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Gotham's Dead End Bar

Step 1: Be a serial reincarnator. Step 2: End up in Gotham with Death of the Endless. Step 3: Open a neutral-ground bar for heroes and villains. Step 4: ??? Step 5: Profit. Don't go into this story expecting something serious or (grim)dark. This isn't that kind of story and that's not what I'm trying to do here. This is a story about a bartender telling crazy stories about his time in the multiverse to the villains and heroes of DC. It's practically crack, about two steps removed from a fix-it fic. There is a plot (eventually, the beginning chapters are pretty slice-of-life heavy) but it's never going to be some grand tale of tragedy. In the same lane, don't expect the same Batman/Bat Family that you might be used to. No paranoiax10, dark, and gritty 'Batman can't be/have fun!' Batman. My Batman is more in line with the 'Batdad' concept or the animated series Batman. Also, this is kind of an AU. Not in any major way but some of the story might not match up perfectly with the DC canon continuity. I'm going for a static DC universe. So characters and their backstories are set but I'll be avoiding the major plot points of the comics (Dark Multiverse, Infinite Frontier, etc.) Pat reon.com/dryskies_btb for early chapters. 370k words are already available there.

Daddy · Anime & Comics
Not enough ratings
66 Chs

34: Savage-ing

'Prepare, Sean Caine, Eternal Barkeeper! I have declared my interest in your legend! I intend to visit your establishment! We shall drink and fight and break bread and tell tales! A grand friendship starts with this letter! Do not resist!'

It all started when I received a note. A message. Sent by an actual messenger raven. A very, very curious sight in the modern age.

The note itself was written with a practiced and elegant hand, and signed by one 'Vandal Savage, Immortal First Man'. The title went a long way to explaining the curious method of delivery. I know the few times I was 'immortal', my mannerisms became even more quaint and curious than usual. Not that it was permanent immortality in my case, as evidenced by the fact that I'd died several times over since then.

There was something about immortality that made you walk across the whole world just for a specific dish at a specific restaurant. Or start a world-spanning, ultra-powerful secret society because you were simply in need of more friends. Or — in this case — deliver messages by messenger raven even when there were much better options available.

Immortality brought strange and interesting quirks. Especially when it was visited upon men and women who had been mortal once. Savage was no exception, it seemed.

He was a boisterous and powerful man, judging by his letter. A warrior and hero in the most classical sense of the word. Someone much, much larger than life. But he seemed friendly enough. I couldn't see the harm in hosting him at the Dead End. Well… I could, but I didn't particularly want to. It would be more fun that way.

Savage's timing was rather perfect, as well. The beginning of an idea began to surface in my mind. The Colosseum of Crime was finished and staffed by Grundy and Croc. It was due to open any day now. Err… when I actually set a date for the grand opening, that is.

I'd been a touch distracted lately… But this was a perfect opportunity for the event to host that grand opening! By the sound of his letter, Savage wouldn't let me get out of meeting him without a clash of our blades. So what better way was there to open the Colosseum than with a duel between Serial Reincarnator and Immortal First Man?

I certainly couldn't think of one. But it was still only in the 'thinking' stage of the idea. I didn't put anything concrete into action because I simply didn't know when Savage would be showing up. Honestly, I should have known better than to assume a man like him would be patient…

A few hours after I received the letter, I was minding my own business. Going about it as usual. The bar was as packed as always. Mostly with the regulars from Gotham. But Flash had come back with another one of his Rogues again. He seemed to be making it a habit of taking them here after he caught them for their 'punishment'. This time it was a villain named 'Captain Boomerang', who was just… a treat.

"Well, that's just bloody bullshit, mate! You tellin' me Death's just been hanging around here like a bird in a boozer?"

Didi tittered and fluttered her fingers in a wave, "Hello~!"

So, yeah. He was fun. Very Australian. It brought a bit more color to the already colorful cast of Dead End regulars. Other than Flash, not many people outside of Gotham had seemingly found their cities' Dead End doorways yet.

That didn't mean we were short on heroes or villains though. The Dead End never was. Riddler, Penguin, and Two-Face — the group I'd come to think of as the quintessential Gotham trio — were back. Catwoman as well. She didn't like going a night without her virgin White Russians with extra cream. Harley and Ivy were taking a night off from Ivy's shop, making it a classic Gotham villain cast tonight.

