He made a series of elaborate gestures meant to convey that “the men of both sides were merely sheep and too many had died.” Natas’ expression only became more confused and impatient.
“The king says…” began Arjaran.
“… Can he not speak for himself?!” erupted Natas.
“Alas no, he was reared by dogs and is unable to speak in the tongues of men.”
Natas snorted and gestured for Tonunda to continue.
More gestures followed.
“The king says too many have died on both sides.”
Natas waited a moment, expecting more.
“That is war; so what of it?!” he thundered, then began to turn his horse. “You are truly the savage I thought you were. The dogs can fight over your corpse by day’s end.”
Tonunda barked sharply, preventing Natas from going any further. Removing the white cloth, Tonunda thrust the lance into the ground.
An evil grin spread on Natas’ face.
“I see. A contest of kings. This pleases me. I had hoped it was my sword that found you in battle.”
Without turning his head, he held out his hand to his bannerman.
“My king, this is not necessary,” said the officer the other side of him. “We far out outnumber the northmen. Merely give me the word and we can crush them. There is no need for this risk.”
“Risk?” Natas laughed. “He is only a runt, fit to be culled, as I will soon prove.”
He tensed his arm impatiently, immediately receiving the banner of a Black Eagle in flight against a grey sky. Riding forward, he thrust his lance in the ground beside the Nusallean lance. Natas climbed down from his horse and slipped on his helmet. His bannerman pulled up beside him and took the reins of his horse. The two Vindavians left their king behind on their return to the army’s lines.
Tonunda slid from his saddle and extracted the axes from the holsters attached to his horse. Untying his horned helmet from the saddle, he secured it beneath his chin. He dared not look into the worried expressions of his men, lest he lose heart, as he handed his bannerman the reins.
Natas drew his two arm long sword from his sheath, and rested on the pommel, staring through the slits of his helmet. Tonunda studied his foe. The Vindavian monarch stood chest high above him, with long, heavy limbs. As the hooves of the Nusallean horses receded in his hearing, he never felt more alone… or afraid.
They waited, locking stares in silent agreement not to start until the riders reached the ranks of their respective armies. After a few moments, Tonunda nodded.
Natas nodded in return, instantly swinging the long broadsword in an upward arc for Tonunda’s chin with a speed he didn’t think possible. Tonunda rolled his head aside, allowing the long broad blade to hum by his head.
Shouts, along with swords hammering shields across the open ground from the Vindavian lines reached their ears as a deafening tumult.