The duel

“Look, I really don’t want any trouble.” the man said sitting on one of playground’s tyre swings. He was dressed in the gym-dude uniform most werewolves learn to appreciate after their first few transformations, with a zipup hoodie, sweatpants and sneakers, small duffel bag in the sand on his right side. Richard thought he looked to be in his late twenties, which really could mean that he was anywhere between that age and somewhere close to a century. Werewolves aren’t immortal, they just age real slowly and are a pain to kill and if he had been turned young…

“Yet here you are” Richard sighed, “People who don’t look for trouble usually don’t wander into other pack’s territory and behead one of the pack’s candidates. You do realise we have to act right?”
“Yeah, I do,” the man said and sighed, as Richard drew closer and sat down in one of the other swings he caught the man’s scent, there was no trace of fear in it which surprised him, “But for all that it is worth it wasn’t meant personally to any in your pack. John Spade had a 1 million bounty on his head for murder, I collected it.”
Richard looked down on the duffel bag then back at the man in the swing. The pack had known John had had some kind of trouble he was fleeing from, hell, he’d said as much when he came looking for them, but they hadn’t looked to much into it. They had decided that they would deal with it when and if it came back to haunt him. They just hadn’t thought it would happen so soon.

“What did he do?” Richard found himself asking, kicking at the sand underneath the swing. The park was a smart move, it was neutral “don’t fucking-touch-this-ground”, all the clans and the cabals and the covens would be out for blood if they heard two werewolves had duked it out at lunch in a public playground even if they were the only people in it at the time. In here, during daytime, they couldn’t touch him.

“He killed some important people down south,” the man said, “I don’t know the full details, I don’t really care to be honest, but he off-ed some witch’s son and at least one vampire. The coven and the clan wanted to make an example, so John got 1 mill on his head. He would have used your pack as a shield and then run somewhere else once you were weak. I know it sounds cliché but I think I did you a favour here.”

Richard smiled a tight lipped smile, “I suppose you did, but now we have a conundrum. On the one hand, you did us a favour, on the other, we will look weak if we let one of our own, even one at fault, be killed without repercussion.”
They sat there in silence for a while as a trickle of families entered the playground.
“Looks like time is up” the man said.
“Yeah” Richard sighed as he saw a family coming towards the swing set, “I’ll cut give you a deal, if you head into the woods over there, I’ll duel you for this, a proper Holmgaang and if you win you go free, no hard feelings. If you try to run, we will have to track you down.”
The man stood up, smiled at the family as he took his duffel bag and nodded at Richard who also stood up from his swing.
“No hard feelings.” The man said.
“None, Moon’s honour.” Richard said.
The man nodded and then walked away in the directions of the woods.

Richard sat back down on the swing. He holds back a giggle that makes a tear come out. He starts to gently and purposefully get some momentum on the swing like this is his job now. It drew some excited burbles from the smattering of children and judgemental side-eyes from the parents.


He gains an impressive, heroically unnatural swing and lands a good twelve yards outside of the fence without a slight buckle of the knee.

“Hey-ho, the noddy-oh, a-killing we shall go!” Richard sings as he strides toward a right and proper Holmgaang.

He turns round to the smudge of families in mid yomp.

“This is Richard’s ground! If you’re not with me, you’re fucked, children! Good day!”

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Richard came to himself as he left the playground pursued by the stares of the families. The sudden giddy mirth he had felt at the prospect of a fight evaporated and left him with the bitter metallic taste of mind tempering in his mouth.

“'Look, I’m not in the mood for mind games!” He said loudly as he upped his pace after the bounty hunter, “Mika if that is you…”
He trailed off as Jean, the right hand witch to high priestess of The Conventicle of the Crimson star, stepped out from behind one of the old willow trees that lined the larger park and had been downwind of him. Jean wore a set of dark green cargo pants and a black tank top with a band print on it, her hair was dyed a fitting crimson red and her tan skinned and tattooed arms were covered in bangles that sparkled in the sunlight.

“She really does look like one of those punk girls pretending to witchcraft” Richard thought to himself eyeing her as she stood there.

Jean walked towards him and Richard took a weary look around, it wasn’t as easy for her to do that mind trick on him if he knew it was coming but he wasn’t interested in getting flanked by someone. The C.S was generally on good terms with Richard’s pack the Greypelts but the peace between the different groups within the hidden community was always a tenuous thing.

