CHRISTOPHE kept his pace steady, his line of sight dead ahead and ignoring the countless faces along the designated route of the race.
The marathon had started an hour out, meant to give all in Paris a chance to see the two finalists on this Christmas morning as they ran against one another through the snowy streets leading back to the Palais.
Every few blocks Christophe would look to see how far back his opponent was trailing him, and by his estimation he had kept a two-minute lead throughout.
It had been a gamble to start off the race with a sprint, but they felt his youth and size was the one natural advantage he would have in this first half of the final competition.
They, as in he and his beloved, the two having stayed in each other’s arms for quite some time the night before while the blood they were lying in dried as they contemplated the challenge ahead.
The two young lovers agreed that the best way to go about finding a solution to their problem was to look at it as if it were a fairytale. Knowing beforehand the details of the last challenge allowed them to think of possible ways the main character would achieve victory in the climax of their story. A risky strategy for something as real as what they were facing, but then again hadn’t the events that had unfolded thus far proved to be just as worthy as any of the stories they had read?
And so Christophe went about bringing their conceived fiction to life. Taking a significant lead from the start so that the bigger man would use brawn over brains by trying to match his younger, faster adversary and therefore become winded far sooner than he would have hoped.
Such an approach wouldn’t have been taken if it weren’t for the rule of automatic disqualification for a contender if it was thought that he was not giving it his all. Wise as they were, the Grimaldi family eliminated the possibility of Germany, or anybody else for that matter, of using the strategy of willfully losing the race in order to conserve one’s energy for the hand-to-hand combat.
Just as the princess and the young lord had predicted the distance between the two adversaries remained far enough to where a steady pace could now be kept by Christophe, while another component of their logic came to fruition in that the German would try to rehydrate himself by eating snow, of which actually had the opposite effect.
So there he was, the underdog of every single challenge covering the last few yards of the marathon with controlled breath while his opponent, some two minutes behind fought to keep his massive body from giving way.
All Christophe could hear when he got to the front of the Palais was the deafening cheer of hundreds of thousands. The area had been cleared for the final battle, and as Christophe filled his lungs with oxygen he looked up to the viewing deck that had been set up for the royals and found his Angelique, seated alongside King Philip, his wife and members of the Grimaldi family.
If he failed to defeat Germany in this last bout not only would he lose his beloved forever, but even worse would be the fact that her impurity would be discovered, resulting in the downfall of her and her family, as well as the possibility of her death.
The horrific thought sent a much-needed surge of adrenaline through the boy’s body, urging him to get on with the second half of the plan before his remaining ninety seconds of rest time ran out. And so he began to strip away his clothing.
With nothing on but his foot ware and a hemmed up version of the night shorts that had been pulled off his body the night before Christophe charged ahead, the surrounding sea of eyes all believing the boy had gone mad under the pressure of facing this final challenge.
Not a single one of them had an inkling as to what was really going on. That this was all part of the tale that he and the Maiden of Monaco had envisioned while in a nude embrace. All fairytales involved clever wit triumphing over superior strength, and this one would be no different, or at least they hoped.
Heaving like he had just been pulled from the depths of an ocean Germany fell to his knees upon crossing the finish line, fighting for breath in a few moments of vulnerability. Vulnerability that the protagonist of this legendary story-in-the-making needed to capitalize on if he were to have a chance of coming out on top.
Christophe jumped onto the back of the monster known as Germany, sinking his arm underneath the solid chin and against the throat for a rear naked choke.
He squeezed with all his might as the large hands of his adversary tried to grab onto him to peel him off. But they were unable to find any kind of grip, slipping off with every attempt.
So far the plan was working. The German was still panting from the race and Christophe had managed to secure one of his weak points. Now if only he could apply enough pressure to render the giant unconscious.
But then he noticed that the ground below was getting farther away and realized that Germany was standing to his feet.
Next thing he knew Christophe had an unsettling view of the sky above, which held for a moment before turning into a descent into trouble, the drawn out second it took to fall back long enough to let him know he had been countered, the Goliath throwing himself backward onto the ground to smash the pest at his back.
The impact was colossal, every morsel of air within Christophe’s body having been crushed out of it, his awareness being sucked into the abyss of unconsciousness.
But the bitter cold against his skin kept him alert enough to fight off the invading darkness, and as if trying to focus blurred vision he managed to return to coherency just as the mass of Germany had committed his whole body weight to crashing back down upon him for a final blow.
So close the two had come to colliding that the wool covering Germany’s body brushed against Christophe’s bare skin as he moved off the line of attack, with the striking elbow thundering down hard on the solid ground below since the cushioning snow had been cleared away by the boy’s body.
A thick crack shot through the air, but not until the giant reached for his slippery little foe with only one hand was his new weakness discovered.
Obviously broken, the shape of his right arm underneath his wool coat was now grotesquely deformed, but it didn’t stop the seasoned warrior from carrying on.
One lunge after another, he went for the boy like a bear swiping at a hyena, but Christophe was as slippery as an icicle, the heavy hands either missing their target or just grazing its sleek surface.
The giant propped himself up on one foot, his other knee soon to leave the ground so that he could stand back up to his feet. But he stopped for a moment, only now taking notice that his hands were greasy. And a moment was all Christophe needed to zero in on another one of his opponent’s weak points.
As he thrust his leg forward Christophe was elated that he had decided to wear his heavy boots even though they had slowed him down during the race. The primary reason for doing so was to prevent frost bite, but now, as their thickness made contact with Germany’s crotch he knew they were boots he would cherish from this day forward.
The giant bear-of-a-man roared out in pain, holding himself up like a tripod, by one knee, one foot and his one working hand.
All Christophe could see now was that beautiful weak point that stared at him in full exposure. Germany’s deep-throated trachea. Covered with nothing more than a thin layer of skin, there was no massive muscle or thick bone to stand in the way of a simple boy from delivering a fist to it fueled by all the hope in the world.
Killer instinct… A thirst for blood… No such barbaric traits were needed for an adolescent grape cultivator to defeat a monster lord four times his size. In the end all it took was some grapes, some thistles, a nice coating of pig grease, a pure heart and a driving force that gives all fairytales their magic…
Eight Years Later
Through the aisles of grapevines the little girl ran with outstretched arms, reaching for the open blue sky above while it warmed her with its soft golden blanket of sun.
Occasionally she would swoop down and pluck from a bunch of berries a juicy grape from which she was named after. The same name that had been given to the land her father had been made earl of upon her birth.
This place where thistles grew was just as much her home as the coast of Monaco, where her and her parents would live during France’s winter months.
Running into their arms she kissed her mother’s round belly twice, once for her mommy and once for the baby growing inside her mommy’s tum-tum.
She then reached up for her father who picked her up into his strong arms, kissed her on the forehead and placed her high atop his shoulders.
It was from there where Chardonnay looked out onto the land that would one day be hers, thinking on the story she never got tired of hearing. Of how father had created the grape that ended up bringing he and mother together. And how the world was now beginning to take pleasure in the wine that had been developed from the grape.
And so as the family of four set out to do a little harvesting Christophe and Angelique indulged their first born in the retelling of how she had come to be.
As our quarantine continues…
If you enjoyed this tale and would like another from our library of substance let us know in the comment section, along with which of the following you’d be most interested in reading next!
Riker’s Calling – A gritty Crime Thriller.
Elsa’s Gift – A dramatic story of perseverance with a female lead.
The Mirrored Staircase – Dramatic Horror.