Writing by: Ryan Pietz

Pitch 13, Duel 1: Deirdre and Lerril

“Are you ready?” prepped Kane as the misfortunate merchant and the boy from the Abyss strode through the tunnels below the coliseum.

Zell replied hesitantly, “I think so.”

An afroed orc clad in a bright orange jacket and matching pants met the duo before the entrance to the arena.

“Hi-yo, Mr. Pfeffersack,” greeted the entertainer, celebrity, and world renown bard Pojazz.

Kane shook the orc’s hand cordially.  “So you’re the surprise celebrity announcer?”

“That I am,” replied the orc, turning his attention to the main attraction.  “The cognomen’s Pojazz, but you may call me Po, Zell of the Abyss.”

“Hi, Po,” said Zell with a hint of anxiety in his voice.  Peering behind the orc into the packed stadium, Zell admitted nervously, “I’ve never been in front of such a large crowd before.”

“Do not tow the line of the hoi polloi.  Their opinion is not of import –- mine is,” jested the orc, a smidge too seriously.

Kane reminded his companion, “You’re not alone, right?”

“Right,” resounded Zell, his confidence rising.

“You have your vials and mercy stickers, there are clerics on hand to heal injuries, and if you are taken to the Abyss, I’ll bring you back.  Is there anything else you’re worried about?”

After a moment’s thought, Zell decided, “No.”

“You’re gonna DO IT!” Kane encouraged.

“I’m gonna DO IT!” shouted Zell.

Pojazz clapped and lauded, “I adore the dynamism — such pizzazz!”

A tall, purple-skinned, female humanoid approached the group.  Along the middle of the creature was a zipper-like seam of teeth.  She wore a bracer on her right forearm, but the left arm was bare, save for a pair of arcane tattoos and a very prominent and very arcane scar.  She brandished an oversized great sword with a three hand handle.  Zell glanced self-consciously at his modest blade.

Twin voices resounded as the creature spoke, “We are Deirdre and Lerril.  We are ready to challenge Zell of the Abyss.”

“Hi, I’m Zell,” piped Zell enthusiastically.

Kane and Pojazz peered around the solitary humanoid standing before them.  Pojazz whispered to Kane, “She’s either crazy or with child.”

Kane whispered back to Pojazz, “I think they are demons.”

“She’s pulchritudinous for a demon.”

“Multiple demons often inhabit a single body,” explained Kane, “and why can’t demons be… never mind.”

Overhearing the easily audible conversation and excited by the prospect of dueling a demon, Zell asked his opponent, “I’ve never fought a demon before.  Are you a demon?”

“No,” answered the demon-esque creature.

Zell pulled Kane aside.  “That’s just what a demon would say!”

Kane thought for a moment, “It’s not exactly empirical evidence, but-”

“We are not demons!” snapped Deirdre and Lerril.

“If you are not demons, then what do you mean we?” inquired Kane.

“Deirdre is the right, and Lerril is the left.”

“What are you?” asked Po, fearing he would have to call the creature by name every time he referenced them.

Deirdre and Lerril declared, “We are soldiers.”

“That’s not exactly a race,” pressed Kane.

“So?”

Pojazz tried to find an alternative title, “What is your family name?”

“Our names are Deirdre and Lerril.”

“Where are you from?”

“The kingdom of Mahald and Cuperdra.”

“Does that make you Mahaldian or Cuperdran?” asked Kane.

“Neither.”

Pojazz reiterated his original goal, “What is your preference for collective reference?”

“Deirdre and Lerril.”

“Don’t you have another name?” pleaded the stymied orc.

Perplexed and somewhat annoyed by the line of questions, Lerril replied, “Why?”

Neurotically organized, Kane confessed, “For my own taxonomic interests.”

“And brevity,” added Pojazz, causing Kane to wonder when the bombastic bard ever valued brevity.

“Deirdre and Lerril is too staccato.  Consider this, the Tyrian Twins,” suggested the orc, in search of a more thrilling moniker.

“Tyrian?” inquired Deirdre and Lerril.

Pojazz clarified, “Tyrian purple.”

“But they aren’t Tyrian purple,” objected Kane.  “They are more of a Byzantium.”

Pojazz shrugged.  “I capitulate to your chromatic expertise, but Byzantium rolls off the tongue about as well as Deirdre and Lerril.”

