Fun and Games, by Chris Hoekstra

Story name: Fun and Games
Author: Chris Hoekstra

Date: Day 3 of the Summer Festival, 706 CR
Location: Metamor Valley (duelling fields, the Deaf Mule, Rickkter's quarters)

Overview

Rickkter fights in the duels with Kwanzaa, and then shares an evening at the Festival with Kayla.

Summary

On the afternoon of the last day of the summer festival, Rickkter visits Will's booth on the way to the duels. Caroline tags along on her way to archery practice. They talk about the evening they shared last night with Misha, and stop by Oren's booth, currently attended by Gornul. Rickkter brightens up as he shows off his telepathic ability and chats with Gornul. He admits a love of dragons, wishing he had become one. The topic turns to Misha, with Caroline surprised the two are such friends. Rickkter says that, if they had grown up together, they could have been the "best of enemies" — by which he means someone who is dangerous enough to be a threat, and so dangerous that they would force each other to better their skills.

At the archery range, Caroline fires a few practice shots with her longbow, and Rickkter asks to try. His aim is okay, but far below his close combat abilities. Rickkter admits he's only good when he has his enchanted bow to help him. He reflects on the many skills he's learned, sad that his swordfighting is his only real talent. Caroline tells him to be happy with what he does have; like him, she uses what she has to give her an advantage in battle. Rickkter admits he never liked archers, preferring the thick of battle.

Rickkter parts ways with Caroline, and meets Christopher and Lurene. Rickkter stops to pay his respects, regretting that he, as a mercenary, couldn't have taken his place, but Chris assures him that the responsibility was his alone. Turning around a corner, he notices Kayla peeking at the arena from behind a tent. Kayla is feeling too intimidated to sit in the stands, and Rickkter hopes that she will reconsider, to her surprise.

At the registration, Rickkter meets his friend Kwanzaa, who tells him about the competition and the other competitors. They both move quickly up the competition. Rickkter briefly meets Zhypar in the medic's tent, who thinks that Rickkter won't win. Zhypar's poetic turns of phrase unnerve Rickkter, but an incoming medical emergency separates the two. Rickkter and Kwanzaa compete in the final match, and Kwanzaa outwits the exhausted Rickkter and forces him to concede.

To celebrate, Kwanzaa invites Rickkter and their fellow warriors to dinner that evening at the Deaf Mule. Rickkter brings Kayla along, and is stopped by Misha and Caroline, who also lost their respective competitions. Misha takes Rickkter aside and asks about Kayla, and finally about the Long Scouts. He offers Rickkter to join, but he declines. Rickkter is happy to join Misha and Caroline for dinner, until Misha mentions that Charles will join them. Rickkter coldly apologizes, that he and Kayla will find their own place for dinner, despite Misha's protest. Kayla also protests, but Rickkter assures her that the Mule will be too crowded, and to try a meal at one of the pavillions.

Rickkter and Kwanzaa enjoy a meal in a pavillion, and wander through the festival markets and games. They stop at a fortune-teller's booth, where the owner gives Kayla a bracelet of luck and warns Rickkter of his future. They then sit for a performance of a play in the field.

Rickkter takes Kwanzaa to his room, where he pours them both a drink. He relaxes on his couch while Kayla wanders to his private library. She is about to ask about a book of poetry when she sees him fast asleep. She kisses him on the forehead and closes the door.

Characters

Main characters:

  • Rickkter: A former Kankoran, a raccoon morph. He places second in the tournament, winning twenty Garretts and the Marshak's Teeth.
    • He fought Yonson the day before and injured his right arm, which has recovered enough not to hinder him. He gets stitches in his left hand from the match against Jabril.
    • He wears mail over black leather. He competes with his katana, which he is a master of.
    • He has several magical abilities, including a form of telepathy, mind-sending, which he uses to talk to Kwanzaa during his duel with her.
    • He is a master of close combat weapons, but merely competent at non-magical long-ranged weapons. His personal bows have sighting and stabilizing enchantments, which he has become dependent upon.
    • In the past, he left a mage order for failing his master, just as he was making progress. He studied alchemy for a year and a half. He practiced healing, but quit after his lover died.
    • He was a bodyguard once, nearly dying to protect his ward. After that experience, he quit as well.
    • Rickkter has been shot six times: twice in the back, and once each in the chest, thigh, arm, and forearm.
  • Kwanzaa: A swordmaster shrew morph. She is the winner of the one-on-one duels, and wins the Dragon's Claw.
  • Kayla: A shy skunk morph.
    • She was present at the Battle of the Three Gates. Ever since then, she kept to herself, due to the stigma of being a skunk.
    • She works in intelligence, handling organization, summarizing reports, and delivering materials.
    • Madame Saint-Germain gives her a leather band with three beaded leather strips and a metal disk impressed in it, supposed to give her luck.

Supporting:

  • Caroline: An archer and Long Scout, Misha's girlfriend. She and Rickkter walk together to the archery range, where she is practicing for the archery competition, which she loses to Donna. They meet again briefly that evening.
  • Zhypar: An enigmatic kangaroo morph whom Rickkter is acquainted with. He tells Rickkter that could be either prophecies or lines of verse.

Minor Characters:

  • Will Hardy: Caroline's father and Misha's business partner. He is attending his Fadger clock booth with Caroline when Rickkter stops for a visit.
    • He has not handled a weapon in years.
  • Gornul: A dragonette who communicates via pictures. This is his first meeting with someone else who can telepathically transmit images.
  • Misha: Rickkter's friend. He is currently filling in as Andre's squire.
  • Christopher: A mage, a bear morph. He is paralyzed from the waist down, and uses a wheelchair to move around.
  • Damon: A regular soldier, a male gendermorph. He loses his first match, against Jabril.
    • This is his second time participating in the tournament.
  • Jabril: An equine lord from the west side of Metamor Valley. He loses to Rickkter with a kick to the groin.
    • He wears fine ring-mail armor.
    • He has participated in 8 or 9 tournaments, and has won 3 of the last five.
  • Tyrel: A young noble from the south end of Metamor Valley, a male gendermorph. He loses his first round against Rickkter, making several angry lunges before Rickkter slashes him on his buttocks.
    • His former name was Teresa of the Barrett family. This is his first tournament. He is accompanied by several fawning lackeys.
    • He wears flashy purple and maroon colors, wielding a fancy rapier with a gold guard.
    • He gives a girly scream when he loses.
  • Gordon: An old friend of Kwanzaa, a male gendermorph.
    • He and Kwanzaa share some knowledge, but he is not as fast or skilled as Kwanzaa
    • He wields a rapier, and wears light breast plate over leather armor.
  • Byron: A mercenary from just south of Metamor Valley, outside the range of the Curse. He is said to be a drifter, earning money by challenging people for high bets. He is a fantastic fencer, and wins by outfencing his opponents until he can knock their sword out of their hands. He loses to Rickkter: after he knocks Rickkter's sword away and watches it fly off, Rickkter punches him in the jaw, knocking him to the ground in surprise and enabling Rickkter to win.
    • He is gaunt with long blond hair and a long chin. He wields a simple fencing blade, and wears leather armor.
  • An equine morph with a long mane and barrel chest. He loses to Byron in his first match.
  • A large human man with a serious chest wound, causing the medics to move everyone out of the tent.
  • A woman in the competition who is beaten by Kwanzaa and comes in third.
  • A carny who runs a knife throwing event, though with dull blades to ensure few people will win.
  • Madame Saint-Germain: A fortune teller at the Summer Festival. She has some genuine psychic ability, able to see Rickkter's dark fate.
    • She is short and thin with black hair and a smooth voice. She wears violet robes, large gold rings, and long strings of beads.
    • She sells charms, incense, and scrolls.

