Part 2, Section 4 - Paolo's Edge

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As I had hoped, the delvers hadn't registered any magic because my healing ability was as natural to me now as my great strength and cunning. The officiants would never know that I had found a means for me, a mere mortal, to counter Clasicant's undeserved long life and agility.

I flexed my neck and shoulders so the tilly could see that nothing he had done thus far had weakened me in the least. All the nicks, the gash down my neck, and even the cut across my shoulder were all gone, leaving blood on my clothes but not slowing me down in the least.

Clasicant was in a very different state, and slowing even more. He staggered back, slipping on his own blood.

I stood more erect, not even bothering with a fencer's protective stance, and began to march forward. His eyes widened.

I swung a casual backhand at him, and he ducked, stumbled again and rolled away, grunting painfully when his dead arm tripped him up and spoiled the grace of the maneuver.

I grinned darkly. This was going to be fun.

"Tuli, he's using magic!" He had rolled onto his side of the garden, and he hissed loudly at his second.

"He can't be," the other knight said, uncertain. "Rip, the priests would have—"

"Sparking delvers—I don't care," Clasicant growled. He was desperate. "Something's not right. Tell them—the wound on his neck—"

I cut him off with a new advance, bashing sparks from the stone wall when Clasicant dodged away, but succeeding in separating him from his second. I had gloated long enough. Can't let Stande or the priests suspect foul play, I decided. They won't understand.

"Stop running, coward!" I called. "Let us see how pretty Maid Orluz finds you when I've removed your nose. Or maybe an eye or two." I chuckled at the very thought. "You've only minutes left to live. Why not let me chop off more limbs so I don't have to spend them chasing you like a slicked pig!"

He circled drunkenly, but I cut him off by heading across the ring and forcing him toward the wall. He was beginning to watch me like a cornered animal.

I lunged mid-stride to take him by surprise, and with a hop and a lunge I shot toward him, rapier point first. Normally an opponent would see this coming unless dazzled by a feint or fancy footwork, or, as in this case, if the opponent was delirious with blood loss.

I mis-judged.

Instead of retreating and being pinned against the wall again, he beat my blade to the side and dragged his across my midsection as I passed. My momentum carried me further than I would have liked, and his rapier dragged away a portion of my arming jacket.

It wasn't a deep wound, as the rapier wasn't very sharp along the shaft, but the crowd gasped at the sight of my blood. Too much of that and they might be won over to his side.


I retreated a safe distance and tore away the hanging leather flap so it wouldn't tangle me up.

I noticed Sir Pertuli speaking with Father Bessik, although the latter was only listening with half an ear. I narrowed my eyes. I needed to divert them.

"You will find that although I bleed," I said, raising my red-soaked fingers, where I had absently touched them to my side. Let the healers see that I did indeed bleed, just as human as they. "You have no hope of defeating me."

"What is it, Paolo?" Clasicant demanded weakly, still suspicious. How had he sidestepped my lunge so easily, in his state? "Some kind of cloaked spell? Is Demis doing something?"

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