Vendredi's Parry

Authors: Daniel J. Stern

Hosted by VendrediAntiques.com


Disclaimers: Unfortunately we don't own F13 the Series or any of it's characters...which is a bummer, 'cause if we did, it would have been out on DVD official release by now! Also, this story was reprinted from Volume 1 (October 1997) of The Vault...a fanzine that had been tied to the old website. If you are the author and would rather your work wasn't showcased on the site, then please contact us and we'll take care of it...Now, on to the story!

"Four!"

The class switched from their resting stance and snapped their blades into the correct position.

"Six!"

Another shift, the fencers changing their stance with military precision.

"Great," barked the instructor. "Take ten, and we'll work on counter-six."

The instructor made his way through the class to the side of the room, and undid his mask. When he had wiped the swear and long hair from his eyes, he saw Jarrod Jesup standing before him. Jarrod stepped forward awkwardly, stammering, "Coach Temple? Can I speak to you a moment?"

"No, you may not, Jarrod. We've already been through this. The decision is made, the case is closed. You just don't have what it takes."

"But sir, fencing is in my blood!"

"Well, Jarrod," sighed Temple, "it certainly isn't in your arms or feet, so you'd better get used to the idea." The coach felt bad about that comment, even as he said it, ad tried halfheartedly to pat the boy on the back. Jarrod stepped aside, and seized the coach by the wrist.

"Don't you touch me, Temple. Don't you god damn touch me! How dare you!"

The coach tried to pull his hand away, but Jarrod wasn't letting go. Jarrod leaned in close, spitting his words into the coach's ear.

"I will fence, and I will win!"

"You'll do nothing of the sort!" snorted the coach, appalled at the boy's arrogance. "And you'll leave the property immediately, as in now" With that, the coach freed himself, spun the boy around, and all but threw him through the gym's double-doors.

Jarrod was fuming. The coach was his best, and last, hope at becoming a great fencer, and the man had simply laughed at him. His pride stung with the rawness of the fresh insult. Spinning about, he walked off in a miserable dark huff.

Jarrod walked clear into the city, and it wasn't until he made a wrong turn that he realized that he had strayed into the seedy downtown area, a perfect postcard of urban blight.

The alley he stood in was poorly lit, and his first through was to walk straight out, but he spotted a small phone booth at the other end, and he decided to chance it. The alley was rank with the smell of rotten trash and cluttered with garbage. Jarrod had to snap his hand over his mouth to keep from getting sick. He quickened his pace, and had almost made it when an oily, sore-crusted hand seized him by the collar and dragged him into the darkness.

"Change!" shrieked the filthy wretch, fumbling through Jarrod's pockets.

"Get away, away!" croaked Jarrod, throat thick with fear, feet too stunned to run.

The old man thrust his hand into the boy's pocket, and snatched up the contents: seventy-two cents, and a small silver fencing medal.

"A fencer, eh?" drooled the old bum, stuffing his ill-gotten loot into his shabby coat, "Well, have I gots a gift for you!" The old man shoved Jarrod backward, toppling him off balance into a filthy pool of scum-water. The bum pulled something from his coat and threw it at the boy. Jarrod cowered as the thing clattered in the mud beside him. When he looked, however, he saw the most joyous of things: a fencing foil, the blade broken a full five inches from the hand-guard. Utterly worthless, but possibly useful.

The old man began to lurch forward, babbling madly. Jarrod waited for the man to blink, and when he did, Jarrod snatched up the rusty foil, sprung to his feet, and assumed the traditional fencer's stance.

"My pin, vermin! Give it back!" Jarrod's voice quivered with terror, but he knew a challenge was his only possible chance to get his medal back.

The man took another step, "Not bloody likely!"

Jarrod, although terrified, wanted, needed that pin back. It had been his father's, and he wouldn't leave without it. He decided to call the man's bluff, and with a loud "Ha!" lunged forward, thrusting the broken sword at the bum.

The bum was a good five feet away, and far from the scalpel-sharp tip of the broken blade, but the strangest, most horrible thing happened. The broken blade miraculously extended forth. It reached out, penetrated the old man's chest, and struck him dead where he stood.

Jarrod pulled back in horror, and discovered that the once broken foil was now whole, and polished with an almost unnatural shine. It seemed lighter, and felt wonderfully balanced and graceful in his trembling hand. He even thought about trying a few parries on the spot, but the sound of approaching feet startled him, and he scurried off into the darkness, fearing he would be found beside his very first victory.


Micki was in the rapture of a wonderful night's sleep when the TV in Ryan's room clicked on, filling her ears with the most ungodly din she had ever heard. Stumbling sleepily from her bed, she shuffled growling into Ryan's room, and snarled.

