The time for talking was over, Siron Darr looked left and right, his company lined up beside him as they always were. The odds weren’t good, thirteen against fifty, but he’d seen worse. The Scallian’s were showing steel already, those deadly curved blades they favoured. The time for blood had arrived.

Darr felt movement beside him and saw Malash, the Shifter, step forward. His skin was alive, moving like waves on the sea. Darr smiled; the odds weren’t that bad after all. He drew steel, long sword in his right, shorter blade in his left, and gritted his teeth. The wet sounds next to him, the crunch of bones, ripping of clothes, were the only sounds and both groups tried their best to ignore them.

The low rumble was felt more than heard, Darr saw some of the Scallian’s pale; they were a superstitious race and he could see they were spooked, uncertain. Tales of Shifters existed in every society Darr had visited, from The Four to far away Sarakesh, but none had seen one in centuries. There was movement to his right, a black hulk towering above him. Darr was reckoned a giant, standing near seven feet tall, but compared to this, he was no bigger than a Scallian. Malash the Shifter was gone, a monster Gorilla twice Darr’s height stood in his place.

The moment broke the same time the Scallian’s did, Darr and his company surged forward, swords and axe’s flashing in the sunlight, screams and blood filled the air. Above all the mighty roar of the beast, it tore into the Scallian ranks throwing bodies around as it they were toys. Darr cut three down from behind; there was no room for honorable conduct in situations like this. All around bodies littered the ground, broken, cut and bloodied. Darr was glad to see none were his friend’s.

One, braver than the rest, turned and stood his ground, Daar swung and their blades locked. He had some skill with a blade this one, they cut and thrust, parried and twisted. But Darr was stronger and stood head and shoulders above the smaller Scallian. No matter what skill you had, size and strength always mattered. Eventually the Scallian made a mistake and Darr split him from shoulder to gut, both hands gripping the hilt, his full weight behind the cut. The Scallian didn’t cry out, he didn’t have time to, the look of surprise on his face nearly made Daar laugh out loud. Then, like a dead fish the Scallian flopped boneless to the ground. Darr moved on, he was already forgotten; there were plenty more where he came from.

The rest of the Scallian’s were broken, half their number dead the rest fled. Darr stood covered in blood and gore, his company around him all breathing heavily but alive. The monster Gorilla stood beside Darr, its arms covered in blood, the fur matted.

“Just a little chat you said?” Joakim, Darr’s second, spat onto the ground, his one eye blazing with battle fever still. He pointed at the bodies. “Is this your idea of a chat?” Darr smiled as Malash, the Shifter, began to change next to him, his skin moving like waves on the sea.

“In situations like this,” Daar wiped the sweat from his face, his hand running up over his bald head. “You can’t avoid a little blood.” He looked round the ring of bloodied faces, all battered and scarred from a life time of living by the sword, and they all nodded in agreement. Beside him the noises had stopped and Malash was Malash again, a frail grey skinned creature with an over large head and black eyes. He looked at Darr and smiled.

“Better than sex.