The devil lunged at Haynes with a jab to the head. He slipped under the blow and countered with an open palmed hook. Before it could connect a blow slammed into his side, hammering his ribs. Haynes staggered back and his legs were swept out from under him.
What happened? Noah wondered from the ground. Then he saw the long, streamlined tail whipping behind Kazzak. Great, one fall and all I’ve learned is that the guy has a tail.
The crowd of devils roared with laughter. Kazzak smirked down at him with relaxed contempt. Noah stood and dusted himself off as nonchalantly as he could manage. He’d expected something like classical wrestling. This was more like pankration without the submissions. And a tail.
Man and devil assumed ready stances. Noah performed a side kick at the devil’s legs. Kazzak stepped back and countered with a jab. Noah parried, but was knocked to the ground when Kazzak’s tail struck the back of his knee. The gleeful shouting grew louder.
Haynes rose and the dance began again. Haynes moved in and out, varying the distance to his opponent without ever quite closing enough for either of them to strike. Every time his opponent would try to close, he would slip away. The spectating devils were getting restless. They began to cast insults at Kazzak, demanding he end it. Spurred on by the derision of his fellows, Kazzak lunged, trying to engage his elusive foe. Noah stepped to the side and began to counter when Kazzak’s tail whipped at his head. He blocked the blow, then grabbed the troublesome appendage and pulled. The devil stumbled at the unexpected force, and then fell as Noah swept one of his legs from under him.
The yells from the infernal crowd increased: “You should have had him.” “A child could have countered that.” “Are you blind as well as stupid?”
Kazzak stood. The contempt in his eyes had turned to hatred. He hurled himself at Noah and threw a vicious swing at his head. Noah stepped in and blocked the swing. The heel of his hand drove into the devil’s chin, slamming his hairless head back with a brutal chin jab. Haynes grabbed Kazzak’s still extended arm and hurled his opponent to the ground with a perfectly executed hip throw.
As Kazzak impacted the ground, the crowd went silent. The human had turned what they had thought was a fluke into a rally. The score was two-all, and Lord Belron was not happy. His eyes were stormy, and his face twisted into a scowl.
Kazzak stood and regarded Haynes warily. The hate in his eyes had boiled down into suspicion, and maybe a hint of fear. He could not allow himself to fail again. He squared off with Noah, but made no aggressive motions.
He’s scared of my counterattack. Good.
Suddenly Noah threw a front kick. As Kazzak began to respond, the kick melted into a lunging straight punch. Despite the feint, the devil still parried the blow. Haynes quickly disengaged his hands and spun around under his opponent’s guard, slamming a hammer fist blow into his temple. He sidestepped as the devil’s tail lashed out from behind his shoulder, and drove a side kick in the devil’s knee. Noah felt a tiny spark of pride as the joint broke. The sound of Kazzak striking the ground seemed to echo, despite the openness of the plain.