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Chapter Ten - The Fifth Match
“Nyrine!” the queen called.
Out of surprise, Jesper, her companion, spun around, shooting two arrows at the royal couple. The king unsheathed his sword quickly and slashed the arrows out of the air.
“Oh…sorry,” Jesper said.
“We just escaped a group of abyssal guards,” Nyrine added, “We were on edge.”
“What do you want?” Jesper asked.
The queen walked closer to Nyrine and Jesper. “The same thing as you.”
The queen stood next to Nyrine, looking up at the grand monument in front of her. It was made mostly of finely carved stone, except for a rose embedded in the knight’s chest, formed with pure, corrupted black steel.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it,” the queen mused. Nyrine nodded as she continued, “You saw something, Nyrine. We want to understand it just as much as you do. What did you see?”
Nyrine gulped. A trance-like state overcame her as she used her magic to project the images in her mind to the room around her.
“I- I saw ruins. Death. Destruction. I saw a town razed to the ground by mere shadows. I saw darkness extending on and on beyond the horizon. I saw so much sorrow…
Nyrine’s words expanded into horrifying scenes
There was a boy with brown hair dressed in silver armor as he wept in front of ashen ruins. There was a girl with a backpack visiting a small grave as shadows swirled around her. A large shadow monster shackled in a deep pit then appeared followed by a chained spirit maybe 500 feet away from a girl who lied in chains. A golden light started to burn through the image before everything was interrupted.
A shadowy being appeared in front of them. It was at least three times the height of Nyrine and stood right in front of her.
“Nyrine! No!” Jesper yelled.
“Aki,” Byrre said, “It’s time we talk.”
“I’m done talking to you. Don’t we have a match to get to? Why did you make it so late at night anyways?”
“I thought it would be interesting to see the werewolf transform.”
“That’s brutal. That’s evil.”
“We’re in a tournament where people fight each other.”
“For a spot in Friyena’s honorable knights.”
“She’s the god of war.”
“Friyena’s also the god of love!” Aki yelled.
Byrre sighed. “Aki, look, I wanted to talk you you about your parents.”
Aki looked surprised. “My-...what?”
“They went on a secret mission to scout out the source of abyssal tension across the plane.”
“And they didn’t tell me??”
“Well, they wanted to keep you safe!” Byrre quickly returned.
“I don’t get it. I know the most about the abyss out of all of us. And they let me sit here as a pawn in their plans?”
“We thought you’d do something dangerous. You know, trying to…” Byrre trailed off.
“Trying to what?”
“Look, Aki,” Byrre said, “I’m sorry.”
Aki looked away. “I feel like I should be mad at all of you right now, but I just can’t bring myself to it.”
“D-d’you want to go to the match?” Byrre asked nervously.
“Sure,” Aki continued, “But don’t think this conversation is done yet. I have some ideas. And I think I might need to continue training too.”
Byrre smiled. “You missed a hell of a match yesterday.”
Aki smiled back, “I know. I was watching it in the stands. Let's get set up in the lake stadium.”
When they got there, most of the spectators were already seated. Rehela was there too. The full moon was obscured by the low-hanging gray rain clouds. The stadium itself was floating and in the center were reinforced wooden bridges that connected the entire thing together. Aki hurried over to his magical microphone in the stadium and started rambling on as usual about the lake and the treasures that lie deep beneath it in a cave.
“Without further ado,” he said, “Let’s welcome Ergun, an exotic dragon werewolf and Syr Ced- oh…maybe not Syr Cedric. Today we have his squire with us for an…um…exciting fight!”
Aki mouthed “don’t die” to the squire before saying, “Let the fifth match of the tournament begin!”
(Sorry for interrupting the match.)
As Audhild was packing what few belongings she’d brought, she heard a knock on her door. Looking up, she saw Oritira standing quietly in the doorway. The duelist didn’t know how long she’d been there, but now she had a chance to get something.
“Good afternoon,” Audhild said. “I’m…sorry for what happened in our match. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
Oritira nodded slowly. “I’ve heard things to that effect from other champions. It appears that your ring is connected to the Abyss.”
