[POV – Mavarel The Right Hand of Destiny]
He looks solid standing there, as hard to break as a boulder. That’s how he looks but I know better though. I’ve seen him hurt more times than I can count. Rocks don’t bleed. He has that bloody axe of his in his hands. Damn thing is barely even a weapon, it’s like a sharpened engine block on a stick. Why didn’t he take his short blade? They’re great for a one-on-one close quarters fight. That’s what they’re for! Duke is highly skilled wielding his gunstock club and that blade. He’s killed hundreds of people equipped like that. Why does he have that damn axe?
I know why, because it’s what people expect. The Showdown at Crabmaw Creek. ONE time he picks up an axe and that’s what everyone talks about. If he dies it’s going to be because of that damn axe. And because I couldn’t talk him out of this fool’s quest. And because he’s a stubborn vain lunatic.
Almost as bad as the damn axe, he’s out there with just a chest-plate and arm guards, otherwise he’s practically nude! The Murdertown gladiators fight like that so the crowds can see the blood on their flesh from the stands but you’re Duke fucking Eagle not some pit fighter, put on some damn armor! This isn’t a show.
Except it is of course. As Duke likes to say “all the world’s a stage”. I hope people remember that he came up with that in the future.
My only comfort is that L-Ah is dressed even more inappropriately. I don’t even know what to call what she’s wearing. Some kind of a one-piece garment that covers her entire body extending down over the legs, made from something supple and flowing. Looks like it would immediately tangle up your legs and trip you in a fight. It doesn’t appear that she has any armor at all but maybe there’s some thin plates hiding under there. Concealing your protection? I can’t imagine why else you’d wear something like that.
She has a blade so small that it was practically a piece of scrap metal. If Duke’s axe shattered into a hundred pieces each piece would be bigger than her knife. The size difference between their chosen weapons is laughable. The size difference between the fighters doesn’t make me want to laugh at all.
I knew she was going to be tall, everyone always talks about how tall she is, but I never saw her up close like this before. I didn’t expect her to be this tall. She has to be a foot higher than Duke. Maybe even more. And she isn’t nearly as skinny and frail as people say.
That’s what everyone said, she’s tall, but she’s painfully thin, there’s no meat on those bones. She doesn’t look weak to me. She looks powerful. Not as strong and solid as Duke, but not a puffy mushroom that you can blow away either. That must be her strategy, use those long arms to strike with that tiny blade.
What is a worse surprise was that she doesn’t look afraid. At all. She looks confident. She has the same look on her face that Duke has, like her ultimate victory was inevitable so there is no reason to worry about little things like being hacked to pieces with a giant axe. I’ve seen many powerful people stand before Duke and pretend not to be afraid. They were afraid. She isn’t.
I can see why people follow her. It’s a shame that she has to die. If she was on our side she’d make one hell of a recruiter for our cause. If she was one of Duke’s followers we’d probably have control of the entire coast by now. Such a waste.
I was so busy examining and fretting over her appearance that I missed all the Murdertown mayor’s pre-fight hype speech and it was happening. They started about fifty feet apart and Duke advanced on her cautiously swinging his axe. L-Ah didn’t move, she just stood there with a smile. She did something that I never would have guessed anyone would do in a million years in a Murdertown fight to the death. She started singing.
“The sun is strong
It’s hot as hell below”
A group of her followers in the crowd didn’t sing so much as shout back to her –
“Look down, look down,
There’s twenty years to go”
Her smile grew wicked as she slid sideways away from Duke.
“I’ve done no wrong!
Sweet Jesus, hear my prayer!”
I give the girl this, she’s got one fucking smooth voice. My heart fluttering in my chest so hard I thought for a second there was an earthquake as she dashed forward and flicked her blade at Duke. Duke shrugged her off with the handle of his axe but I was frightened to death of how awkward he looked doing it and how agilely she danced away from him. She was like a bloodfly buzzing around your face, so hard to swat.
“Freedom is mine. The earth is still.
I feel the wind. I breathe again.”
Her tiny blade jabbed, Duke poked it away holding the axe like a spear and came bull-rushing forward at her, but she spun away untouched and slashed him across the back, carving a long shallow cut from rib to rib right below his chest protector. Her followers screamed in ecstasy at the sight his blood. The great man can bleed they shouted to one another. It was a superficial wound, not even a wound really, but I felt like my blood was seeping out of my body. I was shivering like I was freezing.
