Maberry Pages #7 – Offering (Extended Edition)

Maberry Pages #7 – Offering
Fuem’s coin-purse felt light. So nearly empty he could die. All around him the crowd was silent. He’d never lost before. He couldn’t afford to start now. The point of his great sword dragged on cracked stone tiles behind him. He couldn’t be sure he’d lift it in time if Dujo swung again. For his part the Abine Bank’s champion sneered and shouldered his massive cudgel against his bare white shoulder. Fuem glowered down at the tiles. He’d no more silver, and no more gilt. Dark shapes swam before his eyes and his own blood trickled down the blade of his sword. It flowed from the cuts on his gauntleted fist. Dujo waited for Fuem to approach closer before taking his cudgel in both hands. “If you yield, you won’t die,” the giant duelist said.
With a grimace, Fuem hauled his sword up from the tiles. Dujo didn’t wait for him to reply beyond that. He brought the cudgel down. Fuem caught it on his flat blade, supporting its weight with one gauntlet directly under the blow. He felt the bones in that hand quiver. His back ached, but this was nonsense. “I heard about your genius Dujo. How could you make so grievous a mistake as this?”
Dujo put more weight behind the weapon. His black eyes blazed. “What mistake was that?” he hissed.
Fuem’s arms buckled. He felt the last of his strength go and dodged backward. The cudgel cracked the stone where he’d been standing. Fuem curled his lip and met Dujo’s eyes. “You suggested I give up.”
The stormy sky visible through the dome over Dujo’s shoulder cracked with lightning. Fuem dropped his great sword and drew the parrying blade from his belt-sheathe. In the same motion, he stepped back, dodging another furious blow from Dujo’s weapon. He raised the forearm-length parrying blade and pointed it at Dujo’s heart.
Dujo cracked his neck audibly. His pale Tabeyit face sneered. “I was only giving you a chance to save your life.”
Fuem put a hand to his aching back. “I cannot live, defeated.” He flicked the point of the parrying blade through the air. Fuem didn’t like resorting to first-time tricks but this time he’d have to use one. “Come.”
The crowd roared; those of them who did not understand. They did not know the fear that Fuem was suppressing at this moment. Even those with enough lisiv-sense to guess it didn’t seem to care. Dujo advanced warily. No champion would rise to baiting so easily. Fuem’s heartbeat drummed out the steady pulse of Dujo’s footsteps. They drew near each other. That cudgel could hardly miss at this range. Fuem raised the dagger to his lips. He kissed the crosspiece. The cudgel fell.
The bronze earth key in the trapped guard fell into Fuem’s other hand. He dropped the blade. His fist shot upward, encased with steel from the realms beyond. Steel met iron. The cudgel cracked along with Fuem’s back. Dujo fell back a step and swung again, sideways. Fuem rolled to one side and pushed off the ground with the earth key clenched in his fist.
He flew skyward on a mass of stone and soil. The cudgel swung back, smashing through his freshly grown spire. Fuem would have tumbled down to the ground if he hadn’t already jumped. His steel clad hand pulled more metal out of the tiny portal at its tip. The gauntlet sharpened into a blade. Its tip slashed along Dujo’s collarbone. The giant staggered backward, and then hurled his cudgel after Fuem. The clicking of chain-links sounded in the air. Fuem landed and the cudgel struck his back, sending him sprawling. Blood pulsed from his mouth. He rolled onto his back just as Dujo reeled the chain-attached cudgel back in.
Dujo gritted his teeth as blood began to flow down his chest. “Magic of that sort will not save you.”

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