In Verse Proportion; Chapter 56, Slade 186

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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 56:  Slade 186
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Brown 213

The next morning when Slade stepped outside to practice and started warming up, an approaching group caught his attention.  They were dressed in oddly colored outfits, but what was more to the point the outfits appeared to be padded, they were carrying objects that had the appearance of beekeeper’s headgear, and they were girt with swords.

Either I’m in trouble, he thought, or we’re about to have some fun--two things which he realized were not entirely incompatible.

“I don’t suppose,” he said to them in English, “you brought a translator with you?”  Seeing the blank stares as the party looked around at each other, he added, “No, I didn’t think so.”  There was nothing for it.  He selected someone in the back, and established a language link, then continued in Parakeet.

“So, understand that I can’t keep the mental link that enables me to speak and understand your language for very long, and probably less so while we’re sparring, so anything I have to know you have to tell me before we begin.  I’ve practiced with people in many worlds, and the rules are often different, so before we begin you need to explain them to me.  And be aware that they can’t include that someone is going to say something I need to understand during the fight, because I’ll be lucky enough just to realize that that noise was a word.  So, I’m ready; how do we play?”

The rules weren’t that difficult.  Everyone was expected to pull punches so no one would be hurt.  Three touches wins.  There would be two referees watching to determine whether there had been a touch.  They would whistle a particular word if they saw one, followed by a number, which Slade knew he would not understand during the match.

“Well, sounds simple enough.  Just so everyone understands, though, this is a real sword; I do not own a practice sword.  Generations ago I killed several sparrow people and a giant snake here in your own mountains with this sword, and I’ve killed men and monsters before and since with it.  I have sparred safely with it, but don’t underestimate it.  I expect I could tear through that padding and you without too much difficulty.  So, who’s first?”

One of the birds put the headpiece on and stepped forward, drawing its sword.  Slade realized that there were two ways the group could play it.  This might be their best man, proving himself against the alien, with the others tagging along to watch.  On the other hand, this might be the third or fourth best, the best of them watching to assess his style and learn, so they would be aware of what to watch for and how to counter it, and maybe find his weak spots.  Good luck with that, he thought.  No one had been able to do that since--well, of course there was that girl.  He should not underestimate these birds.  He did not know anything about their fighting style.

The instructions said to touch the tip of the sword to the ground then raise it to an upright position and wait for the go from one of the referees.  He copied his opponent’s moves for this.  The parakeet arms were short, as were their legs; it was difficult to see where they had any advantages.

It lunged abruptly.  It was fast at close quarters.  He blocked the thrust, but it was close.  He stepped back and took advantage of his reach to engage his opponent’s weapon, catching it in a twirling flourish, then sending it upward as he swept beneath for a touch under the sword arm.  He thwacked it with the side of his blade, and the bird clearly felt it, but it was unharmed.  A point was called.

The bird did not stop, did not pause, did not step back--and that was its undoing, because Slade was ready, and when it moved forward it ran directly into the point of his sword.  Another point was called.

This time it did step back, putting enough space between them that Slade would have to move forward to get an attack.  It appeared to be assessing him, eyeing him up and down.  Don’t forget, Slade thought, it’s fast.  When it moves, it’s going to be on you instantly.  Keep the guard up, which he did.

The move came.  Slade sidestepped and swung, but the adversary ducked and went under the sword, sailing past.  Slade turned to face it, and it was already turned around and coming toward him.  Suddenly it leapt into a flip.  That was unexpected, but Slade had practiced against Lauren so he’d seen that kind of move before, with a much less predictable weapon.  He raised his sword and caught the incoming chop, putting the poor bird off balance and causing it to land on its back.  He brought his own blade down to touch the creature's face mask, and heard the call of the point and another call which he took to mean the match had ended.

He offered a hand to the fallen bird, who rose, obviously a bit sore from the landing.  Finding someone for the language link, he said “Thank you for the challenging workout.  We must do it again sometime.”  Then he scanned the group.  “Someone else?”

There were no takers; he must have bested their best, or at least shown them that he was at least as good as they had heard.  Anyway, he hoped they would be back another day.

Next chapter:  Chapter 57:  Kondor 191
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #440:  Changing Worlds.  Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.  It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.

As to the old stories that have long been here:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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