Ten

Ten

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Sir Gevin's battle with Lord Savel begins.

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10.

 

‘It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.’

--Mark Twain

 

 

 

A few minutes later, Sir Gevin of Greidour was walking past a multitude of empty tents - which he surmised were those of previous challengers to Lord Savel- toward the combat arena that he’d seen the previous day.

He wasn’t too surprised to see the grandstand full of people, but they seemed vague and shadowy and perhaps represented those who had fallen in battle with the Ogre.   Near the center of the jousting field sat a tight cluster of women, whom Gevin assumed were the captives that he hoped to set free.   They were dressed in courtly finery of various shades and hues and he located Applemint seated next to lady Zaeya, who now wore a seductive, yet regal purple gown.   The women did nothing but watch him as he approached.    On one end of the jousting field stood a shadowy youth dressed in squire’s clothing, holding the reins of the horse that Gevin and Applemint had ridden the day before.   Near them was a stand of lances and jousting shields.   At the other end of the field was another squire standing beside a huge horse that was undoubtedly Lord Savel’s steed. 

But in front of him, in the very center of the jousting field stood the large form of this enchanted place’s duke, wearing a full suit of tarnished, battered, but quite functional and sound, gray plate armor.   He stood with his helm in his hands, a smirk on his face as he watched Gevin approach.   It was the look of a larger bully that was calmly but eagerly waiting to terrorize a small child.

“Hail, Half-Elf runt, to the field of knightly valor.   Art thou prepared to join me in melee to test thy skill at arms?”

“I am,” Gevin replied.

“Good!  Our contest shall begin with a joust.   Perchance one of us is killed in the charge, then verily, the other is the victor.    If instead both of us liveth, then battle shall continue in the ring of combat yonder, with weapons unto the death.”

“I agree; what rules for fair combat doest thou evoke?”

“In the ring, all weapons taken into the ring art allowed, including fists, if weapons fail thee.   None shall leave the ring until thy opponent is dead.   Nothing shall be brought unto the ring except what hast been brought before combat commences.”

“I taketh that the flinging of dirt into the eyes of thy opponent, or biting like an animal is foul and against the rules of this combat?”

Lord Savel snorted, “Aye, fear not, half-blood, I shall need not to fling dirt to defeat thee.”

“Perhaps, though what I heareth is that ye may desire to bite once battle is gained, due to thy true and brutish nature.”  He knew the rude comment would annoy him, for he was calling him out -more or less- as an Ogre.   Lord Savel’s eyes narrowed and his hand gripped his helmet tightly.

“Thou little fairy, I shall show you my true nature soon enough!   Take to thy steed and prepare to meet me in a joust, if ye do not fear to engage me.”

“’Tis a good day to slay monsters,” Gevin countered, and simply turned his back and walked toward his horse, leaving Lord Savel to seethe.

 

The phantom squire didn’t do much of anything, but Gevin had no trouble mounting the Thallow-like horse, for the enchanted plate armor was as light as regular clothing and he could move easily and quickly.

As he took up his lance and shield from the stand at his end of the field, he watched as Lord Savel climbed on top of his huge steed.    From his awkwardness, Gevin knew immediately that he was not an experienced horseman and certainly not a skilled jouster.   If what Lady Zaeya had told him was true, it was likely that Lord Savel actually hoped to lose the joust to him, as he would increase in size as soon as his lance made contact.  Perhaps that was part of his strategy with each opponent; get unhorsed and then dominate during the single combat in the arena that would follow.

He certainly didn’t look like a real knight or even someone who was more than just an occasional rider on a horse.   Of course, Ogres would certainly be too big to ride a horse, and maybe even when he was shape-shifted magically into the form of a very large human, he retained his dislike of equines and therefore had a noticeable awkwardness in the saddle.

But Savel took up his own lance and shield, then pulled down the visor of his helm and very sloppily lined up for their jousting run, his lance aimed wrong and his shield too low.

Gevin knew that he could easily unhorse him, but doubted that even a hard tumble from his horse would kill or even seriously injure the brute.   It would certainly come to single combat, and that is where his scheme would come into play and hopefully win the day.

When he thought his opponent was ready, Gevin raised his lance, which was the universal signal of preparedness.   Savel did the same, though he wobbled a bit in the saddle in the process.

In the grandstand, Lady Zaeya stood up, apparently charged with beginning the contest.   She held a purple sleeve in her hand for them to see, then with some ceremony, dropped it off the platform, where it floated to the ground.

