Distant Reaches - Losers Lose, Legends Live Forever

Imperial Archives / Losers Lose, Legends Live Forever

Losers Lose, Legends Live Forever

Losers Lose, Legends Live Forever
Raxity and Gristtella earned their own small comforts. Art by Shay Plummer.

This ballad was shared by Anita ‘ja Dansere at the 55th Conclave of Bards.

“If ya lose a fight, ya better pray for death,” said Raxity.

Her voice resembled glass breaking beneath feet more than human speech.

“There’s nothing more that awaits ya after that,” she continued. “No fame. No glory. Death. I have never lost a fight in these eight-hundred-thirty-two years I have lived. I cherish that more than any other feat I have accomplished, and there have been many. Many! That was the whole point.”

She shifted on the bed and scratched at a long old scar behind her left ear.

“Wouldn’t have gotten away from my Da if I couldn’t fight. Mean bastard. A cowardly shell of a man. Beaten to a pulp by his own daughter.” Raxity spat on the ground. “Pathetic. I had to get away. There weren’t many like me. Even fewer now. But in the beginning… I found my kin.”

Raxity stared into the distance for a moment. Her breath grew heavy, pushing her thick belly up and down. The large muscles in her arms tensed as she gripped her mug tightly. Then, she relaxed.

“Fighting was how we connected. Not each other, mind ya. Not yet. We fought together. Anyone who needed enforcement — and had the coin — could obtain our services. Our record preceded us. That’s the most important thing, ya know? Reputation is everything.”

Raxity looked at her hands, worn and calloused, but somehow fresh. She stretched her fingers, gripping the air, watching her knuckles swell. A frown creeped across her face, but she shook her hands and forced a smile.

“Was my idea to take things a step further. All the deities in this world, surely one could enhance our legend. You just have to know the price. There’s always a price….

“We all lost blood that first day. There were twenty-five of us in all, draining our arms into that filthy pit. I was supposed to light the pit ablaze for whatever god or demon we’d pledged to, but I’d already drunk my weight in wine. I completely forgot!”

Raxity let out a snorting laugh. She took another swig of ale as she sat on her hotel bed, staring at the wall, listening to the sounds of Amalcross on a lively night. Trading. Singing. Fighting.


“Good thing I forgot. Lilicus put the torch down there instead. The blood exploded with flame. FWOOSH! Swallowed him whole. We started at twenty-five, but we were twenty-four when the damn thing blessed us with otherworldly strength and long life. Or cursed us.

“It called us ‘Yenders.’ It didn’t talk to us, just… told us. We just suddenly knew. There was an understanding of what was going on. Not only the power we were given, but how we could become stronger. It put the target on everyone’s chest.”

Raxity smiled a sick, fading smile.

“We would be rewarded if we bested one of our own in combat. Death would come later. In a fight between two Yenders, the winner would gain the loser’s power. We went a whole century without laying as much as a finger on one another. Not violently, at least.”

She snorted another laugh, then burped. Raxity licked her lips, remembering some long-dead lover. When the memory passed, she continued.

“No one can stay friends forever. You remember that, young one.”

“I’m fifty-seven years old,” a voice remarked from the other room.

“I do not remember my fifty-seventh year,” said Raxity. She drank down the last of her ale and tossed the mug aside. “I remember year six, the year my fists felt the face of my father for the first and last time. The rest is… fleeting. Like my mind deciding that my life, my years before becoming a Yender, did not matter. All that matters is what made me what I am. The legend you’ve surely heard of before, ya?”

“We talk, my kind,” the voice said. “Not about you, but we talk.”

Raxity finds her head drooping at this. She raised herself up.

“I remember the first fight,” she said. “Wintol and Paras were lovers at the beginning. They swore their bond was stronger than any. We could all see the cracks. When two people think that highly of themselves, eventually, someone has to be better. They fought. Paras lost, and then… he moved on. He married. Sired children. Died some decades later. He met… peace.”

Gristtella Mayn emerged from the other room, her long nightgown sweeping across the floor. She stopped to look at herself in a standing mirror.

