He was well trained. I didn’t even get close.
The armored Templar retreated, clanking back a step—but only one step. He punched the halberd at Aidan with his right arm, left hand slack on the haft, guiding more than gripping. Aidan struck the halberd aside, moving further left, opening up the path for me to cut at his armored, frog-mouthed helm. If I could hit it, one clean blow from Fury, I could put a dent in it, put a dent in the head underneath, and we’d be able to–
The Templar fell back one more step, and with that firm right grip on his halberd he tugged back. The spear-headed axe darted back adder-quick, point pivoting. I abandoned the cut, threw myself to one side, fell sprawling once again behind a pew as…he didn’t follow through.
He laughed, voice booming in the helm, turned to face Aidan with the haft of his halberd in two hands.
I put my palms flat on the floor, splinters stabbing under the nails. Right hand didn’t sting at all—still had the leather glove there, tattered and burnt, but holding. Fury scraped on the ground when I stood, low, grinding my teeth.
Aidan was forced to keep his distance, to move further from me across the church. The halberd gave Sir Mayfuck nearly a foot of reach on Aidan, and he wielded it too adroitly for our choir boy to hook the spur of his sword around that axe-blade back. I saw him try it twice with a passing twist, but each time he was shaken off by another snap of the polearm.
Mariead let another arrow fly. It hissed across the aisles, struck the knight’s shoulder, and broke into a shower of splinters with a wildly winging metal core.
If I go into the fray at the wrong time, I might distract him.
“Wait for my signal. I have the tempo.”
“Penitents!” The knight shouted, sounding far less winded than he ought. “Take the archer!”
Aidan met my eyes from across the room.
Four scarlets came in the door, and me too far from the threshold to stop them.
Odd choice, to wear a frogmouth.
It’s a Templar, so might be be it’s pure arrogance; then again, might have been a man on his way from some ceremonial duty.
“It’s unusual for battle. Is there something we can use? Tell me about them.”
They’re too damn heavy, and strong. They brace the shoulders and neck, but they aren’t built to turn, not made for close quarters. A knight on horseback might wear one, if all he expected was to run down his enemies with a polearm.
I’d tried to hit it before, to see if I could crack his head off the side of it.
“If he can’t turn…”
I snatched up a fallen cudgel, threw it at the back of the knight’s head, so soon after Grannine’s observation that it felt like my thought, not Hers. Now I hit him from behind, not to see if I could crack his head, but because I knew he couldn’t see behind himself, or his flank, or anywhere else that wasn’t within sight of that visor.
He didn’t seem to feel the impact, though I hit him dead on with a noise like striking a cast-iron pot. But he did turn, sweeping the ironshod butt of his polearm through the air, seeking an enemy that simply didn’t exist. His great helm had wee slits cut into the side, a barred patch over his ears to give him a bit more awareness, but clearly not enough to tell the difference between a man and a thrown cudgel.
Aidan seized the opening, punished him for that, and closed in. His opponent turned back a hair too late to force him away, and Aidan jammed his sword up against the halberd haft just an instant before they slammed into one another with a crash of armor.
The Templar dropped his halberd, and I couldn’t keep looking. There were men at the door.
I’m tired, lass.
I felt it even though my blood was up. My hands shook, vision came in and out. Not a lick of sleep for days now, with the only exception being brief moments of unconsciousness at the brink of death. I had no armor, no helmet, and there was water squshing in between my toes with each step I took.
“You’re nearly there, my Dermot.”
I had a sword. And while the desperate men coming for my head had cudgels, and one had a dirk, and while they wore chainmail, and there were four of them and one of me…they weren’t trained, weren’t proper soldiers. Penitents, with clubs in their hands, against a man with half a head of height on them and a Templar sword.
It gave them a bit of pause, coming up on me.
Mariead’s fifth arrow missed the mark, skipped out the door into the rain. Despite that, it made my four new friends keep their heads down, made two of them hesitate.
I caught my foot under a broken plank and kicked it up off the floor into the nearest man’s face. That made him hesitate, too. While he was hesitating, I raised Fury and thrust it into the next man’s chest. It punched through him like a leatherworker’s needle, and when I pulled it back out he collapsed like an empty sack.
The sword tucked back into my arms. I pivoted, raised it high, cut down and across the Penitent still plucking splinters from his head.
Now I was fighting two men with cudgels. Better.
Six men with cudgels were coming in the door. Worse.
I lunged for the two men closer to me. Have to take them before the rest arrive. Put them down screaming, and scare them back.
Lass. Can you give me your sight?
“I surely can, my Dermot.”
The world turned to shades of red. Scarlet-white light blossomed from every living patch of skin.
The Penitents recoiled.
I tested my grip. The granite plates had been worked over by a file, and they were rough under my fingers, a solid grip. Even after what must have been centuries of wear, it felt like I’d taken up an actual piece of rock, firm in the hand, reliable.
Fury’s handle was long, dark and stone-set wood. An arming sword that a common Church soldier might bear had a handle suited for a single-arm grip, meant to use with a shield. The extended grip gave my Templar steel a bit of reach, a balance to the longer blade—and gave leverage, let me bring more force to bear, force which the ancient steel multiplied at the first impact.
I caught three men with a glancing hit, one, two, three, like I was working the harvest. And as if I was working the harvest, I cut clean through, splitting riveted chain shirts like they were cheap links of wire.
They felt light. Felt like hitting stuffed shirts, padded chairs. But they bled, and they were thrown back into the ranks behind, and the ranks behind fell back from fear.
I howled at them, screamed my throat raw. They ran further, so I chanced a look behind.
Just in time to take an ironclad punch from a man nearly as tall as I was.
The scarlet went out of the world, and I stumbled and fell to the ground, tripping over my sword. The armored Templar came after me, hands empty but no less dangerous for it.
“You have mettle, warlock,” he boomed, helm echoing. “It will be a pleasure to shatter you.”
He wore a sword at his hip. He started to draw it.
I went after him. Up to my feet and hit him in the legs with all the force I could muster, which was quite a bit of force for a lanky fuck like myself. It was like running into a deep-rooted dolmen stone. A stone which promptly kicked me in the ribs and sent me back across the floor, tangling up with my own weapon.
His sword came out. Sharp and silver and very much a Templar weapon, one-handed and stark. I held mine in two hands like a cudgel and took the impact, shoulders jarred back into the floor.
Lass. Where’s Aidan?
“I hear him. He’s alive. He’s coming.”
Won’t be much of me left to wait if he doesn’t come quick–
The armored knight lifted his sword again, brought it down on me. The sound was piercing, painful, a high-pitched click like glass on steel, but it was drowned out a moment later by the gunpowder-snap of Aidan’s second pistol.
The sound was muffled and weird, accompanied by a loud ping like a bell being rung, and the knight above me went stiff, arms lurching forward in a twisted slump. I rolled to one side, up to a knee, as he hit the ground, half sprawled over my legs.
His ceremonial helmet had been blasted inward on one side. The tiny slits over his ear had been blown open by Aidan’s shot, pistol set so close to the target that there were scorch marks on the steel. Smoke rose from the frog-mouthed visor, and blood began to seep from the edges.
“God have mercy on your soul, Sir Mayhall.” Aidan kicked him off me, held out his right hand. The pistol was still smoking in the other. “Up on your feet, Slate. We’re not done y–”
He stopped. Staring at the door.
I followed his gaze.
Ah. We’re dead.
Aidan said something. But all I heard was Her scream.
The Inquisitor stood on our doorstep, sword drawn.