D&D - Combat Chaos, Fantasy Stories of Battle
MAESIA V.S JON BALLARD
have heard he is strong and handsome.”
Maesia Khal glanced over her shoulder to give her servant a withering
look. “All men look ‘strong and handsome’ when they are rich.” She growled
venomously while eying her newest outfit in the mirror. “More likely he
is older than my father and looks like a pig.” Her maidservant smiled
wistfully as she braided Maesia’s wild black hair. “You haven’t even met
him, you should at least give him the benefit of a doubt.”
“I will give him nothing.” Maesia snapped. “I have seen the ‘nobles’ of
this city. They are all alike, bloated lechers who marry a new young woman
every few years. We should never have come to Rhyhanion. Things were better
back home. Father never spoke of this marriage nonsense.” The maid finished
her braiding and bowed her head, taking a step back. “Perhaps you are
right, Mistress Khal. But it is better than the alternative.”
Maesia sighed wearily. She had been fighting the marriage for months,
ever since her father had told her of it. She sorely missed her homeland
of Bergonia. Unfortunately war and open revolt had pushed the noble houses
out. Her father had been one of the few Lords to escape with most of his
wealth intact. Unfortunately her mother had not made it. Her carriage
sized by laborers in a mad frenzy. What had been found was not recognizable
as human. If there had still been any law in the city, her father would
have had those responsible hunted down and slaughtered like dogs. ‘But
instead it was us who ran like dogs.’ She thought sadly. She still remembered
that morning all too clearly, if her mother had waited a few minutes more,
Maesia would have been with her in the carriage instead of with her father.
“If Lady Khal were still alive, she would have stood for none of this.
But I will not disobey my father. I will marry Duke Ballard, but it will
be in name only. I will be dead before I will share my bed with him.”
Turning away from the mirror she held out her hand. “How do I look?”
The maidservant nodded solemnly. “Perfect, Mistress Khal I shall fetch
your sword and mask.”
Mask and sword firmly in place, Maesia darted over the rooftops and down
darkened alleys. Flitting from shadow to shadow. Of all the things she
hated about Rhyhanion, there was one small candle of light. Dueling. Anxiously
she adjusted her mask. Since the sport was highly illegal, the more… cautious
members of the illicit group took great pains to conceal their true identities.
It was all too easy for her to slip in unnoticed. No questions asked,
no answers given. Ducking down a deserted alleyway, she paused at a seeming
dead end. The dry snore of a bum sleeping in the corner drowned out the
distant sounds of the night. Smiling faintly, Maesia crept towards the
bum and made as if to kick him. Apparently oblivious in his drunken stupor,
the bum snored blissfully. With a sigh, she let her foot fall. “Jherek.
Let me in.” She whispered.
As soon as she spoke, the snoring ceased and the ‘bum’ rolled over to
look at her with an all too sober gaze. “Right, let me in she says. As
if I’m supposed to just roll on over and wave my hands and ‘poof’ she’s
Maesia rolled her eyes mockingly and produced two heavy silver coins.
“Well, if you won’t listen to me, maybe my two friends can convince you.”
Jherek’s eyes glinted and he reached out with a grubby hand. “So, the
Lady blade comes bearing gifts.” He chuckled quietly.
With a laugh Maesia flipped the coins into the air. Everyone who came
here called themselves ‘blade’. It was the generic title for all who dueled
here. But there were a few, herself included. Who had made a ‘name’ for
themselves so to speak. Hers was Lady Blade, more of a joke really. As
she professed to be the daughter of a cobbler who had enough luck to take
advantage of a drunken lout to claim a sword. Whether anyone believed
the story was irrelevant. The pit was not a place of scrutiny.
Jherek caught the coins deftly and produced a small talisman. “The toll
is paid.” He intoned quietly. “And the way is clear.” As he spoke, the
wall beside him shimmered, and a faintly glowing portal appeared. “Enter
at your own peril.” He whispered quietly before rolling back towards the
Hand settling subconsciously on the hilt of her sword, Maesia leaped lightly
into the portal.
