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The Duel of the Ages

Chapter 2

By Samuel Stoddard

Blood Drops was engulfed in vibrant waves of excruciating pain. How could I have been so stupid? he asked himself. Under normal circumstances, Blood Drops could have taken Darius with a single non-committal blow. This time, however, the knight had been attempting to slaughter the villainous pest while juggling flaming batons and warthogs. (This added bit of entertainment took the edge off public executions.)

And oh, how he paid for failing to give Darius his fullest attention. He struggled for breath, but only water entered his mouth -- not that it mattered, for his lungs were not around to receive sustenance in the first place.

Believe, the Sage had once told him. Believe in yourself.

1 This is an allusion to the early Wizardry computer games. In them, "DIALMA" was a healing spell.
In the last remnants of his waning will, he called forth the power of his spirit. "DIALMA!"1 he cried, and the words gurgled in misshapen bubbles to the surface of the lake.

Suddenly, his dangling tendons started to move. His limp body slid from its resting place, making tracks in the sand as it went, and glided into the lake. Head and body were reunited, and the spilt blood faded away.

"GAAACK!" Blood Drops exclaimed, breaking the surface of the water in a desperate quest for air. The drenched warrior stood, whole again, droplets of water caressing each hair of his beard, each seam of his clothing.

"Cut my head off, will you," he growled beneath his breath. "We will see."

2 Larosis is a city in Dave's novel. Specifically, it's Darius' home town.

3 In my novel, Blood Drops is a knight employed by the kingdom of Llagimlyn.

Darius trod along the path which led into Larosis.2 His most recent escapade with the Llagimlyn knight3 (which had concluded itself not more than ten minutes ago) was strangely gone from his mind. Instead, he found himself remembering anecdotes from the distant past. It was here where Darius played his favorite practical joke, involving an airborne tinder box, on each wizard he guided safely back to Larosis again.

Of course, that had been more than seventy years ago. Darius was an old man, now, aged and decrepit. He still had some vigor left in him -- such was evident from his fierce and unwarranted attack on the knight of Llagimlyn -- but in general, his adventures were few and far between. All he had to look forward to, after all, was a long-awaited death by old age.

In a sudden, blinding flash, the formidable form of an all too familiar warrior appeared in front of him, blocking his path.

"Blood" he sputtered.

"Do you always begin conversations this way?"4 Blood Drops said in a vaguely European-sounding accent.

4 The first of many references to The Princess Bride.
"But I cut--" Darius blurted, staggering backward.

"You did indeed. You shall not do so again, however. Unsheath your sword, sir. This time you will not have batons and warthogs distracting me."

"I'm an old man," Darius said meekly, shrinking lower and lower to the ground. "Have mercy on my pathetic soul!" He stared at the tip of Blood Drops' sword in undisguised fear.

"Very well, then, Darius. But promise me this -- that you shall not show your face around me again. You shall not harm so much as a fly on my head -- or anyone else's for that matter. In short, you must sheathe and shelf your sword for good, and live a peaceful life forever more. Swear it."

"I swear it shall be done!" Darius was still watching the tip of the knight's sword with unswerving attentiveness. He was on his knees now, crouching beneath it like a quivering dog might in a thunderstorm.

"Swear on your honor and that of your father and that of your father's father."5

5 Here's another.
"I swear! I give you my word, my solemn oath! Blood Drops, please, please, take away that sword. I can't bear to see it!"

Satisfied, Blood Drops sheathed his blade, turned his back on the pitiful morass of jelly, and strolled down the path to Larosis.

Somebody in Larosis should be able to direct him back to Llagimlyn.

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