The Kyrish warrior raised a war cry and dashed across the sandy street, his heavy boots kicking up clouds of dust as he ran. Rattle’s hand fell instinctively to his long sword; he had the blue steel blade a quarter unsheathed before he remembered his pledge. Gritting his teeth, Rattle fell back as his baron — the steam-blooded fool! — surged to meet the Kyrishman’s attack.
The commoners screamed their bloodlust as Wyleth angled his body to avoid the big man’s first swing. The axe blade hissed past his shoulder by a finger’s width, the head biting into the soft earth like a stake. Without an instance’s hesitation, Wyleth drove the point of his lover through the warrior’s throat with a wet, popping hiss. The lover’s tip protruded from the back of the hulking man’s neck.
Sudden silence filled the afternoon air broken only by the warriors last gurgling breaths. He sank heavily to his knees, raised one hand as if to grasp Wyleth’s blade, then fell back onto the rutted road divesting himself of the sword as he did.
“That weren’t no fight!” called someone from the crowd.
Other voices joined the first, jeering the baron who stood trembling, watching the face of his erstwhile enemy as blood pooled beneath the soon-to-be dead man.
Rattle took that moment to scan the crowd — he could deal with his liege lord’s first death when the time was right. No one seemed ready to attack his baron, only disappointed at so quick an end to the impromptu entertainment. Already they had begun to disperse.
The red-haired girl chose that moment to approach Wyleth. Her torn dress, which seemed too artistically done to be the result of chance, barely covered her full left breast, a fact she seemed only too eager to flaunt before her young champion. Rattle had not yet taken his hand from his long sword and now he squeezed the hilt.
“You were so dashing,” breathed the girl in a husky whisper, the cant of her words marking her as a local — a Cumber Town girl.
Wyleth’s eyes flicked from the cooling body at his feet to the buxom girl on his arm.
“I never killed a man before,” he said.
In that moment Wyleth sounded every bit his sixteen years to Rattle. Oh, my boy, what have you gotten yourself into now, thought the old bodyguard.
“He deserved it, the pig,” said the girl. She spat on the body then smiled sweetly at Wyleth, carressing the arm that still held his long sword — the only lover he had ever known…so far.
“We’d best be on our way, sire,” said Rattle, hoping to goad his liege into making a quick escape from this girl; to Rattle she looked far more dangerous than any Kyrish with a double-bladed axe.
“Where are we going?” asked the girl.
“We, meaning my lord and I, are leaving this worthless farm state for some civilized clime. You, girl, are going back to wherever it is you came from.”
“I can’t,” she said, her eyes momentarily showing a flash of hatred for Rattle — there an gone in an instant. “I belong to you now,” she finished, raising her azure eyes to Wyleth. “You won me. You are responsible for me now. I’d die of shame if you left me here, manless. I’d be shunned. You must take me with you, sire.”