As soon as she disappeared from view, the portal flickered and dimmed,
blinking out of existence in a matter of moments.
As soon as the dizziness from the spell failed, a loud cheer brought her
to her senses. It seemed she had arrived just in time. Scanning the room
she immediately found who she was looking for. In a sea of masked souls,
a man who didn’t wear a mask stood out. Regis was one of the uglier men
in Rhyhanion, short, fat and ugly, with thinning hair and jagged teeth.
But in the pit, he was a king. He was the holder of lots and decider of
fates. It was he who drew lots to see who would duel first. Of course
it was no secret that Regis could often be bribed one way or the other
in certain people’s favor, but as in all things, fate often had a way
of working its own way if your number was up, that was it. Pushing her
way past the milling duelists that had gathered in the waiting area, she
headed straight for him. “Regis!” She called out, waving her tokens over
her head. “Which round is it?”
The portly man glanced up from his conversation and smiled with jagged
teeth. “Ah, the Lady arrives! You have missed nothing!” He held out a
heavy leather pouch. “Give me your lot so that I may add it to the draw.”
With a satisfied grin, Maesia tossed her lot into the bad and glanced
out into the Pit. “Who duels now?”
Regis shrugged. “No one of importance, just a couple of young Blades with
a small dispute, the short one is out for blood.”
Maesia frowned slightly. Grudges, while not forbidden, were discouraged.
By the ‘rules’ any blade could challenge another for various stakes. The
three most common being blood, coin or favor. Coin or favor was the most
common, usually the amount was determined before the duel. Blood was still
fairly frequent, and could cover anything from first blood to death.
Gliding through the others, she made her way to the edge of the Pit. Ten
feet deep and thirty feet across, the pit seemed huge when you weren’t
in it. As she watched, two blades circled each other warily. Both were
breathing hard and bleeding from several superficial cuts, but the taller
one seemed to be getting the worst of it. Any hesitation, or weakness
in his defense, and his shorter opponent was there, harrying him like
Maesia watched the duelists trade cut after cut, neither one willing to
give any ground. Finally, exhausted from the multitude of slashes, the
taller one’s blade faltered slightly. Seizing the opportunity, his opponent
stepped lightly inward and smashed the hilt of his maine gauche upward,
catching the weakened duelist under the jaw and sending him sprawling
Maesia shook her head in amusement and turned away from the spectacle
to await her turn.
Maesia grunted as her opponent caught her in the ribs with a lightening
fast kick. Folding with the blow, she caught his knee with her elbow,
sending him hopping back awkwardly. “That will teach him to rely on cheap
tricks.” She thought grimly. Normally such moves were considered un-sportsmanlike,
but not forbidden. Now he was paying the price, his leg would be numb
from the knee down. His movements would be slower and less coordinated.
Flipping the tip of her blade in a circular motion she lunged suddenly.
Her opponent stepped back awkwardly. Nearly stumbling, he parried and
missed. Her point stopped just under his chin. Maesia grinned. “Concede?”
Her opponent sighed and nodded slowly, letting the point of his sword
drop to the ground. “You win.” He grumbled under his breath. Maesia stepped
back lightly and sheathed her sword with a flourish. “Good match.” She
proclaimed with a bow. “Next time, don’t try and cheat.” She muttered
under her breath.
Her opponent nodded slightly and sheathed his sword. Fishing a small pouch
out of his pocket, he flipped it towards her. Maesia caught it easily
and tucked it into her vest. “Better luck next time.” Turning lightly
on her heel, she swaggered towards the edge of the pit where a half a
dozen young blades held out their hands to help her up.
Placing a foot on a crevice in the wall, she grabbed at one of the proffered
hands and pushed her self up.
Landing lightly on her feet, she brushed the sweat and hair from her eyes.
The blade who had helped her up bowed slightly, still holding her hand.
“It is always an honor to help a lady.”
