(OOC: go to the bathroom first, this might take a while)
There was not actual sound that his ears could detect, but still the air felt heavy and made the rustling of his clothing loud in his own ears and everything else seem muted. A blanket of oppression that held all spellbound had descended the moment Erinhue has screamed for his sword. The words had come from Erinhue's throat but they had not sounded like him. Now the sword leapt into existence. Paul inhaled sharply, so surprised to suddenly behold the near mythic blade, and tasted copper, like the very atmosphere were charged with sorcery. His teeth felt fuzzy and his hands trembled.
Everybody seemed to recover at once. One of the Easterlings darted forward and the Bard caved in his skull with pommel of the impossible sword. A moment later he was among the enemy, dealing damage and death with every swing.
Paul still felt shaky and weak. Telta saw it and grabbed his shirt by the shoulder and shook him. "Come to your senses quickly Paul!" She hissed as the enemy closed in, "I know it is awesome to behold, but you must look to yourself and your allies now."
"Just stay out of his way," Brondgast reiterated. The great bear did not wait for a reply, or for their enemies to reach them. Instead he charged headlong, teeth snapping into the highest concentration he could see.
Paul did not rush to meet the foe, but instead hung back, uncertain of what role he should play in the battle. The decision was made for him when two Easterlings, neither keen to test their metal against berserking bear or bard, charged at him instead. A thrill of fear shot through him. This was it. This was the moment.
The anticipation seemed to make time slow as his hyper-observant brain flung itself to new heights. The weight of the daggers in his hands felt unnatural again. He could tell the men coming at him knew how to use their swords and meant for him to come to fatal harm. He could already see how each man intended to strike at him first, but his brain refused to present solutions to all these problems. Despite being aware, it was if his brain was stalled; he felt frozen.
Telta suddenly swung into his field of view, daggers out and flashing. The two men paused and adjusted their stances.
Telta spun and caught Paul on the cheek with an openhanded slap that made him see stars, "You can do this! Stop thinking, and do it!" With that, she was gone, slipping away to another part of the battle.
Miraculously, Paul found his brain functioning again. His hands came up, gripping his daggers in a defensive stance. The last vestiges of the oppressive atmosphere seemed to clear from his mind. Paul took a step toward the two men, grim resolution on his face.
The two Easterlings obligingly rushed him. Paul let instinct take over. One man thrust for his midsection and Paul neatly twisted out of the way of the blade as he had practiced moving past branches in the woods. The other had already initiated a head severing chop from the right which Paul ducked at the same moment, spinning around completely and bring both daggers down over his head like a sledgehammer. One lost his sword to the blow while the other danced back. The unarmed man dove for his sword and Paul obligingly kicked him in the face. With a muffled cry the man collapsed on the ground.
His attack partner growled an oath and charged in again. Paul deflected the slice from the side and brought his left dagger around to finish the easterling off... and froze. The tip of his dagger made a dimple in the side of the man's neck. A drop of blood began to ooze as his assailant flinched. The fire burning in Paul's eyes dimmed. In an instant Paul was filled with conflict.
These men were not evil, where they? Weren't they just men doing their jobs, following orders? Some of them even wore what passed for the regalia of law officers in these parts. Paul doubted there was a man here who did not deserve to serve time in a dungeon, and Paul had little question as to wether the man on the end of his blade would kill him, should he be given the opportunity. But he was a Mithril Knight! Well, a knight in training, but should not his own actions be held to a higher moral standard. Did he have the right to kill these men indiscriminately, just because they had been commanded to kill him? He had joined the Mithril knights because he believed they espoused truth, justice, benevolence, honor. He let his eyes travel over the battle field.
The easterling took his opportunity and slashed at his ribs. While Paul's mind was in conflict his brain was in the present and responded almost in spite of him. He blocked the strike and, flipping his other dagger around in his hand, clubbed the man in the side of the head. He went down without a sound as Paul turned to survey the field again.
The dead and dying lay scattered upon the ground. The Easterlings fought tenaciously, even though they must of been aware already of the inevitable outcome. Brondgast tore the throat from one man and Paul looked away only to be met with the gruesome carnage that Erinhue left in his wake. He had always been told war was a terrible, awful thing, but he had not until that moment been faced with the sheer horror and stomach emptying viscousness of it. He knew somewhere there were enemies of good, so evil, to the man, that they deserved unmerciful death. He had heard of the Red Dwarves and others who deserved immediate death. Orcs, who were born evil, serving their dark masters, but these were not those.
A man turned to flee from the Berserker and had his spine laid open instead of his bowels. Another lost his head. Paul had to close his eyes rather than watch it tumble nose over scalp across the blood stained dirt. How could this be happening? Paul wished more than anything for Erinhue to come and help him make sense of his tragic contradiction, but morbid fate had it so that, in this moment, Erinhue himself was the source of that contradiction. Erinhue: their leader, so wise, so joyful, and seemingly calm. Now a Berserker. Blood stained his pants to the knees and arms to the elbow. His eyes burned with a malice that made their enemies seem friendly by comparison.
