"Ha!" the count cried, showing off a triumphant, toothy smile as Kevin thrust in. The light in the rapier's sapphire burst forth, turning the entire weapon a blazing blue.
Kevin felt his sword get swatted to the right before he even saw the rapier move. Staggering sideways to keep his balance, he fought to control his blade as it nearly leapt out of his hands. And the body in front of him was spinning, leaving behind a blue trail as the gleaming rapier danced away, and then --
"Touché!" the count cried. Kevin barely had time to flinch before he felt the guard of the rapier slam into his chest. Pain speared through him.
As the count yanked the bloody sword free, Kevin staggered backward, lost his balance and sat down with a tooth-rattling thump. He realized numbly that the blade had gone clean through his body.
"And now you see ze full extent of my glorious skill," the count gloated, bowing with a lengthy flourish. "Surrender, and I might accept your apology."
Several other things fought for Kevin's attention. The most pressing was that it hurt to breathe. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw that David -- curled up on the floor, jacket growing a red stain -- had managed to pull a healing potion from one of his pockets. Out of the other corner, he saw a fierce blue glow from the gem mounted in his sword. And in front of him, he noticed with a flash of morbid amusement, the feather on the count's hat was still on fire.
"Kevin!" David called. "Catch!"
Kevin turned his head in time to see David throw a vial of healing potion at him. He reflexively lifted his right arm -- new pain flaring out in his chest -- before realizing that he was still holding the sword. He tried vainly to open his hand up enough to catch the vial anyway, misjudged the throw, and felt the vial hit his arm.
The glass instantly shattered, as if it were thinner than his fingernail, and fizzing liquid splashed all over his body.
"Shit!" Kevin and David cursed simultaneously. But even as Kevin was scrambling to salvage the remains of the vial, he noticed that the liquid was being absorbed into his clothing. He felt a funny tingling in his chest, and a sudden coolness where the earlier shadowling scratches had been.
Kevin looked down. Fabric was knitting itself back together.
"Oh. No way. No way," David said, open-mouthed. "We can throw potions."
Kevin took a deep breath -- pain and adrenaline receding into an elusive vertigo -- and stood up. He narrowed his eyes at the winged shadow and leveled Diune's sword -- gem still flaring a brilliant blue.
The count sighed. "You sunlit whelps and your healing magic. Be that way. You are only prolonging ze inevitable end." He raised the rapier sideways again, gem pulsing back to life.
Kevin looked down at his own sword, gem outshining the shadow's. Insight hit him between the eyes. He smiled.
"You mean the end where we kick your ass?" Kevin asked. He heard thumping and cursing in the background as David tried to activate another vial of healing potion by whacking it against his body.
"You heard me, Cheesy," he said. "You want a piece of me? You think one lucky shot makes you some sort of superstar?"
"Zat does not sounds like surrendering," the count said crossly. David gave up and uncorked his potion.
"Come try that again," Kevin taunted. "I want to see which is worse -- your swordsmanship or your taste in clothes."
The count slowly brought his sword in line with Kevin. "Such appalling manners," the shadow said. "Almost as poor as your defense. You'll regret them both."
Kevin thrust his hand out, lowering his sword to a sideways line. He visualized energy flowing from his body into his sword -- as David had showed him while he was trying to figure out his special moves earlier -- and felt the gem almost grab it, devour it, coiling it up like a snake ready to strike. Kevin grinned madly, light-headed, the hilt of the sword almost seeming to pulse in his hand.
The count beat his wings, surging toward Kevin blade first, and Kevin let control of that energy go. His body flew into motion, as if it was being moved like a puppet.
He heard the clash of metal as his hand twisted and his arm whipped sideways -- Diune's blade catching the rapier and flinging it away. The world spun around him as his body twisted toward that arm, sidestepping and pulling the pommel of the sword in close to his body. The count spun back into view, trying to bring his rapier back in line, and Kevin's feet caught and shoved, launching him forward as his sword arm extended. Kevin felt his bodily control return, just in time for his hurtling form to slam fully into the count, who staggered backward with a heavy wheeze.
As he also fell back, Kevin tightened his grip on his sword, and felt it slide free of something soft and yielding.
Kevin sat down again, head spinning. He stared at the count, who was picking himself up from the floor, looking down in horror at a huge black stain on his cheery green shirt.
"Ah!" the count said, touching his wound with his left hand. "Inconceivable!"
"Kevin!" David said, grabbing him under the arms and hauling him to his feet. "Did he hit you again?"
"I don't think so," Kevin said, looking at his sword. The gem was dark once more.
"My consummate swordsmanship has failed me!" the count said. "Against such a ... rude little child!" He narrowed his eyes at Kevin and pointed an accusing finger. "You ... you ..."
"Yes?" Kevin said, settling back into a fighting stance, heart pounding exuberantly.
"You haven't seen ze last of me!" the count said, whirling and spreading his wings. "You'll regret this!"
The shadow leapt, wings beating, and circled through the air above the pool. Kevin and David watched the flaming feather on its hat spiral up, then dive toward a wall out of reach of the ramps in the upper half of the chamber. A section of the wall faded into a black square just in time for the form to fly through, and then the portal disappeared again with a quiet pop.
David raised his fist. "Alright! That was awesome!"
Kevin let out a whoop, high-fiving David and then pumping his fist in the air. "Kevin learns Counter!"
"Didn't I tell you this game kicked ass?"