In last week’s post I discussed how to write viewpoint in a battle. I’ve never written a large battle of armies, but I’ve written a number of multi-person fight scenes. Below is a scene from THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN, a now out-of-print space opera. My viewpoint character and hero is Captain Valerian Grant. He and three of his ship’s crew have gone into the catacombs under the capital city to help locals find the kidnapped queen of the planet, and, yes, the locals use swords.
Notice how I switch back and forth in Val’s viewpoint from personal awareness to situational awareness of his group and their opponents. This allowed me to show both what is happening to and around Val.
After about ten minutes of travel, they reached a wider portion of tunnel where they could all walk almost abreast. They fell into groups of two and moved more swiftly. Prince Gregory came up beside Val, and they stayed close to Patrick at point. Following behind, Smith and Adam kept a constant eye on their sensors. Wadja guarded their rear.
Patrick hissed a warning, but before Val could half unsheathe his sword, the enemy was on them from behind. He tossed his lighted torch toward the wall to get it out of hand and from under foot, and brought the Lady's Sword out as someone huge, human, and armed with a sword materialized from the darkness in front of them and attacked.
He had a bare moment to be aware his group was outnumbered and surrounded on both sides before he parried a blow from his opponent. The swords clanged together, sparks flying in the half darkness.
Recalling Adam had never handled a sword and couldn't use a stunner because of the booby traps, Val spun and kicked his opponent's groin. He didn't have time to fight fair right now, but he'd apologize to the man's corpse later.
The man bent double, and Val smashed him across the face with the hilt of his sword. The man went down, and Val dodged his body as he studied the melee around him.
Patrick and Gregory fought back to back a distance away in one of the widest sections of the tunnel. Around them lay at least three wounded men, and they fought about four more. From the ease in which they relied on each other and worked as one fighter, Val could tell that part of Gregory's training with Patrick had been for situations such as this. Patrick's skill, which surpassed Gregory's, sparked a moment of speculation as Val searched for his own people.
With four wounded men at their perimeter, Wajda and Smith had their backs to the wall with Adam between them. Wajda with his deadly skill struck and darted like a snake at the two men who harried him, but Smith who'd never had training in swords depended on her superior Pandori strength to combat her three more experienced opponents.
She battered at them, and at each parried blow, the huge men staggered back under her brutal onslaught. Over a foot shorter, she forced them into awkward blows while she took advantage of the angle of attack by striking at undefended areas. One of her opponents was bloody across the lower chest and a second limped.
Adam, who had the wisdom to stay out of Wajda and Smith's way, employed his own great height by gigging and prodding the enemy with his sword. It wasn't the prime way to fight with a sword, but the men who fought Smith and Wajda had Adam to contend with too, and several had bloody heads, and one of the wounded on the floor had an upper shoulder wound only a giant like Adam could have dealt.
Val wondered at his own unpopularity as an opponent since he'd attracted only one fighter, then decided he'd been separated from the others in the first rush of the enemy. Careful to avoid the wounded who still had enough life to be dangerous, he advanced toward Wajda and Smith. He shouted a Viking cry he'd learned from Adam.
As the catacombs echoed with the frightening and demoralizing summons to battle, two fighters spun toward him. Val crouched, letting them come to him away from his people, then he exploded at them.
Visceral response and years of training took over and the next minutes became a blur of dodging and assaulting his two opponents who were both excellent fighters. Apparently, the bad fighters had all been wounded in the first round of battle.
These two opponents were far too wily to let him pull the same trick he had on his first enemy so he bashed the hell out of them while he sought an opening in their defenses.
Finally, the one to his left slipped on the damp catacomb stone. As the man tottered, Val kicked him in the knee. With a nasty but oddly satisfying crunch, the kneecap broke, and the man fainted, falling toward the other swordsman.
His other opponent dodged and stumbled. Val swung his sword like a ball bat toward the man's throat. The man's head tumbled off his shoulders like a lopsided ball, then the body crashed down.
Val sidestepped the head and body to avoid the slippery, gushing blood. In the dancing light of the dropped torches, the catacomb tunnel was littered with bodies and wounded, and around him, he could hear moans of pain and cursing. He counted important intact heads.
Patrick and Gregory, surrounded by fallen bodies, stood where they'd fought, and Patrick stanched a wound on Gregory's right forearm while keeping an eye out for enemy. Adam's blond hair shown in the half light as he bent toward Wajda who, standing, held his bleeding upper left shoulder, and Smith towered before them at guard. Her fine head fur bristled on end, her teeth bared in defense posture, she watched the fallen enemy and the passages to either side.
With a wordless, heartfelt prayer of thanks for everyone's safety after being attacked three to one, Val grinned and blew the Pandori female a kiss, then with his sword at ready, he made his way through the wounded and bodies toward Patrick and Gregory.