Il Eskrimci of Constantinople
The morning had been exceedingly fine, up until now. People of all descriptions hurried past my sidewalk breakfast table; beautiful women heading to market, merchants to the docks, sailors to the brothels, in a never ending cycle. And the wine was doing it’s work, clearing my head of it’s memories.
His tankard lay at my feet, it’s contents soaking my shirt. He was dressed roughly, wearing the rag-tag costume of a gypsy scoundrel, his movements those of a drunkard, yet I noticed that his eyes were bright, and knowing. Had the spill been an accident? Fool the man might be, but not a drunken fool... or so I surmised.
“You must answer for the shirt,” I scowled at the knave. “It is silk. You do not have the look of one who can afford silk.”
“I have no money, Sire. Only those spent coins which bought the spilt wine.” His English was good enough, the accent familiar. A Pole perhaps, or a Slovak?
“Well, you must answer for it, anyways. How do you propose to?”
“I’ve naught but this sword, Sire.” He drew it from a dangling scabbard as he spoke. It was a fine blade, a blade made for a king or prince, certainly not for one such as this man. The blade itself was layered Damascus, the cross-guard polished silver, the handle leather, and the pommel inlayed with sapphires. It was easily the equal to the one in my own scabbard, if not it’s better. It was obvious that this man could not afford such a sword, so it stood to reason that he had taken it, but from whose dead hand?
But his intent confused me. “Here now!” I exclaimed. “That sword is too high a price for this shirt.”
“Ah, Sire. You misunderstand. It is not a trade I propose, but a contest.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“I do. And I’ve come many miles looking for you, too. Yours is a long reaching, if surly reputation. I’ve come to take it from you.”
I stood then, pulling the wine-stained blouse over my head as I did so. My upper arms and forearms bulged from years of rigorous practice and training. A breeze from the sea tickled the sweat on my naked torso. There was an audible ring from my blade as it was unsheathed, sending those nearby scurrying from the sidewalk. But they ventured none too far, for here was their chance to see the one whom the Turks called Il Eskrimci, or, “The Swordsman” at work. It would be a story those gathered around could tell their grandchildren someday, that they were here to witness greatness. I carved the air with my blade’s tip, the steel singing as it expertly swept and sliced, a show before the show for the benefit of those lucky enough to see, and to hear.
I took a long pull at my own tankard before turning to face my adversary. I was a head taller, standing. “You’ve a powerful Jen,” I commented to him. “He has granted your wish to die. En guarde, my foolish friend. Why waste more time?”
“I am not your friend, but I can also be courteous, on occasion. “En garde.”
The gypsy - if that is what he was - while smaller moved exceedingly well, displaying speed and balance. He held his sword strangely, in a different style. Wary, but confident, I assumed the offensive slowly, purposefully testing his skill, my attack deliberate, yet always pressing.
He parried easily, and again. There was strength in his grip, and in his wrist. I pressed harder while still maintaining a safe defensive posture, wary of a trick, but he also seemed satisfied to wait, so I pressed harder yet, wanting a feel for his reposte. I advanced with a quick succession of jabs and slices that took him aback. Surprise sprung into his eyes, but not yet fear, although that would come soon enough. His parry was successful, almost. As my attack relented he relaxed. In that anticipated moment I allowed my blade’s tip to drop down where it ever-so gently touched the inside of his sword wrist; a light touch only, feathery, probably not even felt, yet the trickle of bright red blood it left behind was unmistakable. There was an audible gasp from those looking on. Feeling the bite, he stole a glance and was visibly shaken by the red spots that were already accumulating on the grimy granite beneath his feet.
His face held a new caste now. Gone was his braggadocio. In came the fear, and the fury. He lunged. I was pressed to hold him off, our nearly invisible blades clattering like ceramic china in a bustling kitchen as the crowd fell silent around us, everyone sensing the end of the drama, and impatient for it.
I suddenly felt very good. The exercise was awakening sleeping muscles, while the nearness of death awakened intoxicated senses. The late-morning sun was warm on my skin, the breeze soft with the fresh odors of the sea and the stink of mankind mixing nicely together upon it. It was a good day to be alive! As the gypsy’s attack ebbed, it’s strength dispersing laterally like a wave on a beach, my riposte sliced into the nipple over his heart; not deep mind you, but deep enough. Through his torn shirt the crowd saw it, and sensed that I was toying with him. A great cheer for my skill and aim rent the air. I smiled at the adoration, despite myself. “You have come a long way to die. What is your name? I do not like to kill a man I do not know.”
“My name is Korlov.”
