Steel and Spell

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Chapter 27

Everything was dark, and I couldn’t see a thing. I started to walk blindly around, trying to find another door or something. Suddenly, someone grabbed my wrist, making me gasp loudly.

“This way.” The silhouette of a very tall man was next to me, the same one who was grabbing my wrist.

I let out a breath in relief, my heart beating slightly faster in fright. “Yeez, you could have told me that without scaring the living daylights out of me.” He chuckled, and I could sense the smirk in his face.

“What would have been the fun in that?” He turned around and started walking away from me, a small smile started to form in my lips against my will. I shook my head and walked fast in his direction to catch up to him. We walked side by side, my gaze not wavering from him trying to figure out who he was.

“Are you going to stop looking at m?” He said cockily and that gain a laugh from me.

“How can I be checking you out when I can’t see a damn thing?” I replied still looking at him, even though I couldn’t really see him.

“Right, you would have almost impaled yourself with a stick if I didn’t grab you on time.” His amused voice made me stop walking.

“Are you serious? Holy crap.” A shaky laugh escaped my lips, but I wasn’t that surprised. “I’m not even surprised.”

The number of times I had almost died were countless, and I just didn’t care anymore.

“Had any confrontations with death before?” He asked as we continued to walk through the dark.

“Too many to consider it normal. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m alive.” I said with honesty, my mind bringing memories back from the woods. Well, the answer to everything is Cassius. If it hadn’t been for him, I would have been eaten by worms a long time ago.

“If you survive this, I’ll help you figure it out.” He said lightly as if what was coming was nothing.

“Oh, believe me, I am going to survive this. I have a trick under my sleeve.” I said confidently when in reality, I didn’t have anything. No plan, no kick-ass moves, nothing. But, I had my confidence, and even if it was dangling from a thin string that could break at any moment, it was the only thing that was going to keep me alive.

Sunlight started to sweep inside and I could finally make out the guy next to me. Surprise etched my face when I saw it was one of the Black Knights. His copperish hair was a mess and his brown eyes watched me amused.

“And may I know what trick is that?” He asked, disbelief on his features. I shrugged nonchalantly, not willing to give more information to the enemy, even though he was the nicest around.

“You’ll just have to wait and see.” I said, ending the conversation there. The entrance of the arena was in front and I had managed to relax, the conversation with the knight doing a lot to help in some way. I looked at the Knight and extended my hand.

“I’m Liberty, by the way.” He looked at my hand as if it was probably poisoned. I sighed and took his hand and gave it a brief shake. “I think no one knows that shaking someone’s hand when you greet them is good manners.”

He looked at me funnily as he chuckled and smiled. “I’m Tybalt, and no, we don’t do that here.”

There was a slight pause as I didn’t know what to do next. I finally decided to go into the arena before it was too late and as I turned around to walk into the arena Tybalt’s voice stopped me. “How did you get here? I mean, what do you want?”

I turned around again, not sure of what to say. “It’s quite a long story, we could be here all afternoon.” I said mysteriously. I didn’t know what I could tell and what not. The Queen had told me not to reveal anything about the true nature of my relationship with Cassius, but it was kind of complicated. What details did I have to skip over?

“Let’s do something, if I do enter the Black Knights, I’ll tell you everything.”

He nodded satisfied. “Alright, but you need to be honest.” I pressed my lips together, knowing I couldn’t really tell him the whole truth.

“Fine, but you can’t tell no one.” I pointed an accusatory finger towards him trying to put gravity into the matter.

He walked up to me and stood by my side.

“Good luck, you’ll need it.” His sincere voice made a small smile reach my face.

“Thanks, I’ll manage.” The both of us walked out of the never-ending darkness to the waiting arena.

The sunlight was blinding, and I had to cover my eyes slightly with my hands for protection. The idea of sunglasses was very nice at that moment.

My eyes started to get used to the light, and my gaze started to wander around my surroundings. The whole place was so huge, goosebumps started to flare on my arms. It looked similar to a classic Roman fighting arena, with the exception it had the form of a square and it wasn’t round. Bleachers covered the sides of the arena and on each corner stood majestically a golden statue of an animal. There was a bear growling on one corner, an enormous snake showing its fangs on another, a griffin standing up on two legs (yes, a damn griffin) on the other and finally my eyes landed on the biggest of statues; a pegasus flapping its wings with its head held high in pride. Images of Lucy came to my mind, and I just stood there staring at the statue like an idiot until Tybalt touched my shoulder and I finally came out of my stupor.

“Everyone is waiting...” he murmured softly, and that’s when I finally look at the middle of the Arena and saw everyone look at me.

