Stone Warriors

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Chapter 12

Just like every competition, I did my best to look entertained. In reality, however, I was fighting back the bile rising in my throat. I hate watching men mercilessly killing each other all for the enjoyment of people more wealthy than them. My eyes involuntarily searched for the warrior who’s been plaguing my subconscious.

There he was standing in the center of the ring looking...lost? Everyone around him had grabbed the first man they could get their hands on and started their journey to becoming a murderer, but Zakyrik was just standing there. Was he giving up? My heart ached at the thought of him dying.

Why though? I’ve never been attracted to any of these warriors since I’ve come to watch the competitions at age ten so why now? What’s so special about him, other than his soul-touching cinnamon brown eyes, his raven hair blowing in the wind, his washboard abs flexing with each breath he takes...

What am I saying? I shook my head and my sister seen it, “I know, boring right? I wish Cicatrix would stop toying with those weaklings and just kill them already! I don’t like to sweat and this sun is unbearable.” As she does everyday, she completely misinterpreted what my head shake meant.

Father chuckled, “Now, now Xera. Cicatrix knows he must put on a show for the masses. After all, he is our warrior so he must make our family look good. He knows we do not tolerate weakness.”

Secretly I rolled my eyes and yet again they landed on Zakyrik. But this time I let out a gasp. He was straddling an opponent and beating him in his chest. He then moved to his face and blood covered his upper body.

In shock, I watched as instead of finishing the man off Zakyrik rises to his feet, staring at his hands in disgust. He looks like he’s in disbelief that he made that man bleed. One of the warriors shook his shoulders and snapped him out of whatever was running through his mind.

As he turned, I watched his mouth drop as he looked at the carnage. Apparently he has never seen one of these tournaments. No one, but the advancing number gets left alive.

Jyrixi’s pixie-like frame comes bouncing into the ring announcing the names of the winners, but stops when the man Zakyrik was beating up starts moving. I looked back to Zakyrik, thinking he would be mad and charge the fallen warrior, but instead he looked... Relieved? Really?

Doesn’t he know that man will kill him without a second thought to win this thing? It won’t matter that Zakyrik didn’t take his life. This competition is the most brutal one known in all the lands, so why would Zakyrik think he could get by just incapacitating his opponent?

My grandfather made sure the ultimate outcome was a gruesome death. It’s the only thing these people here live for. Cicatrix, of course, finishes the guy and the crowd goes nuts.

Beyond disgusted, I stood up. Having seen enough bloodshed for one day, I looked at Zakyrik one more time and then walked away. Xera follows me, not getting the gist I want to be alone.

Father called out, “I’ll see you in a few minutes, my lovelies, then we will go home and have dinner together.” I just nod, not trusting myself to talk as I walk to the coach.

After dinner, I wandered aimlessly around the manor, not really having a destination in mind. Of course I steered clear of Cicatrix’s guest room because I didn’t want to hear the sounds of the fun he and Xera were having. Instead I found myself walking towards a section that hasn’t been occupied in a while.

Before Cicatrix became our family’s champion, any preliminary winners of the sponsors from Evanyl were housed here during the tournament. After Cicatrix won, the sponsors from other lands would either keep their warrior with them or in the cellar below the stadium. Judging by the guards standing in the hallway entrance I would assume that since father let more fighters participate this year that we now have use for this section again.

My mouth dropped open and I froze. Damn my subconscious. I came here because my sick sense of curiosity wanted to see him. Turning around before I did something stupid, I ran right into the man I was attempting to avoid.

Quickly his hands reached out to steady me. As they touched my arms, a zing of pleasure streaked through my body. Those calloused hands felt surprisingly like velvet against my skin. I looked into his eyes and they were so intensely focused on mine that I lost my train of thought. For a moment, I relished this feeling and hoped he didn’t let me go.

Finally my senses came to me, “Thank you, warrior, but I can assure you it was not necessary. I can stand on my own two feet.” I pushed against his arms, but I may as well have been trying to move a brick wall. My eyes were drawn to his magnificent biceps, which flexed as he released my arms.

Zakyrik smirked, “I see that. Anyways, my name is Zakyrik Ruequal, your highness. I met you and your...lovely family yesterday, remember?”

Handsome and has manners? How sweet of him, but he knows good and well the last word to describe my family is lovely. More like evil, malicious and insane.

One in his position cannot say such things though. It would be suicide.

“Yes, I think I recall seeing you in the entryway yesterday. You are Axrenorian’s champion, right?” He nodded and some of his dark hair fell down his forehead, outlining his gorgeous face even more. I wanted so badly to reach up and put it back in place.

Before I do something stupid I need to leave, “Well good luck, warrior. I hope you fair well through the tournament. Axrenorian is a great sponsor as long as you don’t lose.”

Feigning exhaustion with the conversation as best I could, I attempted to yawn, but I failed miserably. All I wanted to do was stay and find out everything about him. If he seen through my charade he didn’t mention it.

“So what brings you down here to visit us lowly warriors?” His baritone voice sent shivers down my spine. If my heart had it’s way, Zakyrik would find out right now that I came to see him.

Fighting the urge to answer him truthfully, I instead retorted, “It’s my house. The last time I checked I had free reign of it. I would think I could go where I please without having to explain myself to anyone.”

Turning around, I instantly felt a wave of regret for how rudely I ended the conversation, but I reminded myself it was for the best. He still didn’t deserve that, though. Nothing good can come out of my fascination for him.

Berating myself the whole way, I made it to my room and tried to not think about what his touch made me feel.

It worked for all of two minutes. This is going to be a long night.

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