Well, worry not, Korlov. It is a beautiful day to die.” A distant memory surfaced, the memory of a peasant girl named Korlov. Maria Korlov. The riddle was solved. “You came here to avenge your sister? So easy to seduce, that one. She must keep you very busy, if that is your duty?”
“She has a bastard child because of you, and no man wants her because of it. You ruined her, and I will ruin you.”
“Come then. I am bored with talking.”
Blood saturated his shirt front, and oozed from his wrist. Soon he would weaken. I could already feel a looseness in his blade from the injured wrist. It would not be long now. The moment called for patience, but I had little. After all, I was a showman!
So I sprung. My lunge caught Korlov by surprise. His parry was slow. My jab intended for his cheek was knocked upward, glancing along his forehead and scalp, opening a great slit at his hairline. The blood flowed into Korlov’s eyes, blinding him. He swept up his arm, wiping them clear with his sleeve. When they reopened my blade was at his throat, waiting. “Checkmate. Go home, Korlov. Here is your chance. Go take care of your sister, and your nephew. Your heart is good. Too good to die like this, bleeding in the street.”
But one last time he came, and with a yell of fury this time. His left sleeve raised to clear his sight he attacked furiously, his desperation driving me back to my table where I stepped on Korlov’s dropped tankard, which rolled beneath my boot. Down I went, the marble walkway catching my head and stunning me, but not so much that I couldn’t feel the blade slip easily between my ribs as if lubricated. And not so much that I couldn’t feel it removed, or hear the gurgle of air that escaped behind it. And not so much that I couldn’t feel the slowing of my pulse, or realize that the career of Il Eskrimci, the world’s greatest swordsman, had prematurely ended, for had I not bested my man?
And the final thought as I lay dying was not of a far away Mother, or of a peasant girl named Korlov. No, my final thought as I drifted away was that those gathered to watch had gotten their show, they had a story for their grandchildren...
... and that was enough for me.
Swordfights with sytle
I slashed at him. He blocked, then he stabbed me in the stomach.
"Ow!" I said. I grabbed his sword and fell backwards. We fell off a cliff and into the sea.
Crusted blood marred the salmon-orange hues of the sunset mirrored in his blade. I drunk deeply of my last moments: the salt of the ocean breeze, the graveled stones beneath my feet, the thunderous waves carving the cliffs below. His blade descended--I closed my eyes. Calm flushed away adrenaline. The twisting grip on my sword loosened. Dipping against the harsh wind rolling up the sheer drop below, I allowed gravity to direct my fall.
Instinct drove my foot forward and my sword up. Metal clanged against metal. Like the waves, my blade sheared up his own, throwing the tip skyward and exposing his belly. The ocean again crashed against the rocks below; my blade buried deep into his gut.
With a howl akin to a cornered animal, he grasped the blade. painting it wine red as his palms slid down to the hilt.
My strength gave out. As though he could sense the grasp of death upon me, he twisted, plummeting us both to the sea below.
I smiled. I had taught him well.
Salmon-orange hues of the twin suns descending behind the Blackart Mountains mirrored in the Blade of Heavens. Leth'nard drunk deeply of his last moments: the salt of the Crescend Ocean, the graveled stones beneath his feet, the thunderous waves carving the Drecar Cliffs below. The Blade of Heavens fell, flames igniting upon its edge. Leth'nard closed his eyes. Calm flushed away adrenaline. The twisting grip on his old sword, Uthgart, loosened.
The tingle of Spice filled his veins. Movements became a blur. Metal clanged. Uthgart burst in a shower of ice; metal shards struck Blackfaart's exposed belly.
With a howl akin to a Craven Woolf, Blackfaart grasped Uthgart, the blade of ice painting his palms wine red.
The Spice sapped away strength. As though Blackfaart could sense the Spice consuming what little grasp Leth'nard had left on the Almswald, he twisted, plummeting to the Crescend Ocean below.
Leth'nard smiled as he fell with his old friend. The Blade of Heaven commanded death, as the prophecy stated, after all.
An evening of lush salmon-pinks and deep
hues the blade.
Waves below roar for death;
Skies above watch with their misty breath
We meet in the middle,
colors our friendship.
We ride the wind into the sea.
Silly rhyme poet:
I slash him;
He slashes me.
We slash each other
into the sea.
There are seven ducks in the pond.
Look at the ducks, George, look at the ducks.
George looks at the ducks.
Lightsaber Fight Fight
I stood across from him.
He made the first move.
He flicked a switch on the lightsaber hilt and it emitted a red blade.
He leaped at me and attempted to bring it down on my head.
