Fights in WIP Wednesday

In the summer of 1892, Princess Pauline was the Honorary President of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition and Countess Kielmannsegg was the President of the Ladies’ Committe of the Exhibition, and the two clashed over some of the arrangements for the Exhibition. (Several sources claim it had something to do with the floral arrangements.) Heated words were exchanged, and the two women agreed to settle their differences with a duel.

In the summer of 1892, Princess Pauline von Metternich was the Honorary President of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition and Countess Anastasia Kielmannsegg was the President of the Ladies’ Committe of the Exhibition, and the two clashed over some of the arrangements for the Exhibition. (Several sources claim it had something to do with the floral arrangements.) Heated words were exchanged, and the two women agreed to settle their differences with a duel.

Today on work-in-progress Wednesday, I’m looking for fights. Physical or verbal. Arguments, fisticuffs or sword fights. Between any of your characters. Your choice.

Fights punctuate the action and ratchet up the tension. And talkative fighters let things slip in their anger, which can be very handy for driving the plot.

My piece is from Embracing Prudence: a confrontation between my hero David and his half-brother the Marquis of Aldridge.

“I won’t let you hurt her again, Aldridge.”

“Your turn, is it?” Aldridge mocked. “Who are you to judge me?  You’re swiving her, too.”

“She was an innocent when she met you, Aldridge.”

“She would not have stayed one, Wakefield. She was ripe to fall. If it had not been me it would have been one of the others, and they would not have waited to make sure she enjoyed it.”

David’s punch caught him by surprise.

“She did not enjoy being abandoned in a prison for a week, you self-centred, spoilt, idiot.”

Aldridge shook his head to clear it. “I will concede that was not one of my finest moments. I told them to treat her with every consideration. I found out later that the King’s man thought me a fool in the toils of a scheming woman, and countermanded my orders. By then she was gone, though.” He frowned. “I’ll never understand why. I would have given her anything she wanted, showered her with presents, set her up in style…”

“Anything except your name.”

Aldridge’s eyes widened at David’s comment. “She did not honestly think I meant marriage, did she? I could not marry a nobody, and one who wasn’t even pure.”

David punched him again

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18 thoughts on “Fights in WIP Wednesday

  1. Love all of these posts! Mine is from a story I began working on several years ago (and am probably only about halfway through if I ever get back to it). It begins with our hero fighting for no other reason than to fight (and because of the wagers flying over his head among his peers). Unfortunately, his opponent doesn’t fare too well in the end.

    ***

    Hartley wiped at his face a second time. A glance at his fingers showed him the crimson streak of blood that had trickled from his nose. His opponent—an ox of a man whose name he’d promptly forgotten once the first hit had sounded against his jaw—stood near the edge of the makeshift ring, no wounds or obvious injuries on his person. Only the faintest sheen of perspiration on the man’s forehead showed the slight amount of effort expended in what was shaping up to be a clear victory for him.

    Hartley gave his head a shake and tried to clear his vision. He’d toppled larger men than this, but that had been half a dozen years ago and while sober. He’d arrived here this morning still struggling to digest the enormous supper—not to mention the bottle of wine—he’d demolished the night before.

    Unfortunately, those were the only details of the night he could remember. So it had been more than a shock to find himself forcibly dragged from the comfort of his bed this morning and bundled off to some hovel in Wapping for a fight. A fight in which he was apparently the main attraction.

    He recognized a few of the men on the outskirts of the circle. There was Lord Chadwick, Marquess of Beningfield. And just to his right was that damned Baron Oaksley. Hartley would’ve suspected his involvement above all others if he’d had a spare minute to think. But at that moment, he had no more spare minutes.

    The man—the ox—came lunging towards him; not light on his feet or darting with any sort of strategy, but simply using his sheer mass as an advantage, ready to tear down whatever object might lie in his path.

    Hartley, still dazed from the last punch, moved back a step. And then another. The ring of onlookers that surrounded them gave him little room to maneuver. The shouts and curses of their audience rang through his head, distracting him, confusing him.

    And the worst part? He couldn’t even recall why he was here. What foolish boast on his part had brought about this fight? And who was this man stalking towards him, one massive slab of a fist already raised and ready to break half the bones in Hartley’s head?

