After the creepypasta earlier the same stream, we opted for something a little more solid, more action based. I had read a few articles earlier on writing effective fight scenes, so we tried it out.
March 18, 2016
She pushed ahead, digging her feet into the deceptively soft ground. Her grip on the hilt was true and she swung upward, hard, putting every pound of momentum into the strike. He rocked back on his heels, feet sinking into the loam. He’d seen her coming and made no move to escape. Now, the warhammer slammed hard into his shield, her entire body weight behind it, and he staggered, almost falling. The strike numbed his arm, sending his fingers tingling and his shoulder aching. He leapt back, trying to build some distance, eyeing her with suspicion.
She refused to give him a chance to plan or recover. She pursued him, step by step. Though the strikes were not nearly as powerful, each hit rang his shield like a bell, broadcasting their fight across the foggy battlefield.
The air was heavy with moisture and deceptively cool. Chills crept underneath his armor, even though he was sweating hard. He had fought through an hour of combat before she had found him, and now, caught in this weird combat purgatory, he couldn’t tell if he was overheating or freezing to death.
His feet found purchase, enough to counter her attack and shove her back, hard. He put his weight and leverage behind it, throwing the smaller figure back and off him. Through his shield, he had felt more than just a hammerhead. She rolled and popped up to her feet, hammer still in hand, but far more wary now.
He watched her movements, trying to catch his breath. She seemed to be recovering her balance quickly, though he couldn’t be sure what was the soft sandy earth or dizziness from the landing. His sword felt heavier with each passing moment, and his entire left side ached from the strike. This needed to end, and end fast.
She tightened her grip on the warhammer. He swept one foot back for a solid defense, waiting for another bullrush that never came. Through the slit in her helmet, he could see her eyes moving, studying him. The hair on the back of his neck crawled with a sudden thought: how many of his fellows-in-arms had she torn through before he had stopped her? His shield arm rose at the thought.
Her stance shifted in response. So she was watching him, and closely, too. The fog was thick enough that he couldn’t see the combat around them, though he could hear the strikes and cries.
“Come on!” He snarled, surprising her. She brought her weapon up defensively, still studying him. “This has to end sooner or later!”
She took his invitation. He knew what was coming this time and deflected the strike’s greatest force. When it seemed like she was recovering, he shoved hard and down.
She rebounded off his shield with a teeth-chattering impact. She reeled, trying to catch her balance. He pressed his advantage, pushing ahead with his shield, keeping her off-balance. Her gauntleted fingers grasped the edge of his shield, a desperate attempt to keep her feet beneath her. That was when he knew he had her.
He twisted and threw the shield off his arm, ripping it from her grip. He swung at her hard with the edge of his sword. At the last moment, before the edge could meet her armor, he rotated his grip ever so slightly. The flat of the blade struck hard enough to send the air rushing from her lungs. She hit the soft ground hard, warhammer and weapon arm pinned under her body as she rolled, trying to get up.
He could see the heave of her shoulders as she tried to regain her breath. He had the advantage now; her back was open to him, and she knew it. Instead of trying to turn and face him again, she forced her feet to carry her away, trying to run and gain distance.
There was no way he could let her go. He had no way of knowing how many of his fellows she had killed to get to him, or how many of her comrades he had slain to get to her. If he could take her out, there was a chance the battle could end. His hand shot out, grasping for whatever he could get. He watched his fingers close around her warhammer hilt.
She spun at his touch, faster than he could have expected. With his focus trained on her weapon, he didn’t see her glove until it grabbed at his helmet, pushing it aside, spinning it on his head. He kept his grip but yanked backwards, trying to straighten his helmet. She struck again, punching at him, trying to free herself from his grip. He tore his helmet off and swung it like a weapon.
Her gauntlet slammed into the side of his head. His ears rang. He stumbled, dazed, unable to tell if his helmet had struck anything valuable. Inside, he was screaming at his body, telling it to move and move now.
No attack came. Instead, he stumbled, regained his balance, and slowly recovered. The ringing faded as his vision steadied, and the sounds of battle around them had begun to naturally fade as the fighters themselves began to quit the field. He searched the thickening fog for his opponent.
He saw her standing not ten feet away, shoulders heaving with effort. She held his helmet in one hand, her warhammer in the other. He stared at her, taking the respite for all it was worth. If one moment of peace was earned, he would not waste it.
She tossed his helmet between them, and it rolled over the sandy earth. He took a step towards it and stopped when she removed her own. She tossed it to the ground as well, and it rolled into his.
