A pink haired, emerald eyed woman bounded into the ring with a microphone in hand, “Good morning everyone! It’s a beautiful day for a blood bath wouldn’t you say? I’m Jyrixi, of course, your referee and announcer for this tournament. I’ll be monitoring and calling matches.”
The woman’s eyes were sparkling as she spoke to us, “Now, contestants, the rules are simple. Anyone who tries to leave the ring will be immediately put to death. You may work together in a group if you wish, in this match only, seeing that there are twenty-four all together. There must be twelve deaths today for the remaining twelve to move on.”
She points to a gigantic board that hung above the VIP box, “The twelve left standing will be sorted into random one on one pairings by the name generator on the screen and these will be battled out over the next few days until the grand finale with the final two remaining. Remember, anything goes as far as what to do to kill your opponent, whether it’s maiming, disembowelment, breaking necks or gouging out eyes. Anything to make sure the end result is death. Without further delay, let’s get this competition started!”
The girl jumped from the ring to an adjoining announcer booth. She raised her hand, signaling someone, and then the trumpet sounded again.
Chaos, blood, screaming and gore ensued over the next few hours. Detro and Pyrcie wordlessly agreed to work together with me to advance into the next round. Cicatrix ran in front of me and grabbed a thin, black haired man by the throat.
He then squeezed while turning his head with the opposite hand. A sickening crunch filled my ears as Cicatrix laughed and discarded the man’s lifeless body to the side of the ring. I willed my insides not to turn. All I wanted to do was vomit after that display, but I was also terrified at how easy it was for Cicatrix to kill him with little to no effort.
Detro called my name and snapped my focus back on the fight. I was blind sided by a cheap shot to the back of the head. My vision went blurry for a few minutes, but I caught myself before I hit the floor. I rolled to my left just in time for someone’s boot to come crashing down beside my head.
Without thinking, I grabbed the guy’s leg and pulled him down with me. After a struggle I managed to pin his arms down and started punching his chest. When I moved to his face I heard the bones break in his nose as blood spurted out and coated my arms. I stopped and stared at my hands.
Oh for the love of blue skies, I just broke someone’s nose. I’ve never so much as raised my fist to another person, much less this. Slowly, I rose to my feet as I watched the man hold his face and moan in agony. After a few more seconds, he stopped moving completely.
Detro came up beside me and quickly muttered, “If you have any qualms with the sight of blood boy you better force yourself to get over it right now unless you want to die. Just remember, the pain you just put that man through is exactly what he was going to do to you, if not worse. Now focus!”
Swallowing down the acid that was trying to make its way up from my stomach, I prepared myself to go break someone else’s nose. I can’t bring myself to kill anyone and therefore I’ll probably never make it out of here alive. This is madness.
My back was facing the other warriors, but when I turned around to unwillingly pick my next fighter I got a nauseating shock. Pyrcie was covered from head to toe in blood and was stepping away from a gory mess of a man who was lying face down in the ring. Cicatrix was standing to my left with a pile of bodies around him.
There were only Cicatrix, Pyrcie, Detro, eight other competitors and myself standing. The fight was apparently finished, horrendously quick. Does that mean I killed the man who’s nose I broke? I looked down at him and tasted bile in the back of my throat as I silently prayed that I was wrong.
The pink haired referee jumped into the ring, blood coating her tan boots, “What a first round, people! Let’s meet the advancing warriors, shall we? The first I see is a face we all know. Unsurprisingly, Cicatrix is moving on!”
The crowd thundered with cheering and applause. She moved around getting our names one by one then she motioned for the guards to come escort us off the platform, but a groan shattered the procession.
The broken nosed man wasn’t dead, just was incapacitated for a short time. Relief flooded through me, but then it was replaced by dread. What’s going to happen now?
Cicatrix laughed, “Looks like you missed one, Ruequal.” He darted over and stomped on the man’s throat, crushing his windpipe. A gurgled scream came through for a second, then silence.
To avoid the grotesque sight, I turned away as Cicatrix boomed with laughter and the crowd cheered even louder. “What a brutal display of savageness that we just witnessed! There’s no explanation needed to find out why he’s a crowd favorite, for sure!” Jyrixi announced.
Cicatrix leaned in to me, “I’m hoping you and I go head to head in the next round. I’d love to do the same to you, except I’ll crush every bone in your body along with your neck.” I chose to ignore him again.
The guards came and escorted us off the platform. Axrenorian was standing at the gate in front of his coach looking rather annoyed. When he spotted me he narrowed his eyes, “We have some things we need to discuss, boy!” He held the door open as I stepped inside.
The coach started up toward the Tamminalin Estate when he turned to me, “You passed the preliminary battle just now by the skin of your teeth! Care to tell me why you only fought one male, then didn’t even succeed in delivering him to meet his maker?” Axrenorian was furious, but it was his own fault. He never asked me if I was a fighter, just assumed and forced me here against my will.
Facing the inevitable, I answered him. “I know. It was luck, but Mr. Ranswits I’ve never been in any kind of scuffle my whole life. It sickens me how much blood I just made that guy spurt out.”
Axrenorian’s mouth hung open, “You what? Never? What have I done?” Then he trailed off, grumbling more to himself than me.
We sat in uncomfortable silence until we reached the entryway. I stepped outside the coach expecting Axrenorian to follow, but he stayed seated. I bid him goodnight just to be polite and he inclined his head.
Before I took another step he called out to me, “Zakyrik, the guards will show you to your new room, but it’s still going to be guarded night and day so don’t think about trying to escape. There’s a training room where the guards test their skills against each other to make sure they are at peak form to protect our town. I suggest, strongly, that you venture there and hone your skills. Your victory was a fluke today, but rest assured that the next match will not fall in your favor again unless you learn to fight. Immediately.”
Anger marred his calm expression, “And mark my words boy, if I start looking foolish because I chose a warrior who
can’t even fight, I’ll make you regret it for the rest of your days. There is more riding on this than just money.” He then slams the door and the coach sped off.