Durrak faced his mentor across the sand floor of the formal arena, dressed in heavy plate armor with his gisarme held easily butt down in his right hand. The dwarf was calmer and more centered than he had ever been since bandits had slaughtered his family. This was what he had trained for, if he could not defeat the one who claimed she could teach him no more then she had lied to him and he would die for it. If he could defeat her then he was ready for anything gods or men could put in his path.
“I ask one final time Durrak. Lay this madness aside.” She said, standing in rippling maile tunic with six feet of blackwood staff tipped with a foot long hook pointed blade that made his look crude held almost idly across her body. “I will not allow your foolish vanity to bring us to dealing death if it can be avoided.”
“My mind is set Master.” He said, bowing low to a creaking of leather straps and steel plating. “You do say you no can teach me more. This do be the only way I can know it for true.”
“If this is how it must be, then we shall see if my words are true. We shall give them the test of blood. It is ever the risk of the teacher to face a student who needs proof.” She spun her weapon easily over the back of her hand and slammed the Mithril pommel into the floor. “I have told you the truth of my heart. Now you will see the truth of my blood.”
This time her attack was not one of trickery, it was straightforward deadly skill born of decades of training. Only the skill she had taught him and the reflexes of youth saved him from losing his head within the first few seconds of the match as he threw himself into a backward roll, coming up with his own weapon in a blurring arc that slapped her following slash away.
Rather than trying to rise immediately, he swung his blade at her legs and used the momentary pause of her rush to thrust at her face while holding the polearm in one hand for the extra reach. She simply tilted her body to one side and slapped the shaft of his weapon down, nearly trapping it under a stamping foot that would have had a good chance of breaking it or tearing it from his hand and spun the heavy counterweight towards his head.
Durrak allowed the momentum of her block to swing his blade in a wide arc that he followed with his body, diving back to the ground and spinning to strike at her knees. His strike met with the Mithril bound blackwood shaft of her polearm as she grounded it to intercept the swing with jarring force.
He rolled backward onto his feet and charged forward, catching her by surprise as he slammed the spiked shoulder of his left pauldron into her chest, ripping rings of her maile free and drawing blood. This close, the advantage was his and he pressed it ruthlessly, continuing to shove her back across the floor. It was a tactic better suited to close quarters rather than the open arena, but it gave him time to plan his next move.
She jerked a short handled spiked ax from behind her belt and drove it into his side with enough force that it punctured the thick steel of his armor and lodged in a rib. Durrak twisted away, wrenching the weapon from her hand and swinging his gisarme held halfway up the shaft. She deftly parried, spinning her weapon with perfect timing to throw the blade off before it sliced her fingers off and would have broken his right shin with the counterweight if he hadn’t been wearing plate armor.
The follow up of her strike placed the hooked bill of her gisarme behind his left leg, severing the leather buckle and sending him sprawling onto his back. Rolling to one side saved him from a finishing blow and instead caught him a glancing strike that slashed the spikes from his left shoulder in a shower of sparks.
A desperate thrust with the steel ball end of his weapon caught her square in the chest, although her anticipation of the blow and the awkward angle kept it from breaking ribs. He had to keep rolling then as a stamping foot followed her strike and another blow, this time from the ball end, dented his breastplate and nearly stole the wind from his lungs.
A lance of pain reminded him of the ax still stuck in his side and Durrak wrenched it free, flinging it at her and feeling mildly surprised when it sank into her left shoulder. He regained his feet and attacked in a series of swinging strikes that might have put her at a real disadvantage if he hadn’t been hampered by his dented armor and injured leg.
As it was, she nearly managed to sweep his legs out from under him twice even as she retreated from his advance. He watched as the hook of her weapon reached for his leg again and allowed it to connect, dropping to one knee and trapping the razor sharp blade between the plates of his armor. The force of her trying to pull him off his feet was arrested suddenly, throwing her forward directly onto the point of his weapon.
The assembled students were silent as she sank slowly to her knees and fell on her side, blood pouring from nose and mouth. “Do … you … believe … me … now?” She gasped. “I die … I leave … a true … master behind.”
Durrak stared in horror, realizing that he had believed in some way that this would end with him bleeding out on the sand of the arena. Thinking that this was suicide by combat. She had taught him everything and he had not truly believed her words.
In spite of the protocol of a proclaimed death match he screamed for a healer, tears streaming down his face. She looked at him with forgiveness in her eyes.
“You will do.” She slurred, blood bubbling on her lips. “Know … price of … victory…” Her hand left a bloody streak down the side of his face and her life fled.
“I do be sorry.” Durrak said, looking at the assembled members of the Drakranda school. “Though I do be The Caverstorm, I no do be worthy of it. This did be a selfish act. To be atoning for this act I do be leaving today.”
“You can’t leave, you’re the master of the school now!” Corrine said.
“The reason I did be finding schools and killing their Masters no did be to teach them.” Durrak said harshly, “I did be training myself. For revenge. It no do be honorable, but it do be true. I no will be turning from this path. To be doing honor to the memory your former master, I do be finding the god who did betray me. And I do be killing him.”
Ignoring their horrified gasps, he turned and limped from the room.