Chapter 11 Samurai Showdown
Last Seed 25
The glare from the sun was in my eyes. It was probably just past 3 o’clock, as I lay, bleeding, in the open marketplace of Suran. My right pauldron had been shattered by the huge blade of that heavily armored Orc. My shoulder was also deeply cut, and it hurt just to move my hand. I wasn’t injured badly though. I just needed s few moments to rest. That was more than I could say for Snorri. The Orc had really injured him, and by his wounds, it looked to me like he might not survive. I was at least glad to have pulled him out of harm’s way and that the locals were attending to him. Those members of the crowd that had not fled remained in a semi-circle around the two men that stood in front of me. Magnus was facing the Orc, with his broadsword unsheathed and protectively guarding him. They circled each other, preparing for battle. The Orc, who had done quite a number on me, showed no signs of fear. Magnus appeared unafraid as well, but I could smell the panic on him.
There was another slight pause in their movement, and some talking from the crowd, before they engaged one another. The Orc broke away from his upright position and charged towards the Nord. He held the huge claymore, identified as Umbra, with its blade away from Magnus. The handle was aimed forward, and the blade was drawn back, ready to swing. This move seemed to make Magnus question where to strike. He did strike though, right where I would have, with the tip of his blade swinging towards the Orc’s wrists. Then, when this was countered by a huge horizontal swing from the Umbra sword, Magnus had the length of his blade to defend against it. I couldn’t actually tell if the Nord knew that that was going to happen or not. The Orc then followed his initial strike with a series of diagonal slashes. They alternated, with great strength and speed, from the left and then the right. Magnus’ defense was sufficient, though I could tell that he lacked strength equal to the Orc’s.
From this fast paced clash of steel, the Orcish warrior kept up the offensive and quickly spun around to slash the midsection of Magnus. This move was barely blocked. His offense did not seem to quit and more fierce attacks were employed. Magnus was soon getting knocked back against the wall of a city structure. His ability to defend seemed to be getting worse. As the Nord then had his sword briefly knocked away, the Orc rushed in for what could’ve been the final blow. It was not, though. Instead of trying to pull his blade back up for a defensive slash, he dropped his sword completely, and turned in the other direction, to pursue a magical attack. “Gravido Perquam!” he shouted, with his hands facing out. There was a sudden affect on the space surrounding the Orc, and the air seemed to ripple momentarily I would not have thought to do that. The swing of Umbra was slowed, but it had too much momentum to be stopped. Magnus’ abdominal section was sliced open. There were gasps from the crowd. The two of them fell to their knees. They both seemed to collapse back, one because of bleeding damage; the other due to what I believed was a spell of burden.
From the moment that the Orc had knocked my weapon away from me, I had the feeling that warned me that the reaper was near. Suran wasn’t the place, though. I knew that that wasn’t the place where I was going to die. So I picked myself up and prepared for another fight. As I stood up and retrieved my weapon, I saw Magnus chanting. His voice was then lower, so I couldn’t completely hear what he was saying. I knew that he was speaking the magic tongue, anyway, so my hearing didn’t much matter. Another, more significant point that I noticed, was that the Orc was rising to his feet. He slowly managed to get up and grip his sword. Magnus looked surprised to see his spell not have a greater effect. The spirit of the Orcish warrior seemed to be indomitable. He shook his head though, at least showing signs of being shaken up a bit.
“Sorcery! You dishonor this battle with your black arts,” the Orc shouted out at Magnus, who was then rising to his feet as well.
“Dishonor? How can you claim to have honor? You’re a murderer,” Magnus said, referring to the dead Hlaalu guards. The Orc then lowered his blade and aggressively responded to Magnus’ statement.
“You speak to me as if I am nothing more than a common rogue? I have traveled from one end of the land to the other. I have killed creatures that can stop a man’s heart with but one look. Villages have burned before my eyes, either with one hand holding the torch, or the other throwing water on the flames. I have both slaughtered hundreds of innocent lives and saved thousands from hordes of daedra. I have seen more in my life than you ever will.” His tone was bold, which was much like his claims. At that point, having gathered my strength, I drew nearer and joined the conversation.
“Tell us your name then, oh, warrior who has seen sights that we never will,” I said aloud to him. He turned around to face me. His Orcish mask had the glimmer of late sun shining along its side.
“My name has died long ago with whatever soul I had left. I have no name now.” His head lowered slightly, but he raised his blade high. “Umbra. It is the name of my sword, although it my as well by my own. Call me that if you wish.” Magnus had then recovered a bit, and spoke to the Orc again.
