“You all want to see a good fight?” he said. Conversation quieted. The crowd concentrated, gathered closer, left space in the middle. “You heard that Silk Golinvaux had come, the Beast himself, one of the stories from the Wars. You want to see him fight?” A cheer from the crowd. “You here to see him brawl?” Another cheer. “You rare to see a good scrap?” A raucous, rolling shout with applause. Digger walked around the circle, his arms raised, his smile saintly, encouraging the noise of the crowd. Silk smiled too. He couldn’t help himself. The crowd liked Digger.
Digger looked at Silk. It was a good build-up. Silk wondered where the Wiga was. “He is a big man,” Digger said. “Have any of you seen him fight?” Some cheers and applause. “He’s dropped men twice his size—leaving them dizzy on the ground.” More applause. “According to him, he’s planning to do that again. Do you believe that?” Chuckles from the crowd—applause and cheers, a few whistles. Digger allowed a few beats then started again. “The Beast has been bragging about his next big win already. Have you all heard about this?” More laughs and applause from the crowd. It had grown thicker. If Silk had wanted to get away he’d be hard pressed to do it through the press of bodies. No gap opened in the crowd to let the Wiga through. Silk wondered why Digger felt so convinced that the Wiga would fail to appear. The crowd seemed unconcerned by it. Noticing the confidence of the crowd, as if a good fight was still to commence, Silk’s mood began turning suspicious. Something uncalculated was about to occur.
“Silk Golinvaux has been spreading around town that he can beat your sheriff in single combat. Now how’s that for a game of soldiers, then, eh?”
There arose the loudest cheers of all from the crowd. From the cheers rose a chant. At first, Silk couldn’t make out what they chanted. Then it sounded like “Wiga.” But it clarified then into “Digger.”
Digger, the Wiga’s son, smiled up at Silk. Silk stood head and shoulders taller, both shoulders wider, older and heavier, greater experience, greater prestige. The crowd cheered for Digger. They had been from the start of the introduction.
Silk had been out-maneuvered. It happened so rarely that feeling it now almost amused him.
“My father is still tangled up in the tribal wars,” Digger said so only Silk could hear.
“Then the farce will end here,” Silk said. He’d allow Digger to leave. The game had been completed.
Digger stood his ground, though. He looked curious. “You said you’d beat the sheriff of Súthende. Here I am.”
Though he knew Digger meant it seriously, Silk had trouble accepting it. He had never once heard of Digger the Wiga’s son being any great warrior. Aside from misunderstanding about the Wiga’s son being sheriff in Súthende—and he didn’t know quite how he had done that—Silk had never heard anything about Digger the Wiga’s son.
The crowd continued to cheer. Silk hardly heard it. Digger seemed to ignore it.
“You’re not ready to face me, boy,” Silk growled. He meant it. The lad ought to pick fights in his weight class or he’d get hurt early.
“Perhaps not,” Digger said with utter calm. “You’d do better to try your luck with me. You’re not ready to face my father.”
That statement rubbed Silk backward. He frowned, turned away, and took off his cloak. As he stripped off his jacket and shirt the crowd screamed their approval: the fight was on.
In a few seconds, naked to the waist in the freezing evening—the snow just starting to fall—Silk, big and curled with muscle, faced lithe Digger in the sinking evening.
The clouds broke just at the horizon. A red stained sunbeam flooded the square. In the confusing light of it, Silk threw the first punch. It missed. Not because of any flaw in its delivery. He delivered it perfectly. Digger had got out of the way, though. In the same movement, Digger threw his knuckles into Silk’s ribs. No testing—no posturing. Just a solid first hit. Bam! Most impressive. Though a punch to the ribs hardly fazed Silk. The layers of muscle protected him from blow like quick jabs from arms like Digger’s. To counter, Silk brought his elbow down toward the back of Digger’s neck. The opportunity opened itself to him. Digger anticipated. He dropped below the blow. Falling to his chest on the cold stone, he caught himself, like a push-up movement. Popping back to his feet, Digger backpedaled several feet from Silk. He got out of reach. Keeping his body straight, he began bobbing back and forth. Digger was ready to move any direction Silk startled him to move.