She molded her graying hair into a tight bun. When she finished, her hands lingered on her face, tracing her wrinkles with her fingers. After a moment, she stopped and turned to look at her client.

“Do you make a tradition of post-coital embellishment?”

“Embellish?” exclaimed Raxity. “What have I said that sounds untrue to you, Gristtella? In Amalcross, humans make wagers with gods. Demons possess the weak among us and use them as tools to end boredom. But a group of humans blessed with long life and enviable strength” — Raxity flexed her arms — “that you don’t believe?”

Gristtella sat at the end of the bed, her back to Raxity. “Gods and demons. More like fairytales and rumors. I have met many in my life and my work. Plenty claim to be special. The bigger the claim, the stronger the disappointment. Your story sounds like all the others.”

Raxity stood up on the bed, arms open, bearing her naked body. It existed out of time, sagging in some sections and youthfully taught in others. Spread across it was a litany of scars, some so deep they should have been fatal.

“Look upon my form and tell me what you see!”

A deep, wide scar stretched across her stomach: It was the length of an Amalguard’s blade, whose wielder was shocked when Raxity’s very lively eyes refused to dim. He was left alive to tell the others about whom he had faced and failed to slay.

Marks thirty inches wide made a ring on her right thigh: Souvenirs from a night sleeping in a Rilk’gar cave. Raxity awoke to find an adult Rilk biting through her leg. She’d been happy to disrupt the beast’s dinner. Rilk’gar still tell the tale of the “Uneatable Woman.”

Her left shoulder looked caved in, like a soufflé removed too early: The result of Raxity’s drunken attempt to crash through a tavern wall. She did not pay for the damages and was forbidden from ever returning.

“Are you not amazed,” she proclaimed, “or have legends of my form made ya numb to my magnificence?!”

Gristtella didn’t even blink. “My eyes have seen your flesh.”

“And the marks on it? Each tells a tale of battle and victory. Like rings on a tree, they—”

“All I see is a lifetime lacking care but filled with luck,” said Gristtella. “Several of those wounds should have killed you, but you survived. Congratulations are in order, not myth-making.”

“But surely my myth does precede me still?”

“I have heard stories, but stories are just that. I suspect anything I do not see with my own eyes.”

“Your eyes must have witnessed something grand. Why else would you grant me a second evening together at no charge?”

“I am allowed to enjoy myself,” Gristtella snapped. She held her head high but turned away. “Do not take that as an invitation to be a braggart. The most skilled lovers I have encountered are often those with little else to offer. They take pride in their carnal knowledge and seek to further it, above all else. Do with that information what you will and cease your tall tales.”

Raxity plopped onto the bed, dejected.

“There was a time when a woman like you would cherish a night spent with a Yender,” said Raxity. “Even one free night would be laughable. I could entertain your kind for days — weeks — on end, without dropping as much as a luna. Your people—”

“My people are proud and skilled. My people have existed just as long as yours, if not longer. You want me to show you respect or reverence? Show some to me as well. I am a human being. I have lived and loved and lost the same as any.”

Gristtella rose to her feet, standing proudly. She stabbed a finger in Raxity’s stunned direction.

“Just because my body has aged does not mean I am less than you. No one fawned over my mother or hers. They did their duties regardless.”

Raxity’s face moved from shock to awe.

“Your mother and grandmother, they were companions as well?”

“Does it matter?” said Gristtella. “You claim to have lived for centuries and would bother yourself with stories of our profession?”

“Legends and stories are the most important currency there is. Ask the great bards,” Raxity said with a smile. “I have spoken mine. I would hear yours, ya.”

Gristtella hesitated, but Raxity patted the bed. Gristtella sat beside her.

“My mother separated herself from her parents. She did not want the life they lived. She wished to explore and paint the world as she viewed it. I loved her paintings. When I was young, I would ask her to paint giant Salavasters. Their scales looked so rough, so real.”

Gristtella felt her head lay on Raxity’s chest. She did not fight this feeling.

“Mama was so gifted. We lived within our means for years. We did not have much that wasn’t gifted to us by my grandmother. My mother did not like accepting the gifts, but when I needed a bed, and my grandmother provided it, my mother did not turn her away. When it became clear she could not provide for me the way she hoped, she turned to my grandmother for something more.”

