Bandits, or a single bandit. We didn't see anything or anyone in the surrounding trees, but no one would be stupid enough to take on two travellers on their own, would they? There was however something else. I didn't want to get off my horse, in the case of more people hiding in the foliage, but I didn't want to fight on horseback either. We still had a long way to go and a wounded horse, besides being very bad for the horse, would severely hinder us. I was about to step off my horse and hand the reins to Deirdre when she surprised me.
I wasn't sure what to think. She was... I didn't want her hurt... But if she wanted... She wasn't powerless, knew that. "Are you sure?"
She smiled. "Yes, trust me. Give me the sword."
I nodded, gave her the sword and took the reigns which she handed to me. This did have one more advantage, though. No one would be able to take our horses if I was still here. A little insecure and afraid I looked at Deirdre, walking over to the man unafraid.
The man raised an eyebrow. "I suppose we'll do it the hard way?"
Deirdre nodded. "Not at all, this is the easy way for me."
She raised the sword, but clumsily, the point swaying as if it was too heavy for her. The man smirked a little but didn't attack immediately. Apparently he wasn't stupid and played it safe. It was when Deirdre started a swing that things got really complicated... But... For some reason it was all so clear and beautiful to see.
Her first strike was a wobbly one, a diagonal sweep from top right to lower left. Very standard, predictable. The man blocked it easily by holding his sword a little slanted, though he appeared slightly surprised by the apparent force behind it. Instead of just staying there with connected swords, however, Deirdre pirouetted around, making a right turn and dashing right next to him. The sword actually moved against his, passing dangerously close to the mans head. He immediately realized that this was much more serious than anticipated and ducked to make a wide, low swipe with his long sword, forced to swipe from right to left as well.
The man had lost all of his advantage of his longer reach and was now left with a sword that required two hands and moved slower, he realized it too. Deirdre just continued her movement, ending up next to the man and blocking his sweep with her sword, pointed not completely down so his sword slid upwards. She made a dive underneath his swipe, moving back to my side again, pulling her dagger while she lowered the sword underneath his and made a successful stab in his leg. The whole movement was so fluent, so beautiful to see.
It wasn't a deep cut, but the man growled, surprised that he was so easily hurt. Deirdre continued her movement until she stood there, back to me, sword still pointed down to the ground in her right hand, dagger in her left, also pointing down. Time appeared to pause there for just a second while both of them replayed the fight in their head.
Deirdre spoke two words. "You lost."
The man had two options, leave now or face a more serious injury. He didn't look like the type who gave up though. It surprised me how she didn't use Dark magic yet, however it was the best thing to do. If there were more, it would be a good ace to hold until we needed it. My mind had only the fragment of a second to wonder where she'd learned to fight like that before I realized that she must have had plenty of training in her castle. The man decided he didn't want to give up and attacked.
His attack had a lot more force behind it now, Deidre had stepped back so he got his advantage back if he managed to keep her away. The wound on his leg was bleeding but actually wasn't all that deep, the man didn't look hindered by it. He made a quick stab at heart level with his longer two-handed sword that Deirdre sidestepped to the left. She couldn't hit him at this distance, and the man didn't waste any time. He moved his sword from the stab into a medium height sweep towards her shoulder. Deirdre didn't wait either, she moved forwards directly along his sword, holding her own to her right as protection. Her sword slid along his while she held it away and stepped literally in front of him. She made two stabs with her dagger, one on the side of his neck and, after she ducked past him, one on the back of his knee. She stood behind him while the man dropped to his knees, lowered his sword and reached for his neck.
I was amazed. She definitely was much better with the sword than I was.
The man screamed. "Now!"
A woman stepped on the path a little further, holding a crossbow in her hands, aimed at Deirdre. "Step away from him."
Deirdre looked back at me and smiled for just a second before she turned to the man. She hit him on the side of his head with the blunt end of the handle, knocking him out. He slumped to the side.
The woman hadn't shot yet, which struck me as odd, Deirdre looked at her and spoke. "Let us pass."
The woman looked to the man, laying unconscious on the path and raised her crossbow.
I wasn't quite sure if I could do anything. Even if she missed Deirdre, there were still the horses to take into account. And though the man might be knocked out now, that wouldn't last that long either. And, I've yet to hear of any Light user that made his skin strong enough to withstand arrows. At this distance, ten or twelve meters perhaps, an arrow from a good crossbow was hard to avoid.
And Deirdre knew this too.