The two men were given until dawn to prepare. Fortunately, they had chosen to use swords, not pistols, weapons that Fortuno had never quite understood. As he cleaned his blade in the garden, he hoped that Griffon would not attempt to unbalance the stakes by using necromancy, although, with so many people around, it was unlikely. As he finished polishing, he heard footsteps, and saw Miranda coming towards him. She was wearing a thin silk cloak over her shoulders and it suddenly occurred to Fortuno that she was only wearing her night-gown underneath.
‘Please, call me Alexander.’
‘This duel isn’t going to end at first blood… he means to kill you, and you’d kill him just as gladly.’
Fortuno turned away from her and there was bitterness in his voice when he replied.
‘Maybe so… but why should you care? You’ve only known me a matter of days, now go back inside. I’m sure you’ve got beds to make or dishes to wash.’
The slap brought mild-mannered Alexander Fortuno back to reality and he made to apologise, but Miranda was too quick for him.
‘I may be just a servant, but that doesn’t mean I can be told how to feel, that I can’t care about my superiors. You obviously don’t care about your life, but maybe I do!’
She stormed off back inside the mansion, before being caught gently by Fortuno’s arm. She turned, preparing to reply with several more angry words, when he kissed her passionately on the lips. They did not part until some time later, neither saying a word as Fortuno slowly made his way towards the far field, leaving the young maidservant quite speechless.
William Griffon was already waiting on the field, casually chatting to several distinguished yet slightly drunk guests who were longing to see a good fight. When Fortuno arrived, there was no change in his mood, he continued to gossip, ignoring his opponent altogether.
When dawn fell shortly after, Lord Weaver staggered up to them, followed by several of his friends, all of whom seemed to be in a similar state of recovery from the festivities the night before. They were somewhat apprehensivce despite being excited to watch the two men square off, officially duels had been outlawed for some time.
‘Gentlemen, this is to be a good, clean fight, straight to the point, first blood and no further. We are of course, gentlemen, settling a matter of honour, not ruffians.’
Fortuno gripped the hilt of his sword tightly, and looked to the observant Miguel, who was fixed on Griffon, ready to handle any dark magic the necromancer might attempt to utilise against them.
There was a quick scraping noise as swords were unsheathed and the battle began. Fortuno struck first, striking clumsily at Griffon, who easily parried and retaliated, pushing himself forwards. They swung, parried, ducked and dove, with neither combatant gaining the upper hand. The observers remained at a safe distance, unable to hear the combatants.
‘So, “Lord Savernake” how did you survive our last encounter?’ Fortuno hissed, parrying a vicious blow to the waist.
‘When you open yourself to the dark side of sorcery, you find many new abilities available to you. My forces were scattered, I could not acheive victory, so I decided to bide my time. You merely needed to think I was dead, you’d let your guard down and then I would strike.’
He locked blades with Fortuno before kicking at his opponent’s knees, knocking him backwards. Miguel stepped towards them, but Captain Negan stopped him from pressing forward. Alexander rolled away from Griffon’s strike and the necromancer pursued him across the grass, the guests following slowly behind.
‘And your explosive entrance? More theatrics?’ Alexander leapt to his feet in time to parry a stroke to his head.
‘A necessity. Draining the life energy of others is the only way to keep oneself sustained after such a procedure. The process requires a tremendous amount of energy… and a tremendous amount of pain.’
‘Oh my heart bleeds for you.’
‘And of course, gaining the attention of two of my hated enemies was quite a bonus.’
As they reached the edge of the woods, the melee became more furious and Griffon began to gain the upper hand. Moving like a viper, he kicked Fortuno’s legs out from under him and aimed his blade at the younger man’s throat.
‘Take your first blood and be done with it Griffon.’
‘Oh no my friend. We play for keeps. I’ll tell that pretty young thing you were dancing with that it was all an accident. She’ll believe me… after all, I can be very persuasive.’
For an instant, Fortuno saw past the necromancer’s illusion as his handsome visage seemed to flicker away to reveal a frightening skull like face. But only for an instant.
Fortuno’s eyes filled with fury, and the anger gave him strength. Ducking below Griffon’s swing, he sliced the other man’s hand, forcing him to drop his sword, before slashing across the chest, which sent the necromancer tumbling to the ground.
