Stickfight II: The Stickening
“The stick shall never be used in anger or hatred, only in the cause of justice, community, and honor. Violation shall lead to banishment.’
-from the Code of the Stickfighter, transcribed in A74
The Stickfighter approached the dead city grasping his stick, which could be used for fighting and for walking. The sun was beginning to set, the light casting a glow over the ruined buildings and deserted, cracked streets. His journey had been long and arduous, though uneventful. He was thirsty, but could not drink from the polluted river.
If the oracle was correct, Yareth the Brute would be waiting for him and they would fight to the death. For years the Stickfighter had sought bloody vengeance on Yareth, but now he felt no malice, no hatred. He had purged himself of all ensnaring emotions. Yet he knew that he still must face Yareth. The code demanded it. As his father had told him before his death, “Sooner can a rock outrun the sun than can a man escape his fate.”
The Stickfighter crossed the bridge, passing several bleached human skeletons, some fused to their bicycles. There had been little time for anyone to escape the cities, he had read in the history scrolls. The water below him was rank and festering. It burned his nostril hairs. What madness brought this about, he wondered. He had once seen a lizard, its primitive brain addled by the sun, attack its own tail until it was bloody. Surely the men who rained fire on the cities of man were such as this.
When he got to the other side, he spotted an elderly man dressed in a tattered robe, sitting next to a small fire. He had a spotted dog that barked at the Stickfighter
“Who is there?” The man looked around in a jerky fashion and the Stickfighter saw that by his hollow sockets that he was blind.
“Do not fear old man. I mean you no harm.”
The blind man looked in his direction. “Are you the one known only as the Stickfighter?”
“I am he.”
“Come closer.” The Stickfighter came up to him and pet the dog, which then licked his hand. “Give me your hand.” The Stickfighter held it out and the blind man took it and traced its lines.
“You are very brave. Yes. And you have suffered greatly. But you have overcome. Just as you will overcome your enemy. He is waiting for you.” The blind man let go of the Stickfighter’s hand and pointed. “He is that way. Next to the broken head of the goddess.”
“I thank you for your kindness old man.”
The old man nodded. “Come back when you are finished. I have something I would ask of you.”
“Very well.” The Stickfighter started up the street, careful of the gaping holes in the pavement. Despite what the blind man told him, he was not without the demon of fear. He had not fought for many moons, living as a hermit and healer. He griped his stick, the stick cut from his village’s sacred black tree, tighter.
He had not walked for long when he saw a lone figure standing near the severed head of a statue, its womanly tresses and trident cracked and rusted. It was Yareth. Or Yareth the Brute as he was known from the lands of the topless mountains to the deserts of fire. He was bearded and muscular. A new scar on his neck joined the company of scars on his face. It was like a gathering of crows, except with scars instead of crows. He flashed a menacing smile at the Stickfighter.
“I’ve been waiting for you Stickfighter. It has been a long time. I heard you had forsaken the ways of the stickfighter,” he said.
Stickfighter nodded. “I have returned. The time of the stickening’s nigh.”
“I do not believe in your oracles. I will triumph over you and strike you down as man strikes down an impudent wench.” He smiled again and wetly licked the sweat around his mouth. “Just like I struck down your wench.”
The Stickfighter’s mouth twitched slightly. Hate was the gateway to fear and fear the ladder to death. He would not be mastered by it. The memory of Ril-ope could only be a snare now. Stickfighter closed his eyes for a moment to clear his mind and then opened them and threw off his cloak. There was no stick-caller to invoke the fighters, no priest to purify the fighting space. This would have to be it, without ceremony, arena, or spectators.
Yareth took the stick from his back and twirled it. “I hope you like the taste of stick, it will be your last meal.”
“Such threats mean nothing to me. I have mastered the way of the Stickfighter. I have learned its mysteries and powers. The stick is an extension of me, coward.”
The two men faced each other for what seemed like an eternity, but was not. It was over in the flash of sun on glass. Yareth lay stunned, beaten.
“Curses on you Stickfighter,” he hissed
Stickfighter towered over him, his shadow falling over Yareth’s bloody face. Yareth’s bravado suddenly left him, like insects stirred by a wind.
“Do not kill me Stickfighter,” he pleaded. “Banish me, but let me live. I have a tribe to rule over, wives to please…”
“You violated the Code of the Stickfighter Yareth. There can be no quarter. A stickfighter’s stick is his soul.”
Stickfighter hesitated for a second and then delivered the death blow. It was finished. Stickfighter broke his fallen enemy’s stick.
The sun was set, the stickening come to fruition. Stickfighter walked on.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED