Duel of the Legends
by Daniel J. Durand
Large, masculine, bristling with weapons- this was the traveler who walked the quiet country road. His eagle-like gaze took in his surroundings, shoulders raised in readiness for trouble. He kept one hand around the hilt of his blade, and his armor made a repetitive clink with each step.
It was a quiet day, peaceful. Occasionally the warrior would pass a field being tended by the local farmers. The farmers, being the friendly country folk they were, would glance up from their labor to wave, or say hello; these gestures, if not deflected by the warriors muscles or rather large forehead, would be met with silence as the beast of a man continued on his journey.
After hours of walking this path, the warrior came to a cluster of trees at the edge of an old, dark forest. Fortunately, the warrior's destination had nothing to do with the forest, and so the reader may avoid a terrible twisting of time-tested cliché. However, it was as the warrior took the road leading away from the forest that danger struck.
Out of the air materialized a vapor, strong with the scent of lavender and thick like coal smoke. An evil cackle emanated from the vapor, echoing in the warriors ears as he stood at the ready, his sword raised slightly in the scabbard; he had been warned of this obstacle, and wasn't about to be tested by danger of any physical nature. He was a mighty combatant, fearless, and also fairly dense.
The vapor, now surrounding the warrior, began to coalesce in front of him. A great thunder shook the sky, and a flash of light blinded him. Now, where the vapor had been seconds before, stood an old man in a tattered robe. He folded his arms across his chest, eyeballing the warrior suspiciously.
“Who dares walk in my general direction?” asked the old man, arching one eyebrow.
The warrior eased himself slightly, standing up straight in salutation. He said:
“I am BLOODBATH, the Conqueror! Slayer of a thousand men, destroyer of worlds, Trusted Lieutenant to the Dark Lord Jeremy of Small Stature, and backyard hobbyist!”
The old man stood silently.
“Did you really have to scream the first part of your name?” he asked.
“Of course,” replied the warrior, a tone of defiance heavy on his tongue. “Emphasis is everything.”
“Right...” said the old man.
The two stood silently for several minutes.
“So who exactly are you, old man?” asked Bloodbath.
“I,” began the old man, “am an old man.”
Bloodbath stared at the old man.
“I had gathered that.” he said.
The old man picked at one of the many loose threads of his robe.
“Also, a wizard. What exactly have you come here for, Warrior Bloodbath?”
Bloodbath let his guard down the rest of the way, his sword in place and hands at ease.
“My master, the Dark Lord Jeremy, has requested my presence at his side in order to discuss matters of great urgency. I have been called from my previous mission to eliminate the Baron Alex of Stoney Bend, who owed the Dark Lord money. I am on my way to my master now, which is why I have come this way.”
The wizard nodded silently, one arm folded over his chest while his free hand fiddled with a measure of his long, white beard. He stepped aside off of the path.
“You may go, then.”
Bloodbath was surprised.
“You don't wish to challenge me?”
“Not really,” replied the wizard. “I just don't get many travelers through this neck of the woods, and was trying to be sociable. Go along on your way.”
Bloodbath, still somewhat confused by this unusual breach of protocol, began walking down the path. Soon, he was out of sight of the wizard, and not long after that was once again plodding along, his set purpose all that occupied his mind. It wasn't until later that afternoon when the vapor appeared once more. With a crack and the scent of lilac, the wizard now stood directly in front of the hunk of meat that was the warrior.
“I changed my mind,” said the wizard. “BLOODBATH, the Conqueror! Slayer of a thousand men, destroyer of worlds, Trusted Lieutenant to the Dark Lord Jeremy of Small Stature, and backyard hobbyist! I challenge you...”
Bloodbath began to draw his sword.
“...to a game of checkers!”
Bloodbath stopped. He drew his sword the rest of the way.
“This blade,” he said to the wizard, “was forged in the furnace of Hate, passed down through generations of my fathers in service of the Dark Lord Jeremy so that we may do his evil deeds. I have carried it proudly for twenty summers now, and will until my own son has bested me in a fight to the death. With this blade, I have earned many of my grisly titles, and-
“Checkers,” said the wizard, arms folded.
“Are you certain? I mean, I'm really good with this thing.”
The wizard was unmoved.
“Checkers?” sighed Bloodbath.
“Yes,” replied the wizard.
Bloodbath put the sword away.
“Fine.” he said.
The wizard clapped his hands together in excitement before reaching into the pocket of his robe and pulling out a handful of lint. Casting it onto the ground, he whispered a solemn chant:
“Eggs, butter, milk, two loaves rye bread and don't forget orange juice ALAKAZAM!”
The lint on the ground twitched, glowed bright orange, and burst into flame.
“Was that your shopping list?” asked Bloodbath.
“Shh!” shushed the wizard, eyes glued to the smoldering pocket lint.
