I was sweating so much even shifting my weight produced an audible squish as the soaked padding squeezed between iron and flesh. It was at this point I realized I just wanted him to kill me.
Him, of course, referring to Sir Kim. A master swordsman from the orient, he had come to our little section of the world to challenge the best fighters we had to offer. A tripartite pursuit of knowledge, fame, and wealth had thus far earned him a reputation in hundreds of taverns, scores of courts, and dozens of languages. He was undefeated and, I suspected, would remain so after this particular fight.
I looked through the slit in my visor, trying to ascertain exactly where the door was located in this specially constructed hut. Sir Kim had ordered its construction to conceal our fight in order to keep his style secret, but I suspected it served a second purpose - keep me blind and sweating. It was doing a great job.
Finally, after much too long, I heard the latch on the door and adjusted my gaze appropriately. This was not a smart move - I was immediately blinded by sunlight. Sir Kim strolled in. I almost forgot to take up a defensive stance as he took up position against me, as I was too busy watching the man as he approached.
His attire contrasted mine; where I was covered in plate, he was merely draped in black cloth. His sword, too, was odd; where mine was a giant beast of iron, his was a stick that even lacked a crossbar.
He approached cautiously, feeling fully each step he took to ensure his footing was secure. Guard finally up, I continued to watch. He bowed. I nodded. We both waited for the other to take the first move, each sizing the other up. While I was well aware Sir Kim had never lost, he seemed hesitant to add me to his kill streak. It was as if he knew I was a pretender.
A dozen curses raced through my brain at that thought. I cursed my path here. I cursed my liege whose boasts bound him to this fight. I cursed his cowardice which ended with me, here, wearing his armor. I cursed my honor, I cursed my family’s honor, I cursed my oath as a squire. I cursed everything I had ever encountered in my life, down to the younger boys who would have had to fight in my place if I’d taken a more cowardly tack. It wasn’t their fault, but fuck them all the same for getting to live another day.
With a thought of my liege’s beatings and all the blood I’d washed from the boys’ backs, I tensed. I figured it was time to get this whole farce over with. Sir Kim kept his guard steady as I lunged toward him, blade striking toward his center. I figured my only chance was to use my strength to push through whatever counter he had and strike him - I was well protected from any answering swordplay. I was immediately surprised by his action, however, when he dropped his guard, stepped to the side, and grabbed my elbow with his now-free hand. I was at once lifted off the ground then deposited on my back, my momentum and the weight of the armor working against me.
I’d expected a counter. I’d expected a great clang as his sword beat against my armor, as with so many sparring partners. I certainly hadn’t expected him to merely take a step to the side.
The breath knocked out of me, I looked up through the slit in my visor. Had I another second to react, I might have been able to knock his sword away. As it was, I heard the scrape and felt the fire of his metal entering my eye.
In the split second of life I had left, I had one final thought: after all this, after all the effort I put in bettering my life, none of it mattered. In the end, I was another victim of Sir Kim’s Stance.