"Micki!" Ryan chirped. "Good...you're up! Check this out, a Three Musketeers festival on the Warfare Channel! God, I love cable!"

"The Warfare Channel?" mumbled Micki. "Surely you aren't serious."

"Yep! Twelve hours of spine-tingling melee! I can't wait..." A second rumpled shape appeared in the doorway; Jack yawned loudly, scowled, and asked, "What time is it? Wait for what? What on earth are you watching at six in the morning?"


"The Warfare Channel," muttered Micki, roughly adjusting her robe.


"I don't want to know..." wheezed Jack, yawning again. He scratched his head and just stood there, as if waiting for someone to tell him what to do. hen, in a flash of inspiration came the first thought of the day.

"I'll get the paper, I guess...it's not like I'll get any sleep in this racket."

Jack's subtle hint was lost on Ryan, who was already lost in the first sword fight of the day.

It wasn't until Jack had a few cups of coffee that he caught sight of a small, strange story on page nineteen about an indigent who had died mysteriously the night before. According to the article, police had originally thought the man had died from a single stab wound to the heart, but upon the completion of and autopsy; it was discovered that the man's heart had been burned to ashes. Jack grabbed the scissors, cut the story out, and pinned it on the cork board beside his desk. He then retrieved the Manifest and took to perusing its list of contents until Micki had finished her morning routine.

"Micki take a look at this...there was a strange death on Beggar's Row last night. I think one of our objects might have been involved."

Micki scanned through the article, looking for the few keys words to clue her in. "What are we looking for?"

"I believe that the murder weapon is exactly that: a weapon. Take a look at this..." he trailed off, passing the open manifest over to Micki, and pointing to the entry at the top of the page.

"D'Artagnian's foil? As in that D'Artagnian?"

"No..." chuckled Jack. "Phillip D'Artagnian, a great fencer in the late 19th century. Actually, this item wasn't actually his..."

Micki looked confused, "Well, why would they call it that then?"

"Because it was the foil that killed him. The blade of his last opponent...it sheared off in a crucial bout, penetrated through his vest, and got him through the heart, killing him instantly."

"Oh," muttered Micki, "that would explain things."

There was a loud clatter from the top of the stairs as Ryan made a beeline for the kitchen. "Commercial break," he shouted, passing them both hurriedly. "What's up?"

"We've got a cursed item in town...a cursed sword!" yelled Micki fter him, trying to get a glimpse of him behind the refrigerator door.

"Sword? Finally! I'm getting tired of cursed typewriters and weathervanes and sweaters. Something obvious." Ryan openly grinned.

"I wouldn't be so sure about that..." grumbled Jack, opening the local paper. He showed them a full page advertisement:

STATE FENCING
CHAMPIONSHIP

Today, 9 a.m.
Main Convention Hall
All Levels Welcome!

"Last year," continued Jack, "there were over two thousand contestants. I'm sure our swordsman will show up there, but I'll be damned if I know how we're going to pick him out of that size of a crowd."

"Easy," snorted Ryan, "we'll just watch to see who wins. Besides, how do you know it was a fencer, and not some schmoe off the street?"

Jack made his way over and stood in the kitchen doorway. "The powers of darkness never just choose anyone; they always make that extra effort to make sure they get...the right person for the job."

"Gotcha," Ryan replied, sizing up his sandwich. "When do we leave?"

"Now."

"Now? As in right now? But the marathon's just starting!" Micki and Jack shot him an icy stare. "Fine," he grumbled, putting his sandwich back in the fridge. "I'll save that for when we're through."

They gathered their coats, climbed into the Mercedes, and headed off to the convention hall.


Jarrod straightened his vest and put his mask on. He was in the fifth pair of fencers to begin the day's competition. He settled back in his stance, nodded that he was ready, and waited for the signal from the judge.

"En garde!" came the cry, and the match began. The foil seemed almost electric in his hand; the leather of his glove groaned as his grip clamped on the hilt, caught in the grasp of a powerful force surging through the foil, through his hand, up his arm. He closed his eyes, and held on for dear life. The foil took control, and less than two minutes later the bout was over. Jarrod had won the match 3-0.

Jarrod was ecstatic; he had never won a bout in his life, never mind a competitive bout, and with a perfect score! He smiled at the applause from the small crowd of onlookers, gave a quick bow, and retreated to the locker room to freshen up. He put his things in his locker, and washed his face in the sink. After a few sips of water, he returned to his locker to retrieve his things. With horror, he discovered that his precious foil had reverted to original state: rusty, broken, and utterly useless!

In that moment, he fully grasped the sinister nature of the item, and the things he must do to harness the item's power. His darker half gave an evil sneer, and with eager anticipation he watched the boy he had just beaten enter the locker area. Tom!" he called, "Come here, man...I've got something to show you!"


