This is the autobiographical journal of Arvil Bren, a somewhat reluctant hero who has been placed on an unknown quest by powers that he barely knows exist. Follow his journey as it is updated daily, Monday through Friday, and enjoy! These are the most recent entries in Arvil Bren's third journal; Politics of the Redoran. His first journal can be found in its entirety here. His second journal, Trail of the Archmage can be found here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

29: Dead?

"Arvil Bren is a dead man."

That's what the banner high on the south side of the arena said. I think they were Telvannis. Venim saluted them with his huge Daedric katana. I just tried to ignore them. This duel was a much different event than my previous experience in the Vivec arena. Then there was a crowd, as any spectacle will bring, but mostly they turned out for the novelty of watching a couple outlander wizards; they didn't really care who won. Tonight the crowd was beyond standing room only, with people shouting from the doorways to those who could not make it inside. And almost all of them wanted Venim to win.

The differences started becoming obvious this morning when I went to the arena to register, and received the rules of the duel. 'No enchantments of any sort' called for a quick trip to Pelagiad. I considered going with a lighter armor, since I would be without my pants of strongleg, but assumed that Venim would be armed with some sort of Daedric weapon that would shear through anything but the heaviest armors like they weren't even there. As the saying goes, sometimes you just have to put on the heavy tin suit and slug it out. Or in this case the heavy ebony suit. I walked back to Vivec. I didn't want to wear myself out, but I did want to get adjusted to moving under the heavy weight, and without the boots of blinding speed.

I also had to seriously consider my choice of weapon. At the time I didn't really know how Venim would be armed or what style he would adopt, but Sarethi had told me that Venim was trained in the Akiviri style so the dai katana was not a complete surprise. My own ability with the long swords has greatly improved through my adventures, and living with a Khajiit has given me ample opportunity to practice the Akiviri styles myself. I considered my own Daedric katana, hefting the wickedly sharp curved blade. I also swung the great two-handed claymore sword a few times. The Daedric edge, with the great mass of the sword behind it, would cleave through any armor that Venim could come up with, but swinging that weight is more appropriate for the great berserker strength of an Orc or a Nord, and calls for a certain durability since the wielder can assume they will suffer some wounds in the process.

Eventually I opted to step away from my Daedric armory. The ebony shaft of the spear was familiar in my hands. As I walked back to Vivec I took comfort from the years of practice stretching all the way back to my youth. My father always preferred the spear. He liked to stay out of reach of his opponents. A wise sentiment, and as I considered Venim's likely fury it had definite appeal.

Sharn gra Muzgrob arrived from Balmora shortly after I got back to the guild headquarters. Each duelist is allowed a stand by, who provides healing to the victor as soon as the loser is dispatched. I probably did not gain great acceptance by having the green skinned Orc at my side in the arena. Venim had a high ranking member of the Tribunal Temple; a much better political choice. There is no healer I would rather trust with my life than Sharn.

Eventually the appointed hour arrived. Unlike my duel with Trebonius, this was a formal occassion and honor had to be preserved. Rather than immediately blasting away when the doors opened we both stalked out into the arena for a round of introductions and proclamations. I was awed.

The applause for Venim thundered down on us when he was introduced. Despite the differences of the interminable great house wars it was clear that he was greatly favored over an outlander. When the announcer proclaimed that the conflict at the source of the duel was my claiming of the title of Hortator a hush fell over the arena. I looked up into the sea of red eyes and saw the enormity of my task. To be the war leader of the Redorans would require the defeat of their greatest warrior, and even then I could not be certain that Sarethi would hold to his promise of support. Nor could I think that the Redoran people would fall happily into line behind me. Looking up at the Redoran box I could see him sitting in the center seat of the council chairman; his temporarily, at least until the end of the duel. If Venim won Sarethi was bound to relinquish the seat, if not it was his. He was perhaps the only Dunmer in the arena hoping I would emerge victorious, other than my own guild stewards.