I ignited my own green lightsaber and raised it in defense and blocked the strike. I then backed up and swung it at his right side. He blocked it and quickly moved to strike my head. I parried again and stepped back. We both stopped. Both of us ask the same question in our heads. Was it worth dying over this? The answer for both of us was... yes.
He jabbed at my stomach but I batted his blade away. I then did three attacks one after another. He deflected all of them. We continued hammering away at each other's defenses until he kicked me in the chest. I flew into a holo-table behind me. He performed the same move as he did at the beginning of our fight but this time, I only barely blocked it.
I pushed him backward and got up. He ran at me again and I used the force to send him back.
"Master!" I heard from the right.
I had little time to turn and see my padawan running into the room. He unleashed a blue lightsaber and took a stance. Makashi, the duelist form. I went to him and stood beside him taking my own form Vaapad. Our opponent then settled on Ataru and then leaped at us with a barrage of aggressive attacks. We defended ourselves to the best of our ability but my padawan had his right arm and leg severed from his body. No blood leaked out because the lightsaber burnt it all. He fell back and laid still.
I glared at my enemy. I then leaped and performed my own barrage of attacks but he blocked and tried to use an opening to stab me in the stomach. I barely blocked it again. I backed up and so did he. We stared at each other, I could feel the hate.
Oh, how the mighty can fall.
I threw my lightsaber at him. He deflected it and leaped at me just as he plunged the blade into my stomach I used the force to pull my lightsaber back and into him. We stared at each other. The surprise and pain on his face were almost too much to bear. He fell to the floor dead. I heard my fellow Jedi coming into the room as I fell to the floor and my vision went black.
Janet vs Leftover: Rematch?
"Oh, you don't have to explain what you want for your training scenario." Waslia interrupted gently, before making a plastic frisbee appear in her hand by thought. "This may look like a standard frisbee, but if you think about what you want for your training, this device will read your thoughts and set up the simulation you desire, and will also open a portal to take you to that simulation."
Wasila handed the frisbee to Janet. Janet briefly closed her eyes and imagined the training scenario she wanted to take on. She opened her eyes and noticed the frisbee now glowing in her hand.
"Well done." Tate said with a smile. "Now toss the frisbee, and it will generate a portal to the simulation you have envisioned in your head."
Janet tossed the frisbee, and within a couple of feet, a portal opened next to the now floating disc.
"Good luck Janet." Wasila said encouragingly. "The three buttons you are wearing will grant you three lives in your challenge. Once all three are up, or once you've overcome your challenge, then you will be transported back here."
"Got it. Thanks so much Tate and Wasila!" Janet called out cheerfully as she ran down the beach to the portal and dove in.
Per her internal simulation requests, Janet found herself back in the nightmare that Dr. Sic had previously trapped her in (the story of this experience can be read here: https://theprose.com/post/467594/team-janet-vs-team-sic). Just like the original dream, the same events played out: she was in a dark version of New Leaf Park, she witnessed her comrades dying from the Tearful Death toxin, the dark tears from her friends formed into Hugh's enemy, the silhouette figure known as Leftover. And once again Janet was sporting body armor and her sword that generated from her dark helmet. Leftover once again destroyed her helmet, and she once again continued to face her foe without armor or enhanced skills, only to have her sword shattered. The Pirate and his crew once again came to the rescue, with Rick knocking Leftover's sword loose with a laser blast, Essie using a spell to grab Leftover's wrist with a skeletal hand, and Cerissa restoring Janet's helmet with her magic, bringing back her armor, sword, and enhanced strength.
"Essie, feel free to release your hold on him. Then go ahead and grab your sword Leftover. We'll settle this fair and square, you and me!" Janet said once again.
"Alright Janet, I'll let him go now!" Essie replied as she had the skeletal hand release Leftover. The skeletal arm then returned to the ground.
"Fair and square, you must be joking!" Leftover laughed. "If the Pirate and his crew hadn't hijacked your dream, you would be dead already! But since this is not the dream you previously escaped from, but a training scenario of your own making, then I accept. Will your friends be staying to bail you out yet again?"
"Nope, just you and me Leftover. Alright Pirate, Rick, Cerissa and Essie. I will see you all on the flipside!"
The simulated versions of the Pirate and his crew vanished, leaving Janet and the simulated version of Leftover. Janet dashed to her foe and slashed at him with her sword. Leftover blocked her strike, then following up with one of his own. Janet backflipped out of range of her enemy's blade. The pair then aggressively clashed their swords multiple times, neither gaining an advantage. Janet noticed a laser generating from Leftover's sword, and dove away before it could break her helmet like it had in her dream. Now sprawled on the ground, Janet rolled onto her back and made her laser gun appear in her hand. She fired several shots at Leftover, but each one was deflected by his sword. Before she could get back on her feet, another laser shot out of Leftover's sword, blasting through Janet's armor and stomach. She watched the silhouette figure laugh as he faded to black with the rest of her vision....
