Daein sat sharpening a knife in the living area of the house. He was a large man, well over six foot, and his shoulders broad from his years as apprentice to the village blacksmith. He looked up as Markus entered. “How goes it, cousin?”
“It goes well, Daein”.
“Is something troubling you, Markus? You seem confused”.
“It’s nothing. I noticed a black clad stranger in the village square. His cloak was so dark he appeared to blend into the shadows. He wore a hood which completely hid his face”.
“He is probably just here for the festival. Maybe he is a trader; he is certainly not a jester or a bard, or any form of entertainer; they are always colourfully dressed”.
“As I said, it is nothing”.
“All is well. Will you spar with me cousin?” he reached down and tossed a round wooden stick to Markus. “Non-lethal sparring of course” he added with a smile. Markus nodded. They proceeded out the back of the house, and into their small garden space. They face each other across. Daein held his stick in one hand above his head, the other out in front of him as if to push something. Markus held his in two hands out in front of him.
They bowed once to each other and began to circle. Daein lunged, pressing his outstretched hand at Markus’ chest as he brought the stick crashing down towards his head. Markus deflected the blow at the last second, kicked Daein back and launched into a succession of swings, each missing the target as Daein danced back. “You are like a drunken brawler”. Daein was beginning his usual taunts. He was becoming overconfident. Markus awaited his opportunity. Daein let his guard slip. He held his stick loose and Markus knocked it from his grip with one steady blow. He whipped the stick back into Daein’s side, winding him.
“I’d say I win. What do you think Daein?”
Daein struggled to regain his breath. He gasped and said “Yeah. You win this one”. Markus helped him to his feet and they walked back inside. “So Daein, who are you going to ask to dance at the festival?”