Lerril barked, “The Tyrian Twins is just as many syllables as Deirdre and Lerril.”

Zell chipped in, “I would have just gone with plum.”

Deirdre separated her head from Lerril to better examine the color of their skin.

“Plum demon?” mused Po.  “It has a certain je ne sais quoi.”

Kane affirmed, “It’s definitely unique, pithy, and accurate.”

“We aren’t demons!”

Pojazz riposted, “Plum Gestalt!”

“Demon is better,” voted Kane, Zell, and Deirdre.

“Enough of this blather; we are here to do battle,” interrupted Lerril, who took no interest in taxonomy or nomenclature.

The arena was divided into four sections, one for each nation.  A multinational coalition of guards and walls of force maintained peace between the divisions.  Despite the open air, the stench of blood and sweat hung like a fog.

Pojazz, the officiator of the tournament, entered his enchanted broadcasting bubble and began, “We are broadcasting live from the coliseum in spectacular Gawain city!  In the red corner with a record of 29-0-1, hailing from kingdom of Mahald and Cuperdra, fighting for the Dark Lord — Deirdre and Lerril — the plum demon!”

The Humans booed, the Elves clapped patronizingly, the Dwarves excitedly hurled ale upon the magic barrier, and the Orcs set fire to their seats.

Pojazz continued the introductions, “And in the blue corner, without a record, hailing from Komoto, fighting for the Gawain Empire –- Zell — the boy from the Abyss!”

The Humans cheered, the Elves clapped patronizingly, the Dwarves laughed drunkenly, and the Orcs fanned the flames.

Kane hurried to the outskirts of the arena and set up his force fields along with a banner advertising Kane Pfeffersack’s Magic Items and Artifacts, Roscoe’s Waffle House, and the Psion’s Den.  Kane shouted last minute instructions to Zell, “Remember, after you win hold up your mini banner so everyone can see.”

“Won’t your companion be joining you?” inquired the Deirdre of Zell.

“Sometimes I get transported to this place I call the Abyss, and he brings me back.  Other than that, he says that he’d just get in the way,” explained Zell.

Lerril mumbled to her other half, “He’s small and uninteresting; you can handle him, D.”

Zell proposed, “Would you like to duel?”

“I accept your challenge,” agreed Deirdre with a friendly wink.

Seeing that the two combatants had finally finished their pleasantries, Pojazz commenced the match.  “Demon or Zell – Duel One – Let’s Rock!”

Drawing his sword, Zell charged forward.  Dierdre dug her foot into the ground and readied her weapon.  Anticipating her opponent’s path, she swung her sword in a broad horizontal stroke intending to hit the boy with the flat of the blade.  Zell deftly hurtled the attack and slashed twice at Deirdre’s arm and leg.  Unphased, Deirdre whipped her sword back toward the boy.  Zell sprung backward, beyond the blade’s reach; leapt forward, landing a barrage of thrusts and strikes; and retreated to assess the condition of his competitor.

Pojazz’s voice echoed through the arena, “Zell’s adroit attacks are numerous, but has he the heft to harm his foe?  Deirdre’s speed is lacking, but she only needs one blow!”

Deirdre cut a swath through the dirt toward Zell.  As her blade left the ground, Zell did likewise, springing into the air.  Deirdre’s sword chased the boy upward, but Zell was too quick and too close.  Mimicking his minotaur sundering feat, Zell split Deirdre and Lerril cleanly down the middle.

As the severed opponent hobbled and wobbled, Pojazz yelled, “I prejudged the pint-sized prodigy.  His Herculean cut has cleaved his challenger in twain!”

Hopping closer together, electricity leapt between the two halves as the pair reunited.

“Just hit the boy, D,” complained Lerril, eager for a more suitable challenge.

“He’s too fast, L,” replied Deirdre.

Lerril’s scar glowed as magenta sparks sprung from her hand to Deirdre’s blade.  Deirdre swung the sword from side to side with magically endowed agility.

“The first spell is slung,” commented Pojazz. “Zell’s scrumtrilescent swordsmanship versus Lerril’s manxome thaumaturgy!  Who will wield the will of the warrior?”

Zell marveled, “Wow, that’s neat.  I’ll try too!”  Recalling his waterfall meditation and the flavorful flow of ramen, the boy focused his mind.  Penumbral energies swirled about Zell, converged into his sword, and vanished — along with his weapon.

