Every so often I like to attend various writing workshops. They give me a bit of direction and force me to write things I might not usually write. Here, we were shown a series of objects, asked to choose one and tell its story. I chose a strip of bark.

A thunderous clanging of metal resonated in the summer air, scattering birds that shouted angrily. The scraping of steel followed as a pair of blades fought against one another. One was pocked and scratched, nicks here and there at its base. The other shined starkly against the dullness of its adversary. Had it even seen a battle? The blades didn't dance but struggled, pushing one another against a massive oak that cast a deep shadow. Suddenly, the bright blade shifted, dragging the other down along the oak. The dull blade sliced through as it descended, shaving a wide strip of bark. It trailed behind the two blades until a loud grunt sent a man sprawling to the ground. The strip of bark fell unceremoniously amongst the roots. The man on the ground spit a wad of blood. He passed a gloved hand across his mouth, smearing scarlet droplets along a chin stubbled with grey.

"Some war hero."

The other man jeered, a quick jerk of his head sending red locks out of his eyes. His plated breast caught the afternoon sun. His shined blade was held casually low.

Pavarn stood, bringing his nicked longsword forward defensively. He blinked sweat from his eyes.

"There's a reason I left."

"Because you got old?"

The red-haired man lunged, a one-handed thrust sent at Pavarn's head. The older fighter easily swatted the blow aside, yet struggled to move out of the man's way. A steel pauldron caught his shoulder, sending him in an uncontrolled spin. He managed to turn it into an attack, bringing his blade around in a backhanded swing. The man in armour easily ducked it. The tip of the sword sent chips of bark flying.

"You've gotten slow old man."

"And you're getting on my nerves."

Finnik had always been as quick with his tonge as he was with a blade, even as a trainee at the Inquisitorius. Obviously both traits had seen him rise in station in Pavarn's absence. The royal blue cloak of a lieutenant trailed behind him as the younger man paced a threatening circle. Pavarn knew he couldn't outrun him, even with the plate armour slowing him down; the foliage wasn't that thick. He shouldn't have risked hunting on the lands of a lord.

This needed to end quickly.