"Now, Queen," said Bardia suddenly, when I had half despaired of ever getting to the end of the preparations, "the gods guard you."
The Fox was standing with his face set like iron; he would have wept if he had tried to speak. I saw a great shock of surprise come over Trunia (and I never blamed him for turning pale) when I flung off my cloak, drew my sword, and stepped out onto the grass.
The men from Phars roared with laughter. Our mob cheered. Argan was within ten paces of me, then five; then we were at it.
I know he began despising me; there was a lazy insolence in his first passes. But I took the skin off his knuckles with one lucky stroke (and maybe numbed his hand a little) and that brought him to his senses. Though my eye never left his sword, yet I somehow saw his face as well. "Cross-patch," thought I. He had a puckered brow and a sort of blackguardly fretfulness about his lip, which perhaps already masked some fear. For my part, I felt no fear because, now that we were really at it, I did not believe in the combat at all. It was so like all my sham fights with Bardia: the same strokes, feints, deadlocks. Even the blood on his knuckles made no difference; a blunt sword or the flat of a sword could have done as much.
You, the Greek for whom I write, may never have fought; or if you did, you fought, most likely, as a hoplite. Unless I were with you and had a sword, or at least a stick, in my hand I could not make you understand the course of it. I soon felt sure he could not kill me. But I was less sure I could kill him. I was very afraid lest the thing should last too long and his greater strength would grind me down. What I shall remember forever is the change that presently came over his face. It was to me an utter astonishment. I did not understand it. I should now. I have since seen the faces of other men as they began to believe, "This is death." You will know it if you have seen it; life more alive than ever, a raging, tortured intensity of life. Then he made his first bad mistake, and I missed my chance. It seemed a long time (it was a few minutes really) before he made it again. That time I was ready for it. I gave the straight thrust and then, all in one motion, wheeled my sword round and cut him deeply in the inner leg where no surgery will stop the bleeding. I jumped back of course, lest his fall should bear me down with him; so my first man-killing bespattered me less than my first pig-killing.
People ran to him, but there was no possibility of saving his life. The shouting of the mob dinned in my ears, sounding strange as all things sound when you're in your helmet. I was scarcely out of breath even; most of my bouts with Bardia had been far longer. Yet I felt of a sudden very weak and my legs were shaking; and I felt myself changed too, as if something had been taken away from me. I have often wondered if women feel like that when they lose their virginity.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I just had to post this passage from CS Lewis' "Till We Have Faces":