Zaelor broke into a dead sprint toward the intruder as they wrestled to free their shirt from the arrow. That wasn’t quite so easy, however, since it looked like they was wearing a leather breastplate beneath the shirt, which the arrow had penetrated easily at this range.
The intruder heard Zaelor's footfalls and spun. Zaelor could see the white of their eyes through the eye slits in their mask, wide with a moment of fear like a cornered beast. They knew. They weren’t going to free the leather armor in time.
Zaelor nocked another arrow as he ran, drew, annnnnnnnd--slid to a halt right before he crashed into the intruder. Zaelor held the arrow tip against their throat.
He couldn’t resist a grin. “Hello. How about we try this again?”
He didn’t keep his gaze off their mask, but his peripheral vision caught motion below. He shifted the bow ever so slightly, releasing the arrow just to the left of the intruder's neck while he knocked their hand aside with his bow. A knife fell from their hand to the forest floor.
“Now, no more kniv--” he began, reaching up to jam his bow against their throat this time--until he realized the intruder wasn’t there any more. Their armor and loose green shirt were hanging uselessly from the tree, pinned now by his two arrows. The armor had ripped just enough to--
A knife blade rested against his neck as an arm hooked from behind him, under his arm and behind his neck. The intruder held him rather securely. They knew their stuff.
But so did he.
“Come on now, we're both rational adul--” Mid-sentence, Zaelor kicked his heel up into his assailant. He heard them grunt, and the intruder's grip loosened just enough to give him an opening.
Zaelor reached up with his open right hand and grabbed the intruder's knife-hand. As he stepped forward and to the left, he held on and spun on his heel, twisting the wrist painfully. Now he faced them, and they were growling in pain and buckling naturally to take pressure off their wrist. Despite their best attempt, the knife fell out of the intruder's hand.
Now Zaelor could see that in addition to their plethora of knives, the intruder also had two shortswords in scabbards on their belt. My, my. You’re more of a walking armory than me.
Also, apparently he wasn’t applying enough pressure to their wrist, because they were reaching across their body to unsheath one of the shortswords with their free left hand.
Zaelor sighed as he tweaked the intruder's wrist a little further down, but he could see with his peripheral it was too little, too late. The intruder had already started the motion of loosening the blade. Zaelor was about to get sliced in the stomach if he didn’t move.
And considering all he had right now was a strung bow and no arrow in his other hand, he was going to be in trouble if that happened.
[Excerpt from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]