Prime stood at the front of the crowd. He didn’t look like someone who had lived most of the way through two millenniums. Under the single light, his brush cut, blond hair shone. His face, all hard lines, but still smooth, could have easily passed for thirty.
As we stepped closer to him, he pulled a sword out of his trench coat. Between Lee’s teaching, and Daniel showing me some books on Roman history, I recognized it as a gladius, the Roman legions’ traditional sword.
Behind me, Marcus muttered, “There can be only one.”
In front of me, Lee pulled out his own gladius, apparently from nowhere.
Only Lee wasn’t Lee. I knew him as Gaius Calidius Gallius and I always had. Except I also knew that I knew him as Lee.
Gaius had dark hair, and tanned skin. Even though he wore jeans and a t-shirt instead of a toga or any armor, he somehow reminded me of the film “Gladiator.”
Gaius walked straight toward Prime, both of them shouting at each other — probably in Old Frankish.
We followed him (but not too closely) until they surrounded us.
Oddly enough, this was according to plan.
Once Gaius and Prime stood under the light, and roughly ten feet away from each other, Prime shouted, “Halt.”
Prime’s people stopped, creating a circle around the fight, and two groups within it — Prime, and the people we’d fought earlier on one side, and Gaius (Lee!) with us on the other.
Gaius turned briefly toward us, “We’re going to duel. Remember the plan.”
Once he gave his attention to Prime, they said a few words to each other, and then they attacked.
Lee had taught me the basics of sword fighting, but even the first few seconds of the fight showed me how much better they were than I expected to ever become.
Blades flashed faster than I could follow except in the most general way.
Still, I could see patterns in the way they fought.
Gaius never blocked Prime’s blade in a way that could let it become a contest of strength. He always deflected the blade at a small angle. Sometimes he didn’t block at all, managing not to be where the blow fell.
Not that Prime’s fighting style included a lot of wild swings. It didn’t.
For the most part, Prime didn’t slash, he stabbed, barely missing Gaius again and again.
Gaius showed no hesitation to slash instead of stab, cutting through Prime’s trench coat and shirt, leaving a long, bloody line.
Prime didn’t stop fighting, but his eyes widened as Gaius cut. Prime aimed blow after blow at Gaius even as the skin came together and healed.
Meanwhile Gaius’ strikes and blocks seemed slow, almost lazy, by comparison.
But they worked.
Gaius’ sword slashed Prime’s thigh, cutting a couple inches into it.
Even though the skin came together almost immediately, the blood flew half a foot away.
It struck me as desperation, but might not have been. Still, instead of moving a step or two like he had been doing, Prime rushed forward, running his sword through Gaius’ abdomen.
In anyone else, it would have been fatal, but Gaius barely even showed an awareness of the pain. Another sword appeared in his left hand, and he cut into the bicep of Prime’s sword arm. Then he used the sword in his right hand to cut into Prime’s neck.
The blow wasn’t strong enough to take the head clean off, so even as Gaius pulled his sword back for another shot, I could see Prime’s neck and bicep begin to knit themselves whole.
Unable to pull the sword out quickly enough to avoid Gaius’ blow, Prime let it go, backing away.
Ignoring the sword in his gut, Gaius stepped after him in no particular hurry, one sword in each hand.
If I were a betting man, I would have bet that Prime’s life would end less than ten seconds from that point.
I would have been wrong.
Prime shouted, “Now!”
And they rushed us from all sides.
Crazily, that still fit into the plan. Well, one of them anyway.
I pointed my left arm at the people running at us from that direction, and blasted them with the sonics, wishing I could do the same to the people coming from my right.
Not that it mattered. Jaclyn stood to my right. In a blur of purple, she knocked at least five people backward into the people behind them, giving us the time we needed to get into position.
By the time Prime’s people stopped holding their ears, or began to pull themselves up, I stood back to back with Jaclyn. Marcus stood to my left and back to back with Cassie.
Rachel floated above us, intangible.
Our next step? Fight our way through to Lee, and hope they didn’t take us out through sheer numbers.