The Fall Of The Elite

They say pride comes before a fall. And I’m living proof of that. Everyone said I was elite, the best of the best, untouchable, invincible. And before long, I, like the naïve fool I was, believed them. Their praise was like the lily of the valley, disguised as something nice but so deadly it could destroy me.

They weren’t wrong in saying I was elite; I had the scars and victories to prove that much. But elite means better than most, unbeatable would mean better than all. The difference between the two is the difference between winning and losing. But I believed every false compliment they gave me. And so it was that on that fateful day, I underestimated the dark-haired stranger.

He wasn’t much to look at. He was a quiet man with a hardened face who sat in the corner, watching. His dark eyes were constantly alert, even when it looked like he wasn’t paying attention. He had numerous scars and from the look of his face, he hadn’t smiled in years. I’d heard someone describe him as foxlike, and I rather agreed with that comparison. The general opinion of him was, in the baker’s words, ‘he’s the sort as’ll bring trouble, he is.’

***

The audience was loud, but I blocked them out. These moments while I stood on the side before the fight began were precious, and I couldn’t waste them by being distracted. All I could hear was the beating of my heart: loud and steady like a war drum. I looked at the dusty floor, making a map in my mind. I didn’t doubt I’d win this fight. I’d done the same thing dozens of times, there wasn’t any reason this should be different.

My name was called. I walked out to the raucous applause of the audience. From the opposite side, my opponent entered to a considerably smaller cheer. He looked me over as he positioned himself a short distance away. The bell rang loud, and the crowds fell silent. We drew our swords and began. He struck and I easily deflected his blow, then he flicked aside my counterattack. And so, it went on. A baby cried in the crowd.

I was only distracted for a second, but in that second, my opponent saw my eyes flick away, registered that I wouldn’t react as quickly and darted forward. My sword came up just in time. I backtracked, trying to avoid the flashing blur that his sword had become, and I felt a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. The sick feeling of panic. It rendered me powerless and sent everything I’d ever learned out of my head. Somehow, before I even fully realised what was happening, something sharp touched my throat. I looked up from his gleaming blade to his carefully expressionless face. For all I knew, he would take this fight to the death.

With no other choice, I whispered the most humiliating words of my life.

“I surrender.”

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