“Fuck you.” She snapped between gasping breaths. She raised her warhammer and sighted him down the hilt. “This battle should have been over by now.”
He was surprised to hear a east country lilt in her voice. “Drop your weapon and we can end this right now.”
She laughed. It wasn’t an altogether unpleasant sound, but the rasp of battle had noticeably deepened her voice to a husky tone. “Or we can just wait here, see who comes a’looking first.”
She was right. If they stayed in this standoff, each moment meant reinforcements could show up. Who arrived first would make all the difference, and their individual strength meant nothing. She was gambling with her life, he knew. If his fellows arrived first, she would die without hesitation. If her comrades arrived first, he was not sure what the outcome would be.
After a moment’s pause, he realized he was searching behind her for signs of her fellows with a minor measure of hope.
She noticed his gaze shift away from her and readjusted her grip, lowering the warhammer. “Is this how it’s gonna be? We wait for friends to show up?”
He grimaced, twisting it into a smile. “If that’s how it’s going to be.”
Her eyes darkened, her face unreadable. There was no way for him to tell what she was planning. He read bodies in combat, not faces.
“Stand down.” He heard himself say. “Listen. The battle is over. You go your way, and I’ll go mine.”
She studied him with a small laugh. “You’re joking.”
“Your choice.” He spun the sword hilt in his hand. It still held its balance, the blade was still straight. His shield was gone, but he had a good chance if she hesitated or wavered. If she rushed him again, he would have to be more than ready.
Movement in the thick fog increased his awareness. A lone horse, carrying a broken saddle, wandered past them, devoid of rider or barding. Neither combatant could tell whose side it belonged to. It was just a horse, and when the straps snapped, it stepped out and away from the fallen saddle. It peered at them both for a moment, then lowered its head and disappeared back into the fog, searching for what the battlefield did not offer.
He watched the horse go, then looked back to the woman. She was watching it as well. Isolated in the silence, nothing seemed more ridiculous than right now. The cold had crept under his armor and deep to his bones. He was shivering. His body felt like a distant other’s. For a moment, he’d have dropped everything for his tent, his blankets, and his firepit.
He lowered his sword, and she stared at him as he sheathed it. He walked towards her, and she slid back into the loam, feet settled into a defensive posture. When his foot met the nestled helmets, he swept down and plucked hers up from the ground. A series of narrow dents marred the side, damage he had not inflicted. Beyond that, the craftsmanship was solid.
“Here.” He tossed it to her, and, in her surprise, she did not catch it. He picked his up, and she scooped hers from the dirt, tucking it under an arm. “Do what you want. I am not waiting for the others.”
She peered at him, grip on her weapon tightening.
“Oh, calm down.” He smiled through another grimace. “You can stand here all you want. I’m going back.”
“Wha…you can’t!” She snapped, taking a step towards him.
“Oh? You’re going to stop me?” He moved to retrieve his shield as well, and she circled to keep the distance between them.
“I ought to.” She finally lowered her weapon, but the tension remained in her shoulders. “Get out of here.”
“I plan on it.” He pointedly turned his back to her and started to walk away, as casual as he could manage walking over the soft earth. He was deep into the fog before chancing a glance over his shoulder. He could not see her any longer, and a new anxiety crept into his mind. If she followed, she could ambush him without fail.
He continued walking, feet carrying him over the trampled earth. He heard no signs of pursuit. He passed broken war machines rendered down to broken wood, bent gears, and rent ropes. Bodies were plentiful and motionless. He kept his senses on high alert, but even as he passed over the hill and entered the forest that had sheltered his men, he still heard no voices, no sounds of life.
A large tree loomed out of the mist, and he recognized it as the oak that marked their outer perimeter. As a lone man wandering from a battlefield, he would be ill-pressed to proceed without a marked increase of caution.
“Countsmen!” He called out, listening for a reply. “Countsmen!”
He received no reply. Daring the archers, he stepped out from the tree. There was still a small meadow and a depth of trees to pass before he would find their camp again. As he passed, he heard no voices, no snap of pennants, no impatient horses. There was no life at all in the forest.
The camp was abandoned completely, devoid of body and life. Fires still burned patiently in braziers and lamps, lighting the fog to a soft flickering glow. Even the squires, quartermasters, and stableboys were gone. Not even a horse or rat ambled between the tents. There was no sign of combat or flight, no tools were forgotten on the ground, no dropped feedbags spilt their contents across the bare earth.
He was well and truly alone.