He stood in the snow, the cold seeping through his boots. The steel on the outside did nothing to stop it, and the leather within did not do enough. The snow was dry, the powdery kind that made creaking noises as his feet moved.
It creaked when his enemy moved as well.
He looked at the man in front of him. It was one of the barbarians, the savages of the north. The man wore animal skins, poorly tanned, and his hair was long and dirty. There was blue paint on the mans face, in geometric patterns meant to make him look fierce. Or perhaps it was some religious thing, a call for strength to the barbarian’s savage gods.
The man carried a sword, a long blade and a long handle. It looked rather unwieldy, but the barbarian was built like a brick house and was probably considerably agile. He would have to be careful.
He glanced at the barbarian’s boots, furred things made from the skin of some northern animal. They looked warm. He looked at his own, steel boots, and grimaced.
It was at that moment that the barbarian screamed, a wordless howl of rage and challenge, and charged.
The man moved faster than seemed possible, considering his size. Still, he was able to dodge aside at the last moment, catching the barbarian’s long blade on his own sword and turning it aside just enough to get out of the way. The impact made a ringing sound, and the vibration shook his hand. He had been right, the barbarian could swing that sword a lot faster than it looked.
He snapped his sword up, again just in time to deflect a blow. This one would have taken his head clean off, had he been a little slower. The vibration from the impact made his hand a little numb, but he was not worried.
Again the swing came, and again he dodged and deflected. But this time, the clash of the swords was different, and a piece of metal shot off into the snow, hissing when it hit. Steam rose from the shard, and the barbarian paused in his furious assault to look. A thin sliver had been shorn from his huge sword.
The barbarian stared, and he could see the sudden recognition. Clearly even the barbarians of the north recognized this blade.
He saw a look of fear cross the barbarian’s face, and he smiled. This had been over before it began.
The barbarian swung again, a mid-height blow aimed at his chest. This time, he caught the blow on his sword squarely, but moved himself, letting the impact turn him in, closer to the barbarian. He pulled his sword up, in a close cut for the barbarian’s stomach.
The huge sword came around just in time to block the blow. Another chip of metal hit the snow.
He twisted again, sword sweeping high, then low, two more blocks. Then came the moment he had been waiting for. The barbarian opened himself, blocking too low and leaving a space in his defense. His sword darted up like quicksilver, glinting in the sun. It sliced across the barbarian’s stomach and up, tiny droplets of blood flying from the sword into the air.
He stepped back, thinking the fight might be over, but the barbarian roared, and swung again. He moved, the sword darting like a snake, and cuts opened on the barbarians left thigh and right arm. A thin spray of blood misted over the snow now, bright red against the white.
The barbarian staggered back, right arm useless, but did not fall.
He stepped forward, easily knocking aside the barbarian’s feeble, one-handed attempt at a defensive swing. His sword moved, whistling a little in the crisp air.
The barbarian staggered again, and dropped the long sword. Hand went to throat, where blood was now pouring down, soaking into the fur clothes.
The man fell back, and hit with a crash.
He could hear the barbarian trying to speak, but the only sound was a wet gurgle. Blood was pooling, melting the snow.
He crouched next to the barbarian, and wiped his sword on the man’s shirt.
He turned away, and began to walk.