The Duel

by Trish Bennett
(based on a concept by James Newnam)


The setting sun cast golden beams through the windows of the grand palace, setting the elaborate crystal and gold accents of the decor ablaze in glistening color and light.

The spectacle was a sharp contrast to the sole inhabitants of the house, two men with eyes as dark as their clothing who had come prepared to face their own personal challenges -- each other.

They had met here before, these two men in black, adversaries as different from each other as night to day. One an unbridled youth full of passion and vigor, the other more controlled, tempered with age and experience.

But for all their differences, these two shared common bonds that tied them inexorably together...a lust for life, a zeal for justice, ancient souls with wisdom well beyond their years.

The younger adorned himself from head to foot in lavish black and silver. And even with his face concealed by the silken black mask over his eyes, he carried himself with an air of pride and confidence that showed with each booted step, each movement of his gloved hand, each billow of his dark, flowing cape.

The elder displayed a much simpler style, his black attire adorned only by the deep maroon at his shoulders and the small glint of gold on his left breast. He was more a statesman than a warrior, more a gentleman than the opposing outlaw. But he was also a formidable adversary with a pride and confidence equal to that of his young opponent.

The masked one slowly drew his sword from its sheath, masterfully manipulating the light to flash against the polished steel, as was his custom. He handled the weapon with a lover's touch, and his eyes contemplated it silently before raising to meet his adversary's gaze.

"You are prepared?" he asked, his voice low but resonant.

The elder raised his own sword and rested it gently against his opponent's, forming an X in the air between them.

"I am," he replied.

The young one grinned smugly. "We shall see..."

And so it began, a graceful ballet played to the rhythmic tune of sword against sword. A thrust, then a parry, a lunge, then a spin, and all as elegant as it was deadly.

For an instant, the masked one let down his guard. And in that instant, the elder pounced, pinning his opponent and resting the sword's tip directly over his heart.

He saw no fear in the young one's eyes, just a sparkle of delight as his own sword flew upward, casting the other away. And the ballet resumed, each thrust now more powerful, each practiced step resounding more loudly against the polished wood floor.

Both were breathing heavily now, more from adrenaline than fatigue, and they broke away from each other almost simultaneously.

Each man circled the other warily, poised and alert, neither taking his eyes off his opponent. They moved in unison with the sleek, fluid movement of a well-choreographed dance, each of their swords tracing slow, tiny circles in the air between them.

"Your skills are improving," said the younger man, his dark eyes shining with approval even from behind the mask.

"High praise, indeed," said the elder, offering a smooth nod of gratitude to his adversary.

They continued to circle, stealthily, gracefully. Their eyes remained locked on each other.

"Still..." A hint of amusement bled through the thick Spanish accent. "You are no match for Zorro."

The elder smiled broadly. "On the contrary..." he said in a silken voice. "Zorro is no match for Jean-Luc Picard!"

He lunged forcefully toward his adversary, but the young one blocked the attack effortlessly, knocking his opponent's weapon from his hand and raising the point of his own sword to rest against his throat.

The elder sighed in defeat and watched as the young outlaw removed his hat and stripped the mask away with his free hand. His dark hair fell in thick ringlets, framing his handsome face.

His eyes shone with the satisfaction of a well-earned victory.

"Next time, perhaps..." he said with a grin, lowering his sword and returning it to its sheath as he turned for the large, ornate doorway.

"Computer..." he said, his cape billowing behind him. "End program."

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What people are saying about this story:

Samantha from Michigan, USA:
Amazing. Had to read the end a couple of times because I didn't believe it at first. Very well written.

Yami Motto from Nebraska:

From Cyberkat:
I've always liked this one for the twist ending. :)

From Rogue Knight:
A novel little piece. Not bad.