Added onto that, some of the Bat Family were here to represent the heroes with Flash. Jason, Barbara, and Cass, mostly. Dick was busy in Bludhaven or something and Damian wasn't actually in Gotham at the moment, instead in SanFran with the Teen Titans. But there was a new face there as well in Tim Drake, making his first appearance at the Dead End in style.

"Coooooofffffeeeeeeeee…" Red Robin — Tim Drake — groaned like a zombie until I finally served him with a chuckle and shake of my head. The quadruple shot of espresso at nine P.M. seemed to do the trick and perk him right up.

Kara had come along with Barbara tonight. She kept glancing 'sneakily' at me and whispering frantically with Barbara, who was looking QUITE a bit more relaxed these days. Practically chilled out, really. I wonder what could possibly be the reason for her not being so pent-up now. Truly, it was a mystery.

"You're lookin' positively chipper, Girl-Bat~" Harley teased. "You look like a rocket crawled into your panties and lit ya right up! What's that all about?"

Barbara smirked instead of rising to the friendly bait, "Not a rocket. Something better but no less… girthy. It did seem to run on rocket fuel though. Never stopped with the thrust!"

Barbara laughed a carefree laugh and Harley gaped at her for a moment, her gaze swiveling between me and her, "Get. Outta. Town! No way?! Ya finally cracked him~?!"

"More like he cracked me," Barbara 'smugged'. "Broke me, really. And God, it was worth every second."

"Babs~?!" Kara gasped, scandalized.

"Every second of the wait or the 'breaking'?" Ivy asked in amusement.

"Yes."

"Ah, of course," Ivy nodded in matter-of-fact agreement. "Congratulations. And let me officially welcome you to the 'team'. We need all the help we can get with this man. Even with how… enthusiastic Harley can be, we can't keep up with him. I think the only one who can is Didi but she's more than happy to let herself be dominated and fucked into a blissed-out puddle, leaving us to… fend for ourselves, as it were."

"… Damn," A mook said in audible awe.

"Yeah… Damn."

"Damn. So, uh, ya think Mr. Barkeep gives out sex ed lessons? For a friend, of course," Surprisingly (or maybe not), it was a female mook who asked that.

"Shit, I'm that friend and even I'M hoping he does!" The female mook slapped her romantic partner on the shoulder as he laughed a joking reply.

"If there was ever any doubt in Mr. Barkeep's abilities, look no further than the company he keeps," Penguin drawled.

"More like the harem he keeps," Two-Face snorted.

"Ah, recognition…" Barbara sighed theatrically. "Finally, some good fucking food."

"Yes, because being a hero of Gotham isn't enough recognition," Tim sniped sarcastically.

Barbara just shrugged, "Different kind of recognition. In the right circles, Sean has become a more eligible bachelor than Bruce Wayne."

Tim rolled his eyes, "Oh, get over yourself, slag. The OG 'most eligible bachelor' is and always will be B-… ruce Wayne…"

He trailed off awkwardly, looking around as he 'corrected' himself away from the familiar nickname. He was met with unconcerned expressions.

Riddler even shrugged, "I think most of us have figured it out at this point. At least, in the Dead End, we have. The mental fuckery makes it a bit weird. I'm pretty sure outside the bar, I'm still working my way through other theories."

"Figured out what, mate?" Boomerang asked.

"That Bruce Wayne-…"

"Wait, don't tell him. Let him figure it out himself," Flash cut Riddler off before he could explain.

"Oi! That ain't fair! Cut me some slack, ya c*nt! I'm still new here!"

"God, this place is weird," Tim sighed, draining his coffee in one swig. "Another. And keep them coming."

"Am I going to have to introduce a magic rule into the Dead End's domain to keep you specifically from OD-ing on caffeine?" I asked with a mirthful raised eyebrow.

"Yes," Tim deadpanned, utterly serious.

Jason shook his head fondly, "You have a problem, Shortstack."

"Bite me," Tim snapped back.

"No thanks. I think even just your blood would keep me stimmed up for the rest of the night and I quite like my heart unexploded."

"(˵ •̀ ᴗ - ˵ ) " Ignoring her 'brothers' — Cass winked, hopped up on the bar, and leaned forward to present her (unfortunately) almost non-existent chest to me. 'Soooooo~… Now, that Barbara's getting some, are you gonna do me next~?'

Cass was a petite girl and while there was nothing wrong with that (it worked for her), she didn't seem to realize that it greatly hindered the flirty effect she was going for with that pose. Now, if she'd leaned back and crossed her legs instead… Well, those thunder thighs of hers would have been more than enough to pick up the slack.

