In today’s fight from Intisar Khanani’s work in progress, we explore a fantasy setting with two magically powered combatants. Woot!
Author: Intisar Khanani
Book: Memories of Ash, work in progress (Update: Now available!)
Buy Link: Buy Memories of Ash on Amazon
Combatant 1: Hitomi, female, 16 years old. Slight build but good strength. No combat training at all. Just before this scene, an unknown force with the ability to fight takes her over and moves her through this scene.
Combatant 2: A lycan, or werewolf. Elite guard, well built, very well trained.
Scenario: Hitomi is fleeing the lycan through a wide hallway, trying to reach the roof. He just grazed her in the upper arm with a crossbow bolt, so one arm is badly injured and bleeding.
When the lycan reaches me, he grabs my good hand with his free hand and lowers the crossbow. I barely register the scream of pain through my body as I clench my other fist and slam it into his chest, ripping my good hand free as I step into the blow. Blood splatters on his leather armor, but it’s my blood, flowing down the hand that struck him. He staggers backwards, mouth gaping, the crossbow clattering across the floor.
I follow up with a kick, aimed at his legs, but he recovers enough to block the attack. And somehow I expected this, because I’m already moving into the opening he made when he dropped his guard while blocking me, the fingers of my left hand flicking out and nimbly plucking the dagger from his belt as I whip past him.
A dagger? No—
But my body doesn’t mind me. I drop down, attempting to knock the lycan’s legs out from under him as he pivots to keep me in his sight. He stumbles slightly, avoiding me. I regain my feet, moving fluidly. He snarls, his fist jabbing towards me, and I block it with my bad arm, once, twice, my arm shuddering, muscles screaming. But still, I whip sideways and kick hard. I don’t see it but I feel the ball of my foot connect with his leg, the shock reverberating through my boot and up my leg.
He stumbles again, and I step into the opening, my good hand with the dagger coming up in what will be a killing strike—
“No!” I grab my hand with my mind, and for a moment I’m frozen there, the dagger a hairsbreadth from the lycan’s throat, my body not yet mine to order. “No,” I scream again, unsure if it is with my mind or mouth or both. And then I’m firmly back in control, whirling and slamming my hand with its dagger against the wall with all my strength. Again, and again, until the fingers sealed around the hilt lose their grip, the dagger clattering to the floor. I bend over my hand, gasping, aware of pain tracing the lines of the bones in my hand, the far greater pain of the ripped muscle and shredded flesh of my upper arm. I squeeze my eyes shut, chest heaving.
When I open them again, it’s to the sight a sword blade hanging in the air just below my throat.
The first point is that Hitomi is entering this fight injured. The depth of the wound isn’t described, but a deep enough cut can actually render a limb immobile. Fortunately, it’s implied that the crossbow hit her on the outside of the arm, rather than the inside where it might have severed a tendon and caused problems with suspension of disbelief. Generally, if you want a character to keep doing things after being hurt, keep the wounds on the outsides of the limbs, as we see here.
“I clench my other fist and slam it into his chest, ripping my good hand free as I step into the blow.”
Yes! Every detail in this sentence is correct. Stepping into a punch, using the distraction of the blow and the twisting momentum to free the other hand, it’s all good.
“Blood splatters on his leather armor, but it’s my blood, flowing down the hand that struck him.”
With this degree of blood loss, Hitomi should be getting lightheaded, no matter what force is controlling her. Human bodies have a limited supply of blood, and after enough of it leaves they just stop working. If she’s losing enough blood that it’s streaming all the way down her arm to her hand, she should pass out very soon after this fight, and should start having balance problems midway through it. An easy fix would be to change “flowing” to “dripping,” to imply a visual less like a fountain.
“… he recovers enough to block the attack.”
Since Hitomi follows this up by moving into an opening and stealing a dagger from the lycan’s belt, I’m assuming he blocked this kick to the lower body with his arms. This is generally not done, precisely because it opens the combatant’s guard. The lycan would more likely dodge the kick or raise a knee to intercept it. Instead, I’d switch the kick to the legs with a round kick to the torso, followed by a punch to the face. This combination is more likely to lure the arms away from the lycan’s belt, exposing the dagger for Hitomi to steal it.
“… attempting to knock the lycan’s legs out from under him …”
This is called “changing levels,” and it’s a great way to inject excitement into fight scenes. Varying the height at which your combatants operate creates far more interesting visuals than having them both standing the whole time. Good strategy.
“… I block it with my bad arm, once, twice, my arm shuddering, muscles screaming.”
If the force possessing Hitomi is trained with blades, she would block these punches with the knife. All blocks in martial arts double as strikes, and that doesn’t change when holding a weapon. She could either use a slash of the blade to parry the punch, injuring the lycan, or block with her forearm if her own desire not to hurt anyone gets in the way. But there’s no reason she should be blocking both of these with her bad arm.
However, the lycan would indeed punch twice (though he should alternate hands), and if Hitomi’s blade hand is busy with the first punch, then she would block the second one with the injured arm, leading to this great description of the pain it causes.
“I whip sideways and kick hard. I don’t see it but I feel the ball of my foot connect with his leg …”
Side kicks use the heel or blade of the foot, not the ball. Heel is preferred, as it does more damage. The later description of the shock reverberating up the leg is quite accurate and makes good use of physical detail.
“… aware of pain tracing the lines of the bones in my hand.”
This is another great detail, and very realistic. Having gotten my hands bashed with sticks and the like before, I can attest that this is exactly what it feels like. I would expect in a later scene to see her hand swelling and bruising and having some trouble closing.
“… the far greater pain of the ripped muscle …”
I’m hesitant about the ripped muscle, since the injured arm still manages to have decent mobility during the scene, but I really love the visceral word. Since this is a fantasy setting with a magical force controlling Hitomi, I think it warrants the greater suspension of disbelief to leave it alone, but in a more modern setting, I’d switch “ripped” to “grazed” or something that implies less total destruction.
In summary, this scene has great variation in activity and uses clear and effective visuals. It also uses excellent physical reactions to drive home the strain of the combat. There are a few technicalities to be corrected, but those are easy to fix. An all-around solid fight.
What did you think of this fight? Do you agree with the analysis? I’d love to chat with you, so scroll to the comments and say hey!