Protocol dictated that the jousting runs would begin as soon as the cloth touched the soil, but Lord Savel, in his impatience, spurred his horse forward a few moments early.   Gevin was not worried at this, though, and sent his own horse in motion, instinctively positioning his lance and shield for the contest.

Lord Savel was building up speed much too slowly and was struggling to keep his lance straight and his shield high enough.   As they closed in, he aimed too high at Gevin’s shield, which was a common beginner’s mistake, though he doubted Savel was actually new at this.

Gevin angled his shield very slightly and let the impact of Savel’s lance slide up and away from his body.    Even still, the blow pushed him sideways, for Savel had an Ogre’s strength, apparently, even in a smaller body.

But he managed to position his lance at the last moment and caught the spot on his opponent’s shield; low and angled to push the larger man out and back, away from Gevin’s horse.

It was a square hit and Savel jerked back, tumbling hard from his warhorse, but managing to land (a bit roughly) on his knees.   Clearly he was used to falling and knew what to do.

He held his hand up, indicating loss to Sir Gevin, but also a continuance with both on foot in the arena.

Gevin dismounted quickly, dropping shield and lance at once.    He noticed, when Savel arose, that now he seemed a foot taller.   He had stood about six and a half feet tall before, and as he strode over to the combat ring, he looked much more massive and Ogre-like.    He did not speak but sneered at Gevin, and the Half-Elf noticed a pair of canine teeth jutting up slightly from behind his bottom lip.    They had not been there yesterday.

His eyes had changed from a dark black color to a revolting flat yellow tint which Gevin assumed was typical of the Ogre race.   His armor and weapons seemed to have grown proportionally with him.

“Art thou ready to die, little fairy?” Savel finally jeered as they took up the beginning stances on either end of the fifteen foot wide combat ring.

“Thou art as ugly as thou art stupid, brute.   Certainly ye deserve no title of nobility, for ye are nothing but a stinking, lumbering animal.”

Savel’s face contorted in barely controlled rage and he clutched tightly the handgrips of his wicked, bloodstained two-handed sword.

Suddenly, without any formal signal to begin, Savel surged forward with a roar, swinging his sword over his head, intent to chop Gevin in two.   But the Half-Elf anticipated his savage move and stepped aside easily, the sword chopping into the sand-like soil instead.

“Missed me; thou are not skilled with thy weapon, art thou?” he tormented, testing the magic of the place with a chop at Savel’s wrist.    Gevin’s sword began glowing with a white light as he swung, but though the blow was well-aimed, Savel’s armor kept his weapon from wounding the Ogre.  

Savel gave a quick back swing, nearly catching Gevin with the blade, but he ducked under it, noting that once again the Ogre had increased in size and now stood about eight and a half feet tall, a hulking form that took up most of the combat ring.

With the roar like a herd of elephants, Savel began spinning his sword around, swiping high, then low, then thrusting or overhead chops, all in a vigorous attempt to quickly put an end to Gevin.   The Ogre tried pushing him back against the edge of the combat ring, knowing that the knight would try to stay in bounds and abide by the rules.

But Gevin did not intend to get pinned and he backed and ducked and rolled aside, his armor permitting extremely acrobatic moves that normal plate armor would not have allowed.   This was not something Lord Savel was used to and so when he reared back to once again chop down on the Half-Elf, Gevin simply rolled through his widely spaced legs, though he was careful not to allow himself to attempt a blow.

The hulking Ogre was too slow to stop the smaller knight and he spun around on his heels, swinging the sword furiously in hopes of cutting Gevin in half as he leapt to his feet.

But he was already up and simply dove forward and rolled off to the side, Lord Savel’s powerful swing sending him off balance as he missed his intended target.

“Thou art as blind as a bat and slow as a tortoise!” Gevin shouted with mocking laughter, “Surely ye fighteth better than thou hast displayed!   ‘Tis obvious why ladies cannot engage thee in battle; they would humiliate thee and win!”

Savel roared with rage, swinging back and forth, high and low, determined to connect with the lighter Half-Elf.   But Gevin managed to dodge sideways and avoid contact.   His sword was glowing as bright as a reflection cast off from metal in sunlight, causing Savel to squint frequently as the light found his eyes.    This made his attacks half-blind and more desperate.   It was clear that he was growing more and more frustrated that Gevin would not attack him, but seemed content on evasion.

Abruptly, the Ogre threw himself forward, bringing his sword in front of him in hopes of knocking Gevin down and impaling him with a sudden change of tactic.   But Gevin simply ducked under Savel’s sword, held at his waist height, and once again rolled through the Ogre’s legs as he crashed down onto the ground.   Savel had enough time to swing his sword away so he would not embed it in the ground, but the movement sent him flopping hard on his stomach in the soil, burying his chin and lower mouth into the ground.

“Savel, thou art a pathetic buffoon, thou hast thou snout in the mud like the pig that thou seemeth to be.”

The indignation was too much for him.    With a horrible, earth shattering roar, he ripped off his helmet with one hand and flung it blindly over his shoulder so he could see better.   His face free, he then quickly scooped up a huge clod of dirt and flung it in Gevin’s general direction, then unthinkingly grabbed at one of the large stones that marked the edge of the combat ring and let it fly as well.    The dirt narrowly missed the Half-Elf, but the stone grazed his shoulder, and sent him tumbling back.

The Ogre pounced upon him like a huge cat, his hands ready to rend him in two.   But in his rage, he’d breeched the protocol of combat and had shrunk so quickly that he didn’t realize that he now stood three feet shorter than he had been.    He fell upon Gevin like a wild animal, in his blood lust, not aware that now Gevin was slightly larger than he was and forgetting his weapons in his primal surge.

His hands closed around Gevin’s neck, which was encased in armor, and he squeezed for a few seconds before he sensed that he no longer possessed the superior size and strength as before.   Realization came to him as Gevin pushed upward, knocking Savel off of him and then slicing with all of his might at his neck, which, no longer encased in his war helm, only had a mail coif protecting it.

The enchanted sword sliced through easily, sending up a burst of white light that blinded everyone watching for an instant.   When the after-image began to fade, Lord Savel’s head was rolling on the ground, blood still spurting out for a few moments.

There was a shimmering around the dead Ogre like disturbed water and when it cleared, his massive true form was revealed in death.

From the women’s grandstand, a joyous roar erupted while Gevin weakly got to his feet, still suspiciously eyeing the body, as the magic of this place did not rule out any possibility.  The glow of his sword quickly diminished and vanished, as if connected to Lord Savel’s life.

As Gevin was glancing up into the grandstand, hoping to catch sight of Applemint in the crowd of overjoyed women, suddenly a white light surrounded them and they all simply vanished.

Gevin blinked in alarm, but a familiar male voice spoke, either clearly in his head or just out of thin air.   It was the same voice that he had heard before being healed, but this time he spoke the common language.

“Well done, Gevin, you have succeeded.”

He felt a strong presence and knew immediately who it was, though this did not alarm him in the least.

“Are the women safe, Lord?”  He asked as he glanced down at Savel’s corpse.

“They are preparing to pass through the Restoration Pool.   From there they will emerge at the forest’s edge only moments after Applemint entered it in search of you.”

“Is Applemint with them and the Drow woman as well?”

“They’re all there, Gevin and though Applemint does not wish to pass through the pool, for she knows you will remain here, Zaeya will restrain her and force her through, then take her to Whiteberry as she swore to you.”

Gevin nodded as he pondered what he should do with the dead Ogre’s body.

“Leave Savel where he is, Gevin, in an hour’s time, his body will vanish as if it was never here.”

“I never get used to killing, Lord…even someone like Savel.”

“Few people enjoy taking a life, even when they know it is necessary.”

“I’ve taken a lot of lives, Lord, and I really don’t know if I can justify most of them by just saying I was serving my king.”

“War is a terrible time of difficult choices, Gevin, but your attitude reveals your true feelings.”

“Lord, I can’t let another man - or group of people- get trapped in here.   Will I be allowed access to the Nihility Gate?”

“You will, as soon as the last woman has passed through the Restoration Pool.”

“I promised Apple that I’d get her home safe and I had planned to go back to Whiteberry with her.   I really had no idea what I was going to do once I got there.   I just don’t think I can go through the same routines over and over again, Lord.   It may sound cowardly, but the pain of memories is too much to bear.”

“Many Elves in situations similar to yours have faced the same dilemma and many have sought death, rather then accepting immortality in this sinful world.”

“Why, Lord?   Why do the Elven people and fae races live without aging, while the rest of the world goes through it?”

“It was not my plan for any race to achieve immortality in any physical world, but this world is among a few created defiantly by a handful of my former servants.   They arrogantly thought they could improve on what I created and I allowed them to do this in separate places so they could not corrupt what I made.   It was to show them the danger of thinking themselves wise and to demonstrate how mighty power in flawed hands can create a terribly flawed world, despite their best intentions.   They learned the folly of their arrogance and misunderstanding of why things were created as they were.    They were judged and condemned for their failures, and their creations have been under my authority since then.”  

“Because of the sin of those who thought themselves worthy of the powers of creation, there is much suffering here and perhaps none have suffered more than the Elven and fae races.   Immortality has shown them that what seems like a great gift can be a terrible curse if it is given in the wrong setting.   So Elves struggle with aging and death without the acceptance of it that the other races possess.    To Elves and Half-Elves, immortality is something more and more difficult for them to face, the longer they live in this corrupt world.   What you are feeling, Gevin, is there in your heart because it knows how wrong it is in this place.    There is a place where immortality is perfect and joyous, but this world is not that place.”

“Is it wrong for me to struggle with living in this world?”

“To struggle is to truly live, Gevin, but what you fail to understand is that you could gain the ability to live contently in any situation.”

“I’ve tried, Lord, but it is so hard to see everyone aging and things changing all the time and yet I stay the same and retain the memories of my failures.”  Gevin closed his eyes and sighed, “Sorry, Lord, I know I’m weak and pathetic.”

“You’ve tried in your own strength to always do the right thing, Gevin, and when you fail, you’ve constantly strived to make amends.    You know your weaknesses, what you don’t know is your strengths.”

Gevin snickered, “I don’t have any strength, Lord, unless you can call surviving as strength.”

“It is often the greatest strength of a person, but most people don’t consider it as something noble and fine.”

Gevin sat down on the ring of stones outlining the combat field, “What do I do, Lord?   I honestly don’t want anyone else ending up trapped in here, but the only way to do that is to pass through the Nihility Gate before someone else gets trapped in here.   Part of me longs for death…yet another part is scared to death.”

“You have to examine your reasons for passing through the gate, Gevin.    Are they for you or to save someone else?”

“Well, I can’t say that it wouldn’t help ease my torment, but I had given Apple my word that I would escort her home.    So I think I now want to pass through to permanently close this gate.”

“Then you know what you need to do.”

“Really?   It’s that easy?”

“If your heart is pure, Gevin, your actions are clear.”

There was a rippling of the air as if someone stirred a still pool of water, and suddenly, directly in front of him materialized a large round circle of absolute blackness.   Around this spot was a stone frame or support ring and it was covered with carved designs.   In glowing blue letters around the top half were the words, “mors tua, vita meaand on the lower section,mors mihi lucrum’.

“Your Death, my life…and…Death is my reward…”  Gevin mumbled, translating the arcane language into common.

“Actually, it is ‘death to me, reward’.”

“Isn’t that the same thing, Lord?”

“Is it?   How you understand it makes all the difference, Gevin.”

“Death is a reward - that is simple to understand.”

“But why would death be a reward, Gevin?   All races value their lives and dying is an end to life.”

“You know the answer, Lord.”

“Yes, but you don’t, Gevin.  Death, to you, is an end to suffering - at first it was your suffering, now it is an end to the suffering of others.    That is a significant difference.”

“So…in the context of ending others suffering, death is a reward to the one making the sacrifice?”

“In the context of eternity, it certainly is, for sacrificing your life for others to live is the noblest love.”

“I think I understand, Lord; it’s the reason one uses the gate that determines the meaning of the words.”

“Yes, the reason of one’s action always gives meaning to the action.”

Gevin thought about that for a moment, “Okay…so it would be permissible for me to use the gate to save others?”

“Good is always permissible if it is unselfishly given.”

“Can good be selfish?”

“True good cannot, Gevin.”

“Lord, I am willing to pass through the Nihility gate to destroy this place.”

“Then do what you must do, Gevin, if you know your heart’s intentions are pure and unselfish, proceed with my blessings.”

Gevin hesitated, his feet suddenly feeling heavy, “Lord, I admit I’m afraid - willing to go through, but it’s on the other side that scares me.   If I ask you what awaits me, would that diminish my sacrifice?”

“It would diminish your faith, Gevin and faith is what you lack the most.”

“You’re right Lord.   All the women are through the Restoration Pool?”

“Yes, all are safely through.”

“Then before I think about it too much, here I go, Lord.”

Pulling his feet up, with a deep sigh and forcing his mind to clear and his eyes to close, Gevin took a deliberate step through the black face of the Nihility portal and passed completely from the tournament field.




© 2020 Eddie Davis


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Added on November 19, 2020
Last Updated on November 19, 2020
Tags: Synomenia, Nihility_Gate, fantasy, elf, sword_and_sorcery, magic, knights, Halflings, Drow


Author

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

Springfield, MO



About
I'm a fantasy and science-fiction writer that enjoys sharing my tales with everyone. Three trilogies are offered here, all taking place in the same fantasy world of Synomenia. Other books and stor.. more..

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