Chapter 20

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A large crowd stayed to witness the award ceremony, all disappointed that Vhalk would be unable to battle Mharkhel for the championship. In the midst of arguing how the match would have turned out, they were stunned to learn that Vhalk had insisted on fighting for the championship in spite of his badly injured leg. Mharkhel had been reluctant to fight, feeling there was "no honor in defeating a maimed opponent."

The rain had tapered off and the skies gradually cleared just in time for the spectators to see one of the suns set. The other followed closely behind and colored the lingering clouds in soft pastels. Mharkhel and Vhalk met in the center of the arena amidst the cheers of the appreciative crowd. Vhalk appeared as before, helmeted, wearing leather and mail and holding a double-ended sword, though now his left leg was heavily bandaged. Mharkhel wore his armor and wielded a broadsword. The knight looked slightly embarrassed, as if he were going to do battle against a woman or child.

A trumpet sounded beginning the match and it was immediately apparent that Vhalk was unable to move with the fluidity he was accustomed to. He was still dangerous with his strange weapon however, proving so on Mharkhel's body early and often. But the blows had little effect on the big knight. Mharkhel was content to stay on the defensive, clearly uncomfortable with the idea of attack.

After five minutes the crowd started getting on Mharkhel. That didn't bother him. Neither did the occasional glimpses he caught of Ellycyn and Setryv. But it was after the knight fended off a vicious offensive from Vhalk that he seemed to remember what this was all about. He decided it would be best for all involved if he finished the match. No sense in taking chances. A lucky blow by Vhalk could finish it for him. And Vhalk, despite his injury, seemed more than capable of delivering such a blow.

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