Still, I played at ignorance, "Hmm, I'm not sure I know what you're referring to, Cass."

"( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡° )" Cass wiggled her eyebrows at me, undeterred. 'Oh, you know… the delicious dance of carnal body language~? The horizontal cha-cha~? Cheek-plapping, thigh-squeezing, womb-pounding sexy times~?'

"Ah~!" Cass' 'words' were so lewd that Kara had to cover her eyes instead of her ears. "L-L-LEEEWWDD~!"

"Oh, Goddamn."

"She really just out and 'said' all of that?"

"No shame at all, man. Wild… Hot but wild."

"Fight me to a draw first and then we'll talk," I deadpanned.

"(¬‿¬)" Cass smirked a smirk with just her squinted eyes. 'You really know how to speak my language~ No backsies~!'

"(^◡^)" Cass' expression shifted to a smile free of worry and she kicked her feet from her seat on the edge of the bar. 'So, got anything special planned for us tonight?'

I raised an eyebrow at the sudden about-face but still replied, "Maybe for the near future. But for tonight? Not as such-…"

My statement was cut off by a great crash. It seemed that I'd tempted fate with those words. At the last second before the crash, I felt the Dead End shift a skylight into existence above the bar. I could have moved to stop it. But since the Dead End's ever-burgeoning intelligence was acting on its own, I didn't.

The Genius Loci deemed that whatever caused the crash was 'safe enough'. And trusting your Genius Loci to employ its own judgment was one of the best ways for it to grow. Though they were usually tied to one location, Genius Loci were intelligent beings in their own right. That did remind me to think up a name for the Dead End's intelligence though. I didn't know yet how it would continue to develop from here but names were never amiss.

Glass rained down onto the bar. The shards shifted mid-fall into harmless twinkling stars. With the rain of false glass came the cause of the crash. A towering man — a few good inches taller than me — in slightly fancy, old-fashioned clothes and with a sword already in hand landed easily on the bartop.

His hair was long, flowing locks that seemed to billow in unseen wind even when there was none. A well-maintained beard and mustache combo framed a broad, rowdy, and only slightly-crazed smile. Eyes full of life took in their surroundings before the intruder focused on me.

I think my regulars were getting almost too comfortable with the wild antics of the Dead End. Most of them barely reacted to the man or his sudden shocking entrance, other than to lift their drinks out of the way so they wouldn't be spilled. Of course, the newbies still reacted with full force.

"Don't touch my coffee, you big bastard!" Tim practically hissed, hugging his cup to his chest like it was a certain 'precious' ring.

"Bloody fuckin' 'ell, mate!" Boomerang jumped up out of his seat in shock. "What kind of wanker just COMES IN like that?!"

The man ignored them, pointing his sword at me and declaring with a boisterous laugh, "As I have written, so I have promised! I am here, Mr. Barkeep! Now, raise your blade, I say! Raise! Our battle shall be legendary!"

I shook my head, "You could have just knocked. Vandal Savage, I presume?"

As I spoke, I took a step forward. The single step took me up onto the bartop with Savage so I stood a few meters down its length despite my former position and the bar coming up to above my waist. I turned and faced him along the length of the bar. Like two fencers meeting on a long platform.

Savage's grin only grew wider at my actions, "Bah! Doors, the bastards… I have long since said good riddance to the accursed things! Everywhere I go, I make my entrance in the most spectacular way possible! As is right and proper for a man of my stature!"

"Right. So you're just a menace to society," Tim deadpanned with dry, caustic wit.

"Nay, small child! It is the doors that are the true menace!" Savage retorted, passionate and unbothered by the sarcasm. "Do not let yourself be barred in by their limiting frames! Reject 'door-ly' tradition! Embrace the freedom to come and go when and where you please! Just as your great ancestors once did!"

"Small chi-…" Tim went silent, turning to his 'brother'. "… Jason? This one, you can kill."

"He must get in line," Savage dismissed Tim's (tiny) rage out of hand. "My duel shall be with Mr. Barkeep! I have found a man to rival even my legend! And I shall not be deterred or dissuaded!"

Didi sighed, placing an exasperated hand on her cheek, "Is this truly necessary, Mr. Savage?"

Surprisingly, Savage turned to her, bowed slightly, and replied respectfully, "It is, Lady Death. Trust that I mean your Prince Consort no harm but I wish to test myself against him. It is how men like us bond. Without it, we may very well come to much more dire blows."

