The heady scent of meadowsweet filled the air as we crossed the field. Strange, the things you notice as your life hangs in the balance.
The Templar Knight bore down on me, lance levelled and ready to pierce my heart. His plastisteel armour glinted in the morning sun. The design hadn’t changed much over the centuries, though his cyborg charger was more machine than horse these days.
As the deadly race drew nearer, the Templar flicked on the laser sighting mechanism on his lance. A red dot appeared on my naked chest. It hovered over my heart.
It was time …
I nudged Tharok in the flanks, and the Thunder Wolf responded eagerly. His long loping gait changed as he put on a final burst of speed. Yelping with enthusiasm, drool started to drip from the wolf’s canines. Tharok always dribbled when he got excited, and he lived for moments like this: the times of war.
I knew from experience that my spear was a good yard shorter in length than the Knight’s lance, so the odds were not in my favour. I was not the betting man’s choice, but those were the sort of odds I preferred. Even as Death approached, a man can become careless when he thinks he has already won.
Time slowed as we closed the space between us. The rest of my unit and the other Knights disappeared from my awareness. I was only focussed on the Templar before me, and he, only on the red dot on my chest.
At the very last moment, I squeezed Tharok’s flanks with my knees and he jinxed aside, sidestepping the razor sharp lance. The plastisteel tip glanced harmlessly off my buckler, and bounced away.
Lowering my spear, I drove the tip of it into the throat of the onrushing steed.
The cyborg horse squealed just like a normal horse would, and despite the machinery encased within its flesh, it crashed to the ground like a wingless bird, taking the Templar Knight with it.
I sprung from my saddle, rolled and drew my battle-axe, all in one well-practiced movement. The Knight was struggling to rise, dazed by the fall.
His armour, although appearing unchanged, was fitted with all sorts of electronic devices which monitored the Knight’s heartbeat, breathing etc. The machinery was working overtime as I approached, pumping painkillers into the man’s blood system to keep him from passing out. Given the time, the machinery would repair the torn muscles, stem the blood flow, and have the Knight battle-ready within minutes of even a serious accident.
My axe sliced cleanly through the Templar’s neck, killing him instantly. Even the high tech life support systems built into the armour would have trouble pumping blood into the Knight’s head when it was separated from his body by at least two yards of grassland.
Tharok barked a warning, and I looked around.
One of the Templar’s brother Knights had wheeled around, hoping to rescue the fallen unit leader. He was far too late, but once he realised this, revenge would be his new motivator.
My axe would prove useless against a charging Knight, and Tharok was too far away to reach. I looked around for my spear, but it was still buried in the horse’s keck, the shaft broken on impact.
My eyes landed on the fallen Templar’s lance, still gripped in the dead man’s gauntleted hand. Perfect.
Ripping it free, I planted the butt end of the lance into the soft dirt at my feet and braced myself for impact.
Once again, a red dot appeared on my chest, and this time I responded in kind, aiming the sighting system at the chest of the approaching rider.
Time slowed again as he closed the space between us.
With only seconds until impact, I tilted the lance slightly, changing the positioning of the infrared laser beam. It rose up the Knight’s chest and hovered around his helmet.
The red spot lanced directly into the eye slit, blinding the Templar at the critical moment.
Pain lanced through my shoulder as the tip of the Templar’s lance sliced along the bunched muscles there, but it would prove to be a minor wound. My own lance struck true, piercing the plastisteel helmet and the Templar’s brain beneath.
His charger knocked me aside as it raced passed, but I knew that it would be of no further danger. I could hear Tharok’s eager whine of anticipation, and knew that he would be drooling again, eager to taste the blood of the cyborg horse.
A snarl and a short squeal of protest confirmed my expectations.
I looked around, but the last of the Templars had been killed. The short battle was over.