“That’s great.” Kirkham turned to Bride. “Care for a match, Henry?”
“What do you have in mind, Richard?” Bride asked.
“Well, Patrick and I used to have this little game, we fenced sabre inside a circle, in the round, instead of on a strip. One touch only.”
“Sounds easy enough.” Bride replied.
“Ah, but there’s a catch. We’d fence without jackets or shirts. Metal touches skin. It adds a little twist to it, don’t you think.”
Greene had to step in, “Really Rich? I’m usually not the reasonable one here, but you know that’s dangerous. And if the school finds out they will kick the club out. The U.S. Fencer’s Association will revoke the club’s insurance.”
Bride stopped Greene; “It’s all right, Gordon.” Then turning to Kirkham, “I’m game, Richard, what other rules are there?”
“Nothing special. Standard sabre rules, a point for a touch anywhere except the legs, edge or point scores. Our only changes are we fight in a circle and first blood wins,” Kirkham said. “You know, we never did give this game a proper name. I think ‘the Tully Memorial’ is appropriate.”
Kirkham went to one of the room’s corners to ready his equipment, as Bride began stripping off his jacket.
“You don’t have to do this,” Greene said.
“Don’t worry about me. This is far from the most dangerous battle I’ve been in. And we will still be using practice blades,” Bride replied.
“Sure, but jackets are used for a reason. If Kirkham’s blade breaks—”
“I’ll be fine,” Bride stopped Greene again, “Have you ever done this?”
“Yeah, Pat and I did it a couple of times when we were younger and crazier.”
“Is there any trick to it?” Bride asked.
“Well, it ends up being a lot more defensive than a normal bout. It’s generally played safe. One touch and it’s over. And it can hurt like hell, so you don’t take the risks you would in a standard match. It’s a lot like a real sword fight. And Kirkham’s a mean one, too. He won’t hold anything back because you’re vulnerable or because you’re new here. But you can take advantage of Kirkham if you can catch him trying to get fancy. That’s what Pat used to tell me anyway I’ve never been able to pull it off.”
“If that’s all it takes, I’m ready. Wish me luck.”
Right then Greene spotted the wide nine-inch scar angled over Bride’s right shoulder. “Are you sure you’ve never done this before?”
Bride and Kirkham met in middle of the large circle painted in the middle of the floor for some other sport. The other fencers around the room came to a hush to watch the two bare-chested men as both brought their sabres up in front of their faces in a pre-battle salute. As he donned his mask, Bride knew this as a fool’s battle; Kirkham was an expert fencer who practiced daily. One thing Tully taught Bride, you get a good sense of a man from how he fenced.
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