The sun blazed red and hot in Curtis Thyme’s eyes. He squinted to see clearer, and then wiped, irritated at his forehead to stop the trickling sweat from falling down his face. His hand shot back down almost immediately to grip the handle of his broadsword.
Curtis’ opponent, a man clad in silver armor, sidestepped, feigned a thrust, and instead swung his sword down from above.
Curtis saw the blow coming almost at once, and tilting his head to catch the shining blade arcing toward him in his gaze, brought his own weapon up to meet the blow. The weapons crashed together, and sliding his sword from the other, Curtis fell onto one knee and brought his sword up from below in a very skilled and blinding maneuver. He was happy that he had executed it well, and knew that all the watchers that were on the sidelines would be impressed by his show of swordsmanship.
The man he was fighting saw the move, but a moment too late. He brought his sword down to parry, but Curtis was faster, and his blade crashed with an alarming sound into his opponent’s suit of armor.
The man stumbled backward, dropped his sword, and fell on his side to the ground.
Curtis sheathed his sword as he rose from his knee position, then took off his helmet and wiped his sweaty forehead. His dark blue eyes blazed and the brown, shoulder length hair he had swished about his face, beaded with perspiration. Moving toward his fallen opponent, he offered a gloved hand, and the slightly stunned knight took it and was hoisted to his feet.
Curtis patted him on the back. The knight took off his own helmet and smiled up at Curtis, who was taller than he by almost a full head.
“Well done, Curtis.”
“Thank you, Sir Ronald,” Curtis bowed his head to show respect to the older man standing before him.
Sir Ronald had been his trainer, but five times in a row, Curtis had defeated him whenever they had a sparring session together.
The small crowd watching the fighters, who had been silent in the tension of the fight, broke into cheers and smiles.
One young man stepped forward, a good five inches shorter than Curtis, but just as broad and strong, whose skin stretched over his massive muscles and large frame.
“Good one, friend,” he called to Curtis. “Next time we spar I doubt I’ll be able to beat you.”
Curtis lifted one eye as he stripped off the protective armor he wore and took a drink of water from his canteen.
“When did you ever beat me, Tyler?,” he asked after a swallow.
Tyler Drag laughed and slapped Curtis across the back.
“Every time, Curtis. Every time,” Tyler’s eyes twinkled jokingly.
Curtis chuckled and then ignored his best friend after this untrue sarcasm, and continued drinking his water and taking armor off.
“So,” Tyler changed the subject, leaning against a nearby tree in the small garden where the training session had been held. “You entering in this month’s tournament?”
Curtis glanced over at Tyler and nodded.
“You bet I am,” he said. “And I’m going to win!”
“Yeah,” Curtis replied, and then he grinned. “This is the life, Tyler! This is it. What could be better than riches and fame?”
Tyler glanced quickly at Curtis and then shrugged.
“I think I could probably think of a lot of things that are better,” he mumbled, but Curtis just laughed at him.
“We’re all going to die one day, and don’t you think we should take the riches now while they offer themselves? What life is better on this blasted place than one of glory?”
“Maybe …” Tyler replied, but then too quietly for his friend to hear he said, “No.”
“Give it the hardest you got!” Curtis ordered his teacher, Sir Ronald.
The man nodded, and shutting his visor with one hand, raised his sword, and hurtled into a volley of attacks, left and right. Curtis deflected them all without the slightest of troubles, and ducking under one last, wild cut, spun around and thrust with all his might.
The tip of his razor sharp sword stopped just before it touched Sir Ronald’s armor, which covered his chest.
Sir Ronald smiled and bowed.
“Defeated again, Curtis,” he said.
Curtis grinned and sheathed his sword, and then glanced over at his teacher.
“Were you really trying your hardest?,” he asked, hoping that Sir Ronald would say yes, but a little guilty that might have really out bested his own teacher yet another time.
Sir Ronald nodded.
“My very hardest.”
Curtis turned away.
“Thank you, Sir Ronald,” he said, and taking a long drink from his canteen, began to walk back to his quarters, hoping for a little rest before the evening meal.
“Curtis,” Sir Ronald called behind him.
The young warrior turned back to his friend.
Sir Ronald looked at him for a long time, and then a smile grew on his mouth until it covered his face completely.
“You are going to win,” he said simply.
“Thank you, Sir Ronald,” he repeated.
He slowly walked away.
Sweat beaded Curtis’ face, but it was a good feeling. The best sweat Curtis had ever felt, for it was victory sweat.
He stood over his fallen opponent, who was sprawled out on the ground, sword three feet away from his grasp.
Curtis leaned over slightly, and tapped the knight’s breastplate. Cheers erupted from the watching crowd, and Curtis sheathed his sword and threw his arms over his head, drinking in the clapping and whistles.
It was polite to help a fallen opponent upright after he had been defeated, but Curtis was too caught up in the cheering of the watchers to notice as the other knight pulled himself to his feet, walked over to his sword, and sheathed it.
“Winner, Curtis Thyme!” The announcer called, and Curtis waved to the crowd.
He had been successful in every fight he had taken, defeating opponents in only minutes. The last one he had fought had taken five; his longest fight yet.
Only three more battles to win, and he would be the winner of the tournament, the tournament held every month to see who was the most experienced knight in the kingdom. This was the first time Curtis had entered a tournament, and the first time the crowd had been so awed by a knight.
Once again, Curtis was called into the arena. He drew his sword and hurried out, eager to win his next battle.
It did not take long, and he was soon taking in the cheers of the crowd once again. Then he battled the second fight. The other knight was highly skilled, but with a little difficulty, Curtis got him on the ground and tapped his breastplate for the win.
