For Trejon

Gentlemen and Gentlewomen of the Vox Chaotica Council! TONIGHT IS STORY NIGHT!

Fights of legend don't just happen—they are meticulously planned, revised, overthought, scrapped, then planned again. Generals meet and discuss terms, then return to their troops and rally them for a fight that has already been mentally fought a thousand times.

I guess then you couldn't call mine a legendary fight.

I was living in a little hovel tacked onto the side of Ashby's Mill in Brixton—but the rains had come in. The winds tore the sails apart during the night, and I had to leave the stinking morass of a shelter while the stonemasons and tailors fought over who would fix it. Pay was terrible, but better than the fat zero anyone was making this season.

So I sat in the Trinity Arms, nursing my third or fourth (or was it closer to seventh or eighth?) cider, keeping my usual bench warm. Alastaire One-Eye was stoking the fire, and Barkeep Thom was slowly imbibing a few fingers of bourbon. Occasionally someone would shout for a drink. Thom would grimace, mutter some choice phrases that would turn a sailor's blood hot, then pull a long draught of beer into a pint glass and slide it down the oak bar.

Our comfortable, routine quiet was splintered by the howl of the wind and the biting cold of the rain bursting through the door after a tall, slender figure dressed in flowing robes. Hems were embroidered with gold under all that mud, and there was the faint scent of something sweet—not the usual manure smell we expected of the hands from the fields.

Two lithe steps and she was at the bar—ordered a whiskey and pulled back her hood.

Alastaire barely had time to murmur, "...A Moor?" before he had a wickedly curved knife sticking out of the table just right of his hand.

"A Princess. Hold your tongue, peasant." Certainly he hadn't said the brightest thing—he'd lost a bit more than just his eye in that fight—but the cold edge in her voice was razor sharp. Asking someone else to make trouble.

Maybe I should've held my tongue—but this wouldn't be a good story if I had.

"What in the Nine Hells are you doing out here then?" I slurred the words a bit more than I would have liked—but after ten ciders (was it twelve now? Fourteen...?), the fact I could still speak sentences was a feat.

I barely had time to avoid the punch aimed for my face. I was lucky I was in a booth a few steps from the bar, otherwise she would have hit me, and I figure I would've been out cold. She recovered with ease and tried for a cramped left hook as I tumbled off the bench and threw a couple tables out of my way. Thom knew I'd fix 'em if I broke 'em.

It glanced off my knee, but stung like being kicked by Orion—Farmer Sam's horse—with one of his iron shoes on. That made clearing the space for a proper brawl a bit more painful, but still manageable.

"Now there, lovely Moorish Princess—AUGH—don't you know enough not to pick—OW—fight with a magician?"

Her kick stopped mid-extension.


"Yeah, dearie, I'm an Elf Prince. We're all magic folks in the woods I come from—AHK—WOMAN DIDN'T I JUST GO OVER THIS?" The finished kick nearly winded me, but the alcohol's stupor was quickly sliding from my brain. A good fight was just what I needed.

I threw my suckerpunch. No wind-up, just straight power. Right in her gut. Hurt my hand like hell, but it let me know she had plenty more knives where the first one came from, and it legitimately caught her off-guard. She was stunned just long enough for me to hook under one leg with one hand and under her armpit with the other and throw her back at the bar where her two fingers of whiskey still sat serenely on Thom's bar.

She landed cleanly on her feet, barely phased by the ten feet of lateral movement she'd experienced through the air. She pulled the glass from the bar, downed her drink, and shattered the empty glass on the bar in one fluid motion.

"Alright, 'Elf Prince.' We'll fight tomorrow, once you've had time to sober up. I won't even bring my knives." To emphasize her point, she pulled a knife from some hidden pocket in her robe and drove a good four inches of steel straight into Thom's solid oak bar.

I slept well that night—but only because of the cider. The sky hadn't cleared by morning, and mud was everywhere. Not ideal fighting conditions. But my hovel was still in the process of being reconstructed, so I groggily wandered down the road to The Trinity Arms for another cider. I took some tonic with the first (or was it the fifth?), and asked Thom if I'd dreamed the scuffle I'd been in the day before.

"Yer a young fella—ta be gettin in fights wit da ladies isna smart fer ya. Ya should be tryna persude them inta yer bed. Ya canna do that when ya get ta be my age, boy."

"I'm not sure you ever were able to persude a lady into your bed, Thom. Not with the slag you call a face." He had been quite a handsome man in his youth, but age had taken a severe toll on him. A sarcastic berating was sort of our handshake.

Her cool voice cut through our conversation. "I see you can't stay away from that awful piss. Thom? Whiskey. Add some tonic and a pinch of sugar." A gold coin flipped through the air and landed solidly on Thom's forehead, the sound barely muffled by the curses of pain he shouted after the impact.

I turned to look at Thom and smile, but as soon as my eyes left her, I hear a slipper land softly near me—she must have jumped—and the hot flash of pain spreading across my back. I instinctively struck backwards with my left fist, used its momentum to turn around and throw my full bodyweight into a right cross. A decent faint, but neither blow landed as intended.

She swatted my left with an open plam, and leaned sideways just enough for my punch to catch her obliques and help her spin back around to face me. I was able to catch her riposte a few fractions of an inch before the impact would have shattered my nose.

I kicked sharply upward, once, catching the inside of her knee and forcing her back a few paces. She settled into another stance, more angular and aggressive than before. Without thinking, I ran at her, and on the last possible step did a little hop to add my bodyweight to the downward punch. Like water, the princess slid to one side—her body a fraction of a second faster than my overpowered attack.

She grabbed my arm and pulled down while jerking her knee up, causing a crimson blossom of pain to explode in my face as my jaw snapped together, and one of my teeth found its first freedom. I let myself fall through this, grasping her leg and pulling her down to the ground with me, pinning one leg under my cider-belly. She hit me a couple times in the back, but I pushed the pain out of my mind.

I heard her draw a knife out of a leather sheath in her robes, and decided if she was going to play dirty, then it was time I showed her what a true Elf Prince could do.

I called out to the powers of nature as I rolled off her, narrowly avoiding a dagger aimed for my neck. I felt my energy waxing and could feel the life radiating out of the wooden bar behind me. I pulled out a small card and focussed on The Emperor—power, dominion, and decision, and pulled a card. He came to my hand, and I threw his card at the Princess as I muttered the name for lightning.

In a flash, she disappeared. The lightning struck, and all that was left was a few charred chair legs in a pile of ash. I looked left and right, then up in just enough time to see her jump through the front door and out into the street. I slumped back into my bench and drew another card at random. The High Priestess—interesting. Means I'd probably see that Moorish Princess again. Likely she'd want to finish this fight.

And one last card to finish the spread—The Fool.

"Looks like it's really time to party, Thom! Throw me another round would you?"