A blush covered my cheeks and I walked fast towards the people waiting for me. As I got closer, I saw the faces of everyone there. Basically, everyone who had been in the throne room yesterday was here now, except for Peyton. It was kind of sad that he wasn’t there since he was the only one who supported me in that place and the thought just made me sadder. I took the thought out of my mind and looked at everyone there.

The King looked intently at me, making me want to crawl into a hole and stay there for eternity. He was too damn intimidating. The Queen look was hard to decipher, but she avoided my gaze at all cost. All the Black Knights were there with their armor and long black capes, including him. The tingling sensation was there once again, and my chest constricted to a point it was making it hard to breathe.

“It’s the nervousness, of course.” I reasoned with myself, not thinking by chance it was Leo’s doing.

His blue eyes were on me, but for some reason, his gaze felt heavier on me than with the rest of the people there, even worse than with the King. I didn’t dare look at him and preferred to look at Tybalt.

“What now?” I asked at Tybalt silently. He gave me a look, which responded as “Be patient.”

“Now, the fight is going to be this way.” The King looked at me, the others probably knowing the rules. “Both of the participants can choose one weapon and an armor. The fight is until the other surrenders, is unconscious, dead or if I stop it myself. If any of those things happen to you, you will not enter the Black Knights and must leave immediately the Kingdom. Of course, if you’re not dead.”

I nodded in understanding. “Fair enough.” My voice felt like steel, so alien to what I was really feeling. My guts clenching with pain because of my nervousness. My hands were already sweaty and I took deep breaths to calm myself.

The King looked at Leo. “Choose who is going to fight.”

Leo smirked my way in the most malicious way possible, and I’m pretty sure I paled.

“Oh no, he is going to get me killed. The mother-”

“I choose Althalos.” He said nonchalantly and I looked at the Black Knights to determine which one of them was. And of course, Althalos had to be the blonde scary tall guy. He took a step forward and looked at me with the same blank look he had to give me back at the throne room.

I bit my tongue to not curse everyone there to hell and back. The mixture of feelings as fear, nervousness, and anger was making a wreck on my insides. I glared at Leo while he just crossed his arms with a mocking smile. The son of a bitch was enjoying every second of it, and the desire to kill him right there was growing stronger every second that passed.

“You seem rather angry.” Tybalt said in a hushed whisper looking at me bemused while I glared at Leo.

“When I win, because I will, I’m going to kick his ass so hard my boot is going to be imprinted on his butt for eternity.” I hissed to Tybalt, still not taking my eyes from Leo.

He laughed quite loudly but composed himself rather quickly because of the glare directed from the Prince.

The King suddenly took a step aside and my gaze wandered to what was behind him. On the floor, they were on display all the weapons that we could choose from and my jaw was almost on the floor.

There were all kinds of swords, knives, daggers, shields, armor, etc. You name it, it was there. I was dumbfounded staring at the weapons, not knowing what to choose. Tybalt had already picked up a heavy looking sword and his armor was already on.

“Shit, I can't put armor on.” I muttered to myself ever so quietly. I had never used armor to fight, and I knew the only thing it was going to do was to hinder my moves. I squatted to have a better look at the sword and knives. My expertise was with the knives and I felt much more confident, but I knew if I wanted to win this I needed a sword. My agility had limits and Althalos was really big and tall, and probably, very well trained.

I finally decided for a sword not too heavy nor light with a very balanced blade. It was perfect for me.

I stood up and stayed there looking at everyone.

“That’s it? What about armor?” Tybalt asked with a frown between his eyes that looked very unnatural for him. Everyone was looking at me bewildered as if I had a death wish.

I shrugged. “I don’t use.”

Althalos looked at me before starting to take out the armor he had on. I was surprised at first, thinking that his desire to get me out of there overpowered fair play, but I guess I was wrong. I smiled at him, thanking him in silence. His blank gaze didn’t change, he just nodded.

When he was ready, we stood there facing each other. He just had a white shirt (which didn’t hide very much what was underneath) and black loose pants. I tried to ignore the fact he had the body of an Abercrombie model and focused on the task at hand. Everyone surrounded us in a very big circle, giving us space. I discreetly analyzed my opponent, trying to make a plan. His right arm seemed the one in charge and the sword on his hand was easily handled. His legs seemed firm and difficult to take down. Too bad, after all the analyzing, I didn’t have a plan.

I gulped and tried to calm my nerves. Cassius came to my mind and as if a miracle had fallen from heaven, I started to remember one of our training sessions.

FLASHBACK

My heavy breathing resonated through the clearing, and the sound of the clashing swords kept my mind in high alert. I grunted as I tried again to attack Cassius once again, but it was always difficult because of his stature and strength.