‘That was unwise Griffon.’
The sorcerer stood over his fallen foe, blade aimed directly at his chest.
‘I don’t suppose there’s any chance of surrender?’
‘As you said my friend… we play for keeps.’
He raised his sword and swung it straight down towards Griffon’s heart.
A warning bullet whistled by Fortuno’s hand and smashed into the tree. Captain Negan held a smoking pistol in his hand.
‘Don’t move Mr. Fortuno.’
Miguel ran up to his friend, making him lower the blade. Griffon appeared to have passed out, and Dr. Emerson checked him for a pulse.
‘Still alive. We’ll need something to bind this wound with.’
Miguel leant towards Fortuno.
‘Attempted murder in an illegal duel between gentlemen…. coupled with a charge of impersonating one of her Majesty’s officers and you’ll be looking at a very short rope’
Alexander nodded gravely.
‘What should I do Miguel?’
‘Go. Run away until I contact you. Griffon’s in no state to cause any trouble at the moment. I will deal with him when the time is right’
Fortuno fled the scene, ignoring the protests of Lord Weaver and his gentlemen, or the shouts of the indignant Negan, who struggled to catch up with the light-footed sorcerer.
Fortuno brushed his way past several overhanging branches, and nearly tripped over Sam, who was clutching a large minnow in his mouth.
‘Careful now, what’s the hurry? Spilt the wine over his lordship or something?’
‘No, I nearly killed someone.’
‘That’s not like you at all Alexander.’
‘It was William Griffon.’
‘Ah. Perfectly understandable.’
Fortuno paused and raised a quizzical eyebrow.
‘That’s it? No ‘How is he still alive?’ or ‘What are we going to do?’
‘Both pointless questions largely due to the fact that you have no idea how to answer either of them.’ Sam pointed out, with flawless logic. Fortuno was about to scold his casually indifferent familiar when Negan arrived, flanked by two men also dressed in military attire. Fortuno had no time to wonder how the two others had arrived on the scene so quickly, until he realised that they had probably come to watch the fight.
‘There’s no use in running Mr. Fortuno. Come with us now and maybe you’ll get a few years off for coming quietly.’ Negan spoke in a dry voice, although his tone suggested that he knew Fortuno would try to run regardless. According to Miguel, who had picked up a good deal of gossip during his time at Nottingham, the Captain had once kept a prisoner locked up for an extra three months for attempting to bribe his way out of trouble. He knew that Negan would not be swayed by anything he said.
‘I’m going to count to three. By three, you’ll be standing with your hands in the air and your sword on the ground. One…Two……’
On three, the Captain pulled back the hammer of his gun, and Fortuno bolted. At the same time. Miguel dove onto the Captain, knocking him to the ground. The pistol went off, hitting Fortuno in the shoulder as he fled out into the trees, knocking him to the ground and bringing his escape to an abrupt end.
‘Stop, don’t hurt him! Let him go.’
Lord Weaver had arrived on the scene, puffing and panting, Dr. Emerson at his heels, clutching at his wig. Miguel stood up and with an incredibly exaggerated gesture put his hands in the air. Negan brushed himself down and turned to Weaver.
‘Sir that man refused to come to justice, and his accomplice here physically assaulted me.’
‘They are the Queen’s men and…’
‘I doubt that sir. These two men have infiltrated your house under false pretences.’
‘That may be so, but I don’t want either of them harmed.’
‘You’d need not be concerned my lord. Mr. Fortuno will be in a perfectly fit state when he faces the gallows…’
‘Sir, sir!’ One of Negan’s accomplices piped up in a thick Scottish brogue.
‘Not now Scriven!’
‘But sir, he’s gone.’
He glanced around to see that Scriven was right, for in the confusion, the wounded Fortuno had slipped away.
‘Then find him man!’ The diminutive officer blinked in surprise, before a glare from his captain sent him scurrying into the trees. Negan turned to Miguel, fixing him with an imperious stare.
‘Sir, as an accomplice to attempted murder, you will stand trial at the next possible opportunity. As for your friend…I’m sure the hangman will greatly appreciate another set of boots in his wardrobe.’
That was 1872.