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Dueling on thin ice

Alpanon Feb 27th, 2017 (edited) 1,335 Never
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  1. ”I’ve got a baaaad feeling about this, Chief” Pucelle said.
  2. “You’ve always got a bad feeling about something” Gideon replied to his Fairy companion.
  3. “I’m telling you, we should go around” the Fairy insisted.
  4. “And I say we’re going across” the man insisted in turn.
  5. The frozen lake was of a considerable size and to go around would make their journey several hours longer. Gideon pointed this out.
  6. “But if the ice breaks you’ll die and then you’ll never get there” Pucelle argued.
  7. “You’re always thinking in negatives, you know that? It’s still winter, the ice looks fine. No patches of water on it or anything. We’ll be fine. It’s half-an-hour across at most, so let’s just go”
  8. Pucelle made a pouty face and flew off in protest, but quickly returned as Gideon’s fur hat was her best shelter against the cold.
  9. “Fine, go drown. See if I care” she mumbled as she pulled the sewed-on flaps around herself as covers.
  10. “We’ll be fine” Gideon said and stepped on the ice without hesitating. There was no ominous cracking or creaking, and so he kept on walking, keeping his eye on the distant opposite shore, from where it shouldn’t be more than a half-a-day’s travel to their destination. They wouldn’t make it before nightfall, but it wouldn’t be necessary to camp out another night in the wild. With this in mind Gideon felt rather good about himself, and with his spear resting on his shoulder and his head held high he hummed an old marching song while stomping along, giving no care to the thickness of the ice. It was sure to be fine.
  11.  
  12. After about ten minutes on the ice the Fairy began to make frantic movements in her nest and dug herself out with a warning.
  13. “I can sense trouble!” she said.
  14. “Really? Is there a big pike down there, perhaps? One big enough to eat you, I mean. I remember that time with the owl in the trees that kept me up all night because you thought…”
  15. “This is different! Magical!” Pucelle snapped.
  16. “Magical, huh? Good thing I have my wards” Gideon said, fiddling with the leather pouch hanging from his neck. In it were smooth stones, some herbs and old bones, magical wards provided to him by a Witch in return for some help with heavy lifting.
  17. “The only thing your damn wards will do is keep lightning from striking you, if anything they’ll lure magically sensitive things to you” Pucelle whined.
  18. “Wouldn’t magically sensitive creatures notice you first though?”
  19. “W-well that’s, I mean, maybe…”
  20. “Then let’s not go around pointing fingers. Can you tell me what I should be looking out for?”
  21. The Fairy made the noises bumble bees make while she thought about the matter. After finishing she answered with a little deeper voice than usual.
  22. “It started off on the opposite shore. It’s coming this way. Look!”
  23. Gideon looked, but saw nothing but the blinding whiteness of a bright winter’s day. The glittering snow all over made it difficult to look anywhere directly.
  24. “I can’t see it” he said.
  25. “It’s coming closer though! It has to be the source of my bad feeling before! It’s an enemy, without a doubt it’s an enemy!”
  26. “Pucelle, dear, how can you tell it’s an enemy?”
  27. “Well anything with that much magic has to be a Monster, and Monsters are all rapists and villains!”
  28. “Aren’t you a rapist and a villain then?”
  29. Pucelle had no answer to that.
  30. “That’s what I thought. We’ll keep heading straight on, see who it is. Do try to be a little more trusting in your fellow… creature”
  31.  
  32. It didn’t take long for Gideon to spot the source of the bad feeling Pucelle had gotten. An even brighter spot than the snow appeared, and before it a silhouette. It raised a hand in a gesture of greeting, and Gideon followed suit. The two continued to approach one another until they could look at one another properly, stopping a couple dozen paces from another. Gideon had some trouble recognizing the figure before him due to the light shining from behind it, but after growing accustomed to it he realized it was some manner of Lizardwoman with a burning tail. A Salamander, then!
  33. “Good day to you” he said.
  34. “And you” replied the Salamander, resting one arm on the hilt of her sword by the elbow, lowering her scarf from her face with the other. Even from this distance it was quite apparent she was not an unattractive beast, though in Gideon’s experience they never were.
  35. “My companion and I are headed to…”
  36. “Your companion?” the beast interrupted rudely.
  37. “Yes, the Fairy in my hat” Gideon explained patiently.
  38. The Salamander raised an eyebrow.
  39. “A Fairy?”
  40. “Yes”
  41. “In your hat?”
  42. “Yes”
  43. “Hello!” Pucelle blurted out.