There was no way to conceal the shock on Audhild’s face. She sat down on the bed, head in hands. “That damned lich…” She looked back at the druid. “I had no idea. I’m a duelist, after all, not a magic user like you or other champions.”
The druid nodded. “Of course you didn’t know. I doubt anyone knew before it happened.” She walked a little into the room. “I don’t hold the ring’s effects against you. It’s unnatural, and I think you should get rid of it, but the ring was what corrupted you and caused the chaos during the match.”
“Thanks.” Audhild glanced at the ring. It was still on the table by her bed. “And don’t worry about the ring. I want it gone as much as you do.”
There was a pause before Oritira asked, “Could I ask you something? It’s about why I’m here.” When Audhild nodded, the elf continued, “I came here to ask for a place where nature can exist unimpeded. I’ve spoken to some of our fellows, and they’ve agreed to help me. How about you? Would you help?”
The duelist looked at the elf, a little surprised. “I guess,” she said slowly, “but why me? What could I do?”
"Mainly just spreading awareness. You're a wanderer, no? You could just drop information here and there. Tell other sides that we're watching tons of species go extinct in real time."
Audhild nodded. “I can do that.” She stood up and held out her hand. “Thank you for the match.”
Oritira paused for a second before shaking Audhild’s hand. “Of course.”
Many thanks to @DrakeGladis for letting me use Oritira! Again, best of luck.
The Fifth Match (End)
With one arm holding a helmet, the squire ran across the twisted pathway of wooden bridges towards Ergun.
Ergun got in a fighting stance, unsheathing his longsword, but the squire never made it there. He slipped on the wet wood and fell into the water with a splash. Aki winced a little bit as Ergun advanced slowly.
There was a brilliant golden light shining in the water, then Syr Cedric soared out, carrying the squire and helmet next to him.
“So much for our surprise attack plan,” the squire said, “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” the knight said, “We must be in our best spirits to win!”
Ergun started to speed up as he came closer. The network of wooden bridges quivered with every step he took.
“Shoot. That thing is massive. Maybe we might not be able to win…”
“I thought you just said to-”
“Nope! Panic is our best option.”
“Follow my lead!”
They ran across the maze of bridges. Their smaller sizes made it easier for them to run quickly on the bridges while maintaining their balance. Ergun tried to shoot them down with his crossbow, to no avail. All of the arrows ricocheted off of the knight’s golden shield.
“Stay here,” Syr Cedric said, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“But you’re attached to the helmet.”
“Right. I forgot.”
“Do you have any idea of how you’ll defeat it?”
“No, but I’ve battled worse.”
“And died,” the squire pointed out.
“That’s not the point.”
Ergun took a massive leap, landing right in front of the spirit and squire. The bridge shook violently, causing the squire to nearly fall into the water again. Cedric unsheathed his shining blade and swiftly attacked Ergun with it. The dragon-werewolf blocked it with ease with his own longsword.
The spirit lunged again, this time with more precision, nicking the back of the werewolf’s hand. The golden blade of light left a scar on the back of Ergun’s hand. Cedric advanced again, then put forward an off line attack. Ergun blocked the blade again with his own. The dragon-man snarled, though it had no effect on the spirit. The squire however, jumped back a little bit.
Cedric launched a barrage of attacks at Ergun, who was struggling to keep up with him. It was only then, that Syr Cedric realized that the lizard’s claws and blade were glistening with a peculiar oil. The knight slammed his shield into Ergun’s body, causing the werewolf to stumble backwards. Then, he tried to slash at Ergun again. Ergun, struggling, blocked the blade. Cedric pushed while Ergun resisted.
“It’s time…” Ergun said in his deep voice.
The clouds had disappeared from the moon in the sky. Ergun nodded, allowing himself to transform. He became even larger than before.
“I forgot,” Syr Cedric shouted, “He’s a werewolf…”
Ergun roared again, this time causing Syr Cedric to stumble backwards.
“Go!” Syr Cedric said, “Leave the helmet here. You could die.”
“I failed to save another who possessed my helmet.” The knight barely blocked Ergun’s savage strikes once more. “I won’t let it happen again.”
