“You’re sure I can watch,” asked a kitchen hand for the inn that was about my age, with something like hopeful optimism on his face.
“Your inn is letting us use the cellar. It would be bad manners to turn you away. But are you sure you wanna watch?” I said, not for a fear of an audience, I’m theatrically trained after all, but because things were going to be getting violent down there.
The kitchen hand nodded his head intently, and said, “You’re not the only one who’s been roughed up by those assholes. I wanna see ‘em get what’s comin’ to ‘em.”
“Suit yourself,” I said with a shrug and proceeded to step down the wide stairs from the kitchen into the cellar of the inn, which was built wide and solid, in anticipation of having to store large quantities of spoil-able merchant goods in addition to the inn’s own foodstuffs. Down there a nice large area had been cleared out, and every member of my caravan, yeah, let’s go with caravan from now on, was encircled around the three hooligans that were tied up and laying on the floor. Stepping into the encirclement, I called out to Daphne, asking, “You heal that guy’s back yet?”
“Yes,” replied Daphne, with a look of worry and consternation battling across her face, “but I’d like to be able to treat his kidney. It could really use some healing.”
“No, the kidney damage stands,” I said resolutely. After all, I went to all the trouble of targeting it. Why would I let it be treated before the guy underwent the horror of blood in his urine? But I wasn’t completely savage. I was, after all, going to give these guys a fighting chance.
“Untie them,” I called, and Zent bent to cut the ropes around their hands one at a time, like I’d instructed him before hand. The rest of the releasing of their bindings was up to the three stooges. The idea wasn’t lost on them, though it took a few moments for their minds to process it, and the first one to take the hood off his head was good old Rownie, who looked like a completely normal guy, except he either salivated too much or constantly licked his lips, because he looked like he had fish lips. The second was a guy named Brun, who’s hardy name was wasted on a guy with big teeth and a narrow jaw that made him look like a rat. The last was the stupidest of the group, Gellis, who had something of a smushed face and cheekbones so sharp he could probably chop veggies with them.
The three of them ungagged themselves, and then untied their legs as well before standing up. They looked around themselves and seemed suitably cowed by being surrounded by thirty men and women in military uniforms. I was wearing my own uniform for this occasion as well, complete with the insignias for Lumpy’s ranking of colonel. I wanted these guys nice and desperate. And they were, I could see the wildness in their eyes. I chose that moment when some of the soldiers were beginning to crack some knuckles to start things off right.
“Listen up!” I shouted, grabbing everyone’s attention. “We’re all here for a show, and that’s exactly what we’re gonna get. But before that.”
I held a finger aloft.
“The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club!”
I waited in the sudden silence. The room was still with confusion and anticipation, but there was only one thing I was waiting for… and it didn’t come. I slowly turned my head to look at Aase, who was wearing a uniform her size so she’d fit in, wondering why I got no reaction from her. After a few seconds of her looking at me with a blank gaze, there was a sign of recognition and she said, “Oh, wait, that’s a movie, right?”
I sighed in resignation. No helping it then.
…I miss movies.
“Alright, seriously this time. You three pieces of garbage,” the three of them looked at me with renewed nervousness, “I’m going to give you a chance to walk out of here as free men.”
The three of them seemed a bit relieved, but rat face asked, “What’s the catch?”
Seems he was the smart one. “The catch is, the three of you need to beat me in a fight. Three on one. If you can do that, you walk away, and we don’t go after you.” They looked happy and confident. After all, they’d curb stomped me once before, so they were liking their chances. “You can even use body reinforcement if you’re able. I’ll also be fighting with appropriate force as well.” The stooges looked apprehensive again. “Janette, if you will.”
Janette stepped into the open space of the circle carrying what I’d sent her to purchase. She carried it in both hands, trying to be reverential of my chosen weapon, while at the same time her face was plagued by doubt. Mumbled whispers of confusion and indignation sounded from the peanut gallery, but it was only a matter of time until they were talking out the other side of their faces. I took hold of the span of wood in one hand, and felt the balance. Then I took it in both hands, thumbs facing each other and tested the flexibility with a few short jerks. I’d already tested the weapon before coming down here, but it was always ideal to get a feeling for your tool of choice before starting the fight.
