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A New Land and a New Champion

Nelo maneuvered the ship to come into the giant dock of Saint Morning, built into a hill overlooking the city. The dock area alone was so massive that it dwarfed the city of Flaris. There seemed to be just enough space for our convoy. The moment we stepped off of the ship we were greeted by a group of soldiers.

“Lord Ashel asks that the champions of Flaris and Lady Cerand join him at the castleand meet the rest of the representatives.”

A guard appeared on the deck of the Crimson Shield flagship and spoke.

“Lady Cerand requests that you all continue without her, and she will be along shortly.”

The soldier nodded in agreement and began leading our small group to the castle.

                                                           *****************

Saint Morning was an enormous city, with stone streets branching off our present one that lead off in different directions the further out they got. The homes were much larger than those in Flaris, and made of stone rather than wood and thatching. On the path to the castle alone there seemed to be more people than commonly seen in my home city. After some time the path opened up into a huge open court with the castle a little off to our right.

Outside, there was a large glowing spire, much like the one in Flaris. The castle, I found, was also a church. It stood at least three times as tall at its center as the surrounding buildings, and much larger around. Almost the entire structure was formed of a strange blue stone, with only slight traces of red near the top.

There were massive amounts of people in the area, many of whom were gathered around a caravan that was parked a few yards from the lode light. I could hear laughter and cheers from the crowd as they watched what appeared to be a swordfight.

“They’re local performers Chen. The two enacting the fight scene though, are also true warriors. Modos Ayd and his wife Ayako. They’re two of the top competitors in this tournament. They have two championship titles each, and combined have been the winners of the tournament for the last four years running. I just hope the drawing doesn’t pit you up against either of them in the first. We have more training to do before you’re ready for that I think.” Nelo whispered.

The cheers from the crowd grew louder as the acting troupe bowed simultaneously. The two leads took a step forward, bowed again deeply, and then parted from the make shift stage. They were coming to the castle.

We all arrived at the gigantic double doors, and were announced to the guards. I looked again at the actors as they were the first to be allowed in. I could see neither of their faces beneath the masks they were wearing, nor much else due to their costumes. Next we were allowed in and escorted up some rather lengthy stairs to our quarters.

“Lord Ashel would like for you all to remain in your rooms until you are summoned for dinner. There are still some preparations that need to be made.” The guard said before leaving us.

Dawelien, Sefton, and Weneibo all closed their doors to ready themselves for dinner. Nelo came to talk.

“You ok?” He asked.

“Are you sure I can do this?”

“Well, you did beat Rusep. She usually does fairly in this tournament, so I’d say your chances are about as good. It’s just…there’s no real way to tell. The best thing I can tell you is that there is no such thing as a sure thing. That goes especially true when you’re in a battle. You just never know, so it’s probably best not to think too hard on it before the moment comes.”

“Right.”

“Win or not Chen, this is still a good chance to find something out for you. Now get dressed. You don’t want to go to dinner with a lord looking like that.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing, just change.”

Nelo went to his assigned room and closed the door. I changed as he suggested and sat on the bed for a short moment before the guard came to get myself and the others.

                                                          *******************

We were all escorted to a large room in the west wing. In the very middle of the brightly lit room was a large square table. At the far end was a large bald man who stood to greet us.

“I am honored to have you in my hall. Lady Cerand will arrive shortly, but requested that we start without her. For those of you whom I have not personally met, I am Ashel. Lord of this great city. Please, take your seats and we can begin.”

The representatives of Saint Morning all joined Ashel on the far side of the table, but without sitting yet. Next went those from East Darkon to the left of Ashel, and those from West Darkon to his right. Those of us from Flaris stood directly across from him, and everyone only took their seats once he did. Food was brought in for us and we mostly ate in silence for the exception of one of the city leaders talking across the table to one another as though nobody else was there. I saw again the actors Modos and Ayako seated next to each other, but no longer wearing their costumes. Ayako had pure white hair that was kept short, not going past her ears, yet lightly covering her large blue eyes. Modos on the other hand had very long raven black hair that went well past his shoulders. It was hard to believe that these two were as strong as Nelo had claimed. They were both very small and meek looking, with wide smiles on both their faces as they spoke to each other.

I continued scanning the the group, but stopped on one representative of West Darkon. He was tall but very slender, almost starved looking by the size of him. Unlike everyone else at the table, he was wearing layers of plain brown tattered robes and was also wrapped up in bandages that I could see covering his hands and trailing up his sleeves. The strangest thing though was that his face was covered by an iron mask, while the rest of his head was also covered in bandages. I continued to look at the stranger as he sat as a statue, touching neither food nor drink. His head shifted slightly, and though I could not see his eyes, it felt as though he was staring back at me. My attention broke away, as did everyone else’s, at the sound of the door behind us opening. All those around the table rose and I followed suit quickly, turning to face the door.

