Skilgannon v Agasarsis

The following scene was taken from David Gemmell’s novel, “White Wolf”. It is a battle between Skilgannon, the Damned and Agasarsis. The original text can be found in chapter 12 of that book.

    The duel did not start swiftly. The men moved warily around one another, and the first clash of steel seemed more like an extension of the exercises they had undergone before the Queen’s arrival. Servaj knew the duellists were merely accustoming themselves to the feel of the weapons. Neither Skilgannon nor Agasarsis attempted a death strike. They were gauging each other’s weaknesses. The crowd was silent as the two masters continued to circle one another. Sunlight gleamed on the blades, and each sudden attack would see the swords create a glittering web of brightness around the combatants. The ground below their feet was slick and treacherous, and yet it seemed they remained in perfect balance. Time passed, the action quickened, and the music of clashing steel increased in tempo. Servaj was transfixed, flicking his gaze between the fighting men. Both exuded confidence. Both expected to win. First blood went to Skilgannon, the tip of his sabre scoring a cut to Agasarsis’s shoulder. Almost immediately the champion countered, and blood appeared on Skilgannon’s torso. It seemed to Servaj that the blood was dripping from the fangs of the panther head tattooed upon his chest.
    The speed and skill of the fighters was dazzling. Bets had been placed by the soldiers, but no-one in the crowd cheered or shouted for their favourite. The watchers were all fighting men, and they knew they were observing a classic encounter. Not a whisker separated the talents of the duellists, and Servaj began to believe they would be fighting all day. He half hoped it was true. Such a brilliantly balanced contest was rare, and Servaj wanted to savour it as long as possible.
    Yet he knew it could not last. The blades were razor sharp, and they flashed and lunged, parried and countered, within a hairs breadth of yielding flesh.
    They had been fighting some twenty minutes when Agasarsis stumbled on the mud. Skilgannon’s sabre lanced into Agasarsis’s left shoulder as he fell, then slid clear. The champion hit the ground and rolled, coming up in time to block a vicious cut that would have beheaded him. He threw himself at Skilgannon, hammering his shoulder into Skilgannon’s chest, hurling him backwards. Both men fell heavily.
    At a command from the Queen the herald blew a single blast upon his curved horn.
    Two soldiers ran forward, bearing towels. The combatants plunged their swords into the earth, and took the cloths. Agasarsis wiped sweat from his face, then pressed the towel into the deep wound in his left shoulder. Skilgannon approached him. Servaj did not hear what was said, but saw Agasarsis shake his head angrily, and guessed that Skilgannon was enquiring whether honour had been satisfied.
    After a few moments the Queen ordered the horn sounded, and the two fighters took up their swords. Once again they circled. Now the duel entered into its last phase. Servaj found it fascinating. Both men were tired, but he could see desperation in the eyes of Agasarsis. Doubt had entered into the champion’s mind, and was leaching away his confidence. To counter this he launched a series of reckless attacks. Skilgannon defended smoothly for a while. When the death blow came it was so sudden that many in the crowd missed it. Agasarsis lunged. Skilgannon met the attack, blocking the lunge and rolling his blade round the sabre of Agasarsis. The two men leapt back. Blood suddenly gushed from Agasarsis’s severed jugular. The champion tried to steady himself, but his legs gave way, and he fell to his knees before his killer. Servaj realized that, even as he parried, Skilgannon had flicked the point of his sabre across the throat of his opponent.
    Agasarsis pitched face forward to the earth.


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