Janet then found herself standing in front of her foe, fully armored once again. She sensed one less button under her armor. She stood in a fighting pose, smirking under her helmet.
"Bwa ha ha ha! What's the point Janet? I understand choosing me for a training scenario, as I am likely the strongest opponent you have ever encountered, even if it was in a toxin induced nightmare. But you're in over your head my dear. Even if you somehow managed to best me, the real me is no doubt getting stronger in the real world, leaving you even further behind in skill!"
"You may be right." Janet replied with resolve. "But once I am strong enough to defeat you, then I will just have to get more data from the real Leftover, and train against that. Or who knows, maybe the real you has already peaked. In any case, I've got two lives left. Let's go!"
To be continued....
The Sand and The Blade
Of all people, why her?
“Ready,” Kayne said, and I pulled my knives as she pulled her daggers.
I barely had time to bring my left knife up before she was on me, and the world sharpened into focus. I blocked a backhanded swing and knocked aside a feint, feeling the touch of her breath on my cheek as I ducked into a kick to her knee.
But she was quicker than I anticipated, moving easily out of the way and under my guard, her dagger rising toward my throat and barely being avoided by my yank to the side, feeling the tip slice past an inch from my jaw, her other coming hilt first toward my side.
I pressed forward, tipping my shoulder into hers to knock her back and swinging my leg around to catch the back of her leg. She went down, the breath huffing from her lungs, but was back on her feet and coming toward me in seconds.
Our blades screamed as they met, her strokes collected and furious, and I knew that I was going to lose.
She had years of practice, I could feel it in the way she moved, and I. . . I had a few months.
But I couldn’t lose, not in front of the king, who’s champion would I be?
I stepped back, then back again, her swings getting faster and sharper, my reflexes all that kept my blood from being spilled as her daggers glinted and sliced.
I tried to advance, but she swept her right dagger at my side, and I forted with my left knife, retreating when she flipped to a reverse grip and lunged in a sweeping thrust.
I forted her knife and blocked her second cut, barely able to keep up with her whip fast strikes.
Then she moved too fast for me to follow, the hilt of her dagger snapping against my wrist and sending my left blade flying.
Her left dagger landed against the throat, slicing a trail before it stopped.
Blood dripped down my neck.
The pit was silent, her golden eyes glinting in the light as she held me at checkmate.
Then Kayne was there, hardly a foot away, snarling in my face with fury, “Stop going easy on her, fool!”
I threw my other knife aside to free my hands, grabbing her wrist with my right hand and twisting her arm off my throat and out of the way to punch her in the sternum.
She choked, her knees buckling, but I was already twisting the dagger out of her hand and bringing the hilt down on her opposite wrist, barely tempering myself in time to keep from breaking the delicate bones, and she dropped the blade into my waiting hand.
I retreated, and she glared at me with focused intensity, struggling back to her feet.
I glanced down at the beautiful daggers, the golden hilts smooth in my palms from years of use, the blades nicked and sharpened, little threads of fabric caught between the blade and the guard from the wrapping used for sparring.
They were beautiful, light and balanced and true.
I tossed them aside.
In a way, Kayne had been right; I’d been going easy on her, not wanting to embarrass a beautiful girl if she lost and not wanting to hurt her.
But beautiful or not, she would hurt me just the same, kill me if she could, all because I was a human that dared to stand against the highest of species.
This time, I moved before she could, knocking aside her weak barrier, unpracticed as she was at unarmed combat and elbowing her in the rib, feeling her breath rush from her lungs for the third time as I slid around behind her, pulling her against my body and curling my leg around her ankle.
She fell, and I flipped us so I landed on my back, arms encircling her neck, her body flush against mine as I pinned her there.
“Yield,” I snapped in her ear.
She grunted, trying to elbow me, but I freed one hand to slam hers against the sand, feeling the bones bend and cringing at her cry of pain.
“Yield!” Please, I wanted to say, I don’t like hurting you.
I didn’t like hurting anyone.
“I yield,” she choked, bucking her hips against my hold, and I released her.
She rolled off and to all fours, coughing and choking the air back into her lungs.
I felt a rush of panic as I heard the breath rattle in and out of her chest, suddenly terrified that I’d really, truly hurt her, and when she clutched at the rib I’d elbowed, I knew I had.