As Meris approached the forest of Yle his feet were sore and he was hungry for both food and water. But long ago he had learned to ignore pain, hunger and thirst when it was necessary. Those necessities started in the mind and the mind could be turned away for a while. Meris knew that sooner or later his will would succumb to the needs of his body. He planned to reach Yle before that happened. Long ago, he would have planned to kill all that wanted to take is life.
Speaking of which, a young monk was blocking his path to the monastery.
"Safe roads," Meris greeted, "Are you from Yle?"
"It would seem so." Meris was surprised to hear hostility in the monk's voice.
"Is there a problem?" he asked in an equally sharp tone.
"Yes, there is," said the young monk, eyeing Meris from top to toe. "It's you."
Meris was baffled.
"Aren't you monks supposed to be peaceful, or something?" he asked annoyed, "Like in not provoking important travellers who are armed?" He lay down a hand on his sword.
"Well," Herod said slowly. "We are until we are not. And by the way, if one can become monk, one can stop being a monk, as well."
"I'd love to chitchat," Meris said in a cold voice, "But I need to get to the monastery."
"Leave your weapons here and you can go wherever you want."
"I need them."
"With peaceful monks?"
"Maybe not so peaceful at all. Do I have to hit you onto your thick head to get through? Because I will do exactly that if there's no alternative."
"There is," the monk said, "The alternative is: I bash in your head, pretender." And with that, he charged.
Meris was tired and felt old, but he was ready. In a flash, he blocked the monk's walking stick with his sword still sheathed. He glared at the younger man and shoved him a good pace backwards. Herod whacked him on the shoulder.
With an angry bark, Meris drew his sword from the scabbard and pointed it at Herod's nose.
"If you want to fight so badly, you can have a fight, monk. What's your name?"
Herod batted the blade away and stepped to the left attacking at a different angle. "My name is unimportant to you. Or does an animal need introductions before it is killed by its predator?."
"You are overly confident. I would call you an animal as well, but I think that would be flattering for an arrogant bastard such as you. Yes, you must be from that monk's school of bastards in the forest. If you had true parents, they would have disciplined you better."
Meris struck his sword across the other man's chest, with the broad side, a blow intended to caution his opponent and cause him pain, but not to wound. Herod immediately stroke back with twice as much force. Meris staggered backwards, only saved by the sturdiness of his amour. He laughed. Meris frowned and immediately followed to close the distance between them with an other ferocious attack. Meris deflected it and Herod stumbled closer than he would have liked, crashing against the chest of the Narebur soldier. They were eye to eye, he realized.
"For someone who hates trespassers so much you come remarkably close," the old man said dryly.
"If you hope for a kiss, I shall disappoint you," retorted Herod. "I just came close in order to do this." And he drove his second weapon, a hunting knife into the old man's leg. Meris Drake sucked in air and collapsed onto his knees. Still, he kept his sword in his hands and glared at his opponent.
It was a lost cause, and they both knew it. Once one of the combattants was unable to stand, that one would loose a considerable advantage.
"Any last words?" asked Herod, striking with so much ferocity that Meris had no choice but to let go of his weapon.
"Actually, yes," said Meris and grabbed the monk's leg, pulling. "I'm on a goddamn mission to save my son. And I will stop at nothing to save him. Even if it means killing a man of god." As Herod fell it became messy. Both of them tried to seize Herod's sword, struggling on the floor. Meris was clearly more determined but just when he seized the weapon, the monk hit him hard against the helmet. "Enough is enough!" roared Meris and went a little crazy, kicking the monk hard.
It spiralled down to a fistfight that Herod soon found out he had no choice of winning.
None of the two noticed the third traveller that was advancing hurriedly in the distance. Herod bloodied his fist against the Narebur armour in a desperate attempt to get some space between himself and the person that was fighting him down with the deadliness of an injured roaring bear.
He was dimly aware of pain, when he slid on the ground close to unconsciousness. Still, the soldier's fist continued to beat him like a battering ram. He spat blood and tried to crouch together. Then, there was a pause. Herod blinked through his tears of pain.
Had the white wolf come to save him? Had she come to die alongside him? He tried to focus and got into a kneeling position. His attacker was still there, but he was watching a woman, that had nearly reached them. "You!" Herod heard his attacker say. His hearing must be also impaired, for he found the sound to be filled with hatred and fear. And why would that small stranger woman be of any threat to a Narebur?
"Yes, I." said Ismae the warrior. "I came to settle some old debts and promises. I told you I would kill you one day, Meris Drake. It is time. Just now you are threatening what is mine. I hereby challenge you to a duel."
"I accept." said Meris grimly.