Emerson Berengar was met by what seemed to be the entire Heron Nation.
His band of men were resolved but he could sense their fear. It is one thing to bluster about in the comfort of a fortified encampment; it is quite another to march to a village where every boy aspires to be a warrior.
He looked at the long line of Heron arrayed for war with spear and bow. Motioning his men to stay put, he walked halfway to the Heron and Ahusaka met him there.
Emerson spoke first. “Ahusaka, your people are stealing from us and attacking our men.”
There was a long pause. “Emerson, it is a rite of passage to display strength and cunning. The song of war brings wealth to the Heron and brides to the men. Stealing and fighting make a young warrior. Make your men stronger.”
Emerson caught movement out of the corner of his eye. They were being flanked as he spoke.
“Bows and circling around are for weak men, Ahusaka. Will they not count coup and look death in the eye? Who is weak here, Ahusaka?”
Their eyes locked. Ahusaka was visibly angered by the words. “Your warriors huddle together and hide behind wooden circles. The Heron warrior is brave by himself.”
Emerson knew he had to make a move. The Heron saw the people of Northwich as weak and he needed to send a message.
“Call your best warrior, and I will pin him to the ground with my spear. Is that warrior you, Ahusaka?”
Ahusaka lunged with lightning speed spearing a buckle on Emerson’s splinted leather armor with his lance. Emerson reacted none to soon and turned into the attack, leveraging the handle and breaking it. The blow was sidelong due to quick thinking, but the he felt the impact.
Both gained distance and assessed each other,
He knew it was foolish but he slammed his spear into the ground and dropped his shield to show he was not afraid.
Ahusaka had drawn a knife and Emerson followed suit.There are no winners in a knife fight and Emerson knew it. The moment the distance was closed, someone would die, perhaps both of them. Ahusaka was the better fighter and made flicking motions with his blade at Emerson’s hands leaving small cuts when he did so trying to close the gap.
Emerson attacked with a stab to the lower midsection and Ahusaka grabbed Emerson’s wrist and struck him in the face with his knife hand sending him to the ground. Ahusaka followed up in his attack and was met by kicks from Emerson. He sprang to his feet. The blow had landed squarely and it made him angry. He closed the distance. Slashes, blocks, thrusts and parries signaled a morbid dance of death, but neither would back down.
Ahusaka stepped back, blade high and ready. “two lions fight in the forest. One is maimed, the other is dead.” It was a request for a draw.
Emerson would not relent. He saw that the older man was tiring.
“I have a maimed man in my camp that did not ask for a fight. You support it. I will end this, Ahusaka.”
The Heron and the men of Northwich had gathered in a circle around the two.
The naivety of imminent death resulted in cheering for their respective village. The noise was disconcerting.
Ahusaka’s eyes were on fire with the fierceness of any wild creature. He lunged as if to stab at the heart then slashed, cutting Emerson’s bicep and causing him to drop his knife. The fight was on. Emerson did what he knew best. He grappled, going low and hard. Ahusaka flipped his blade downwards for a backstab and Emerson shot up, tying his arm. Ahusaka was not without a few tricks of his own and kneed Emerson in the groin.
Over the noise of the warriors of the Heron and Northwich an otherworldly roar was heard.
Jeptha the Beast pushed men aside and separated Ahusaka and Emerson. There was no thought of fighting his raw strength. The moon was waxing and he was not weakened as much as other days.
He looked at Brother.
“YOU ARE ANGRY ABOUT THIEVES AND FIGHTING. YOUR PEOPLE STOLE MY HUMANITY.”
Turning his head slowly, He spoke to Ahusaka.
“YOU WOULD HAVE ME KILL TO KEEP MY WOMAN AND GAVE HER AWAY.”
Jeptha’s intensity increased.
“WE WILL ALL LOSE TODAY IF WE FIGHT!”
“AHUSAKA, YOU GAVE ME KNOWLEDGE. SHEPHERD’S CROOK MAN GAVE ME WISDOM. BROTHER GAVE ME A CHANCE AT LIVING.”
“WE ALL HAVE LOST SOMETHING. “
BROTHER LOST A FARM AND GAINED A VILLAGE. AHUSAKA LOST A THUNDERBIRD AND GAINED HERONS. I LOST A SAPLING AND GAINED A FOREST.”
Emerson raised hand.
“BEAST WILL TALK LITTLE BROTHER!”
“I SMELL THE CURDLE OF MILK.
A STENCH. WE MUST LOSE OUR PRIDE AND FIGHT TOGETHER!”
Jeptha Berengar, known as Beast pushed the two aside and began running south.
Men gave sidelong glances at the Beast’s ramble and his bizarre behavior.
Suddenly from the sky to the south, an apparition appeared. It was a white box with a circular door. It settled on the ground. Men in dark robes began rapidly emerging from the door. A man of Northwich cried, “Minions!”
Ahusaka and Emerson knew they would have to work together. “Shield line!” Cried Emerson.
“Forward, March!” A tight band of shields and spears formed, ready for direct confrontation. There was no time for making sense of it all.
The Beast was the first to battle.
Directly, combat ensued. The Beast was savage and was fighting the minions with his bare hands. Soon he would be overwhelmed. There were too many.
A loud whoop came from the Heron. As they rallied around their leader, they shouted, “Ahusaka!”
The shield line caught the brunt of the force and the Heron flanked the sides. The horde of minions continued to emerge from the white box.
Brother shouted to Beast, “SHUT THE DOOR!”
The Beast pushed his way through the minions ignoring their blows. They jumped on his back and began to weigh him down. Shaking them off, he reached the box and closed the door. The minions knew where their companions emerged from and began battling Beast for control of the box.
Heron warriors circled and began helping the Beast maintain control. The shield wall steadily pushed its way through the minions.
When the last of the minions fell, there was no evidence that they had even existed. Round bits of black fabric were strewn around. The white box began to fade.
Ahusaka and Emerson Berengar watched their men as they tended to their injuries. The Heron and the men of Northwich worked together, John the sawbones gave direction.
There were no eloquent words spoken between the two leaders, just an unspoken understanding.