The Deaths of Cyranose & Mania, (complete)
October 24 2006 at 7:24 PM
It was strange. It was quieter around the campus than usual. There were occasional punctuations of explosions, crashes, and screams, but the overall noise level was lower when the bursts were over. And there weren’t as many people around.|
It had all started when the Harbinger of Death had invited the entire campus to choose their own death. A surprising number of red shirt hunters chose to be trampled to death by Anne Nicole; it wasn’t a pretty sight. None of the deaths appealed to Cyranose, nor did the concept of dying (yet again) hold any allure. But apparently this was yet another of the strange traditions of the university: die, be resurrected at the Harbinger’s house, have a big party.
Perhaps it was the resurrection business that disturbed Cyranose the most. If death holds no permanence, then where is the poetry? Why compose an ode whilst bleeding your literal heart out, when you’d be up and about the next day?
Perhaps it was a demonstration of the meaningless nature of life and death. Perhaps Cyranose had drunk too much the previous night.
Lacking in enthusiasm, Cyranose wandered the displays of death. Many were amusing, some were quite disturbing. He avoided the strange little motorized cart that Shoshana chose; for some reason he did not like carts or things with wheels.
"Honor!" he realized. "All of these deaths are meaningless, they serve little dispatch except to send the soul to the hereafter in a horrific fashion and with a fair amount of carnage. One might as well sleep on the sands of the Giza and be consumed by jackals!"
With that he turned and returned to the Battlefield. If he must die, he would find something more fitting a swordsman of his renown. A death with panache, a death with a bit of a challenge. That would be satisfactory.
As Cyranose sat in his room contemplating the rapidly declining population of the University, a knock came upon his door. It was Mania; to the best of his recollection, she had not previously been to his room.
“Cyranose, I have a problem, and you’re the only one who can help me! (mainly because almost all the others are dead).” Apparently Mania didn’t realize that stage asides don’t work very well when you’re speaking directly to a person. Then again, sanity had never been known to be Mania’s strong suit.
She took his hands and looked soulfully into his eyes. “I have a date with Caesar tonight, and I want you to escort me through the woods. With so many people dying all over the place, a strong swordsman like you would be my only hope!” There was no doubt that Cyranose was a great swordsman; he would also never turn down a woman in distress. Depending upon how many personalities were wandering around inside Mania’s head, he could actually be helping three or four women at the same time.
Arrangements were made; after sundown they met outside the dormitories, their dark cloaks making them almost invisible in the night. Quietly they entered the woods, heading for Mania’s rendezvous.
Cyranose was not happy. There was an unusual smell drifting through the woods, unusual even with all the strange goings on at the University. It smelled like… barley. Barley being boiled, along with some sort of meat. Lamb, perhaps? Mania caught a whiff of the odour, a not very appealing smell. “It’s Caesar’s camp! He has dinner being prepared!” She ran off into the woods before Cyranose could stop her.
He ran after her, mindful that between her crashing through the brush and his trying to close the distance, there was almost no chance of hearing anyone about to attack either of them. He failed to hear the words exchanged between Mania and a man tending a pot boiling over a fire. But he did get close enough to see the end of the exchange: the man picked up a very long sword and with very little wasted motion, neatly separated Mania’s head from her neck.
The man turned to face Cyranose as he entered the clearing, careful to avoid stepping on Mania’s corpse. “Weeell, so here’s the jeelous hoosband heere to avenge her deeth!” After Cyranose pieced together the man’s speech, he replied “I am not her husband, but I will avenge her!” With that, Cyranose attacked with his rapier! The man, whom Cyranose observed to be wearing some sort of plaid dress, fought back with his two-handed sword. He showed some skill but seemed to rely more on brute strength, in which he outclassed Cyranose, whereas Cyranose completely outclassed him in skill.
The heavier sword against a less skilled opponent could easily snap a rapier, but this was no ordinary rapier wielded by an extraordinary swordsman. Cyranose had little problem parrying the man’s telegraphed attacks, and having taken the full measure of his opponent, the rapier’s tip thrust six inches through the man’s ribs and through his heart.
