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“Step forward” the magi Shernost spoke, loud enough to be heard by not only the two swordsmen, but the crowd of other warriors and lords who gathered to watch the death match.
Vic Griffiths gripped his sword tighter and walked forward, he was as far from the favourite of winning as it was possible to be, but such was the unpopularity of his opponent, Grozenge the Reaver, that a few brave souls gave him nods of good luck, even if they were nothing like as powerful as the cheers and foot stamping for his opponent — everyone likes a winner, especially one who when he wins will be crowned King. The two men approached each other, sword in one hand, shield held in the other, half-helms covering their heads and with mail shirts that reached down to their elbows and knees over tough leather smock and leggings; neither man could be equipped differently from the other, it would all come down to skill, a battle between the hardened warrior who killed his first opponent when he was ten and a teenager, barely out of High School, who’d only found himself in this world days before.
There was a line the sand and as Shernost had instructed him earlier he halted there. Grozenge was taking his time approaching his own, basking in the approval and cheers of the crowd and noting those who’s cheering was less than enthusiastic. It allowed Vic time to briefly glance over at the woman they were fighting for; she was wearing a loose dress, which exposed more than was proper of her bosoms and her blonde hair spilled down onto her naked shoulders.
She saw he was looking and though she looked like she was about to cry she forced a smile and mouthed ‘good luck’.
“Thanks Mom,” Vic said back, so quietly that only he and Shernost could hear. The Magi made no sign he cared, there was no rule which prevented the combatants talking to the prize. Instead he waited until Grozenge was at the line and then raised his hands, before lowering them. It wasn’t magic, but it was still impressive how the crowd, noisy and rumbustious a moment before, went silent at his signal.
For a moment all was quiet and then Shernost spoke in a big booming voice, “We are here for the prophecy. When old King Huther fell and our people were split asunder, his Magi had a vision. He dreamed of a Queen, a woman from the worlds across the dreamscape, where science holds sway. She would be blonde and beautiful” Vic glanced over again, his Mom fitted that description, “and arrive in a metal box, with glass so smooth it would be like water.” With some artistic license that could be the car which one moment had been driving them back from the store and the next was sitting in a muddy track with a dozen warriors around it shouting and trying to control their rearing horses
“She would marry a great warrior, who reunite the tribes and rule them justly and wisely,” Shernost cast a look at Grozenge there before gazing at Vic. The prophecies didn’t lie, he had assured Vic, which might suggest that Vic had a small chance, as neither justice or wisdom were attributes Grozenge had shown any sign of before. “It has been a hundred years, more as some say it, but she has arrived, the Queen Deborah of the clan Griffiths,” he swung his arm towards her as if anyone in the arena hadn’t been aware and then back towards the two men beside him.
“Grozenge the Reaver claims her. It was on his land she appeared and it was his men who found her and bound her and brought her to the City of the Kings. He says that shows the Gods intend her to be his and for him to be the one who fulfils the prophecy.” As most of the warriors and lords agreed with his interpretation, even if few liked it, Shernost paused for the cheers and hammering of shields and spear hafts on the ground.
After a few moments he raised his hands again and then lowered them, shushing the crowd. “Facing him is her son, Victor of clan Griffiths. He holds that Grozenge is no man fit for the Queen and that she should be allowed to choose someone better, himself.” Vic shook his head urgently, that wasn’t what he had said, at least the bit about it being him, it was his Mom after all and no matter how strange this land was to him, he couldn’t believe that they’d ever interpret a guy not wanting his Mom to marry a dyed in the wool psychopath as him wanting to marry her himself.
However, they didn’t seem to get that as Shernost carried on speaking, “As there are two men who would marry Queen Deborah and claim the Kingship it must be settled between them by battle, to the death.”
Grozenge spat and grinned, Vic gulped and nodded.
“To the death…” repeated Shernost and stepped backwards as the two combatants lifted their arms.