Didi turned to me with a question in her eyes and I nodded, "Yeah, he seems like the kind of man who won't let this rest until it's worked through. Just think of it like manly bonding."

"Ah, an immortal pissing contest," Didi shook her head fondly but still waved her permission. "Very well. Have your fun, boys."

With that, I summoned a sword to my hand. Something mundane to match Savage's saber. I could feel that it wasn't magical at all. Just very well made. Another point in Savage's favor. He only wanted a friendly spar, not a fight to the death. I chose a personal favorite sword of mine — non-magical but expertly crafted. A light and nimble rapier with an elegant and functional guard against his curved saber.

Savage grinned a savage grin, eager to begin. He raised his blade to the ready, setting his feet for an opening lunge. I mirrored him with a much more closed stance, ready to receive and react based on his first strike.

Jason spoke up in a hurry before the duel could properly start, "Wait, wait, hold on a sec! You're going to do this now? Here?!"

Savage blinked at him, confused as to why that was even a question, "Verily, strange knight."

"Barbara? This is usually your job," Jason tried to plead to my 'Bat Minder'. "Aren't you going to stop them? Before they, you know, fight on top of the bar?!"

Barbara just shrugged, "Eh, I kinda want to see how this one plays out. I'm sure everyone will be fine with Didi here to watch."

"It's a swordfight in a bar!" Jason fiercely disagreed, his voice strained with frustration and disbelief. "And Cass is still sitting right in between them!"

Savage and I both blinked at that one, looking down. Huh, indeed she was. Cass hadn't moved from her previous spot on the bartop. A position that now put her right in the way.

"(*^‿^*)" She just smiled and waved. 'Hi~! Don't mind me. I like being in the splash zone.'

"Hrrgh…" Jason made a muffled little noise. "Not. Helping. Cass."

"(¬,¬)" Cass side-eyed him. 'Not helping you, maybe. You're just mad that I have a better seat for the show than you.'

Thankfully for his sake, I decided to throw Jason a bone before Cass could give him an aneurysm, "Well, this does actually play pretty well into what I was planning to do before you showed up unannounced, Savage."

"I announced myself!" Savage declared, sounding almost offended. "Did thou not get my letter?!"

"I did. But I didn't think you would show up so soon. I was planning on having our duel in the Colosseum but I didn't have enough time to set that all up," I replied calmly.

That got Savage's interest and kept it, "Colosseum, you say?"

"Oh~! Oh~! Grand opening time~!" Harley chimed excitedly. "You'll love it, big guy. It's like a real dueling arena~! And everyone can watch too~!"

Savage laughed boisterously, "Haha! You had my interest and now you have my attention, good jester wench! A PROPER venue with a PROPER audience for a PROPER duel between PROPER rivals! Yes, it will allow our battle to rise to even more legendary heights! Come, witness our greatness, all of you humble plebs!"

"Oi! Who ya calling a pleb?! Get stuffed, ya great big dickhead!" Boomerang's stereotypically Aussie swearing insult went utterly ignored by Savage.

"Does anyone else think his nicknames for everyone are kinda funny?" A mook asked in the background.

"Yeah, honestly? I've been called way worse than a 'pleb'. Whatever the fuck that is."

"He seems like a cool guy. Weird and loud as fuck, but cool. Here's hoping Mr. Barkeep doesn't end up killing him, yeah?"

"Nah, I think this is more of a 'duel and drink' situation."

"Like how you and Mikey always get black-out wasted and end up throwing hands in the alley?"

"Yeah, just, uh… the other way around."

"I had been planning on inviting more people than just those who are here," I absently thought aloud. "So an actual audience might not be much of an ask."

"Bit short notice, isn't it?" Flash asked, amused.

"I think we could find a way to manage it," I deadpanned. "Of course, you could always help too. Get Supes and Wonder Woman and Batman and whoever else for me."

"I could…" Flash considered the suggestion, rubbing his chin.

"Don't even ask permission," I added with a grin. "Imagine the look on the Bat's face. And Superman's when he realizes he can't really keep up with you when you're going all out."

Flash quickly matched my grin for wickedness, "Oh, yeah, that could be fun~"

With nary a blur, he disappeared from his seat at the bar. Only to come back just as quickly, take Boomerang by his shoulders, and plant him firmly in place in his chair, "Sit. Stay. I'll be right back." Then, he was gone again to play the prank (and do the favor) I'd suggested.

