Her battle axe gleamed along its edge. Mexta spent the morning sharpening it and preparing. The battle was nearing and she planned to trim lots of human heads off their shoulders. The human army was gathering on the far side of the field. They must have been marching over a week to have made it here at this time. They would be exhausted and easy to kill.
On the other hand, the humans outnumbered the Brogdah Clan five to one. Not great odds, but their kind was weak compared to the broad-chested, hulking berserkers that were the Orcs. Mexta saw this battle going only one way. The humans would regret having started this war, cursing the day their king commanded them to attack the Orcs.
Mexta stepped through the gathering crowd of Orcs, tusks held high, a twitch of a smile at the corners of her mouth. The battle would be the entire clan's victory, but her fight would be her own. She had waited for this day ever since the raid on that first human village. When she saw the Giant in battle she knew she had found a worthy foe. Someone it would be an honor to die against.
Of course, she had no such thing in mind.
Each of her steps radiated confidence and inspired awe among her fellow Orcs. They made way for her as she neared the fighting circle, closing the gap behind her. She was there and ready to face the man she had kept alive for the last couple of weeks. Today, the Giant would die by her hand.
He stood in the circle armed with the longsword he had taken in his first fight. His armor was now a complete set of plate with a chainmail vest, having traded Skard's axe for the protection. Skard was pretty beat up about his loss, but glad to have his weapon back.
The Giant was looking over the gathered group, not even the least disturbed by their yelling and growling. He was watching the gathered troops of his king. For the first time there was more than just defiance in his eyes. There was hope.
He slowly turned to regard his challenger of the day, eyes widening as he understood. The shock was all she had hoped it would be. She had decided not to tell him that he wouldn't be facing one of the young grunts.
"You knew I've wanted to fight you since the day we raided your village. Well, now the day has come. It's now or never."
The Giant glared at her. He took a deep breath, lifted his sword in front of him and let it drop to the ground. "Then never. I will not fight you and you will not kill me as long as I don't fight."
She had worried that he might respond that way. Grinding her teeth, she nodded her head to the circle's side at Gwarr. He stood tall, surrounded by his clan, wearing his scarred armor, a great two-handed sword strapped to his back. "I wouldn't kill you, but he would. He's wanted you dead since I brought you to our clan. If you don't fight me, he'll kill you before the battle for the entire human army to see."
Gwarr grinned. He would finally get what he wanted. Mexta would hate not having had the chance to fight the Giant, but in the end Gwarr was still her Elder. It was his decision.
She watched the Giant carefully as he processed the information and thought about his options. Not that he had many to choose from. His eyes darted across her fellow Orcs toward the human army and then back to Mexta and down at his sword. He sighed and picked it up.
"I'll fight you." His voice was void of emotion, the strength and vigor that had built up over the last days was drained in an instant. "But if I win, I want to be let free."
Mexta smirked at that. "If you win you'll have to kill me. This fight is to the death. Either you die or I die, there can be no other ending."
The fire in his eyes that she had grown to relish faded. His hope of survival dwindling away. "If I kill you, your clan will kill me."
Mexta shrugged, hefting her axe into both hands. The Giant's shoulders slumped and she realized this was not the Giant she wanted to fight against. It would not be the challenge she had hoped for.
The defeated Giant slowly turned his body into a defensive stance. He was waiting for Mexta to attack. As she stepped forward she saw that he may have lost the fire in his eyes, but the fire in his heart still smoldered. He would fight to live, even if only for a bit longer, all she had to do was show him how serious his situation was.
She took one slow step at a time, closing the gap between them. The Giant waited for her to strike, unmoving. Mexta lunged forward, swinging her axe over her head and bringing it down in a diagonal slash. The gathered Orcs shouted for blood.
The Giant's eyes darted between the edge of her weapon and the movements of her body, anticipating the arc of her blow. He dodged aside, a renewed spark lighting up in his eyes, just as she had hoped.
His sword darted out at her, thinking she had given him an opening, but she spun around with her axe and parried with a clang. Her tusks spread in a grin.
"This is the Giant I wanted to slay." Her words were swallowed by the howls and growls of the onlookers.
Recovering from the clash of there weapons, the Giant gritted his teeth.
"I will not die!"
Mexta didn't know if he was telling her, the Orcs around them or was trying to give himself strength by saying the words aloud. She didn't care. The Giant had risen and the battle blood was surging through his veins as it pulsed through her own.
A growl built up in the Giant's throat that could be heard over the clamor of her clan. He sprung into action with speed and fury. His sword was long and nimble compared with her axe. All she could do was block the incoming blows and turn them aside with the metal haft of her weapon.
Although Mexta was being driven back, her brethren cheered. They reveled in the action, the impending danger, the imminence of blood being spilled. Their own urge to kill would be rising and when the battle started their strength would prevail against the humans.
The Giant repeated "I will not die!" with his onslaught. Every strike caused sparks to spring from the clashing metals. He had driven her from one side of the makeshift arena to the other, but with his next strike Mexta finally countered. She let his sword glance off the haft and drew it toward the hooked edge of the axe's blade. With a sharp twist the weapon was jerked from the Giant's hand.
The maneuver weakened her own grip on the axe and before she could ward him off the Giant swung a mailed fist at her face. The blow knocked Mexta to her knees, but she held on to her weapon.
A high pitched ringing sounded in her right ear. She tasted metal, seeing red as she looked up at the Giant towering over her. Deep bursts of sound pounded through the ringing. The constant roar of her clan could not be heard.
Mexta spat blood from her mouth. Biting down on her lip, she forced herself to stand, her grip on her axe tight. It wasn't until the ringing started to ebb away that she recognized the deep sound as that of the blowing of a horn.