An Eighth of Copper
©2011 D. Paul Angel
The metal in the Weapons numbed my hands. They were already cold. The sun was rising as we walked up the Mesa, but it had not yet reached inside. Down into the sunken arena where the Trial Ring was. I had helped my Master before many times but never with an Opponent like this. I was pulling out the Weapons and placing them by the Ring for Master's use in the Trial. I usually talked with Master while I did this. I liked tlaking with Master. But today he and the Opponent were talking to the Judge. They were speaking with the Old Words. It was hard to understand, but I could tell the Opponent looked pleased.
Master had explained to me before we left what the Opponent would say to the Judge. He would be upset that our client was a woman. He said there was no specific rule against women being clients, they were just forbidden from touching Coin. Since We were forbidden from representing someone without receiving Coin, there could be no way for a woman to be a Client. Our Client's husband had died though. He gave the Coin to Master just before he died. The Coin that Master now showed the Judge. The Opponent did not look pleased anymore. I was happy for Master. Master never looked pleased. Sometimes I had to be pleased for him.
The Opponent went back to his side as Master came to me. Each had seven Weapons they could use, but they could only use the one handed to them by an Assistant. I was Master's Assistant. The Opponent had six assistants. One for each Weapon. They would all offer their Weapon and the Opponent could choose which one to use. Master could only take what I offered, so I had to make sure I knew what he wanted. I was always scared I would hold up the wrong Weapon for Master. Master never seemed to worry about it though. He always won, too.
Our client sat behind me. Her whimperings and murmurs were distracting, but Master had told me to expect them. She was a simple woman. Her husband was killed by the Opponents client. It took him long enough to die that he hired Master to avenge him. The Opponent's Client was very mean. He was also very rich. The Coin my Master had was an Eighth of Copper. The Opponent's Client had a bag of Gold Coin between him and his wife. He looked smug. She looked arrogant. I hated them both.
Master returned from the Conference and knelt before me. He looked very old and frail compared to the Opponent. I was worried. Master told me not to be. He knew much that the Opponent did not. Master had many of the books that came from before The Fall. He spoke of Science, Logic, and Justice, but I found them very confusing. They only existed in the Old Words. Master did say that women once could handle Coin. They were even leaders and powerful individuals. But that no one trusted the Old Ways after The Fall. Master believed we would return there again. To the Old Ways. He said it would take many long lifetimes though. Master knew so much I believed him.
Master rubbed some sand between his hands. I offered him his Sword and Shield, but he shook his head. Instead I offered him his Spear. He smiled as he felt its heft. Master rarely smiled. But it always made me feel better when he did.
The Judge rang a bell and the Combat began. It would decide if the Opponent's client was guilty or not. Our client kept gasping every time the Weapons struck. The opponent had Sword and Shield, but Master pierced the shield with his spear. The Opponent had to discard it, but Master was now without Weapon. Master turned to me and I offered him Knives. I don't know why. I would normally offer Sword again, but Master liked the choice. He winked at me. Master never winks.
They moved about the fighting pit as the Sun climbed. They were sweating a lot. The opponent looked more tired than Master, but it was hard to tell. Master kept his distance. He never advanced. He never let the Opponent get too close. The opponent was frustrated.
Then the Master threw his knife. The Opponent easily ducked, but the knife flew past him. The Knife stuck the opponent's Client in the eye. He opened his mouth to shout but no sound came out. Then he slumped backwards into his wife's arms. He died quickly and she started screaming. The sand absorbed a lot of the blood but she was still covered in it.
The Opponent looked furious. Even the Opponent's Assistants glared at Master in anger. Master ignored them and held up his arms. He demanded the Judge hear him. The Judge rang the bell again. Master and the Opponent stopped and looked at him. Master spoke slowly to the Judge. I could just make out enough of the Old Words to know what Master said. Master demanded proof of payment. Just like the Opponent had earlier.
Everyone turned. The bag of Gold Coin still sat next to the dead client. His wife still cradled him. She was still crying. She could not touch the Coin.