Sworn Blades and Stolen Hearts is a short story from the collection of short stories The Musketeer’s Gambit: Tales of Honor and Swordplay staring Miguel Fadrique de Alarcon, an Ilmarian Musketeer during Fera Worlds 1500’s era.
Sworn Blades and Stolen Hearts
~ A Courtyard Affair ~
Swordsday the 4th of Midyear 1559
It was decided that the best time to die was shortly after midday, not because it was a holy time nor because it was a coincidence; it was just polite. It gave time for a well cooked breakfast, for early morning prayer and to prepare for the fight yet not let it linger too long into the afternoon or evening. One would meet in a pre-agreed location, under the vigil of a mediator and do the deed. Pistols, swords, spears or even hand to hand although pistols or swords were the most common in this age.
The duel would be over quickly and not because of a time constraint but because of the heat; in the South of Ilmaria or most of Umissia at least. Midday was a time to rest and sleep the heat away but to be out and fighting meant you would want to quickly deal with it before getting out of the sun.
Once the deed was done and the victor determined, they could rest the heat away, recover from any injuries and then spend the afternoon doing as you pleased.
For the non-victorious victor it would mean your body sitting out in the sun for at least an hour and the body would be taken away before with the sun turning the body to a foul puddle of filth.
And so, the two men stared at each other from the across the courtyard. The mediator stood in a shaded porch conveniently centred between the two alcoves where each fighter started.
Slowly raising a white handkerchief, the mediator looked to their left, a man in red padded doublet with matching red puffed trousers. He put his left hand on the the pommel of his rapier while his right hooked his cape from his shoulder and threw it onto a conveniently placed hook on the wall of the alcove.
He nodded at the mediator.
The mediator looked to his right at the other man, a man wearing a dark brown leather pourpoint and an exceptionally wide brimmed hat. He grabbed the brim and hooked it delicately on the hook on his own alcove wall.
With the same hand the man in the leather pourpoint reached over and grasped the small golden buckle at his shoulder and untied the clasp with a deft twirl of his gloved finger, placing his cloak on another hook beneath the one his wide brimmed hat sat upon. With a slow glance over his attire and a quick brush of the hem of his pourpoint with the back of his gloved hand, the man looked over to the mediator and made a lazy nod toward him.
With a slow cough, the mediator looked the pair over and then raised his head ever so slightly so that he looked at the men down his crooked nose. “Sire Manuel de Villaseca…” He began, looking to the man in the red doublet. “…has made his declaration of challenge against Sire Miguel Fadrique de Alarcon.” He turned his nose to the man in the leather pourpoint. “An agreement to the terms has been met and a time has been set, that time is now. A place has been decided and that place has been reached. A duel to first blood has been decided by Paforr, the instruments decided by Paforr to be rapiers and off handed weapon or buckler. Do the participants wish to disagree to the Paforr?”
Slowly the mediator looked between the pair, first to “Sire Miguel Fadrique de Alacron” whom shook his head in the slightest, before looking over to “Sire Manuel de Villaseca” who glared over at Miguel, snarling a “I do not.”
With another cough, and still holding out the white handkerchief, he spoke out loud. “Then the duel will being the moment this handkerchief touches the floor. First blood will be decided by myself and you will step back upon my call of halt or I will shoot you down like the dirty cheating dog you are.” Drawing a pistol, the mediator cocked it back with his thumb.
“Now you’re done with the pleasantries, let’s get this damn thing going!” Sire Manuel de Villaseca hissed and glared at the man opposite him, spitting in the dirt beside his feet.
And with a sigh, the Mediator looked distastefully at the red doublet drabbed man and then let go of the handkerchief.
The moment that the white silk touched the sand dusted stone cobbles Sire Manuel de Villaseca charged forward, drawing his rapier and swinging out the buckler from his belt in his off hand, crossing half the yard in less than a half-dozen steps. Sire Miguel Fadrique de Alacron on the other hand only took two steps forward, drawing his rapier in his right hand and from behind his back on his belt drew the short dagger. With a flourish of the Rapier to his face and not before kissing the blade’s flat briefly, he smacked the flat of the blade against Manuel de Villaseca’s blade, knocking the momentum of the mans charge to his right hand side and straight into the wall at the right side of the alcove Miguel Fadrique de Alacron had stepped out of.
The clash of steel echoed through the narrow alley as Sire Manuel de Villaseca’s rapier met the determined defence of Sire Miguel Fadrique de Alarcon. Sparks flew as their blades clashed, and the tension in the air was palpable.
Manuel, his anger evident in his eyes, pressed his attack relentlessly. He swung his rapier with precision, aiming for Miguel’s chest. Miguel, however, was a skilled duellist in his own right. With quick and calculated movements, he deflected Manuel’s strikes with his rapier, while his off-hand dagger served as an effective countermeasure, keeping Manuel at bay.
Their duel continued with a furious exchange of blows and parries. The clanging of steel on steel echoed through the alley, a symphony of conflict. Miguel was the more composed of the two, his footwork precise and his defence impeccable. Manuel, consumed by rage, was beginning to tire.
The Mediator watched closely, his pistol still trained on them. He was prepared to call a halt if he deemed the duel too dangerous or if one of them drew first blood. But both participants were skilled, and neither was willing to yield.
As the minutes ticked by, sweat soaked their clothing, and fatigue began to set in. Manuel’s wild attacks had lost some of their force, while Miguel’s calculated movements seemed to gain momentum. With a swift and well-timed parry, Miguel disarmed Manuel, sending his rapier clattering to the cobbles.
Manuel, now weaponless, staggered back against the wall, breathing heavily. Miguel lowered his rapier, his dagger poised but not menacingly. It was clear that he had won the duel, but he had no intention of causing further harm. Miguel’s eyes bore into Manuel’s with a mixture of triumph and caution. He knew that Manuel was a proud and hot-tempered man, and he remained on guard, ready for any unexpected moves.
For a moment, it seemed as though Manuel might accept defeat with a begrudging nod, but the fire of humiliation and anger still burned brightly within him. With a sudden, reckless surge of determination, Manuel lunged forward, attempting to grapple Miguel and bring him down to the ground.
Miguel’s instincts kicked in instantly. In one swift motion, he sidestepped Manuel’s charge and used his rapier’s point to deliver a precise, controlled strike. The tip of the blade grazed Manuel’s cheek, leaving a thin, bleeding line.
Gasps of surprise and anticipation rippled through the apparent watching crowd, it seemed the locals whom houses circled this courtyard were now watching from window sills and balconies. The Mediator, his hand still on the pistol, held his breath as he scrutinised the scene. Miguel had managed to draw the first blood, adhering to the agreed-upon terms of the duel.
Manuel staggered back, clutching his bleeding cheek in shock and pain. He looked both furious and humiliated, his anger now compounded by the humiliation of being cut by his opponent. He knew he had underestimated Miguel’s skill and composure.
With the duel’s outcome decided, the Mediator finally called out, “Halt! Sire Miguel Fadrique de Alarcon is the victor. The duel is over.”
Miguel, his rapier still in hand, stepped back and sheathed his weapons. He glanced at Manuel with a mix of sympathy and wariness, understanding that the wounded pride of a defeated opponent could still lead to further conflict.
Manuel, seething with anger and nursing his bleeding cheek, gave a curt nod of acknowledgement. The crowd dispersed slowly, whispering about the unexpected turn of events in the duel. Honor had been satisfied, but wounds ran deep, and the enmity between these two men was far from extinguished.