Maesia arched an eyebrow and looked at him appraisingly. His leathers
were dark and soft with age. His dark blond hair was pulled back and tied
at the nape of his neck with a simple cord. Although his mask was plain
leather, matching his outfit, it was obviously well made. The majority
of the blades here could barely afford the swords they carried, much less
a fine mask. Most saw fit to wear a simple cloth mask. What drew her attention
was his eyes, an incandescent blue that seemed to hypnotize her. Maesia
blinked suddenly, realizing she had been staring, composing her self she
flipped her hair back. “What would you know of honor?” She laughed.
The blade shrugged. “As much as the next I suppose. Are you…” His next
words cut off as blade sheathed in black dueling leathers pushed past
her. “Night.” He stated flatly, waving a tag in front of his face. “I’ve
drawn your lot.” Everyone around them fell silent, they all knew who he
was. The blood red spider emblazoned on his chest left no doubt. He was
notorious for resorting to poisons and any other dirty trick he could
use to give him an edge.
Maesia blinked in surprise. Few blades hadn’t heard of Night, who was
supposed to be unbeatable. He was known to all for his methodical and
tireless fighting style. Maesia had only seen him once before, but that
had been at a distance, while he was embroiled in a duel. It was rumored
that he had killed over thirty duelists in his time here. She chided for
not recognizing him sooner.
Night shrugged slightly. “So you have.” The black clad blade scowled.
“I owe you.” He growled. Night nodded once. “So you do, Spider. Terms?”
The dark blade reached up and pushed his hair back, revealing a missing
ear, he caught Maeisa’s look of disgust and smiled coldly. “Blood.”
Night smiled faintly, knowing exactly where this was going. “And what
is the stake?”
Spider smiled pleasantly. “Death.” Night shrugged and turned towards the
pit. “Your funeral.” Spider smirked slightly. “No, its yours.” Lashing
out with his foot, he caught Night in the middle of his back, sending
him tumbling into the pit. To everyone’s surprise he managed to twist
in midair and land lightly on his feet, sword drawn. His blue eyes blazing
like flames. Those closest to the edge of the pit stepped back in surprise.
It was not allowed for anyone to interfere with a duel once lots were
drawn. Maesia stepped forward, one hand on the hilt of her blade. Spider
blew a kiss at her and stepped around her. “If you’re that hot for me,
hang around. I’ll be ready for you when I’ve finished with him.”
With that, he stepped forward and flipped lightly over the edge of the
pit, landing a few feet away from night.
As the two blades circled each other, the pit began to groan and shudder.
The floor slowly rotated as the walls shifted, wicked spikes rising randomly
from the floor and walls. Clanking noisily, several rings and barbed hooks
descended from the roof on chains, completing the macabre image. This
was nothing new. The pit changed for every duel, usually reflecting the
nature of the combatants and the terms and stakes of the duel. Some whispered
it was magical, others believed that shadowy spectators controlled the
pit from an unseen location.
Spider made the first move, lunging forward in a feint to test his opponent.
Night didn’t fall for it, slashing at his opponents head instead.
Spider dodged back with a curse and brought his blade level with his eyes.
“I’m going to enjoy slicing you to pieces, Night.” Night shrugged and
moved the tip of his blade in slow circles. Spider growled and lunged
forward, slapping one of the hooked chains at his opponent’s head.
Night sidestepped it nimbly and slashed down, nearly catching spider’s
other ear. “You’ll have to do better than that.” Spider smiled grimly
and stepped back. “Alright.” Night blinked in momentary surprise then
rolled to one side, a split second before the wicked hook came whistling
at the back of his head. Spider swore and drew three small throwing daggers
from his hip. Each one tipped with a vicious greenish black slime.
With a flick of his wrist, he sent them flying with deadly precision.
Night saw the blades coming as he came to his feet and knew he couldn’t
avoid them. Instead he threw up his arm and took all three blades. Each
one tore through the leather gauntlet and hit with a dull clang of metal
on metal, dropping to the floor.
Spider’s eyes widened in surprise. “What the?” Night smiled and shrugged
his damaged gauntlet off, revealing a metal vambrace. “Is that the best
you can do?”