The man fell to his knees, dropping his sword. Cyranose kicked the sword a few feet away, then pushed the man onto his back. “You have but moments to live; what is your name that I can write an ode to your senseless slaying of Mania and the vengeance that fate has decided is just through the delivery of the sword of Hercule Savignon Cyranose Du Bergerac?” The man, smiling, replied: “Yer a talkative wee little froggie, ain’cha? I am Doony McLod of the Clan McLod, and yee’d best be thinkin’ of yer own oode, fer the weird be upon ye!” And with that, the man lay back, breathing no more.
Cyranose collected Mania’s head, brushing the dirt and twigs that it had gathered as it had rolled across the forest floor. He removed his cloak and covered her after placing her head in proximity to where it had previously been attached, planning on coming back with a cart in the morning to give her a proper bier or burial, the pyre would probably be most appropriate. It was then he heard a scraping noise behind him accompanied by a familiar whistling sound. He performed a shoulder roll with a twist across Mania’s body and came up in a crouch, his sword brought up for a parry. There, pulling a foot of steel from the spongy forest floor, was the formerly dead Doony McLod of the Clan McLod.
Having seen various zombies and stranger things since his arrival at the University, not to mention having experienced his own death and resurrection before, Cyranose was only slightly surprised at the not-so-dead-as-usual man in front of him. The roll had saved his life and the delay had given him enough time to bring his rapier around in a vicious slash that severed the carotid artery, the jugular vein, and most of the trachea of Doony McLod. He fell in a spray of blood across Mania’s body, still, oddly with a smile on his face.
Having killed him again, Cyranose rolled the body off of Mania, then proceeded to smother the campfire with dirt: whatever was boiling in the pot had begun to smell quite atrocious. Again, an almost imperceptible clue warned him of an attack and he rolled to the far side of the kettle. The two-handed sword came crashing down, slicing through the wire handle of the pot, spilling boiling water and what looked to be the stuffed stomach of an animal across the ground. Cyranose continued rolling to avoid being scalded by the water as McLod again swung the sword at him.
This time McLod got lucky and scored a nasty slash across Cyranose’s left bicep; fortunately, he was not left-handed. The fight resumed, and Doony McLod seemed to be getting faster after having come back to life yet again. Cyranose realized that it wasn’t so much his enemy getting faster as Cyranose himself slowing down. Regaining his feet, Cyranose shifted to the offensive, knowing that he had to find a way to kill this man soon as the wound on his arm was deep and his own blood was flowing. His blood-covered opponent, however, was not bleeding from the wound either in his heart nor neck, a thing contrary to all logic and natural law. And still McLod smiled.
The offense that Cyranose mounted would have slain a dozen men, but McLod had shifted to a defensive stance. He was able to parry and block many of the rapier’s lightning-fast thrusts and slashes, yet still many got through. McLod bled more, yet even as new wounds were added to his frame, old wounds stopped bleeding. The same could not be said for the wounds that Cyranose had suffered, and Cyranose knew that he was slowing and that his doom was upon him.
It was McLod who changed the tempo of battle, shifting from the defense to the offense, forcing Cyranose to block and parry with what strength was left him. He knew that his doom was upon him. Cyranose had lost enough blood that even were he to dispatch Doony, there was no way he could get back to the school’s healers in time to save his life.
McLod allowed Cyranose to break contact, they backed away to clear a bit of fighting room between them, an unvoiced acknowledgement that this would be the final pass. Their breathing steadied, their eyes locked, Doony raised his sword into what would be later known as a batter’s position. Cyranose placed his left hand behind his back, acknowledging the complaint the wound presented, placating it by telling the arm that this is the last demand that would be placed upon it.
McLod broke the eye contact with a charge, shouting “There can be only…” It was cut off with an “URK!” as Cyranose’s left hand came out bearing a dirk. His sword and dirk crossed like scissors made of razors, and Doony’s body fell to the forest floor, next to and like Mania’s, headless.
Cyranose also fell to the forest floor, the two-handed sword stuck in his side, almost cutting him in half. He was already unconscious and all but dead when an unusual display of St. Elmo’s fire lit the interior of the forest.
His earthly cares over, Cyranose took Mania’s hand as they walked towards the home of the Harbinger of Doom. “Such a lot of bother to simply celebrate All Saint’s Eve,” said Cyranose. “Yes, but you fought superbly and avenged my murder,” Mania replied and kissed his cheek. As they walked into the woods, their shades dissipated and silence returned.