The Spiteful Swordsmen of the Southern Empire

The warriors have gathered for the tournament. There were only two ideas that would lead a man into joining this madness – glory and gold. The night was young, and after the last few bouts, most of them wanted nothing more than to spend their hard-earned gold. For this reason the tavern was full tonight. It was oozing with banter and laughs. Food littered the ground. There was also an occasional scream or two, and a brief scuffle.

Drunk, the warriors chanted their mantra in unison “Tomorrow should prove even more generous.” Yet, that was only the beginning, and beginnings are always easy. The few lucky ones to be tremendously empowered and skilled drunk alone. Those would be the warriors destined to reach the finals. However, most fighters formed small circles to gossip and jest.One such circle was named The Spiteful Swordsmen of the Southern Empire. An overactive rabble of five brave and brazen warriors without shame, who had only a single basic goal – take whatever you covet. All but two have gathered inside to drink.

Gary the Poisoner exclaimed. “Sleep? What are you talking about? The landlord has just bought a pair of wild dogs, even if we wanted to sleep, we can’t.”

“I’m tired but you’re right! Let’s celebrate, it was a good day. Thankfully, my wife is coming tomorrow so we can drink all-night.” Edward the Back Stabber retorted. He was dressed in a complete set of leather armor. “Continue.”

“You should’ve seen his eye, the look and everything when I burned his house.” Gary laughed.

“Not an impressive story. I should tell you about the curse sometime.”

“We’ve done so much malice, and I have yet to face a curse.” Gary padded him on the back.

Randol the Heart Slasher kept silent. His head was bowed down, his eyes hidden underneath the edge of his hat.

Nathaniel the Throat Slasher barged through the door and yelled, “Fellows, listen! Andrew the Heart Piercer has died today. He was pierced in the heart!”

“What?” Gary stood up.

“How did it happen, Nate?” Randol asked.

“His fight was initiated by a brief conversation after which he lashed out. The swordsman ducked in panic, with his swords pointing outwards. Within a fraction of a second, Andrew was pierced though the heart, his own blade hanging above his head. ”

“Who is the swordsman?” Gary asked.
“The name?”

“Name, please?” Randol concurred.

“Everybody says that Anger killed him.”

“Listen lads! This is no little thing. We are here because of our reputation. We are vicious! We are winners. We are Anger! Today feel shameful. Today died Andrew the Heart Piercer. Today died our reputation.” Randol declared with utmost certainty.

Anger boiled in their hearts.

“Yet, fear not,” he continued, “I have a remedy. We will reach the summit! We will regain our reputation.”

Someone interrupted Randol who unsheathed his weapon, and with a single slash silenced the eavesdropper. The swordsmen paid no attention to the deed. Blood covered the floor. Yells from the bottom of their stomachs harmonized into a huge cheer.

“The first one to bring me the head of this swordsman eats for free tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir!” The warriors went their separate ways.

***

The next day Nathaniel, a brisk fellow, promenaded across the town square looking for knowledge. His head stuck out above the thick crowds of peasants. He gazed with his vicious eyes for someone or something – a lead. Something pulled on his sleeve. He grasped his blade, but as he noticed it was just a child.

“Are you looking for it?”“Yes? Where is it? What does it look like?” Nathaniel questioned.

“He is scared. He is a feeble fellow, who by luck makes things happen. He digs his head under the sand at the first sight of trouble. He vanishes.”

Nathaniel left the child as he continued to meander until his eyes caught a shivering figure strolling away from the town square. He gave chase straight down the street until he lost his trail. A barking dog magnetized him to the lord’s manor. He felt his heart pounding. Randol’s words burned a thick scar into his lungs that bottled somewhere in his neck. He swallowed ready to cry out. Anger poured over his face. He saw the figure cutting a corner around the manor. He jumped over the fence. As his feet reached the ground, he fell on his back. The last thing he saw was the hound leaping for his neck.

***

Second was Gary, an avaricious fellow, whose actions spoke louder than words. He kept silent about his deeds, but no one lived who crossed his path. The poison that he readily poured over his blade whenever a fight commenced was merely a ploy that allowed him the leeway to play with his opponent. Some say it was self-confidence that he lacked, not skill.

In the morning, he woke up and set out on his hunt. The moment he left his home, the elder asked.“Are you looking for him?”

“What?”

“For the gold that the man stole from you?”

“My gold?” Gary asked in anger. He returned home to find an empty chest.

“This way! This way!” The elder pointed

Gary looked at the claustrophobic alcove. In the darkness, he saw a hooded figure. He lunched forward, zooming through the crowd. He felt his anger spilling over his thoughts. As he reached the darkness, he methodically traversed the steep downward spiral of stairs. He has long lost sight of the hooded figure, but he continued. A gust of wind extinguished the faint flames that led him. His foot hit an uneven step, and then the pain kicked in. Gary was pulled down, and he felt the sword slip out of his hand. It sliced his leg but only barely. As he hit the bottom, he rolled out into the sunlight. He picked up his blade. Nothing serious, he thought. That’s when he noticed that one of his bottles cracked, and the poison spilled over his wound.

***

Next was Edward a talkative man. He leisurely dressed in his home. Ready to leave, he heard someone come in. His wife looked at him with those evil eyes like she is ready to attack. He retreated.

“Is it true?”
“What is?”“All these women!”

Edwards wanted to explain, but he saw a hooded figure in the window. That must be him, he declared. “I must go.”
“Answer me!”

He got to the door to realize that the key vanished.

“Looking for this?”

“Give me the key.”

“Answer me and you will get it.”

“Yes, it’s true! Key please.”

Edward took the key. He got to the door. He heard his wife sneaking up on him with a knife.

***

Randol never heard back from his comrades, which wasn’t surprising as he deemed them very unreliable. It was his first match since three days. He walked onto the arena. He never searched for his companions in the crowds. They long ago decided that they will never spectate and encourage each other. When they first met, every single one agreed that a true warrior fights alone. That solitary sensation is what strengthens them and redoubles their power.

Before Randol appeared the swordsman.His characterless voice said. “Do you know what killed your friends?”

The words like arrows pierced Randol’s pride.

“Anger, of course.” He replied, lifting his sword up into the sky. His heart begun to pound. Recalling his own words that he spoke to his comrades was like drinking poison. His own pride was blighted as his heart was split in two. On one end he was filled with anger, and on the other an insatiable desire for vengeance.

“And here I was thinking that you’ll give me the credit.”

Randol sprinted with his sword overhead at the cowering swordsman. The swordsman dug his head down and waved his sword chaotically, plunging its tip into Randol’s chest and slashing his heart.

 

THE END

The piece turned out to be a bit longer than I expected. Apparently, my initial post lacked a change in the final line that turned out to be quite significant. Sorry to all readers who might’ve felt it was incomplete before. Nonetheless, it’s all fixed now. Feel free to comment and make suggestions. Thanks for reading,
Patrick Rain

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