Bard Bout


The following is an excerpt from Victor Strife’s Lineal Champions of History, a book chronicling the known history of the Champions of Light and Dark, pieced together by the Vicars Salamander throughout the centuries…

Victor Strife’s Lineal Champions of History
Circa 9200-9268 Champions Era (800-732 BC)
Champion of Light #383: The Poet from Turkey
Champion of Dark #383: The Poet from Greece

The greatest poets of their time (and perhaps the most consequential of all-time) did battle in an epic contest for the soul of culture in their burgeoning region of the planet. Their weapons were – befitting poets – sharp wits, razor tongues, and forceful theatricality rather than steel or stone. The two orators spoke so emotionally, and with such physicality, that their dramatic descriptions of the Olympians actually delivered them into existence, for the Olympic Games were birthed from their competition. And so it should have been, for both poets highlighted the beauty and brutality of bodily contestation and they highlighted this truth in their performances, which were as emotionally grueling and vicious as any hand-to-hand combat.

It is a testament to the strength of each Champion that they did not come to physical blows. Both harbored their innate drive to destroy their Other, yet both had the rational/emotional grounding to keep their battle – intense as any existential struggle – solely in the realm of evocation.

The Poet from Greece regaled the onlooking crowd (and judges) with epic stories of war, suffering, perseverance, and triumph that fed off of the raw primal energy of the audience. His approach to the contest was equal to the stakes. He was out for unequivocal victory and his performance, raw and rousing, was up to the task. The crowd was in rapt attention until the very end, punctuated by clamorous cheers or gesticulative jeers throughout. Upon completion of his story, victory was all but certain.

The Poet from Turkey followed with a tale equal in scope, yet orders of magnitude different in temperament. Though the stories told also elicited reactions both visceral and cerebral, the crowd response was markedly dichotomous. There were no shouts of joy or hoots of abhorrence. Instead: tears. Tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears from emotions that the audience had not known they had the capacity to relinquish. The tales told had no less blood or brutality, yet they connected in a wholly different manner. Upon completion of his story, the applause were at first muted – silent from those still processing and lackluster for those whose instinct told them to show appreciation but whose mental faculties were still catching up. With each passing moment, however, the claps doubled in both number and amplification. They climaxed in equal decibels to that of the opponent.

In stalemate, the contest continued. Each raconteur engaged the other (their Other) in a new discipline. Instead of storytelling, they engaged in a verbal joust; quick-wittedness and philosophical assertiveness danced together, forming a sword’s edge that could strike the adversary down at any moment . The back and forth continued for hours, with a point and counterpoint cadence that would have been at home with any musical master. Adrenaline kept the contestants going. The crowd was spurred on by hypnotic admiration and euphoric release.

Alas, time was called well after sunset as the candles (only brought as a precautionary tool) were burned to their bases. A victor needed to be crowned. It was with much difficulty and introspection that the judges declared The Poet from Turkey as the victor, based on the lasting resonance of the feelings brought on by his oration, superseding those of the Greek Poet.

The competition ended amicably (remarkable for two opposing Champions) with each going their separate ways. Mutual respect was gained that evening. And those who had the good fortune to bear witness spread the word to their respective communities, thus changing the world of artistic expression forever.

In the contest of words, ideas flew like birds
Ideas that some had never heard
As the lines between word and action were blurred
The insecure corralled their herds