Bloodbath watched the wizard quietly. For twenty-and-some-odd minutes, the two stood silently as the pocket lint became ash. Finally, the wizard ground the remains of the flame into the dirt.
“Now then,” he said, looking to Bloodbath with a friendly grin, “let's go and play some checkers.”
The wizard walked off of the path, toward an empty field not far off from where they had been standing. Bloodbath stood, watching, still entirely lost after the lint display. As the wizard approached the middle of the field, a small cottage appeared out of thin air. The aroma of baking bread filled the air.
The wizard now stood in the doorway of the cottage, facing Bloodbath.
“Coming?” he shouted across the field.
Bloodbath took one last look at the dirt where the lint ash had been burned, and then walked on to the cottage. Once inside, the bread-smell was much stronger, but much to his disappointment, no bread was to be found. The cottage was cozy, typical of a wizard's home in this type of story, and littered with books and papers. A large, rotating fan hung down from the ceiling, and in the center of the room was a great oak table with a chair beside it.
“Let me just set up the game, then.” said the wizard.
With a snap of his fingers, a second chair appeared at the table, on the opposite side of the first. A checkerboard plopped down from the air roughly an inch above the table top, and a plate of delicious snack foods appeared next to it, along with a large pot of coffee. The wizard sat at the table, and began to set up the game.
“House rules?” asked Bloodbath as he sat in the other chair.
“Quite,” replied the wizard. “Black moves first, jumping is optional, and you may undo any move so long as your finger does not leave the top of the checker.”
“Seems fair enough.” replied Bloodbath.
After the wizard had finished setting up the pieces, he began pouring them each a mug of the steaming coffee. He handed one to Bloodbath, who took an appreciative sip: French Roast. Bloodbath set down the mug and took a look at the board. He was black. Reaching down, he slid one of the lead checkers forward, towards the side of the board.
“Your move, wizard!” he said said, a look of sheer cunning in his eye.
The wizard merely arched an eyebrow, taking a swig from his mug. He made the second move, boxing Bloodbath's piece up against the side of the board. Bloodbath gasped, amazed that the wizard could thwart such a strategy so quickly. The wizard eyed him, his gaze seeming to penetrate straight into Bloodbath's dark soul.
“Your move, rogue!” said the wizard.
With that began the game of legends, each player an expert of his own domain. For each piece lost, one was gained, for each clever ruse was a sneaky trick. After nearly an hour, the game entered it's final moves, with Bloodbath close to victory.
On the board were three kings, two of them Bloodbath's, one the wizard's. Bloodbath's pieces were each on opposite ends of the board, with the wizard's king smack in the center. Bloodbath knew that it was only a matter of time before the trap was sprung, and victory would be his! It was now the wizard's turn, and as the wizard weighed his options, he knew just as well that the end was near. Finally, he moved his piece one square to the left, sandwiching himself between the two black kings Bloodbath had left in wait.
“Haha!” exclaimed Bloodbath, “Victory is mine! For now, no matter which way you move, your piece will be jumped by one of my ever-vigilant monarchs! The game is won!”
The wizard arched his eyebrow.
“Not quite, friend.” he said, gesturing at the board.
Bloodbath's eyes snapped to the board. There was no way the wizard could have weaseled out of his scheme, no way at all! He frantically searched the board; nothing was amiss, nothing at all- unless...
There was a hotel on Boardwalk Avenue.
“You BASTARD!” cried Bloodbath.
The wizard chuckled.
“Looks like I've won.” he said.
“Not quite, mage!” shouted Bloodbath.
Bloodbath slammed a rook onto the board.
The wizard moved a blue wooden piece forward one square.
Bloodbath managed to spell out the word “Zirconium”.
“That has a 'Z' and a triple-word score! I win!” he shouted.
The wizard rolled two dice, each one landing a six.
“Twelve! And doubles means I get to roll again!”
Bloodbath shook his head.
“Not so, wizard! I just took Kamchatka!”
The wizard's eyes went wide. He looked at the board, and with a sinking heart, realized that Kamchatka was in fact lost.
“How could you have possibly done that? You didn't even have any territories in Asia!”
Bloodbath pointed to the board.
“I just attacked from Alaska.”
“Damn!” shouted the wizard. “But I still have one trick up my sleeve...”
With that, the wizard produced several playing cards, slapping them face-up on the table.
Bloodbath froze; he didn't have anything that could top a Royal Flush. The game was lost! He drew his blade, raising it high above his head. The cold ring of deadly steel filled the cottage.
“NYEARG!” roared Bloodbath as the sword's tip whistled down to the wizard's head.
Just before the sword could touch the wizard, however, he, the checkerboard, and even the cottage disappeared in a cloud of lilac-scented vapor. The blade sliced through the empty air, and collided with soft, tilled dirt. Bloodbath stood in the empty field near the path, alone. As the sun sank below the horizon, Bloodbath fell to his knees in defeat.
“Curse you, Wizard...” he whispered.