“Earl? Thanks. You know … for everything.”
The sound of the crossbow being cocked paused for a moment as Earl responded.
“Forget it. I ain’t doing nothing you wouldn’t do.”
Franklin knew for a fact that wasn’t true. Franklin never would have risked his life if Earl were the one down with the weir and he were the one up in relative safety. Certainly not after learning what Earl had done to Rusty. He may even have helped the weir finish him off –
Franklin spun back toward his companion just in time. The short sword sprang toward the raised crossbow and managed to deflect it enough that the bolt went tearing through the outside flesh of his sword arm instead of his heart. The pain lanced through him, causing him to drop the weapon and take three steps back.
“Well yer quicker than Rusty that’s for sure. Ya might even have made a better sword for hire than him in the long run. Earned yer nine weight and all. If things had worked out slightly different that is.”
Earl picked up his short sword and advance toward Franklin.
“Please stop. You don’t have to do this. I wasn’t bit! I was just scratched up by the bear and the rocks.”
“I can’t know that for sure. In the rush of what happened you can’t even know it for sure. Even if ya did know, it’s not like ya’d tell me if ya had been bit.”
Franklin stopped arguing. It was pointless and they both knew it. He drew his ruined sabre and held it in front of him with both hands, taking a defensive stance. Earl nodded in appreciation and grinned sadly.
“Guess it’s time for that fencing match.”
Franklin grimaced, “Rain check? Some idiot shot my arm. Maybe I’ll feel up to it later this week.”
“I’m sorry I said anything to tip ya off. I really was hoping to make it quick and painless.”
“I’ll do my best to return the favour.”
They both knew it was empty posturing. Between the shoulder and arm wounds, there was no way Franklin could win the duel. The only things He had going for him were stride length and speed. Franklin edged his way toward the trail the weir had taken. Earl saw what he was trying to do and moved to cut him off.
“Don’t even try it. Believe me if ya have been bit ya want me to finish ya. It’s a mercy. If ya haven’t, ya won’t last alone out here, wounded, with weirs around. I can respect ya wanting to go out in a duel, like a man. But don’t try running. Yer faster than me but ya ain’t faster than my crossbow.”
Franklin tried backing away, but Earl kept pace continuing, “The only thing that will come of wasting my time is severely hampering the likelihood that the rest of us will make it out of this predicament in one piece. Cookie’s likely finding the weir what turned him so they can attack the rest of us together. Now jist do yer duty and stand down so I have a fighting chance at saving the others. If I survive, I swear yer dad will hear about yer hero’s death.”
Franklin’s eyes started tearing up and he lowered his blade a bit.
“There ya go, now just close yer eyes and I’ll make it nice and quick.”
Franklin dropped his blade tip to the ground. Earl walked in slowly and raised his blade. As it started to descend Franklin swung a desperate parry eight and ran toward Earl closing the distance between them. His hilt deflected the blow before being torn from his grasp and his unexpected rush tumbled the stocky man to the ground. He heard a second slash just miss his heels as he sprinted away.
“Ah, come on! Can’t ya, festerin’ blue bloods think of anyone but yerselves?”