BY AL BRUNO III
Friday November 15th 1996
Shirtless in spite of the cold morning they stood on Laurel House’s front lawn. The stared at each other, fencing foils at their sides. At an unspoken signal they saluted and stepped forward; Zeth was muscular but beginning to soften with middle age, his skin was so dark it was almost purple He had his graying dreadlocks pulled back and tied with a ribbon. They sized each other up and tensed. Jack smiled, his hair hanging lose and wild. Zeth thrust with his foil.
Jack swiped the blow aside and retreated from a second attack.
Zeth's breath hissed out from between his clenched teeth as his opponent became more aggressive. He parried a trio of blows. Their foils rasped and clinked as they dueled beneath purple sunrise. Jack tried to strike low but Zeth evaded the glinting metal with a leap and followed with a counter-thrust.
Looking down at the red-tipped foil poking his chest Jack laughed "Oh. Very good.”
“Hell yes.” They stepped back and saluted.
They returned to their starting positions, "Engarde!"
Jack drove Zeth back a dozen steps with as many blows. The attacks blocked more by blind instinct than skill. "Two can play at that." Zeth grunted and launched a wild attack of his own, realizing only too late that he'd fallen into a trap. Jack's foil tapped his forehead, "We're one for one."
"Keeping score are we?”
Again they returned to their starting positions. “By the way, are you having fun?"
Zeth smiled, "Yes, I am. You know when you invited me I almost turned you down."
“Lots of reasons.” Their blades clashed once more, this time each man was cautious and cagey, their blades glancing.
"Is he coming today?"
"God willing." Zeth replied his eyes darkening, "This place is a bit to… sedate for my tastes.”
“I thought as much.” Jack thrust and blocked, "I think that’s why I was surprised to find a man like you on our doorstep.”
“Magwier asked me to keep an eye on Galen.”
“Do you always do what Jason Magwier says?”
Zeth's guard dropped at that, letting Jack land another blow. "Oh, I’m sorry. That wasn't fair, we'll start over."
"I believe in what he’s doing. The Cause is more than what the name implies. We can save the world.”
“I think that the world can take care of itself.” Jack said, “It always has.”
Zeth smiled, “An optimist.”
“What about Isobel and her brother?” Jack asked.
“What about them?” Zeth said.
Sig stepped out the front door. He was wearing a light jacket, jeans, boots and a flannel shirt. He had a knapsack over one shoulder and a cane in the other.
“Heading into town?” Jack asked.
Sig nodded, “Angie needs more pills. Do either of you want anything?”
Zeth said, “A few newspapers and a TIME magazine.”
“Of course.” Sig turned to go.
“I have to ask you something.” Zeth said.
Sig stopped but didn’t turn, “Yes?”
“Aren’t you afraid to go into town? You haven’t been forgotten you know.”
“Let them come.” Sig’s laugh was almost a growl.
Both men watched him disappear into the tree line; then they returned to their stances.
“Engarde!” Jack said.
They danced back and forth, steel flashing, their faces livid with exertion. “Those trips of his are dangerous.” Zeth said.
“He knows what he’s doing.” Jack delivered a savage riposte, “Besides Angie needs that medication.”
Zeth’s foil caught his opponent in the stomach, “All that means to me is that you’ve got two liabilities.”
They stepped back and saluted, the duel continued.