A Morning in Jhelom

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John Knighthawke
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A Morning in Jhelom

Post by John Knighthawke » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:27 pm

Some days, Jhelom smelled like blood; some days like piss; some days like sweat; some days like the sea; some days like all of the above together. The best days, of course, were when it smelled like the sea, and only that. When the breeze blew in from just the right direction and in just the right way. It was those days, when it was easy to mistake Jhelom for a simple sea-faring village instead of the city of fighters, were also the only days when street fights, not an uncommon sight in Jhelom and normally observed with a hard-to-please connoisseur's eye by the locals, weren't terribly welcome.

Yes, those were the good days in Jhelom. Today was one of them. And, today, as fate would have it, a street fight was about to occur, outside the Morning Star Inn.

A bald, dark skinned man wearing brigadine armor and with a katana and buckler hanging from his belt was confronted confronted by a light-skinned man with light brown hair, wearing blue-hued mail armor, and a circular “targe” shield hanging from his shoulder and a broadsword hanging from his belt. Both men wore skullcaps that, if you looked close, you could see had sturdy, practical half helms underneath.

The two stared at each other – if you'd seen it you could tell that this confrontation wasn't a surprise to either of them.

The dark-skinned man seemed tired, weary, maybe a bit hung over. The other man seemed eager. But it was the weary one who spoke first.

“How'd you know where'ta find me?”

“You would need someplace to go. Your father is from Trinsic, your mother from Jhelom. And I knew you would not go to Trinsic. You have been there only rarely. This city is home to you, ultimately. You would come here.”

“Aye....Wadda ya want, John.”

“I believe you know, Piero.” John spoke with a Minoc accent, known to some as a “Highland,” accent, that contrasted oddly with his formal speech pattern.

Piero chortled. “Can't 'magine!”

“You betrayed us twice, at least.”

“Oh c'mon now. Ain't like I'm the first man'ta take a grab at yer wife's tits. Half the realm's done it.”

“Half the realm is not family, half the realm has not stolen from family.”

You could tell they'd fought before, from how they both could read in each other's faces that the other one was about to draw his sword. They drew at the same time, shields and swords in-hand in the same instant, and, like lightning, they were upon one another. John swung downward to strike toward Piero's head. Piero easily deflected with a polished punch with his buckler at John's broadsword, knocking it out of the way, and countered with a quick step forward, extending his katana straight out, pivoting on the foot opposite the sword hand – a move known as a “lunge.”

Few people realize just how effective the katana can be at a lunge. Despite the curved blade, a good katana is made with the point coming straight out from the hilt, straight out from the wielder's shoulder. Unfortunately for Piero, however, John wasn't among those who didn't realize. John parried the lunge with the edge of his shield, knocking aside Piero's katana, then straightened the shield and charged forward, trying to knock Piero, a slightly smaller man than John, off-balance. Piero was prepared, though, and stepped out of the way.

What followed was a few minutes was near-textbook sword and shield fighting in a tight circle. The two men seemed evenly matched, were both well trained, and clearly had fought before. They seemed to know and anticipate each other's moves.

It wasn't a good day for a street fight but a small crowd still gathered to watch anyway. The people of Jhelom know good fighting and appreciate it and like to watch it – even when it isn't the right day.

The crowd included a few town guards. Word was that there was a rule about street fights in Jhelom these days. If the combatants didn't take it to the pits, wait for someone to get killed, then kill or apprehend the winner, depending on circumstances.

And, more often than not, there was no time to apprehend someone.

After a few minutes of fighting, Piero and John got locked in a clinch, snarling at each other up close. Clinches can be very dramatic in a sword fight, the two combatants nose to nose, pushing, pulling, tugging, trying to get up enough momentum for a good, close-up hit.

“I wouldn't 'zactly be 'er first, ya know,” snarled Piero.

John seemed to want to respond, but also seemed too smart to, seemed to guess Piero was just trying to distract John, to enrage him so he was off-balance, so John smartly held his tongue. Piero punched John with his buckler, aimed at John's kidneys, a few times, but through John's padded cloak there was no noticeable effect. With a snarl, Piero brought his buckler inside John's cloak and tried to punch again, and, here, even through the mail, the effect seemed greater. John grunted some, but, still, it wasn't enough.

John broke the deadlock. The way the two were clinched, John's sword was held low. He managed to break his sword hand away from the clinch, and just brought up the pommel quickly. The wood of the pommel connected with Piero's jaw, hard. Piero fell back against the wall of the inn with a grunt. John followed up with a quick, close up thrust to the center of Piero's chest. But, as some of the crowd could tell, and commented on loudly, John hadn't quite done it right. There wasn't enough momentum, and John's thrust didn't pierce Piero's armor. If John had thought to half-sword, which you could do while carrying a targe shield, or to pull back a little for just that much more momentum, Piero likely would've been hurt, or dead.

Even as it was, though, Piero was held, more or less immobile, to the wall of the inn, his insides being crushed at a narrow point. The men stared at each other, Piero gasping for breath under the push of John's sword into his chest.

“You were family,” said John.

“Aye, John. That'was the problem. I ain't no one's family. I'm a sellsword. And ya stopped buyin' me sword. I couldn't give'it 'way fer forever....”

“This armor, those weapons....Funding, backing, anything you wanted you had. That wasn't price enough?”

“For'awhile. Nae fer a lifetime. Maybe a roll with Tanda once in awhile might'a done it.” Even with the wind being pushed out of him, Piero was defiant. “Otherwise I ain't sellin' me sword, just givin' it away'ta friends.”

“I should kill you.”

“Fer what, fer, insultin' yer wife's honor? Ya did that ya'd have'ta murder half the Kingdom. And ya wouldn't do that. Ya fight too clean fer that. That's somethin' I'd do. Nae'you.”

“Clean or not, I was good enough to beat you just now, Piero.”

“Aye, ya were. Now finish it. Iffin' ya wan'that is. I couldn't stop 'ya. Ya won' need much momentum'ta finish it. A little pull back, another thrust forward, lean inta'the hit....And I'm done for. I know ya'too well. Iffin' ya want I won't have the chance to duck before the thrust hits home.”

John indeed delivered the final blow of the fight – a smack with the flat of the sword to Piero's face, knocking out a tooth with a sickening crunch. Piero hit the ground, bleeding from the mouth.

Then John left, and life went on.

Apart from the street fight, it was a good day in Jhelom.
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