Losers Lose, Legends Live Forever
Sometimes victory is the greatest curse in the world.
This ballad was shared by Anita ‘ja Dansere at the 55th Conclave of Bards.
“If ya lose a fight, ya better pray for death,” said Raxity.
Her voice resembled glass breaking beneath feet more than human speech.
“There’s nothing more that awaits ya after that,” she continued. “No fame. No glory. Death. I have never lost a fight in these eight-hundred-thirty-two years I have lived. I cherish that more than any other feat I have accomplished, and there have been many. Many! That was the whole point.”
She shifted on the bed and scratched at a long old scar behind her left ear.
“Wouldn’t have gotten away from my Da if I couldn’t fight. Mean bastard. A cowardly shell of a man. Beaten to a pulp by his own daughter.” Raxity spat on the ground. “Pathetic. I had to get away. There weren’t many like me. Even fewer now. But in the beginning… I found my kin.”
Raxity stared into the distance for a moment. Her breath grew heavy, pushing her thick belly up and down. The large muscles in her arms tensed as she gripped her mug tightly. Then, she relaxed.
“Fighting was how we connected. Not each other, mind ya. Not yet. We fought together. Anyone who needed enforcement — and had the coin — could obtain our services. Our record preceded us. That’s the most important thing, ya know? Reputation is everything.”
Raxity looked at her hands, worn and calloused, but somehow fresh. She stretched her fingers, gripping the air, watching her knuckles swell. A frown creeped across her face, but she shook her hands and forced a smile.
“Was my idea to take things a step further. All the deities in this world, surely one could enhance our legend. You just have to know the price. There’s always a price….
“We all lost blood that first day. There were twenty-five of us in all, draining our arms into that filthy pit. I was supposed to light the pit ablaze for whatever god or demon we’d pledged to, but I’d already drunk my weight in wine. I completely forgot!”
Raxity let out a snorting laugh. She took another swig of ale as she sat on her hotel bed, staring at the wall, listening to the sounds of Amalcross on a lively night. Trading. Singing. Fighting.
“Good thing I forgot. Lilicus put the torch down there instead. The blood exploded with flame. FWOOSH! Swallowed him whole. We started at twenty-five, but we were twenty-four when the damn thing blessed us with otherworldly strength and long life. Or cursed us.
“It called us ‘Yenders.’ It didn’t talk to us, just… told us. We just suddenly knew. There was an understanding of what was going on. Not only the power we were given, but how we could become stronger. It put the target on everyone’s chest.”
Raxity smiled a sick, fading smile.
“We would be rewarded if we bested one of our own in combat. Death would come later. In a fight between two Yenders, the winner would gain the loser’s power. We went a whole century without laying as much as a finger on one another. Not violently, at least.”
She snorted another laugh, then burped. Raxity licked her lips, remembering some long-dead lover. When the memory passed, she continued.
“No one can stay friends forever. You remember that, young one.”
“I’m fifty-seven years old,” a voice remarked from the other room.
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