I can’t do this.
Jack tightened his grip on the sword’s handle. But I will die trying.
Like a black-bricked tower, the Enemy stood tall before Jack, his dark armour concealing all his flesh, his sword twice the size of Jack’s, his mask shaped like an angry dragon’s face, his feet planted in a defensive stance. The Enemy was ready and unharmed and eager for more action.
Jack, however, felt neither ready nor unharmed nor eager. He glanced down at his feet that were dirty and in faded leather sandals; his left foot was sprinkled with crusty drops of blood that had fallen out of the wound above his left knee, a wound the Enemy’s sword had caused a few minutes earlier. Jack glanced back at the Enemy and sensed him smiling behind that hideous mask.
Who would strike first this time? Jack or the Enemy? No, not the Enemy, not again; Jack would strike first and hopefully surprise his opponent.
So, mimicking a tiger, Jack pounced forward and roared and swung his sword like he would swing an axe when chopping down a tree. Clang! The clash of the two swords produced a loud sound that chased several birds out of nearby branches. Then the Enemy’s sword circled and flew towards Jack’s neck. Jack ducked and sliced at the Enemy’s legs, but this caused no damage but an additional scratch to the opponent’s armour. If it hadn’t been for the armour, the Enemy would’ve been in pieces by now; and if Jack had been clothed in armour, their fight would’ve been a fair one.
Jack rolled to the left, sprang to his feet, noticed blood on the tip of the Enemy’s sword, then felt his shoulder burn. He glanced at a long cut running down his shoulder like a waterfall. When did that happen?
Before he could tear his eyes away from this new wound, he felt the tip of his opponent’s sword glide across his chest like skates on a frozen lake. This fresh chest wound began crying blood.
Then the Enemy flicked his sword – causing a cut to appear on Jack’s right arm – and offered a slow, deep, unkind laugh. He was taunting Jack, covering him with non-fatal wounds for the fun of it.
Jack shut his eyes. It was over. He had lost. He had failed to protect the town. He would be killed at any moment. So he filled his mind with an image of the face of his life-long friend, Jill, and of her beautiful hair, and elegant fingers, and heart-tingling smile. That he would never see her again – and not the idea of death – filled him with sadness that threatened to burst his heart. Before the fight, Jack had prayed for divine forgiveness, so now he could only pray for the lady he had intended to marry: God, be with Jill, bless her, protect her, give her a long and happy life, and if she must marry, don’t allow her to marry Tommy – he’s too childish and annoying – let her rather marry—
A sweet, soothing, strong voice filled the air in song.
Jack’s eyes peeled open and followed the Enemy’s gaze to the top of the hill, upon which stood Jill, wearing a pure white dress, watching the two men with her round blue eyes, allowing her long hair to dance in the wind, fiddling with her thin fingers as she would do when nervous, forcing her chin to remain up, and singing the town’s Song of Hope. Surely Jill’s voice made the angels envious, surely the heavens had paused to listen to her song, surely the Devil himself couldn’t resist appreciating the beauty flowing out of her mouth.
Jack looked back at the Enemy, who had his sword raised above his head to finish off Jack … but the Enemy was frozen, captivated by Jill’s voice. Jack saw an opening, mustered up his strength, and thrust his sword deep into the Enemy’s armpit.
The Enemy gasped and collapsed like a broken bird.
Jill stopped singing, raised her dress, ran down to Jack, and smothered him in tears and kisses and hugs.
"You saved me," Jack rasped.
Jill nodded and smiled and rubbed her wet eyes. "Yes, and you saved me."
For the following three weeks, Jill tended to Jack’s wounds. Jack’s only regret was that he hadn’t acquired in the fight more wounds that needed tendering.