• Published 5th Jul 2017
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Purple Point: His Life in Space - Alden MacManx

How Purple Point manages his life in space aboard the Cosmic Lotus, and how others handle him. Let the battle begin!

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The Duel

Aboard the Cosmic Lotus, distance to target 27.923 light-years (give or take a furlong), all was running as normal on this Saturday night. Most of the off-duty crew were gathered on the mess decks, it being converted into a lounge for the evening. After Willow’s entertainment for the week, which was duly appreciated by everyone watching, the card games began. This week, the game of choice for the tournament being held was cribbage. Sixteen entrants were quickly whittled to eight, then to four, Commander Bluequill playing Radiant Spark, while Purple Point battled Ortzi. To be honest, it was Ortzi doing the battling, while Point was his usual calm, utterly ruthless self. Ortzi won the first game of the set by a bare two pegs, earning compliments from Point on his play. After that, the heat was on.

The second game, Point won by ten pegs, making Ortzi work for every point he got. The third game, Point went all out, skunking the griffon with what looked like contemptuous ease, moving up to the final match.

“If I not know for sure you not use magic, I would call a duel on you.” Ortzi grumbled as he usually did when losing to Point, which he did with regularity. Then again, so has everyone else on board.

Point sighed as he gathered together the cards and reset the board. “Ortzi, a duel you want, a duel you will have.” he said quietly before continuing in a louder voice. “I, Purple Point of House Razortalon, do declare an honor duel with Ortzi Goldbeak. You have maligned my honor one too many times, by saying aloud that I would even think of cheating while playing cards. The duel will take place in the Park in three hours, after the tournament has been completed here.”

A deafening silence fell over the mess hall as all hooves looked at Point in shock. Captain Path was the first to break the quiet. “Point, are you sure you want to do this? You know Ortzi and Commander Bluequill fought in the finals of the Cosmic Games. You are not known to be a fighter.”

Point looked coolly at his commanding officer. “I am quite sure, Captain. The duel will be to the maiming, or unconsciousness. I choose the Park, so Ortzi could call upon all his griffon skills to fight. If he should win the fight, I will clear all his debts for the rest of the voyage. If I should win, I will clear his debts to me, in a fashion to be determined later. Commander Bluequill I request to be the referee, and the witnesses to the fight also take steps so the damage to the park will be minimized.”

Looking at Ortzi, Point said quietly, “Bring your top form, Ortzi. You will need it.”

The crowd in the mess hall buzzed with speculation as Point got up to get some more coffee. Wandering looked over at Ixia. “Point is up to something, but what?” he asked, obviously confused by Point’s behavior.

“He’s not angry at Ortzi. That I’m sure of. All I feel is determination for something. I can’t tell what,” Ixia replied.

Willow spoke up as well. “I don’t feel anything from Point at all, emotionally. I usually don’t, but this time, he’s more of a blank slate than usual. He has feelings, yes, and good ones, but not now.”

“I don’t feel anything from him, either,” Xanth piped up.

“Looks like we’re going to have a duel to fight. I’m going to have a few words with Point privately,” Wandering said, getting up to go get some coffee and join Point. “A few words with you, Point?”

“Of course, Captain. Do sit down.”

Wandering sat across from Point at the table. “Just what in Tartarus do you think you’re doing?” he hissed in an agitated whisper.

“Speaking to Ortzi in a language he knows well. I want him to stop accusing me of cheating. This way will get him to do so, as well as leaving an opening for something more.” Point said before sipping his coffee.

“But what? Ortzi’s an excellent unarmed fighter. You don’t stand much of a chance!”

Point smiled at his commanding officer, a bit of a twinkle coming to his eye. “More of a chance than you think, Captain. Ortzi is a griffin, I am a unicorn. We are fighting in the Park. I will wear a suppressor ring, if Ortzi demands. Are you sure I don’t know what I am doing?”

Wandering thought at that statement, going over in his mind all he knew about his Engineer’s Mate, his skills, strong points and sordid past. After a few seconds of thought, a smile crossed the red alicorn’s features. “I’m sure you know exactly what you are doing, and what he would do. House Razortalon?”

“After defeating the then-Lord Razortalon in a duel, I officially got his title and possessions. I sold them back to his heirs, but I claimed membership in the House for life as a condition of ransoming back the lands and property. Do look up the battle. It was filmed. Look fast, though.” Point said as Radiant Spark won her semi-final match with Commander Bluequill. “I have another victim to send down in flames of defeat tonight, but not the last.”

