Friday, December 16, 2011

The Man Who Cheated Death

A self-contained story from my novel, provisionally named An End To Oaths. It has a rude word in it so it can be found below the fold.

“Now listen children while I tell this tale. Even before he joined the Company, Fitaz was a favourite of the Moon Maiden. One day as he walked the earth, he met Death on the road. Death had been his companion many times, so he greeted him. ‘Lord Death, where are you going?’

“Death replied, ‘I am on the way to give a gift. Even now I travel to visit my mortal herald. I will make him my hand on earth. Within a year and a day every man, woman and child across the curve of the world will be in my domain.’

“Fitaz laughed. ‘Indeed,’ he said, ‘a bold plan indeed. Tell me though, shall we break our journey and game a little?’

“Now Death loves to game, although he only ever gambles for that which matters. ‘Why should I game with you?’ he asked. ‘Before the seasons turn again, all that you have and all that you are shall be mine.’

“’That turns out not to be the case,’ said Fitaz. ‘There are many things we leave behind when we enter your domain. For instance, perhaps I might wager my one true love against your hand on this earth.’

“Now Death knew that Fitaz was beloved of the Moon Maiden. If he won, then not just all the mortals of the world, but the Moon Maiden herself would belong to him. He agreed, and they sat by the road and diced for a while.

“At the last Death won. Fitaz smiled and said, ‘That was a pleasant way to spend the time. Would you care for another game?’

“’You have nothing that I wish to win, and gaming without reward or risk is thin soup.’

“’No, no. What if I were to risk my best supporter, the one I depend on in time of greatest need?’

“At this Death was taken aback. For he realised that Fitaz could have tricked him. Fitaz was arrogant above all men, so perhaps his one true love was not the Moon Maiden, but rather himself. Annoyed, he agreed to play again. Again, after a long struggle he triumphed.

“’It seems that you always win in the long run, Lord Death. Perhaps though you might give me a third game.’

“’If you have anything left that is not already mine,’ said Death, worry again furrowing his brow.

“’Maybe one thing – the last thing to cross my mind before I enter your domain.’

“Death was angered now. Twice he had been tricked. But all men fear Death, and at the last Fitaz would call on the Moon Maiden to save him. He agreed. ‘This is the last game. The day fades into night and I must cross the curve of the world to deliver my gift.’

“They gamed again. The dice seemed to favour Fitaz and he pulled ahead. At the last though Death rolled a perfect score. ‘I have won,’ he said.

“’Yes you have,’ said Fitaz, drawing his sword and striking at Death.

“Death laughed now. ‘Fool. Don’t you know that no mortal blade can cut Death?’

“’You misunderstand Lord Death. This blade is my one true love. It is the one I depend on in my moments of greatest need. And at the last I am sure that this is what I will think of. It is not longer a mortal blade, but Death’s blade three times over.’

“Death looked down and saw his fist lying on the ground where it had been cut off. No mortal would now be his hand. ‘Well played, Fitaz, well played. But at the end no one can beat Death. My herald will come for you, and bring my answer in his wake. At the moment you least expect it, there I will be.’”

“’Oh stop it,” said Fitaz. ‘You do that for to everyone anyway. Stop being such a bad loser and fuck off.’”

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