Story 5: The Ubar and the Ox

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Treve was quick to come for me. I was treated very roughly by the rarii who took control of me. I was tightly bound, hood and gagged for the journey to the mountain city of Treve.
Once in Treve, I was chained within a deep dungeon, damp, musty and rank. I lost track of the days I remained there, subsisting on brackish water and stale bread.
Sometime later they removed me from that cell.
I was brought to a cleaner room and shackled to the wall. The guards left the room and I was alone for almost an Ahn.
Then the Ubar of Treve entered.
He was an imposing figure, an experienced Warrior. He was said to be cunning and devious. It required a strong hand to control the raiders of Treve. He had done so for almost fifty years.
I saw the rage behind his eyes. My actions against his Home Stone infuriated him. The penalty for such an act was extreme torture followed by execution. I am sure he was devising new methods of torture just for me.
He glared at me, silent and grim.
I had to take my chance to avoid my fate.
"Let me speak plainly for I was born a Peasant and am a simple man."
The Ubar continued to glare and remained silent. He would listen at least.
"I have beaten Treve twice. I then willingly returned to Treve. Killing me now would not defeat me. Torturing me would not defeat me. It would all be too easy. I think there is a better way. I offer you a chance to truly beat me, a chance to prove the power of Treve. Though this is not without risks."
He continued to listen, not acknowledging my words in any way. As long as he remained silent, I had a chance.
"I propose this. I am an expert with the staff. I consider myself the equal of any Warrior. I will pit my skills against your chosen champion. If I lose, then Treve will have beaten me and be the ultimate victor. If I win, you set me free and never bother me again."
I waited for his response.
The Ubar mulled over the idea. The challenge would appeal to his Warrior nature. He had several prime choices, all superb swordsmen. Even he could take up the challenge.
Ten Ehn passed.
The Ubar turned and walked toward the door. He stopped in front of the door and spoke, not turning to face me.
"The duel will be to the death. It will occur in one Hand. Say your prayers to the Priest-Kings for in five days you will die beneath a blade of Treve."
He then exited the room.
I smiled because my plan had worked.
In one way or another, it would all be finished in five days. I would either have my freedom or a quick and honorable death.
My captors took me from this room and placed me in a different cell. I was not kept chained and this room had basic amenities. They even let me a staff.
For the next five days, I ate well and spent most of my time practicing with my staff. The Ubar wanted me in good condition for the duel.
On the fated day, they came and brought me to the Plaza of Treve. A scarlet circle, thirty feet in diameter, had been painted on the ground. This would be our field of battle. I was placed at one edge of the circle.
The streets were jammed with the citizens of Treve. It seemed nearly the entire city had turned out for the event. I could see wagering going on in the crowds.
The Ubar sat on a curule chair on a platform overlooking the battle circle. The wooden structure had been recently constructed especially for this event. The Ubar would have a perfect view of the duel. A few of his top advisors stood near him.
The Ubar would not be my opponent.
I saw a group of Warriors directly opposite me, near the edge of the circle. They were nearly surrounding one man, the infamous Rask of Treve, the penultimate raider.
I caught his eye and he grinned at me. Was he to be my foe?  Could I defeat someone of his skill?
At the 10th Ahn, the Ubar stood and spoke to the crowd.
He told them of the duel, stating that it was to the death. He explained that it was staff against Gladius, Brewer against Warrior, Ar against Treve.
The throng despised me, reviling me with curses and insults.
The Treve warriors moved from the circle's edge and only Rask remained.
Then the Ubar stated that even the least of Treve could defeat the Brewer. The Ubar had faith that any of Treve could win.
My opponent walked out of the shadows, clutching his gladius in two hands, and approached the circle. My foe was obviously nervous. I instantly knew I could defeat him. He would not be a true challenge of my skill with the staff.
I could defeat Treve and win my freedom.
The crowd was shocked at the Ubar's choice. Many had assumed Rask would be my opponent. As did I.
But, the Ubar had discovered my weakness. He knew I would not win the duel.
I faced Talen.
My son, now barely ten years old.
Adopted son of Patrocles of the Warrior Caste.
Damn the Ubar.
I could not kill my own son. I also could not let him kill me, let him commit patricide.
A no-win dilemma.
The Ubar had beaten me. He had finally won. My luck had run out. Damn the Ubar.
Talen made some tentative attacks which I easily blocked. The crowd did not understand and though I was teasing the child, tormenting him slowly, playing a cruel game.
They did not know that he was my son.
Maybe none but the Ubar knew.
The Ubar played a dangerous game. His show could backfire against him if the people thought he was sending a child to his slaughter.
Even the Warriors seemed greatly confused by the matter.
My pleas to the Priest-Kings went unanswered. I was on my own. Was there a solution to my conundrum?
I scrutinized my surroundings, estimating distances, angles, heights and obstacles. I could attack one of the spectators, maybe even Rask himself and force them to kill me.
I could not allow my son to kill me, to have that on his conscience.
Yet I wanted revenge on the Ubar who arranged this match. The man who did not trust his champion to defeat me. The man who placed a son against his own father.
I then spied a tiny opportunity.
The staff, in dire situations, can be hurled as a spear. Doing so is an act of desperation. If you miss, you are thus left weaponless.
I had to try.
I maneuvered around the battle circle, defending myself against the petty attacks of my son. I examined my target, seeking weakness, waiting for the opportune time to act.
That moment came. Propelled by some preliminary spinning, I hurled the staff like a spear. The projectile shot through the air toward its target.
The Ubar's eyes blazed in fury as he prepared to dodge to either side to avoid the missile. His fury quickly turned to glee as he saw that the staff would be far too low. He was pleased that I would now be weaponless.
But I never intended to hit the Ubar.
The staff did strike its intended target, cracking the wooden pole, a key support of the Ubar's platform.
No one realized at first what had happened. They all believed I had thrown the staff at the Ubar and missed.
It took a few Ihn more before the weight of the platform pushed down on the supports and found them lacking. A few Ihn later, the entire structure came crashing down.
The Ubar fell to the hard stone, fracturing his skull and dying almost instantly.
In the ensuing chaos, I did not flee. I remained where I was and several Warriors quickly restrained me and placed manacles and chains upon me. They led me away to a dark cell, beating me on the way.
My fate would be clear now. Torture and death.
But I had defeated Treve a third time.
Not bad for a lowly Peasant.
Treve tortured the Ox for five consecutive days. He finally died while being boiled alive in oil. He died thinking of his family and how we would meet them again in the Cities of Dust.
The Ubar's papers revealed everything about the Ox. They told of the original raid on his farm. They told how Talen was his son. Though this information was suppressed, leaks did occur. Patrocles learned of this information. Talen overheard his parents discussing the matter and he learned the truth. No one outside of Treve though ever learned of the matter.
Ten years later, Talen was a respected tarnsmen. He vanished on a routine patrol mission near Ar and he was thought that he had been captured. But Treve's spies could not learn anything of his whereabouts. He was simply gone.
But then, who could have predicted that he would purposely vanish?  Who could predict that he would buy a farm and become a Peasant?
Talen spent the rest of his life on that farm. He married and had many children. At night, he would tell his children stories of their grandfather, the Ox. He made them proud to be Peasants. They would tell their children the same stories. The legend of the Ox would not die.
Talen and Treve never crossed paths again.
Long Live the Ox!