Welcome to a new chapter of Imperial Struggle, the story of the young Emperor Marco, and the struggles he has with his new imperial position. Imperial Struggle is my first web novel, so any feedback is welcomed. This is chapter 19, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
While Qat was leaving the stage, Escarte took his place on it.
Escarte was a short man, compared with the giants like Argento or Scilla. But what stood out was not his height, but his weight. He was a bulky man, round around the waist and with puffy cheeks. Bald, with blue eyes, he looks coldly at the audience.
“Escarte” he said. Just like Qat he didn’t intend to give up more than this.
While the Imperial Guard representative joined on the stage, Escarte removed the cape on his back, revealing his weapon. His weapon made many of the present generals to make big eye. Escarte was using an ancient Warhammer, a weapon that didn’t appear on the battlefield for over 100 years.
His warhammer was blunt at one head, and spiked on the other side. This weapon was an only attack weapon, it was very hard to defend while holding it. On the other side, it was very hard to defend against it as well. When the full force of the hammer hit, regardless of the defence, you will feel pain from it.
“Jun Abruzzo” the Imperial Guard presented himself on the stage. The Abruzzo name, made many people to look at the Commander. He included his own son as well.
Jun, like the Jan Zaran before him, was fighting with a sword and shield making this fight an interesting combat because of the weapons. Sword and shield versus a warhammer.
“Are both of you ready?” General Basta asked. Seeing that both of them nodded in approval, he then ordered: “Begin”.
Contrary to everyone's expectation, the one who took the initiative was Jun. It seemed that he learned from the previous bout and he decided to attack, instead of defending.
With the shield in left hand, he rammed into Escarte, pushing him slightly back. Then he followed with a slash from the top of the head, paired easily by Escarte, that moved to the side to avoid another push with the shield.
Quick on his feet, Jun immediately redresses his attack going with the sword low, on Escarte’s feet, making him retreat once again.
“Gad’dammit” Escarte yelled, rotating his body and making a full swing with his warhammer, hitting the shield of Jun.
The hit was so strong that a crack appeared on the shield, making Jun feeling numbness in his hand.
He discarded the shield, because it was useless now, and grabbed the hilt of the sword with his both hands. He took a lower stance and pointed the sword toward Escarte. He followed him like a snake, ready to strike at anytime.
Escarte smiled, satisfied after his hit. He took some dirt from the ground and spat in his hands. Then he grabbed the warhammer and rushed towards Jun, that was waiting patiently for his attack.
Escarte made a swing towards Jun chest, who tried to parry with his sword, but in the last second, Escarte change the trajectory of the hammer, hitting the sword with full force.
A loud sound echoed through the courtyard. Jun dropped the sword, feeling a sting in his arms, that trembled with pain.
“Young lad, that was a good fight, there’s no shame in losing to me” Escarte said while putting his hammer on Jun’s right shoulder.
“Thank you for your praise, sir. I admit my loss” Jun said panting. The pain in his hands was excruciating.
“Good lad” Escarte laughed.”I think I’ve ruined your sword, ” he said while picking up the sword that flew a few meters away. The sword had a big chip in it the place where Escarte hit it.
“I will help you make a new sword” Escarte said with a big smile.”You know, I’m quite good with metals” he laughed while scratching his bald head.
Seeing that both fighters finished the fight in a pleasant way, grand general Basta couldn’t do anything but state the obvious and announced Escarte as the winner.
Seeing that commander Abruzzo was dejected, losing three fights in a row, Marco thought of saying something to console him.
“Those were some good fights. The Imperial Guard has some fine warriors, you should be proud, Commander.” Marco said.
“Thank you for your kind words, Your Highness”. Abruzzo replied, deeply grateful for the words.
“I have to say, I think your son is the big winner of the bout in the end.” Marco said, making Abruzzo and the others around him to be confused. “Escarte is a master blacksmith from the East. Even I had to beg him to make me my sword. He, he. If I had known that I could have won old Escarte favor, so easily, I would’ve challenged him a long time ago” Marco laughed.
“He’s a good lad, young Emperor” Escarte heard Marco while returning to his seat. “His new sword will be an investment for the future”
While Escarte and Marco were changing words, Scilla rose from his seat and walked towards the stage. He already had prepared his shield in his left hand and the sword in his right.
On the other side, Jacques de Sar was moving towards the stage as well.
