Part III - The First Battle
The blade of the saber slices through the air. Dante crouches down, shifting his momentum and leaping back to avoid the fatal blow. The soldier’s force carries his weight forward and his sword cuts into the ground. Dante runs from the man as he struggles to remove his weapon from the arena floor. With his eyesight finally adjusted, Dante is able to look around and see what he is facing.
A dozen pillars are scattered throughout the arena, most of them broken and worn down with time. Several large pieces of pillar lie among scattered rubble and debris from the prior battles. The floor of the arena is coated with a thin layer of reddish dirt intermixed with coarse sand. A few broken weapons have been left abandoned around the arena, many coated with a layer of dust. A few spears and an axe are lodged in the wall encircling the arena.
Half a dozen men, including the one Dante evaded, are their opponents. Each one is wearing the same gold armor on their upper torso and is wearing a pair of gold greaves on their legs. Their feet are sandaled. Each appears to carry two weapons with them: a sword being paired with shield, spear, or mace. The four prisoners are outnumbered and outmatched, just like he was told they would be. The other three aren’t faring much better, either.
Dante turns back to check on the location of his opponent. There is a large gash in the ground where the sword became lodged, but neither man nor saber is anywhere to be seen. Dante steps around a stone pillar, determined to locate this missing soldier. A large piece of stone falls to the ground in front of him, sliding into the pillar. Dante looks over and sees the soldier reaching down to grab another stone to hurl.
Dante notices a splintered shaft of wood on the ground a few feet away from the soldier. The man is taking aim with another stone. Dante charges forward, sidestepping the projectile as it flies through the air. The soldier picks up his sword and plants his feet, bracing himself to meet the attack. Dante slides along the ground, his fingers grasping the fragment of a wooden handle. Dust stirs in the air. The soldier swings his sword in a powerful cut, but the shaft of wood has better reach and pierces the soldier’s exposed shoulder.
The sword drops to the ground and the soldier staggers back a step. His left arm dangles uselessly at his side. Dante gets to his feet and grabs the dropped sword. He swings wildly, cutting through the air. The wounded soldier easily dodges a few attacks. Dante rushes forward with a feint, but the soldier trips him up.
Dante slides along the ground, his lungs filling with dust. He rolls over in time to see the soldier pull the splintered stick from his shoulder, blood oozing from the wound. Dante scrambles backward, sword still clutched in his hand. The sun gleams on the golden armor as his opponent readies the makeshift weapon for a fatal blow. He pulls the weapon back for a powerful thrust. Dante brings his arms up over his face and braces himself for the upcoming pain. Instead of being skewered, the soldier falls to the ground, his neck twisted.
Dante looks up to see Slate standing over him, arm extended to help him up. He is covered in cuts and scrapes. His one good eye is slowly swelling shut. His breathing is ragged. The corpses of two soldiers are behind him. Hoggle is pinned to the wall of the arena by a spear through his chest. Jerek is nowhere to be seen. The remaining three guards are advancing quickly on Dante and Slate. Dante grips the saber in his hand and Slate picks up a massive stone.
Slate times his throw perfectly, but the three soldiers scatter before it hits them. The stone shatters into a dozen smaller pieces, flying in various directions. Most bounce harmlessly off the greaves, but a few cut through skin and one lodges itself in the foot of a soldier. Dante swings his sword at the nearest soldier. It is easily deflected off a large brass shield and the soldier thrusts with a counter-strike. Dante steps aside to avoid the blow but the sword catches his side, leaving a narrow gash in its wake.
The soldier presses the attack on Dante, slashing and striking relentlessly. Dante backpedals, struggling to keep up with each attack. His breathing becomes heavy and sweat pours down his face. The soldier sees the sign of slowing and presses with renewed vigor. Dante parries a thrust, ducks under a slash. The soldier sweeps at Dante’s feet with his shield. Dante jumps to avoid the blow. The soldier anticipates this and stabs Dante’s thigh.
The crowd frantically cheers for the soldiers. Dante is exhausted and wounded. Slate takes the mace from one soldier and crushes his skull with it, but the other soldier takes advantage and runs Slate through the chest with his sword. Jerek is still nowhere to be seen. The other soldier picks up a discarded spear and starts toward Dante. Pain shoots through his left leg from the wound, but Dante tries to ignore it while fending off the swordsman. His reactions are getting slower and the attacks are getting closer to striking a lethal blow. Dante closes his eyes and makes a desperate thrust, praying for a miracle.