Sarethi rose for the final formality. Venim and I are both Redorans. As acting chair of the council Sarethi could have forbidden the duel. As the announcer clearly explained this option I considered consequences, but immediately put it from my mind. Even as the temporary head of a great house he could not really do it. This crowd had gathered for a show, if Sarethi had denied them I cannot imagine their vengence.

Similarly, when Venim was given an opportunity to withdraw his opposition to my claim there was no way the crowd would allow it. My own opportunity to withdraw my claim was also a mere formality. The final preliminaries completed, Venim and I backed to our respective entries, and the announcer strode out of the arena. A great gong sounded with a dull reverberation and the crowd fell silent.

We circled, both of us moving to our left. There was no rush. I sized up my opponent. He moved smoothly, quickly, on the balls of his feet despite the great weight of his ebony armor. He grasped the dai katana, with its long hilt that counterbalanced the huge blade, in a proper two handed grip. The tip of the blade traced lazy figure eights in front of him. High on his left, down to his right, up and then back down as it crossed back to his left. For my part I kept my spear at the ready in a quarterstaff grip. I intended to fend off his first few attacks, concentrating on defenses.

He waited for a waver in my attention, so I gave him one, flicking my glance quickly to the crowd behind him and back. As I expected the languid motion of his blade exploded into a kinetic frenzy. I had timed my glance as the blade rose on my right and prepared for an overhand stroke. I leapt to my right as I swept the blade past me with the butt of my spear and we resumed our circling, now both moving to our right.

"Fine parry, outlander," Venim grunted.

"Skill with the spear honors the Redorans," I replied.

The crowd had uniformly sucked in their breath at the first clash of arms, and sighed it out as we spoke.

"They are waiting to cheer for your death," my opponent taunted.

"They will have a long wait."

"Perhaps, but if all you can do is circle and parry they will eventually be satisfied."

With that he brought another overhand blow from my right. There had not been a trace of warning in his even voice. I dropped to my right knee and slapped his blade up with my spear, letting it whistle harmlessly over my head. Against a lesser foe I would have tried to sweep my spearpoint across him as the force of his blow spun him away to my left. I held back, noting how quickly he spun full circle, ending with the huge blade in a vertical parry. Instead I concentrated on bouncing back up from my knee as quickly as possible. The circle stopped.

"The Telvanni Mouths are all in the Telvanni box," Venim observed. "I haven't seen all of them in one place for centuries. They came to see you die. You should be honored."

"If anything could unite the Telvanni it's their opposition to my guild."

"And you would be our Hortator. We already have conflicts over territory with the Telvanni. You want outright war with them for our house?"

"I will be their Hortator as well."

He almost laughed. "You try to get me off guard with jokes outlander? You will have to kill them all. Then the mouths will succeed to power and you will likely have to kill them too."

Again he struck on the last word, and again there was no break or hesitation in his voice. This time the blow was a low sweep that came from my left, and it tested my strength to leap over the glittering arc. I tried to strike down at the passing blade as it cleared to my right. Had I made contact I could have forced the momentum of the swing to carry the blade into the sand and slowed his spin back to parry, but I was a split second slow.

"Nice try," he said with a haughty grin.

"That's one miss for me. I believe you are at three."

The grin disappeared into a snarl. A duel is a test of concentration as much as anything else. The first tiny crack had appeared, and it was on him. His next attack was preceeded by a sharp breath. The time to test the ebony spear had come, and I drove the point deep into the sand. His blade crashed against the shaft, but could not bite into the hardened volcanic material. As is typical of the Akaviri style he followed through in a spinning move, his wrists flexing to let the great blade drag past the planted spear. I was quite safe behind its thin shelter, bracing the shaft well above the arc of his blade.

"Stings a bit, doesn't it?" I asked calmly. I knew the answer. The ringing blow had fed back through the blade, and his hands would be slightly numb from the vibration. The desire to release the hilt and shake them to life one at a time would be gnawing at him for a few moments. I feinted a thrust with the spear to keep him from even considering creating such an opportunity. "That's four misses for you by the way. The faithful in the stands are hardly gasping any more. They are beginning to see that their champion is overmatched." That was really a stretch. The crowd was roaring their approval with every slash of his sword, but I was wearing on his patience and concentration.