    He ducked as quickly as his dizziness allowed—not quite quick enough as rough knuckles grazed his ear. That brought on more ringing in his head, but he recovered with some speed, stepping back until the jeers of the crowd overwhelmed him and he was once again pushed forward from behind.

    “Enough.” The word came out under his breath, a breath that burned its way out of his lungs. He would have to end this, or else allow every tooth to be battered loose from his jaw.

    He never took his eyes off his opponent. The other man was huge, his massive size his greatest asset. But it made him clumsy. Hartley noticed how every time the man moved forward, arm lifted to swing, he left his face—his entire upper torso, in fact—open and unprotected. And this was where Hartley would put his speed and agility to good use. Well, what speed and agility were left to him since the first collision of the other man’s fist against his skull.

    The shouts from the circle of spectators grew to a fevered pitch. They must have noticed the change in Hartley’s behavior, the way he began to dart forward, testing his balance as he teased his opponent into making more brazen and thoughtless attacks, the other man depending on nothing but his breadth and width to save him.

    And before he knew it, there it was. The opening Hartley needed. It was the briefest of windows. A single glance to either side and he would’ve missed it. He heard nothing from the crowd around him, felt nothing but the point of contact between his fist and the underside of the other man’s jaw.

    The pain came a moment later. His hand, his arm, his entire shoulder reverberated from the shock as if recoiling from a pistol shot. No doubt he’d broken something, possibly something important. Better your hand than your head, he reminded himself and took a step back just as the large man’s frame—all twenty stone of it—dropped to the floor.

    Someone in the crowd—probably Ballard, though he couldn’t be sure—tossed a clean, white handkerchief to him. Hartley wasted no time wiping the effluence of blood and perspiration from his face. More blood trickled down the back of his throat. A ragged cough scraped it clean before he spat out the foul substance onto the floor beside him.

    Still too dazed to revel in his victory over the giant, Hartley bent himself in half, bracing his forearms on his knees. Already, various twinges in his muscles foretold the agony he would experience the moment he began to relax. Copious amounts of alcohol would be needed to dull the oncoming pain, and he cursed the rapid deterioration of his physical state for preventing him from participating in the raucous joy currently spreading through the gathered crowd. Or at least the minority of them who had seen their pockets lined by his victory.

  2. Not so much dialog in mine, but this is what I’m working on.It is about half of a very long scene in which our Rand and his cousin the duke raid the forgery ring’s operation. The “blank stamper” is the man cutting out coin blanks from sheets of metal.

    At the sight of Sylvester flashing a knife at his cousin, memories of his beating drove a red haze over Rand’s eyesight. He strode toward the man, but the blank stamper tried to trip him. Rand shook him off and stepped forward, ignoring the shaft of light that fell across the floor from the door.

    “Blair, get this bastard off me!” Lost in the red haze of memory, Becton’s voice sounded a thousand miles away to Rand. A moment passed before one word dawned on him. Blair!

    He spun on time to see Meggy’s husband, his face a mask of shock, drop his lantern, turn, and run. Rand turned to pursue him, but a blood-curdling scream stopped him in his tracks. He looked from the empty doorway to the center of the room where Sylvester held the duke’s right hand above his head in one hand and the knife in another. Charles pushed at Sylvester’s knife-wielding hand with his free one.

    Stewart’s second pistol went off, the sound exploding in Rand’s years, and The Bruiser faltered, fell to his knees and began to crawl toward Stewart.

    Rand glanced back at the direction in which Blair had gone. Every instinct drove him after Meggy’s tormenter. Poised to run to the door, he glanced back at Charles just as his cousin went down under the force of a kick to his privates. Sylvester’s knife moved relentlessly downward and the hand pushing it back faltered.

    Rand leapt at Sylvester with a scream of rage, knocking him sideways off his cousin. The knife skittered across the floor and the villain kicked, bucked, and bit, trying to get to it. Shooting would be too easy for this one. Rand hit him with the handle of his collier pistol and began to pound his face. He hit him over and over, long after the man stopped moving. All his pent up rage over Meggy, over his beating, over Blair rained down on Sylvester’s face. He hit him until Charles clamped a hand on his shoulder, and spoke in a loud voice right next to his hear. “Enough. Enough. Stop before you kill him.”