  44. “I see” the Salamander nodded, and then dropped her backpack on the ice.
  45. “You carry a weapon. You know how to fight, yes?” she asked, stretching her shoulders and arms.
  46. “Well, yes, but…”
  47. “Then I’ll make this simple. Fight me”
  48. Gideon took a step back.
  49. “I beg your pardon?”
  50. “Fight. Me” the Salamander repeated, stretching her calves and neck.
  51. “I… but why?” Gideon asked, aghast.
  52. “It’s just what they’re like” Pucelle whispered.
  53. “I feel like it” the Salamander said. “You can fight me willingly, or I’ll just attack you. You’ll defend yourself then, and it won’t make any real difference, but it’d be nice if you consented”
  54. Gideon rubbed his chin.
  55. “And what is the name of the woman I’m to fight?” he asked.
  56. “Tessa”
  57. “Right then, Tessa. I’m Gideon, and I accept your challenge” he said, lowering his own backpack on the ice.
  58. “Hey, don’t I get a say in this? I forbid you!” Pucelle blurted out, but Gideon took off his hat and dropped it with her in it on his bag.
  59. “What are the rules of our engagement?” Gideon asked.
  60. “Fight with honour, surrender when you feel like it” Tessa replied, unsheathing her sword.
  61. “Right then” Gideon said, twirling his spear around his head and assuming a stance.
  62.  
  63. Tessa took the initiative. Rushing headlong at him, her red hair waving, she had a grin on her face, her sword held in a two-handed grip.
  64. Gideon slightly slid along on the ice to meet her and to put distance between the fight and Pucelle, and then took a side-step to thrust at the amphibian from a diagonal direction. Tessa jumped away to dodge the thrust and found herself too far to hit him, the slippery ice sending her sliding in a way that prevented her from immediately changing her trajectory. Gideon took more side-steps, slowly and in full control of each movement, keeping very carefully on balance, skirting around to reverse their positions. He hadn’t completed the arc yet when Tessa attacked again, this time with a direct thrust of her own, forcing him to place his spear vertically and use it to redirect her blow, bringing the two combatants in physical proximity. The heat of her tail felt intense from this distance, and she blinked with her second set of eyelids when their eyes met. Gideon found himself almost spellbound, pausing to just take in the utterly foreign nature of his opponent, giving Tessa the opportunity to use the pommel of her sword to hit his solar plexus. The hit didn’t manage to knock the air out of his lungs but it certainly brought him back to reality.
  65. Gideon placed a legs between the legs of her opponent and pushed with his spear held horizontally, attempting to trip her. Tessa blocked the spear with the side of her sword and used her tail to brace herself, managing to hold her balance. With the inertia stopped, the two were now locked in a contest of strength as they pushed against one another. Tessa, who Gideon now realized was taller than him, seemed to also have the advantage in raw strength, and so she was steadily winning, forcing him back. Gideon lost his balance and fell on the ice, but swung the blunt end of his spear immediately, forcing his opponent to jump back, rammed the spearhead into the ice and used it to leverage himself up quickly. He managed to pull his weapon free without trouble and held it out to take full advantage of his superior reach. Letting Tessa into close quarters was too dangerous.
  66.  
  67. Tessa was smiling. She swung her sword in the air with one hand, then the other, as if playing around.
  68. “Come and get me” she said.
  69. “Ladies first” Gideon rebutted.
  70. Tessa snorted and then rushed at him again, pulling her sword high up with her right hand, clearly telegraphing her move. Gideon saw her attack coming from a mile away and lifted his spear slightly to block it, bending his knees to keep his centre of gravity lower. As the metal of the two weapons clanged together, he realized he had made a mistake. Before he could do anything about it though, the Salamander had already punched his solar plexus with her free hand, this time connecting properly and knocking the air out of his lungs. Gasping, his hold on his spear weakened and Tessa yanked it out of his hands, kicking him in the stomach lightly, pushing him down. She threw his spear away and grinned.
  71. Breathing again Gideon was crawling away on his back, while Tessa was leisurely sauntering up to him, resting her sword on her shoulder pad, her flaming tail trailing in the ice.
  72. “Just say when” she whispered. Gideon was not ready to give up though. He reached his hand to his back, where he had a knife tucked away. Pulling it out he rolled out ahead, lifting his knife up in an upward thrust, which met with nothing but air. By the time he realized Tessa had skirted around behind him all he could do was butt back with his head, catching her in the chest. She had no armour covering this part, and the back of his head met only softness.