Satisfied that he at least couldn’t spot or smell any other people within casting distance, Richard turned his attention back to Jean who now came to a halt a few yards away from him.
“Hi Rick.” she said smiling, her heavy lilac perfume covered most of it but Richard could detect the mix of fear and uncertainty that he recognised as trepidation.
“Hi Jean,” Richard answered, “Why are you here, John was one of ours, you know that we have jurisdiction over this.”
“Yes, yes, you are going to duke it out in the woods and may the one who wins be the one who was right.” she said rolling her eyes at him, “Have anyone ever told you that you lot can be frightfully macho?”
Richard just stood quiet and watched her, he really didn’t have time for this.
“I’m not going to interfere with you. But I do want to give you a piece of advice that you may thank me for later,” Jean said and stepped in close with her hands raised in the universal gesture of no harm intended, “It would be better for all of us if you throw this fight.”
Richard looked at her for a minute, then scowled and shook his head. Throwing a holmgaang just wasn’t the done thing.

“Look, I was sent here to see to it that that man, Adam Spurr, have safe passage back south with his bounty.” Jean said looking at him imploringly, “Rick, I’m begging you, please, please don’t kill that man whatever you do. Rough him up if you have to, but please, please let him return with his bounty. It could mean war otherwise.”

Richard read Jean’s face and smelled the fear the now was almost pungent in her scent, this was not a threat, at least not from her, someone was pulling strings and holding a gun to her or her coven’s head. The only people with that power Richard knew of was the region’s hidden council, but they would have contacted the Greypelts, about it directly. No this was something else.
“I’m guessing that John really fucked with the wrong crowd then?” Richard said hoping that this would prod Jean to divulge more.
“You don’t know the half of it…” Jean sighed but looked relieved that Richard was talking with her, “Rick, John Spade killed a clan elder’s protégé and the whole family of the high priestess of the Steel Talon-coven. Rick, he tried to start a war between them.”

“Well… shit…” Richard said and blew some air out between his teeth, then felt around his pockets for his mobile “Ok, yeah, no… let me make a phone call, I’m not pack head. But I’m guessing Mike would want to know about this before we do anything.”
“Thanks Rick” Jean said.
“Hey, don’t thank me yet,” Richard said as he dialled Mike, “Mike might decide an example still needs to be set. You know how it is.”

Becoming a werewolf wasn’t really what most people think it was. Sure, the whole being bitten thing happens to those who aren’t born to it. But most werewolves are made when they are in their mid-twenties as the packs recognize that turning teens is a really really bad idea.

The rage of the new wolf is amplified by the hormones and the general lack of seeing the consequences of one’s actions a teenager feels. Not that teenage werewolves don’t happen. Most of the children of werewolves don’t inherit, but a few do. They usually learned to control their nature when they reach that age of hormonal upheaval.

Richard was been bitten when he was 14 and that first year was forever tinted blood red in his memory and he didn’t like to think of the damage he managed to do in the few first months before Michael and the Greypelts had found him and reigned him in.

It had happened as he was walking home from martial arts practice, he had been taking his sweet time about it because at home waited his dad. Even so many years later Richard would still get the knots in his stomach thinking of his dad and the belt he favored for “corrections”. Not that he had needed much more prompting than a mildly bad day. Richard was the embodiment of all the ways the world had wronged Sebastian Eriksson and Sebastian made sure his son knew it.

The werewolf who bit Richard had been Michael’s brother Nate who had been executed because of it. Nate had been a rouge werewolf, similar to the bounty hunter Adam, something the packs generally don’t want to recognize. Most rouges find their calling in something outside of the packs. Nate had found his in protecting the weak. Which had been fine up until Richard.

Nate had known of Richards circumstance and had chosen to turn him. He had studied Sebastian and as Michael had told Richard years later, Nate had said he feared for Richard’s life.

This had turned out to be a valid fear, the first victim of Richard had been Sebastian, but only after Richard’s dad had taken a knife to him in a drunken rage a few days after the incident. While the full moon is one of the triggers for the transformation, it can also be triggered by high stress situations. And it is painful.

Michael had found him and taken him in even though Richard had broken many of the accords that guide the hidden communities.

Nate and Michael.
Richard owed those two brother’s his life.

“I’m sorry Jean.” Richard said as he put his phone back in his pocket, “Michael sees your point but he says we will have to deal with those consequences. You may however have Johns head delivered to the Steel talons.”

