Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day Three-Thirty-Eight: Showdown at Dawn

They came at dawn, as promised. They had their spears ready, their armour donned, their limbs shaking with fear and cold. Yet they came anyway, steely Pagan leading the way, and my father met them in the fields of Pubton.

Yes. Pubton. Our town lives.

Determined to announce our departure and formally apologize to Pagan for our intrusion, I was up before the sun rose and sitting on my parents' front porch. My mom was with me, and Libby, both surprisingly civil in the face of Pagan's impending attack.

"This is the only place that's okay," I said to the silence. 

They both looked at me. "Whaddya mean, kiddo?" Mom asked.

"This house." I rapped my white knuckles on the railing. "You never had any problems with this house. Did you?"

"'side from those beavers? Nope." Mom laughed. "That's 'cause it belongs to your father, though. Anybody crosses him deserves to get flayed."

"Yeah." I sighed. "That's the point. If… if dad was in charge… maybe this all wouldn't have turned out the way it did."

Libby promptly smacked me on the back of the head. I expected my mom to yell at her for manhandling her son - and was surprised when she, too, whacked me on the neck. "Ow! Ow! What the hell!"

"If that idiot - " began Libby, temper rising.

"He's still my husband, thank you!" Mom cut in, sneering at her daughter-in-law. "If that idiot, yes, IDIOT, had been in charge of this town, we'd all probably be dead by now. He's a good enforcer, but Oswald is terrible at negotiations. You kept us alive this long, Dragomir, 'n you'll let us walk away from it. That's better'n your father could ever do."

I pointed at the hulking form of Oswald the Farmer in the distance, his huge back visible from a hundred meters away. "Lookit him, though. He's ready to defend us, 'n die if that’s what's gotta happen. Shouldn't… shouldn't I be willing to do the same?"

"No," Libby responded flatly, cuffing me again. "You died once, stupid. You don't die again. Even think of trying it and I'll kick your ass so hard you'll wish you were dead. But you won't be, 'cause you're not allowed. Bloody nitwit, that ain't in your job description."

I laughed a little. "Yeah. I guess so. But… Pubton…"

Libby grabbed me by the shoulders and yanked me around so I was staring into her eyes. "I'd rather watch Pubton burn down a thousand times than let you get hurt again, dumbass. Now SHUT UP and get your dad 'n his group outta that field. The sun's almost up."

Libby kicked me to my feet. I looked back at her, humiliated and appreciative, and caught my mom's expression at the same time. She was watching Libby with wry respect, and I was certain in that moment that she'd never call my wife a whore again.

I ran, slipping a dozen times on the grass, calling for people to wake up, listening as Libby and my mom did the same. I heard the stir of movement, watched as people crawled out of half-fallen shelters, knowing they'd barely slept the night before, knowing most of them were probably packed and ready to go, just waiting for me to give the go-ahead.

I sprinted. I called to my father, telling him it was over, that we surrender, that we had to leave. He didn't turn to look at me, only grunted, and in that moment the sun peeked up over the tree line, casting its first feeble rays of light on what remained of Pubton.

Pagan's army stirred. The slave soldiers began to march, their grey master taking lead, unhindered by his cane or stooped back. I screamed at them, saying that we surrendered, offering to leave, begging for mercy -

- and then my father walloped me in the face.

I have been punched by my dad many times, both growing up and as an adult. I was always aware of his fully strength… or at least I thought I was. This time, though, he REALLY used his full strength, laying into my nose with a brutal force that sent me careening into the grass, knocking me out cold.

Darkness. Pain, even as I slept. But I only slept for a few moments, because the pain lifted me, forcing me back to life, and when I awoke Robert was stooping over me, forcing me up into a sitting position, watching as Pagan and my father circled one another, quietly observed by dozens of slaves and townspeople.

My father is the largest man I've ever seen, larger even than Cedric by a little bit. He is a bear, perhaps even more than a bear. Yet for all that Pagan seemed utterly undaunted, slowly pacing in a determined circle, still clutching his cane. I tried to sputter words at them, but each syllable came out a garbled mess. Robert motioned for me to be silent. I was spattering blood on his apron.

