Chapter 20

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Clouds raced overhead and the smell of rain was in the air again as the day gave way to the early evening hours and the match began. From the outset it went bad for Bheirz. Vhalk's technique of strike and retreat frustrated Bheirz completely. Blow after blow landed on Bheirz's body, solid painful shots that could almost be felt throughout the large crowd. And when Bheirz attempted a counterattack, Vhalk's fluid movement and quickness made it an exercise in futility for the big man to get close enough to strike.

The crowd seemed to be enjoying the trend the match had taken, encouraging and cheering Vhalk while ridiculing Bheirz, many secretly fighting vicariously through Vhalk. As the match progressed it became apparent that Vhalk was merely taunting Bheirz, not taking him seriously. He was achieving great success with minimal effort. He handled the double-ended sword as if it were an extension of his arms and was scoring at will.

Deciding that the match had gone on long enough, Vhalk delivered a crisp, swift blow that jarred the battle-ax from Bheirz's hands. Like Setryv had done, Vhalk positioned himself between adversary and weapon. Bheirz's face went red with rage and the crowd yelled its approval. Then Bheirz pulled a sword, a real sword, from his back beneath his leathers.

The crowd gasped in unison at the serious violation of the rules. Many, including Vhyqyrd, Mharkhel and Setryv, began to enter the arena to disarm Bheirz. But Vhalk motioned for them to stay back. He seemed neither surprised nor upset at the turn of events.

Once more some in the crowd made to subdue Bheirz but Vhalk again signaled them to remain where they were. They looked on as Bheirz immediately began to stalk Vhalk again. They heckled Bheirz loudly, trying to distract him while disguising their fear for this man's life who had captivated them with his prowess. Bheirz made an inside move which Vhalk easily evaded, even though it was clear how difficult it was to move with his injured leg. But Bheirz noticed something as they passed close to one another and his eyes went wide with disbelief. He screamed out some unintelligible word and doubled his efforts, striking out in a frenzy.

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