Furious with rage, Spider lunged forward, the tip of his blade aimed for
his opponent’s heart.
Night parried the blade aside with the hilt of his sword and let Spider’s
momentum do the rest, the tip of his blade sliding neatly under Spider’s
chin and coming out at the base of his skull. Nimbly the blade sidestepped,
letting the body fall and his sword slice through Spider’s neck.
Maesia shifted uncomfortably outside the chamber. She hated this dress,
it felt as if her ribs were being crushed. She looked down and blushed
slightly. She had always been pleased with her modest bust line, but this
bodice had made her seem… voluptuous. She hated the odd customs of Rhyhanion
that required women to stay outside of the chamber until the men were
‘acquainted’. She knew well enough all that meant was time enough for
them to get drunk and swap stories like little boys before the women were
present and they had to act their age. “Its not fair.” She muttered. “I
should not be treated this way in my own home!”
“My daughter Maesia Khal.” Her father announced proudly as she swept into
the room, keeping her head bowed as she was instructed.
“I am pleased you could grace us with your presence, Lord Ballard.” She
proclaimed with a curtsey. Maesia could feel her father beam with approval.
Slowly she looked up at the man seated across from her father. Lord Khal
smiled warmly. “Maesia, allow me to introduce you to your future…” The
rest of his words were lost as Maesia let out an unearthly shriek and
fled from the room screaming.
Everyone in the room sat in stunned silence for several moments. Finally
Lord Ballard chuckled heartily. “Aye, she’s as you’ve said. Pretty as
can be, and full of spirit too!” He joked, waving away Lord Khal’s stammered
apology. “She’ll make a fine bride for my nephew, isn’t that right, Jon?”
He called out.
“As you say, Uncle.” Jon Ballard replied flatly from where he stood across
the room, his eyes never leaving the window.
Maesia raced through the streets and across rooftops, her eyes full of
tears. How could her father do this to her? She tried to put the picture
of Lord Ballard out of her mind. The very thought of that old, disgusting
pig was enough to make her ill. Shuddering with disgust she fell to her
knees gasping for air. Never before had she run so hard in her life. Taking
a moment to catch her breath, she began adjusting the straps of her leathers.
She had run out so quickly, she had hardly taken the time to put them
on correctly, much less fasten them. Now that her head was clearing, she
was amazed she had remembered to take her sword at all. With a sigh, she
tightened the last buckle and stood slowly. “I will die before I marry
him.” She swore under her breath. Stretching slowly to make sure she had
everything in place, she dropped down into the familiar alleyway.
“Hello, what’s got you in a huff?”
Maesia drew her sword in one smooth motion as she spun towards the voice
that had startled her. Familiar blue eyes stared intently at her as night
stepped out of the shadows with a grin, his hands up in mock surrender.
“Good evening, Lady.” He bowed mockingly. “I yield.” Face turning red,
Maesia slammed her sword back into its sheath and turned away, embarrassed
at letting someone see her like this. “None of your business, Night.”
The blade nodded without a word and leaned against the wall, half-fading
back into the shadows. “Probably not, I mean, what could a bastard possibly
do to help anyone?”
Maesia turned and glared at him angrily, she was in no mood for games
tonight. “Why do you persist?”
“Because it amuses me.” He replied with a wry grin, eyeing her through
half opened eyes. “I think you’re in trouble. Big trouble.” Maesia nodded.
“I don’t know what to do.” She replied quietly. Night’s eyes opened slightly
and glittered in the darkness. “Few people do. Usually they rush themselves
and make the wrong decision. If they’re smart, they take a look at the
big picture. Then, its easy.” Maesia laughed hollowly. “Nothing is that
easy.” With a weary sigh she leaned against the opposite wall and closed
her eyes. “I wish you hadn’t killed spider now…”
The blade’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “And why would you wish a thing
like that? Had more than a stray thought for him?” Maesia frowned and
glared at him. “No. But he had… things. Things I could use.”
Night chuckled quietly. “Things? What sort of things might you have needed
from a lout like him?”
