Saturday, July 31, 2010
This is my entry for the Milestones Blogfest hosted by Donna Hole. Thank you to Donna for hosting.
The set up for this scene is that it's the final showdown in the Isthmian Games in Ancient Greece, a sword fight to determine the victor. Our protag, Caenus competes against Makedon, our bad boy antag. In this instance it is Makedon who is achieving the Milestone.
The fifth stage of the games had reared its head, a rarity revered by the gods for its significance. Its very necessity spawned a din of chatter from Corinth to Olympus, deities clamoring to favor the victor. Two soldiers, nigh evenly matched, were pitted in a clash of sword and sandal, of will and might. And, though Zeus frowned upon it, the gods could scarcely tear themselves away from spending ardor on the two greatest warriors in the land. From Apollo and Artemis to Ares and Athena, gods and goddesses alike descended in spirit and form to witness the event.
This fifth stage had been solely reserved for circumstances of relieving a tie in the preceding four. At the previous two Isthmian Games, Makedon had dominated the initial four stages, a feat easily accomplishable by a young man of his talents and pedigree. His father, Hypatios of Neapolis, had enjoyed similar success in his youth, a veritable legend at the games. All was to say that Makedon was known by many of the gods. As yet, Caenus was not.
The unlikely and unknown challenger to this year’s crown of laurels, Caenus now knocked at the door of myth and legend… fate and destiny, threatening to dethrone the defending champion. Perhaps the previous day’s encounter with the elderly gentleman and Caenus’ subsequent victory were part of a larger divine design… almost as if there were immortal forces at work.
The entire arena floor had been cleared. No circles, no rings, and no rules bound them, save the condition for winning. The first contestant to draw blood from the other’s torso with their sword would be the victor.
Stepping to his commencement line in the center of the arena floor, Makedon motioned his hands upward, roiling the crowded cauldron to a fevered pitch. His sinewy muscles glistened with the oil he had applied as he took up his xiphos, double-edged, single-handed sword wielded by many common soldiers, and assumed a ready position opposite his foe. Caenus stepped to his line, focused, determined. Acutely aware of the significance and potential audience, he picked up his xiphos sword, and set his feet. After confirming that each contestant was ready, the judge dropped his hand to initiate the stage and swiftly removed himself from the arena floor.
The competitors began a fierce melee dance. Their swords clanked and sparked, dust swirling with every slide of their feet. Helios’ unyielding rays stung the contestants’ skin as they used nearly every inch of the arena floor in avoiding each other’s blade. Caenus struck first on Makedon’s right shoulder after the Neapolitan had overextended himself. A simple flesh wound, earning no points.
Caenus struck again shortly after the first wound with a stab to Makedon’s right thigh. In a simultaneous move, Makedon sliced a gash in Caenus’ right arm. Exterior and perimeter wounds were not only fair, but also expected. With two experienced and skilled swordsmen, an interior torso wound would be extremely difficult to achieve. Smart strategy sought to inflict minor wounds in an attempt to wear the opponent down until they lowered their guard enough to allow the victorious wound. That said, at no time was it permissible to inflict a killing wound, punishable by death in return.
The contestants continued in like manner for longer than the crowd had anticipated, its angst growing by every passing moment, their chants and cheers growing louder and louder. Caenus competed with ferocity, his sandals never quite allowing a severe cut to be made, though he had caused several strategic strikes. Weakened and frustrated, Makedon sensed the momentum of the match swinging away from him. An image of his father’s scowl flashed before his eyes and he knew the wrath he would face if he were to lose. So, his mind concocted a devious plan.
As any great warrior, Caenus smelled that moment when victory was nearest and he lunged for Makedon, narrowly missing the torso, striking his opponent’s forearm. Makedon fell, turning away from his opponent. Theorizing that Makedon’s torso would be exposed when he turned back around, Caenus closed for the chance he had longed for. Victory was so close he could smell its savory aroma, taste its sweetness like summer fruit. He’d win his father’s respect and Adriande!
But then Makedon wheeled around with a hand full of dust and sand, tossing it directly into Caenus’ eyes. Momentarily blinded, Caenus was unable to prepare for Makedon’s slice at his midsection, spilling a small amount of blood to the guilty sand.
At that moment, Ares chuckled from high upon his Thracian throne, pleased at his protégé’s resourceful approach to victory. So too smiled Hephaestus from deep within his forge on famed Lemnos. Athena, however, cast a disdainful glare upon the arena, as did fleet-footed Hermes.
“You filthy coward!” Caenus yelled from behind a dusty veil.
Makedon laughed. “You are the one with dirt on your face… and you call me filthy?”
Caenus lunged toward his face with careless abandon. Makedon’s sword tip halted his progress. “Easy now… Shall I widen the wound?”
By then, Corinthian judges and guardsmen had surrounded them in an effort to cool their tempers.
“You cheated! You cheated because you knew you could not defeat me fairly?” Caenus yelled.With Caenus sufficiently restrained, Makedon remarked, “Cheat? I did no such thing. All is fair in love and war. Always remember that.”