How we think the fight will go
Ferro arrived at the tavern late in the night, glad to be off the road, and sure she’d evaded her pursuers. Even though her encounter with the band of would-be thieves was hours ago, she spent hours trekking through the woods, leading her pursuers on a zig-zag path in the hopes of eluding them. It seemed to have worked—although perhaps it was that well-placed arrow she shot in near darkness from behind a tree that helped. Confident to relax for a spell, she walked right up to the bar and ordered a brew. Dirty from the road, she considered getting a room when she heard a loud conversation at the other end of the dingy tavern.
A small, but clearly arrogant man, dressed in fine layers of gray clothing, had enraptured a drunken crowd with tales of his amazing feats. On his hip he wore a fancy rapier. She thought he was quite full of himself—and full of wine it seemed, as he splashed his goblet around as he told his tale from atop the table with sweeping gestures for emphasis. A little too pompous if you ask me, she thought as she sipped her drink. It seemed like his voice raised even louder to be sure everyone at the bar she could hear him. In fact, she was sure of it.
He had noticed her as soon as she walked in, but didn’t miss a breath in his storytelling, hopping across to another table re-enacting the story of his escape. Amid the laughter, he spied the mysterious woman with short cropped hair place a bundle on the bar stool next to her, at the end of which he could see the tip of an elegant but well used bow. He knew at that moment that he would have that bow, and perhaps the woman as well.
Never turning her head in his direction, she listened to his ridiculous tale, knowing he was quite full of it, but nearly had to suppress a chuckle once or twice at his bravado. She ordered and devoured a quick meal—a hearty stew with bread—as she listened to the rest of this ridiculous tale, then asked the barkeep for a room upstairs, slipping a few coins from within her blouse and tossing them to the burly bartender.
“Have a warm spiced wine brought to my room soon; have your servant knock three times,” she said as she stepped away from the bar, grabbing her pack. With only a quick glance over her shoulder, she left the busy common room.
She arrived at her room at the end of the long hallway a few moments later. She listened for a while, standing in the hallway, sure she didn’t hear any noise within. She opened the door and quickly glanced around the rustic setting: bed against the far wall, wash room to the right, and a small table and chairs off to the far left near a window looking over the countryside.
And there he was sitting at the table, a goblet of wine in his hand, like he’d been there for hours.
“I underestimated you,” she said, “I should have known you’d have this entire place on your coin. What do you want?” She hugged her pack to her chest, but realized there was not enough time to take out the bow and loose an arrow at this rogue.
“Why, I wanted to finish telling you my tale. It was an amazing adventure, you know.” He slowly sipped his wine, but kept his other hand on his lap, near the folds of his clothing and the weapons concealed there. “Plus, I wanted to talk to you about that bow of yours and what you’ll take in exchange for it.”
She didn’t move but steadied herself, quickly realizing what was about to happen. This man wasn’t leaving without her bow.
“I could ask you the same about your sword—it looks like a fine weapon.”
“Oh, it is,” he replied, swallowing the last of his wine, “…and it seems to the victors will go the sp–”
He didn’t finish. Rather, he was forced to spill the rest of his drink when he awkwardly tossed the goblet out to deflect the knife coming straight for him, Mouser was surprised at how quickly she got the throw off. It excited him, as he flipped up the wooden table to protect himself as he drew his sword, Scalpel.
“Well, you can have it then,” Ferro yelled as she threw her pack at the overturned table, and drew two more daggers. She had deftly unhooked the clasp before she threw her pack, so that all of its contents flew at her opponent. He quickly rolled left and came up with sword striking straight ahead into Ferro’s charge. She turned away the slender sword and kicked out with her left leg, coming in behind his thrust, right in the ribs.
Mouser absorbed the blow, and recovered with a wide swipe of the blade, forcing the woman to duck awkwardly. She crouched down, pulling her daggers to her sides and launched herself straight at him. Mouser reversed and caught her with his feet, launching her across the room to crash into an armoire, shattering glass. She hit the floor and bounced back to her feet quickly. As she got up she grasped a fountain pen that had fallen from the destroyed piece of furniture and sent it at his head with a flick; he was able to dodge, but received a thin red streak high across his face. The blood began to trickle from the bottom of his cheek as he sized her up. He still held his sword but was surprised at her aggressiveness.
