From the Mouth of Jeremiah Cobbler
Ah, yes, I remember the first time I saw James fight. I did not admit it then, but he was the most gifted fighter I had ever seen. He moved with such fluidity, and so fast, that my eye could hardly follow—a feat not easily accomplished, for I pride myself on having a quick eye. But the way he moved… I had never seen anything like it. We won that fight mostly because of him.
For our second fight, we were paired against another recruit group, Number 23. This group had also won one fight like us. In the week we had before the fight, I remember James getting more and more nervous as the fight drew near. I knew he was clueless about tactics and strategy and fighting in general, but the rest of the group thought that he was some kind of warrior. They actually became more confident after learning how to stay together and walk as a group. We practiced throughout the week, but with so many of our men injured it seemed unlikely that we would win even if James’ tactics worked.
I decided to do a little research, and I discovered that the team we were up against had won their first fight mainly out of size. Apparently, their average man was about the size of our biggest. And, they had fared well in their first fight, which meant that they outnumbered us as well as out sized us. Once again, I got really good odds for a bet on us. I’m a thief, not a gambler, but since I was betting with money I had stolen since coming to the prison anyway, I bet it all on us again.
After I made the bet, I had a vested interest, so I had a little talk with James. I told him that we needed to find a good strategy to overcome the odds against us. Then he tried to weasel out of it by confessing that he was clueless about fighting. I took the opportunity to reveal to him my grand plan for victory.
My plan was simple. The other group would know that they had the advantage, so they’d probably just try to mob us and overwhelm us all at once. But, if we could split their group in half, we could make a more efficient use of our men. So the real question was, how to split their group? My solution was for us to change our block formation into a wedge shape, build up a lot of momentum, and pierce their line. James thought the plan was sound, and the day before the match, he explained it to the men. They grumbled about the change in plans, but went along with it because it made sense. Of course it made sense, I made it up.
On the day of the fight, the group was ready to use our little wedge, and hoped for a win. When we were assembled on the field, and our group saw that the enemy was so big, people started to mutter that we should just surrender the field.
“Fear not!” rallied James, “If we stay together as we planned, we are sure to be victorious.”
We did not really have a chance to argue because the command to begin was given. We marched across the field at a slowly increasing pace, while the enemy rushed to meet us. When we got within twenty paces, George, the man who we had placed at the tip of the wedge because of his size, hunched low and prepared to punch through their line. I was a few lines back and I heard the slap of body on body, when George met his mark. I felt sorry for the mark. George managed to do his job well, and forced their group to split. Things were going well, until a few of their group who had been at the back circled around to attack our rear. I saw this happening, and called to James. When he looked up from his fight, I saw the fury in his eyes that I would come to know well. Suddenly, he darted out to meet the four flankers, and singlehandedly beat them to the ground in a blur of motion.
By this point, our wedge had mostly fallen apart, and I found myself face to face with my first opponent. Over the years I have encountered many men who wanted to bash my skull in, mostly because they thought I had taken some possessions that I am sure they just misplaced. I remember this guy being one of the largest such men I have ever encountered. Naturally, I played defense. Every time he struck at me, I dodged or barely managed to knock his blow away with my stick. He didn’t like that one bit, so he swung down with a powerful swing that I surely couldn’t block. Luckily, I managed to sidestep the swing just in time to take advantage of his momentary lack of balance by tripping him to the ground. After that, I jumped on his chest, knocking the wind from his body, and winning me my first fight.
When I looked up from the fight, there were only about two or three men of Number 23 still standing, while there were at least seven or eight of us. They seemed to notice this at the same time as us, and surrendered the field to us.
Back in the dormitory, people were actually inclined to celebrate the victory, as opposed to after our first fight. I was certainly ready to celebrate—I had doubled up on my net worth yet again. Despite this happiness, two of our men had been seriously injured and most of us had been hurt in some way. When we were informed of our next fight, the celebrations were cut short, as we’d be fighting the Grandparents.