This is an extended version of the scene from chapter 49. The scene doesn't serve much purpose beyond pacing, and I considered cutting it entirely. It hardly closes off Irnskar's story, that comes later, and the fight stuff cut from the published version isn't particularly inspiring. I left in what felt necessary to give the surrounding scenes some space, and because it felt I was short-changing the character to not have his voice in the climax somewhere. It's stil one that bothers me though. I'm sure I could have done something better with him. (I considered him going to Hauk's rescue, but that'd require covering their history, and would've taken too much space, slowing the pacing too far.)
Irnskar emerged into the next corridor barely feet ahead of a pair of rushing guards. They slowed and eyed him warily. Were they real guards? He couldn't be sure.
Thjorn's voice distracted them longer than it did Irnskar. He punched the first one before they recovered. The second went for his blade, a stupid move so close in, and
Irnskar's was already out. He used the blunt side to slap the hand trying to draw the weapon, and followed with an elbow to the jaw.
He didn't wait for the man to hit the floor, the sounds of steel drawing him on at a run. Though he might need to apologise later. If they'd been assassins, their glyphs would have prevented them going down so easily. And they'd probably have attacked straight off
Thjorn was here, then. Of course he was. There was trouble. Irnskar wouldn't wait on him to help though. They'd have to deal with what they found, while Thjorn did whatever he did.
Quite why Irnskar felt compelled to help, he wasn't sure. His job was to protect Merid, and in this situation she could easily find danger. He could come up with a justification. And for why he didn't clear out or simply avoid trouble, as any rational mercenary would. But that'd involve thinking. He usually did better reacting.
The dead guards ahead wore Thulvus uniforms, and the attackers he saw beyond them had Vorek colours. King Borgny and one of his guards were alive, but only just. The pair attacking looked less damaged. The king had a sword in hand, but was a bit too old and rotund to do more than block. He had a few bloody scars.
Suppressing a sigh at his own stupidity, Irnskar rushed in.
One attacker noticed his approach, and hurled a dagger.
Easily dodged, as was the predictable follow through with a sword. Irnskar continued past him, a backslash catching the man behind the knee. His glyphs prevented a cut, but the impact was enough to topple him.
The other attacker noticed him at this point, and repositioned to face both Irnskar and the guard.
Irnskar darted forward, forcing the assassin to lash at him. At the last moment he ducked, feet leading, and slid under the slash using his momentum. His sword went up as he passed, behind the attacker's blade. He added to its momentum to swing it, and the assassin, around. It occupied the man long enough for the guard to get a solid blow through his glyphed defences.
Irnskar spun to his feet, as the first attacker found his.
Borgny's sword skated across the assassin's face, causing more shock than damage, and drawing the attacker's attention to his primary target.
Irnskar attacked before the man could retaliate, targeting his sword. His own was glyphed to slice through most metals with significant power if used in a certain way.
It shattered the glyphed blade in a shower of sparks.
The attacker was thrown, staring at the blade in shock. Enough time for Irnskar to continue his spin and slash at the back of the man's other knee.
He went down again, with a muted scream this time. His mouth was open though, which was what Irnskar'd wanted. It wasn't pretty, but was the easiest way to get a blade past glyphed skin.
Removing the sword was the hard part. He glanced to make sure the guard had finished the other one off first, then secured his foot on the assassin's chest and yanked.
'My thanks,' said King Borgny, short of breath. 'Who do you work for?'
'Thjorn currently pays me,' said Irnskar. There was no point complicating matters with his full status.
Borgny considered him a moment. 'Good enough. Let's see if there's any more of these bastards about to deal with.'
While dubious the old man would reach the corridor, it'd be impolite to argue with a king.