Cameo:

  • Yonson: A Weathermonger, and ambassador to Metamor Keep from the Chateau Marzac.
  • Brian Coe: The Keep physician. Besides healing Rickkter's arm, he has a tent at the duels to heal duelists.
  • Lurene: Chris's ward. She is nervous around Rickkter.
  • Two officials, a female gendermorph and a minor mage, who check in all weapons for the duels.
  • Two leopard morphs who compete in the tournament, one of whom is eliminated "predictably quick".
  • An opossum judge.
  • A kit-fox morph who competed in the tournament, and dislocated his shoulder in the process.
  • Duke Thomas: The ruler of Metamor Keep. He attends the final match of the duels, and delivers the awards.
    • Also attending are Thalberg, the duke's steward; Brian Avery, the ruler of Glen Avery; Christopher and Darren Avery, his sons; Yonson; and other minor lords.
  • Copernicus: A lizard who loves pool, seen that evening in the Deaf Mule.
  • Devon: The Keep court jester, entertaining people at the Deaf Mule.

Important mention:

  • Oren: Gornul's friend, a half-otter man from Hipocc. Gornul is watching his booth, selling black ale.

Referenced:

  • Charles Matthias: Rickkter's enemy. He is the reason Rickkter doesn't attend dinner with Misha and Caroline.
  • Andre: Misha's friend, a knight in the jousting tournaments. Misha is spending the day filling in as his squire.
  • Bryan: A scientist. He developed Christopher's wheel chair.
  • Saulius: A rat morph, a knight who beats Sir Andre.

Duels

The format for one-on-one duels is simple. The first round will be randomly determined for each competitor; each round will be single elimination. Moves that are intentionally lethal are illegal, as are attacks to the face. Wins are determined by being first to incapacitate, disarm, or force a concession.

The prize for first place is 100 garretts and the Dragon's Claw, an enchanted bastard sword. Its enchantments allow it to cut through plate armor like butter. It also has Shockers, which doubles the force of any blow.

The prize for second place is 20 garretts and the Marshak's Teeth, a set of four ornate daggers. Their enchantments allow them to penetrate all armor.

The first rounds randomly pair up competitors together: Rickkter against Tyrel, Kwanzaa against Gordon, Jabril against Damon, Byron against an equine morph.

  • Rickkter's fight against Tyrel goes very smoothly for Rickkter. Tyrel's ostentatious sword thrusts are easily countered by Rickkter, who taunts him back. This enrages Tyrel further, making him more reckless, and Rickkter fights him for his own entertainment until he finally leaves a gash on Tyrel's buttocks.
  • Gordon and Kwanzaa have similar styles of fighting, starting with opening thrusts and counters, circling and striking to check for weaknesses, followed by quick swordplay upon finding an opening. On one of these plays, Kwanzaa slips through his defense, wedging her saber in his and knocking it away.
  • Jabril has an easy fight; Damon is a poor defender, and Jabril easily disarms him.
  • Byron has a reliable fighting style, using fast swordplay to wear down his opponent, until he can dislodge their sword. He successfully uses it against his first opponent, an equine morph.

Rickkter's next match is against Byron. Byron uses the same strategy against Rickkter, but Rickkter quickly reacts to losing his sword by punching Byron in the jaw and catching his sword in mid-air, catching Byron by surprise.

Rickkter's next match is against Jabril. The match is long and drawn out, and Rickkter takes a while to figure out how to defeat him: with a kick to the groin.

His last match is against Kwanzaa, which lasts several minutes. By this time, Rickkter is worn down from his matches, giving Kwanzaa the critical edge to successfully feint, pull the katana from his grip, and force him to concede.

Locations

  • In the city of Holden, there is a beautiful theater, the Aubry theater, that Rickkter once visited.

Story Connections

Points of Interest

  • After the fight Rickkter had dinner with Misha and Caroline last night. He left early because a residual charge of magic was still in his arm, and he had to get Brian Coe to remove it. He was too exhausted to meet Misha and Caroline again until today.
  • Shurtal, a delicacy from a poor country, is sheep testicles.
  • Rickkter uses the phrase "third and fourth world" to describe a distant land.
  • The play the troubadors perform at the Keep is What's This Life For, a comedy of errors.
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