From the Stories of the Prison Guards of Grendon
Rarely do the events of the winter months surprise us. We guards see the same thing year after year. The prisoners loll around for a while until the head man steps up and announces the tournament. At least, that’s how it was until the arrival of James Thresher. Those of us around then, we knew that things would change after that year. We all knew when we saw the way James lead his dorm through the tournament, but it was after his fourth fight, and the way that unfolded, that everyone looked up and took notice of the great warrior in our midst.
Wot do you mean we knew? You said that the kid was just lucky.
Shut up while I’m telling the story.
You’re telling it wrong…
I said be quiet! Anyway, the way it happened was, after winning three fights for his dorm, he started to think about actually winning the tournament. He was speaking with his right hand man, that bastard of a thief Jeremiah Cobbler, and Jeremiah told him that he knew a man in the dorm they were up against for their next fight. So, Jeremiah went to talk to the guy—Lionel SomethingOrOther—and Lionel told him some very interesting news. Apparently, Lionel’s dorm was run by this monster of a man, a giant who, while leading his dorm to a few victories, was an intolerable bully.
Garsky, was his name.
Who the bully? I thought he went by Rolf or somesuch.
No, Lionel. His last name was Garsky.
No one cares what his last name was you twit, now shut up an let me finish the story. Now, Lionel is an annoying man at best, but he is also a very convincing man, and he had been working hard to build a bit of a revolution within his dorm. Naturally, Jeremiah made an offer to Lionel that in exchange for having James incapacitate the leader and a hefty sum of money for Lionel to convince his group with, Lionel would get his dorm to surrender the fight. Lionel accepted, took the 50 gold pieces—
I heard it was 60.
60? How could Jeremiah possibly get 60 gold pieces? I know he’s a quality thief, but there’s no way any prisoner could get 60.
Fine then. 50. I was just saying that I heard the price was 60. That way each guy in Lionel’s dorm who wasn’t buddies with the leader would get three.
Shut up and let me tell the story the way it’s supposed to go. So Lionel took the 50 gold pieces, and got to work convincing his dorm to go along with the plan. After talking it over with them for a while, and paying them some of the money, they were set to go along with the plan. Now, obviously not all of them were in on it. There were a few guys who were actually loyal to the bully guy, for some reason. But aside from them, the plan was solid.
So, Jeremiah and James have got this foolproof plan to move up a round. But, despite the fact that James had been winning every time he picks up a bat, he was worried about his ability to win the duel. Hell, I’d have been worried about it too. The bully he was up against was a giant of a man. And, he was a quality fighter, too. He’d been in the army before he got kicked out for being too violent. Then he worked in the city, beating guys up until the coppers finally grew the courage to arrest him. Anyway, there was a reason that this guy was the leader of his dorm.
James knew all of this. So, he spent the week having all the guys in his dorm fight him one on one. They all thought that he was some kind of world class soldier or something—at least for the first three fights. And then the fourth guy in their dorm got up to spar with James, and he knocked the kid over like it was nothing. Everyone got all quiet—
How on earth could you know if everyone got quiet or not?
I was outside the door at the time, on patrol, you twit.
Patrol? Ha! If you were on patrol, and by the door at the same time, it would mean that you have a dreadful case of sleep walking.
Are you gonna let me tell this story or not? Right, so everyone probably got all quiet, and looked at their great hero, wondering what had happened. James said he just needed a break because he was tired, and everyone went their way. Later that night, however, James was talking to Jeremiah, and he explained what really happened to him. The way I heard it put was that whenever James fought, he went into this sort of trance where everyone was moving slower than him, and it was like he could just see what to do to win a fight. The thing is, James didn’t really know how he started that trance—it always just sort of popped up on him when he was in a fight. Apparently, after keeping up the trance for three fights in a row, James couldn’t go into it again until he’d rested for a while.
Throughout the rest of the week, James focused on trying to maintain his trance for longer than about a minute of combined fighting, but it was almost like clockwork. After three or four fights, depending on how long each one took, he would be out of energy, and he’d wind up on the floor like any other chump. They took solace in the fact that the average fight length with James was a few seconds.
Well, the day of the fight finally came, and everyone was watching it. Most people knew that there was going to be a leader-on-leader showdown for this fight. Hell, even I saw this fight, despite my firm belief that prisoners are not worth paying attention to. So, as soon as the fight started, The crowd hushed to let James call out his challenge. The big guy accepted. As the two approached each other, you could just see James getting smaller and smaller in comparison. Suddenly the fight looked like it might take more than a minute to take the guy out. You could practically see the bookmakers changing their odds as the two came together to duel.
It started with a roar from the giant. However, despite his typical tough guy roar, he proved his skill by refraining from the typical tough guy opening power swing. The two began to circle each other. James was waiting for the guy to attack first, so he could drop into his trance and win right away, but the guy kept just feinting in and out. Finally, the big guy lunged in further than he had before, and James took the bait. James looked like he was nothing more than a blur of motion. He moved faster than my eye could follow, yet somehow, his opponent was ready for him. I could tell that the big guy was taking some hits, but he was managing to block more than his fair share of them, and no little taps from a stick would take that big of a man down easily.
Though it looked like it lasted for hours, finally the minute was up, and James slowed to a screeching halt. His eyes grew wide as he realized he was out of juice, and still left facing a very pissed off giant. The giant smiled a feral sort of grin, and began his sort-lived attack. He tossed his stick aside and cracked his knuckles. He was just playing with James then. His hand darted in, and grabbed James’ arm. He pulled James around, and bent him over. James was in immense pain, and I’m sure I heard more than a few people begin to collect their bets then and there. Then the giant threw James to the ground. As he stood over James, ready to win the fight, James suddenly went into his trance for a split second more, and rolled between the guy’s legs. He did it so fast, that the giant didn’t have a chance to react before James brought his stick up with all of his might, straight into the groin of the giant. As the giant fell over in pain, James clipped him once more on the back of head, rendering him unconscious.
The crowd was silent for a second as James turned to the now leaderless enemy dorm. “Anyone else?”he said. A few men from the group started to move forward, but were quickly stopped by the rest of their group. Lionel stepped forward, and surrendered the field to James. A roar spread through the crowd, when they realized who had won. Suddenly puny little James Thresher became the safe bet in fights. After seeing the way he won that fight, no one questioned the outcome of a duel with the leader of Dorm Number 9. Plus, I made 3 gold pieces off that fight, so all around, it was a pretty good day.