“Bugger,” sighed Zell, disappointed with his tyronic chi control.  He blushed with embarrassment while rubbing the back of his head.

Pojazz hollered, “In an inauspicious action, Zell has disarmed himself!”

“We are merciful; we will accept your surrender,” offered Deirdre and Lerril.

“No thanks,” said Zell.  “Even if I don’t have a sword, I’m gonna DO IT!”

With enhanced speed, Deirdre stabbed and slashed, but Zell danced on the outskirts of her range.  Lerril grew tired of toying with the boy.  The scar on her arm blazed brilliant blue as lancets of ice sprung forth from her hand.  Zell ducked under the chilling missiles and made a hasty retreat in their wake.

“Running is a tried and true tactic, but Zell has yet to even slow his adversary,” cautioned Pojazz.

Giving chase, Lerril lowered her hand down to her side and raised it up to the sky.  Zell glanced back as icy stalagmites shot up from the ground just behind him.  He dove to the side, tumbled to his feet, and continued his escape.  Lerril stomped her foot on the ground, summoning a wave of frozen spikes to spring forth from the dirt.  Turning around just in time, Zell gripped a spire and rode it into the air.

“Ho, ho!  Lerril’s magic is marvelous, but Zell makes cowardice chic!” proclaimed Pojazz.

Unable to keep up with Zell’s flight, Deirdre and Lerril knelt down.  Zell caught his breath beside the patch of initial ice shards still protruding from the ground.  Lerril placed her palm upon the dirt, causing a wide circle of frozen spears to spring up around Zell, trapping him in a ring of icicle blades.  Zell turned around to face his opponent, placing his hand upon a frozen shard. Lerril raised a clenched fist to the sky and brought it down with the full force of her anger.  A massive boulder fell from the heavens, crushing the encircled area.  Shrapnel of rock and ice showered the already scarred battlefield.

In horror, Pojazz muttered to himself, as well as the audience, “Zell has been crushed by a meteor… in a demonic display of destruction.”

“That was a bit much, L,” expressed Deirdre, mournful that the boy had to die.

Feeling less sympathetic, Lerril held, “He had every opportunity to surrender, D.”

Kane scanned the cloud of ice and dust left by the attack, but there were no bean poles in the haze.

“A terrific duel culminates in tragic demise,” stated Pojazz stoically.

The Humans grieved in somber silence, the Elves clapped patronizingly, the Dwarves jeered at the soldiers’ overkill, and the Orcs burst into victory dances around the fires.

As Deirdre and Lerril turned to walk away, Zell shouted from atop the boulder, “Are you giving up?”

The plum demon looked up to see Zell standing atop the boulder, wielding an icicle shard like a sword.

Pojazz screamed with relief and excitement, “Zell is ok!  He sliced the ice with his stopgap saber.”

Deirdre pleaded in concern tinged with agitation, “Do you have a death wish, boy?”

“No, I don’t want anyone to die,” asserted Zell genuinely.

Sparks skittered across Lerril’s scar, and lightning shot from her hand, exploding the crown of the boulder.  Springing off the explosion, Zell soared high overhead.  As he descended Deirdre was prepared and thrust her sword at Zell.  Deflecting the tip of her blade with his ice shard, Zell narrowly evaded the attack and planted the icicle into Lerril’s scar.  Zell kicked off of his opponent’s chest and tumbled away to a safe distance.

Lerril bellowed a blood-curtling cry as the scar bled mystical energy.

Pojazz howled excitedly, “The first meaningful blow has been dealt!  What card will the plum demon play?”

Deirdre quickly pulled the shard from her companion’s arm.

“The diamond dagger is dismissively discarded by the indefatigable duo,” commented Pojazz less enthusiastically.

Zell apologized, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to find your weak point.  That sounded like it really hurt.”

Deirdre and Lerril glared at Zell and shouted, “We were merciful.  You had every opportunity.  We will send you to the Ultimate Void!”

“Is that like the Abyss?” inquired Zell, showing no signs of fear.

Enraged by Zell’s insolence, Deirdre and Lerril split in twain.  A dark energy swirled between the two halves.  The surrounding area was slowly drawn into the stygian sphere.  At first only dust and dirt were lifted up into the shadowy globe, but soon Zell began to struggle against the pull.  Using ice shards like tent spikes, Zell nailed his cloak to the ground.