“Umbra, then. Why is it you see fit to ravage this town? What is it that your suffering has taught you that allows you to kill without conscience?” Umbra then turned back, but not to Magnus. He stood, facing neither of us, and held his head up, to the sky. He then spoke, in a more subtle tone.
“I have had the blood of countless men and mer on my hands. I have seen the atrocities of war, and the hideous excess of peace. Through all my travels, none have been able to best me, under any odds. I have held Umbra high, and relieved thousands of their burdens of mortality. So many times, have the lives of others been in my hands. Yet, here I stand, no better off than I was a hundred years ago. There is nothing left for me, but to die like a warrior. Yet, the gods have even cheated me of that. Until one can release me of my encumbrance, there is no reason for pity, or mercy.”
There was actually a moment of silence around us. Umbra, the Orc warrior really had quite a story. I felt for him, and had a level of understanding with his path. I too, knew the toils of such a lifestyle, although not to such a lengthy extent. One hundred years? He was alive long before either Magnus or I were ever born. I found myself somewhat humbled by his presence all of a sudden. “All right then,” I began. “I will give the Orc a warrior’s death, and claim its sword for my own.” Umbra turned to me.
“Yes, you have the right spirit. But I have already bested you. It will take the both of you to kill me. And if you fail, I assure you there will be no mercy from me.”
He then charged at me, with the beginning of a huge swing from his right hand. I leapt back, rejuvenated with lust for the battle, and slashed his sword away with my axe. I then had no shield, so I knew that each move could’ve been my last. That gave a sense of urgency, however, which kicked in as much adrenaline as my body could muster. I blocked a blow from him, but instead of shifting my stance and preparing for the next, I returned his offense with a charge of my own. Own weapons were locked together, and I had to use all my strength to push him back and off his feet. He was knocked back briefly, but regained his composure and lowered himself into a solid stance. By that moment, Magnus was back in fighting form, and proved it, by slashing his blade along Umbra’s back. Umbra was alarmed, but remained in control. As Magnus’ next slash came upon him, He pulled his claymore around behind himself to block it, blindly. He then turned and smashed the hilt of his blade into the Nord’s face. I wasted no time, from this to attack, and I rushed Umbra, with an overhand axe strike. The Orc’s movement never seemed to stop, though, and he easily turned and blocked it. Umbra was then positioned between the two of us, quickly turning from left to right to attack and defend the both of us at the same time. As I intensely swung my axe again and again, I realized that I was in combat with the greatest warrior that had ever come across.
We remained locked in our battle, which seemed like clockwork, for some time, until one of my slashes finally cracked open his Orcish cuirass. It shattered as pieces fell to the ground. He quickly spun away as this happened, to rethink his strategy. The crowd then gave more gasps and shouts. Magnus and I stood side by side, waiting for his next assault. Umbra looked at us, and then laid down his sword. Neither of us seized this opportunity to strike. I remained still out of respect for this warrior and Magnus probably because of exhaustion. Umbra grabbed on to what was left of his cuirass and pulled the steel carcass off his body. He then began to strip away all the rest of his armor. He dropped his greaves, pauldrons, and bracers on the ground in front of him. All that remained was his Orcish boots and fearsome helmet. The steel marvel of craftsmanship continued to mask his face. He then stepped forward and picked up his blade. He lowered himself into the ready stance that I had seen several times in the last few hours. He had no shirt underneath, and only a tattered pair of pants. The tone of his body was extremely muscular, and his greenish bronze skin shone from the sweat. Magnus and I readied ourselves for what felt like the final insurgence.
Umbra charged and slashed his dreadful blade at us. We both needed to defend against his strike, and recoil for attacks of our own. After a few chaotic minutes of clashing weapons and minor cuts, Magnus was knocked from the fight. I alone kept up the battle, for what seemed like hours. His speed was now increased due to his loss of armor, and every single strike had lethal possibilities. “Come now,” he said, between strikes. “Take this sword away from me. You’ve almost earned it.” I didn’t respond to his statement, although I was quite endeavored to do just what he said. A few brief moments went by, until we were both recoiling from a powerful swing. I then heard words being shouted out from behind Umbra.
“Pyrennus Ablego Perquam!” Magnus yelled. I saw a burst of flames rolling through the air towards the two of us. From my moment of distraction, Umbra raised his weapon high, to strike down upon me. And strike down he did, but not before I dove out of the way. I landed, and turned just in time to see the blast of fire consume Umbra. The flames were huge, and seemed to pour around his back and cover both sides of him. The heat was also intense, and there was even a spark of fire that had caught on to my tail. The Orc let out a fierce scream of pain. It was a howling that I’ll never forget. I moved over towards Magnus as Umbra fell down to his hands and knees, fully engulfed by the fire. He did not drop his sword though, and his screams of pain had then stopped.