Jarrod won the second match before Tom's body had time to cool, crammed into a locker. Inspired with his new-found power, Jarrod dispatched one fencer after another; first o the competition floor, then on the locker room floor. Jarrod eventually lured a maintenance-man into his death-trap, and soon was able to lock the room behind him, and dispense with the formality of hiding his growing pile of corpses.

It wasn't until he reached the quarterfinal that he attracted the interest of three particular people in the growing audience.

"His name is Jarrod Jessup. Jack, I think he's our man!" hissed Ryan, pointing out the man from the sea of white-clad fencers. Jack peered through his binoculars, and focused in on Jerrod, then his weapon.

"That's it! He has the foil! We have to figure out a way to get it from him."

"Well, we can't just snatch it in front of a thousand people, Jack. We'll have to wait for him to leave the floor."

Micki seized Jack by the arm, "Look, he's up again!"

The three turned and watched. Again, in a stunning victory, Jarrod had achieved a perfect bout. The crowd was shrieking in amazement and joy at this unknown who was on the verge of taking the championship without giving up a single touch! Jarrod stood in the center of the Convention center and acknowledged the applause; then, he got that feeling again. He looked to the foil, and saw the rust appear on the blade's surface. With one last, quick bow he made a beeline for his locker room.

"Ryan! He's on the move," cried Micki, voice nearly lost in the din. "Now's your chance!"

Ryan nodded, and scrambled down the side of the bleachers to the convention hall floor. Security was very light, and Ryan had no trouble making his way through the athletes to the locker room. He tried the door, but Jarrod as locked it behind him. Ryan checked to make sure the area was clear, and just as he was about the give the door a swift kick, it swung wide, and there stood Jarrod, freshly gleaming foil in hand.

"Jarrod!" Ryan cried, "We know about the sword! You can't possibly get away with what you've done!"

Jarrod laughed, "What I've done? And what is that, exactly?"

"Kill people. Every cursed item cries for blood, Jarrod. I doubt that yours is any exception. By the looks of your performance out there, that locker room should be knee deep in it by now!" Ryan focused in on Jarrod's blade, and looked about for a way to defend himself; he spotted a foil nearby, and snatching it up, yelled "En Garde!"

Without warning, Jarrod's foil leaped into action. "No!" was all Jarrod could do as the foil jabbed Ryan in the abdomen, knocking the wind out of him. Then, another strike, and a third, until Ryan rolled on the floor in breathless agony.

Jarrod was filled wit horror; the sword had used its charge! Almost immediately the rust came of the surface, and the blade began to lose its sheen.

"No! That was for the finals! You've wasted it!" cried Jarrod, face red with rage. Ryan regained his breath, stood with foil in hand, and said, "I'll take that, you bastard!"

Jarrod panicked. Without a soul to power it, the rusty foil was useless in his clumsy hands. He turned, and fled into the darker recesses of the locker room, with Ryan close at his heels. The place reeked like a charnal house, thick with the stench of blood and death. Jarrod ran as fast as he could, jumping over the crumpled remains of his victims, knocking over anything he could to slow Ryan down. Ryan kept after him. Finally, he entered the row where he had committed his last kill. He paused, and turned to see if Ryan was still behind him; he was not. Just as he took a step forward to peer around the corner, Ryan leapt forth with a loud cry.

"Yay!" he shrieked, foil slashing madly at Jarrod's sword hand. Jarrod tried to turn and run, but the floor where he stood was slick with blood. He slipped, spun about, and fell, shrieking, on the cursed foil's broken blade. It pierced his heart, and the fresh hell-blade burst forth from his back. It was hot as the fires of Hell, gleaming, and ready.


Jack carefully stowed the foil, point-down, in the back of the vault. "Eighteen men dead! All for what, glory?"

"Glory, acceptance, who knows?" pondered Micki from the stairway. "Whatever it was, he wanted it bad enough to kill for."

"Eighteen dead..." repeated Ryan. "We failed, and failed big."

"I think we failed and won, Ryan," mused Jack. "It could have been nineteen had he finished tat contest, or a hundred, or a thousand. Who know when, if ever, he would have stopped. At least here, that cursed blade's bloodletting days are over."

"That may be," whispered Ryan, but standing there watching him die, it was like the blade had cut me too." He patted himself on the chest over his heart, and leaned up against the wall, "It may have missed my flesh, Jack, but that damned edge cut my soul."

Jack patted him on the back, "Time will help to heal that would, Ryan, to soften the horror of this day. So let's you and I have a drink, and Micki too, and work on that scar a bit."

Ryan managed a faint smile; he pushed the vault's key brick back, and they closed the Vault for the night.