“Your grandmother, she was a companion, ya?”

Gristtella smiled so big, her younger years appeared briefly on her face.

“She was the greatest companion in Amalcross. My grandmother was loved and feared, but always respected. Royalty would bend a knee to her. The rich would steep themselves in poverty just to hold her hand. She was incredible.”

Gristtella sat up, her voice taking on a youthful jitteriness.

“Once, she told me of a prince who insisted she spend the evening with him free of charge. He marched into her home, which was open to all, but that was not the issue. The way he entered, and the arrogance of his action — that is what earned him the boot. She sent him through the door before he could finish with his insistence. A prince!”

Gristtella laughed. It was cheerful but also sad. She did not resist the tears.

“Grandmother never had to tell anyone how great she was. They just knew. They also knew when she was undesirable. The greatest in all Amalcross, victim to aging. Like we all are.

“By the time my mother decided to take up the family business, Grandmother was close to the end. The clients stopped coming. Her house, once a mainstay for princes and princesses, was lucky to be occupied by two beings within a week. Those who did come had more interest in drink than pleasure.”

Raxity tried to wipe Gristtella’s tears with her hand. Gristtella swatted it away for the trouble.

“If my mother had joined my grandmother sooner, she would have had a thriving business to inherit. A name and a legacy, before they were ruined. And then I took up the same business. And just like them, age has arrived to put me out of business.”

Gristtella, her tears dried, ran her fingers through her graying hair.

“The best clients I can find are drunkards, liars, or both.” She lazily motioned to Raxity. “The Horst Concern took my grandmother’s home. Thankfully, that’s all they took. Now I debase myself in these paltry hotel rooms above raucous taverns, and for what? So I can cling to a legacy that will not exist lest I find a way to cheat death.”

Raxity had heard enough. She rose from the bed and began pulling on her pants.

“Oh, good,” Gristtella said. “Go. It will give me time to find another client while the night is young. As Grandmother would say, ‘There is love around the corner if you have—’”

“‘The dram to claim it,’” Raxity finished for Gristtella.

Gristtella gawked at Raxity.

Raxity was so excited she nearly jumped back onto the bed. “Was your grandmother Ellavey Mayn?”

Gristtella recoiled in fear. She began to pace back and forth.

Raxity exploded with glee. “She was!”

“You did not know my grandmother,” insisted Gristtella. “It is not possible. You must bed companions often, and you heard her name in passing. That is all. A lucky guess from a lucky fool who has managed to avoid death despite—”

“This is proof! I do bed companions often. Yes. But your grandmother was the finest. There were lines out the door for but a moment of Ellavey Mayn’s time. Her flowing, raven-black hair. Her bountiful bosom. The tattoo of love-blushed Vrauma on her inner left thigh…”

Gristtella stopped and studied Raxity as if this was their first time meeting.

Raxity got down on one knee before Gristtella. “You are royalty. You are a queen, heiress to the throne. The product of a great legend.”

“None of that matters,” said Gristtella. “Look at my skin. My hair. Someone like you would not understand. People fade away. The fact that it ends is life’s biggest joke.”

Rising to her feet, Raxity began to vent.

“Imagine your legacy fading away, but you are still alive to see it go! I do not age. Over the years, my body has healed, strengthened, and smoothed. These scars were once gaping wounds. My life is agony. I have lost nothing, and yet I pray for death all the same. A death that will not come.”

At that moment, Gristtella was struck with inspiration so powerful she had to sit down on the edge of the bed.

Raxity continued to curse her circumstance: “Do these look like the hands that could lose in battle? Does my form” — she beat her chest — “present as one who would simply lie down? Never! I am Raxity, the Final Yender! I could crack Rilk’gar spines in half with mine own hands! I have forgotten more about this world than most have experienced, and how am I perceived? I am called a drunkard and a braggart! That may be true, but it is not without reason: I have lived. Truly lived! I wish to die, but my strength will not allow it.”

“I could beat you,” said Gristtella, but her voice was so low that Raxity did not hear her.

“That is the real joke,” raged Raxity. “Not a life lived and ended as is natural, but—”

I could beat you!” Gristtella roared.