Through the astounding spectacle, which seemed surreal, Umbra managed to speak. In a deep, grizzled tone he said, “With your black arts, you show me the weakness of your body. Magicka will consume you.” I had little time to consider his cryptic message, for after he finished speaking he instantly rose to his feet. Despite being blackened and singed from the flames, he ferociously charged at the two of us. With as much strength and poise as ever, he delivered a huge horizontal slash. My reactions to the swing didn’t even feel like my own, as a few, brief moments were drawn out in slow motion. I leapt up above him with lightning speed and flipped in the air, rolling around to land on my feet. Umbra’s deadly attack continued though and, in my absence, was then aimed for Magnus. My feet hit the ground and I turned with great speed, as Magnus raised his broadsword to block. The Orc’s slash contained such rage, that he completely knocked Magnus aside. My movement continued though, and the silver war axe that I held rained down on Umbra. The blade plunged into the left side of his back, separating his shoulder from his neck in an even, yet brutal slice. My axe had penetrated his torso so deeply that the curved blade actually found its way down into the Orc’s heart. He let loose another scream, but this time he did not fall to his knees. He remained upright, yet hunched over. “You…don’t deserve my Umbra,” he said with his final words. And then, with my axe still planted firmly in his body, and with his literal last ounce of strength, he broke into a short run out towards the water and hurled his sword as far as he could. He immediately collapsed after that. The claymore soared through the air, out towards Lake Masobi. And after a supernaturally long toss, I saw it splash into the water in the distance.
Umbra was dead, and his blood formed a growing pool on the tiles of the Suran marketplace. Magnus and I, as well as the entire flock of onlookers, were speechless for a few moments after witnessing this remarkable sight. Eventually, a few people from the crowd came forward to check the body. Magnus arose from the ground, and staggered over towards me. “That was a close one,” he said, with surprisingly little emotion. I stepped over towards Umbra’s lifeless body. One of the townspeople was pulling at his mask, trying to rip it off and see what lay underneath. I was a bit irritated to see that.
“Don’t just…” I began. I was interrupted, however, by the sound of his helm clanking against the ground.
“What?” the commoner asked. I looked at the face of Umbra, and then over at the pile of dead Hlaalu guards.
“Nothing,” I replied. I retrieved my silver axe from his corpse, and looked over at his helm. It was not as impressive as his claymore, but it looked to be a valuable trophy. I picked it up and walked back over to Magnus. At that moment, I stumbled, and then realized that I could barely walk. The both of us had suffered some serious injuries. Magnus and I left the open plaza to tend to our wounds, and rest.
That night, the two of us rested in the higher level of the House of Earthly Delights. Deselle had given us free room and board for as long as we were recovering. Magnus held a glass of Cyrodillic brandy in his hand. I had a jug of mazte on the table before me. “I suppose that we’ll stay here for a few days to rest, before taking off again.” Magnus said. I nodded in approval. I wasn’t really thinking of our next task. For the first time since I’d arrived, I was dwelling on what had just taking place instead of anxiously planning for the future. Umbra had been an impact on me. I saw things in him that I had sometimes hoped for in myself. He was such a bold manifestation of so many things, though. I imagined that under certain circumstances, I could’ve turned out quite like him. Of course, he was much older than me. There was much time to change. I just didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.
“So you took his helm, then?” Magnus asked me. I was broken away from my thoughts.
“Yes, well... Umbra was a great warrior. I’d like to keep it.” I responded. Magnus then began again.
“Hmm. Yes. It would’ve been interesting to see that sword, though. To see what enchantments were cast upon it. I suspect that it must have some enchantment to extend one’s lifespan, seeing how he mentioned living for one hundred years. Granted, he was quite mad; but I’ve never heard of Orcs of that age being that vigorous. It would’ve been great to study that blade.”
“Well, like the Orc said in his last words…” I began. “…we didn’t earn it. Almost though.” Magnus then responded dryly to me.
“I hardly believe that anything we could’ve done would’ve made him relinquish his weapon. He was clearly insane.” I found myself still focused on Umbra’s last words.
“But what about what he said to us. Magicka will consume. What was the meaning of that?” I asked.
“There was no meaning. He was a foolish, dangerous cretin. It is good that he is dead.” I realized that Magnus lacked any respect for the fallen warrior, so I did not bring up the topic again. It made me wonder, though, about sorcery, and about my own path.