For the July prompt call: He didn’t expect them to fight over him…
“Does anyone here have reason to object to this duel of honor?” asked the officiant, looking sternly around at the brightly-colored gathering of the curious and the noble. The two duelists, clad in their house colors of midnight blue and sunset scarlet glared around at the assembly, daring them to object. People did, sometimes.
He should. He should say, no, I want her. Except Robin couldn’t say that, because he had been truthful with neither of them. Now two beautiful and deadly women stood proud, with rapiers drawn, and he stood frozen on the sidelines.
The seconds, more soberly garbed in brown and black, nodded.
“To your places. En garde. Remember, you have chosen to fight until one of you yields. Fight well.”
The Duchess of Elmholt smiled at him. He smiled back, hoping his nerves didn’t show. He’d never meant to get anyone hurt.
Robin hadn’t realized how fast duels were. He couldn’t follow the flashing steel – the swords chased each other through the air, darting forwards to find openings and back to block the opponent’s flickering blade. The duchess’ hair was a ribbon of fire as she cut and parried, the marchioness’ black bound up in a sensible net.
The marchioness stumbled, and then her sword was flying through the air and the duchess had her blade touching the pale column of Eliza’s throat.
“Do you yield?”
Eliza’s green eyes narrowed, and she said nothing, breath coming hard and fast.
“Do you yield?”
“She yields!” he found himself crying, not liking the glint in Adelaide’s eyes. “Please, your grace.”
She did not take her eyes off her opponent as she asked him, “You admit she has no claim on you? You’ll be mine?”
Well, that was going a little far-
Whether through choice or carelessness, the sword nicked Eliza’s skin, just enough to show red.
“Yes, yes, please, Addie- your grace. Surely, this settles the matter?” He stepped forward, hands open and unthreatening.
“I yield,” said the marchioness, stepping back and bowing.
The duchess cleaned and sheathed her sword. Robin brought her a cup of water with mint, and she drank it in one swallow.
“Walk me back to my room?” she asked, with a sidelong glance.
He nodded, and accepted her arm around his waist. He did like her, after all.
“I’m glad you accepted my suit,” she said.
“It’s my honor, your grace.”
“Mmm. Did you know that Eliza and I were childhood friends? Our estates border each other.”
“I’m sorry to have come between you.”
“Yes, why did you do that?”
“I – your grace – I meant no disrespect. I did not realize that her ladyship would take my words as she did, as a promise-”
“And yet you said them.”
“Your grace, if I’ve angered you, I apologize.”
“No, not at all. You see, Eliza and I were all set to be cross with each other, until we had a nice long talk. It’s not your fault we let you play us off each other to see who would give you the most expensive presents, darling, but we decided enough was enough.”
Well, this did not seem promising. Not promising at all.
“What do you think that duel was about, love?”
“Oh, yes. We were quite furious with each other, you know.”
“You are, aren’t you? Six months of teasing and flirting and playing, and you’re sorry.”
“You’re very dear to me, your grace. Addie. I don’t wish to – I didn’t mean to-”
“Shh. We’ve gotten it all decided. I won the right to have you first, and she and I will just have to share.”
For once, after a lifetime of making his living on his wits, Robin could think of nothing to say.