he was caught off guard by the move. Apparently bite attacks were rare in sword fights. Blacknail’s teeth grazed the man’s knuckles as he jerked his hands, and the sword in them, back.
The quick movement caused Malthus to stumble, and the hobgoblin mercilessly pressed his advantage. He stepped forward and battered the man’s sword aside. As Malthus struggled to get his guard back up Blacknail’s blade sliced towards his exposed shoulder.
Blood wetted the edge of the hobgoblin’s sword as it cut into the assassin’s skin, but Malthus was already dodging to the side. The attack failed to cut deep enough and Malthus spun away without any real damage. The assassin then tucked himself into a ball as his body hit the ground, and the long grass of the clearing was flattened beneath him as he rolled away.
The hobgoblin wasn’t about to let him get away that easily, though. He charged after the assassin with his sword raised above his head and ready to strike. The distance between them rapidly shrunk.
Just as he was about to catch up, a pair of slender projectiles flew out from the assassin’s form while he was in mid roll. Caught off guard, Blacknail could only flinch to the side to avoid the first one and flail wildly at the second. He got lucky and there was a muted clang as his blade safely knocked the spinning knife from the air.
Malthus used this time to spring to his feet and retake his fighting stance. Blacknail hissed in annoyance. He had been so close to killing the bastard! Now they were right back where they started.
“You’re certainly a creative fighter, but you’re not the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve,” Malthus bragged as he grinned smugly.
“You talk-ss too much,” Blacknail replied with a scowl.
“Whereas you apparently have better uses for your mouth,” Malthus observed irately. “I suppose I should expect such things from a savage beast like you.”
The assassin then scowled and wiped the small cut on his hand against his pants. Blacknail hoped it got infected. No wait, he hoped Malthus died way before that could happen.
“You taste like-ss a weakling, and smell-ss worse,” Blacknail grumbled in reply as he spat off to the side.
He then eyed his opponent carefully. The wound on the assassin’s shoulder was a sticky mess of torn cloth and blood but it seemed to have already stopped bleeding. It didn’t seem to be slowing him down either. Malthus’ sword was held out in a high guard and it looked steady.
Blacknail only had a superficial wound as well. He took up a basic stance of his own as he stepped forward. Both fighters had come out of the first exchange on even ground.
It looked like things had yet to be settled. The next clash of swords would determine who the better swordsman was, so Blacknail wasn’t going to do that. That would be really stupid and he wanted to live. He was going to keep trying to cheat!
In fact, he already had a plan in mind. He just needed to figure out how to set it up. The hobgoblin let his gaze slip away from Malthus and he scanned the surrounding brush.
His opponent didn’t give him time to think, though. Malthus advanced on Blacknail. He seemed eager to resume the fight, and that was just another reason Blacknail wanted to avoid it.
There was a crunching noise as Malthus stepped forward and crushed a twig beneath his feet. The hobgoblin readied himself as the assassin moved into striking distance. Sure enough, his opponent immediately attacked.
Blacknail blocked a flurry of quick strikes from Malthus, but every blow forced him backwards. The clang of steel on steel filled the clearing as their swords clashed.
Blacknail found himself slowly retreating as he desperately struggled to keep the assassin’s blade at bay. The sword in Malthus’ hand flowed like water through the air and had a grace Blacknail couldn’t match. The hobgoblin could only burn Elixir and muster as much speed as possible in an attempt to keep up.
The bushes at the edge of the clearing were getting very close now. He couldn’t back up forever. Not unless he wanted to risk tripping over something and then getting stabbed as he flailed around on top of a thorn bush.
Blacknail batted aside one slash that was aimed low, but Malthus’ blade twisted back around toward his face in a quick fluid motion. The hobgoblin hissed in alarm and threw himself to the side. Instead of following up though, Malthus took the opportunity to brag.
“I’ve got your measure now. I suppose you’re not a bad swordsman, all things considered. You’re better than you look anyway, but far from a master. This next pass will be your last,” Malthus remarked disdainfully.
The assassin then lunged forward again with a confident smirk on his face. His blade whistled through the air towards Blacknail.
The hobgoblin stepped back to lessen the power of the blow and blocked it, but Malthus just grinned. The assassin’s dark cloak rippled as he spun around to the side. His blade twisted around like a snake and suddenly an alarmed hobgoblin found his sword being knocked from his hands.
Blacknail managed to keep a grip on the hilt as the tip of the blade was forced down. Malthus’ technique wasn’t finished though. His own sword slid forwards and stabbed towards Blacknail’s gut. The hobgoblin hesitated for a moment, before letting go of his weapon and jumping out of the way.