The Yender’s eyes filled with shock. She mustered a laugh.

“You could not beat me,” said Raxity. “You’ve said it yourself. You’re old. Weak and old.”

“Let me win. Then we both get what we want. I become stronger and ageless. You live out the rest of your existence and move on. You are granted peace.”

Now Raxity paced. She suddenly seemed so small to Gristtella.

“I don’t know if this will work,” said Raxity.

“Are there rules against letting me win?”


“Do I have to be a Yender?”

“No. In fact,” said Raxity, “defeating me would… make you a Yender.”

“Then what is the issue?” asked Gristtella.

“I don’t know if I can just let you win!”

Raxity burst through the door and into the Amalcross streets.

Gristtella chased after her.

“Do not run from me, Raxity!” Gristella shouted.

“I am not running,” Raxity yelled back. Some Amalcrossers began to watch.

Gristtella caught up to Raxity and grabbed her shoulder. Raxity whorled to face her.

“I do not think you understand,” said Raxity. “You would not have to draw blood or end my life. To win, a blow from you must send both of my shoulders to the ground, and they must remain there for three seconds. Three seconds! Do you know how difficult that would be?”

“It sounds incredibly easy,” Gristella shot back.

“Then what would my legacy be? If a companion manages to defeat the most legendary Yender that ever lived, what does that Yender become? I do not want my death forgotten!”

More people gathered around them, whispering.

“By your own admission, you have already been forgotten,” said Gristtella. “Why not be granted peace from that pain? Or start a new legacy as a normal woman? You say you’ve truly lived. Have you sired any offspring? Have you given life?”

Raxity lowered her head, then shook it. Gristtella took one of Raxity’s hands in her own and lifted Raxity’s head gently by her chin. They stared into each other’s eyes.

“There is much more for you to do,” said Gristtella. “You can live a full, complete life. Love will guide you toward an end that will leave the greatest legacy. Family. Your name will live on, as my grandmother’s did. All you need do is allow me to bring you down.”

An anxious smile forced its way across Raxity’s face. She nodded.

“Yes. Yes, we can try it. Yes.”


Raxity flinched from Gristtella’s excitement, but Gristtella didn’t notice. Instead, she began stretching and readying herself.

Raxity looked around, finally noticing the growing crowd gathering around them.

“Gristtella, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to hit you. I’m older. I would like to stretch first. I do not wish to hurt myself. Though I suppose I would heal up immediately, yes? This is so exciting!”

“Do we have to do it here?” More people. More whispers.

“Raxity, you are stalling. Everything is going to be okay. This is what you want. No more being a Yender. No more having to prove yourself. You can leave it all behind. A clean slate! How old were you when you became a Yender?”

Raxity tried to draw up the memory. “I do not remember.”

“You look to be in your twenties,” said Gristtella, “but I hope you were older. If the powers you gained made you look this young, I cannot wait to see what they do for me! It will be my second coming. My grand renewal! All will look upon me with want and need, and I will make them wait. The anticipation will kill even the strongest of them. My legend will spread far and wide! Gristtella Mayn will never be forgotten!”

The crowd cheered, much to the shock of Raxity. She looked at Gristella, watching the other woman’s legend grow before her very eyes.

The companion turned and looked at Raxity with fierce excitement. “Come now! I promise I will try not to hurt you, but I have not felt this strong in years. Roll with the punch if you wish, but it may do no good!”

Gristtella cocked her fist back, stepped forward, and unleashed a furious punch. And Raxity felt her own right hand curl into a fist.


Three days later, a small tavern called the Emerald Appendage was having a wild night.

A companion named Trilly stood before a mirror. She stroked her long, red hair. Her young, green eyes studied her face. A slight wrinkle was making its way onto her forehead. As she looked at herself, her client called in from the other room.

“If ya lose a fight, ya better pray for death.”

Amalcrossers Seeking Amalcrossers
Previous Post
Amalcrossers Seeking Amalcrossers
A Journey’s End
Next Post
A Journey’s End
Never miss an adventure...
Subscribe now for stories, lore, art, and more delivered to your inbox.