“I don’t see how you fight with that big ole axe. It’s no wonder you are so damned strong. If I swung that big thing around all the time, I would be too.” Duluth glanced at the small hand axes he held in each of his own hands. Then he looked to Simeon’s axe, its long handle and huge blade combining to about six feet in length. No telling how much it weighed, but Simeon could put it through a series of attacks as quickly as a swashbuckler would wield a rapier.
“Yeah, make fun now ’cause in a moment you are gonna be begging for mercy.” Simeon took a huge overhead chop at the dwarf.
Duluth easily hopped back, then, in a motion so smooth and fluent that it betrayed his race, he threw the axes at Simeon’s feet. The huge man had to react quickly and nearly toppled as he managed to avoid the axes which sunk in the ground. “Let’s play,” the dwarf snorted. As Simeon pulled his axe free, he heard Duluth growl. No matter how many times he had seen it, it always scared him a little. The growl became a cry of anguish and relief as the dwarf’s body convulsed. His bone structure shifted, his skull reformed, and coarse grey and black hair blanketed him. His fingers hardened, thickened, and grew into enormous claws capable of digging through stone. So there he crouched, arms wagging in front of him, ready for his daily training session.
“I hate when you do that,” Simeon laughed.
“Shhhh,” Duluth put a huge claw to his badger lips, “Never talk to your opponent. You must always concentrate on battling, not babbling.”
Simeon took the lesson to heart. He knew to listen to the dwarf, who had seen more battles than the young man would ever see. Still, the man managed a smile as he wondered how many people could say that they were trained by a werebadger. Probably not many at all, and that suited Simeon just fine. It made him even more dangerous.
Then it was on, a battle so fierce that any watching would not have guessed how closely the two had become. Simeon swung his axe as if he was going to chop down a tree, but the agile dwarf leaped over it. Duluth could not advance, however, for Simeon had the axe ready for another strike. This one was an uppercut coming in quickly to cleave the his foe.The werebadger ducked and shifted, putting his body out of range; then he rolled in close to the young man. Duluth came in hard with his vicious claws, but Simeon was parrying them all with his axe handle. It was quite impressive but the dwarf was quicker and he landed a punch to the man’s ribs. Both knew that if Duluth had wanted to, he could have gutted Simeon right then.
Duluth backed off, that round was his. Simeon nodded, understanding what he needed to work on. The man came on hard once again, swinging hard and fast. Even when it seemed impossible for Duluth to dodge, the dwarf somehow managed. However, the dwarf made a mistake; he got too close to Simeon. The man launched a strong kick that stunned the dwarf, and that moment cost him. Simeon had his axe against Duluth’s throat before the dwarf could react. They broke again. They were even.
The dwarf had one more lesson before they called this session to an end. He put himself in perfect range for an overhead chop, a move Simeon loved to execute.Among nearly any other foe, the move would be lethal. Only a very well trained fighter could keep up with Simeon and his nasty axe. Down came the axe and Duluth dodged at the last second. Before Simeon could react, though, the quick little badger had jumped on the back of his axe head, perched neatly. Simeon’s muscles flexed to pull his weapon from the ground and send Duluth flying, but at the same instant the werebadger’s head shot forward and down. Wood splintered and Simeon flew backward, landing on his back violently. In his hand was a broken piece of wood.
When he sat up he saw Duluth, no longer in badger form, with his arms propped on the half-buried axe head. The dwarf was shaking his head, laughing at Simeon. The man started to protest, but the dwarf raised a hand to silence the young warrior.
“Now what ye got to do your fighting with?” Duluth looked at the axe, then looked back to Simeon. The young man looked confused. What was the dwarf getting at? “Your axe is gone, now how would you fight?”
Simeon looked at his hands, and threw the handle down. He raised his fists. “I got these!”
“Aye, and they’d be serving ya fine in a tavern scuffle. But would ya want to go toe to toe with a giant who was carrying a spiked club? What about a pack of foul, stinking trolls?” Duluth moved to stand in front of his large friend. Even sitting down, Simeon was still looking down on his companion. “I want you to start having a back-up weapon, just in case.”
“I like my axe, or I did before you broke it,” Simeon teased.
“Bah, I’ll be fixing your axe up right so that it won’t break so easy next time. I also have a couple of surprises for ya waiting in town, but only if ya promise to work with a new weapon for a while.” Duluth offered a hand to the man. “Deal?”
Simeon took the hand without hesitation, “Deal!” Duluth yanked him up and patted his hand.
“We will set out early tomorrow, so be gettin’ ready. I ain’t waiting on ya.” Duluth tried to sound tough, but Simeon knew better. The man nodded and went to the cottage while Duluth went to get a new handle for Simeon’s axe.
Duluth loved the young man like he was his own son. Simeon had a strange past that the werebadger could not hope to relieve him of. The few years of Simeon’s life had been marked by death,deceit, and darkness. Even through all the torment, Simeon’s eyes remained bright. Duluth admired his toughness. The young man was more like a dwarf than anyone he had met in all his long years. Yeah, Duluth loved him and Simeon returned that love in kind.