The Challenge

[2 Min Read]

“I’ll race you as high as the crow flies!” Raved the beefy flame-haired man as he pounded on his girthy chest. “All in the village know that Gornk is not a man to be trifled with! My only equal in strength and bravery is my speed and cunning!”

“Is that so?” A rail-thin youth crossed their arms pensively. “Are you prepared to back up your spittle with actual proof or are you content with keeping your supposed ‘speed and cunning’ to the ballads were they belong?”

Gronk leans down to half his height, hands supported by his knees, and places his leathery, sun-beaten face a mere finger’s length from that of his challenger’s. “Time and place, pencil-neck.” Every word beginning with ‘p’ exploded from his crusty lips with a new spray of sticky spit.

Unphased, the youth discreetly wiped their face with their sleeve. “A race then,” they point out the tavern’s ramshackle timber-framed window to a snow-capped blue mountain in the near distance, “to the top of Crow Flies Mountain.”

The tavern atmosphere grew stark still. The record playing in the juke-box thematically scratched out of place.

After a moment, Gronk leaned back and laughed a hearty chuckle. “You got a death wish, child?” Gronk choked out between gasps of air, rhythmically slapping his bearskin vest in jest. 

“It’s ok if you have fear of my challenge. I think you know the weight of it as much as I do,” the scrawny challenger defiantly propped their hands on their hips. “For if you lose, not only would you be revealed as a liar, but more feeble than one such as myself. Is that a reality you think you could live with, oaf?”

Gronk, a self-described ‘simple-man’ often had difficulty knowing insult from compliment, but even this jab was one he could read for what it was meant to be. Blind rage quickly spread from the back of his small brain like a fast-spreading pox, and he soon saw nothing but red. The giant again squared off with the youth and pointed a sausage-like finger to his chest. “I accept your challenge, you sharp-tongued rat. To prove my eagerness, I declare the race starts… now!” He shoved the straw light youth to the ground and sprinted full speed out the door. Patrons of the bar gathered around the window and door and watched the town’s resident warrior bolt for the ancient mountain range.

The challenger, satisfied with their adequate provoking, stood, dusted themself off, and sat back at their table to resume their leafy green salad.

“Young master!” Declared one of the tavern’s barmen, “shouldn’t you give chase? He’ll surely beat you to the top if don’t go now!”

The youth crunched on a particularly crunchy crouton, “I’m not too worried about that.” They wiped their mouth and turned to the barman. “Unlike Gronk, I know the village nearby recently installed an elevator on that mountain for the tourists. Not to mention I can finally enjoy my meal without Gronk shouting about another monster he supposedly slew.”

They drained the last of the mead in their tankard and looked back to the bartender. “How about another for the road?”

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