"Oh, God," Jason groaned. "This is turning into a whole event…"

"Not it for the paperwork this time," Barbara cut in as quickly as she could.

"Not fair, Babs! You can't just call 'not it'! Where was the whistle?! The bell?! I didn't even have a chance!" Jason protested petulantly.

Barbara stuck her tongue out at him like the perfect picture of maturity.

Tim took a long pull from his coffee (was that his third now?), deadpanning, "We're all just children wearing bat costumes."

"And don't that just say so much about the rest of us," Two-Face scoffed.

"Yeah," Tim shot back without flinching. "You're the losers who are regularly beaten by the children in bat costumes."

Savage chuckled, full of entertainment and mirth, as Tim verbally murdered my villainous regulars, "What a quaint establishment you run here, Mr. Barkeep. I look forward to the drinks after our duel more and more!"

"Well, I wouldn't want to keep you waiting now, would I? Shall we take this to a more suitable venue?" I asked with a smirk.

I hopped off the bar and started making my way to the Colosseum. Savage laughed as he followed me, "Hahah! Indeed!"

The regulars trailed behind us, along with some of the other patrons of the bar. I made sure to set the arena to dueling mode before we actually reached it. And also to set up a comfortable 'viewing box' so that everyone could watch.

"( ′~‵ )" Cass pouted slightly at that. 'Aww… No splash zone.'

Just as we were getting set to begin, Flash arrived with the other Justice League members in tow. Wonder Woman blinked, looking around in confusion before recognizing that she had been set down right next to Didi. That helped calm her down and they began chatting politely as Diana was brought up to speed on what was happening.

Batman didn't even flinch at his (likely sudden) change in scenery. He went from business to business, finding his 'children' and quickly ordering a report. Tim almost lazily recounted what had happened leading up to me and Savage's duel.

Superman arrived much less gracefully than his two colleagues. It seemed that Flash hadn't been gentle with him, likely to drive the point that he was still the real 'Fastest Man Alive' home. Flash blurred to a stop and released Superman in a dizzying spin. The Kryptonian Man of Steel quickly corrected himself but he still looked slightly discombobulated from the transition.

"Where…?" He asked.

"Kal! Kal! Over here!" Kara greeted and happily waved. "I saved you a seat!"

"What is… going on…?"

"Oh, just the grand opening of Sean's Colosseum. There's going to be a swordfight~!"

"Right… Of course. Why wouldn't there be a swordfight? And I'm here because…?"

"Well, 'cause you were invited! Duh~!"

"Ah. Naturally. One last question. Did… Did Flash have to fetch me like that? It was more than a little degrading to be thrown over his shoulder like that…"

"Totally necessary," Flash answered that last one for Kara. "I was bringing three people, you know. Only got two hands."

He snapped suddenly, "Ah, shit. Hold on. I've got to go get Boomerang too. I left him sitting there at the bar and it looks like he followed my orders a bit too closely."

Down in the arena, Savage and I watched the goings on in the viewing box with palpable amusement. Even having just met, it was clear that we could both agree that bringing people together like this was a core aspect of humanity. Savage hid his wisdom and experience behind an exuberant personality. I hid mine behind something more laid back and relaxed.

Still, I could already tell — and I suspect Savage could as well — that we were more similar than we first appeared. Birds of a feather. One a bit more well-traveled. One a bit longer-lived. Yeah, I could certainly see why Savage sought me out.

"So, ready to get your shit fucking rocked, old-timer?"

"Ah, pre-battle banter! The most holy of traditions!" Savage reacted to my taunt without an ounce of offense.

Amused, I grinned, "Yeah, let's see if your tongue is as sharp as your blade."

"Even sharper, indubitably!" Savage declared with confidence. "See here, good sir! You… are a nitwit!"

I gasped, pretending as if I'd been struck by his words, "Have you no shame, Savage?! I should strike you down where you stand for such an insult!"

"Haha! You are welcome to come and try! No mortal man has succeeded so far but I relish every opportunity!"

"Of course. It is the only thing that can get your barbarian blood pumping, isn't it?"

"Tis the only way to live! If we do not test and try ourselves, how can we ever hope to improve?! As men, it is our duty!"

"While that may be true, I prefer improving myself with the people around me, not against them. It takes a much wiser man to accept peace over war."

"Bah! Conflict is inevitable! Necessary, I say! Let humanity pit itself against each other! Each battle only sharpens the blade!"