“Point, why did Ixia con you into joining the Saturday night festivities, anyhow? When you enter a competition, you win more often than not.”

“No point in entering if you don’t intend to win, is there? So, I win seventy-eight-point three percent of the time. You must admit I am the best loser of the bunch.” Point got up to go over to the game table.

“Yes, you are, Point.” Wandering said to himself. “The very model of a modern cultured gentlepony.”

Commander Bluequill joined Wandering at his table after getting a beer from the bar. “Are you going to let Point have this duel with Ortzi?”

“I will. You’ve known Point longer than any of us on board. I know he is up to something, something that will benefit Ortzi more than anyone else. Why would Point do such a thing, here and now, when all Ortzi has been doing is bitch about losing to Point at cards continually for years now?” Wandering asked his Exec before having some coffee.

Galen had a pull of his beer and thought. After half a minute, a smile crept across his face. “Oh, that sneaky, sneaky bastard… He sure does know griffons, yes?”

“Sometimes I wonder just how much Point knows about everyone on board. It’s like he could run every pony in whatever direction he chose to, IF he chose to.” Wandering mused.

“Oh, he could, but I can assure you, he does not want to run anypony but himself. Now, I do know that as a teacher, he does so in ways the student will never forget. I’ve heard tales from some of his students, both on the Lunar base, and before that, in Eyreland.”

Wandering looked a little surprised. “When did he teach in Eyreland?” he asked.

“Right after he settled the Razortalon affair. He thought it would be a good idea to lie low for a while, so he got himself a teaching appointment in a university in Eyreland for a year. The faculty didn’t want him to leave, but his students sure liked seeing his tail return to Equestria.” Galen explained as he finished his beer.

“Now, how would you know that, Galen?” Wandering asked as he finished his mug of coffee before it got too cold to taste good. “Were you one of them?”

Galen laughed. “No, not at that time. Later, but not then. A cousin of mine just happened to be there, taking some classes while attached to the Embassy there. She did say that Point did have a way with unruly griffons, to make them listen to him, gaining their respect. Something about a kick to the chest and tail of a diving….” he trailed off as an idea hit him.

Wandering nodded. “Just how did he defeat Lord Razortalon?”

“By bucking him in the abdomen as the Lord dove for an attack. However, Lord Razortalon was well named. His talons almost cut Point in half, but the buck sank home. Razortalon died quickly, but in pain from ruptured organs. Point took several months to heal from a near castration.”

Loud cheering was heard from the cribbage area as Radiant Spark defeated Purple Point in game one of the finals. “If you can do that twice, that would be nice.” Point said to the pegasus mare gallantly.

“I’ll bet you a glass of my beer that I can!” Radiant Spark said with courage.

“But, if I win, you have to drink it. In front of me. Sure you want to keep that bet?” Point asked as he reset the pegs for game two.

“I got a bad feeling about this.” Galen mumbled into his empty beer glass.

“Ten bits says Point will double-skunk her for the match win,” Wandering said.

“Seventy-two points, give or take four, and you’re on.” The two got up to watch the second game, which was interesting to behold. Point remained cool and calm through the game, while Radiant Spark found the going getting rough from the initial deal. She dealt Point the twenty-eight hand to start, and the game went downhill from there for her, losing the game, match and tournament by a total of sixty-six points.

“A most excellent game, dear lady. Perhaps we will play again next Saturday?” Point asked as he put away the cards and board. “Oh, and do enjoy your drink.”

Spark just shook her head as she got up from the table. “Why does anyone ever bet against you, Point?” she wondered.

“Because I do lose. Sometimes. Not often. Do pardon me, I have a duel to prepare for.” Point said as he got up and bowed respectfully to his opponent before taking his leave.

Ortzi, during all this, just stayed at a corner table, thinking hard. Sure, he had always been griping about Point’s skill at cards, but he had never intended to actually fight a duel with the unicorn. He thought about the terms and conditions the challenger laid out. Fighting in the Park would give Ortzi a lot of advantages, the main one being that he could fly when Point could not. It was like Point was going out of his way to give him every possible advantage he could, but remained cool, calm and collected. Point usually WAS calm, cool and collected, except at certain times, like when he was induced to perform at the weekly gatherings, or when he was playing cards, where he showed enough ruthlessness across the card table to make a dragon want to think twice about playing him.

That one trait of Point’s was what unnerved Ortzi the most. Across the table, Point’s looks at his opponent made said opponent feel like he was looking into his or her head, seeing through their eyes, thinking what they thought. “Just how does he do that?” he asked himself.

