FRIDAY #FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #34: Duel Holidays
“Hey! Mister! Yes…you!!!”
“Not again,” I sigh, rolling my eyes to the heavens. Why would a man so handsome consider me a threat?
Three years on this Zeus-forsaken planet! Had my work not been perfect? Had I not completed each task presented to me in a timely manner? Those are the questions I would ask my immediate supervisor, had he not stranded me here the day that our Emperor, Irwin Caesar, called all bureaucrats home.
It is not the worst place to live, for the moment. My wife and I had been assigned to a planet full of 50 foot tall creatures that looked like a mix between a poodle and an alligator. Damnedest things I had ever seen and meaner than a hornet chasing after the guy who lit it on fire.
My wife had the unenviable job of maintaining field integrity around each mining town. Why a woman several inches taller with muscles as big as my waist would want to marry me, is beyond my ability to comprehend.
I met her at the festival of Dionysus, asking her to marry me as a joke. She accepted and, as fate would have it, any and all marriage proposals accepted during the festival are irrevocable.
For years, I hated that holiday, relenting after it became apparent that her education had not stopped at warfare technology. I enjoyed our philosophical debates followed by games of chess, and over the years I grew to love her.
After fifteen years of marriage, and 2 brilliant daughters inducted into the private school of our Emperor, my Bellona had to go and get herself killed! Who knew that poodle-gators were smart enough to dig under a protective field? I did! No one listens to a strategist who spies dirt on their claws through binoculars when that strategist is half the weight of his wife.
The jokes about my wife needing only half a man were old after the first month of marriage. I heard that Bellona dispatched the jokers, but when I asked for verification, she replied, “Those are just rumors.” It was not until one of those poodle-gators leapt from the ground next to our home, and tried to eat us, that I knew the rumors were true! She fought so fiercely the creature died in battle. But my Bellona died from her wounds after saving my life.
The green and trees on this planet sooth the empty ache, and feline predators shy away from our town…as long as the protective field remains active. I miss the companionship of my wife and I miss my daughters, but I stay busy keeping the books up to date for a mining operation that ran out of ship-grade ore 2 years ago. I do not mind tending the financial information and inventory for the town blacksmith. It provides me with food for barter.
Last year, he melted all the coins with our Emperors face on them, trading gold to the jeweler for antiquated firearms, knives and swords to repair. In turn, women flocked to his door, trading vegetables and fruits from their gardens for weapons to defend their honor from attack by a town full of witless men.
This year, most of the gold is in the hands of our blacksmith again, traded for knives, swords, and cooking utensils he makes from scrap metal.
You might think these weapons should be used to protect a town of 300…no, that was 14 duels ago. Now we have 282. When you have 1 woman for every 3 men, and dueling becomes the fashionable way to dispatch the competition, thank the gods that the one who is challenged must choose his weapons wisely.
Cr@p! Back to reality.
“Hey, mister! Yes…you! I’m challenging you to a duel!”
“I will choose the weapon as is our custom.”
“Knife, gun, sword? Or would you rather use your fists?” he asks eagerly.
“I choose a weapon that can cut through a heart without leaving a visible wound; a weapon that, when used unwisely, has started wars.”
“Yeah! That sounds like a good weapon. What is it?”
“Words,” I reply, taking my personal journal out of a leather pouch. “I will read a paragraph first, and you will read the next one.”
“But I can’t read!”
“Then I have won and you can go back to fighting for women I have no interest in pursuing,” I tell him. “Not that it matters. You, sir, succeeded in killing the man who serviced our protective field on this planet. Judging by the rupture forming on the south end, we might have a week before the entire system no longer functions.”
My journal safely back in its pouch, I look toward the sky, hoping for a rescue. I fear it will never come. I think of my daughters, Hestia and Eirene, wondering if tonight the large cats roaming the perimeter will breach our town, or indigenous humans the size of a 40 story building will kill us with just one step. Without our protective field, we will no longer look and feel like the sharp edge of a buried boulder.
“Hey, Mars,” the dispatcher calls out to me. “I just got word that a ship is on its way. Did you know the Emperor married your daughter, Eirene?”
“She turned 16 this month. It is the age of marriage,” I reply. “What did she ask as her dowry?”
“Irwin is making you the God of War.”
I sigh, considering it another tasteless joke, until I look up at the sky once again.
As the ship that will swallow our city into its bowels descends upon us, I wonder, “What hapless planet I will be assigned to next?”