Duke grunted at the pain and made a ponderous charge to hack with his huge axe. It looked as slow as a cloud moving across the sky. She avoided him easily.
“And the sky clears
The world is waking.
Drink from the pool. How clean the taste.
Never forget the years, the waste.
Nor forgive them
For what they’ve done.”
“Did you come to sing or to fight?” Duke growled at her.
“I can manage both” she said with a wink and a smile.
She continued smiling as she landed a quick thrust to his stomach, another shallow scratch. I’ve seen people smile in battle before. Evil smiles, wicked smiles, smiles of the battle-crazed madman. This wasn’t that. This was the smile of someone enjoying performing for an audience. She danced around Duke, forcing him to turn and turn again, flicking attacks at the eyes and groin, jabbing, jabbing, jabbing and skipping away from any chance of a counter-attack.
“The day begins
And now let’s see
What this new world
Will do for me!”
Duke roared for her to shut up and fight but she was already ducking inside the guard of his axe and slashed him across the face. Another cut without much damage, but Duke was blinded by the slick blood mixing with sweat on his face. Duke tried to turn as she circled but she dashed back and forth like she was jumping from stone to stone across a river and got him crossed around. She slashed viciously as the back of his head, shoulders, and arms. Bright ribbons of blood went flying through the air around them like tiny strands of lightening.
Duke swung his axe in a wild arc, losing his balance in the process but she was able to lunge out of the way again. Duke tried to go on the attack, swinging his axe around and around to keep it on the move but she was more than able to stay away from his blade-head. He might has well have been trying to cut a cloud in half.
“For when I come to any town
They check my papers
And they find the mark of Cain
In their eyes I see their fear
We do not want you here.”
“Shut your fucking rat-hole you bloody slag!” Blood sprayed from Duke’s lips as he shouted at her desperately. He was moving a slower and his giant axe now dragged on the ground
Her smiled widened and she started another verse “And now I know how freedom feels . . .”
Her singing turned to an undignified squeal when Duke finally managed to shut her up. He let go of his axe, which was basically just an anchor now, and charged into her with his head down like a wild beast. He slammed his forearm and elbow across her chest and upper body, sending her reeling. A followed up quickly with a few punches, his fists bearing down on her like the pistons of an engine and she was down on the ground with Duke on top of her. No more dancing around now bitch.
I let out a breath that I didn’t even know I had been holding in. The sudden rush of oxygen to my brain made me so dizzy that I swayed slightly. The Murdertown crowd was going berserk. I would have thought that they’d be bored of seeing people die by now but I suppose some things never lose their luster. Spectators surged forward to watch Duke strangle the heroine of the wastelands or beat her brains out or whatever he was going to do to finish her off, shouting and shoving at each other to get out of the way. Some of them screamed for him to rape her.
I turned to say something to Lord Malace when I heard a loud clap even over the din of the crowd. I turned back to see Duke stumble and fall back, and then stand again with his jaw gouting blood. He pressed his hand to his jaw so furiously that it looked like he was actually preventing his jawbone from falling off his face. Blood was streaming through his fingers like water.
Ela was on her ass with her face a bloody mess, not able to rise, but she held a slim firearm in her shaking hand. It looked like just a tiny tube no bigger around than a finger. You know what my first thought was? She cheated! How ridiculous. I was worried about rules in a fight to the death. Somehow she smuggled in a tiny gun. That must be why she wore that ridiculous outfit. More room to hide that little piece of shit gun.
The second thing that came to my mind is something Pigman Swane told me once about fighting. If you’ve got a hold of somebody, if you’ve got them grappled, if you’re in control – don’t you ever let them go unless they’re dead. Don’t throw them, don’t try to move them around, don’t stand up so you can gloat or kick them or whatever thing you want to do to look cool. If you’ve got them in your mitts just end it. Squeeze them, choke them, punch them, whatever, but don’t you let go of them. That was his way of saying “shit happens”. He’s dead now. Too bad, he was a good fighter.
I thought I was watching my dream die right before me but Duke didn’t fall again. While L-Ah struggled to get up he surged forward and stomped her in the chest. He was holding both hands to his massively bleeding mouth and jaw but he continued to stomp away at her head and face it was just hair and gristle stuck to his boots.
I whispered to myself and whatever gods might be listening “Thank you.”