“How does who do what?” Ixia asked, coming up beside Ortzi.

“Purple Point. How does he manage to batter down any opponent across a card table? Why would he even call me out for a duel? Yes, I say so all the time, but I never intended to fight him!” Ortzi exclaimed, displaying his confusion.

“I’m sure he knows that, Ortzi.” Ixia said, sitting down at the table with the griffon. “He’s out to teach you a lesson. A lesson you will never forget.”

“A lesson? What sort of lesson?” Ortzi asked.

“One he feels you need. I don’t know what it is, but he is determined that you learn something. I can say for sure he does not dislike you in the slightest. In fact, he admires everyone on this crew, finding something to like in every pony, despite pranks pulled on him.” Ixia explained, harkening back to the Daily Raffle, which is still going on.

“Even me?”

“Even you. I will tell you that he has said he likes you as an opponent across the poker table.”

“Why? Because I’m an easy mark?” Ortzi snorted.

“No, because he has to work to read you. When he focuses, like when working on a tough task, or playing cards, he becomes hyperaware of his surroundings. He can read his opponent and in essence know what they are going to do. He also knows the effects his concentration has on others and changes accordingly.” Ixia explained.

“Then, how can he lose?” Ortzi asked. “With a gift like that, he should win all the time.”

“He can’t control what cards you or he gets. Although, playing him, he can make a pair of threes look like he’s holding a straight flush.”

“That’s the truth. I’ve folded more times than I like to find out he was bluffing, but when I go on ahead, he usually trumps me, or folds before going too far. How I won the first game tonight, I don’t know. Maybe he let me win.”

Ixia made a sharp gesture with her forehoof, one that brought Ortzi up short. “That, I’m sure he does not do. He does not like to lose, and I know he will not deliberately lose at anything. If you win against him, you earned the win.”

“Then, why is he going out of his way to make matters easy for me, Ixia? As the insulted party, he can dictate the terms of the duel. If I back out, that is equal to me admitting he is in the right, and I would lose honor. Right now, all I can see to do is go through the duel and count on his honor.”

“Just remember, Ortzi, Point does have his honor. He has a reason to do this, and he will brave any injury to prove the rightness of his decisions. Just do your absolute best.

“If I may ask, what do you feel about Purple Point? Do you like him?”

Ortzi paused in thought, examining his feelings. “I find him very likeable, but he does not allow anyone to get close to him. There are a couple of exceptions, like Doctor Zubon and Commander Bluequill, but I cannot say he is close to anyone aboard. His manners are impeccable in public, yet in private, he does have some interesting epithets that he tosses about.” He essayed a small smile. “I like the one about pulling out a griffon’s feathers, numbering them and reattaching them. That’s original.”

“Do you want to lose honor to him?”

“No! He’s worthy of all honor and respect. I cannot honorably back out from the duel. I can just hope I do not harm him too badly. He did say unconsciousness to be equal to maiming, so that leaves us both an out that will not lead to too much harm. Just how good a fighter is he?”

Ixia frowned. “Better than you think, Ortzi. Remember, he turned down an offer to attend House Path schooling because he did not want to learn how to be a better fighter. I can tell, as far back as his records go, both as he is and as his alter ego, he has five definite kills and two probables.”

Ortzi’s eyes widened in alarm. “FIVE kills?”

“One was Lord Razortalon, about thirty years ago. The fight lasted about forty-four seconds. Point was grievously hurt, but Lord Razortalon was killed.”

“Ho, boy.” Ortzi breathed, sweat dripping from his beak. “I better come up with a way to get in past his defenses fast.”

“You’re good, Ortzi. So is he. He’s giving you a chance for something. What, I don’t know. Want some help getting ready?” Ixia asked.

“Please. This is such a surprise. I can use some calming.”

“Come with me to the spa. I can give you a massage, at the very least.”

At the designated time, just about the entire ship’s company was at the park to witness the duel. Betting on it was hot and heavy, with Ortzi being the favorite to win, but not by much. The two contestants met in the middle of the park, with Commander Bluequill as referee. The combatants were not wearing their uniforms, in a bow to Griffonian tradition.

“An honor duel has been declared! Purple Point, House of Razortalon, has claimed that Ortzi, of House Goldbeak, has maligned his honor by accusing him of using magic to cheat at cards to his advantage.

“Ortzi, do you recall your words?”

“No, Commander, I do not. I have said them often enough.” Ortzi said firmly.

