The Duel

The duel was completely mismatched.  Danny had never been trained to wield a sword.  He could fire a gun with decent chance of success, but swords were a thing of the past.  He had, like any other boy, played with sticks for swords as a child, but that did not count for much—especially not against this master swordsman. 

The need to survive and fear of becoming like the bloody corpse on the floor beside him drove his blade to defense.  The intricate swirls of torch-light that reflected on his blade and that of his opponent filled his eyes and mind.  He found that he could anticipate the moves of the blades according to the glimmers of reflected light.  Without this he would have died almost at once.  But all it did was buy him time.  For he was clearly on the loosing side of the duel, and the pain in his bloodied left shoulder shouted proof of this to his mind.

Every man has a weakness.  Danny’s thoughts swirled with the reflected light of the torches.  They were interrupted only by the rhythmic clanging of steel against steel.  This man is blindfolded, so he is using not his eyes to fight, but his other senses, and, most importantly, his mind. His mind.  There is a weakness in every mind. But how could he find it? He tried to reach out with his mind, to mentally probe the man before him.  Nothing.  I’m silly to think I can read his mind.  Then, all of a sudden, words came to him, he knew not quite from where, and he spoke them:

“She hates you, you know.  For what you have done.”

The old man faltered, ever so slightly, and Danny had to move quickly to dodge the defective blow.  He tried to use that moment to drive his own sword home, but the old man recovered too quickly and was once more on the offense. 

“Silence, boy,” he growled, doubling the fury of his attack.  A quiet had come over the people who surrounded them.  Their still masks no longer issued cheers or exclamations.

“Your daughter,” said Danny, barely able to conceal the wonder he felt at his own words.  Was he just making this up?  Or did he somehow know that this man had a daughter? “She might still love you.  Might change her heart.  If—”

Danny was silence by a blow from the flat of his enemie’s blade that sent him falling to the ground, his sword spinning out of his reach.

Silence!” shouted the old man, raising his sword to destroy Danny in a final blow.

Danny spoke quickly.  Now words were his only defense against this mind.  And his words must shake the mind of his enemy so much that they stilled his arms.  “If you kill me she will never love you.”  The blow should have fallen, but it hadn’t.  The old man, still blindfolded, was frozen above him like a dramatic tableau, nothing moving except the ever flickering light that reflected on his sword.  “She will hate you forever and her hatred will be the end of you.  Unless.”  Danny fell silent.  Unless what? His mind asked him.  But he was no longer panicked.  He knew that his mind, or was it the mind of his opponent?, would supply the information when he needed it.

The stillness in the room dragged on unnaturally long.  At last, Danny pushed himself to his feet and spoke.

“You needn’t feel any shame in not killing me.  I’m sure there will be other victims to present to your ‘lady’.” Everyone listened to Danny as though he were weaving spells with his words.  The old man slowly lowered his sword.  “This duel simply never happened,” continued Danny.  “I entered after you defeated that poor wretch,” he indicated the corpse with a wave of his hand, “and we never fought.  Isn’t that right?” he looked about at the masked faces around him.  They looked to the old man.  The old man dropped his sword and slowly, with shaking fingers, undid his blindfold.  He stared at Danny with wide eyes. 

“That’s right.  It never happened,” he agreed.  Then, his voice less strong, he asked, “what can I do?  To win my daughter’s forgiveness?”

The End

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