As Janette retreated from the circle, I took a firm grip of the shaft in my right hand, extended my left leg towards the stooges, dropped my waist a little, and let my left hand run along the smoothed length of the shaft, the end of my weapon pointed low and ready. Even after I had taken my stance, the stooges weren’t taking me seriously, nor were the soldiers. I guess none of them have ever seen someone fight with a quarterstaff before. Wait. The stooges were starting to crack smiles and laugh?
Okay, fuck these guys. Seriously.
“You going to come at me, pussy-trio, or are you going to force me to chase you down?”
Their amusement turned into bravado as they started stepping forward, only cursory guards lifted with their fists in standard untrained boxing positions. The idiots hadn’t even lowered their centers of gravity before stepping forward into my range of attack.
The room was quiet, without any energy from the audience aside from Aase who knew what my weapon was. Because of that disappointed silence, the sound of four cracks resounding one immediately after another could be heard clearly, and all three of the stooges were crying out in pain.
As the trio stepped forward, I dropped my waste into a proper Horse Stance, and then took a step forward onto my left foot while stabbing upward with my staff. The blunt end of the staff impacted directly above the heart of Gellis, who was the thug in the middle of the trio. All of the kinetic energy of the thrust was directed into that round little point, shattering the ribcage under the pressure. The impact didn’t just damage the man, but pushed him back, throwing off his balance faster than his shitty boxing stance could adapt to the attack.
The bo staff, or quarterstaff as I had to start calling it so people knew what the fuck I was talking about, was not really my weapon of choice. I was trained with the spear, but Janette couldn’t find one in the town. Lucky for Gellis; a spear tip would have penetrated all the way through his body with a strike like that.
With my body fully extended in a thrusting position, I could have been left vulnerable to a counterattack if I didn’t still have full mastery of my balance thanks to the Horse Stance. A mastery I used to swing the quarterstaff to the right, my right hand twisting at the wrist to provide the leverage and mobility needed to take a swipe at the extended right wrist of Brun. The quarterstaff impacted with a crack of wood striking unprotected bone and ligaments. The pain caused Brun to pull his hand back in to start cradling it with his left hand.
One of the major strengths of a quarterstaff aside from its extended reach was it’s flexibility, it’s springiness. Thanks to that springiness, I was able to turn my strike at Brun’s wrist into a ricochet strike to aim at Rownie’s head. Because of my forward braced position on my left leg, I couldn’t swing to much to my left without breaking my spine to do so, but with a bend of my elbow and some practiced faith in my aim, I was able to give Rownie a firm love tap to the back of his head, behind the ear, with the flexing tip of my staff. The strike threw him off balance with a loud crack, and the recoil allowed me a harder swing back to my right to strike Brun across the temple while his guard was broken. That sent the man sprawling to the floor, out like a light.
One down, for now. Because what a quarterstaff has in range and flexibility, it lacked in fatality. Because of the springiness, a quarterstaff would strike a target, then bounce back a little, before striking it again with less impact. In other words, instead of resolutely breaking bodies and bones with the full strike of a swing, the impact was divided into two strikes, leaving a lot of pain, but usually a lot less in the way of permanent damage. There was a definite danger of Brun re-entering the fight.
The Horse Stance had served its purpose in the opening strike. I finally pulled back from my thrust and changed my left hand from an undergrip to an upper grip on the shaft of wood, basically going from a striking grip to a maneuverability grip. I shifted my stance, placed my right foot in front of my left, and spun on my feet. Building centrifugal speed, I dipped the tip of my staff to catch Rownie below the knee, sweeping his leg out from under him and causing him to land badly on his back, driving the air from his lungs. Rownie was grounded for the moment, but Gellis was still on his feet, and was stepping back, wary of me. I took advantage of Gellis’ caution and kept spinning, making nonsense moves that were either pretty or confusing depending on your viewpoint on the fight. A twirl of the staff about my waste, a spin of the staff between by hands, and then I was twirling my staff above my head before bringing it down for another strike. But not on Gellis.
