Brazen Men and Brazen Bulls
by: Ken Williams
Ivy stood at the edge of the Festival, weapon unsheathed. She preferred not being part of the Festival. It was a time of loud people, annoying nobles, and little respect for the lower-profile members of Hydrosian society. Ivy Watr and Moss Stone, though two of the greatest fighters in Hydros, and the best female fighters in Gelondar, were rarely more than covert operators and bodyguards after the war. It was fair work for them, as they were trained in close-quarters combat from youth. Ivy had been taught by Hydrops the Second in order to defend herself from the Purple Wave or whatever would come afterward. Moss had primarily trained herself in the woods. Malfus Stone had stopped training his daughter in combat once she changed form, as if physical form changed the spirit of a warrior that roared within most Hydrosians.
As much as Ivy hated the Festival, she reminded herself that she wasn’t there because of the Festival. She was there for her older cousin. Hydrops the Second was turning ten and she wouldn’t miss his tenth birthday for the world. She hadn’t seen Hydrops outside for a while. Her guess was that he had had enough of the people of Hydros being loud and obnoxious. Who could blame him?
She had taken to leaning on a wall and kept inside her mind until a Hydrosian man came up to her.
“You better be careful with that weapon, ma’am. You could hurt someone if you’re not careful,” he said as if to sound flirtacious while insulting her
He laughed and Ivy scowled. She readjusted herself on the wall and feigned slipping, striking a cut half an inch from the man’s nucleus.
“I guess you’re right,” she said sarcastically adding a threatening hint, “someone could get hurt if I’m not careful. Or if you’re not.”
“Whatever. Try not to be so harsh, Lady Watr. I was just trying to be friendly.”
Ivy rolled her eyes, “I don’t need friends like you.”
“Riiiiight, cause you have Axemar Deep, right? So is the Axemar a cover for you and the Stone Spear or is it our beloved High Landsponge?”
Ivy was near speechless in anger. She didn’t know how to respond to the blatant disrespect for her, Hyran, her title, and Hydrops, so she punched him so hard he fell to the ground. No one bothered to help him up.
He stood up quickly, slipping on his ascent, and turned to walk away in a huff and yelled out to her, “Bitch!” , when he ran into Moss on patrol. She crossed her arms and gave the man a death stare, on par with one of Hydrops’ psychic stares.
“I know you didn’t just call my friend a bitch. You wanna explain what you said, tough guy?”
“I didn’t say anything!” he said defiantly.
Moss looked at Ivy. “Ives, think Hydrops’d do anything if I put this punk in his place?”
Ivy laughed, “Hahaha, nope!”
Moss smiled and kicked him in his lowers then picked him up and threw him into the forest. Ivy and Moss both laughed. The two leaned on the wall together and high fived.
“Why is it every year this happens?” Ivy asked, rolling her eyes.
“Every year? How about every time we leave the house?”
“Every time? Don’t people know you stash like… everything in your clothes? Speaking of which, can I borrow a knife?”
Ivy put her sword in its sheathe and Moss said “Sure” and let a shiv fall from a frill in the top of her dress. The ones in the top could be taken out. The blades in the skirt of her dress were designed in.
“Thanks, a knife is better than a sword here.”
“Not a problem. What’d you get His Highness?”
Ivy laughed, “I got him some jewelry. He has everything and he’d get a kick out of him, and I figured you’d get him a headband.”
The two laughed together.
“What’s wrong with headbands?”
“Nothing… with your headbands. You make quality. Actually, all of your weapons and armor are quality.”
She laughed, “Of course! Do-it-yourself projects used to be the crux of the Hydrosian military, back when we ruled the world. Now that we’re going for round two, why not bring back that part of the culture?”
Their conversation was then interrupted by a mob of people carrying a Hydrosian with a black bag covering his head. The crowd was chanting “Steam cook! Steam cook! Steam cook!”
Ivy and Moss went to where the mob was going: to Hydrops. Once they reached the High Landsponge, Lord Suille Keele, the new War Minister came up to Hydrops.
“High Landsponge Watr, I bring you the present from Lord Flowrs. He retrieved this just before his unfortunate passing. We give to you, Runar Leafe, the leader of the Purple Wave!”
Hydrops grinned, and the people chanted louder, “Steam cook! Steam cook! Steam cook!”
Two Hydrosians rolled the Steam Cooker to the square. It was a metal pot just big enough to fit a Hydrosian in. A fire would be lit under it and as it heated, the Hydrosian inside would boil. After long enough, the steam would cook the nucleus until the Hydrosian died. It was likely the second more severe method of execution to Hydrosians, the first being an electric chair, which the High Landsponge had to endure.
Hydrops spoke to the crowd, “I promise to you, I will deal with this terrorist, but I will not cook him! Please, put him down!”
Lord Keele put the Purple Wave leader down and removed his hood. Hydrops walked over to the man and sat down, crossing his legs. Moss and Ivy came closer, so they could hear.
“Mr. Leafe, I’m glad to finally meet you. When did you take over the Purple Wave?”
“A year ago,” was the response.
“Why did you join?”
“I wanted King Hydrops gone. He got us into so many wars. He near destroyed our nation. We needed someone better.”
“I can empathize. I believe you truly are a good man. You took the wrong measures, but you are not the first, and you will not be the last.”
“I don’t blame you,” Hydrops said.
Quick as a flash came Hydrops’ knife to Leafe’s nucleus. He didn’t see it coming. Hydrops stood up and looked at the setting sun. He smiled. Ivy knew him. She knew why he smiled. He had hope.