"And yet, I see you've grown arrogant and dull in your old age."

"I am still sharp as a whip or any blade! Test yourself against me if you dare!"

"No one likes a boastful fool."

"Truly?! Ask thine mother, for she has lain with me last night!"

"Which one?"

"Take your pick, eternal reincarnator! I have lain with them all!"

"Impossible and quite offensive, fool. Well, if you say you have lain with my mother, I have lain with yours! And she seems to have come down with a bad case of Ligma after our carnal union!"

"Ha! My mother is long dead! But Ligma? I am unfamiliar with this affliction… What is… Ligma?"

Grinning, a song sparked inside me. One inspired by previous bardic nature and Vicious Mockery.

"LIGMA BALLS."

My voice boomed. Two words of mockery so vicious that it counted as a spell. Like a bolt of spellfire, my two words took form, charging across the arena at my bantering opponent. They pierced deep, shocking him to his very core. So deep that their effect couldn't help but spill over into the physical world.

Savage barely had time to widen his eyes in surprise. He was sent flying, tumbling, by my Vicious Mockery. He flipped end over end. He even bounced across the arena's floor. His face impacted the simulated dirt. He slid the last few meters of his involuntary flight, leaving a depressed streak in the shape of his head.

There was a short moment of pause as Savage just lay there where he fell. Then he sprung up out of his crater, visibly undamaged, with a jubilant laugh.

"Yes! Yes! I have chosen correctly as always! En garde, my foe! You have struck the first blow but you shall not strike the last!"

He kicked off the rim of the small crater his face had created, charging at me with sword raised. He moved like a man possessed by something greater. Unlike any mortal man could hope to move. His body was far beyond any reasonable limits of human strength and speed.

It only took him two steps to cross the distance between us. And then he was upon me, swinging his sword down in a slash as vicious as my mockery. Instead of meeting the force of his charge head-on, I redirected it, parrying him and stepping to the side to use his momentum to my advantage. And so the duel between Immortal First Man and Serial Reincarnator began.

Immediately, Savage made his skill and experience known. The momentum of his charge flowed beautifully into a spinning block as I circled around behind him. My blade was pushed wide. His lashed out to taste my neck.

I ducked down and in with a step, forcing him to retreat a step in return. We settled into a rhythm with that. A dance. My sword in my left hand clashed with his in his left as well. I stabbed and he parried. He lunged and I kicked his leading foot to the side, out of position.

Rapier vs. Saber wasn't a perfect match-up. He had strength whereas I had speed. And considering neither of us were normal men, we made up for the opposite with sheer power and prowess. My thrusts and lightning-quick slashes were just as vicious and powerful as they were fast. He swung his sword as a blur, more than making up for the blade's slightly more unwieldy, back-weighted feel with pure, immortal muscles and skill.

A slash. A stab. A slight ducking dodge. Neither of us seemed able to get the upper hand. But I don't think Savage particularly cared. The wide, wide grin on his face said he was having the time of his life. To be fair, I was enjoying myself as well. It'd been too long since I stretched the old sword-fighting muscles against someone like him.

"You're an impressive opponent," I commented, darting away for a hint of space to speak.

"You as well!" Savage declared, using his greater reach to make up the distance I'd created. "Wonderful! Marvelous! Brilliant! I'll admit, I doubt I could defeat you!"

"And yet you seem undeterred."

"Aha! For I have a secret!"

"Tell me."

I batted his blade to the side. He stepped back, still grinning that wide, infectious grin of his. He held himself open, seemingly unguarded from any attack I could make. I didn't immediately press my advantage, seeing the trap for what it was.

Suddenly, Savage switched his sword to his offhand, "My secret? I am not left-handed."

He came right back at me with his sword now in his dominant hand. His swings came even faster than before, more assured and coordinated. I found myself pressed onto the defensive. My stance closed up and I was forced to fight a fighting retreat as slash after slash came fast and heavy. His saber threatened to overwhelm my lighter sword and I began to dodge more than block or parry.

Despite being put firmly on the back foot, I couldn't help but laugh. This cheeky bastard!

"Shall I let you in on a secret as well?"

"Tell me! I simply must know!"

"Neither am I."

A backward leap gave me the space I needed to flip my sword into its proper hand. A spinning flourish showed my right-handed proficiency. My now free left hand beckoned him forward, a clear invitation to resume the duel properly.

