“Let’s get on with it then,” Lee said.
Both Vaughn and the King of Storms turned to look at him.
“Neither of you is going to change their name so now it’s time to come up with another way to handle it. You’ll want to choose seconds and Vaughn, you get to choose the weapon if it’s a duel.”
“Duel?” Vaughn sounded incredulous.
“Sure. What else would it be?” Lee grinned at the both of them, but started talking before either of them could reply. “Of course it doesn’t have to be a duel. Trial by ordeal has it own good points. I always liked the one where you each stuck a hand into boiling water and the one whose hand healed best won.”
Jaclyn stopped talking to Cassie long enough to say, “Wouldn’t that be cheating?”
“Of course it was cheating. Worked pretty well too — except for the time that some baron decided my healing had to be from the devil, and, they burned me alive.”
“Burned you alive?” Vaughn said.
“It didn’t take,” Lee said. “Ah, but you should have seen their faces. They’d had the sense to use chain instead of rope, but by the time most of my flesh had burnt off, the chains weren’t tight anymore, so I pulled my hands out and walked away. I didn’t even have to fight them, but, of course, I was still on fire.
“Public executions,” he said, “you just can’t beat them for cheap entertainment.
“But let’s get back to trial by ordeal,” Lee said. “My idea is that we have the Rocket whip up a machine that controls current and we find out how much electricity each of you can take before passing out or giving up. What do you say?”
“I think I could handle that,” Vaughn said.
“No.” The King of Storms shook his head.
Lee eyed him, “Well, what kind of ordeal would you prefer?”
The King of Storms said nothing for a moment and then at least six voices started talking at once.
“OK,” Lee said. “Stow it. If you can’t come up with an ordeal you like, let’s go with a duel.”
* * *
Two days later, on Friday afternoon, we stood with the same people in the same place.
Jaclyn stood in the sand talking to Daniel, Haley and I. “I think the whole thing is stupid. A duel? That’s the best way we can do? ‘Oh look, we’ve got nearly the same name. How will we figure out who gets to use it? I’ve got it. Let’s throw lightning at each other.’ ”
“It does look that way,” I said. “On the other hand, neither of them seem to want to compromise.”
“She’s right,” Haley said. “It all just seems senseless.”
Some twenty feet off to our right on the beach, the other group of people broke up. Cassie, Vaughn, and Lee walked over and joined us. The King of Storms and a short man wearing a blue robe with gold trim stood together next to the water.
Cassie broke the silence. “Here’s what’s going to happen. They’ll fight until unconsciousness. If Storm King wins, he keeps his name. If the King of Storms wins, he chooses a new one.”
“What weapons are they using?” Daniel asked.
“Duh. Weather.” Cassie rolled her eyes.
“I asked because you didn’t have to do that. Vaughn, as the challenged could have chosen anything. I read where some guy chose sausages as the weapon, one of which contained cholera.”
“Sausages?” Vaughn said. “What happened?”
“I think the challenger withdrew the challenge.”
Vaughn looked over to Lee. “I wonder if we should have gone with something like that.”
“No,” Lee said. “He’s just looking for an excuse to attack you anyway. Put it into a duel that includes a chance of getting what he wants, and the violence is contained. That’s the whole point. If you choose something silly, he might attack you in the middle of town.”
“In Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, there’s a duel in which the challenged person chooses cannons. It’s great,” I said.
Daniel shook his head. “How did you make it through that? It’s something like three thousand pages.”
“I liked the books. Besides, you should talk. Some of those histories of the Civil War you’ve read are about a thousand pages by themselves and really dry.”
Jaclyn looked down the beach, “Who’s the guy in the robes?”
“I don’t know,” Cassie said. “King of Storms’ second. Some wizard.”
“Let’s get moving,” Lee said. “They’re expecting this to start soon. Time for all the rest of us to get away from Vaughn.”
We joined the blue robed wizard at the midpoint between them and then got out of the path between Vaughn and the King of Storms.
“You may begin on the count of three,” Lee shouted. “One. Two. Three.”
The moment Lee said three, a dark spot appeared over the King of Storms. It expanded into clouds that covered the beach and the old lighthouse at the beginning of the channel to Grand Lake.
“Vaughn can’t do that,” Cassie said. “Not that quickly.”
Lightning began to strike the beach where Vaughn stood, but never quite managed to hit him. At the last moment it bent away.
“Wow,” I asked no one in particular. “Is Vaughn doing that? That’s cool.”
The lightning strikes doubled in intensity and number, the thunder hurting my ears while the brightness of the lightning activated my helmet’s ability to filter light. I could see sand spray into air near Vaughn with each strike.
As a particularly large strike blasted sand into our faces, Jaclyn commented, “You call this contained?”