Chapter 7: Matched Opponents
Rowan launched herself down the steps, desperate to reach her brother in time. She darted past Dell, engaged with several rough men, his sword whistling around him. Ducking, she evaded another pirate and slashed him as she sprinted passed.
Her brother was the only thing that mattered.
She saw with dread, the pirate captain's blade, glinting in the sun, descending toward her brother's unguarded back.
Andin, his eyes wide, turned to look over his shoulder. Battle instincts, long forgotten, somehow saved him. He dropped, rolling under the weapon's arc, to come up in a crouch.
It gave Rowan the time she needed.
The pirate, hissed with fury as she stepped in front of her brother. His cold eyes cut into her with hatred and he lunged, stabbing at her middle.
Rowan side-stepped, deflecting his sword with a sweep of her own and a counter that had him pulling back to defend himself.
He circled her warily, watching her feet as well as her shoulders and eyes. Rowan gave as little away as possible, keeping her movement tight.
Around them the battle raged, but Rowan and the pirate captain barely acknowledged it. She was aware of Andin, protecting her back and engaging with enemy that came too close.
Without warning her opponent leaped forward, his sword swinging wide toward her neck. Rowan raised her sword to block his stroke, but he suddenly changed direction, aiming low instead.
Rowan pivoted her stance, pulling back her exposed leg. Her blade descended, sliding inside his weapon's edge, blocking and slashing his arm.
He gasped and recoiled, looking down at the long cut.
Rowan watched his handsome face as the realization dawned. He was facing and opponent as skilled as himself. His eyes narrowed and he licked his lips, as small cracks appeared in that cocky arrogance.
Rowan had seen it many times. Not in her Myrian Comrades, but in men like this, from the mainland, who thought a woman could never be their match.
Rowan adjusted her feet as the captain circled her. There was a feral look in his eyes now, a desperation. He struck suddenly, but it was half-hearted. Rowan deflected the blow easily.
He was testing.
As he watched her, she watched him. He was slow to get his left leg under him when he took a step, and he dropped his right shoulder before executing a stab.
They traded several more tentative blows. Then he launched a tirade of slashes, pressing her back as she blocked his strokes. Yet in the last instance, he left that left leg behind as he pulled back. It was a slight lag, but it was enough for her. With a flicker of her blade, she cut him on the back of the calf.
He stumbled, backing away cursing.
One of his men bumped into him and he shoved the man at Rowan. She blocked the clumsy thrust of the man's short sword, and killed him.
The battle was winding down. The Myrian Guard had been out-numbered, but they fought with superior skills and efficiency, defending their homeland. A part of Rowan was aware of it, and a hot rush of fierce pride filled her.
She stalked the pirate captain. She had made him a promise. "I told you that your death was all you would find here. It is time."
His dark brown eyes widened and the expression of cold arrogance fled. Fear flashed briefly through his eyes, quickly replaced by hatred. With a wordless snarl, her attacked, throwing his full weight at her.
Rowan had been expecting it. She danced sideways letting his momentum carry him past her. His open back presented a broad target as she thrust her sword into his heart. He crumpled forward, landing in a heap, dead before he hit the ground.
A collective cry of dismay sounded from the remaining pirates. They turned almost as one, to flee back to the beach and the safety of their ship.
Rowan watched dispassionately as the Guard followed them. The raiders would be caught and dispatched long before they made it to the beach.
Andin was beside her, his expression grave. "You saved my hide. If you hadn't warned me, I would be dead now."
Rowan smiled wearily up at her brother, placing her fist on her chest in salute. "It looked to me like you remembered your training well."
He grinned, wiping at his sweat-covered face, leaving his short hair tousled. "I was scared out of my mind, or couldn't you tell?"
"You must have run like a fiend to get to Dell and the others in time."
"He did at that." Rowan and Andin turned as their cousin strode toward them, his leather armor and sword were blood-smeared. The tall warrior, grinned at them both, placing his large hands on each of their shoulders. "Andin, if you had not chosen to become an artist, you and your sister would have been the best warriors on Myris Dar."
Andin snorted with humour. "I'm not even going to respond to that one. You are lucky I didn't fall off the back of your horse!" He strode toward the house. "I am going to check on our mother."
Rowan watched her brother as he climbed the steps up to the main entrance two at a time.
"It is true, you know," said Dell, looking down at her. "Andin may be out of practice, but he is a natural, like you." Her cousin shook his head. "I can't believe you held them off on your own."
Rowan sighed. "I had help."
Dell nodded. "Deana was accounted as a skilled warrior in her day."
One of the Myrian Guardsman came running back up the trail toward them.
"Have you caught them all?" called Dell.
"Those we could find. We met members of the Guard Lessana went to for reinforcements. They were coming up the trail and caught a few. We will fan out from here and create a search gird to catch any brigands still hiding."
Dell nodded. "Good work."
Rowan bent to clean her sword on a pirate's shirtsleeve, then whispered the spell word to quiet the blade's hum. Her left wrist was throbbing now and she couldn't make a fist. She would have to get the medic to look at it.
"So much for your rotation out of the guard. Not much of a break," said Dell as they headed for the house.
Rowan eyed her cousin. "It will be your turn to rotate home soon."
Dell nodded. "I always rest easy when I leave the guard in your care, Rowan."
Pausing, Rowan looked out over the tree-clad slopes toward the sparkling bay below. The wide blue expanse of the Eryos ocean mirrored the sky, with the sunlight reflecting on the waves. The Island of Myris Dar was a sanctuary – a quiet place
, far from the chaos of the mainland kingdoms. She and her people were almost forgotten now to the people of Eryos. She did not even known when a Myrian had travelled there last.
Myrians cherished their autonomy and self-determination – a nation of free people in a beautiful land.
Dell stopped as well, his gaze following hers.
"Defend and protect," she said quietly.
"Defend and protect," he repeated.
Here ends The Defender of Myris Dar. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.
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