Now only one more warrior was in the way of Curtis, and pure victory and fame. His next and last opponent was a mysterious knight that never opened his visor to let the crowd know who he was. He remained ominous, and the crowd did not order to know who he was, because they loved the feeling of mystery course through them when they saw him.
The judges didn’t ever ask him who he was, because they were a little to nervous, for he was the most powerful knight in the land. He had won five of the tournaments in a row, and had never once spoken or showed himself.
Curtis felt sweat make his chain mail even more slippery than it was normally. The sweat coursed down his head. He wiped it away with a large cloth, but it did little to help. Finally, he was called to the arena. He quickly pulled his helmet on again, drew his sword, and hurried out. His stomach felt strange and light. He was going to face the best knight in the land.
The knight entered the other side of the arena, and the crowd went wild. When they saw him they cheered a little, but not as much as to the other knight.
Jealousy coursed through Curtis.
I’m going to bring down your fame, you mysterious knight! He gritted his teeth as he ran to the middle of the arena.
The knight drew his sword, and calmly moved forward to face Curtis. Curtis slammed his visor down, and shifted into a swordsmen stance. The other knight already had his visor down, and did not move into a stance. He simply stood there, sword held defensively in front of him.
The announcer called for the fight to begin, and Curtis, with a sharp cry, leaped toward the mysterious knight, determined to defeat him quickly.
The mysterious knight quickly shifted into a perfect stance, and blasted his sword powerfully toward Curtis. Curtis was surprised by the attack, and since he was attacking as well, did not get his sword down sharply enough to successfully parry. The two blades connected, but Curtis did not have a good hold, and his sword was torn from his grip.
It landed on the sand of the arena and slid away. Curtis looked surprised at his hand, and then turned to face his defeat. He closed his eyes and waited for the tap on his chest to end the winning round.
It never came. Curtis opened his eyes. The knight slowly stepped away from Curtis and pushed the tip of his sword firmly into the ground before him. He was obviously not going to defeat an unarmed man.
Curtis quickly raced to his sword and snatched it up. When his head raised, his cheeks were red with shame. Then the shame turned quickly to fury. Who was this mysterious knight to humiliate him so?
Curtis ran forward, and swung his sword with all his might. The knight did not back up even one step. He raised his sword and pushed back against Curtis’ blade so hard that Curtis was thrown backward. Curtis, and then fell heavily on his back, sprawled out like an idiot, sword once again gone from his grasp.
And once again, the knight stepped away, and waited for Curtis to get up and retrieve his blade. Curtis did so, and then approached his strange opponent more warily.
The knight moved again into a swordsmen stance, and the two exchanged small blows, testing the others moves and weaknesses.
Then, in a surprising move, – or so Curtis hoped – he dropped to one knee and drove his sword upward.
The knight did not make a move to stop the blow fast enough, and was thrown to the ground. Curtis leaped to his feet and stood triumphantly over the fallen mysterious knight.
The silent crowd suddenly erupted into cheers, and began crying out for Curtis to win the tournament.
Curtis waited, taking in the feeling of great victory. The mysterious knight made a move to rise while Curtis was drinking in the triumph, but Curtis quickly knocked him back down again. When the knight’s head hit the ground, his helmet came loose and rolled away from his head.
Curtis nearly dropped his sword.
At his mercy, lay Tyler Drag, his best friend. Tyler stared up at Curtis, and then smiled sheepishly.
“You?” Curtis staggered. “You are the mysterious knight? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tyler chuckled a little.
“Had to keep it a secret or else everyone would worship me. I don’t want that. I don’t want people thinking I’m the best, because it doesn’t matter if you win the tournament. Your friends will still stick out for you. I may lose the love of the crowd, but not my friends. Go on, win the tournament.”
Curtis knew that if he brought the blow down, it would hurt their friendship badly. He would be humiliating his best friend in front of the entire crowd.
But he did it to me, right? Curtis thought angrily, and raising his sword, brought it down to end the tournament. But Tyler was gone.
“Huh?” Curtis whirled around, just in time to see Tyler swinging a two handed cut for his chest. Somehow he had slid away from Curtis when the warrior wasn’t looking and had retrieved his sword.
Curtis raised his sword, and it was blasted from his hand again. Curtis sighed, looking down at his boots angrily.
“Finish it, Tyler!” he growled. “You win.”
Tyler raised the sword, but instead of bringing it down to win, he let go of the handle. It spun into the air, and then when it came down, Tyler caught it by the tip of the blade. He pushed the handle toward Curtis.
“I yield,” he said with a smile.
Curtis couldn’t believe it. He looked down at the sword, and then back up at Tyler. Anger suddenly filled him again, and snatching the sword, smashed Tyler hard in the chest with his own sword. Tyler fell hard.
“I won,” he whispered.
He turned and raised his hands to the crowd, waiting for the cheering, clapping and adoration that was sure to come, but he only heard a few mutters and stunned silence.
“That was his friend!”
“He hit his friend after the knight yielded? What kind of man is this?”
“Stupid! He didn’t have to go rub it in and hit his best friend.”
Curtis frowned and turned away. Tyler was already up. He had retrieved his helmet, and then held out a hand for his sword. There was no emotion on his face, even after the horrible thing Curtis had done to him.
Instead of handing it to his defeated opponent, he dropped it on the ground, and then walked over and picked up his own blade.
Tyler had to pick up his sword, and then sheathing it, waved to the crowd. The crowd went wild, even though Tyler had lost.
Curtis took the reward money, and left the tournament grounds as fast as he possibly could.
To be concluded next week in Power of Sword: Part 2
Short Story: Power of the Sword: Part 1
Caleb E King
Copyright © 2018 Caleb E King
All rights reserved.