Champion's Duel...

Location: Kingdom of Blackheart, Royal Duchy of Darkholm, Capital City of Coldforge, Darkholde Keep

The morning sun shone brightly, its glorious light bathing every corner of the land below while casting shadows along the cliffs licked by the sea of Darkholm.

Sunbeams invaded the enormous black keep, sneaking in through the stained glass windows in a silent and yet colorful display of light.

Resting over the parapets around the training hall, dozens of carrion birds watched in silence while just a few feet below, true to their nickname, the vultures*, just as many pairs of yellow eyes witnessed expectantly what transpired in the hall…

...where, like a pair of scavengers fighting over a piece of rotting meat, two men dueled over an heirless baron’s land…

A man lunged towards his opponent, quickly closing the distance between the two with his perfect form. The tip of his epee barely missed his opponent, whose deep, gray hair spoke only a fraction of the experience he bore.

The elder of the two arched his left arm upwards, and mentally measured the new distance between the two with a single, darting jab of the epee on his right that would have seemed an initiate’s move…

But The Twins was far from an initiate…

He was born one of a pair of identical siblings, Darren and Dannil, creators of the Darkholm fighting style. Despite their philosophical differences, they fought together, side by side, only identifiable by the dominant eye in their helmet. They lived, laughed, and loved, together, but the one thing they did not do together...was die.

Upon the death of one, the survivor cast his helmet by his brother’s side, so that no one ever knew who had perished. Despite the deep sadness that never left him, the survivor took the name The Twins, and decided to ‘live’ for both of them.

Even today, two to three generations later, he was a match for much younger warriors, and his best apprentice ever was the one he faced today…

Erdrick Darkholm recovered quickly. While the prince preferred a claymore, he was quite proficient in almost every weapon. His fighting ability had helped him climb the ranks of the Black Knights, of which he was now commander. But, more than his high proficiency, his ability to adapt and improvise made him a most formidable and dangerous opponent.

The knight drew small circles in the air with the tip of his epee, seeking to catch the attention of The Twins.

“Know your opponent” The Twins spoke out loud, as if this was just another lesson.

“What is Erdrick’s weakness?” Fengo Darkholm asked from the balcony where he watched, chuckling.

“That is for you to find out” the elder man responded, smiling. “It’s just seldom life places the knowledge in your hands. Most of the time you have to fight for it and find it!” The Twins darted forward, first ducking, stabbing, and circling out of the way just as fast. As he passed, a few drops of blood stained Erdrick’s shirt. “Always know your opponent.” “An unpredictable opponent is typically focused on how he can surprise you, not in defending against your surprises…” he continued.

“Good move” Erdrick smiled as he readied himself. “You got me at a disadvantage, Twins. Just two more to go. I still need three.”

The pair lunged and thrust at one another, both striking close enough, but far enough to avoid striking true.

“Twins, here!!” young Toradmus hurled a second epee towards the man he so much admired. Now, with two swords, he would become a hailstorm.

“Erdrick, here!!”

Erdrick lifted his hand up, and caught a flower. Squinting, he looked up at the balcony, where Lady Charon playfully winked and blew a kiss to the prince.

As a flight of arrows the flurry of strikes came. The prince dodged, deflected, spun, deflected, drops of sweat flying around as the duel continued.

And as fast as a lightning strike, a swift slash cut the wind towards the elder man, striking one of his swords and sending it flying several feet away...

With a quick step back he dodged, his eyes fixated in his opponent’s shoulders. “Good move,” he spoke out loud “using a piercing weapon as a slashing blade might not seem as effective, but it is, if it catches your opponent off guard.”

As he finished his words, a gash on his shirt opened, followed by a thin line of crimson life. “Hah! Great move!”

Risking it all, Erdrick moved forward towards the Twins, who switched hands and lunged at him. The knight stepped aside, grabbed his opponent’s blade and turning swiftly, snapped it in place.

The Twins stepped back, but not fast enough before feeling the commander’s tip on his leg.

“Two” he jested, when the broken point of his blade flew towards him and struck the same extremity.

“Three” Erdrick smiled “know your opponent, Always know your opponent!”

At the victory, the House of Vultures did not clap, nor did they celebrate, for one thing the Lords of Darkness kept ingrained in their hearts: their differences and challenges they always resolved in private. Despite any differences, the winner would be supported by the whole House in the eyes of the world.

Tenslea, Fengo and Serverus were among those who approached The Twins to make certain he received a healer’s assistance.

Charon, Augustus, and Malacar surrounded Erdrick. “I am fine” the knight signaled at those around him. His eyes sought his father’s, to find them looking back.

Erdrick was glad his progenitor has seen his victory. It was his support and that of his sister that… ...his sister’s eyes were looking behind his back.

The knight wiped his hands as his neck turned to see a young man standing in the center of the training hall. His hair was unkempt as a youngster’s sheets in the morning, his eyes intense, his cheekbones perfect; on his shoulder, a red cape that denoted his station.

“Cousin?” Erdrick asked.

From under his cape, he produced a rapier. “I am Dragan ‘Drakkon’ Darkholm, and I seek to place Ironforge under my protection. Prince Erdrick Darkholm, Commander of the Black Knights, I challenge you!”

Vhimir, the herald, raised his voice for all to hear “Does anyone support Dragan’s challenge?”

“I do” Xenovive of the Vine walked to stand behind Dragan’s back. Bursting with pride, Sellayne Darkholm joined her.

“Then you may accept the challenge” Vhimir announced before returning to his balcony.