Earlier that day…
The rooms beneath the arena weren’t dungeon cells, but it would have been an easy mistake to make. There was even a guard outside and if the door was unlocked, Vic had little doubt that he was not free to wander and the man outside was more than an ornament. A torch burnt bursa escort beside the wooden door, and a new torch placed, regularly on the hour, to replace the old before it went out. The only window was a small rectangular one, set so high up in the wall that the only way Vic had been able to see out was to take a running jump to grab the sill with his fingers and hoist himself up to enjoy a few moments in the light before his grip gave way.
A little while before, not longer after the torch change Shernost had come with a few guards. He had explained the rules, not that they were complicated, two men identically armed and armoured went in, one came out. As he was talking the guards had been piling the armour on the table opposite, there was no sword as off yet, he supposed they didn’t trust him with it — whether they’d thought he’d kill himself or the guard he was uncertain.
“You don’t believe the prophecy?” Shernost had asked when he’d explained the rules. In the few days Vic had known the Magi he had realised the man might be superstitious and have an unreasonable belief in supernatural portents and signs, but he was also shrewd and highly intelligent, more educated in his world than Vic had been on his own.
“No,” the young man said bluntly. “The idea someone know that it would be my Mom driving through that crack a hundred years ago is bullshit, the prophecy is vague it could have been anyone and the bit about her husband uniting the tribes is just some garnish added on.”
“But if men believe it’s true it is true,” Shernost said. He shrugged, “I do not like the Reaver, he is a cruel man and I will not deny you the truth that he would be a poor husband, who will beat your mother and fuck her as and when, whether she is willing or not. But if he marries her people will believe he is the King and they will follow him, no-one will say that the prophecy said a hundred years and it is a hundred a twelve or that your… car, was that what you called it? A shortening for cart? Anyway no-one will say a car is not a box. Nor will they wonder why the prophecy made no mention of you or why we all assumed that it would be a young maiden, not a mother widowed.”
“Are you saying it could have been anyone?” Vic said, “We just happened to be the unlucky ones, just driving along and we fell into a crack between your world and mine.”
“Not anyone, no, but whilst the prophecy is vague and details are wrong, the truth is not in dispute, it was a woman, who was blonde and beautiful.” He grinned and Vic wasn’t going to gainsay him on his Mom’s beauty, all his friends thought she was hot and to be honest, if she hadn’t been his Mom he’d have probably thought the same. Shernost was continuing on, “Nor would I say it was a crack but a passage, less random than you think, there are powers in your world that your science cannot know off, even if they do not have the power they have here and if the Gods wanted to move your mother from one world to the other they would do it.”
Vic snorted in derision, but Shernost just gave a smile and shrug, “But you’re here aren’t you.”
It was a simple truth, one that was impossible to argue with. The older man had tried to explain it when he first met Vic and his Mom after they’d first been delivered to the temple/university/library (or whatever it was Shernost had said it was all these things and more) “Our two worlds are like mirrors of each other, they may be cracked and scoured and may not give a perfect reflection, but what happens in one happens in the other, it is why we can speak the same words and if you had a map of your world it would match ours with the same beasts and birds. But whilst the Gods left you to your science and reason, they remained here with us, walking amongst us unseen and giving us the gift of magic and spellcraft. Sometimes they move men or woman between them, when they arrive here we call it prophecy and a sign from Gods, you call it madness and do whatever you do with the insane — do you still burn them?”
As an explanation it was as good as any and so Vic just said, “I’m here.”
“It could be it’s not just your mother who was called,” Shernost said. “I don’t expect Grozenge was expecting you to call him out.” He laughed, “It confused me as well, when he called for challengers who disputed his right to take your mother’s hand it’s is for other men to stake their claim to her to wed, not just because you dislike your future father-in-law; the world would be a much bloodier place if boys always fought those who took their mothers to bed.”
“He’s a thug, you said so yourself, I wasn’t going to let him marry my Mom,” Vic replied.
“The arrogance of the young. I don’t think you even thought before you stepped forward, he’s one of the most foremost warriors in the land, you’re new here and I doubt you’ve even held a sword never mind driven it into another man’s guts as he stares at you with his dying eyes,” Shernost said. He paused and then added, “Not bursa escort bayan that it would have mattered, Grozenge doesn’t want any step-children complicating his dynasty, so you’d have been dead on the morrow after he was wed.”
