Big John was breathing hard, sweating and wishing for rest. Though now was not the time. The King's army was on the move. He heard the horn blowing and could hear the clatter of men marching, but he dared not turn around to see.
Mexta stood dazed, a deep gash in her brow covered the right side of her face in blood, but he could not underestimate her. One wrong move and she would make him pay. His sword had fallen to the ground behind her and she was still holding on to her axe.
Blinking away the blood, she took a step forward. She only had eyes for him, not aware of the Orcs around her scattering, readying for war. Their fight was forgotten for all, but her.
Following her lead, Big John took a step back. With her step, Mexta's head drifted off to the side, making her stumble to his left. She caught herself with a growl, shaking her head back and forth.
Big John knew what a mailed fist to the head could do. His left hand still ached, but it had been his only option after having lost his sword. He was still faced with the problem that he was unarmed and Mexta was, but at least she was no longer fresh to the fight.
What was once a circular fighting pit had quickly turned into an open space as the Orcs started to build ranks to fight the oncoming army. Big John could see Gwarr out of the corner of his eye. The Orc Elder had drawn his great sword, shouting commands. Though he scanned the formations of his clan, he also kept an eye on Big John and Mexta.
Big John mouthed the words "I will not die" for courage, his eyes darting toward his sword. Mexta's imbalance had moved her far enough away so that he could go for it. He had no time to hesitate, his movements brought Mexta to action. She swung her axe, bringing it down into the soft earth with a thud.
Big John was not only strong, but also fast. In Mexta's rocked state he was quicker than her axe, diving under it to grasp his sword. Coming back up on to his feet with a roll, he placed the tip of his blade at Mexta's throat.
She drew in a sharp breath. Her left eye, clear of blood, tried to focus on him, pupil swinging from left to right as if seeing two of him. Her hands, still wrapped around the haft of her axe, let go as her shoulders sagged in defeat.
Big John held the sword tight, putting pressure on Mexta's skin. Blood welled up and dripped from the edge of the blade. He eased off the pressure, flicking his gaze toward Gwarr.
"I will not die here! Let me go and she lives."
Gwarr turned his full attention toward them, grunting. "Leave the sword and go. Run!"
Mexta hissed as the blade dropped to the ground, turning toward her leader. "You let him dishonor me like this?"
Big John did not waste time by listening to more. This was his chance, the only chance he would get. Gwarr had allowed him to leave, the King's army was rushing toward the Orc ranks, everyone would have eyes for the battle, not for him.
His heart pounded as he ran for the safety of the King's ranks. He heard men shout at the sight of him. They did not slow their charge, but they recognized him as their own. He would be able to let them pass and would be safe behind their lines. More than one hundred men would be between him and the Orcs.
The weight of his armor burdened him. He didn't know how much longer he could run like this. Thankfully, he was getting closer and closer to the safety of the King's men. As soon as he was passed them he could slow down and remove the heavy chainmail and plate armor.
The second half of the King's army still stood on the other side of the field, making a slower advance. They would surely be able to take him in before they joined the fray. He couldn't keep his mind from wandering as he ran, thinking about the strategy his kinsmen were using to engage. Having reinforcements was good, but most if not all of these men had never fought Orcs before. The more they outnumbered them the better, in his opinion.
The thoughts worried him, wondering about the outcome of the battle. How safe would he be if the King's men were defeated. Would he just end up back in a fighting pit, surviving one day to the next by defeating anyone pitted against him or would they just kill him straight away.
He told himself that he would not die. That he would make it out of here and would see Small John again. All these things going through his mind helped his body cope with the strain of running. He was almost at the oncoming line of King's men when he heard the familiar sound of bows twanging. The army slowed, shields being raised. Big John dared not look back, so all he saw was the face of one of the King's men. He was young and reminded him of Small John. Not as tall, but full of energy.
Big John watched the young man's demeanor change from an angrily charging warrior to a worried, helpless onlooker. That's when the first arrows fell around him. Some arrows sank into wooden shields with a thunk, others buried themselves in the ground and two found Big John's back.