It hit the ground with a muted thud as Malthus stepped passed it. The assassin quickly descended upon the now unarmed hobgoblin.
“And now you’re mine,” he gloated as he raised his blade above his head.
A panicked look appeared on Blacknail’s face as he cringed away from the blow. He threw himself backwards and to the right, but there was nowhere for him to go. The thorn bushes were behind him and Malthus’ charge was too fast.
The razor sharp edge of the sword sliced down towards him as the assassin stepped into range, but Blacknail’s mouth split open into a wide toothy grin and his panicked look disappeared. Malthus noticed the change and he hesitated, but it was far too late. As his sword swung downwards his foot hit the trap.
Leaves and other debris exploded into the air as the rope concealed beneath the grass sprung into motion. It wrapped around Malthus’ foot and pulled it savagely into the air as the bent over sapling it was tied to unfolded with a loud snap.
“Ahhh, hells,” the assassin yelled as the slithering rope wrenched him off of his feet.
The sapling wasn’t tall or strong enough to get him completely off the ground, but it didn’t have to. Malthus was dragged roughly across the grass and his head hit the ground with a loud thud. His sword slipped from his hands as he was pulled away.
When he came to stop the stunned assassin was lying on his back next to the still swaying tree. His clothes were disheveled and he was covered in bits and pieces of torn up plants. It wasn't the best look on him.
Blacknail grinned smugly to himself as he appreciated his handiwork. It had taken a lot of work to place so many traps everywhere but it had been worth the effort. It was a good thing he had spent so many hours learning to make rope...
As Malthus groaned and blinked in confusion, the hobgoblin skipped happily over to his side. The fun part was finally here!
“And now you’re mine, stupid human” Blacknail gloated as he loomed over his prey and grinned wickedly.
The hobgoblin wanted to take his time and enjoy this. What should he do to his catch? Should he skin him like a rabbit, cut off all his fingers and toes, or set him on fire? All three options had pluses and minuses. It was so hard to choose…
Oh, he knew! He could combine all of them and make Malthus jerky! It probably wouldn’t taste all that great, but it would be very satisfying in other ways.
Blacknail reached down to pull one of his knives out, but was interrupted when he felt Malthus grab his leg. What was the man up to? He wasn’t strong enough to do anything with his bare hands.
As the hobgoblin looked down in curiosity he felt an odd tingling sensation. He frowned and then was thrown sideways as pain burnt its way up his leg. He landed on the ground several feet away and yelped as every muscle in his body started to spasm.
Blacknail writhed painfully on the ground. What had Malthus done? Some sort of magic? Whatever it was, it hurt a lot!
“Ha, as if you could defeat me! I’m the greatest Knifeman in Daggerpoint, and you’re just a jumped up beast. My master selected me to succeed him and trained me to be undefeatable. I have all his skills and the power of a Vessel at my fingertips,” Malthus exclaimed as he cut himself free and slowly stood up.
The assassin sounded pained and he made no move to approach the fallen hobgoblin, though. He seemed unsteady on his feet and barely capable of standing.
The pain running along Blacknail’s nerves suddenly died down. He coughed and quickly rolled into a defensive crouch. As Malthus watched he stood up and met the man’s eyes. Both them stared hatefully at each other as they caught their breaths and cleared their heads.
The nearby songbirds had been startled by all the noise, but they resumed singing now that things were quieter. Around the two combatants colorful leaves continued to drift lazily down from the trees onto the knee high grass.
Blacknail hissed softly to himself. His entire body hurt, especially his leg, and the pain focused his thoughts. He now was utterly focused on killing his opponent. He would rip the man apart with his bare hands and enjoy the squishy feeling of his wet flesh between his fingers.
“Your pants are on fire,” Malthus dryly pointed out.
The hobgoblin’s first instinct was to ignore the man and assume it was a trick. However, his leg did sort of feel funny… Blacknail looked down. There was a large hole in the cloth below his knee where he had been grabbed, and it was smoldering.
“Eeep,” Blacknail yelped as he hopped up on one foot and began trying to put out the flames. He slapped his leg repeatedly with his hands until it stopped smoking.
“It would be far too embarrassing to die by your hands, so I’m going to have to go all out now,” Malthus remarked with a pained sigh.
As Blacknail calmed back down, Malthus unwrapped a thin short chain from around his waist. It was no longer than a man’s arm and ended in a weighted hook.
