Stone Warriors

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Chapter 18

It was a beautiful spring day and I was chasing Xori through a field of dandelions. Their seeds were blowing in the wind as we ran by, disturbing their rest. When I caught up with her, I grabbed her by the waist and fell on my back, making her landing comfortably on my chest.

Her smell invaded my nose and I felt like I was in heaven. Her satin skin put even the most softest cotton to shame. Nothing could be better than this.

Then I heard a man’s voice calling for me. I ignored it until Xori jumped up, “Zakyrik, you have to go. I don’t want you to leave, but you have to.”

The scenery and Xori started to fade. I desperately reached for her, but she disappeared beneath my fingertips. Her violet eyes were the last to vanish and etched themselves into my brain.

“Zakyrik, boy! Wake up! It’s time to go. If you are late, you die.”

It was Axrenorian, who looked worse for wear. “You look like hell.” I mumbled. He looked hungover and as if he hadn’t slept all night.

He smirked, “Look who’s talking. Have you looked in a mirror lately.” That I have not. I just was able to open my eyes last night, before that dream.

Xori. The last time I seen her our conversation didn’t go so well. I was in severe pain. It racked through my body at the speed of light and I couldn’t understand why she came to see me anyways. I was me and she was, well, her. Beautiful, breathtaking, her.

Why did she even come? She’s visited me twice and not once has she explained why. When I voiced this to her though it came out all wrong and I practically snapped at her. I couldn’t think straight when I felt her fingers brush my hair off my forehead.

That touch took away every pulsing pain. It made me forget who I was, where I was and why I was here. Then I had to ruin the moment by pretty much demanding for her tell me why she was in my room.

She looked frightened. I could sense her tension before she even spoke. She said her visits had to stop and she couldn’t come see me anymore. What the hell was she even talking about?

Something in my chest ached at the thought of never seeing her again. Of course I’m infatuated with her. Maybe a little bit more than that. Who in his right mind wouldn’t be?

My logical side screams at me, But she’s a Tamminalin dammit! Her family is the whole reason I’m in this mess. Something else inside me wouldn’t accept it fully, though. She’s so different from the rest of her household.

Standing up, I groaned from the strain in my aching muscles. After stumbling through the doorway, I struggled to keep up with Axrenorian’s steps. Xori’s ice pack helped a lot. The swelling has subsided enough so I could visibly see through both eyes, but that’s the only injury on my body that’s improved.

Fear shot through me as I realized that in the shape I’m in right now, I’m definitely going to die to today. I’m so weak I probably couldn’t even get into the coach without overexerting myself. I’m as helpless as a newborn and it’s certainly sure to get me killed.

Axrenorian was unnaturally​ quiet on the way, which in a way suited me just fine because I had a pounding headache and I felt sick. I needed more bed rest, but that wasn’t going to happen. They don’t care what kind of shape I am in, I still have to compete no matter what. My vision went blurry every now and then which was not helping my nausea.

When the guards came to escort me out of the coach, Axrenorian stopped them, “I’ll transport him myself.” The guards looked unsure of this, but backed off anyways. Apparently it was unheard of to escort your own champion to the holding area.

We walked in silence, but before he opened the door he turned to me, “Listen, Zakyrik. I know you hate this competition and you probably hate me, which is fine, but I need to ask a favor of you.”

Wow. He has the gall to ask me a favor? His eyes looked hollow and broken, like a man who was just told he was dying. Maybe he was getting sick?

Staying silent, I waited on him to continue, “I need you to make this battle drag out a little and make sure you put on a good show. Let’s just say I have something precious riding on the outcome of this battle. It is imperative Vyron is impressed by your fight.”

Vyron can burn in the deepest pits of hell, was my initial thought, but I steadied my tongue. Axrenorian’s eyes were pleading with me. Would he really put something precious to him in jeopardy over outcome of this fight? According to his face, he’s telling the truth.

