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The Duel of the Ages

Chapter 12

By Samuel Stoddard

Blood Drops dabbed his nose with a paper towel. He wished his nose didn't bleed so easily. Then his mind moved on to other things, such as how on earth Darius found out where he lived, when someone blocked the light coming through the doorway.

"Hello, Blood Drops," Dayer Dryntine greeted.

"Oh hello, DD, come in," Blood Drops invited without moving his lips.

"Seen a bit of action today?"

"Have I ever." The knight tipped his head slowly forward and, satisfied that the bleeding had stopped, turned to face the Elf. He sighed. "I miss Inch Ward."1

1 Dayer Dryntine and Inch Ward are both my characters. The relationship between Blood Drops and Darius has evolved much since the beginning of this war, and I thought it might be interesting to throw in a hint of honest characterization when I realized that the relationship between Blood Drops and Darius was, in a twisted, exaggerated, and exceedingly violent sort of way, paralleling the relationship between Blood Drops and Inch Ward, from my first novel.
Dayer Dryntine nodded in solemn understanding. Dayer Dryntine knew more than any other save Blood Drops himself how much the old rascal of a thief had meant to the knight. DD still didn't quite understand their relationship -- they had always been on opposing sides -- but he knew it was there, and he knew it had filled a void in Blood Drops' heart.

"I remember one time when I caught him stealing from Garandel's tavern -- I used to be stationed there, before I got promoted to guarding the castle -- and I held him at the point of my sword, and he wriggled away and threatened me with his dagger, and I cut off his hand, and he plunged the dagger in my belly, and I sliced his face open, and he threw me over the counter and into a shelf full of liquor bottles, just like in those old movies. Gosh, that was fun."

Dayer Dryntine stepped over to the reminiscing knight and put a hand on his shoulder. "I miss him, too."

There was a moment of silence, and then Blood Drops spoke up. "You know, I met a very unusual man, just this past day. Let me tell you about him."

Darius trudged into Larosis -- this time making sure he avoided the Gate of Despair -- and moped through the side streets till he reached his lodgings. He fumbled for the key and tried to fit it to the lock unsuccessfully.

"Key, keyhole," he said. "Keyhole, key."2

"Haven't we met before?" said the keyhole. "Once upon a dream...."3

2 This line, and the scene that follows it, is a take-off on an actual scene from Dave's book.

3 A Sleeping Beauty reference.

4 The similarity of this pun with one in Disney's Alice In Wonderland ("you've given me a nasty turn") was not an intentional reference.

5 A Princess Bride reference.

"Wanna go for a spin?" said the key, finally latching into the keyhole and turning it around.4

The door gave way, and Darius was only too happy to reacquaint himself with the bed. Plunging in, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

"What happened?" a feminine voice meowed from the doorway.

But Darius was so tired and dazed, he scarcely heard her.

"Have you two finally finished your childish revenge game?"

Darius looked up and blinked shakily. Jacquillinos. "Yeah, I think it's over now. We've both got to make our livings, after all. There's not a lot of money in revenge.5 Now please go away. I need some sleep."

"So it's finally all over," Jacquillinos mouthed, savoring the words. "I'm glad. I was afraid you'd turn me into a man again -- ugh!"

"Well, I'm not. It's all over. Leave me alone."

"I bet you had the most exciting time of your life with--"

"Jacqui!" Darius whined.


"Don't flirt with me!"

"Oh very well, I'm going, I'm going. I'll leave you here with your hangover, and you can wallow in your misery. Rest well," Jacqui said sarcastically and stomped out of the bedroom and out the front door, yet like a cat, she made no sound, no matter how hard she tried to hit the floor with her steps.

Hangover? was all Darius could think about. He was too tired to realize it must have been a metaphor of some sort. Then he thought of Blood Drops.

A red glow illuminated Wyrgna's chambers and when it faded, the forbidding stature of the Llgymlianmnmmn knight stood, a solitary pillar of strength. He cast away the darkened gemstone and stood at the edge of the Portal.


"Somebody call?" Blood Drops looked around the empty room.