“Purple Point, do you withdraw your challenge?”

“No, Commander, I do not. Such a stain to my honor can only be cleansed by combat. To regain my honor, I am going to kick his ass.”

“Griffon law not allowing an alternative, the honor duel is formally declared. You will fight until one of you has been formally declared to be maimed or unconscious. Take your places!”

Purple Point marched to one end of the open space, turned and faced his opponent, his face impassive. Ortzi flapped to the other end, his face less than impassive. Commander Bluequill took his position, raised a small flag, then dropped it.

Ortzi took to the air with a squawk, sizing up what approaches he could use in the limited space available. Point kept his gaze firmly on his opponent, watching, waiting. Ortzi swooped, letting loose a war scream that made the onlookers wince. Point did not move until Ortzi was very close, then he dropped to the floor, Ortzi’s claws just missing Point by millimeters. The crowd oohed at Point’s move.

Point rolled back up to his hooves, watching Ortzi as he rose out of his swoop, hovering and turning near the ceiling of the park. “You’re going to fall now, pony!” Ortzi called from his high location.

Point just looked up. “So will you, griffon,” he said, just loud enough for Ortzi to hear.

Ortzi let out another war scream, louder than the one before, and swooped down again on Point, claws extended. Again, Point did not move until the last second, where he once again dropped to the floor. This time, his right forehoof shot up, connecting with the underside of Ortzi’s beak with an audible crack. The punch caused Ortzi to pivot up out of his dive just enough for Point’s right hind hoof to kick up, catching Ortzi in the chest, knocking the wind out of the stunned griffon. As Ortzi headed to the floor, Point’s left hind hoof twisted up to kick the griffon in the rear end as he went by.

Onlookers had to catch Ortzi before he crashed into the wall. The griffon, being quite unconscious, did not complain. Point carefully got up, favoring his right forehoof. Commander Bluequill got up from his spot. “I declare this duel over! Purple Point, of the House of Razortalon, has prevailed!”

Point nodded to the Commander. “Do call a doctor for my opponent. I hope I did not break his beak. Once he is revived, send the doctor to me. I think I broke my wrist,” he said in a slow dignified voice.

Wandering Path made his way to Point. “Interesting lesson you teach, Point. How will Ortzi pay back his debts to you?”

“I did say I would absolve his debts to me, and so I shall. Next, he is to spend fifty days as ship’s janitor, to be served at your discretion, Captain. Last, I will take Ortzi on as an apprentice, to try to teach him how to play cards better, and not lose to me as often.” Point said in measured tones, holding his right forehoof high. “I take no pleasure in victory, nor even in the combat. I would take great pleasure indeed if Ortzi would accept the terms I have offered. He will be a fine student.”

“Let me guess, you are in pain, are you not?” Wandering observed.

“Just a little, Captain. My calculations were a touch off, and I paid the price.”

“You did say you were going to kick his ass, and you did. Where did you learn a move like that?”

“I developed it at sea, Captain. I’m used to fighting in close quarters, while griffons prefer more space. Besides, the unexpected does lead to a quick resolution, yes?” Point said, the expression on his face getting more wooden by the second.

“I don’t think the duel lasted more than thirty seconds.”

“Thirty-eight-point-one, Captain. Please bring the doctor this way. The pain is intensifying.” Point managed to say, his eyes going a bit glassy.

By then, Ortzi had been revived. He made his way to where the Captain and Purple Point were. He stood in front of Purple Point, head bowed. “What was mine is yours,” he said submissively.

“I restore to you your property and your honor. Your debt to ME has been absolved, you are to spend fifty days as ship’s janitor, to be served at the Captain’s discretion, and last, you are to become my apprentice, spending an hour a week under instruction by me in order to become a better card player,” Point said woodenly, his hoof swelling.

Ortzi looked astonished, because he was. “Why have you restored my property to me? I have lost an honor duel!”

“Your honor was never in doubt, Ortzi Goldbeak. I merely wanted you to stop accusing me of cheating with magic, and I will now endeavor to teach you how I do what I do. I may not be able to accomplish that task, but the training will do you good. Do you accept my terms?” Point asked.

Ortzi smiled wide. “Of course I accept! I want to know how you are so good at cards, and everything else. You show much honor in turning a defeated foe into an ally and student.”

Captain Path spoke up. “Indeed you do, Point, but why did you have to call a duel to do that? Why did you not just offer this to him?”