Pojazz presented, “What will Zell do?  His speed is trumped by the void’s draw!”

Zell desperately clung to the icy bolts. His cloak began to tear.  He careened helplessly toward the void.

Plum demon boasted, “Witness our power.”

“But I’m gonna DO IT!” yelled Zell, raising his hands to protect his face as he tumbled toward the void.

A black beam erupted from the swirling darkness, engulfing Zell in an explosion of umbral energy.  Reunified, Deirdre and Lerril shook their head out of pity for their fallen foe, but the dark aura of the explosion continued to grow.  Exhausted, the pair scrambled away, but the expanding tenebrous force overtook them.  The blast consumed nearly the entire battlefield and blinked out of existence.

Pojazz gawked at the crater, and waited for something, anything, so he could announce the triumphant victor.  There was nothing left.  There was no winner.  Both parties were engulfed in the plum demon’s ultimate attack.

After a few minutes of mouth-agape astonishment outside of the blast zone, Kane realized that Zell’s surprise appearance was well overdue.  Withdrawing the Magic Mirror, he recited, “Magic Mirror Eject.”  An unconscious Zell plopped onto the dirt at the edge of the arena.

Pojazz cheered in relief, “Zell has returned!  He teleported to the Abyss!”

The Human’s reveled in victory, the Elves clapped patronizingly, the Dwarves applauded in respect for Zell’s moxie, and the Orcs extinguished their fires in grief.

The announcer’s cheer declined into mourning.  “Let us not forget his fallen foe, the valiant Valkyries Deirdre and Lerril.”

Kane fanned Zell with a mini-banner and waved smelling salts under the boy’s nose.

Zell shot upright.  “Did I do it?”  The last thing he remembered was careening towards the void.

Kane eyed Zell, glanced at the crater, and upon considering the absence of the opponent, rendered his verdict, “Yeah, sure.”

“What happened?” asked Zell, noticing the devastation.  “Where are Deirdre and Lerril?”

“I don’t know,” confessed Kane.  “There was a huge explosion, and everything disappeared.”

Zell dreaded, “What if they are in the Abyss?”

“No problem,” proclaimed Kane brandishing the mirror.  “Magic Mirror Eject.”  Nothing happened.  Kane repeated the phrase several times with the same result.

Zell sat down on the edge of the crater and moped, “I don’t know what to do.”

Kane put the mirror away, and walked over to the boy. “About what?”

“Deirdre and Lerril.  I can’t fight if it means sending people to the Abyss.”

“That’s why you have to fight,” contended Kane, confident in Zell’s ability to succeed.

Perplexed, Zell turned to Kane.

“You can’t hide from your curse.  You have to overcome it.  That’s why you’re here.  You are going to win the tournament to learn the secrets of the Abyss.  We don’t know if Deirdre and Lerril are in the Abyss, but if they are, you will find them.  You’re gonna DO IT!”

Zell uttered quietly, his self-doubt lingering, “You’re right.  I’m gonna do it.”

-

(A few minutes earlier.)

Zell slowly lowered his arms from his face and examined his body in disbelief; the dark energy had channeled directly into the Abyss, leaving him unharmed.  As Zell surveyed his surroundings in search of his opponent, Deirdre’s foot found the side of Zell’s head, dropping him into a heap on the ground.

Zell’s tenacity had stoked his opponent’s smoldering rage, but the roundhouse kick to the head served as suitable catharsis.

Lerril praised Deirdre, “Nice kick, D.”

“Thanks, L,” beamed Deirdre, relieved to be rid of the plucky opponent and proud of their victory.

Upon taking in their surroundings, they asked each other, “Where are we?”

Deirdre complained, “It’s dreadfully gloomy.”

“D, look there.” Lerril motioned to Zell’s sword jutting from a mound of arena dirt.

“Did he bring us here?” wondered Deirdre.

Picking up the sword, Lerril mused, “I believe he did.”

“We can ask him when he wakes,” decided Deirdre.

“No.  We can’t,” replied Lerril grimly, gesturing toward the empty ground where Zell was resting.

“Did he just leave us here!?” screamed Deirdre in fear.

Lerril’s scar glowed as she hissed, “Curse that boy.”

After taking a minute to calm down, Deirdre consoled, “He will be back.”

Together, the plum demon pined insidiously, “And we will be waiting.”