“I’ll do my best.” I lied. I would be lucky if I could stand on my own two feet, much less impress that tyrant, but his expression convinced me that lying to him was the best option. He didn’t need to know I’m one hit away from being buried six feet under.

Axrenorian smiled, relief was written all over his face. He then wished me luck and opened the door to the holding area. Curiosity held my attention for a few heartbeats as I wondered what that conversation was really about. What was he so scared of losing that he would beg me to try to impress Vyron?

After being roughly escorted on the stage, again, I seen my opponent. Jyrixi announced the battle and I learned his name was Korellan. He had a makeshift splint on his wrist and his ribs were bandaged.

He’s in as bad of shape as I am. He was even leaning slightly to the right. He stumbled to the center of the ring and I followed suit.

Jyrixi then said for us to start and I waited for him to charge. However, the man took a step forward and cried out in pain. I take that back, he’s in worse shape than I am.

Unsure of what to do, I started walking towards him, but he held his hands up. “Wait, give me one second. The pain is almost gone.” The man fell to his knees, gritting his teeth.

Am I supposed to wait on him? If I get disqualified I’m going to be extremely pissed off before I’m executed. I glanced over at Jyrixi with raised eyebrows and she just shrugged her shoulders. Apparently she wasn’t sure how to proceed either.

The crowd hissed and booed. Faintly I heard Axrenorian screaming, “What are you waiting for? Kill him!” Then he yelled an afterthought, “But not too quickly!”

No. I couldn’t bring myself to strike this injured man when he’s down. I may be forced to fight, but that doesn’t mean I have to turn into a coward. I do have somewhat of an honor code.

Korellan stood up straight with some effort. He grimaced in pain, “Now I’m ready. Let’s get this over with.”

Every time Korellan tried to hit me he would scream in agony and fall on his knees. We’ve been at this for about an hour and I have not struck him once. He seems to be doing more damage to himself without my help.

The crowd had started throwing trash and other disposables at us a few minutes ago. I don’t know how much longer this guy can stand on his feet, but he seems to be slowing down profusely and he started coughing up blood a while back.

The bandages around his rib cage we’re starting to stain with bright red blood. It seems as if he’s reopened his wounds that weren’t finished healing. He stuck his fist out at my face, which I ducked under, and his breathing turned ragged. He started gasping for air and his hand flew to his chest.

Within a few more seconds, Korellan fell flat on his face and was no longer breathing. I rolled him over to check his pulse, but he no longer had one. His eyes were wide open and unseeing.

What the hell just happened? Jyrixi ambled over, looking nonplussed. She checked his pulse, then stood up and looked at me. She winked and grabbed my arm, raising it as high as her short stature could, “Winner Zakyrik, by unknown death.”

Axrenorian’s brow was covered in sweat and he was rambling, mainly to himself, as he paced in my room. He kept wringing his hands, saying over and over, “This match didn’t count, though. The man probably was already dying from internal bleeding before the match even started. You couldn’t have predicted that, I couldn’t have and neither could Vyron. So yeah, it don’t count!”

Amused and somewhat concerned, I just sat on the bed watching him. He looked like a mad man. I almost felt sorry for him.

Suddenly a knock on the door made him jump and yell out loud. The door opened, revealing a guard in a red and black uniform, “Lord Vyron wishes to speak to you, Mr. Ranswits.” The uniform was proof that this man was Vyron’s personal guard.

Axrenorian paled, “Okay I’ll be right there.” The guard shook his head and smirked, “I’m afraid I have strict orders to

escort you there myself. My lord wishes to see you immediately.”

Axrenorian audibly gulped, “I see. Alright then. Zakyrik, I’ll see you in a bit. Remember to go to the training room after you rest a bit.”

He smiled sadly at me, then walked out the door. For some horrid reason I got the feeling I would never see him again. Even though I really didn’t like Axrenorian, I still wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the man.

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