“So you’ve just come to tell me I didn’t make a mistake in getting myself killed by Grozenge in a duel over my Mom, because he would have killed me anyway,” Vic said, at least it meant he couldn’t back out, though he had also suspected as much himself.
Shernost laughed, “No, no. I was telling you the Gods wanted to move your mother over here. But if you’re also with her they must have meant for you as well and if the Gods do not think as mortals do, I do not believe they are as capricious as to bring you over just to kill you in a duel. I cannot bet on the outcome, I am neutral after all, “he smiled, “but if I could I believe it could be you, not Grozenge, who will be the one to walk away.”
“That seems a convoluted plan by your Gods, especially if they want my Mother to marry your new King. What am I supposed to do? Challenge each until I decide on one I think would be a good father-in-law and hope he’d be half-decent as a King?”
“You’re next to marry her if you win, that is what the challenge is about, who gets her hand,” Shernost said.
“With the small point, I’m her son, that’s incest,” Vic replied.
Shernost seemed less perturbed by that than Vic had expected, “You wouldn’t be the first King or Lord to marry a mother or a sister or daughter for that matter; and in the small villages you think it matters whether you are kin or not?”
“I don’t think these mirrors reflect our worlds as closely as you think,” Vic responded.
Shernost just laughed and clapped him on the back, “You’ll think different on your wedding night.”
“If I survive,” Vic said.
“Yes,” he laughed, it wasn’t his life on the line, “Anyway I’ve gone, but I’ve arranged a visitor, to help you remember what you’re fighting for.” He strode to the door and opened it, then he seemed to have a thought, “I will hope to see you after the duel.” He nodded in farewell and left before Vic could reply.
The teenager sighed, he hadn’t really thought of what he was doing that was true, but the strange thing was that even without Shernost’s words he wasn’t scared as if some invisible voice was telling him that everything would be okay. That was ridiculous, much like Shernost’s belief Gods walked among them, but even so it was comforting and it wouldn’t be rationale to force himself to fear the future he now had no control over.
He began to undress to get into the armour, when the door opened and in came his Mom. “Vic,” she cried in relief, running towards him and enveloping him in her arms. He hadn’t seen her since they’d been in the temple and Grozenge had demanded he be allowed to wed her and before Shernost, the chief Magi had time to reply, Vic had said he couldn’t, which was taken by all as a challenge. Had it only been two days ago? It seemed longer. He hugged her back tightly, aware that this time tomorrow he might be dead and she might have been raped multiple times by his killer under the pretence of marriage.
It took them a long time to let go. Eventually he loosened the embrace aware that he needed to get into his armour. He took a step backwards and begun to undo his shirt; it was the one he’d been wearing when he’d come over, like all his clothes. He saw that his Mom had changed, from jeans and sweater into a small, but expensive looking dress, which only reached to just above her thighs and showed more of her boobs than would have been considered proper when you’re out doing your weekly shop. A pair of sandals were on her feet, silver embossed in the leather and around her head, was a golden circlet with a diamond hanging down over her forehead. He didn’t know who had chosen the clothes, almost certainly not his Mom, who would have been happy wearing cast-offs, but they did make her seem sexy and almost desirable. He frowned, pushing back the latter thought, “I need to get ready.”
“You don’t need to fight, I’ll marry the man,” Deborah said.
Vic slipped off his shirt, it might have been his imagination but his chest seemed firmer, the pecs more sculpted than they had before. His Mom was looking as well, seeing the same thing, perhaps the air and diet agreed with him. She reached out and touched him tenderly, her finger slipping down his pec and over the nipple, “I don’t want you getting hurt,” she pleaded.
“It’s too late,” said Vic and explained what Shernost had said as he removed his pants, leaving only his boxers. He turned away from his Mom, suddenly aware that his cock was threatening to push out the of the front gap, he’d always been endowed, as several ex-girlfriends could attest, but there was no way he was comfortable about accidentally exposing himself to his Mom.
She misunderstood the gesture taking him by the shoulder and turning him around, “I can talk escort bursa to Grozenge, tell him I’ll go to his bed willingly as long as he doesn’t harm you.”