The advantages to spinning on the battlefield are many, though one must be wary of motion sickness. One advantage is that you get chances to peek behind you, so I saw that Rownie was struggling to get off the ground. Another is that when you’re liable to be facing any given direction at any time, it’s a lot easier to attack someone who’s behind you.
I came out of my spins to extend my right leg towards Rownie, bending deeply at the knee with my left leg stretched straight out behind me. The staff that was above my head was now being held with my right hand only as I brought it down onto Rownie’s shoulder. Because I was holding the staff near the end, the length of my strike, from the left heel to the tip of the staff was about thirteen feet. All of the accumulated force of my entire body’s momentum and the downward swing was all collected into the end of the quarterstaff that struck Rownie collarbone, breaking it in a single strike.
In reality, a human collar bone is rather fragile. It doesn’t exist for any kind of reinforcement, it’s a circuit breaker for the spinal cord. So when it gets struck by enough force to harm the neck, it snaps to prevent the severing of the spinal cord. A helpful little fact when you want to aim for a bone that will break fairly easily, cause incredible pain, and cripple half a fighting body. Rownie went down again before even really getting back up, screaming in pain, clutching his shoulder as if it actually helped.
So, Rownie was almost certainly out of the fight, since low level brutes are not known for their willingness to fight even after being crippled. But such a big move is typically reserved for use as a finisher. It left me completely open, and from the loud cussing from Gellis, it seemed he was going to take advantage of that opening. I turned my head Gellis’ direction and was slightly relieved at what I saw. Gellis was still off balance and slightly retreating from all the whirling dervish action he had been dodging earlier. He had only finished pulling up his pluck enough to charge me when I was retrieving my staff, lifting it up over my head by utilizing the rebound and taking the thrusting grip once again. Gellis lifted his right foot mid charge looking to connect his boot with my face since it was so low to the ground right now.
If Gellis hadn’t have hesitated in his attack while I was dispatching Rownie then he would have made it in time and I’d have been sporting treadmarks on my forehead. But as it was, Rownie’s charge only gave him momentum as I shifted my weight from my right leg, which I straightened, to my left leg, which I bent, and caught him in the right side of his chest with a thrust of my staff. There was another crack as the ribs on his right side broke as well, and the impact redirected Gellis’ body enough that instead of performing a kick, he fell flat on his ass with a leg pointed right at the ceiling. And since he now had broken ribs over both of his lungs, his breathing was heavily labored.
I struggled a little to get up out of the mega low Horse Stance (I’m not a shaolin monk, ya know) and walked over to Brun who was making some sputtering sounds and shaking his head to clear some cobwebs. He was still chest down on the floor at this point, but I didn’t feel like seeing him stand up again and brought the haft of my staff down on his back repeatedly until he stopped trying to get up.
Once I confirmed that the stooges were staying down, and that no one was looking at me with anything but surprise and maybe a bit of fear, I said aloud, “Thus endith the lesson!”
I know it was a machismo thing, and not really my style, but I had to prove to these soldiers that I wasn’t some pansy who was gonna get crushed the moment they took their eyes off me. And then there was the need to prove to myself that I wasn’t a victim. The entire performance was wholly unnecessary, but at the same time, it was wholly necessary.
“Alright,” I called out in a commanding tone, “Grab three chairs from the restaurant, and tie these mooks into them. Gags and hoods, people.”
The securing process had been relatively uneventful, except for me having to shout one of the idiot trio into staying on the ground. I also allowed Daphne to heal the broken collarbone after the guy got tied into the chair. After that, I had two of the idiots hauled upstairs, still tied, into the kitchen to stew for a while.
…No pun intended.
Right now, in the light quartz illuminated cellar, I had two privates flanking rat faced Brun in a chair. I was wearing my leather jacket, the two rows of buttons on either side of my chest buttoned up, and Got DAMN I was feeling like I’d gained a level in Bad Ass. Feeling my oats, I yanked the hood off Brun’s head, hearing his startled cry that was muffled by the gag.