Savage blinked for a moment. Then he laughed, the loudest and most boisterous I'd heard him so far, "AHAHAHAHA! Glorious! Simply glorious! Finally! A man to match me! You are the worthiest opponent I've ever met, Mr. Barkeep!"

With that, we dove right back at each other, right back into the thick of it. Steel against steel, our blades clashed hard enough to send actual sparks flying. A slash from across his body made me bow backward and spin to the side slightly. A stabbing lunge from my new position made him jump away with another loud laugh.

We went blow for blow, clanging blade for blade. Neither of us gave ground. And I began to gain it. I pressed hard, darting around his guard wherever I could. As much as he tried to return the favor, I kept myself slippery, snapping out at him like a snake. When he did connect, he slammed his sword against mine as more of a hammer than a saber.

Savage's fighting style was savage. Something almost animalistic and primal. Sheer overpowering force. I could easily see how he'd worn down all opponents with pure power and prowess. But against me, his bone-shaking blows could find no leverage.

I danced around him, nimble and quick even by our standards. He rushed and charged ever forward, whipping his blade at me like a bull whipped its horns. But even as he never let up his attack, I never gave him the advantage. Overwhelming power crashed against me and slid off like water from a duck's back.

And where he struck, I reacted. For every slash and swing, I bit back twice as hard, pressing him even further into frantic offensive defense. The barbarian was finally on the back foot.

Glancing blows snuck through his guard as thin, flexible steel tasted flesh and blood for the first time in our duel. Even as droplets of crimson stained the packed dirt of the arena's floor, Savage just laughed and welcomed their fall.

"Yes! Yes! Draw blood! Make me taste steel! Pain, my old friend, it has been TOO LONG!"

I couldn't help but snort and smile, "Crazy old bastard."

Laughing at the top of his lungs, enjoying the fight, enjoying LIFE — Savage threw all caution to the wind. He leaped at me with his sword held back high. I met his charge one last time, stepping into the leap instead of away. My free hand grabbed his elbow, preventing the final fatal descent of his blade. I wasn't able to stop his bullish momentum from bowling us both over.

In that two-person heap on the ground, Savage's laugh took on a choked, gurgling quality to it. Blood splashed onto the dirt beside my head. Nearly half my blade extended out from Savage's back. And with that wound, the duel was well and truly decided…

Still, Savage was a big dude. And I couldn't reasonably get out from under him without harming him any more than I had to.

"Little help here?" I asked.

The wound would have paralyzed lesser men. But Savage was a good sport, a good man. Even completely run through like a shish kabob, he didn't hesitate to come to my aid. He pushed himself up, still impaled. I let go of my sword so that it wouldn't enlarge the wound. It came with him as he rose to his feet, wavering only slightly even with about a foot of steel in his gut.

And even as his body wavered, the wide smile on his face never did, "It seems you have bested me, Mr. Barkeep. Well fought. If this is where I die, it will be a worthy death."

Standing up myself, I rolled my eyes, "Oh, shut up, you battle junkie. Stay still and let me heal you."

Savage's energy came pouring back into him, "Hahah! That works too, my friend!"

With how… savage… Savage was, I doubt he would have forgiven me for going easy on him. So I didn't bother, just yanking my sword from his gut like an overlarge splinter. The crazy bastard didn't even flinch.

"May I ask that you leave a scar to commemorate our first battle, friend?" Savage asked.

I scoffed, "As if. You and I should both know better than to leave people with dueling scars by this point in our lives. They only give more motivation for someone to come back for revenge."

"Ah, that is true," Savage nodded. "Very well. My memory of tonight shall have to do."

"Don't misplace that memory in your dementia, old man," I sniped.

"Never! My mind is a steel trap!"

"Keep telling yourself that. Maybe it'll even become true."

"No mere mental illness can stand before my blade!"

"The same blade that just lost a duel to someone who's in a body that's essentially 23 years old?"

"Exactly! Wait, that came out wrong… You've tricked me, Mr. Barkeep! I shall have my revenge!"

"Just call me Sean, Savage. We're friends now, right?"

"Yes! Hahaha! Our friendship shall reign eternal!"

I Laid Hands on Savage as we bantered. His wounds quickly disappeared without a trace. Swords at our sides, we walked out of the arena like old friends. Right into the viewing area where we were greeted by a plethora of reactions.

Most notably Captain Boomerang's… "You just shanked the motherfucka and you two c*nts are just cool now?!"