Death seemed like a pleasant vacation compared to what I was feeling. It almost became a goal to me. I’ve never wished to die, but my body was betraying me with thoughts of lying down and giving in.
When I closed my eyes I could see every synapse firing signals to my brain telling it I was in excruciating pain. Visions of red and white flashed through my vision as I forced my eyes to open. Cicatrix took a break from kicking me across the blood soaked platform and looked around the stadium, reveling in the cacophony of dissident cheers around him.
A violent spasm jerked through my stomach as I coughed out a stream of blood. Well that can’t be healthy. Cicatrix’s eyes were back on me, and he grinned while making his way back over.
Without warning, a crack of thunder broke through the pandemonium of the stadium and a huge bolt of lightning ricocheted across the afternoon sky. I’ve been so busy getting my ass handed to me that I hadn’t noticed the sun being hidden behind the storm clouds. Shame, really. It would have been nice to die on a sunny day.
More lightning raced across the horizon, chasing each other in vibrant, bright shades. The thunder was absolutely deafening and I couldn’t remember a time I’d ever heard it sound this powerful. Ominous, even.
Cicatrix didn’t seem bothered by any of this because in the split second I was glancing at the sky with my eye that hadn’t been beaten shut, he had grabbed my throat and was raising me into the air. My windpipe was threatening to close off my oxygen as Cicatrix toyed with me by gripping his hand tighter, then releasing it, all while laughing. My head lopped to the side because I couldn’t find the strength to even hold it up properly.
The thunder was so loud now that I could no longer hear the crowd. Lightning was streaking down to the ground outside the stadium in rampant strikes. What kind of storm is this?
Cicatrix didn’t notice any of this either. He smirked as he pulled me near him, “Can you hear me, Ruequal? Good. I must commend you on your ability to last a whole hour and some odd minutes with me. I’ve never had a warrior survive this long, but I’m afraid our fun must come to an end. Your the last of your bloodline and the last available male who could have possibly beaten me. Did you know that your uncle and father met their fate with me? They both fought valiantly just like you, but the end result was the same. I’m unstoppable. You should be proud. Well, this is goodbye Zakyrik.”
Cicatrix reared his right fist back while he still held me by the throat with his left. Within seconds, a plethora of things happened. The first was Cicatrix’s hold on me started slipping. He looked confused as he let me drop to the platform, allowing another generous amount of pain to rack through my already broken body. My right leg was hanging at an unnatural angle and every time I tried to stand up my muscles wouldn’t obey my command.
When I looked back up at Cicatrix I knew I had to be delusional. I was losing my mind, that was the only possible reason why Cicatrix was staring at his hands in terror while his body was shrinking right before my eyes. I blinked and when my workable eye opened, Cicatrix was the size of a normal man.
A scrawny one at that. Those scars are more packed together, leaving his skin an uneven dark pink color and his pants were having trouble staying up. I’m losing my grip on reality, that’s apparent.
The next thing I remember seeing was a black and yellow clothed figure appearing behind him, masked by lightning and touched his back. Cicatrix’s eyes widened, then only the whites were visible as they rolled into his head. He fell to the platform with a resounding thump.
When I looked back at the figure, there was no one there. It’s like they rode in and out on the lightning. I heard screaming and angry shouting as my eye finally shut, whether in exhaustion or death I honestly didn’t care at that time.
What I remembered next was being hoisted up by someone strong. I forced my eye to open, expecting to see a guard, but instead I seen an array of bubblegum pink hair. “Jyrixi..” I tried to say, but it came out in a garbled slur which made more blood slop down my chin.
“Shhhh, it’s alright, Zakyrik. It’s over. You won. We’ll find the girls and get out of here.” She only spoke loud enough for me to hear, but when she straightened me up to my almost full height, she bellowed, “The winner of the Stone Warriors Competition is Zakyrik Ruequal!” Man, she’s strong to be so tiny.
Mixed cheers and shouts of outrage rang out. Then in an uneven diminuendo of silence, the crowd quieted down. “Well done, mongrel. You won. Now what is it that you want?”
Vyron was glaring down at me with his teeth bared, looking like a rabid dog about to strike. I smiled as much as my bruised mouth would allow, “I want Xori and I want to leave this wretched place without any of your guard following us.” More blood trickled out of my mouth and my stomach started rolling.
Xera stood up, outraged that someone could possibly pick her younger sister over her, “Father! You said I would be chosen and I would take over your legacy! Why would he pick her? I’m so much better than she is! Do something father!” She cried out a mix of annoying screeches and wails. She whined so loud that even the people in the stands were crying out for her to shut it.
Jyrixi surprised me by shouting, “Sit down, you stupid girl. Zakyrik obviously has a brain and that’s why he chose Xori, who he can legally have because your most gracious Lord Vyron offered one of his daughters to the winner of the competition. That means a choice between the two girls. The rules state that Vyron must grant the champion his wish.”
Vyron gripped the side of the VIP box and leaned down farther, “Rules can be changed since I’m still in charge. He can have Xera or he’ll have no one. Xori is no longer a prize to be won. She’s not here to disagree so therefore I’m speaking in her stead.”
