Styling the Fight: John Scalzi

The Young Siward fight from Macbeth in the style of John Scalzi.

Scalzi is one of my favorite living authors. His style is heavy on dialog and tends toward comedy (which I’m obviously going for here) but also features tremendous emotional depth, especially in his empathy for peripheral characters. I’m doing him a disservice in not capturing that aspect of his writing.

If this amuses you, and you want to check out some actual Scalzi, try anything in the Old Man’s War series but especially the short story “After the Coup” (free to read at the link).

“—except Young Siward.”

“Yes?” His ears perked up at something like the sound of his name.

“We want you here.”

“Here?” He pointed to a corner of the rough-sketched map.

“Yes.”

“But won’t our main forces be here?” he said, pointing to a different corner.

“Exactly.”

“And didn’t you say you expect Macbeth to be here,” he said, aiming at a third point, almost equidistant between the first two. “I don’t understand why you want to separate me from the entire army …”

“That’s it, you get it, boy.”

“… or even how I’m supposed to— Wait, what? That’s your plan? To single me out and strand me behind enemy lines? You know this is my first battle, right?”

Lennox broke from taking a long pull on his flask. “Is it now?”

“You said it yourself, ‘unrough youths that even now protest their first of manhood.’ Boys, basically— without beards and just past puberty. That’s what you said, right? And you meant me.”

“I  don’t recall your being present when that was said.”

“Well, no, but word gets around.”

Young Siward looked around at the grizzled faces of the men deciding his fate: Macduff, Angus, Ross, Lennox, his father, and the boy-king, Malcolm.

“Listen, it’d be one thing if I were somehow accidentally separated from the bulk of our troops, or through my youth and inexperience somehow found myself alone with the tyrant. But this? You’re sending a lamb to the slaughter. It’s a deliberate sacrifice.”

He faced his father. The elder Siward. The default. His name needed no qualifier.

“Dad? Tell me you’re not okay with this.”

“It was your father’s idea.” This was Malcolm, their would-be king.

“Dad?”

“Get your wounds in front, boy, that’s all I ask. Make your father proud.”

“Wouldn’t you be prouder if I stood by your side over our vanquished foe?”

“In. The. Front.”

Which was how Young Siward found himself lost and alone in a damp corridor redolent with the odor of black mold and blacker deeds.

This is what comes, he thought, of allowing them to call me Young Siward.

“I have a name,” he said, a little petulantly for someone hoping to ditch the “Young” moniker.

“What is thy name?” boomed a voice from the darkness. A giant strode forward into the light, blood dripping from his sword. “My name is … Macbeth.”

Fuck. He was more lost than he’d thought.

“Could the devil himself pronounce a title more hateful to thine ear,?” Macbeth said. “Or more fearful?”

“More fearful?” Young Siward said, backing away. “Probably not. As fearful, maybe.”

And then he tripped over a loose stone, wrenching his leg as he fell, and landed face down, trapping his own weapon beneath him.

Double fuck.

This is how I die, he thought. Alone and wet and … Wet? He’d pissed himself. Perfect.

“Thou wast born of woman,” Macbeth said, apropos of nothing.

Young Siward braced himself in anticipation of the killing blow. Instead, he felt the giant grip his shoulder and roughly flip him onto his back. Did he mean to spare him?

No. Macbeth’s boot came down on his weapon arm, pinning it to the ground, even as his sword drove through Young Siward’s breast plate. The front of his breast plate.

His dying thought: At least Dad will be happy about that.

Next time: possibly something about playing the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, if I can somehow bend it to the theme of the blog (writing, swords).

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