"Who is that?" Blood Drops said, louder.6


6 A reference to Bill Cosby's Noah routine. When the Lord first speaks to Noah, Noah's first lines are, "Somebody call?" and, later, "Who is that?"

7 As predicted, it did not like them.

"Well, whoever you are, you're making an awful lot of noises that my spell checker isn't going to like!"7


The sound seemed to be coming from an adjoining tunnel. Blood Drops stepped inside, lighting his way. This was the unfinished part of the Caves. Stalactites and stalagmites decorated a labyrinth of natural passageways (unlike the smooth rectangular tunnels that the Rock Elves had carved).

"Hello?" Blood Drops called. His voice echoed.


"Must be tasty, whatever he's got," Blood Drops muttered.

The sound was louder here. Blood Drops ventured into the labyrinth, tracking the sound. Finally, he rounded a corner and saw a raggedy old man, bound at the wrists and ankles. The knight rushed over to untie him, and when he pulled the gag off, he stumbled backward.

"Thank heaven, Blood Drops, that crazy man tied me up and--"

But Blood Drops was laughing too hysterically to hear any more.


"Are you quite finished?"



"Darius Longshore, that old coot!" Blood Drops shouted in utter delight. "That old rascal! HAAHAHAHHAHAHHAH!"

"Blood Drops."

"Heheheheheee!!! Sage, you delightful scumbag, how are you???" The knight hugged the Sage with breathtaking (literally) ferocity.

"Oof. Blood Drops, good heavens, what on earth--"

"He pulled it off; I can't believe it! He tied you up, didn't he? And he got your magic, too, didn't he?"



"You don't need to rub it in."

"How'd he do it? I must know. How'd he get you to invoke his magic for him?"

"It wasn't my magic."


"It wasn't my magic; it was his."

"You mean he is capable of magic?"

"Everybody is. Apparently in his world, magic is cast with the use of stones or crystals. Or so they think. In reality, the stones are useless, but, like most magical objects in this world, when people believe they can do magic with the objects, they actually can -- even though it's themselves, not the objects, which do it."

"Yes, so what happened?"

"Darius took one of my gemstones -- an empty one with no magic put in it yet -- and mistook it for a focus stone from his own world. Gemstones are clear before they are filled with magic you know. Anyway, Darius took the empty gemstone and believed he could do magic with it. Which indeed he could. Help me up."

"My word, that old devil, I love him!" Blood Drops shouted, pulling the Sage to his feet. "HAAHAHAHAA HAHAAHA HAHAHAHAA HHHAHHHH HHAHAHAHAAH!!!!!!!!"

"Darius! Darius!" Jacqui called, storming silently into his house again.

"Wmhft imf i thfffm tihhm?"


Darius pried his head free of the pillow. "What is it this time?" he repeated.

"Blood Drops! He's back! He's come to Larosis to see you!"

8 A Princess Bride reference.
"Oh no. Can't you tell him I'm sick? Man. He'll cut off my feet and my hands and my nose and my eyeballs. I hate that."8

But Jacqui saw through the act, for she noticed how eagerly Darius leapt to his feet and strode out the door to meet his adversary.

Larosis' weekend shopping crowd did not have a short memory. When Blood Drops marched into the Way of the Warrior, they parted as the Red Sea once parted for Moses. The Llligym knight paraded through the channel with such avid eagerness, he could scarcely keep his enthusiasm from shining through his face in a broad smile. His past duel with Darius had been the most excitement his life had ever seen since Inch Ward's day. He wasn't going to let such cameraderie come to an abrupt end.

Darius saw the disturbance in the crowd from some distance away. His pulse quickened in excitement. Just when he feared his life would be full of boredom for the rest of eternity, Blood Drops had returned.

The knight halted when, at the other end of the channel, Darius Longshore appeared out of the mist. There was a hushed silence as people watched tensely. Then the two warriors approached each other, grinning from ear to ear. They stopped again, no more than a yard apart, and peered into each other's eyes. There was a bond between them now; the powerful bond of friendship that would not be broken, not ever.

