Shield Brothers

“I thought I told you to come alone.” The slight figure of a man squeaked when two stout men materialized through the trees. He brushed the shoulders to his Calithan-tailored suit, sweeping away the dust that collects when one is especially nervous. The bodyguard behind him, carrying a small crate, was almost noticeably shocked when the men came into view. Even an experienced fighter had reason to look twice when men a full foot taller and wider entered within charging range. Especially when they carried one sword and one shield between the two of them, both the size of their wielders.

“I am alone,” Roshak-Sel replied in his thick northern accent with a smirk on his face. He clasped the little man’s hand in his own, almost engulfing it with how much larger the Aluvalian was. “This is my shield brother, Svarhald-Sel. I am his sword, and he my shield.”

His brother, in reply, shook the man’s hand with the same overpowering amount of muscle. “Talliden,” the little man introduced himself as he shook, trying to put extra slack in his arm in order to avoid any damage from the other’s grip.

“Where I come from,” the Calithan took a few steps back as he retorted, not daring to make eye contact. “People adhere to the rules they are given.”

Roshak laughed. “Ah, but from my home, alone is alone, shield brother or no. Besides, we have no reason to harm you. My brother is just security in case our dealings were less congenial. We have had some poor business with others in the past, if you understand my meaning.”

Talliden visibly relaxed. “Well, smuggling tends to bring in some bad crowds, if you would believe it. I’ve never heard of people smuggling manna from an illegal nation into a legal one, though, if you don’t mind the question.”

“Of course not! Simply put our clan chief enjoys Calithan manna more than our home brews. I believe it’s the ravager venom your people put in it. It adds a unique kick, though I myself have never enjoyed the prospect of willfully injecting poison. Still, there is something to be said fo-”

DRAGON!” Svarhald yelled, stepping behind his brother and shoving him out of the way, towards Talliden.

A thunderous crash boomed into the forest, the thin trees of Cedria snapping under the weight of something monstrous, descending down into the glade. Svarhald wasted no time. Throwing his shield up to defend himself, he planted it into the ground, summoning a fiery ball to envelop him as protection from the beast.

As stray leaves drifted onto the ground, a wyvern cloaked in the feathers of a mottled black on white, scanned the area for its meal. Talliden and his bodyguard, encapsulated by sheer terror, dropped everything and fled in the opposite direction. The dragon spewed a wave of icy fury into the clearing, sweeping over all four of them. Roshak dove out of the way to be more comfortably behind his brother and the warmth of his defense, but further back the wave caught the little man, and the force of the ice blast paled his skin as his body temperature plummeted so thoroughly that he died almost instantly.

“I’ve never seen a wyvern this far east,” Roshak yelled. “We’re not even in the mountains anymore!”

“Calm yourself, brother.” Svarhald dispelled his magic and studied the dragon before them, it’s pointed horn jutting out from its snout. It seemed to be judging its next move. “It must have followed us here.”

Roshak sighed, unlatching the greatsword from his back. “We fight?”

“We’ll have to,” he nodded. “Fortunately it should have trouble taking flight in the forest. We may be far from civilization but the trees will work to our advantage. Don’t use magic unless you have to. And no big moves like you’re so fond of. It’ll wear you out.”

“I can’t wait to surprise the clan with a Horn when we get back. We’ll be the talk of all of Kjolnhelm for a week!”

The dragon unfurled it’s feathered wings, slamming them against nearby trees and bellowed a roar that shook the very ground.

Svarhald punched his brother on the shoulder. “Beauty, isn’t she?” Roshak nodded, a smirk on his face. Then the two charged.

The Wyvern leaped forward at them, bringing its hind claws up to rake at them. They dove out of the way, Svarhald to his left, Roshak to his right. He swept his sword around at the thing’s head, but it swung down and slammed its snout into his chest. The force of the blow threw him across the clearing and into one of the previously unscathed trees.

Svarhald, charging magic into his shield, smashed it into the other side of the dragon’s head, enhancing the attack with a jolt of electricity. The beast roared in anger as Roshak, getting up, channeled a column of fire at the beast, using his sword as the conduit. Shying away from the blast it protected itself with its wing, also turning to snap at Svarhald. He rose his shield in defense of it, but his arm got caught in its jaw and the thing clamped down with unprecedented force.

The bone snapped. Svarhald bit back the pain in clenched teeth, just as the wyvern held him in its own. Roshak charged at the dragon, striking at the feathered wings with all his might. The blade struck and bit through, reflexively moving away. He used the opportunity to keep moving towards the head, to assist his brother.

In response, the beast threw Svarhald at the other, and the man crashed into him. The wyvern jumped to the other side of the clearing, turning back around to gain more distance. With one more roar, it launched itself back into the air and flew back from where it had come.

Roshak, heaving with exertion, helped his brother up with his good arm. He had left the shield on the ground. “Are you going to be okay?”

“Broken arm,” Svarhald replied. “I’ll manage.”

“So much for using the trees,” Roshak chuckled through breaths. “Why wouldn’t it stay for the kill? Why come all this way just to leave when we put up a fight?”

“Hard to say. I’d imagine there is easier food to be had in these parts, but that doesn’t explain why it came all the way here in the first place.”

Roshak addressed Talliden’s corpse, a few dozen feet away. “Looks like we’ll get the manna without having to pay for it this time.” Then he looked back to his brother’s arm. “Well, I guess it was just an unconventional payment method. Let’s get back.” He heaved up the crate the bodyguard had dropped in his flight. “Rest well, friend,” he added to Talliden. “You’re among the stars now. I’ll look for yours tonight.”

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