“I wanted him to know that I am not taking this action frivolously, but very seriously indeed. He is one of the best card players aboard. Now, I must see the doctor. The pain is reaching intensity eleven. Student, you have done me proud. You also have a hard beak.” Point managed to say before he slowly tipped over, unconscious from severe pain.

A medical team brought Point to Medical for treatment. Commander Bluequill joined the Captain and Ortzi. “He knows griffons better than most griffons do,” he commented.

“What makes you say that, Commander?” Ortzi asked.

“You did exactly as he expected you to do, using your wings in the initial attack. He dodged the first attack, baiting you to come lower, so he could slug you with his hooves on the second. You should watch his battle with Lord Razortalon, because what he did there was similar.”

“I’m still going to have some words with Point, for bringing matters this far.” Captain Path said dourly.

“Don’t be too hard on him, Captain. After all, it did liven up a Saturday night, yes?” Commander Bluequill responded.

“I will not press for any discipline against him, Captain.” Ortzi said. “He behaved with honor, believing I was insulting him and his. The matter is now behind us. Why drag it out any further?”

Wandering Path considered the words of the two griffons. “I will still have words with him, but I will not discipline him any further. A broken wrist should be enough punishment. I just don’t want him to go to this extreme again. It’s hard on the ship and crew.”

“That may be, but it sure does add some thrills to the monotony of the voyage.”

“What, and he has not added enough?” Wandering asked, gesturing to the pond and waterfall on the aft wall of the park, now lush with plants up the slope of the falls and thick grasses along and in the pond, a good place to rest or wade.

“Point has to be the most unselfish crewpony aboard. I cannot recall anything he has done purely for his own benefit.” Commander Bluequill said.

Ortzi spoke up. “What about his winnings at cards or the Raffle?”

“Ortzi, you don’t know what Point does with his money, do you?”

“No. What does he do with it?”

“He has a rather large fortune back on Equus, from patents for spells and inventions. He keeps only ten percent of the money for himself, and his salary, donating the rest to a foundation he has set up, one that supports orphanages and early schools throughout Equestria. He mentioned that to me years ago, when I asked him why he lived in such a small apartment.

“He looked at me and said that he did remember his upbringing, or some of it, and he does not want any colt or filly to have to go through what he did when he was young. He would not elaborate any further on it, nor did I ever press him for more details. Last I checked, that foundation controlled some tens of millions of bits, with a reputable firm looking over it.” Bluequill told the surprised griffon.

“A foundation supported by House Path.” Wandering added.

Ortzi shook his head in disbelief. “Why, then, would he want to walk away from all that?”

“I am not positive, but it has something to do with his early life. Something about money not buying happiness or love.”

“And he wants me as a student. He does show me more honor than I deserve.” Ortzi said with a small sigh.

“That he does, Ortzi,” Commander Bluequill said. “I don’t know about him, but accusing me of cheating like that would definitely anger me. Does he ever get angry? I can say he does, when he chooses to.”

Captain Path was about to say something, but a medical attendant came up to the group. “Captain, Point wants to talk to you, in Medical.”

“Thank you, I’ll be right there.” Turning to the two griffons, he excused himself and made his way to Medical, to find Point lying on a bed, his right foreleg from the knee down encased in a bone regenerator. “You wanted to see me, Point?”

“Yes, Captain. I want to apologize to you personally for injuring myself like I did. I am willing to submit to any punishment you deem fit. I also apologize for distressing you,” Point said in a distant tone of voice, his eyes still a bit glassy.

“Galen did point out that you did bring some entertainment to a dull voyage. Just, before you try something like that again, consult with me first. I don’t mean ten minutes before, but a day before. Got it?” Wandering said in severe tones.

“I got it, Captain. Next time, I will do better. I promise.” Point said drunkenly before passing out again.

“What sort of painkillers do you have him on?” Wandering asked Zubon.

“Very strong ones. He needs sleep, and his pain levels were off the scale. He did insist he speak with you while he could. He should be all right in a day or so.”

“Good. How much did you lose in the betting?”

“Ten bits. I got the winner, but I bet for two minutes in the time pool.”

Wandering looked up to the corner of Medical. “CONN, how many of the crew won both ends of the wager?” he asked the ship’s mainframe.

“Two, Captain, picked both the winner and the correct five-second interval.”

“Was Purple Point one of the two?”

“Affirmative, Captain. Commander Bluequill was the other.”

Doctor Zubon shook her head in wonder. “I don’t know how he’s able to do it.”

Author's Note:

Point never does anything normally, does he?