“Brun,” I said frostily, “I’m going to give you a chance to avoid incredible amounts of pain. And by that I mean.. Brun? Stop it!”
Brun had been squirming against his bonds and screeching for his life until I struck him solidly in the shin with my quarterstaff. Once his muffled howl of pain subsided, I said adamantly, “You do not speak until you are told to, you do not move unless I say you can, and you are to listen when I speak to you. Understand?”
Brun gave a coward’s nod, sharp juttering movements up and down. I slowly nodded, and smacked his shin again. Brun howled and seemed ask ‘what was that for’ through his gag.
“That was because you interrupted my speech, Brun. I had it all planned out. And since you just spoke out of turn…”
I went to whack Brun’s shin again, but stopped at the last moment, with Brun uttering a pre-pain howl that died in a confused yelp. I spoke again after this. Starting from a standing position, and slowly moving closer to Brun’s face to up the menace as much as possible. And while the words I used were terrible, my voice was vacant of emotion.
“Now, as I was saying, I’m going to give you a second chance to avoid pain. I’m going to ask you some questions Brun, that you are going to answer, as complete as your knowledge will allow. Whenever I feel you are holding back on me, I will begin hurting you. I will hurt you, Brun, until your body cannot survive any more, and then I will have the healer that brought me back from the brink of death heal you as well. You will be healed completely, until there is not even a trace of an injury upon you. And then I will drag you back to the edge of death, just to heal you over, and over, and over, until your mind breaks. I will torture you until you are nothing more than a gibbering madman, and then kick you to the curb to beg for moldy scraps of food for the rest of your pathetic life.”
By this time, I was supporting my body by holding my weight up from the hands I was pressing down on Brun’s forearms with, my face inches from his, staring into his eyes.
“I will do this terrible act with joy in my heart, Brun. Do you know why?”
The muffled sound of a weak ‘no’ came from Brun’s mouth.
“Because I’m the man you stomped to pulp and left for dead today.”
Brun began to shiver while staring into my eyes, a moan of desperation leaking from his lips.
I pulled back from Brun’s face, releasing the menace I’d built around him a little, and said, “Here’s how this works Brun. I want to know everything about your boss, Nigeman. I want to know everything about where Nigeman lives and works. I want to know everything you know about the other people in his criminal group, especially about where they live and work. And to make sure that every answer you give me is truthful, I will check it independently with your two buddies, who I will also question separately, just to make sure your answers line up with one another. If the answers do not coincide, well… I already told you what I would do to you. Now, with your indoor voice,”
I pulled the gag out of Brun’s mouth and said, “Where is Nigeman?”
The questioning process was rather straightforward, and I had Janette taking notes on their answers to make sure they knew I could track who said what. One of the trio actually pissed himself. It’s good to know they were taking the matter seriously, and in the end the info I got lined up with what I was able to get from the kitchen staff and the street urchin who I was retaining the services of. He was currently asleep in a chair in the hallway after a late supper that my caravan’s chef had made for him.
At this point, I had nothing much to do until the gear and preparations for the coordinated strike had been finished. It’d been an eventful day, and it was only a little before ten o’clock by the clock on the wall.
…HOLY SHIT! This world has clocks!
The kitchen hand who’d watched my performance with the quarterstaff had been hanging around ever since then. This was probably the most interesting thing to happen in this building since he’d started working there, and he probably didn’t want to miss out. Eventually he’d plucked up the nerve to approach me now that I was in my post performance slump and, after a few false starts and words of admiration, “What was that you said earlier? About a fight club?”
Oh, this could be something to occupy myself with.
“You sure you wanna hear about it? It’s a bit of a story,” I asked, hopeful feelings intruding into my voice.
“Uh, yeah. Is it interesting?”
“Oh, very.” After the kitchen hand gave his assent, I started the tale. “This is the story of love, betrayal, violence, and surpassing the limits that society has imposed upon we normal men. But at heart, it’s a tale about the relationship between two men. Jack. And Tyler Durden.”
I am still accepting questions for the next Q&A event.
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