    Rand shook him off, but when someone else grabbed his arm, the red fog began to clear. He looked down at Sylvester’s unrecognizable face, a bloody mess, and at his closed and battered eyes. Rand couldn’t tell if he lived or died. Still straddling the man Rand slowly lowered his trembling fist and saw blood drip from it onto Sylvester’s unmoving form where it lay surrounded by shiny coins. Rand staggered to his feet with Stewart’s support.

    “Is he dead?” he rasped.

    Stewart bent over the man. “Not quite.”

    “Left half dead,” Rand whispered remembering how these men had left him.

    “Pity,” the duke replied, “But less complicated. Rand?”

    Rand turned his head toward the duke’s voice, breathing deeply and trying to clear his head. When had Charles risen?

    He felt his cousin’s hand on his shoulder. “Listen to me; we aren’t finished.”

    Rand looked around the room, still dazed. Becton leaned against a wall trussed like a suckling pig. The Bruiser lay across the plank floor with a gaping hole in his chest. Their deputy, retching and gasping for air would live. The rest had disappeared. Blair had disappeared. Charles looked at him intently, waiting.

    “Blair!” Rand breathed. “He’s getting away.”

  3. From Blind Tribute, a HistFic due out later this year.

    Anne recoiled and did her best not to look at him, and he was sure he didn’t want to know for whom she was wearing black. “What are you doing here, Palmer? Did I not make it clear that I want nothing to do with you?” She slowly descended the staircase, staying three steps from the bottom, making her fully a head taller and allowing her to look over his head instead of at this face.

    “If it weren’t perfectly clear, it is now. I’ve come to track down my children, as I haven’t seen them in so long. How are they? How are you?”

    “Robert died at Antietam.”

    Harry staggered and fell into the door behind him. “What?”

    “My son died at Antietam. There was no way to get you a letter.”

    “There was no way?!” A carefully groomed lifetime of courtesy to women unraveled in a matter of seconds. His booming voice shook the glass in the windows on either side of the door. “Are you crazed, woman?! There was no way to get me a letter?!” Three different servants came running, then stopped when they saw him, one stifling a scream.

    Anne’s eyes were round as half-dollars and her eyebrows hit her hairline. She turned to run back up the stairs, but when he didn’t move on her, she turned back around halfway to the second floor. She screamed like a petulant child, “It isn’t as though it’s easy to send things back and forth to your precious Charleston! There are two armies between here and there!”

    “I’ve been in the North for months! I can name five different people who told you where I was, probably more if I had the chance to ask.” He pointed his finger at her, punctuating his words. “I have never, for one minute, been hard to find. As much as I hate you in this moment, Anne, if I knew one of our children had died—our children,” Harry’s voice almost shattered, “I would move Heaven and Earth to let you know.”

    She collected herself incompletely. “As far as I knew, you were still in Charleston when the news came, and I assumed Mr. Seward knew better than I where to contact you. And I was hardly going to seek you out in some tawdry little alleyway in Southwark on the word of a strange Negro. He might have wanted to rob me.”

    By now, her self-righteousness had brought her back to her nominally serene self. “I resent your intrusion, Palmer, and it’s time for you to leave.”

    Harry asked quickly to keep his voice from breaking: “Where was he—buried?”
    She unbent for only a moment, and he saw the eyes of the woman with whom, a few years earlier, he might have shared some of this loss. Her voice caught when she said,

    “On the battlefield.” He saw her swallowing the urge to cry, but he wasn’t ready to leave her to her grief when his was still so angry.

    “I want to see the girls. And Robert’s wife.”

    “They don’t want to see you.” Her eyes went cold again and her voice rose. “No one wants to see you!” The shrieking gained volume. “Isn’t it enough you’ve disgraced us all?!” She pulled herself up two steps and turned glittering, vicious eyes on him. “You’re a monster and a traitor, and everyone would be better off if you had died!”

    Her screeching voice dissolved into wrenching tears and she ran up the stairs.

    He screamed after her at the top of his voice, nearly apoplectic, “I will not pay one penny to you ever again! Not a single, solitary copper, and I don’t give a damn what Philadelphia Society thinks about it! You can live in a tenement and eat table scraps!” Harry wrenched the door open and stormed through it, slamming it hard enough to rattle the windows again. 

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