My father moved first. Roaring - he's not much for subtlety - he charged at Pagan, raising his arm for an overhead smash that would easily have killed the older man had Pagan not ducked out of the way. Despite his armour, age and limp Pagan rolled and came up easily a few feet away, stooping on his cane. Not quite as quick as Logan or Eve, but definitely a warrior.

My dad flew at Pagan again, fist swinging, as coordinated as you'd expect from a farmer with little duelling experience. Pagan weaved between each blow, expression frozen in cold disinterest, toying with the giant man. My father, angered, bellowed several obscenities and drove in for a killing sweep -

- and his arm flew the wrong direction. Blood stained the grass, and my father fell to his knees, his shouts of pain and anger both titanic and pitiable.

Pagan slid the thin, hidden sword with the crane's head for a pommel back into its sheath, leaning back on the restored cane. He stood over my dad, not gloating, not even smiling, only watching as Oswald flailed and cursed.

"Shut up," Pagan said, voice lordly and imperial. "These are my lands. I do what I wish with trespassers. Your arm is now mine, giant, and your life will be, too, if you do not leave as your fool mayor bids. Had he not tarried so long, you might be more than a wailing stump of a man."

I shuddered, mirroring the shudder of my father, watching as the lifeblood ran out of his body. I felt more profoundly sorry for dad in that moment than I ever have in my life, more apologetic for fucking up than I ever thought possible. I have killed him, I thought, I have killed my own father with my stubborn indecision.

And then the impossible happened. Dad beat Pagan in the most lopsided fight of all time.

I knew something had changed when the pain leaked out of dad's voice, replaced by maniacal laugher. His mighty legs pushed him forward, launching Oswald the Farmer like a burly torpedo at his nemesis. With perfect aim dad's skull struck Pagan square in the face, knocking the old man off his feet and onto the grass.

Struggling his way to his legs despite the lack of arms, watched by dozens of stunned spectators, dad assaulted Pagan with heavy kicks. The knight tried to roll away from Oswald's boots, but the burly farmer trapped him in one spot, knocking the sword cane away and stomping at the gaps in Pagan's armour. Something cracked loudly, and Pagan grunted. With one mighty final kick dad sent Pagan sprawling into a group of slaves, a tangled mess of bloody armour. 

Dad spit, kicked at his arm on the ground, and grinned. "How 'bout that, ya old fuck? Even with me disarmed, eheh, ya can't win. Come back tomorrow 'n try that shit again, I dare ya - I still got two good legs to pound your ass!"

The cheer from the townsfolk, after a few moments of awed silence, completely covered the frightened shuffle of slaves retreating to their tents, their broken lord draped in their arms.

Pubton lives. So too does my father, who, despite now having no arms as all, seems quite healthy. A little grey in the face, perhaps, but I suspect he'll recover in time. He has never been more beloved by anyone.

I owe him. We all do.

Is it selfish of me to hate that debt?

Pagan's forces have not moved. I suspect they'll be back tomorrow. I… guess… we'll be ready for them…


Dragomir the Mayor


  1. I suddenly don't miss Captain Cedric as much. Because we have Oswald the Human Torpedo. All he needs now is one of those stupid metal caps that all the "Human Bullet" characters get.

    I for one welcome our new Torso Overlord.

    1. I may give him an outfit like Ram Man from He-Man. It'd be perfect for him.

      I've been slowly grooming Oswald to take over for Cedric for a while, now. I still like Cedric more, as he has greater depth than Oswald, but this fight made Oswald a hell of a lot cooler.

    2. I dunno...something seems...a little off...his manner of cursing and delightful attitude towards stomping smaller foes into a bloody pulp is kind of...familiar...but then again...WHAT DO I KNOW! I'm just the trumpet guy! *Doo doo dee doo doo dee DOO!*