Maestro #17

Antonio di Bari, surrounded by three fierce swordsmen, knew that any lesser man would have abandoned all hope. But he was, in fact, no lesser man. For he had fought in battles in the name of the Prince of Abruzzi, the Duchess of Manchester, and had saved her Majesty, the Queen of England on two occasions. He and several of his comrades' names were recorded in the Annals of the Holy See, as his Holiness, the Pope's Blessed Shield. And, along with few others, had traveled the length and breadth of the world learning the craft and the way of the sword.

Nevertheless, rapier and poniard drawn, Michelangelo, Paolo, and Domenico Tallerico from Cresta, Napoli circled him with intent to do bodily harm. To Signore Antonio's right was Domenico who had won women's hearts as swiftly as he won many a personal duel. On Antonio's left was Paolo, known for his voracious appetite of food and fence. And directly in front of Antonio was Michelangelo, who adored his evening readings in the same way his two younger brothers loved a good battle.

This was all known to our beloved hero Antonio, though he gave it nary a moment's thought. For if he had, he would not have been able to sidestep Paolo's thrust, or parry Michelanglo's Batto in Quarte, and guard against Domenico's Punta Riversa. Our hero was a bit too occupied with his situation to consider the joys and desires of his adversaries.

He swept his rapier in a circular motion -- thus forcing his opponents to clear some distance from him. Immediately, he thrust his dagger toward Paolo's stomach and followed with a cut to Michelanglo's wrist. It was his thought to keep the three off balance and to keep moving about them, knowing that the brothers had the advantage of numbers, time, and confusion while he had the advantage of experience and unification of motion. He knew, as most experienced fencers did, that an opponent's multitude could be made to work against their cause. This he did by luring them to align in such a manner as they would fear that should two attack at once they might strike each other rather than their foe.

Yet, for every advanced strategy as this, there is a counterstrategm... though it must be practiced diligently by those who would use it. It is, in fact, a strategy that the brothers had been taught by not one but two masters and had -- indeed -- used flawlessly on several occasions against opponents of greater number. The brothers Michelangelo, Paolo and Domenico moved into position making small attempts at their adversary as they did. Then, on their second set of failure, the eldest of the three nodded to his brothers in a decisive and unquestionable manner.

Michelangelo then voiced what the others had only surmised scant moments before... "How is it that we three have yet to defeat this opponent of one?" The three smiled as Domenico replied, "Let us rectify this injustice immediately!"

"One," Paolo announced loudly.

"Two," announced Domenico in similar fashion.

"Three," Michelangelo let loose.

And of course they all attacked simultaneously. But not on the count of three! For these were three brothers that had worked together time and time again, nurturing there training and developing their skills and strategy. They knew, as no other, that an opponent would surely act on their count and defend himself on the finale of their count. Yet, the movement would be foiled if they went a moment thereafter. And so, our three brother adversaries knew that they should not go on three but on the count of four or of "Hupp" as they called it.

"Hupp!" they let go together while attacking in unison.

As they darted in, attacking from three different directions -- Michelanglo attacking the primary weapon wrist, Domenico thrusting toward the face, and Paolo striking downward onto the head -- they did so as one. Antonio could easily defend against one person attacking two targets or possibly two people attacking a target each. But three people attacking three targets was next to impossible for any man. So, Antonio did not address the attacks in fashion. Rather he struck Domenico sword in such a manner that it shifted off line and deflected Paolo's sword toward Michelanglo's face, distracting both Paolo and Michelangelo for the briefest of moments. This is wherein he made his decisive move by attacking in counter-time to Paolo's heart. Domenico, seeing the tip touch at his brother's chest, let loose both an anguished gasp and a fierce attack.

Michelangelo attempted to use the moment in which Antonio's blade was in contact with Paolo's chest to recover his balance and slash at Antonio's legs. Both these did Antonio defeat by leaping away while doing what the ballerina's call a pirouette. He used the "dance" to recover himself and then attacked with a series of thrusts and cuts. Paolo's body now lay crumpled on the floor.

"Methinks your brother is dead," Antonio told his adversaries.

"Yes, I must agree to that unfortunate turn," Michelangelo replied seeming to mind very little.

"I think his lesson is well learned," Domenico added. "But there are still two here where three once stood."

"Let me see if a remedy is to be had," Antonio told the two. And with that he launched his poniard at Domenico's chest while thrusting a blow into his left side, which would surely pierce both heart and lung. Michelangelo leapt in with a series of attacks, preying on the fact of Antonio's poor position of sword and lack of poniard. Antonio, with little else to do, dropped to the ground and rolled to safety. Upon rising to one knee he pointed his rapier directly at Michelanglo's chest and spoke. "And now my friend, it is down to you. And it is down me."

"Hunmp," came the simplest of Michelanglo's replies. And then, "Might we discuss this?"

"Oh, I think time for that is long over. Either concede that the teacher is still the master or join thy dusty companions."

"Perhaps, perhaps. Might I request, purely on my brothers' behalves, that we be permitted a second try?"

"You might Michelangelo. Once, in good faith, you have shown me your true spirit and honor: Drop! Your! Sword!"

Michelanglo kneeled to his right knee, and then suddenly lunged forward with a passato di soto attack. With no parry available - with no good counter able, Antonio took his only means of escape: he leapt upward. His landing carried him onto Michelanglo's blade, trapping it to the ground. Antonio quickly placed his sword tip on Michelanglo's throat. With sword tip firmly in place, Michelangelo smiled and released his sword.

----- [With the parchment above came a small note enclosed...] ------

Dear brother de Verdin,

It is my sincerest hope that you have enjoyed the Contessa Giulia di Rossi's portrayal of my sparring with the Brothers Tallerico in la salle di Maestro Nicola. She wrote it the day after watching our bout... It was wonderful to have seen the brothers again after all these years and to have had her write this, this masterpiece! La Contessa tells the tale so delightfully, even adding a bit of flare to make me seem a wonder of wonders. I share it with you in the hopes that it brings a smile to your face, laughter to your heart and the joyous memory of our three brothers-in-arms.

As Always,
Your Dear Brother-in-Arms,
Antonio di Bari

By Joe and Janet Maurantonio

WE hope you enjoy Maestro: Insights into the Sword. If you have, please share it with some friends and link back to us. Copyright 1997, 2010 Joe Maurantonio & Darryl Caldwell