It didn’t seem like that threatening of a weapon but Malthus wouldn’t have drawn it without a reason. Something told Blacknail it was connected to the burning attack from earlier, and that could only have been caused by one thing.
“Magic, but you’re not-ss a mage,” Blacknail hissed in annoyance as he drew a pair of daggers and stared Malthus down.
“Indeed,” Malthus chuckled. “Not all Vessels are created equal.”
The assassin then raised a hand up to where Blacknail could easily see it. As the hobgoblin warily watched little tendrils of lightning danced between the man’s fingers.
“That’s cheating!” Blacknail exclaimed annoyance as he scowled.
“It’s a flashy trick, but it consumes a lot of very expensive elixir. Stabbing someone is almost always easier anyway,” Malthus added in explanation.
Blacknail hadn’t known Vessels could do anything like that. How come he didn’t have a power like that? He wanted a fancy magic trick, and he didn’t care how much it cost! It wasn’t like he paid for his own Elixir anyway. Also, Mahedium was definitely going to get an annoyed visitor later. How dare he not give Blacknail the best magic possible!
The combatants were only a dozen feet from each other and had both recovered enough to move. Malthus took a step forward and began to spin his chain. It made a whirring sound as it cut through the air.
Blacknail raised his daggers and took up a knife fighting stance that Saeter had taught him. He knew that the chain had to have some sort of trick to it.
Most likely it could somehow shock him like Malthus’ touch had. If that was the case then this fight was going to be very bothersome, and more than a little painful.
The hobgoblin kept his guard up as Malthus suddenly lunged at him. The man’s spinning chain shot out towards his chest. He didn’t try and block it. Instead, he dodged left and slashed over the chain towards Malthus.
The assassin simply stepped back out of the way. His chain had a lot more reach than a dagger.
“Crunchy maggots,” Blacknail cursed.
Knives weren’t the best weapon for this, and his sword was too far away to get at. Maybe he should have kept that crossbow...
Malthus suddenly swung the chain around towards the hobgoblin’s head, and Blacknail was forced to duck out of the way. The assassin kept attacking without a break. The chain rattled as it swung towards its target over and over again.
Blacknail managed to dodge every blow, but he couldn’t get near his opponent. Malthus had too much of a range advantage.
As he fought the hobgoblin furiously tried to come up with a solution. He needed a new plan. What tools did he have on hand? What could he use?
Suddenly, Blacknail remembered some of the preparations he’d made earlier. There was something nearby he could use!
As Malthus continued his assault Blacknail side stepped another attack and circled round to the left. With one eye on his opponent, he hurriedly started backing away. The assassin immediately followed him and his chain slashed out at the hobgoblin’s legs. Blacknail jumped over the weapon and continued his retreat.
Then Malthus lunged forward again and his chain smashed into the hobgoblin’s upper arm. Blacknail felt a crunching sensation as the weapon impacted his flesh and bone, but no shock. He reeled to the side but managed to keep on his feet. Ow, now his arm hurt too!
“Huh, your clothing must have been too thick. I’ll have to hit somewhere else next time, or just beat you to death,” the assassin remarked as he resumed spinning his chain.
“No, you won’t-ss do any of those things,” Blacknail hissed angrily back.
He had grown tired of this fight. He was exhausted, in pain, and really wanted to kill this stupid stinking human bastard!
The hobgoblin kicked the ground at his feet. The tip of his boot hooked a branch that was laying there and flipped it up into the air. Immediately, Blacknail burned Elixir and he felt the magic energy drive away some of his aches and pains.
With inhuman speed he grabbed the long heavy branch out of the air and swung it at Malthus’ head. The man’s eyes widened in surprise as the improvised club closed the distance between them. There was a loud thud and cracking noise as the branch slammed into his face and knocked the man over sideways.
Malthus crumpled onto the ground, and Blacknail didn’t give him any time to try anymore tricks. He stepped forward and continued his savage assault. The clearing was filled with wild growling and heavy thuds as Blacknail beat the man to death.
Soon, there was nothing left but a wrecked and bloody corpse. The assassin’s skull had several dents in it, and one of his eyes had been knocked loose from his head. From experience, Blacknail knew humans couldn’t survive nearly that much damage.
“Ha, I win!” the exhausted hobgoblin moaned as he dropped the club and turned around.
He was breathing heavily as he started slowly walking back to the battlefield. Both his leg and his shoulder hurt, but his mission had been accomplished. It was time to return to his tribe, so he could demand extra cheese and take a very long nap.