Ergun, in his savage state, tried to punch Syr Cedric. It went through his body and knocked the squire to the ground, causing the squire to drop the helmet. It rolled across the bridge, causing the spirit knight to be dragged with it. Now, the squire was cornered.
The werewolf made a violent jab towards the squire, who threw himself to the ground. Ergun kicked the squire, bruising his face. Then, he slammed his fist downward, breaking many of the squire’s ribs.
Cedric watched on helplessly as the squire continued to get beat up, hanging onto life by a thread. Then, an idea struck him. The knight slammed the butt of his sword into the ground causing the bridge to vibrate again. The helmet started to roll towards Ergun again. Ergun was about to finish off the squire when the knight threw his shield, blocking Ergun’s claws.
The squire leapt to another bridge and created as much distance as possible. Then Ergun turned on Syr Cedric. He lashed out again, scratching Syr Cedric’s arm. To the spirit’s surprise, he winced in pain. The claw cut through his armor like butter and left a gash in his arm. Golden blood seeped from his wound and dripped into the water.
“He has Ghostbane Blade Oil,” Syr Cedric said, “This will much more painful than I thought.”
The squire saw the golden blood falling from the spirits arm. It formed marvelous patterns in the water, keeping the youngster fixated on them.
“I need to get back in there,” the squire said, “Cedric will not die. Not for me. Not now.”
The squire unsheathed his longsword and approached the werewolf from behind.
The knight’s sword was knocked out of his hands.
The squire dug his feet into the ground, grounding his stance on the uneven wooden boards.
Ergun raised his blade, glistening with the ghostbane oil and ethereal blood. The squire mimicked the werewolf, raising his blade over his head.
I can do it. Just like Kumo taught.
They both started to move their blades at the same time. The squire’s came in contact first as Syr Cedric vanished into the helmet. The blade cracked Ergun’s skull, causing Ergun to miss the helmet, only chipping it slightly.
The werewolf howled in pain. It turned on the squire with angry eyes and blood flowing down its entire body before collapsing, unmistakably dead.
The Fifth Match - WINNER!!!!
Aki arose, clearly shaken as Rehela went down to heal Ergun. "The sixth match between Ozge and Navor will be in the meadows, tomorrow."
@DomriKade and @Aggroman15
Your match will be held around the same time as this one, so try to have any remaining story done by then! Good luck.
Preparation [Match 1]
Ozge affirmed the location of the metal spikes both in the pouch at her right hip and tucked into the edge of her light gauntlet. Satisfied, she tightened a strap on her climbing harness. Mobility would be tantamount even though the match was to take place in the meadows. With fewer places to hide, ingenuity and agility would be critical to overcome an aware foe.
She took in measured breaths, exhaling long streams of wind through pursed lips as she stretched. Navor was a knight - or former knight, he said - and she had bested knights before. Knights were tenacious, skilled certainly, but ordered. Knights fought from the posture of structure and systems, drawing passion from their values. The most successful strategies against them involved getting them out of their groove and forcing them to improvise.
Ozge pulled her sword from its thin scabbard. She caught a brief glimpse of her reflection in the worn surface as she inspected the blade. Her long white hair was tied back in a tight bun and her split brow was furrowed with stress. Whispered suggestions from among the competitors of avoiding killing flashed through her mind. She shook her head as she re-sheathed the weapon. Death is a tool and like all tools it has its place.
Her orders left room for interpretation though - winning the tournament didn’t necessitate killing per se. She narrowed her eyes. Even so, progressing in this event was her best hope at breaking Teg Midon’s hold on her and getting revenge for Ari’s death, for Lucine’s death… for her death. If getting vengeance required more killing…
She allowed the thought to trail off as she tested the nearby leylines. A bright blue flash signified her disruptive magics taking shape and distorting her image. Watching shadows swirl around her form, she lamented that the match would be in bright sunlight. She dismissed the spell and unceremoniously plopped into a wooden chair. She leaned forward and rested her forehead on her palms, sighing deeply.
Her career from before demanded that she know about people. You had to know the pace of your target’s gait, their favorite food, the sound of their voice, how frequently they blinked. Her mind was full of dossiers and details, endless minutia about daily routines and relationships of past marks. However, interacting with the other champions at this tournament was different. Mercifully, refreshingly different. Even the briefest conversations with other contestants were more enlightening and natural than any she’d had in years. They were less objects to be broken and more… actual people. People that could potentially help her.
Chapter Eleven - The Sixth Match
A claw of shadows lashed out at Nyrine. Jesper pushed Nyrine out of the way, allowing the shadow hand to crash down upon him. When the shadows dispersed, he was gone. All that was left was a single arrow. Nyrine picked it up with tears in her eyes. “Jesper…”
“Run!” the king yelled.
Nyrine added, “Go left!”
All of them ran to the left side of the room. The shadow hand slammed into the ground to the right of where they were standing. More shadows flowed out through the steel rose and joined into the monster. From its monstrous form, it became a horrifying blob of shadows that barreled towards them like a swarm of bees.
“Follow me!” Nyrine said, “Using my powers, I should be able to foresee where its next likely attacks are coming from.”
Nyrine ran through a tunnel nearby, the two others following her. The shadows were chasing them in hot pursuit. From time to time, Nyrine would shout things like “Left!” or “Right!” when they came to a fork and “Duck!” at random times when shadows rocketed over their heads right after.
“The shadows are catching up. We can’t outrun them!” the king shouted.
“Just follow my lead, trust me,” Nyrine shouted back.
“This is for your greater good,” the king said. He spun around, ignoring Nyrine’s advice. He pulled out his silver sword and sliced the oncoming shadows artfully. Right when it seemed like the king was gaining control of the fight, there was a surge of shadows, filling the entirety of the tunnel in front of the king. In a tidal wave of darkness, the queen watched in horror as the darkness surrounded her husband.
“We’ve got to be able to do something!” she shouted.
Nyrine shook her head. “I’m sorry, your highness.”
The shadows raised the king into the air, pinning him against the ceiling as he screamed. He was now separated from his silver sword
Nyrine tugged on the queen’s robes. “We have to go.”
The afternoon sun shone bright over the meadow stadium. It was pretty warm outside, and a light breeze swept occasionally through the field making for enjoyable weather.
Navor stood on one side of the field in a very concentrated state. Ozge, standing on the other side, examined her blade carefully. They would need to employ all the tactics the had. This would be a battle of trickery to the end.
“Below these meadows,” Aki said, “Is one of the few places in the plane that you can find natural silver and corrupted steel. Below these meadows, lie a maze of passageways and corridors leading to some of the greatest weapons for and against the abyss. It all depends which path in the maze you choose. Now, let’s get our sixth match underway between Ozge and Navor!”
Aki sat down. “I thought that was pretty mysterious. That was good right?”
Byrre shook his head annoyedly as the fight began to unfold.
@DomriKade @Aggroman15 I will accept any other stories you have for the next 30 minutes or so. Good luck to the both of you!
The Sixth Match (End)
“To ensure victory, we must first call forth the shadows. Trickery will be our greatest weapon.”
“Go ahead Lucine, then we strike.”
Ozge waved her hand. Shadows started to appear in the stadium like black smoke drifting into the sky. The contestants, judges, and even the audience were trapped in a sphere of darkness.
Some people were nervous already. Was this the abyss at work again in the meadows? Or was this just another one of the contestants’ abilities? Navor shook his head, thinking about Jack before he drew his blade in the darkness.
“Ari, your turn!”
Ozge dashed through the shadows. Even if she was in daylight, Ozge moved so fast that no one would be able to keep track of her peculiar movements. Right as she approached Navor, the stitched assassin let out a precise strike. It landed right in the cracks of Navor’s armor, causing him to scream.
“Argh!” Navor yelled, “What was that? Where are you?” What was once Navor’s left arm was now a stump bleeding profusely. Ozge circled back, approaching the injured Navor from the other side. Navor closed his eyes and listened to Ozge’s delicate footsteps. She was quiet like a practiced assassin should be, but even the slightest disturbances were detectable to Navor with a clear mind.
She lashed out again with the thin blade, now glistening with Navor’s red blood. The knight, hearing the graceful whistling of Ozge’s blade in the air, brought up his own to block it. There was a loud clang of clashing steel, surprising Ozge.
“He detected our attack, somehow.”
Silently, Navor jumped backwards, creating a shadowy image of himself in his previous place.
“I can’t see him…” Ozge said in a cracked voice.
A shadowy sword approached Ozge from behind. She quickly spun around to block the blade as it blended in with the darkness.
There were groans from the audience as they were still covered in the endless shadows. What was there to spectate when they could see absolutely nothing?
Ozge pressed forward with heightened senses and extreme precision. She had killed near invisible foes before. This was no problem. Lucine and Ari’s voices communicated with perfect teamwork in her head as they disarmed the knight.
Then, a strong breeze swept through the meadows. Ozge’s shadows were swept out of the area, revealing the imperfect, shadow figure of Navor.
“This isn’t Navor.”
“Then where is he?”
Ozge abandoned the shadow duplicate before spotting Navor standing behind a tree, eyes closed in concentration. Though Ozge didn’t realize it, the shadow figure had faded from where it was. She approached it carefully as the audience, finally engaged again, watched in suspense.
Both of them were now on opposite sides of the tree. The large tree obscured the sun's rays, casting a large shadow over them. Navor himself held his remaining arm to his chest, clearly focused on something. It was peculiar, knowing that Navor’s sword was lying at least ten feet away.
One of them raised a sword.
With perfect aim they cut downwards.
Their sword cut cleanly through the other’s chest.
There was no scream. Just a thud as one of them collapsed on the ground.
A cheer erupted from the audience. The match was done.
We’ve done this before.
Ozge squinted against the bright sunlight. She felt the rough grass of the arena turf brush against her cheek. She attempted to draw a deep breath but gasped as a tearing pain lanced across her chest.
Rehela quickly extended her hands to apply a healing spell to the reopened wound. “Take it slowly, you’ve just… been through a lot.”
Ozge scoffed quietly as she worked to steady her breathing. Returning to life was a tragically familiar experience. This time was decidedly more gentle though, she thought sadly. Clearly she had misjudged her opponent. Navor’s shadow projection had gotten the best of her and she had failed her mission.
Now she would have to return to Teg Midon, tail between her legs, and take whatever penalty was due. As long as she was under his thrall there was no hope for escape. She closed her eyes and turned her senses inward to the ever-present darkness that clung to her physical, twin heart…
Her brow furrowed. Where there was normally a poisonous aura surrounding her core, there was instead… nothing. Whatever magical force that had bound her for three years and supposedly sustained her life was no longer present. Now it was just… her.
Her eyes fluttered open as the weight of the discovery settled in. If Teg Midon’s hold on her life was illusory - or dispelled by her death, she mused - then she could return with confidence and settle one score. The first of two. There was certainly a long path ahead and many details to uncover, but for the first time in a long time Ozge felt a renewed sense of purpose, and something else far less familiar: freedom.
“Navor,” she groaned from the ground. The knight turned, surprised that she was already conscious. She beckoned him closer with a weak wave. He cautiously stepped over and knelt down beside her.
She lifted a finger to indicate his arm. “Sorry,” she muttered.
He shook his head dismissively as he rubbed his freshly restored appendage. “No need to apologize. That’s all part of the process.”
She winced as the healer continued her work. She paused for a moment, searching for words. “When this is all over, please find me. You… clearly understand souls and I…” She hesitated, looking back across the meadow arena. “I would appreciate your counsel.”
Navor laughed softly. “I don’t imagine you’ll be particularly easy to locate.”
Ozge turned to him and smiled, perhaps for the first time since her rebirth. “I can’t imagine that will stop you.”
[Congrats to @Aggroman15 - best of luck in the remainder of the event!]
Claire sat awake in her bed, unable to fall asleep. Her match was the next day, and she was unsure if she was ready for it. Apart from the one sentence she drunkenly said to Hareel during the feast, she hadn’t interacted with her opponent at all, and the fact that she didn’t know what her opponent was capable of scared her. Thoughts were racing through her mind, “What if they are stronger than me? What if I freeze up and can’t do anything? What if I lose, and they kill me?”
As the thoughts got more and more grim, she waved away the thoughts and decided to go out to train one last time before her match.
All the other competitors that remained were all asleep, so she made sure to be as quiet as possible while leaving her room. Slowly stepping down the hallway, she had made only the slightest amount of noise. She got to the front door, slowly opened it, stepped outside, and on instinct, lightly threw the door closed. She took a step or two away from the building before-
Claire froze up. She must have closed the door with more force than she realized. Swiftly, she walked over to the nearby lake to begin practicing. She felt fairly confident in her ability to make small streams of water flow through the air, but she wanted to make sure she was able to control a larger volume of water all at once. Raising both arms at once, the water from the lake started to rise, turning into a giant wave that started floating in the air.
Claire continued to practice for an hour before returning to bed. In the morning, as the excitement of the matches began to grow, rumors spread around that the water mage competing in the tournament had made the entire lake near the competitor’s housing float in the air, and nearby townsfolk became eager to know if they were true.
Chapter Twelve - The Seventh Match
The queen and Nyrine kept running. After ten minutes, they had exited the cave, ran up the foggy path and lost the shadows.
“Come, Nyrine,” the queen said out of breath, “We have a lot to discuss at the castle.”
Nyrine nodded gravely.
“This is a lot worse than I thought.”
Kumo was ready for his big day. He slipped on his battered, yet cared for armor, then grabbed his sword in his mouth. Somehow, even with the sword, he managed to jump up and open the door with his paw.
As Kumo walked to the stadium, some people gave him weird looks. Others came up to pet him. Most of them did the latter. Outside the cliffs stadium, Kumo greeted all of his friends: Oritira, Michio, Ushri, and the squire. Kumo put down his sword for a moment to give a happy bark.
“I know, I know,” Oritira smiled, “You’ll do amazing! I’m sure of it.”
With that, Kumo picked his sword back up and headed into the stadium. Kumo was a little late, so Aki was already done with his speech, to Kumo’s disappointment. He actually enjoyed Aki’s ramblings from time to time.
“Let the seventh match between Kumo and Spear-Bearer begin!”
Seventh Match (End)
Kumo playfully charged at Spear-Bearer. If he could disarm her, she’d give up, right?
Spear-bearer, however, had other plans. She summoned three spirits, sending them to surround Kumo. Kumo was well practiced in such combat though. Kumo spun in a circle, like a normal dog chasing its tail, knocking all the spirit-guards off their feet.
He leapt over the spirits and charged at Spear-Bearer. The woman blocked with her sacred spear. Then she jabbed at Kumo, causing the dog to fall back and yelp. The whole audience screamed in unison for the dog.
Then, Spear-Bearer raised her hands. Kumo’s blood, from her spear tip, started to expand and swirl around her in magnificent patterns. Then, it lashed out, grabbing Kumo’s paws, snout, and tail. It dragged the dog towards her on the cliffs slowly, but surely.
The audience’s boos were loud and clear. Kumo tried to struggle against the blood bonds, but nothing worked.
The ribbons of blood raised Kumo into the air and slammed him onto the ground. Once. Twice. Oritira couldn’t watch.
Meka, from the stands, told Ushri, “I’m gonna go help the puppy. This is brutal.”
“You can’t do that!”
“Ugh…fine…I don’t like seeing Kumo beaten like that.”
Spear-Bearer raised Kumo into the air higher than ever. This would be one of Kumo’s last moments if she threw him to the ground again. Suddenly, a beam of light from the clouds struck Kumo’s body. The blood ribbons rescinded quickly and Kumo dived at Spear-Bearer, surrounded by a powerful golden light.
“Hurt one of the blessed, and you will bear the wrath of Friyena.”
Spear-Bearer summoned spirit after spirit as she held her spear up at the dog. All of them kept getting destroyed. As kumo hit the spear, it cracked into tiny wooden splinters. Kumo landed on top of spear-bearer, pinning her to the ground. He gave a happy victory howl. The audience roared in approval.
“He said thank you,” Oritira said, “Maybe Friyena isn’t gone after all…right?”
Aki cheered as the dog won. The golden light had already healed, Kumo, so there was no need for any healing either. This was his perfect match. Byrre sat, looking at where the light came from, perplexed, yet content at the same time.