Monthly Archives: February 2018

Finding Gratitude, Part 15

Sela caught the practice sword tossed her way. It was actually a rather fine piece of wood. Tested, weathered, but still retaining a supple nature. Sela tested the blade, and was amazed by the nature of the sword. There was a perfect balance, right in the center of the blade. Beyond a blunt edge, she was holding a true weapon.

And it had been given to her by a true swordsman. Named only Bill, he was at the edge of the ring. Not trying to stare off into the distance, or put her off with some sneering bravado. He was warming up. His own blade whirled around him, starting in slow circles, going faster and faster until Sela could barely keep track of the movements.

The crowd was up and awake. Many had already been attending to the fights, and even enjoyed and cheered her on against Bluelight. But for this, people crowded the edge of the ring, trying to get a closer look.

There was real bloodlust in the air, expectant. It excited Sela.

Regni whistled once, and the bar went silent. No one wanted this to wait another second. The gnome looked at the two duelists. He knew they’d obey the rules, and honestly wanted out before anything truly bone crunching happened. He clapped his hands together, and ran out of the ring.

Before he got five steps, Sela and Bill met at the center. The sharp crack of wood filled the air. Again, and again. Quick strikes, testing each other. Trying to find any imperfections in the opponent’s stance and style.

Sela knew he was going to find it. She understood in seconds. Her motions were fluid, and she knew she held some sort of grace. But she was used to a certain level of savagery, with Sir Violet egging her on and guiding the movements. Without the sword’s guidance, or passion, she felt just the tiniest bit lost. With someone like this Bill, in a fair fight she gave herself eighty-six more seconds before she would have to admit defeat.

Sela never admitted defeat.

She spun on her heel, and lashed out at his knee. Bill sidestepped, and she kicked again, higher. He parried, and struck out. In an instant she had his arm, and threw him to the side of the ring.

Bill laughed, and turned to her. “Not bad, though not dueling.”

“Missing my sword,” Sela said.

“A duelist is ready for anything,” Bill muttered. He saluted her with his blade. “Something you still need to learn.”

Sela readied her own. “We’ll see.”

“No!” Regni burst back into the ring. “Run, everybody run! The cops are here!”

The audience stared at him, confused. “Didn’t you pay them?” Bill asked.

“It’s the Mayor’s Guard!”

The bar exploded in activity. Spells, invisibility cloaks, vanishing discs, anything that could get them out of the bar faster. Those without magic ran for anything that could be construed as an exit.

Bill also ran, but not before he winked at Sela. “You’re decent. Gratitude’s going to be a bit more fun with you here.”

He ran off just as the Mayor’s Guards charged into the bar. Any stragglers were trampled under their silver and purple boots. They stopped in front of Sela. Crossbows were at the ready, pointed straight at her.

One man, the captain, judging by the badges decorating his chest plate, walked in. he looked at Sela, and the rest of the area. “Sir Violet secured?”

“No, he isn’t.” Sela folded her arms, and frowned. “What’s going on?”

“The mayor would like a word, Sela.”

“Here’s two. Bite me.”

The captain smiled. “Blunted bolts should just knock you unconscious. I hope we don’t give you a concussion.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

Finding Gratitude, Part 14

“Right, that was wonderfully pathetic. Somebody remember to wake up Ragged Knuckle and slap the bill to his forehead, or something. What a waste. Anyways…Bluelight!”

Regni scanned the crowd. “I know I saw Bluelight in here somewhere. Bluelight, you up for a little action? I see you, passed out by the…BLUELIGHT!”

One of the tables shuddered, and crashed to the ground. A dwarf woman raised her head, and squinted. “Regni?”

“Bluelight, time to sober up. You’ve got a fight.”

“Shove off.” Bluelight sank back into the ground.

“I’ll credit your drinks for the evening.”




“Want me to ask the bartender the size of your current tab?”

Bluelight was sober enough to know that threat was legitimate. Before Sela could turn the dwarf had skidded onto the sand. Dressed in classic electric blue leathers, the dwarf winked a bleary eye at Sela.

“Nice going on Knuckle. Bastard owes me at least five rounds.”

Regni stepped away, and looked at the crowd. They had taken in everything, which was unusual. Typically, they only perked up when blood was spilling. Or one of the fighters forgot the rules and started in on a rowdy audience. But tonight, they were awake, alive.

It was Sela. The way she knocked out Ragged Knuckle was textbook, a classic set of moves that was so fresh in a rumble arena. What was she going to do against someone who just might be able to string a sentence together?

Bluelight didn’t give her a chance. The dwarf was running off a buzz of adrenaline and the possibility of free drinks for the evening. Regni couldn’t even give an introduction before she launched herself at the duelist. Sela spun out of the way, and lashed out. Bluelight shrugged off the blow, and squared up.

“Come on, ye noodle,” The dwarf muttered. “My door hits harder than you.”

Sela traded blows with the dwarf for a time. She remained silent, trying to understand the style. Bluelight may have been drunk, but she was trained. The dwarf could take a blow as needed, and weave to set up a better left hook. Sela backed away, and bumped the ring. Damn.

So much for half-speed.

Sela sighed, and kicked it up. Bluelight stared, and groaned. Where one duelist was, suddenly there seemed like four. In front, catching that last swing. Kick on the left, which set up the trip that sent her tumbling back, and then three jabs on the left, ending with a haymaker on the right.

“No fair,” Bluelight coughed from the ground. “You’re not supposed to show us up until you buy me at least three rounds. House rules.”

“Bull,” Regni muttered. He straightened to the cheering crowd, and bowed. “Let’s give another hand for this newcomer here! Lady Violet!”

Sela took another bow. She was exhilarated, breathing heavy. Bluelight was a terror, even sauced. Sela was not sure she wanted to face the dwarf outside the ring without the girls by her side.

For herself, Bluelight laughed and cheered with the rest of them. She waved to the victor as she stumbled back to her resting place. A tankard was waiting for her, courtesy of Regni and deducted from his profit margin, much to his chagrin.

Sela looked around, and nodded. A good crowd, and a good place to be. She could have fun here.

“Got enough in you for one more?”

Sela turned. An ogre vaulted over the bar with ease. He was dressed in velvet, and looked Sela over with appreciation.

“I, I…” Regni stammered. “I didn’t know you were in town, Bill.”

“Just got back,” Bill said. He looked at Sela. “How about one more go?”

He pulled two wooden swords out from behind his back.

“But how about this time, you don’t hold back?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder