Androi Karpelov watched with detached calm the youngster’s cool and confident demeanor slowly erode, and felt a certain amount of empathy. But not much.
“Do you yield, Sir, and admit that the insult which your patron directed at my liege was incorrect and entirely without merit?” It was a formulaic question which Androi had asked times beyond count.
“Sir?” his opponent wheezed, keeping up a respectable guard despite the obvious signs of fatigue. “I fear I cannot. It is to the death.”
“Ah, then… ” Androi paused. “I suppose your last lesson will be that it is foolish indeed to undertake such a contract when you will be matched against your superior. Shall we?”
The boy nodded in acknowledgement. He took one deep and lasting breath, glanced over his right shoulder to where a young woman watched, striving to quench her great heaving sobs with a small silk kerchief, gave her a short curt bow that almost broke Androi’s heart, and then came at him.
Androi allowed him some ground, parrying and dodging with a show of far more concentration than he felt. The swordsmanship was truly uninspired and his muse had abandoned him. It was all for the best, he supposed, for it gave the lad some time to make an impression on the young woman. Perhaps she would remember him, but most likely would find herself another to whom she would attach her dreams in short order. Such always seemed to be the way.
Jason E. Thummel’s fiction has appeared in Rage of the Behemoth, Flashing Swords magazine, and Magic and Mechanica. His first novel, The Spear of Destiny, was published in 2011 and his short story collection In Savage Lands appeared earlier this year.
“The Duelist” is a complete novelette of adventure fantasy offered at no cost. You can read the complete story here.