When I find a way, I don’t know or even care how I’ll do it, I’ll burn this whole place to the ground. I swear it. Seeing Zytriana crumpled up on the floor bound with ropes was my final straw.
I’m done with this competition along with everyone in this wretched town and that includes Xori. What we had, whatever it was, I’m over it. Zytriana scared and tied up was more than I could stand.
For the first time since I was forced into this damned tournament, I’m ready to go out there and fight. Somebody will pay for this. I’m about to show everyone just how angry I have become and just how far I’ve finally been pushed.
As if answering my wordless wish, footsteps reverberated off the stone walls like a strange marching ballad, only instead of words there were monotonous echoes. I turned my head to the approaching guard. I wasn’t nauseous like all the previous rounds. This time adrenaline was pumping through my veins with anticipation.
One of them opened up my cage, “Look here boys, it’s Ruequal and he’s actually conscious!” The other two cracked up laughing. These must be the assholes from earlier that teamed up and beat me down after I took out two of their number.
Deciding to goad them, I smirked, “Yes well, when I get hit with so many cowardly fists in a row that tends to happen don’t it? By the way, how are your two friends that I injured? Does that one guy still have his front teeth?”
The guard closest to me scowled, “Lord Tamminalin doesn’t permit us to harm you while we escort you into the stadium, but mark my words, tomorrow during your training you will pay for that remark!” He moved to the side so I could walk in front of them, smirking, out of the cellar and into the light of day.
There was a difference in the cheers of the crowd today. It was like they were more energetic and eager for the round to start. As I neared the platform I seen why. Trevalo was right.
Randomly placed along the edges of the platform were barrels that held a vast array of weaponry, from spears, swords and axes in one, to maces, flails and canes in another. I couldn’t tell what might be in the other barrels as I hadn’t been permitted to step up yet.
Jyrixi appeared at the top of the stairs and started making her way down to me, but the guards stopped her. “I wouldn’t get too close madam referee. He’s dangerous.” She scoffed and pushed them out of the way to stand before me. This little pixie-like framed woman had to be the bravest individual out here and I couldn’t help, but have my respect for her go up a few notches.
Her emerald eyes sparkled in the morning sun as she looked me over, “Lord Tamminalin wanted me to make sure you were well enough to fight today, but you look top of your game to me so I am not sure what he was worried about. Anyways, Pyrcie and yourself will be the only warriors competing today as an unforeseen death happened last night to the warrior who was to fight Cicatrix. The winner will come back here in two days to compete against our reigning champ.”
She gestured to the barrels, ” Lord Tamminalin wanted me to personally explain the addition for this particular round. Weapons will be used in this battle. The rules are the same, fight to the death. You may use whatever weapon you think is the prettiest, dear. Do you understand?”
Automatically I gave a quick nod, but that nauseating feeling returned full force. Pyrcie? I hadn’t seen him since the preliminary match. It seems like another lifetime ago that happened.
Guess a part of me subconsciously didn’t think I would ever see him again, but now he’s the one standing in my way of Cicatrix. The painful memory of watching Detro die came up involuntarily in the back of my mind. I made a promise to him to get through this alive. I vowed I would take his family with Zytriana and I as we made our escape.
But I thought I’d be facing another volunteer warrior, not a fellow peasant like myself. Not someone I knew personally. During my inner dialogue, I had walked up the stairs and was startled to find I was standing right in front of Pyrcie himself.
To be friendly, I was about to offer a faint smile, but stopped when I seen what he had in his hand. An axe. A big one.
He followed my eyes and shook his head, “I’m sorry, but you are one of the obstacles that are in my way of seeing my wife again. My sponsor promised me that if I killed you he would let me spend these next two days with her until I fight Cicatrix. I can’t let our short friendship ruin my chance at seeing the love of my life.”
Anger replaced my nausea, “You don’t think I have someone I want to see? You don’t think I have a responsibility at home I have to get back to?” I wasn’t going to tell him Zytriana was in a filthy, caged prison and would die if I didn’t play this out like Trevalo wanted.
Pyrcie spat, “Fine! All your chances of me killing you painlessly just flew out the window, Zakyrik! Let me show you just what I’ll do to see my wife again!”
In hindsight I didn’t remember hearing Jyrixi say to begin, but he came at me anyways. He swung the axe quickly and I rolled out of the way to avoid my head being dislodged from my shoulders. About the time I was upright, he was swinging again.
That thing has to weigh a good bit over twenty pounds, but he’s slicing it through the air as if it’s a child’s toy. Realizing my best offense right now is defense, I kicked over a barrel containing a thick metal rod, a scythe and other objects rolled out as well. I wielded the rod in front of me like a shield as Pyrcie’s axe came down.
The reverberation of metal on metal caused the axe’s blade to bounce off and Pyrcie wasn’t expecting that. The blade cut him in the lower abdomen and even from my position on the ground I could see it was pretty deep. He fell to his knees and held his stomach like he was going to be sick. I warily stood up, still holding the metal rod.
Pyrcie grimaced, “I was sure I had you just then. It was my mistake to think you’d be so quick witted. Okay Ruequal, go ahead and finish me off.”
