"During this period of time, I have focused a lot on our fights... the ones we used to do every day before you left. A few minutes ago, your fist was definitely strong, so much that it had crossed my defenses, which are my strong point. But your style is always the same, based on speed and counterattack. No one knows you better than I do, brother" Karl said, smiling and looking at Dag defiantly.
"Very good. I'm glad you can study your opponent with so much skill. But what if my fighting style changes?" continued Dag.
After loading the thrust bending over his knees, he snapped at Karl at great speed.
Karl kept his shield up, ready to parry the blow, but Dag stopped just before coming ahead of him.
Karl put his head behind the shield, convinced that the blow was imminent, but Dag crossed his arms, activating Earth Stomp.
Under Karl's feet, the terrain broke off and tripped him.
As he was about to fall, he tried to hit Dag with a clumsy tomahawk swing, but he dodged and grabbed the weapon.
Hitting Karl's arm from below, his hand open and Dag disarmed him in less than a second.
After Karl fell to the ground, he tried to turn around to protect himself behind the shield, but his tomahawk was already pointed at his throat.
"I must admit it, brother. You really managed to amaze me" Dag said, lowering the weapon and reaching out to his friend to help him get up from the ground.
"What the fuck was that skill? The ground under my feet has cracked and you've taken over, it's not fair! Let me try again!" said Karl furiously, who rose from the ground on his legs, without accepting Dag's help.
Dag looked at him fondly. Within himself, he loved Karl very much as if he was his younger brother.
His defensive-focused fighting style was much improved. The hard training he was undergoing every day was paying off. The way he used the shield was typical of Taya: while the strong Shieldmaiden matched it with a spear, he had decided to use a tomahawk, further reducing the range of his attacks and forcing his opponent to attack first.
Although simple, it was a good strategy.
"If you want to keep fighting, Karl, it's not a problem. But know that you've already passed the test" Dag smiled.
"Uhm? I ended up on the ground within minutes of the fight's start! You won once more! As much as I can train to beat you, you'll always win!" replied Karl.
"Hahaha! It's not true, and you know it. Being a little older than you, I joined a Clan and learned new skills. It's normal that you don't know them, you're still too young" Dag continued, rubbing Karl's hair with his hand.
Karl pushed him away with the shield and tried again to attack him with fury.
Dag quickly lowered himself and dodged the tomahawk. Turning on himself as he bent over his knees, he kicked Karl in the ankles, causing him to fall back to the ground.
As soon as Karl's back touched the ground, Dag punched him in the face a second time and took off his shield.
Karl turned his head behind him and spat blood, then wiped his mouth with his hand.
He got up, without saying anything else.
"This shield is nice. It looks like excellent steel, shiny and durable. I also really like its decorations" Dag said, looking at Karl's shield.
It was a medium-sized round shield, with smooth, sharp edges. Entirely made of chrome steel, it had in its center a lot of runes engraved in a circle, around a drawing depicting a large bear head with its jaws wide open.
"It's a gift from Master Taya. Several times I have shown her my skill in combat, beating the strongest of the students of the arena. When she gave it to me, she told me I had earned it" Karl said proudly.
"If she said so, I have no doubt. You've certainly earned it. Make good use of it" Dag continued.
"Yes, but now stop to thwart. Speak. What proposal do you have in mind?"
Dag re-approached Karl, helping him get up and giving his shield back.
"Come with me, we'll talk about it ahead of a good wild herbs brew" he said, inviting Karl to enter the farm.
Karl followed him, greeted Asa, and they both sat at the table.
"Here you are, guys. I hope it's still warm" Asa said, resting two clay glasses containing a steaming liquid on the table.
Dag and Karl thanked her and then resumed talking to each other.
"There are some things you need to know about me, about what I've been through this month. But before talking, I have to ask you a question" Dag said, introducing the speech.
"Would you be willing to leave Jernhest despite your father's health?"
"It depends on the proposal, but... yes. My mother is a strong woman, she will be able to look after him even without me" Karl replied, trusting Dag.
"Well, that's crucial. Because I'd like you to accompany me somewhere..."
Dag summarily told Karl of his exile from the Clan, his powers, and his desire to unify the Clans.
"And why do you want to go to this blacksmith? Isn't it more urgent to meet your sister Gridd? And then... I'm also sure that Freydis would be happy to see you again" Karl said.
"And I'd be happy to see her and my sister again. But Vegard might know more about my powers. I have to figure out how to control them perfectly, otherwise, I will never be able to enforce myself and convince the other Clans to follow me" said Dag, who omitted Brann's part in his story, believing it was a matter between him and his mother.
"Look" he continued, showing Karl the horseshoe pendant.
"I don't see anything extraordinary. It looks like a simple necklace to me... it's also a little ugly. I don't understand what it has to do with all this" Karl said, looking at the necklace in Dag's hands.
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