Maljinn knew she’d run out of weapons to hurl at this sword wielding bastard soon enough. Moreover, her shoulder ached from smashing into the furniture. She took a quick inventory of the rest of the room: a rustic looking lamp at the far end, the contents of her satchel on the floor behind him and to the left, and a wine goblet and overturned chair. Not much to work with, but it would have to do. She needed to keep her distance in the small room as he still held a legitimate weapon.
They went back and forth several more times exchanging blows, Mouser prodding with his sword, Ferro using anything at her disposal to keep the distance. She took a few glancing blows and now bled from at least three different places. Is he toying with me? Seeing how long I will last… she thought as he slowly moved to keep her away from objects to throw at him. He clearly had underestimated her knife throwing skills (and pen throwing, at that).
“You never even asked my name, dear,” he said more menacingly than he had intended. He wanted that bow, and a street smart bandit—even if she was an attractive female—would not get away from him so easily. “And I asked you kindly for that bow, so perhaps now you’re ready to part with it?”
“Screw you,” she replied, eyes darting from one potential weapon to the next frantically. Then she took in that lamp one more time. She hadn’t noticed it before, but above it the wall was adorned with a small set of pointed deer antlers.
“I know you relieved those bandits of the special weapon,” he pointed toward the exposed bow which had mostly fallen out of the pack. “Not just your average bow, but an enchanted weapon, known around these parts as The Heart of the Wood, a legendary hunting weapon supposedly created and enchanted by one of the ancestors of these parts.”
She didn’t know the weapon’s name, or its legacy, but overheard the bandits who had stolen it from a small village in the green valley. When she approached the thieves, she first relieved the watchman of his breathe with a thin blade, then made off with the weapon as the others awakened and pursued.
And now, as she ached and bled, she tried to keep her muscles taut and ready to move at any moment.
“It’s yours.” She finally conceded and began to walk towards him, palms wide in a sign of submission. “It is beautiful, but not worth dying over.” As soon as she saw the tip of his blade start to descend and relax, she leaped forward in a roll, grabbing the goblet. As he brought his sword back up in a defensive position, she hurled it at his head. His slight duck to avoid the wooden cup gave her enough time to leap for the antlers and plunge them into his side just as he brought his sword back up for a killing blow.
His surprise as she stabbed him with the antlers was evident as he let out an “Oaff!” and buried the tip of his slender sword into the floor. She kicked with what strength remained, knocking him over. He crumpled into a ball on the floor, grasping at the makeshift weapon protruding from his side. He was quite shocked he had been bested.
“The bow…is yours, fair lady,” he said faintly. “I only meant to sell it anyway…” He coughed and curled up tighter, wincing in pain and slumped, eyes closed as if to sleep.
Ferro crawled over to and picked up the bow. As she got up, she glanced back at the mysterious man in gray, then leaned over and pried his slender sword out of the ground, folded it into her pack with the bow, and briskly walked out.
She crossed through the main tavern room completely unnoticed, even though bloodied and limping slightly. The noise and laughter had obviously kept the sounds of her being thrown about her room upstairs from this rowdy bunch.
As she reached the front door, happy to leave the place alive and in one piece, an enormous red-haired northerner came barreling through, scanning the room for someone in particular. She had met her fair share of northerners, and wanted nothing to do with this one—he looked like he could give the Bloody Nine a hard time.
She hurried off into the night, clutching her pack and bracing against the cold.
Predicted Winner: Ferro
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 8th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Jay Franco contributed to this Cage Match
Ferro Maljinn is a character from the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie; Gray Mouser is a character from the many stories of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser by Fritz Lieber
Ferro image courtesy of Pyr Books. Gray Mouser image courtesy of Jeffrey Catherine Jones and Ace Books
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