She was trying to sneak in low. Her blade rolled from side to side, never committing to one line or another. I watched her down the length of my blade. The weight of my sword in hand was a comfort.

She darted in quickly with a low jabbing attack. I tightened up my pinky. Pushed a little with my thumb to snap my tip out a little more firmly. She was still out of measure and I knew better than to commit too early. She’d baited me once already today, and I could still feel the burning welt on my back from the slap of her blade.

Better to keep my tip extended and threatening her. Maybe goad her into making a mistake of her own. With my palm up, I could hold my sword comfortably for a long time and I had a good view of what she was doing. I could afford a patient play.

I could see what she was planning now. My high and extended guard had been a problem for her the first few passes, allowing me to cover her blade and drive in for a kill she had no answer to. Now she planned to take advantage of my position. She was going to come in low, under my guard. Holding her body back a little, she’d be able to quickly counter-attack into whatever position I adopted.

She made up her mind. She slunk into measure in a solid guard, low…like a fox looking to a weasel a chick out of the henhouse. I had to counter. Her guard was solid enough that patience would now would only merit me a slow death. I had to break her out of her position, draw her attack out before she was ready.

I came in low as well. Gained her blade on the inside, threatened a straight shot to her face.

And I fell right into her plan.

With a bare flash of steel she disengaged onto my outside line, driving a hard shot to my chest…but I was already flying forward. My left leg drove out in a deep passing step, and I slammed my left hand onto my right, driving her blade down with the strength of both my hands, and slipping my tip up into her chin, just under her mask.

Or at least that was the plan.

Somebody was having a clever day.

I leapt forward to claim my prize, but she had shorted her attack and held back just enough to pull off a desperate parry, voiding her body and passing my blade off to the side, and then ringing my mask with a brutal backhand cut.

Or maybe after the parry, she did a passing step of her own, grabbed her blade with the other hand like a swordsman of old, ramming the tip into my chest.

Either way I took the hit.

I was in the mood for some revenge.

And I knew just what to do.

She bounced back, pleased with herself. I shook my head a little to clear it, taking a deep breath to puff out a loose hair from inside my mask. Kept myself calm while she took up my favoured palm-up guard, circling around me and bouncing confidently. I took a more careful guard this time. Keeping my quillons vertical and my tip nimble.

She came in short a few times, jabbing at me.

She was having fun.

So was I.

I came up tight to her blade, just on the outside, and she came in like a champion. Strong wrists make for fast disengages, and confidence gives reach to a lunge. She whipped her blade around and leaned in for a quick shot to my mask, but I followed her disengage with my tip, rolling my hand around until she was back on my outside…stepping forward to seize her wrist while my blade continued around just a little more…sidestepping her blow just that much, and landing my blow right into her side.

Clean, pretty, and no way she could counter it.

Off to the side, the Wolf Lord of Blades laughed and clapped his hands. Plates twelve and thirteen done, by his command.

Grinning bastard.

Someday it would be his turn to see what he’d made out of us.