"Run you fools!" Paul heard his own voice crying out before he realized he had decided to intervene. He sprinted toward Erihue now, yelling for the men who were fighting him to disengage and retreat. Nobody heard him, or if they did where to focused on staying alive and taking down the demon before them that they gave no sign.
Paul was at a loss for what to do when suddenly one easterling who had been trying to get at Telta broke off his attack and ran to help his comrades facing Erinhue. Paul watched him run, and knew his fate. Again he reacted almost before he had made the decision. His hand flung out and one of his daggers left it. "With this wound I save your life," Paul muttered grimly. The man screamed and fell, Paul's dagger buried in his leg just above his knee.
Paul was right behind the dagger. The man had only begun to inhale when Paul's fist cannoned into the side of his head and he went limp. Pausing only to retrieve the dagger, Paul sprinted on into the blood bath that centered around the berserking bard. Paul jerked on the shoulder of one man and laid him out neatly with an uppercut. He slammed his dagger hilts into the sides of two more heads and the men attached to them also went down. Someone realized that they were being assaulted from the rear and turned only to get a boot to the groin, followed by a knee to the face.
"Five lives spared," Paul whispered under his breath. A punch to the gut and another kneed face, "Six."
He waded into the fray, the conviction of his mission keeping his fear at bay, the ferocity of Erinhue-out-of-his-mind holding the attention of those he was trying to save. Little by little as Paul thinned the back ranks and Erinhue decimated the front, the easterlings began to fully understand that there was no victory to be had today, and Krillen was nowhere to be seen. Paul dropped two more unsuspecting men and Erinhue dismembered the largest and boldest of the lot. The rest broke and ran from before the harbinger of death. Paul was nearly trampled in their haste to flee.
He breathed a sigh of relief watching them run. The sigh turned into a "Woosh!" as the air was bashed from his lungs. He flew ten feet before crashing to the ground. He managed to role to his feet facing the opposite direction in time to see Erinhue bearing down on him. Paul's back ached where either pommel or shoulder had impacted him, and he was gasping for air. His daggers were gone. He fell to his hands and knees, suddenly realizing that this was to be the moment his life ended. His fingers brushed the handle of a sword discarded on the battle field and instinctively he closed them on it.
Sudden warmth flood up through his arm. Now came Erinhue, unreasoning rage blinding his eyes. Now the great sword flashed downward fast, and hard enough to cleave the very earth. Paul lunged to the side. He marveled at his own dexterity in that moment. The air buffeted him and whined as the blade of Clarion flashed passed. If the Berserker where surprised he did not show him.
Clarion was ripped from the ground and swung again, this time at waist height. Paul leapt into the air, and again was astonished at the speed of his movements. Erinhue's red stained blade hissed by under him, but the Berserker was skilled. With superhuman speed he changed the angle of the slice, aiming to cleave Paul in half from foot to head. Paul brought his found sword down to block the blow. His arms moved like lightening and met the blade Clarion. There was a mighty crash and Paul felt himself propelled upwards and away. He executed a backflip and landed, sword held out before him at the ready.
The Berserker looked confused for a moment. It did not seem possible that this barely-a-man before him should still be alive.
"Erinhue!" Paul yelled, "Come to your senses!" He backed away and Erinhue followed him, sword weaving back and forth, but not yet striking. Suddenly the apparition that was Erinhue grinned a most evil mirthless smile. Paul was struck at how similar it looked to Erihue's so welcoming star-bright grin, and yet how alien. At the same moment his back struck a tree, and the Berserker lunged.
Paul dodged to the left and brought the sword up at and angle, bracing it with his other arm. Again a great clash and Clarion glanced up, embedding itself into the thick tree trunk. Erinhue's fist shot out to catch him in the chest. Paul braced his sword against Erinhue's blade, stuck in the trunk, trying to prevent him from tugging it out, while he caught Erinhue's fist with his left hand. The impact made his arm bones shudder, but somehow he managed to arrest the punch.
The Berserker's eyes widened again in shock. How was such a thing possible? He shoved with his fist but met an equal force pushing back so that neither hand or arm moved.
Paul concentrated all of his might into keeping hold of that fist. He summoned all his strength and discovered that he had more to summon than ever before. The stalemate lasted moment more. Erinhue tried to jerk his hand back but Paul held it steady. The Berserker let out a howl of rage and wrenched his sword from the tree with his other arm. The sudden ferocity threw Paul of balance and wrenched the borrowed sword from his grasp. Instantly the warmth that Paul had grown accustomed to faded. Erinhue planted a boot in his stomach and Paul crumpled to the ground. He looked up in time to see an expression of triumph on Erinhue's face before Clarion began to descend.