The Fight on the Beach

And then, what a battle! Back and forth it raged,
from one end of the beach to the strand’s outer edge
from the high-water mark where the flotsam is thrown,
into the curling waves that thunder on the cliffs.
Garman and Avren both threw themselves to combat,
their blades ringing on mail, and clashing, steel on steel!
How long these rivals fought, these men of might and will!
Never did iron ring with such furious clangs
as it did on that day, as the two men battled.
And yet they were well matched, old Garman and Avren,
one girded with cunning, the other with vigor
and a young man’s mettle. What din they invented!
Garman drew the first blood, cut Avren on the cheek.
They renewed their curses, flung insults back and forth,
and circled each other like wolves in the clearing.

Now they fought in earnest, Garman of Pendaran
and Avren of Alba, with their men circled ’round,
watching this great contest for their islands’ future.
What man could imagine that it might come to pass
that a pirate and priest could duel thus for a crown?
Iron rang on iron, the men stumbled in sand,
kicking clouds of granules from the sea-hammered strand.
They lashed out and feinted, thrust their swords and parried,
and circled round again, looking for weaknesses.
Their own men stood watching, to see the sword masters
dueling with such style and yet with deadly aims.
And each man was armored in a gleaming byrnie,
and each man had his helm; they were well defended.
Yet Avren’s sword was good, and famous for its edge,
and Avren cut Garman right through his chainmail coat.

The blade bit iron links, cut through a dozen rings,
bit deep above the hip in the man’s soft belly,
where the intestines curl and coil in the gut.
Blood spurted out the wound, all mingled with his shit.
Garman grew pale at once, and staggered in his stride.
Who blamed him, wounded thus? The fight went out of him,
and he fell in the sand. He spoke to his men,
“why have your held yourselves back from this great contest?
This man will ruin us, and take the crown from us,
and make Alba mighty, at Pendaran’s expense.
Stop him here on the beach, and never kneel to him.”
But Avren spoke to him, pressed his hand in the wound.
“I did not come to rule in Pendaran by force;
That was never my will. I come to free Alba,
and free Alba alone. Pendaran you may have.”

They called an Indigo, and the healer did well,
binding up Garman’s wounds, and sending him to sleep
to recover from hurt. Eightteen days he would dream,
renewing his lost blood and regaining his strength,
and twenty years longer he ruled in Pendaran,
a pirate no longer, but honest and noble,
or so the chronicle declares and records it.
They bore him from the beach on a pallet of spears
fulfilling prophecy — the tools of war will turn
to the healer’s purpose and bear the seed of kings
from the field of battle — So the white shawls decreed,
So may it be proven when Garman’s sons return
from the Long Passage road they took long years ago.
Garman’s men did fealty,bowed to him as he passed,
and bowed, too, to Avren, and gave him what he asked.

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