Mahariel's blade parried the first strike.

Ambush. They had hardly heard it coming.

She ducked the second blow, teeth bared, the sharp clang of steel grating against her ears, knowing rather than seeing, that Sten, too, was locked in combat behind her. The Tal-Vashoth (mercenary, perhaps; he was not well-armed enough to have been hired as an assassin) was nearly twice her size, hefting a double-bladed axe. She could use this to her advantage.

Mahariel danced left and right, just under the deadly blade, until she could slip her blade beneath his guard and—

Blood spurted from the wound, her adversary bellowing an enraged cry in his own tongue, right arm dropping as the severed tendons gave way. The elf allowed herself a blossoming feeling of satisfaction as she side-stepped his clumsy charge and leapt onto his back, wrapping her fingers around one of his horns to keep balance.

She sank her wickedly curved dagger deep into the exposed juncture between his helmet and pauldron.

"Warden!"

Mahariel's head snapped up immediately and she launched herself from the mercenary's back as he burbled and sank to his knees. While another fell at Sten's feet, a third disengaged and sprinted for her.

She was not particularly concerned, stepping aside and reaching for a pouch of glass and sand at her belt. The Tal-Vashoth charged past her, clawing at his face with his free hand as soon as the dust left her palm; Mahariel took great pride in her aim. She turned to finish the mercenary while he was frenzied.

But he was not the reason for the warning cry.

"Teth a, Kadan!"

Mahariel had never seen a weapon of such reach before.

Her parry was only effective enough to draw the point away from her heart, and it plunged deep between the thick, leather plates at her shoulder and arm.

It was like a pick, driving ice-cold into her skin, and her blood rushed hot around it, a sharp prickle driving from the blade down to the tips of her fingers.

A blade on a long haft, not unlike a mage's staff. She had seen things like it, but never engaged in combat against such. Human foot-soldiers sometimes used spears, but this…

"Katara vashedan, bas, ebost issala."

Asaala snapped the shaft in two and Mahariel dropped to the dust. The great-sword sang as it passed through the air, and the elf hissed, closing her eyes against the sunlight.

The Tal-Vashoth's head rolled in the packed dirt of the road, painted visage still snarling. Mahariel could see it lolling near her dropped blade, see the broken haft rising from her torso.

And Sten, a harsh line between his brows as he crouched, shadow shading her from the sun. She attempted a light-hearted look. "I take it that's all of themnngh?"

"Quiet."

She obeyed, and made barely a squeak as he broke the shaft further and hefted her into his arms.

"Do not move your arm or your neck. We will return to camp and find the healer."

Mahariel did not need to be told twice, and held as still as possible, gritting her teeth against each step. It would have been much more comfortable had Sten removed his gauntlets and maybe his breastplate. Her eyes drifted closed as her head settled lightly against the cool armor covering his bicep, and willing herself to keep still, even when it seemed the blade squelched against her flesh.

"The blade is keeping the worst of the bleeding at bay."

She was aware, but there were herbs that would do better. Not that she had any on hand. "Thanks," she grunted.

"Hush, Kadan."

She bit her tongue against asking: You said that before, what does it mean? and tried to relax. Mahariel sighed. It was better than trying walk back to camp alone.

She felt herself grow a little lightheaded.

When Sten spoke next, his voice was soft, and Mahariel did not open her eyes; she might have imagined the low, rhythmic tones. She would have to ask him about it later. If she remembered.

"Shok ebasit hissra. Meraad astaarit, meraad itwasit, aban aqun. Maraas shokra."