With a sad smile, I shook my head, “No Pyrcie, we settle this like men. Real men. Stand to your feet. I’ll not strike you while you are down.”
Pyrcie tried to chuckle, but as he did a massive amount of blood gushed from his wound, “Don’t you see Zakyrik? You’ve already won. I’ll bleed out eventually and you’ll be the one who advances. You’ve bested me.”
My heart ached to see him suffering, “Pyrcie get up. You are not going to die yet. Surely not?”
Pyrcie started leaning to his left side. “I am losing too much blood, it will be any time now. Listen please find my wife when you get out of here. Tell her she was all that was on my mind this whole time and I’m sorry I failed her. Will you do one last thing for me, Zakyrik?”
In morbid anticipation I was rooted to my spot. I felt an ache in my chest. After a few seconds, I was able to answer him, “Yes, anything.”
Pyrcie smiled, “Good. Take that sword that fell out of the barrel behind you and finish me off. This pain is unbearable and I’ll have to endure it at least another hour if somebody doesn’t do something about it.”
Taken aback I shouted, “No! I can’t do that! I’ll not strike you while you are down.”
Pyrcie was doubled over by now, “Are you a man of your word or not? You said anything and this is my last request. Please, Zakyrik I’m begging you. Put me out of my misery.”
Without much thinking, I stepped back and my boot struck something metal. I already knew what it was before I even turned around. It was a broad, silver plated sword. It was definitely sharp enough to cut through bone, but could I really bring myself to do that?
Pyrcie was still doubled over, calling my name, urging me to end his suffering. Upon reaching down and grasping the handle I felt my resolve strengthen. I vaguely remember the crowd roaring as I headed to Pyrcie with the sword in my hand.
Pyrcie was still begging me to end his torment and I was still having minor second thoughts about it. When Pyrcie found the strength to look up into my eyes my decision was set for me, “Zakyrik, I would do it for you.” I nodded, feeling numb, “Okay go rest in peace, my friend, but I’ll ask you a favor in return.”
Pyrcie narrowed his eyes, “What would that be?” I picked the axe up and handed it to him, “I want to tell your wife how you went out like a warrior. I want to tell her that you fought until your last breath. Stand up, Pyrcie and find the strength to come at me one last time.”
Understanding flared in his eyes, as he used the axe as a crutch to stand. Blood was pouring from his wound at an alarming rate. He nodded as he lifted the axe with a shaky hand, “See you on the other side, Zakyrik.”
The sword was in my right hand and held out a little at my side. I waited for Pyrcie to come first. He used the rest of his reserve to stagger towards me. A peaceful expression was already on his face.
The axe came towards me and I swung the sword with all the strength I had. A muffled cry along with a squelch before metal cut through bone was heard, then Pyrcie’s head rolled across the blood-stained platform. I dropped the sword and bowed my head in reverence for him.
Jyrixi patted me inconspicuously on the back and I realized she was giving me my moment while letting me know she was there to call the match when I was ready. My respect for her grew even more. I held out my hand, and she raised it up, “Winner Zakyrik, death by decapitation.”
Not that I wanted to, but I couldn’t look back at the headless form of Pyrcie as I was led off the stage. I heard Vyron’s voice booming over the crowd to try get their attention. Apparently he had an important announcement, but it wasn’t something I probably wanted to hear.
Can what I just did really be justified as a mercy killing? Hopefully Trevalo wouldn’t think so since Pyrcie was bleeding out when I ended his life. Zytriana’s fate was entangled in the outcome of this match. That was all I was worried about at the second.
Trevalo was waiting at the entrance to the cellar and to my dismay, looked angry. Now what the hell did I do wrong? He led the way wordlessly to where the cages were and opened mine. I stepped inside, hoping to placate him as he slammed the door behind me.
Trevalo’s face was twisted into a scowl, “Leave us!” He thundered at the guards. They took their leave and when we could no longer hear their footsteps he turned on me, “What part of let him bleed to death did you not understand?”
Oh no. He is seriously mad about what just happened? There is no pleasing this guy!
Trevalo’s face turned red, “When the axe sliced his stomach open, you should have grabbed it and cut him up some more. I told you no quick death! What do you do? You made his head roll across the platform and your fight lasted a whole five minutes!”
He growled and jabbed his finger at my chest, “You are the most worthless excuse for a warrior I’ve ever seen! There’s no way you’ll win against Cicatrix! Pity, but I’ll make myself feel better by making sure you suffer greatly before you die in two days.”
Snatching the tarp from Zytriana’s cage, he chuckled darkly, “At midnight I’ll be back. I’ll torture and maim her while she screams for mercy. I’ll take great pleasure in watching your pain, you unavailing wretch!”
Doing an about face on his heels, he stormed to the exit, “You have six hours to look at her and explain that your weakness is why she’s going to die.” He then left, leaving me screaming at him and threatening his life. When this cage opens again, I’ll kill him. I’ll kill all of them.
In a determined state, I shook the cage trying to get it to open on demand. Nothing I did could make it budge. I hit my knees and faced Zytriana, who was still passed out from the sheer shock of this situation. How am I going to save her now?