"DARIUS YOU BONEHEAD, YOU PUNCHED ME IN THE NOSE!" Blood Drops screeched and skewered the other in the shoulder.

9 This is a reference to my all-time favorite movie, Oliver!, although I'm probably the only person who could ever read this and pick up on it.

10 A weird reference to one of Harry Morgan's lines in Disney's movie Snowball Express.

"YEAH DROPS, WELL YOU DESERVE IT! AND WORSE,"9 Darius hollered and hurled a bony fist into the knight's stomach.

"THAT'S BLOOD DROPS TO YOU, YOU HORSE'S CABOOSE!"10 Blood Drops shrieked and kicked him in the shins.

"OH YEAH, MR. VOMIT FACE?" Darius knifed Blood Drops in the heart.

"YEAH!" Blood Drops took Darius' head and smashed it into a wooden cart.

They fought long and hard. Spectators took bets. Blood gushed. Hours passed. The blood level was rising; a solid foot of blood covered the entire city of Larosis, and yet they were still inflicting new wounds. Then it rose to two feet. Scarlet liquid poured into people's cellars. Doctors got pails and filled them to the brim for use in future transfusions.

Blood Drops and Darius sloshed violently through it in their battle. Darius tried to drown Blood Drops in it, but then Blood Drops threw Darius under.

"Tie up the real Sage and pose as him, will you Darius?" Blood Drops screamed in total contempt.

"It worked, didn't it?" Darius menaced and threw a punch to the knight's left.

"All save for one thing," the knight growled, recoiling from the punch and throwing another to the right.

"What's that?" Darius said, lunging with his blade.

Blood Drops threw Darius back against the wooden cart by the collar of his shirt. "You can't do a thing without this," the knight said, reaching inside Darius' pocket (not the one with the cherry lifesavers) and withdrawing a small crystalline stone.

"No, don't--" Darius protested.

But it was too late. Blood Drops hurled the stone away. It sploshed in the lake of blood of the man's own namesake (not a metaphor this time). Unbeknownst to them (yet, naturally, beknownst to us), the stone drifted into a grate and tumbled deep into Larosis' sewage system. The stone then flowed through tunnel after tunnel, where a grotesque little invisible man with a ring on his finger took it.11 The stone was later misplaced along with the man's ring, which a little hobbit later found. He kept the ring for years afterward, but he lost the stone in the Misty Mountains where a Goblin found it, ate it, digested it (Goblins have strong digestive systems, made for breaking down rocks and things), and deposited it next to a large tree. The next day, a storm came which washed the unrecognizable remnants of the stone away, into the earth from whence it came. In short (too late),12 there is absolutely no way that Darius would be able to later find the stone, after the blood flood subsided, and regain his magic powers anew.

11 A reference to The Hobbit.

12 This could be interpreted as a reference to any of several things, but I was specifically thinking of the movie Clue.

13 A Princess Bride reference.

"I would not do such things if I were you," Darius threatened.

"Oh yeah?" Blood Drops mocked. Then he reached inside his other pocket, withdrew the cherry lifesavers and hurled them away too.

"I WOULD NOT DO SUCH THINGS IF I WERE YOU!"13 Darius threatened again.

Blood Drops punched him, hard, then speared him in the eyeball.

"Ow," Darius squealed and plunged at the knight for another attack. More blood was spilled -- the blood flood had reached the height of eight feet already. Some of it was beginning to clot and as Blood Drops and Darius swam in it in their attempts to destroy each other, the small masses of clotted blood brushed across them like pulp in a glass of unstrained lemonade.

They used the wooden cart as a boat to keep themselves afloat, then sought to shove each other off. With not even half their limbs still functional, they continued to lunge at each other. The battle lasted for forty days and forty nights before they were finally too exhausted to proceed further. Blood Drops pulled out a pair of green gemstones from his sack -- casting a healing spell of his own accord was out of the question at this point -- and invoked them both. With cured bodies, yet still with exhausted spirits, Blood Drops and Darius lay on their backs in the cart and stared up at the stars.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Blood Drops remarked.

"It is," Darius agreed.

They waited for the floods to subside.

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