A melodic voice that sends tremors to my heart every time I hear it spoke, “Actually father, I must decline on your offer to Zakyrik. He chose me, and he can most certainly have me. Xera’s filthy hands are not going anywhere near my soon to be husband.”
Gasps filled the arena and Jyrixi turned us around so I could see her. Xori was walking in front of three yellow and black hooded figures. The same attire of who ended Cicatrix.
Jyrixi gasped, “Oh thank all that’s holy! I was so worried when you didn’t come back last night. I thought something horrible happened. Who’s your new friends?”
Xori smiled, “Father tried to lock me away, but I escaped. These ladies behind me have been prisoners, too.” She ran onto the platform and hugged Jyrixi on her left side. Her right side was too busy holding me up.
Xori then ran to my unsupported side and put my arm around her neck, lifting me all the way up. “Father, it’s time you told the truth. You’ve been lying to everyone including Xera and I. Tell her what really happened. Tell her that you locked me in the same place you locked away our mother!”
A collection of angry murmurs rose around us. The yellow and black hooded figures stayed behind us, silent as a grave. If any of this upset Vyron, he didn’t give it away as his face remained stoic through all this.
Xera screamed in frustration, “How dare you accuse him of that! How dare you get to pick a husband before me! You are a selfish, lying hussy and I don’t believe a word you say! This stunt you are pulling will not work. You’ve always been beneath me, Xori and that’s where you’re going to stay.”
Jyrixi chuckled, “She’s just as conceited and clueless as always. Might as well give up trying reach her Xori. She’s a hopeless whore. As for you, Vyron, this warrior won and broke no rules in doing so. I believe it is your job to grant the boy his wish.”
Vyron jumped from the VIP box to the stands right below it, “He will get nothing! You seen the fight just like I did, Jyrixi! Cicatrix was winning and this fool couldn’t even walk! Then Cicatrix shrivels up and keels over? Just like that? No, no I’m afraid Ruequal has been cheating! I don’t know what sort of sorcery this could be, but obviously magic was involved here which means this warrior has earned nothing, but a quick death!”
Before anyone could answer, a haunting silvery voice behind me spoke, “I’m glad you agree that cheating leads to a quick death seeing that you’ve been doing just that from the start. It’s time for you to face your accusers, Vyron Tamminalin.” The hoods fell back and revealed three identical women with blonde hair and diaphanous skin.
Jyrixi inhaled so quick I thought she got punched in the stomach, “You’re here! I knew you weren’t dead! For thirty long years, I’ve searched this vile place, and now we can return home together!”
She lowered me down to the ground, with Xori kneeling beside me and turned to Vyron, “You are not the one who imprisoned them, but you did use their powers for your own advantage. I know magic and I felt it when I crossed Evanyl’s borders for the first time. That’s why I’ve been coming here all these years. I’ve been hoping to one day find out what happened to them. This is your day of reckoning, Vyron. They are prisoners no more!”
Vyron thundered, “Impossible! You can only be released if I say so!” Xori propped me up, then stood, “Actually all they needed was a Tamminalin to break the bond that your grandfather imbued them with. They are free from you, and so am I!”
The women stepped forward, “Vyron Tamminalin, you can surrender and your death will be quick and painless. You also have the choice to resist, but we cannot promise the same departure that way. No matter your choice, Evanyl and yourself will be destroyed by then end of this hour.”
One of the ladies drifted forward and extended her hand towards me. A curious tingling shot through my body and I felt my cracked bones being renewed. My leg popped back in its normal position and my cuts healed instantly. The taste of blood in my throat and mouth were gone as well.
Standing straight up, I took Xori into my arms as I faced the woman, “Thank you for that.” She smiled serenely, “You can thank me by taking care of that sweet, courageous girl you are holding. Xori, remember what I said? Get yourself and everyone out within an hour. Can you do this?”
Xori had a determined look on her angelic face, “I know I can. You were right about Xera. She’s not going to listen.”
The woman solemnly shook her head, “I’m afraid she’s going to stay at your father’s side. His hold on her is too great. You know what that means?”
Xori looked back at Xera, who was glaring daggers at her. Sadly she responded, “Yes. I tried to save her, but this is her choice. I cannot make her see reason when she’s been blinded by her own wickedness.” The woman nodded and stepped back with the others.
Vyron sneered, “Alright fine! You think you can defeat me? I don’t need mages to make it. I’m a Tamminalin and I’ll not be defeated. At the end of this hour the only changes will be your deaths and I’ll have a daughter who will never see the light of day ever again!”
The women started chanting in a language I’d never heard. Their beautiful voices could clearly be heard over the ruckus and uproar of the crowd, who’s confusion was apparent. They twirled in a circle and rose into the air. When they were well above the stadium their chant stopped. Their arms raised in unison and then flung down causing an earth shattering quake to commence.
Screams of terror and panic erupted around us. People were running in every direction and even trampling over one another trying to get to the exit. Xori grabbed mine and Jyrixi’s hands, “Come on! We have to find a way out of here! In one hour Evanyl is going to be nothing, but dust. They are going to destroy everyone and everything in this place that doesn’t get out!”