The Dispute by David Perlmutter

Hello all! Here is a short story by David Perlmutter entitled "The Dispute."  Although there are things that I liked about this story, overall it receives a Rhein Rating of 2.  In general, I believe it is better not to have phrases like "In the days of sword and sorcery" in your stories.  This is the classic example of telling rather than showing (it would be better to just describe people going about their daily business and through that description, the reader recognizes, "Ah-ha!  This is taking place in the days of 'sword and sorcery!'"  I also noticed a repitition of the word "province" in the first paragraph.  Still, there is an enthusiasm in this story that is hard to be too critical of.  And since it is always the case that perception of art is a matter of opinion, I leave it to the readers to leave their own comments (make them polite and constructive please) and come to their own determination of this story's quality.

The Dispute

By David Perlmutter

Far away from here in the kingdom of Reh, many years ago in the days of sword-and-sorcery, there lived two female warriors who were each considered to be the best of her kind in her particular province. Although each of them had mastered and dominated her own province, these provinces were far apart and they were seldom in contact. Their meetings, sparse as they were, were friendly, and they seemed to be attached in a way through their common profession. For this reason, other than the incident now to be described, the question of whether Glendora or Magdalena was the better woman would not have been addressed or resolved.

Glendora dominated Upper Reh, and Magdalena, Lower Reh. The former was over six tall and weighed 180 pounds, nearly all of it muscle. The latter was shorter and lighter and more mesomorphic in shape, but known for her skill as a runner, jumper and wrestler. In other areas, they were nearly equal and admiral specimens of nature at its finest. Glendora had achieved her victories through the enormous power of her muscled arms and the swift blows she was capable of cutting with her sword, whereas Magdalena was renowned for her remarkable endurance under a hail of physical and verbal assaults. This allowed her to gain dominance in battle early and easily and to keep it to the bitter end. Among friends and associates, not to mention the spirits, fairies, elves, brownies, dwarves, fauns and other mythological beings which dwelled within the confines of the thick forest which separated the two provinces from each other, there were naturally many amateur theories about the potential results of a contest between the two warriors, each favoring one or the other based on specific social and geographic alliances. Many bets were wagered, particularly when the gamblers were under the influence of the Aquilonian firewater then circulating around Reh. To the annoyance of those who made such wagers and wished to see them paid off, however, Glendora and Magdalena remained friendly acquaintances and never once laid a hand on each other- until one day.

There happened to reside within the aforementioned forest a mischevious imp named Dod Darn Hissoul, a plague-ridden spirit who liked nothing better than manipulating warriors to fight with and kill each other, the better for him to be able to abscond with their worldly possessions once they had obliterated themselves. The very discussion of such potential slaughters was enough to give him the eloquence of speech to intimidate others in a way that he did not possess otherwise. For this reason, he virtually lived for conflict and did much to hasten its development and growth in the otherwise peaceful kingdom of Reh.

For a year previous, the mischevious Dod had speculated as to the comparative prowess of Glendora and Magdalena. He resorted to all sorts of treachery to bring them together in conflict, and failed in all of these. Repeatedly, he appeared in shadow and spirit to Magdalena, whom he was more closely acquainted with, telling her of all he had heard said against her in Upper Reh, and insinuated that it was Glendora who had begun the rumors. This Magdalena took casually, shaking her head and saying, with humor, that “If that blonde witch do value her life, she shall not attempt to impale herself on my sword!” When this news reached Glendora, the taller warrior took a similar stance, not giving the prospect serious consideration. Glendora and Magdalena remained friendly, and Dod Darn Hissoul was on the verge of throwing himself to the dragons when a certain dispute among acquaintances of the parties involved led the situation to a swift and decisive resolution.

The sexes are generally assumed to cooperate if left alone amongst themselves, but this cannot be all the time. Each of our heroines had a male acquaintance for which they had a romantic attraction, and those men took pride in and presumption upon, the work of their female friends, and, thus, in themselves.

The occasion happened to be a summer’s day in the central marketplace of Reh, at the exact spot where the dirt roads leading respectively to Upper and Lower Reh directly connected to each other. The two warriors, along with their men, were there. Neither warrior was aware of the other’s man, nor did the men know of each other, Reh being very isolated on the either side of its topographical boundary. The marketplace was nearly towards closing for the day when Gorman, the squire of Glendora, and Pronzini, the swain of Magdalena, entered at the same time the tobacco, opium and shaved fish emporium of one Greenberg, a recent immigrant from the “down east” section of Reh.

“Art thou in the possession of any of the finest low-high grade hookas of the fabled Far East?” Gorman inquired.

“Does thou possess any of the shaved fish of the Cimmerian Sea?” demanded Pronzini.

“Good sirs,” said Greenberg, “I am in the possession of both articles of which thou demand of me.”

”Then thou shall serve me first,” said Gorman, “for it is I who is most in need for assistance in a prompt and courteous manner, as I am about to depart for my homeland!”