“Poison.” Maesia snapped. “I knew he dealt in poisons, I could have bought
a poison from him.”
Night shook his head sadly. “There you go, rushing into things again.
If he was around, and on the off chance he would have sold you something.
What would you have done with it?” Maesia opened her eyes and looked up
at the stars. “I would have solved a problem…”
Night frowned slightly and drew out a small vial filled with a thin black
liquid. “What sort of problem?”
Maeisa stared at Night in disbelief. “Where did you get that?” The blade
shrugged. “I have my ways.” Maesia darted forward, reaching for the vial,
but it slipped out of her reach before she could grasp it.
Shifting the vial back into his pocket, Night smiled faintly. “What sort
of problem?” He repeated.
Maesia stared hard into his eyes. Trying to come up with a convincing
lie. Finally she gave up. “I’m engaged…” Night smiled wryly. “Oh is that
all? He laughed. “All you need to fix that is a few coins and a few loose
women.” Maesia slapped him, hard. “Don’t mock me!” She hissed angrily.
“I’m engaged to marry a nobleman. Not some foolish tailor’s son who can
Night didn’t say a word, but the red welt on his face and the look in
his eyes spoke volumes.
“Look what you made me do!” She cried as she spun away from him. “I made
you do nothing.” The blade replied quietly, his voice devoid of any emotion.
“You’ve let your emotions get the better of you.” Maeisa laughed. “I wouldn’t
expect you to understand.” Night shrugged and produced the vial again.
“Probably not. But at least I think things through.”
“What do you mean by that?” Maesia snapped irritably. The blade smiled
faintly, obviously pleased he had gotten her full attention. “Lets say
you did get this.” He shook the vial for emphasis. “Obviously you’re not
intending to take it yourself, so that means you’re going to give it to
your lord and future husband.” Maesia rolled her eyes. “Brilliant deduction.”
Night smiled faintly. “Thank you. So how are you going to deliver it?
Without being caught, that is”
Maesia opened her mouth to retort then slowly closed it. “You’re right.
I hadn’t thought this through.” She admitted quietly. “Of course not.
You were too caught up in the moment to think things through. I’m surprised
you didn’t just decide to run off into the night and never be seen or
heard from again.”
Maesia looked away in embarrassment. That had been her alternate plan.
“What would you propose then, oh wise one?” She asked sarcastically.
“Find someone to do it for you.” He said with a faint grin. “Of course
it would have to be someone you trusted. Someone smart enough not to get
caught. Someone bold, strong, handsome, devilishly clever and…” “Enough!”
Maesia snapped, cutting him off. “You would do this for me?”
The blade nodded.
“Why?” She asked suspiciously. “I know as little about you as you know
about me. Why should I trust you?”
“You probably shouldn’t.” He replied with a grin, dropping the vial back
into his pocket. “Your best bet would be to go home. Do the dutiful thing,
marry your lord and have babies. Lots and lots of babies.” With a wry
grin he pushed himself away from the wall and sauntered past her with
a smug grin.
Maesia reddened slightly. “Ballard.” The blade paused in mid-step. “Excuse
me?” He said in surprise, turning.
“Jon Ballard.” She replied quietly. “I am to be wed to Lord Jon Ballard.”
The blade nodded and turned his back to her. “I… have heard of him. A
most disreputable character indeed.” He paced the alley thoughtfully.
“Why do you wish him dead?”
Maesia shuddered slightly. “Obviously you have never seen him. Ancient,
bloated, disgusting…” She bit back the urge to vomit. “If he were at least
close to my age I might be able to tolerate it. Or do something. But my
father owes his family a great debt, and my marrying into his family settles
The blade nodded, still not facing her. “Why not just leave then?” Maesia
shook her head sadly. “Because I have no where to go, and no one to go
“Why not come with me?” Night asked quietly. Maesia blinked in surprise.
“With you? Where?” “Anywhere. Why not leave this place? Buy a horse, steal
a horse, whatever and just go?”
Maesia thought about it a moment, then shook her head sadly. “No. My father
would find me, and bring me back. I would die before I would marry him.”