“What took you so long?” Adam, the bounty hunter who had slain John Spade, asked sitting on a tree stump in a glade a few hundred meters into the forest.
“Had a run in with a witch who wanted me to throw the fight. Apparently you are connected with people up on high.” Richard answered honestly.
“Ahh, nice of them to try.” Adam said, “But it’s not really the done thing I recon?”
“No,” Richard sighed squatting down on a rock a few meters away from Adams stump, “It really isn’t, I’m sad to say.”

“Ha! You forget I’m one of the people too, don’t pretend you aren’t exited about this, I can smell it on you.” Adam said in mild reproach.

It was true, during his short walk from the playground to here Richard had realized that he was looking forward to the fight. In all honesty, Jeans mind meddling had amplified it beyond reason for a short time but the emotion had been there hidden deep. That was dangerous territory for a werewolf, appreciating the fight might make him loose himself to the wolf. That would make him predictable. He nodded to the accusation with an apologetic smile on his lips.

“Well I am feeling kind of guilty about that.” Richard said, “Isn’t personal, it’s just been a while since I had a decent fight.”

“Ahh, the problems of peaceful times then. Maybe you should go and join us who lives on the boarders after this instead?” Adam said, “Now, how do we go about this, what rules do we go by?”

Many have the wrong idea of what a duel of fists looks like. We are all fed with how it is supposed to be from Hollywood or from boxing. Throw punches, back off, more punches, block, block and punch. MMA changed that some but it is still stylised, still with many formal rules.

The traditional rules of a Holmgaang are simple. The one who stands over the unmoving body(alive or dead) of the other was right. Or, back in the day. you could also win by throwing your opponent of the holm you were fighting on. if they could swim, or the water surrounding the holm wasn’t particularly deep, both of you got to go home.

Modern times have made it’s mark on these rules. While you can’t take away all the risk of the killing, today they are fought without weapons and only in wolf-shape with others of the people. it mitigates some of the risk at least. And many times the battle is fought until third bloodletting on either part.

“Traditional” Richard answered, “The one who walks out wins.”

Adam checked the pulse on the naked bloody man . Still alive. Good. For all the troubles this pack had given him he didn’t like killing people who only tried to defend their turf. Not that he had held back, a fight is a fight and this one had even been sanctioned. But still. He bent down to look over the nastier of the wounds. Winced as the wounds on his right leg flared to life by the motion. The man called Richard would probably not bleed out from that gash in the shoulder but it would leave a nasty scar though. Best call it in anyway. Adam found Richards phone in the pack of clothes set to the side of the fighting space, ICE - Michael, followed by a phone number. Adam called it and limped to his pack for his first aid kit.

Richard test-lunged for Adam. Richards right hand claws raked the air where Adams chest had been scant moments earlier. Adam had stepped, snake swift, to the side and had reached his hand to grab Richards exposed arm. Richard pushed himself forward, out of reach for Adams claws. Adam was fucking fast.

Richard caught himself on a tree to stop himself from barrelling. Turned around just in time to get Adams shoulder in the midriff as the other man had sprinted in behind him and made a low lunge. Richard was thrown against the tree and the air was forced out of his lungs by the impact. His mind was overwhelmed by the gasping terror for a moment. Then Richard tried clawing Adams back which turned out largely ineffective as he couldn’t put much mass behind the move. Instead, knee up into Adam’s chest. Solid connect. Adam pushed himself back with the grace of one who were used to fighting in the form. Both tock stock for a second. No true damage had yet been done.

Then both moved towards each other, Richard managed to get a deep cutting claw swipe in on Adams thigh. A wincing wound but doing little real harm. Too late did he realise his mistake as the world tumbled to the side as Adams hand connected, hard, with the side of Richard’s head. Once on the ground the fight turned nasty. They scratched and bit and tore. Adam managed to rip Richards shoulder deep and then Richard knew, fucking knew the fight was lost, but kept at it out of adrenaline and fury for some more moments. Then his head started growing light and Adam managed to hit him two times in the head. And the world came to a stop.

“He’ll live” Adam said tiredly into the phone, “He almost would have had me too… So… I’m guessing I’m free to go?”
The tight voiced man on the other side of the phone says “Yes.”
“Good. I’ll send you our location, I don’t think he is in any danger but I’d hate for him to die unnecessarily. Anyway, tell him good fight from me.”
Adam hangs up then sends the coordinates and then does what he can for Richard with the first aid kit. After that he binds his own wound as best he can, wipes the blood from his face, dresses and limps off with his duffel bag out of the woods.