“I will thankest thou, sir,” said Pronzini, “to allow for me to be the first of the two of us of which you serve, for it is I who is of the two of us that is more in need of fast, efficient service!”

“And who, exactly, art thou to be addressing the merchant in such presumptuous terms, sir?” countered Gorman.

“I am in fact, sir,” said Pronzini, “a man whose tremendous and prodigious social affluence dwarfs yours in every considerable manner!”

It was at this moment that Glendora entered the merchant’s facilities.

“Gorman, does thou take me for a fool?” she demanded of her man. “This hardly constitutes less than a minute! We must away before the sun precipitously drops beneath the surface!”

“I would have awayed sooner,” said Gorman, “were it not for the presumptuousness and arrogance of the man next to me!”

“Thou darest to insult my integrity, thou nasty, good for nothing, snaggled-toothed gaub of giant ape fat?!” returned Pronzini.

“Man, thou art an impudent and vile wretch!” said an insulted Glendora. “Thy woman should know better than to allow thee to vent thy spleen in such fashion! Were she here, how cleverly and decisively I would cleave my sword into her breastbone to allow her to understand that she must keep thy vile tongue on a shorter leash!”

Unknown to those in the establishment, a puff of smoke containing a vanishing body now emerged in the corner of the emporium, with the body then re-emerging in the centre of town. The body was that of Dod Darn Hissoul.

“For the love of Clark Ashton Smith, man,” he demanded of all in earshot, “where is it I may encounter Magdalena the Tremendous?”

“She is positioned near the Law Rock,” one person said. “Why is it you are enquiring of this information for?”

“Fool!” said Dod Darn Hissoul. “I have no time to answer your uninformed and ignorant questions!”

He disappeared again, appearing again beside the tall boots of Magdalena.

“Magdalena,” he said to her, “thy presence is required in the marketplace. Thy friend Pronzini is being heavily mocked and ridiculed in the bazaar of Greenberg, as are you! Thus you should avenge yourself against Glendora the Strong, who has uttered such vile and baseless lies against your character!”

“I pray thank thou for the warning, Dod!” said Magdalena, drawing her sword. “Glendora shall know better than to tempt me in future!”

Fueled by her anger, it was not long before Magdalena, accompanied by a small army of mortal and supernatural followers, had accosted her rival in the street.

“Glendora!” demanded Magdalena upon encountering her. “What loathsome words have you been using towards the man who is my lover?”

“Is that thy lover, Magdalena?” said Glendora. “I vow that I was entirely unaware of this unforeseen development!”

“Pronzini is indeed my lover”, came the reply, “and I do not care about how formidable any woman may be, she shall not allow his honor to be forfeited so easily!”

“It is not worthwhile for us to go over this dispute in extraneous detail!” retorted Glendora. “The concerns of our fellows have been wounded, and we must resolve this dispute in combat!”

“You wish to battle me?” enquired Magdalena.

“I do.” said Glendora. “Thy womanhood has been boasted of to me often, and I do consider myself made of far more formidable material than thee. Therefore, we must settle this dispute with our respective brawn within the confines of yonder forest!”

“I am prepared,” answered Glendora. “Accompany thyself with thy closest friends and acquaintances, as will I, and I will see you upon the setting of the sun!”

When the appointed time came, each provincial group gathered around their leaders, who had each removed the top part of their respective jerkins to reveal their breastplates in order to train. Dod Darn Hissoul popped back and forth between the two groups, looking and hearing at all that occurred to his great delight. Yet he was hardly alone in his interest. Many were those who conjectured as to which would prevail, with provincial and personal biases influencing all pronouncements.

One whose opinion mattered more than some others was the elderly dwarf Genovese, who had seen as many fights as there were individual hairs in his long white beard, and was known for his sagacity in delivering verdicts as to which of the combatants would prevail. Always with a look of thoughtfulness on his face, he said little, but his opinion mattered much, especially to the band of dwarfs he was the unquestioned leader of.

“Uncle,” said Pemberton, Genovese’s young nephew, on behalf of the group, “pray, may you give us your opinion of the upcoming conflict?”

Anxiety prevailed among the small group of dwarves briefly until the elder gave his response:

“Watch young Magdalena at the beginning of the contest, then consider young Glendora in the middle, and then regard who is left standing at the end.”

He regarded the associates of Magdalena with a conspiratorial wink, and they rushed to tell this news to her. Then the dwarf promptly told the associates of Glendora that he had falsely asserted Magdalena’s victory to them, which very deeply delighted Glendora’s supporters, for they knew that the victory of their champion seemed assured.

In the meantime, the warriors and their mates were busy preparing themselves for the upcoming battle, discussing and plotting strategies. Finally, Glendora declared that she was ready, and, surrounded by her party, headed to the appointed point. At the same time, Magdalena came to the same conclusion, and she and her party marched toward the appointed point from the opposite direction. Surrounded by their admirers, the pair adjusted their pants and breastplates so that they would be ready to attack each other, and then proceeded onward with threats.