“Would you?” Night asked quietly, still facing away from her. Maesia nodded
with grim determination. “That is the only way it can be. Me or him.”
The blade nodded wearily. “I will do ask you ask.
Maesia stood before the altar, rigid with fear. A hundred thoughts raced
through her mind. “How could I have been so foolish?” She thought. “How
could I have trusted a man I hardly knew with something so serious?” Glancing
back she saw her father standing at the base of the steps.
As the music began, she watched Lord Ballard step through the archway.
Maesia closed her eyes and tried to hide her disgust. When she opened
her eyes, a second man had stepped through the arch, falling in step beside
Lord Ballard. Maeisa looked back at her father in confusion. Lord Khal
merely beamed happily at his daughter, not understanding the look on her
Turning back she scrutinized the much younger man. He seemed handsome
enough, and fit. The well made wedding clothes fitting him well and showing
off a fine figure, but his face was obscured by a broad brimmed hat. Maesia
gritted her teeth in frustration, how she hated Rhyhanion customs!
After what seemed to be an eternity, the two men made it to the Altar.
Lord Ballard smiled at Maesia and winked before turning to stand beside
her father. The young man took his place at her side, facing the Altar.
Maesia tried vainly to look at him out of the corner of her eyes but could
As the ceremony progressed, she became more and more agitated. Finally
the priest came to the ceremony’s conclusion and produced a large goblet.
“With this union, the joining of two houses.” He intoned as he poured
a thick red wine into the goblet. “Let this drink symbolize the mixing
of the noble blood that will be joined in holy matrimony.” Turning the
priest handed the goblet to her husband who reached out and brought it
to his lips. “With this, we are bound, as man and wife, until our death.”
With that he tipped the goblet back and took a deep drink, then turned
to her, holding the goblet out for her to take. Reaching up numbly she
accepted it. As his fingertips brushed hers, he leaned forward. “I love
you.” He whispered.
Maesia looked up in shock and found herself staring into all too familiar
incandescent blue eyes. “With this, we are bound, man and wife, until
our death.” She repeated, still shocked. Never taking her eyes from his,
she raised the glass.
Just as her lips touched the goblet, Jon Ballard grabbed his throat and
gasped. Choking, he fell back, tumbling down the stairs as the audience
gasped in shock.
Lord Ballard and Lord Khal rushed to their fallen son’s side. “He’s dead…”
Lord Khal whispered.
Lord Ballard bowed his head in grief. “Who could have done such a thing?”
Through all of this, Maeisa knelt in disbelief. “No…” She gasped, staring
into the goblet in horror.
Behind her the priest bowed his head solemnly. “In light of this terrible
tragedy, the marriage will be postponed for one month.” Lord Khal looked
up in disbelief. “Postponed? Are you daft? The groom is dead!”
The priest nodded sadly. “Unfortunate, but as is clearly stated in the
laws concerning the marriage of two noble families: If either the groom
or bride should die before the marriage is consummated, then the next
oldest heir will take their place in order to preserve the union.” Lord
Ballard looked up, tears streaming down his face. “But there are no other
heirs…” He stammered.
The priest sighed wearily. “Only you.”
Maesia let those words sink in and realized her worst nightmare was going
to come true. Looking down into the goblet, she knew she only had one
choice. Hands shaking, she raised the goblet to her lips, draining it
in one gulp.
“I’m so sorry.” She whispered as the blackness enveloped her.
“Ah… There you are. I was beginning to worry.” Maeisa blinked groggily
and sat up slowly. “I had this terrible dream…”
Night sat down next to her and held out a cup of water. “Oh, tell me about
Maesia reached for the cup, then froze as she realized who was holding
it. “You! I thought you…”
Night smiled faintly and removed his mask. “Dead? Hardly.” Maesia felt
the room begin to spin. “But how…” The blade slid forward and held her
up. “Jon Ballard is dead. And so is Maesia Khal. It’s just us now.”
Maesia nodded numbly. “The Night and the Lady.” She murmured as she fainted.
By: Jason Haley