“All right, we have reached the final duel. Because of the history between you two I will remind once again the rules stated by the Emperor. This is a friendly bout, no fatal strikes, no injuries, you stop at first blood. Is that clear?” Grand General Basta asked.
Both of them nodded. Because of yesterday, no introduction was needed since for neither of them. And this why Basta began the duel without any other words.
Although this was a friendly duel, everybody present today knew that this was a silent confrontation between the Emperor and the influential lord de Sar. The outcome of this fight would leave a big impact on the politics and decisions that will take part in the next days. And if the previous fights were entertaining and were won by the Emperor’s men, if he lost this one, everything before wouldn't matter anymore. Because he would lose directly to de Sar.
Scilla knew all of this. He knew how the political intrigues worked at the court. He had spent enough time around Marco and Arthur not to know about this. This is why he used his full concentration on the opponent in front of him. His whole being was focused on the tip of the sword in front of him. Like a statue, he took a standard stance, shield in front, sword ready to strike. He was waiting.
Jacques de Sar was aware as well of the political implications. His uncle gave him a long sermon last night about this. He knew that if he didn’t win, his uncle would lose a lot of points with the nobles from other regions and that would be bad for the family.
Both of the fighters were standing in the middle of the stage, looking closely at each other, trying to find a good moment to strike.
“Do you want to know what happened with the bodies of your wife and daughter?” Jacques tried to provoke Scilla. “Do you think hiding on the Emperor back will change what you are, you filthy brigand.”
“Do you want to know what will happen to that pretty face of yours when I’m done with you?” Scilla rebuked back. He knew that this kind of petty provocations was said just to rouse him up, trying to lure him into making a mistake. But against a veteran warrior this kind of trash talk was useless.”Do you think your family of little bitches like yourself is enough to go against Marco? Dream on, sonny boy, you will need to bring the God of Light himself before you will make him bow before you. So come on little boy, let's have a good fight” Scilla shouted and attacked first.
Scilla’s sword was heading towards Jacques head, who raised the shield to block the hit. With a flick of the hand Scilla changed directions of his attack and moved the sword downwards, towards the chest.
Jacques used the sword to parry the hit and rammed with the shield into Scilla.
“Hmm, not bad, young pup” Scilla said with a smile.
Using his strength he rammed into Jacques with his shield, using it like a battering ram. Jacques hid behind his own shield, waiting for an opportunity to strike. But this awaited opportunity didn’t arrive because Scilla started to use his sword as well, moving the attacks dangerously close to the young captain's face.
Seeing that he can’t find an opening, Jacques tried to make one for himself. He moved sideways to escape the attacks and raised his sword to strike. But who was Scilla? He was a war veteran and a former brigand that lived until now. He knew how to preserve his life.
Scilla immediately changed his attack and hit the hand that was holding the sword, opening a wound.
“Stop, stop” Grand General Basta yelled, seeing the blood flowing.”Swords down”.
Scilla stopped his attack and headed towards his place, where the other Swords were sitting. He had won. It was enough for him.
“Are you ok, captain?” Basta asked Jacques that was holding his wounded hand.
“I’m fine, ” he said through gritted teeth.
“Winner: Scilla of the Emperor Guards” Basta announced the results, ending the duels of the day.
Everybody looked at the Emperor. For those who weren’t that familiar with him, they saw him in a new light. Being able to gather such fine warriors under his rule, meant that his young man had something in him. These duels were proof of his power as a leader.
“Your highness, I want to congratulate you on your victory. ” one of the nobles said while bowing towards Marco.
“I thank you, but these kind words should be addressed to me, but to the brave men that fought today for our entertainment.” Marco said. “Commander Abruzzo, I want to thank you for your choice of men for these duels. The Imperial Guard is full of brave young men and I’m thankful for their protection of the Imperial capital. Every man that fought today shall be rewarded with 1000 gold from the Imperial treasury.”
“Thank you, your Highness” Commander Abruzzo said.
“I think the day was quite long for everyone. I will retreat for the day. Please continue the Council without me.” Marco said once again. “I will join you tomorrow and listen to your requests. Good day, my lords” and he retreated, followed by his four guards.
I'm sorry it took so long to finish this chapter. Last week was a rough one.
So what do you think about the last two duels? In the next chapter we will enter into politics and the naming of the Prime Minister of the Empire. How will this go? Will the silent duel between Gustavo, Marquis de Sar and Marco will continue? Stay tuned to find out
Thank you for reading and thank you for support this story. If you liked the chapter and want to know when the next one will be up, please follow me @sstefan