“Where is the wretch I am supposed to fight?” Glendora said to all those around.

“I am here!” Magdalena answered. “I do not falter and run away from a challenge, as will you when I am finished with you!”

“I have considerable doubts about that boastful and defamatory statement!” replied Glendora.

“Ladies!” said a member of Magdalena’s party. “This is to be a fair fight, within the limits of chivalry!”

“It is,” said a member of Glendora’s party.

“You are prepared?”

“We are!”

“Then commence!”

Magdalena roared and dashed at her opponent, her fearsome quarterstaff raised to deal her opponent a staggering blow. Glendora calculated a defense and then counter-struck, grabbing her opponent, hoisting her up in the air, and then throwing her forcefully to the ground. Countering, Magdalena hit Glendora heavily with the quarterstaff on her opponent’s legs, knocking the blonde giantess to the ground with a thud. Upon this action, Magdalena jumped on her, and they viciously tore, bit and scratched for a moment as they wrestled on the ground until concerned parties on both sides broke them apart temporarily.

When they were on their feet again, held apart by their swains, they demonstrated countenances still beautifully feminine though damaged. Magdalena had pieces of her hair torn directly from her scalp, while displaying large reddened areas on her face where Glendora’s meaty fists had grabbed and disfigured them. Glendora, in turn, had ragged bruised edges around her porcelain skin so swollen that she was nearly unrecognizable.

They pushed their men aside and continued clashing, Glendora drawing her sword to counter the calamitous effects of Magdalena’s quarterstaff upon her. A blow from the sword dismantled the staff, and Magdalena had only her fists and her wits left with which to defend her small body against the blonde giantess. Magdalena lunged for the sword, and, with a Herculean effort, grabbed it and broke the blade in half while tossing away the useless scabbard. They were even now. The contest became a sickening series of punches, kicks and thuds as they smashed each other in the face several more times, while kicking each other to the ground nearly as many times.

The contest should have been settled then, as the wounds of both combatants were so noticeable and the amount of each other’s blood that had now been spilled made it increasingly illogical for the fight to continue. Magdalena, in this situation, took the lead over her opponent, knocking her to her knees and repeatedly hitting her face, until both finally collapsed of exhaustion, Magdalena directly on top of Glendora. With no remaining strength, Glendora called out what was expected of a losing combatant to end the fight:

“Hold! I yield! She is my superior! We end this now!”

There was a panoply of shouts, oaths, gestures, replies and cast spells that cannot be adequately described here. Suffice it to say, in the midst of this, the combatants were separated, with their wounds washed and dressed.

Magdalena, the victor, was in the midst of a crowd of admirers, all congratulating her, when a voice cried out:

“Silence, friends! I now demand your attention!”

Genovese, the old dwarf, had said this, and now proceeded to the side of the victor.

“Is my nephew, Pemberton, here?” asked Genovese.

”I am, uncle,” replied Pemberton.

“Then pray, “ said the old dwarf, “inform the assemblage of what was said before by me to you.”

“Uncle,” said Pemberton, winking at him, “thou and I are both aware of the fact that your knowledge of combat is limited to how fights start, progress and end. Magdalena, you would be well advised, in your next fight, to simply speak to my uncle, for he may advise you succinctly about your fate in it before the fight commences.”

“Be at peace, my people, “ said Genovese as he, Pemberton and the other dwarfs left the scene. “Disputes like these never come to good!”

It was some months before Glendora and Magdalena encountered each other again. At that time, Glendora offered her hand to Magdalena, saying:

“I had never known defeat until I found it in thine eyes, Magdalena. But I fear that you would not have won had we been more evenly matched. I was in the wrong for insulting your companion, and it cowed me to be fighting you under those circumstances.”

“We must now be friends, Glendora,” said the other. “You are a formidable opponent, and as worthy of your reputation as I am of mine. It was luck on my part that allowed me to prevail. Besides which, my Pronzini would never have forgiven me if I had failed to defend his honor as I have my own these many times!”

They laughed and embraced. A by-stander emerged out of a puff of smoke and added his thoughts to no one in particular.

“I enjoy seeing such reunions. Certainly, I brought that fight about, but it would not have happened but for that sensitive boy Pronzini. I could not bear see anyone put upon, even him. If Magdalena had not been there, I would have taken up the cudgel myself. But that matters not- we are friends and allies now!”

The speaker was Dod Darn Hissoul. 
About the Author:
David Perlmutter is a freelance writer and university graduate student living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he has lived his whole life. His passions are American television animation (the subject of his forthcoming MA thesis and a projected historical monograph), literature (especially science fiction and fantasy) and music (rhythm& blues, soul, funk and jazz.) This explains why much of his writing is as nonconventional and defiant as it is. He is challenged with Asperger’s Syndrome, but considers it an asset more than a disability.


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