Silk let Digger gain his bearings. He had quick. Quick could get a fighter a long way. Silk had relied on quick in his younger days. It corrected a multitude of errors. So far, Digger had displayed a few errors. He kept his attention full front—forgot to check his blind spots. Hard to take advantage of in single combat unless Silk could come at Digger from more than one angle. Silk ran at Digger and brought his next punch down from a high angle. Digger blocked. In the middle of the motion, Silk slung his leg up to knee Digger’s side. It only scored him a glancing blow. It overbalanced Digger just a touch. Pressing the wobble, Silk slung his other hand down at the side of Digger’s neck. But, in a practiced and smooth motion, Digger slid his hand up Silk’s striking arm. Digger ducked forward. Using the strength of Silk’s swinging arm and his weight against him—Silk only had one foot on the ground--Digger finessed Silk sideways off the ground. He tossed Silk aside.
Silk rolled a few feet. Using the rolling momentum he rose to his feet and braced himself, keeping his stance wide. He appraised Digger. The little redhead stood still now, waiting to see what would happen. His body moved like a conduit of martial training. Surgical, refined, flawless. Silk felt no personality in Digger’s fighting—no soul. All he could do was ply hours of drills. They had been good drills, apparently, and so far they were enough. Digger’s fighting had no life in it; he was an example of perfect theory. There was no fighting Digger. Fighting Digger was fighting martial arts itself. It would get Digger killed someday, unless he learned to put himself in the fight. Someday Digger had to fall off the edge and claw his way back again. He’d never be great till he did.
It made Silk laugh. Digger lacked experience. That was all. Made him a devil to fight, though. Silk had gotten so used to outwitting people in fights. It entertained him, fighting someone with apparently all the tricks to anticipate all the other tricks hammered into him leaving no room for his soul.
Digger threw a bracing foot back, thinking he anticipated what Silk would do next. Silk had turned off planning. He didn’t even know what he would do next. Pell-mell and roaring, he ran at Digger with his fists raised. Silk wailed on Digger without any organization. He paid no heed to Digger’s many precise little punches. He’d have to deal with them later. They were damaging even if they were small. The little stabs of pain could be ignored for now. Silk knocked past Digger’s many blocks with brute force. When Digger attempted to turn away Silk’s frenzied punches, Silk jumped forward, shoulder-first. Digger tried to throw Silk again. Silk grabbed Digger’s hand and pulled him over. They rolled apart and regained their feet. Then, abruptly and illogically, Silk went on the defensive. He lowered his stance and put his loose fists in front of his face. Pushing forward, Silk crowded Digger. Digger tried to back away. Silk kept inside a few feet of him. He lashed out a few times with his open hand. Nothing strong. Just baiting Digger. Digger tried not to take the bait. After a few seconds he couldn’t help it. He jabbed at Silk. Silk caught Digger’s wrist, squeezing. He tugged Digger closer and punched him in the ribs. Letting go of Digger’s wrist, Silk kept inside Digger’s circle. Digger slung his fist at Silk’s cheek. Silk punched Digger’s wrist up. He ducked at Digger. With an uppercut, Silk knocked Digger in the chin. Digger attempted to dodge. His weight was off. He only managed to stumble away. Silk scored a glancing hit. At the power he put behind it a glancing hit would bruise a bit.
Digger wobbled a few steps away. He looked destabilized. When he lowered his chin again blood reddened his lips. His eyes had taken a dazed cast. With extra energy this time, Silk again drove forward to press the advantage he’d gained. Leaning forward, he drew his fist back for a large left hook. And, almost delicately, Digger rebalanced his weight forward. He put his hand back. Then, with textbook perfection, he put every piece of himself into an uppercut. The uppercut landed under Silk’s chin just as Silk’s momentum reached critical and he had started catapulting his own fist forward. With every ounce of his own weight and every foot pound of his left hook redirected back at him, Silk rose off his feet. The electric tingling from the uppercut going up and down his body. He made a long, slow feeling arc off the ground. As he went, a smile grew on his face. Crazy fight.
Continued on December 9...