Sanu’te’ was just coming off the steps when Skald caught up to her, swinging his massive blade towards her retreating back as the lady knight seemed to sense this, tucking into a forward roll that allowed her to gain a small measure of distance from the barbarian.  The front entry was clear of anyone save for the three prone knights who were still unconscious upon the marble floor.  Sanu’te’ continued to run until she was only a short distance from the rock fountain, which still burbled on despite everything.  Turning to face her opponent she narrowed her eyes as Skald advanced quickly, the hate upon his face turning to mad glee as he no doubt thought he had her dead to rights.

            The edge of his sword skirted dangerously close to her throat as he tried to take her head from her shoulders, backing out of the way just in time as she pressed forward, striking him with her left stick upon the hip as he danced away quickly.  Skald seemed to barely notice the pain of the blow as he attacked again, finding that his footing was becoming increasingly unstable thanks to the water that splashed all about from the fountain.  His sword just barely clipped the trailing edge of her cloak, though it was enough to unbalance Sanu’te’ for just a moment, sending her to a knee.  She recovered quickly however, using the slick surface to slide across to where the barbarian stood uncertainly, attacking twice in rapid succession.

            Skald danced away as he just barely kept his balance, chopping down as he did, trying to split her skull in two.  Raising both sticks to block Sanu’te’ was driven down several inches as the blade came dangerously close to her face, the knight’s far greater strength pressing her towards the floor.  The two of them remained locked in the stalemate for several moments as Skald continued to push, driving her to both knees as he then tried to force her on her back. 

            “This is where a woman truly belongs, on her back before a man.”  Skald snarled the words down at her, spittle flying from his lips to strike her face.  Sanu’te’ bared her teeth back at him, narrowing her eyes as she pushed right back, feeling the integrity of the sticks beginning to wane as the barbarian’s sword notched deeply into them.  Thankful that the Expert had taken such great care of his weapons Sanu’te’ shifted her balance just enough to bring one knee up to her chest, knowing that she was taking a terrible gamble at that moment.  If she missed her intended target then Skald would be upon her, no doubt sundering both sticks and cleaving her in two with his enormous blade. 

            As she lowered herself to her back she saw the triumph in Skald’s eyes, the animalistic snarl he gave one of victory even as her left foot extended quickly, finding the soft spot she’d been hoping for.  She’d noticed quickly before entering battle that the barbarian was without his armor, dressed only in the standard white tunic and breeches that were the dress of most knights and initiates who were not currently in the field.  As her foot planted into his groin she saw his eyes widen, the snarl disappearing as the grip

on his blade faltered slightly.

            As the barbarian doubled over Sanu’te’ quickly used both feet to push off his ankles, tapping them quickly to give herself the force she needed to slide on her back several feet away.  Rising to her feet Sanu’te’ was set to block the next attack as Skald quickly attempted to regain his composure, utilizing his intense rage to push through the pain.  Sweeping his blade upward he was further enraged as she managed to quickly reverse her grip on the sticks, holding them with their long ends against her forearms as she effectively halted his swing, blocking it away to the right as she then stepped into him.  Skald’s head was rocked to the left and then the right as she hit him as hard as she could, causing spots to dance in his vision as he found the strength of this woman to be unbelievable. 

            Pushing her away, or rather she yielded to his shoulder block, he gained enough distance to swing his blade once more, aiming a horizontal strike towards her chest.  Again Sanu’te’ blocked, holding one stick with a reversed grip and the other as normal, defeating his attack again as she then stepped forward, utilizing only her right stick as she

smashed Skald directly in the nose, breaking both cartilage and bone as his lips were also mashed by the wooden stick.  Before he could react she brought the stick down, jabbing up quickly under his chin as his jaw clacked shut hard upon his tongue, easily shearing off the tip as his teeth broke upon each other as well. 

            Skald’s eyes squeezed shut in pain as the bloody ruin of his mouth opened, disgorging blood and broken bits of teeth.  Still he was not done, taking one hand from the hilt of his sword to try and backhand Sanu’te’ as she easily backed away, the knuckles of his hand just barely missing her nose.  Despite his most recent injuries, or perhaps because of them, Skald lowered his left shoulder in the next moment, keeping the blade in his right hand as he rushed forward, looking to knock Sanu’te’ down with his much greater mass.  Sanu’te’ knew that such a large man would have no trouble knocking her to ground with such a move, so in response she did not hesitate to step to her right, raising both sticks to deflect just the back of his shoulder before striking low towards the back of his knee.  The blow landed perfectly, causing the joint to buckle as Skald fell to his knees hard upon the marble floor, the crack of his kneecap quite loud in the entrance of the temple. 

            Sanu’te’ did not stop there as she continued to attack, slamming both sticks alternately into the back of Skald’s head, hearing bone crunch as she hit him as hard as she possibly could.  Skald’s weapon dropped from nerveless fingers as he somehow remained upon his knees, swaying gently back and forth as the damage took hold.  Sanu’te’ gently replaced each Arbursan stick through her belt, standing behind the fallen barbarian for a moment before she walked to his front.

            What she saw was a sight that undoubtedly most people who’d known this man would have never expected.  There was no doubt that until his grievous wounding the barbarian knight had been a proud man and a fierce knight.  Sanu’te’ had not known this man, though by the method with which he fought she could easily tell that he was indeed by his blood a barbarian through and through.  As a knight perhaps he had never been the most level or honorable warrior, but he had served the order much in the same way that Tobias had, losing sight of himself for the righteousness that Sanu’te’ knew now was

misguided hypocrisy. 

            Skald barely registered presence, his eyes glassing over as deep within his skull the gray matter of his brain struggled to function.  Shards of bone had pierced deeply within the soft tissue, causing blood to leak from his ears as well as from his eyes, completing the number of facial orifices he now bled from.  Sanu’te’ found that she could not feel the least bit sorry for this man.  He’d attempted to take her life and as a result was about to lose his own.

            In truth he was already dead, his body was simply trying to struggle against the fact.  Sanu’te’ had seen this many times upon the battlefield, a body would attempt to stay alive long after the will had fled, the natural instinct of any creature to survive no matter what.  So fiercely had this man fought that she could well believe that if there were anyway to revive himself from this condition Skald would rise to his feet and continue to fight.  Sanu’te’ knew however that there was no possible way such a thing would happen.  Stepping forward she stood only inches from the barbarian, his glassy eyed stare hardly fixed upon her at all, but rather focusing upon some distant horizon that

the living were not allowed to see.  As the tears threatened to well up in her eyes Sanu’te’ grasped either side of his head, cupping his ears as she looked down to see his arms twitch slightly.  Bunching the muscles in her arms she twisted quickly to the right, putting as much force into the movement as she could. 

            The man’s neck broke with an audible crunch as his eyes rolled up in his head, his last breath escaping as Sanu’te’ released her hold upon him, stepping back as his body thumped hard to marble floor.  Water splashed lightly as his large frame settled upon the floor, his blood flowing to mix with the water about him.  Sanu’te’ kept her eyes upon him as tears rolled down her cheeks, her skin flush as she stiffened her upper lip defiantly.  She did not cry for this man, nor did she cry for Tobias.  Rather, her tears were shed for the chance at a life she had never asked for, but sorely wanted. 

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