Story for the Day: A Clan Fight
Clan velitations, or clan wars as Paudrig fondly calls them, are a tradition in Westren. While they are not as common now as they were during King Allun or even King Breian's time, they still have their uses when someone wants to defend their family's honour or earn the right to marry a woman from another clan-- or in Gaumhin's case, to defend his husband's right to lend books to the king.
|The Diras Arena is not a Britano-Roman coliseum, but close.|
The arena, with its private boxes garlanding the stage, its wide berth of benches, its grandstand promontory and vomitiorum beside, was beginning to thrum in the anticipation of a fight. The Grameres, MacLachlanns, and Pastaddams were sat as close to Gaumhin’s side of the stage as was possible, and the Brennins and all issuing relations took their places on the other, Alasdair and Dobhin standing in their box, mantling over Vyrdin, watching him stretch and flex his wiry arms, while Boudicca and Rautu stood at the side, the latter looking indecisive as to where they had best sit.
“We are sitting with Vyrdin’s family, Iimon Ghaala,” said Boudicca, watching the giant skulk toward the opposing side.
“The view is better here, woman,” the giant contended, stabbing a finger at a favoured seat.
“You cannot fool me, Iimon Ghaala. I know you need no seat. You can just as easily hang upside down from the battlements and watch from there.” Here was a conscious look. “You think Gaumhin’s going to win, don’t you.”
Rautu’s brow shifted. “I did not say that.”
“But you are lurking toward his side of the way.”
The giant grunted and narrowed his gaze. “I think they will both win.”
“Do you mean to straddle the arena, then?” Boudicca laughed. “You cannot have a foot on each side, though now that I have challenged you to it, I daresay you will try.”
The giant studied the distance from the edge of the box to the stage, compared it with the other side, and then stalked back to his mate. “No.”
“Very well. I can sit here with Alasadir, and you may sit with Connors, if you like.”
Rautu hesitated for a moment, but as his mate turned and went to sit beside Alasdair, his eye caught an empty seat beside Connors and Nerri. He divagated toward it, glancing charily about, to see whether anyone else would notice and comment on his loyalties, but when he went to sit by Connors, he was surprised to find how little surprised everyone else was that he could be come to on Gaumhin’s side.
“Den Asaan,” said Connors, with a nod, his attention on Gaumhin moving toward the centre of the stage below. “I cannot believe this is happening,” said he, clasping his hands with excitement and leaning forward. “I want to cheer General Vyrdin as well as Gaumhin, but clan rules dictate that as treason considering I’m related to the instigator.”
“Where are your clan rules written?” said Rautu, glaring are Connors with grave suspicion.
“Some of them are written in the Westren annals, which are kept at the Westren assembly hall with the Regent, but most of them have been passed down through the generations. There aren’t many rules—most of them pertaining to who gets to marry whose sister at the end of the fight—but honourable family contests are easy enough: no weapons, no armour—“
“No shirts,” said Nerri.
“—No shirts, but that’s always been part of the clan fights, probably something to do with prehistoric display of strength.”
“We were never barbarians,” said Nerri, laughing.
“No,” Connors smiled, “but we did fight like them at times.”
He peered over the end of the box and watched as the two contestants, now ready to engage, moved toward the centre of the stage.
The arena, the great amphitheater of Frewyn’s capital, where integrity reigns and notions of cowardice go to die, was in the first overtures of a violent yet amicable exchange: the crowd on one side hollered in high revel, leaping out of seats and shouting conclammantly in Auld Fremhin, and the other sat in seething expectation, the tightened fists and fervent silence speaking over the rallying cry in a fulmination oF wordless support. The hum of interested observers settled the crowd, the wide eyes and open mouths breathing in anxious entreaty succeeded, the scraping and scudding of feet dragging along the ground ensued, and the whole of the arena watched as Gaumhin and Vyrdin began to circle one another, eyeing each other’s stance with calculating insinuation. Their knuckles wrapped in linens, their chests bare, their unwavering gaze on one another, they studied each other’s prelimary motions, Gaumhin rolling his immense shoulders and flexing his arms, and Vyrdin standing with his hands at his sides, scheming and designing where to attack first. Gaumhin’s stature was considerable, even overbearing when faced with an opponent of moderate height and slight frame, but Vyrdin had more tone and definition, more speed and cunning than strength, and after they bowed their heads and cocked their fists, Vyrdin proved to everyone watching him just how quick and decisive he could be.
The first blow landed in Gaumhin’s ribs, and though it seemed shrugged of and barely felt, that Vyrdin had hit without any prior movement having been detected surprised Gaumhin. The attack, swift and exacting, could not be avoided, but moving with it, Gaumhin survived with little more than a mark along his ribs. Vyrdin leaped away to recover and shake out his fist, Gaumhin glanced down at his side, and then back at Vyrdin.
“Ye did tha’ tae incite me,” Gaumhin bellowed, pointing at Vyrdin, “but Ah’m no gonnae go in fer it.”
Vyrdin stayed silent and low, awaiting the assault he knew must follow.
Gaumhin flexed his chest and rolled his head from side to side, the nebulous haze surrounding him began to die away, a silence followed, and in a blaze of fury, he charged forth, leaping toward Vyrdin with one arm back and the other forward. He feigned a hit at Vyrdin chest, and when he found his footing, he drew the hand behind him forward, and connected with Vyrdin’s jaw; Vyrdin had turned his head at the last second, to keep from having his nose broken, the blow landed, the force of which rippled through him, pushing him back. His head thrummed, a piercing pitch echoed in his ears, and the side of his swelled. He spat on the ground, sanguinary pools stained the stage, and the ferocity in the quiet corners of Vyrdin’s mind began to froth. He reclaimed his position and cocked his fists, his curls poured over his brow, and he made a terrible grin.
“Oh no…” Alasdair breathed, straightening in his seat.
“Oh yes, Brennin!” Dobhin cried, leaping up and making a triumphant gesture. “Here is where the fight begins! You realize Vyrdin allowed himself to be hit. He wanted to see how serious Gaumhin was, and that was no ploughman’s blow. Astonishing that Vyrdin didn’t lose teeth off that.”
Aldus put his hand in his pocket and produced a few coins. “Ten more silver on Vyrdin, Brigdan,” said he, putting the coins on the railing. “This fight will be over in a minute, and I want the ante as high as it can go before it ends.”