“This is not fair! You’re like twice me and its impossible to even get you to take a step back.” I whined. I dropped the sword and crossed my arms like a little kid whose ice cream just felt to the floor.

Cassius shook his head and gave me one of his gorgeous smiles. “It’s not about the strength, Lib. If you want to defeat your opponent with strength, then you’re going to lose every battle you fight.”

I sighed and hanged my head in defeat. That day had been quite stressful for some reason and I wanted to throw everything to the trash and just sleep. Cassius left his sword on the floor and went to hug me. He caressed my hair and hugged me intimately. I just let myself be hugged and rest in his embrace even though I knew I was all sweaty and smelly.

“You need to act smart. Muscles are not everything, and I know for a fact that you are capable of everything.” We split apart some centimeters and looked me directly in the eye, and the air couldn’t leave my lungs.

“You are for far the most intelligent person I have ever met, all you need is for you to believe in yourself.”

I nodded, taking in every word he said. “Now, lets fight. Shall we?”

He separated from me and I missed the warm his body had and the embrace of his arms. I picked up my sword as he did it and with the new encouragement, I was ready to fight.

“Let your opponent lead while you go along with him. Two things are going to happen: he is going to tire out and you’ll already know his fight moves, stance, everything. Be on defensive, and you’ll know the right moment to attack.”

That day, was the first time I could defeat Cassius.

FLASHBACK OVER

The light bulb had turned on in my head and I knew what I was going to do. I prayed to God silently one last time and looked at Althalos.

“Fight!” The King exclaimed loudly, and before I could react Althalos was already striking. I yelped and blocked his thrust with my sword. Thrust after thrust I blocked them and he started to get closer and closer. I got the rhythm of his attacks and just after I blocked one I swung my sword towards his neck, he took a step back quickly and it barely grazed the skin of his neck.

My breathing is already heavy and sweat starts to form on my forehead. Althalos looked at me taken aback, a glint of respect glowing in his brown eyes. He goes again with it and starts to thrust much faster. I didn’t block fast enough and once his chest was in front of me, his elbow hits full force my right cheek. Pain blossoms all over my face and I fell to the floor. His sword is about to strike me down on the floor, and I reacted on time to roll to my side. The sword hits a few centimeters away from my head and I stood up faster than anyone could say ‘waffles’. As soon as I stood up I face my opponent with my sword high. The repulsive taste of blood fills my mouth and my face apparently says it all.

Althalos looks at me curiously as I spit the blood to the ground. I was pretty sure some blood was running down my chin. I shook my head and a small chuckle escapes my lips.

“Tsk, tsk, going for the head? That’s kind of evil don’t you think?” I asked breathlessly with a smile on my face. Man, the situation wasn’t funny at all, but if something was going to happen to me there, at least I needed to be me at all moments. The kind of person who would try to bring humor at the worst moments ever.

A ghost of a smile appeared on his features, and for some reason, I felt fulfilled that I could make him smile.

“Sorry, I’ll try to be nicer.” He said jokingly, hearing his voice for the first time.

“That’s so nice of you!” I said with feigned excitement. The both of us laughed lightly, the spectators watching the exchange rather confused.

We stood there for a moment catching our breathes before the clashing of sword started again. I blocked his thrust to my side and aimed for his arm, failing miserably. I gritted my teeth in irritation and moved to the side to avoid his blade. And I also failed that. A gasp left my lips as I felt a sharp pain erupt in my upper arm. I didn’t dare look at the damage and kept my eyes on my opponent.

“End it for once and for all dammit!” I screamed at myself. I took a deep breath, deciding to throw all the cards on the table. “It’s now or never.”

Ignoring the pain in my arm, I kept my sword high and waited for him to charge once again. It wasn’t a long wait until he swung his sword at me and I blocked it. This time, I was the one getting closer and closer to him, not attempting to hit him even once. When I was close enough, he swung his sword attempting for my chest and I knelt down just in time. And in less than a second, everything unfolded. My gaze wandered to his legs, where his left leg was the one in front, meaning he had all his weigh on it. He was right-handed, and it was a long shot, but I hoped his right leg was his strong one.

Still crouched, with a quick turn I kicked his left foot and stood up. My hunch was right, he lost his balance and it only took a thrust to his chest for him to block and fall into the floor. Before he could do anything, I kicked his sword away from him and stood on his wrist, my sword aiming for his jugular.

Silence. That’s all I could hear. Well, besides my ragged breathing that sounded more like a dog who had run for three hours straight.

Althalos looked astounded and said nothing for a while before he simply said: “I surrender.”

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