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"What?! WAIT!" Dee screamed as the four soldiers ran toward her. Treach growled and charged the closest man, who gripped his blade tighter and prepared to meet the beast with sharpened steel. The other three men ignored the dog, focusing instead on the woman. Dee began to backpedal.
She took exactly one step-
Treach crouched and leapt-
A shape exploded from the fields to Dee's left, darting into the middle of the soldiers. The first man... Treach's target... spun to see the shape that had ran behind him. Less than the blink of an eye later, Treach collided with the distracted soldier. Sharp white teeth bit into his arm as the dog rode the falling man to the ground. At that same instant, the man that Dee had called the 'scarecrow' slammed into the second soldier. It was a rough, brutal hit. The man drove his elbow into the soldier's gaping mouth with full force and weight of his body. Teeth exploded out of the soldier's skull like candy from a ruptured pinata-
The first soldier began to scream. Treach still had the man's right arm in his jaws, and was shaking the limb back and forth like a toy. Blood soaked the man's coat sleeve... and Treach's mouth. The soldier tried to transfer the blade from his flailing right hand to his left.
"NO!" Dee charged. Not AWAY to safety, but toward the man that was a few heartbeats away from plunging his knife into her dog's flank.
The other two soldiers ignored her. The new arrival had shifted their priorities, and now the old soldier and the remaining youngster closed on the scarecrow quickly... running... trying to reach him before-
The scarecrow grappled with the soldier he'd hit. The soldier's knife hand still managed a clumsy slash. His attacker caught it, broke the soldier's wrist with an easy, practiced twist, and came away with the blade in his grasp.
Dee was in mid-stride, hand buried in the side-pocket of her backpack. She was focused, but the sudden explosion of motion caught her attention. She caught only a glimpse of what happened next. It was enough. A bolt of ice washed down her spine as she saw the man take the knife... saw his face change from stern and focused to... something else. Something cold and dark and grinning. Both of the remaining soldiers were a footstep away, but the smiling scarecrow didn't seem to care-
He started with the man he'd collided with, opening his abdomen with a gut-ripping diagonal slash. He let the motion carry him around into another slash, this one aimed at the arm of the third soldier, who was moving in for an attack. The soldier darted back, unharmed but now wary. The old soldier moved in quickly, but the scarecrow as already moving... spinning out of the way. His leg flew out, catching the disemboweled but still standing soldier across the back of one knee. He fell. It was a perfectly orchestrated motion. The falling soldier's throat met his own blade... now in the scarecrow's hand... as it slashed up and around. Bright red blood sprayed into the old soldier's eyes, blinding him for an instant. He backpedaled, hissing in anger-
Dee reached Treach just as the screaming soldier stabbed his blade toward the dog's exposed side. She thrust her left arm between the soldier's wrist and the dog, blocking the strike. At the same time, she jabbed her stun baton into the soldier's throat, just beneath the chin.
"LEAVE US ALONE!" She screamed. She pushed the button, and the soldier went into an electricity-induced seizure. His entire body locked; his back lifted from the ground as his mouth opened in an almost silent scream.
Dee kept her finger on the button as she looked up-
The two remaining soldiers faced off against the scarecrow, forming a slowly-rotating triangle in the middle of the road. The younger one had apparently moved in to protect his temporarily blinded superior, but it had cost him. His right sleeve was a bloody mess of shredded cloth. He held his blade in his left hand, with his right side facing his opponent. A few steps away, the older soldier wiped the last of the blood from his eyes and raised his blade.
The scarecrow stood with his left side toward them. The knife spun in his right hand, flipping and rotating between his fingers as he held it up beside his head. He wasn't just showing off... the constantly moving blade drew the attention of his opponents. The old man watched his eyes, but the young one's gaze was fixed on the flashing knife. Dee was almost hypnotized himself.
"Get him!" the older soldier spat. They both moved in.
The scarecrow's blade never stopped spinning. The three figures met. Knives flashed, and there was the sound of ripping cloth. Someone screamed in pain. Two of the figures spun apart, and the third staggered. The younger soldier limped and swayed, but didn't fall. Not yet. The side of his coat was wet. He'd been sliced from hip to armpit, but he still held his blade.
"Don't you run!" the old soldier barked. "We have to put him down! You know what he is!"
The young man raised his knife and locked eyes with the scarecrow.
The old soldier leapt, assuming his target was distracted. He may have been, but it didn't matter. Blades slashed past one another as both men struck- and missed. They leapt apart, but the wounded soldier saw an opportunity. He charged silently, thrusting-
The scarecrow caught his arm and hesitated for the instant that it took for the older soldier to make his move, bringing his blade down toward the scarecrow's briefly exposed back. His target spun, and the blade sank hilt-deep between the shoulders of the younger soldier, who instantly went limp in the scarecrow's arms.
The old man feigned a retreat, pulling his knife free, dancing back for one step, then rushing forward, dodging the scarecrow's slashing blade-
-then screaming as the SECOND knife... the one the young soldier had wielded... carved a bloody groove down his right arm from wrist to elbow.
The new retreat was not a feint. The scarred old soldier backed away before his opponent, who now had two blades dancing between his fingers.
The blades suddenly stopped.
The soldier jerked as if stricken, then stood his ground.
"You have to die!" the soldier spat. "You know that! There's no choice in the matter now... you HAVE to die! You know what'll happen if you run free! You KNOW! It is a DUTY to see you dead!"
The scarecrow said nothing.
The soldier accepted the silent challenge, and charged.