“Baron Dragan ‘Drakkon’ Darkholm, Dragon of Darkness. I, Erdrick Darkholm, Prince of Blackheart and Black Duke of Secrets, accept your challenge!”

“Choose our weapon” Dragan commanded.

“What’s your best?” Erdrick raised an eyebrow.


“Then rapier it will be.” Erdrick’s entourage stepped aside, returning to their place. A servant brought him three rapiers. The Commander tested each in the air, and chose the one with the most complex embroideries, the finest blade. “I have chosen the weapon. Choose the victory condition” the prince added.

“One blood”

“So will it be…” Erdrick stood five steps away, saluting with his rapier.

Dragan’s eyes met his cousin’s. There was warmth in neither men’s expression. He curtsied deeply, dropped his crimson cape, and readied his stance.

The herald waved the red flag that initiated the duel.

Immediately, the smaller man’s frame moved fast towards Erdrick, seeking to catch him by surprise. But the seasoned knight deflected the strike with ease. Within a moment, Dragan hand turned and attacked from the side, but the larger man caught a glimpse and deflected again, kicking hard, his swinging leg catching Dragan’s shirt and sending him off balance.

And just then, Erdrick closed in and slashed twice.

The smaller man deflected the first attack, and stepped back to avoid the second.

Both men continued, striking like lightning, unpredictably and quickly, deflecting one another and dancing around the hall.

After a few more rounds, the black knight’s brow started to sweat. Many years of training under the weight of his armor had made stamina never an issue for the warrior, but matching the speed of the smaller man was draining him of all of it.

Erdrick Darkholm took a deep breath and lowered his stance… The world slowed down to almost a stop. Falling drops of sweat froze in mid-air. The breathing of all witnesses echoed as a raging storm that drifted away as everything around him lost all color, everything but Dragan, who appeared bright as the sun shining down on Bloodheim’s fertile fields. The Drakkon’s eyes blazed intensely, frozen in time, but still centered on Erdrick’s own. His shirt…

Erdrick’s body spun counterclockwise, impossibly dodging an attack as his hand grabbed Dragan by the shirt. With all his strength, he sent the man flying through the air towards the wall.

But the gods, or perhaps the Darkness, had blessed the Baron with cat-like reflexes, for his feet met the hard surface, and pushing himself, he jumped back, closing in quickly.

And while Dragan jumped back, Erdrick was charging, rapier ready.

Sword, as both men’s eyes, met. Erdrick’s eyes blazing with fury, Dragan’s with inmutable indifference. The blades bounced off each other’s crossguards.

Both men took a moment to steady their blades again before turning to face one another.

‘He is fast’ Erdrick thought. The usually quiet, yet elegant cousin that spoke with a proper, yet different accent was faster than anyone he’d ever faced.

The prince turned again, to face his challenger. He had to give his all, for he was the best of Darkholm, and the Knights needed this land.

They both dashed towards one another, Erdrick slashing in every direction, Dragan with his edge steady, aiming towards just one spot…

“Dragan, it was an honor” the knight saluted. “Tell me, where did you learn to fight?”

Saluting back, his cousin replied “Self-taught, my Lord. I am driven by my one desire, to defend the honor of our Crown.”

Erdrick smiled, as the House closed in. The Knights needed the land they had just lost…

Sellayne’s eyes filled with mirth, the pearls in her mouth showing as she smiled, before her crimson lips kissed the ones of the man she supported and loved. “Commander...” Dragan spoke “...cousin.”

“Dragan” Erdrick responded as his wound was bandaged.

“You can keep the land, for the Knights. You’ll make better use of the land than me” the lithe man placed his crimson cape over his shoulder.

“Then you can keep my best rapier. Here, you’ll make better use of it than me.”

*How the House of Darkholm was first known as ‘the Vultures’ is long lost in history. Some say their fascination with death and the dead has given them their name. Others claim the name comes from the black stone castle that watches over the capital city of Coldforge while being perched on the cliffs, while it witnesses the coast slowly being crept upon by the sea. Yet, others say the Darkholm wait patiently, only acting at the very end, when doom has already come.

"When you feel you don't belong, you me" -Rowena Darkholm, Queen of Black Hearts

2/10/2019 10:42:01 PM #1


"When you feel you don't belong, you me" -Rowena Darkholm, Queen of Black Hearts

2/10/2019 10:45:33 PM #2



2/10/2019 10:56:54 PM #3

'I dont want it, but I will fight you for it!'

I love how smug Dragan is and how the Prince accepts being bested by his Baron cousin! Good sportsmanship, always!

2/10/2019 11:02:10 PM #4

Not only am I moved, entertained, and impressed. The story is also a perfect expression of how you make these words:

"When you feel you don't belong, you me" -Rowena Darkholm

A daily reality!

Thank you.

2/11/2019 12:29:48 AM #5

Super in-depth and detailed. I love it! :)

2/11/2019 1:31:00 AM #6

Great write up as always, Rowena! Good to see Dragan get some action scenes. May the Quill & Blades be proud of their Guild Master this day, as we are proud of our beloved Blood the same.

5/6/2019 4:41:07 PM #7

This is awesome and I love it.

-Baron Wayland Ade'Braeden, Judicator of IronCall, Duchy of the High Seas. ][Imgur Friend Code: 2D1330

Please join our discord if you have any questions or are looking to join our town!

5/6/2019 8:07:44 PM #8

I just want to say that the accompanying art is so nice.

ayy lmao

5/6/2019 10:53:36 PM #9

Truly awesome! Waiting for more ;)

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