“He won’t care, Mom,” Vic replied, hoping she didn’t look down and quickly fumbling for the leggings on the table. He began to pull them up, but they weren’t designed to go with boxers and began to scrunch them up uncomfortably.
“I think you need to do without,” his Mom said with a small smile.
Vic blushed and turned away from her again, removing his boxers before pulling on the leggings and tying them up. His Mom was still smiling as he turned back, even if it was one tinged with sadness, “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ve seen it before.”
“Hmppf,” grunted Vic and reached for the leather jerkin. His Mom picked it up off the table for him and paused before handing it to him, “I can win,” he said.
His Mom seemed about to cry and then decided better off it, “You can,” she said in the same tone as when she encouraged him to try for the school football team, even if he’d been a year too young and at best an outside chance. “But what about the next one? Will he be any better? Will you fight him as well?”
“As many as I need,” said Vic. The chainmail seemed lighter than he expected, or else he had put on more muscle over last few days. He squeezed his bicep, it did seem bigger and firmer, but was that his imagination or was there something in Shernost’s belief about the Gods wanting him to do more than die in a duel? It seemed unlikely, but it seemed unlikely there were different dimensions you could get whisked into, but yet here he was.
“Even if… I mean when you beat Grozenge, they’ll be more and more, every man who thinks he has a chance to be King. I don’t think I could bear watching you go out again and again to fight.”
“There’s not an alternative, I’m not letting you marry any thug who wants, even if most of them didn’t plan on killing me to simplify the succession,” he replied. He slipped on the chainmail, it still felt lighter than he expected and hardly restricted his movement at all as he practiced some turns and paces.
Deborah stopped him, grabbing his hand, “There’s one way. After the fight, you marry me, become the King.”
Vic started in surprise, “You’re my Mom.”
“We wouldn’t need to do anything, just say the words, after a few days you can tell everyone you’ve consummated the wedding, they won’t know any different and take a concubine, a lot of the leaders do, arranged marriages are common,” she looked at him pleadingly.
“It seems an odd thing to do,” he replied.
“This whole world is strange, seriously Vic, it’s the only option,” she said.
Before he could reply the door opened again and in came Shernost. “It is time,” said the Magi.
The first blow from Grozenge was so easy to evade he must have been playing with Vic. The teen easily sidestepped it, his face expressionless, as the older man guffawed and grinned, sure he was already the winner. He started to circle round ready to strike again and Vic followed him. It was strange but as soon as he had picked up the sword it began to feel part of him and the longer he held it the stronger that feeling became. Grozenge was coming in again with a lackadaisical cut that it was simple for Vic block with his shield.
However it left a small opening for the teen to exploit and even as Grozenge’s sword was bouncing from his shield he was thrusting forward with his own weapon.
The older warrior saw it just in time and jumped backwards, avoiding the sword connecting with him by inches. His expression changed, from arrogance to surprise and as he circled again he was less playful with his swordplay and more studied, waiting for his own opening.
Vic didn’t allow him time to find one, launching his own attack, a flurry of cuts and thrusts.
They were all parried, but Grozenge fell back and his expression became wary as he realised that his opponent was no callow teen he could easily disembowel, but a warrior his equal.
Or better. Vic didn’t know how he’d become so swift or skilled or strong with his sword, but he was on the attack again, his sword swiping up and low, forcing Grozenge to block and avoid, the older man grunting with exertion as he stopped one blow that would have taken him in the head only to have to dodge another that would have taken his arm off at the elbow. There was a small tremor in his hands as he counter-attacked, trying to find a weakness in Vic’s defence and not finding any.
Vic swung again, the sword clanging at the shield and then down lower.
It wasn’t hard enough to tear through the metal chain, but it still smacked hard against it and Vic could see his opponent wince in pain.
The crowd were cheering louder now and Vic was pleased to hear that at least as many were calling for him as Grozenge. He moved forward again, his arm a blur as he attacked again and again, his weapon sweeping down and thrusting forward, continually forcing Grozenge into the defence, until the man stumbled backwards.
It was only for a second, but as he flailed backwards his sword and shield swung outwards leaving his chest exposed.
Vic thrust forward…
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