One of my favorite things about the spear is that so many spearmen prefer it for the same reasons as my father. They like to stay out of reach of their opponents. Eventually Venim, like so many other veterans of many battles, came to expect that a spearman would tend to move away from an attack. In a duel anticipation is the ultimate weapon, and expectation is poison. After innumerable combinations of slashes and parries, sidestepped thrusts, and ringing clashes of hardened Daedric on ebony, the moment came.

I anticipated another low sweep from my left, and met it with a rapid spin. I stepped onto the butt of my spear with my right foot as I threw my left back and away from the blow. His blade sang down the shaft of the spear into the tight vee it made with the sand as I effectively rolled over the leaning shaft. Venim did not expect me to be coming at him, and with his own spin interrupted he was caught full in the face by the back of my armored left fist. I continued my rotation, following that initial smash with a punishing blow to the throat from the shaft of my spear. As he stumbled back I brought in the point and drove him off his feet, following with all my weight and momentum to drive the razor sharp needle of ebony through the flexible joint between his breastplate and the paldron on his left shoulder as his back hit the sand. I kicked the blade from his dying fingers.

He choked. I don't know if it was from the blow to his throat or on blood welling from his punctured lung. Through bloody foam , he gasped "What price this victory, outlander? You will bring the ruin of our house."

"No Venim. Go to your ancestors in peace. I swear to you that the safety of your house is assured by this. My oath, by moon and star."

He stopped struggling. Perhaps his ancestors soothed his departing spirit, or perhaps it was Azura. As his eyes closed a last word slipped from his lips. "Nerevar."

Perhaps Arvil Bren is indeed dead. Can this body really be shared?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comparing the two duels, this one slaughters the last.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One word - BRILLIANT!!

I remember this duel! I grabbed Venim's Daedric katana, at the end, and have been using it ever since. A great weapon!! Increases one's confidence no end!

_ Angela

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Rex Little said...

Wouldn't it be interesting if combat in the game actually involved this kind of detail? As it is, of course, you whale on Venim and he whales on you, and you suck down a Restore Health or three as needed, and eventually he falls down.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Allan said...

Tim, that was awesome. This was an important chapter, and you nailed it.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that was great. Great job, Tim.


6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was a very good chapter!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! I have been waiting for this chapter and you did not dissapoint. This is easily my favorite chapter, and I loved your description of the duel and of the diffrent weapons and armor. You are an incredible writer Tim and I am looking forward to your future posts.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Xikorolkel said...

Awesome work, Tim! I especially liked the return of Arvil to his history with spear-fighting. It's something that I find I have missed, but it also points to the vast development of his character during his time on Vvardenfell.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous mikekearn said...

It's good to see some classic Arvil Bren action -- albeit jacked up to supremely important levels. I love the detail, and the little bit at the end was just fantastic.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best action chapter ever, I'd say - I still prefer the political stuff, but this is a welcome break.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Not to worry....should be plenty of political stuff going fact I can say there is, since I am two, count them two, chapters to the plus side right now. Tony (the editor) and I have settled the miscommunication issue, so you will be seeing those chapters on schedule Monday and Wednesday...I'm feeling good writing and when I hit the magic number of ten chapters ahead he will shift to publishing M-F...keep your fingers crossed, but it is a bit early for holding your breath.

So now I feel good about asking my readers to do something for me...and each other. There are people out there that stopped reading because I stopped posting...and don't know that I'm back. Now most of the readers here heard about Arvil Bren on a bulletin board or forum or website somewhere, and most of them weren't somewhere that I posted something, it was somewhere that one of you posted something or said something. So please, please, go back to those places and say something again so that everyone knows we are back in operation. Someone might really appreciate it. You know I will.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Go forth and multiply, all ye faithful readers!"

We shall indeed, Tim. Keep up the awesome writing.


8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another brilliant chapter Tim.

And so you know, I'm back to stay!


2:54 PM  

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