Steel sang as Ned’Var’s sword met his opponents. This young fighter’s first strike was the most basic of attacks, a vertical cut perpendicular to the ground. Ned’Var simply smiled and raised his sword above his head to block it.

He may not be a worthy addition, but I can wait no longer, Ned’Var thought as the rogue pushed back. He took a deep breath and relaxed his posture, awaiting his opponent’s next move.

By the young warrior’s drab brown and red colored clothing, grime-covered cheeks, and dulled blade, Ned’Var knew the boy to be a peasant without proper combat training, but with no markings of any sort, he could not tell the village he once hailed from. He had spotted the youth filling his flask by the river’s edge just outside of his camp. Ned’Var watched him carefully, keeping to the shadows of the forest and looking for any companions. Fortune smiled upon him for the boy was alone.

“What’s your name, boy?” he asked, daring not to deliver a fatal wound until learning it.

“My name is of no concern to you. And don’t call me, boy!”

The young warrior’s next move came, a thrust to the center of Ned’Var’s torso, with the boy lunging forward. Before the blade could spill his intestines, Ned’Var retaliated with a tight, downward swing. The sword blocked the attack and slid the boy’s blade past him. Ned’Var angled in and caught him square on the chin with a left hook. The two combatants stumbled to the right, both caught off balance by the blow.

They stumbled and caught themselves before falling over. With their footing recovered, they stood perpendicular to each other with their swords pointed upward.

“Why do you persist?” asked the boy. “I have no qualms with you.”

“Nor I with you. You simply happened upon the wrong man’s path.” Ned’Var swung his sword downward once more, aiming for his opponent’s right leg. “You should have kept to the road.”

The young warrior swung his sword to counter. He parried the sword away from his body, but Ned’Var quickly arced his blade back, cutting him across the abdomen. The finely sharpened steel sliced through the grunge covered linen and underlying flesh with ease. The skin folded outward as tubular intestines rose forth and spilled to the ground. The boy dropped to his knees, driving the tip of his sword into the rich soil on his way down.

Ned’Var shook his head. “Terrible shame.”

“Bastard,” the boy said, blood pooling in his mouth and spilling from his lips.

“Tell me your name.”

“Christoph,” he whispered, “from Woodkade. Now you know you’ve killed the wrong man.” His grip on his sword faltered and he fell face-first to the ground.

“Where you’re from is of no importance, but your name...that is power. Don’t worry, my boy, soon you’ll be an unstoppable warrior,” Ned’Var said.

He waited for a sign of movement, the tip of his sword hovering above the boy’s shoulder, but none came. He had to act quickly.

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