The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event – A Night of Fantasy. Please enjoy.
Leading his white horse Agamemnon by the bridle, Gaston Malveaux trudged through
the mud to find his place of death under the Duelling Oaks. His second, Pierre Beauregard
followed behind swatting at mosquitos and ducking drooping branches.
The night air was damp with the heavy musk of swamp. The fog rose to knee level and
swirled when disturbed by footfalls. Hidden behind a layer of thin clouds, the full moon gave just
enough illumination to light the way and make Agamemnon’s silvery coat glow.
“City Park has certain peace to it,” Pierre said. “A most ethereal quality. If fate is to
unfold tonight, at least this place is the setting. It feels as if angels are present among the cypress
“Oui,” Gaston said. He didn’t agree, but he had empathy for Pierre’s nervous chatter.
Gaston Malveaux felt at ease with the event at hand. It was the simplicity of the situation
which calmed him. He knew he would slay the beast. But he also knew he would die in the act.
One life for many lives. At least, Gaston thought, the city would be rid of Corazon.
“I wish there was better light, my friend,” Pierre said when they reached the circle of
magnificent oak trees. “This darkness is our great enemy.”
“Corazon is the great enemy.” Gaston’s tone was even and unemotional. “Never forget
who the enemies are amongst men.”
“Yes, of course, Gaston. I meant…”
“Je sais, mon ami. Je sais.”
Although he left his order many years ago to join Gaston, Pierre still displayed the
exuberant optimism of the young Jesuit he once was. This attitude, Gaston mused, could only
belong to one who knew he was completely loved by God.
“Perhaps there is some other way, Gaston? Perhaps we can appeal to Morizant again.
This time directly. He must know someone, somewhere who can help us. Surely we can’t be the
only two who can save this wicked city?”
Gaston stroked Agamemnon’s neck and nuzzled his nose with with his own. He didn’t
look at his second. “There is no time, my young friend. Corazon’s ego has presented us with this
duel. We must seize this opportunity to vanquish him.”
Pierre sighed and closed his eyes in prayer. Upon his amen, he bowed to Gaston. “Then,”
he said rising. “Then, I shall stand by your side and be at your service.” Pierre removed a small
box from his satchel. He held it up to Gaston. Carved with fleur de lis in its ebony shell, it was
secured by a chain and a heavy lock. “I had it blessed three times as you have asked and have
lined the inside with sage.” Pierre removed the dagger from his side. The naked blade was
serrated like alligator teeth. “I shall cut out his heart, seal it in the box and sink it in the swamp
after, after you…”
The two men regarded each other with respect and love; sealed in a brotherhood made
strong by the unholy war they had fought for the better part of a decade. The angry bray of
Agamemnon, broke their stare. They looked around to see who had come, but knew from horse’s
troubled snort it must be who the evil one they were waiting for.
Corazon’s voice boomed off the oaks and the wet ground before he was seen. “You are
both here! And so are we!”
The beast emerged from darkness into the circle of oaks. At first glance, he looked like
the Irish barkeep he once was; small and rotund like a barrel. He seemed no match for the lithe
and sinewy Gaston. But the barkeep’s wild eyes told of the inhuman creature which possessed
that small frame. His open waistshirt revealed the patch of charred skin over the heart where the
unclean presence of the ancient Corazon now lived.
Corazon circled the two men and let forth a cracking laugh. “Shall we begin?” He turned
to his toad like second and pointed towards his black horse. “George, my weapons.”
“Aye, gov’ner,” George said. The wound above George’s eye was still fresh from
Gaston’s wicked slice the night previous and he was still hot with fury about it. He mumbled
cockney invectives as he collected the épées case.
“We are to wait for Pare Antoine as agreed,” said Pierre dispassionately. He knew the
priest would make no difference to the outcome, but wanted rules to be followed nonetheless.
“Very well,” Corazon sighed. “So, you see, George, how they are so desperate for their
“Their God is weak and dying. Fools, they are,” George said with a toothless titter.
“Frenchmen,” he sneered and spat and the ground.
Insulted, Pierre stepped forward, but Gaston put his hand on his chest. “No, Pierre,” he
whispered. “Be at ease, my friend.”
“Tell me, Gaston,” Corazon said. “Why do you fight battles which do not concern you?”
Gaston remained silent, so Corazon continued. “You have no personal stake in the outcome of
my actions, yet you persist in trying to disrupt my plans! It is most vexing, I confess. Why,
Viscount? What is it to you?”
A rustle of leaves produced the elderly form of Pare Antoine and three skittish monks.
Awkward introductions were made and the city’s codes for duelling were read for the record.
Pare Antoine, trembling with old age and terror begged for peace. “I beg both of you
gentlemen. Can this feud between you not be resolved without bloodshed?”
“Non.” Gaston held his eyes on Corazon and his jaw firm.
Corazon laughed. “I am sorry, Pare. But your young friend wishes to die this evening. I
am quite happy to oblige him.”
Pare Antoine squeezed his bible. “May the lord bless your souls…”
“Come now, Pare,” laughed Corazon. “You know neither of our souls shall rise. So save
your breath and let us duel.”
“Very well,” said Pare Antoine. “The weapons?”
“‘Ere, Padre,” said George handing the case to one of the monks. “Freshly ‘oned by
meself just this very morn.”
The case was opened revealing plain steel épées; their sharpness accentuated by
moonlight. “One is no better than the other,” Corazon said. “Choose your weapon, Viscount!”
Gaston removed his cape and sword and handed them to Pierre. He picked his weapon
and looked at his friend. “Bon nuit, mon ami,” he said. “Courage. Faith. Victory.”
“Adieu,” Pierre said. “I will always have you in my prayers.”
Gaston balanced the épée in his hand. “I am ready,” he said. “Let’s begin.”