Master Hykel went over the rules of the tournament with Barrett. “No poisons. Not that it’s a problem for us, but the general rule is nothing that can continue to cause damage after the match. That included barbed weapons. It’s supposed to be a friendly tournament, as far as such things go. Otherwise, as long as you stay inside the allowable equipment levels pretty much everything is valid.” Master Hykel gestured to Barrett, “Everything you have will be fine. That’s there just to prevent me or an elder from giving you one of our weapons or our armor. Though some of the armor… wouldn’t be of much benefit to you. Unbreakable armor isn’t that useful if you can’t get up off the ground and someone can just stab you in the weak spots.”
Barrett nodded, “So, I should pull back my blows to avoid critically injuring anyone?”
Master Hykel shook his head, “Don’t worry about that. The arenas are enchanted. For people on your level… any truly dangerous attacks will be halted. Anyone who needs those defenses loses the match. Even if they might have won with a lost arm or a hole in their chest… it wouldn’t be a real victory anyway. Not outside of life-or-death battles anyway. The point is, you don’t have to worry about holding back.”
Even with the arena split into quarters, Barrett found the arena to be quite large. Maybe it wasn’t so good for those who used ranged attacks, but there was still sufficient room. Not that it mattered at all for the current battle, because his first opponent didn’t seem to have any intent to attack from range either.
He held two short swords in a low, defensive stance. He wore gambeson, a layered cloth armor that wouldn’t slow him down but could still provide excellent defense against cuts and impacts.
Barrett didn’t know what group he was from. There were many possibilities, but the important thing was he didn’t know what sort of style the young man would use with his two shortswords. He could guess the basics, however.
When the match started, the young man retained his defensive posture, obviously not intending to give up his preferred stance. Barrett could almost see what would happen if he charged in. His axe would swing down, but the young man would deflect it with one shortsword while the other went through Barrett’s throat. Or at least, towards it until the arena’s magic stopped it. Barrett had armor, but he couldn’t count on his opponent being unable to reach his weak points.
Barrett moved forward at a measured pace instead of charging in, keeping himself ready to defend if necessary. He tested with a vertical slash from the edge of his distance, but his opponent merely took a small step to the side. The following horizontal slash was met with a small step backwards.
If he fully committed to the attack, Barrett could step forward- but that would leave him open to a counter. The young man hadn’t shown everything he could do yet.
As the fight continued, Barrett eventually had to move in deeper. This gave his opponent a chance to dodge or parry as well as performing a counterattack- but Barrett never committed so much that he left himself open. Short swords scraped against metal armor, while Barrett’s axe met mostly with air, occasionally just brushing against the young man’s torso, arms or legs.
Barrett’s opponent was quick, and didn’t use overly large movements. He conserved his stamina, while Barrett had to use more to swing his heavy axe. On the other hand, Barrett was willing he had more stamina to begin with. He might still be able to outlast his opponent… but that wasn’t the sort of victory he wanted.
Barrett moved in deeper, getting ever closer to a solid hit with his axe. Even a high quality gambeson wasn’t going to stop a direct hit from Barrett. He was already starting to leave small cuts on it with berserk energy that extended just beyond his axe. In return, he received a few wounds in the weak spots of his armor, but his opponent couldn’t afford to follow through to cause real damage without risking himself.
Barrett went for another wide swing, which his opponent ducked under, coming up with a stab to try to penetrate Barrett’s armor from below. Then everything stopped and Barrett’s axe clattered to the ground.
The young man’s arm was stuck under Barrett’s armpit, and his upper arm was held by that hand. Struggle as he might, he couldn’t get away. He had another hand free, but he didn’t have a good angle. He stabbed it toward Barrett’s to try to get him to let go, but that hand was caught as well. His fluid movements were too limited by his caught arm. Barrett slowly started to twist one of the arms.
“I surrender!” His opponent called out.
Once his victory was declared, Barrett let him go gently. “A good match!”
“You as well,” his opponent nodded.
There was no possible way to watch all of the matches that went on from there. Even so, Barrett watched as many as he could for the next two days, when his next match finally came. Many people were on the first round, but some of those whose second round opponent was decided would also be going. That way, the later rounds were spread out over more days for most contestants.
There wasn’t much to learn from casually watching four matches at once, but if he happened to run across any of them in the second round at least he would have something to go off of.
As he stepped in, he found he recognized his opponent. Nobody knew their opponent ahead of time, so he was surprised when he saw her. However, it was pretty hard to forget her. Silvery-steel hair and skin wasn’t very common. This was the same person from the Southern Metal Sea he had been matched against in the tournament in Darith- Kaylani. It was surprising to see her so far away… but then again, she hadn’t been close to her home there, and he was here as well. This was also a very large tournament… so the real surprise was being matched against her in the second round, not her participation. If he’d known, Barrett probably would have fought without armor again.