A light-brown-haired man stepped in front of Tim’s path several yards ahead of him. His beard seemed to glow in the limited light. In a gruff voice he declared, “I challenge thee to a martial arts bout. En garde!” The man exploded forward, curved hand above his head.
Luckily, Tim was also a master of forearm-warfare. He crouched slightly and waited. As soon as the man dropped his hand to strike, Tim shifted to the left. He swiped out at the back of the man’s calf, nearly throwing him off balance. The man whipped around with a high kick. Tim brought up his arm and slipped it even higher, bringing the man to the ground.
With a look of satisfaction, Tim crouched down beside the man. “I believe I’ve…” he began, but was cut off by a jab to the face. “That’s how you’d like to play?” he asked while ramming his elbow into the man’s sternum.
The man leapt to his feet with a grin. “It’ll take a lot more than that to take me down, and yes,” he said. He made a taunting gesture. The provocation was met by a hard swing at the thigh, deflected with ease. Another thrust of the forearm landed across his abdominals a moment later.
“You are quite an admirable opponent,” he said with a sneer. “I guess I’ll have to use my secret weapon”. The man bent down slightly, leapt into the air, and spun, right leg stretched in from of him. The air seemed to pop with the sheer wickedness. Tim jumped out of the way, body clearing the kick by only a few inches.
“It’s time to end this,” Tim declared. He charged forward and faked a blow to the shin, causing the man to back up a step and defend his legs. Tim took the moment of weakness to lunge forward and pound his arm into the man’s chin. The man’s eyes widened. He teetered for a moment, and then stated, “You have discovered my weakness. My honor is shattered. I must depart.” A fierce gait moved him away from the battlefield, a single tear marring his rugged cheek.
Satisfaction spread across Tim’s face. He continued his stroll, triumph evident in his walk. The stream narrowed slightly as the trees thinned.
Tim came upon a sturdy wooden door. “Blacksmith” was spelled out in iron letters above the frame. Pink twine fastened a piece of paper to the lion’s-head doorknocker. It read: “Out on party business; do not wait for me.”
And so Tim fell to his knees and wept. The End.