  73. “H-hey!” she protested, flustered. This gave Gideon enough time to lunge forward, turn around and stand up with his knife held out ahead of him. He assumed a more crouching stance stared at his opponent, breathing heavily. His spear was still a little bit away and if he went for it, he was certain she would be able to attack him quite easily. He had to get more distance between them or possibly even disarm her. But could he do that? Assessing his situation Gideon was beginning to realize why so many people spoke of Salamanders with such respect.
  74. “Just say when” Tessa said, spreading her arms and dropping her guard.
  75. “Never” he whispered and rushed at her, realizing once again too late he had fallen into a trap. With just his knife, he could do very little, and attacking made him more vulnerable.
  76. Tessa swept with her leg, almost causing Gideon to trip. He managed to maintain his balance as he fumbled away from her, but his attack had been ruined. By the time he turned around Tessa was already sending a kick at his chest, this time catching him slightly below the collarbone and sending him back on the ground.
  77. Tessa was looming over him.
  78. “Just. Say. When.”
  79. Gideon couldn’t reply. He had been taken down again so quickly, the difference between the two of them had become quite apparent. He couldn’t win. But to admit defeat, and against a woman? No.
  80. “Never” he hissed from between his teeth and sent a kick to her crotch, the last desperate act of a man who had abandoned honour and reason in the face of shame. Tessa caught his foot between her thighs and squeezed, locking him in place.
  81. “Now what?” she asked.
  82. “Now I win” Gideon whispered with a grin, stabbing the ice over his head, grabbing his knife with both hands, and thus bracing himself he pushed with his other foot as hard as he could, lifting the unbalanced Salamander off the ground and dropping her. Surprised she let go of his foot, giving Gideon all the time he needed to get up and rush to his spear, abandoning his knife.
  83.  
  84. Gideon caught the spear and in both hands, sliding on his knees after a lunge, turned around to face Tessa, and got a snowball in his face.
  85. “What the?” he exclaimed, and then saw her making another with just one hand. The snow around where they’d been fighting had begun to melt due to the heat of her tail.
  86. “Low blows aren’t very honourable” she said, throwing the snowball at him. Gideon struck it in the air with his spear to show off his skills and began to say something terrible clever when he realized he’d been fooled once again, and while his eyes had been focused on the snowball the Salamander had begun her attack. His spear was in no position for a thrust and he had no time to pull back so he simply swung it down, hoping to connect. He did, with her sword, which she used to block his obvious and slow attack. She followed this up with a jump, sending his spear flying away and with her shins on his shoulders she took him down once again.
  87. Down on the ice Gideon could feel the cold behind his back and the heat on his belly and his crotch. Tessa had too much mass for him to simply move in this position, and when she sat down on his belly, he realized he was out of options.
  88. She struck her sword into the ice by his head and stared at his face, blinking her second set of eyelids once again.
  89. “That was fun” she said.
  90. “F-fun?”
  91. “Yeah. You’ve got a lot of will, you know? Lot of girls appreciate that”
  92. Gideon didn’t quite register the compliment; he was too busy listening to the ominous creaking of the ice.
  93. “Get away from there you idiots, it’s going to crack!” Pucelle shouted.
  94. “Maybe we should…” Gideon began, but the cold water filling his mouth shut him as the ice broke and they went PLOMP.
  95.  
  96.             ***
  97.  
  98. It was some considerable time later, in some woods on the nearest shore of the lake, which happened to be the side Gideon and Pucelle had been heading for. A fire was lit just outside the tent, with clothes-lines hanging from the trees around it. Gideon and Tessa’s clothing was all hanging off those lines, drying after their little escapade into the water.
  99. “You’re a pretty strong swimmer” Gideon point out.
  100. “Well, I am amphibious” Tessa replied, squeezing closer to him.
  101. “Funny thing about an amphibian having a burning tail though” Gideon said, rubbing the tail, his hand going through the flames without being harmed. It felt rather nice with how cold he was.
  102. “It’s a kind of magic I suppose” she said, nibbling on his earlobe.
  103. “Will you two cut that out? You could’ve died out there, you know!” Pucelle rebuked them.
  104. “I can breathe underwater just fine, little one” Tessa said.
  105. “You still could’ve frozen! If it wasn’t for me, you’d both be dead!” Pucelle snapped.
  106. “I appreciate your contribution as always, dear, but what can I do to show it?” Gideon asked.
  107. Pucelle’s ears turned red and there was a gleam in her eyes.
  108. “Let me in under there too…”
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