Autumn’s duck turned into a slide across the mud. The Grey One’s crouch turned into a tumble. The ax flew. The audience cheered.
They slid across the mud until they were nearly touching, their wooden weapons locked against each other.
“Show, go on, yadda, yadda.” The Grey One whispered it under the cheers.
“Yep.” Autumn hopped to her feet, her ax held in a guard position. “Avast! What scallywag intrudes on our fair duel?”
Somewhere in the crowd, someone complained about pirate talk. Autumn ignored him. She wasn’t even getting paid for this.
“Indeed! Come forth, you villain, that we might see your face before we smash it in!”
The crowed made a low ooooo noise. They liked The Grey One. Possibly because of his killer biceps under the thin shirt.
“Art thou to cowardly to come forth?” Autumn shook her ax. Something, something, there had to be something in the strands. Somewhere. She reached out with her free hand, making it look like a dramatic gesture. “It is the most cowardly of things, to fight from-“
She was expecting it this time, and made a smooth dive of her duck. A second ax embedded itself in the wood next to the first.
“Grey,” she muttered, tilting her head that way. He nodded, and walked casually behind her. She pitched her voice to carry. “Back up, folks, if you would, a performance such as this requires air. The first three rows may get bloody; we have leeches on staff if there be a problem.”
Grey yanked the axes out of the wood, and handed one to her. They twirled their new weapons, getting a feel for them, the heavier weight, the much more deadly edges.
Autumn let Grey take lead. Somewhere out there, someone was doing something. Someone was attacking them. “Come, thou coward! What say thee? Why would you hide such skill, such grace with a weapon?”
“Art thou besotted with his throwing with never having seen his face?” The Grey One moved forward, stalking their invisible prey.
“Besotted? Nay. I simply wish to thank him for the fine blade. And it may be a she, thou knowest!”
The strands were always twisted at a Ren Faire. People cared, deeply, and those people laid thick lines on the earth. Other people came and went, leaving thin lines, quickly fading. Someone throwing weapons into a crowd… “Oh bless us with a hammer.”
“Mmm?” Grey asked the one sotto voce and then threw out a bellow of laughter to cover it. “A woman? Nay, for there cannot be more than one as wild as thou and as sharp, not in all the land.”
“You flatter me, Grey One. Surely a woman could – duck!” They ducked and rolled in sync, coming up near each other on the other side of the clearing. “You know tanglers?” she hissed. “A woman could sow chaos as well as any man!” Her voice went back up for the challenge.
“If it is chaos we’re looking for -” They both looked, dramatically, at the hammer, a Mjölnir replica, sitting next to Autumn’s booth. “-well, then, a woman I’m sure it could be!”
“A woman,” Autumn taunted, “or a man lost in the liquor.” Someone was trying to create havoc. Terror, perhaps? As benign as her sister was, Autumn knew that was not always the case with tanglers.
The Grey One was doing something complicated with his off hand. Autumn kept up her banter to pull the attention away from him. “For as we all know, the men of the species are more messy than the female!”
Some of the crowd booed. Some cheered. But they were still listening. Still watching. Autumn shifted her feet, knowing she wasn’t going to be able to get solid footing in this muck.
“Aye!” The Grey One had finished his twisting; she could see the way an errant set of strands trailed out from his hand, now, like a flail, a magical cat o’ nine tails. “Aye, the male is messier, certainly.” He scooped up mud with his ax and flung it over Autumn – spraying some of the crowd with the splatter. “Thou’rt as clean and shiny as a fresh-minted coin, aren’t thou?”
“Why, you, you…” Autumn scooped deep with her ax and splashed muck up, intentionally missing Grey with most of it. If she aimed correctly – there. “And down! Thou varlet!” They ducked in time as a long spear came flying at them; they ducked, Autumn turned it into a roll and dive, and Grey threw his strand-handful: not a flail, but a bolo.
Their hidden attacker went down, suddenly visible and very much tied up. Autumn landed on him, pinning him shoulders-and-knees. “And I’ve caught thee, vandal!”
The cheers of the audience were deafening, and they only served to strengthen the ties around their captive. Autumn sat back on her heels and bowed from that position, grinning from ear to ear.
It ought to rain at the Ren Faire more often.
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