“Lady Cerand and Sir Yob have arrived.” A guard announced, moving to one side.

For the first time, I laid my eyes upon the leaders of the city that I had called home.
Atrys Yob was a tall man, much like the bandaged stranger, but without the look of malnourishment. His skin, beard, and head were all very light, offset by the deep brown eyes he had. I could feel a great strength almost emanate from the man not just by the look in his eyes, but the way he carried himself.

On his right was Lady Cerand. She was nearly as tall as Yob, but looked somehow much smaller next to him. Though she was standing up straight, she seemed to almost be using his arm to support herself as the two walked arm in arm as they walked slowly to the table. While she was also of a light complexion, it did not seem as natural as her love’s. Despite her weakened and somewhat sickly seeming condition, she was captivating. She had lovely sky blue hair that went down to her waist, and small red lips. In her golden eyes was portrayed the strength that her body hadn’t. I looked a moment at Nelo, about to say something, but noticed something in his expression. It reminded me much of the first time he had told me about her. The two finally arrived at their seats as I decided to not pursue my curiosity.

“I apologize for my tardiness Lord Ashel.” She said in a soft voice.

“Nothing seriously wrong I hope?” Ashel asked.

“No, not at all.”

Everyone was seated again and resuming much the same behavior as before Cerand arrived. The rest of the meal went on without any sort of excitement or problems, but I couldn’t help wonder what the point to the dinner was at all.

Those of us that would be participating in the tournament decided to return to our rooms early, leaving the world’s leaders and their most trusted at the table. Nelo didn’t wait to talk with me, but in stead just returned to his quarters without a word. I decided it would be best to do the same.

                                                     ********************

I found myself walking down a long, seemingly endless hall. On the walls to my left and right, vines and fungi grew wildly. I continued walking for what seemed like an eternity, and then came to stop. In front of me was a strange glass container. I peered closer to see what was inside, when the glass cracked.

Sweat beaded on my forehead, and I sat up in the bed. It was merely a dream. There was a knock at the door, then a voice.

“You are summoned to the south hall. The tournament will be beginning soon.”

I got dressed slowly, preoccupied with the dream. Even while following this strangely talkative guard to the south hall, I could only think of the dream and what it might have meant. We arrived at the south hall where the other fifteen fighters were gathered. I barely heard the guard wish me luck while heading for the other Flaris competitors. Their faces weren’t quite full of as many smiles as they had been the previous day.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“You just missed the drawing for the match ups Chen.” Sefton answered.

“It’s all four of us. We’re in the last two matches. Sefton and me, then you and Dawelien.” Weneibo added.

“I don’t remember if there’s been a tournament where all the representatives from one city were put in the same bracket. Now we’re only going to have one shot at winning no matter how you cut it. I can’t believe our luck.” Sefton continued sarcastically, adjusting his glasses with on finger.

“It could be good luck though right?” I heard Nelo’s voice from over my shoulder. "After all, with the four of you being grouped together, that automatically puts Flaris into the semi-finals. If you were drawn normally, I’d hate to say it, but there’s no guarantee anyone for Flaris would make it past the preliminaries.”

“So you think.” Sefton replied.

I wanted to tell Nelo about the dream and see what he might make of it, but was stopped by the sound of the bell of Ashel’s castle.

“I’ll see you out there Chen.” Nelo said before leaving the hall.

All sixteen of us were lined up at the large double doors leading out of the back of the castle. First were those from Saint Morning, lead by the acting couple Ayako and Modos. Then were those from East Darkon followed by West Darkon’s fighters with the strange masked man trailing the others. Those of us from Flaris were last with Sefton at the lead and Weneibo in the back behind me. The doors opened and we all filed out, down the long steps to the arena area below.

Unlike the arena in Flaris, this one was more than a simple circular space, but was actually carved into the earth, complete with spectator areas and watch boxes. The fighting ring itself was the furthest section down. Large stones made up the ring floor and the six foot walls they lead out to. At the top of these walls were sixteen stools equally spaced apart surrounding the ring. We sat at these stools in the same order we were lined so that Weneibo ended up on my right side.

As I looked around the coliseum, I saw people packed all around us in every one of the four tiers above us. Unlike at Flaris, this crowd was fairly calm. It grew strangely dark and all eyes averted to the sky. Following, I saw above us not clouds, but a sky full of ships, with the four largest directly above us. Lady Cerand’s flagship was amongst the four.From each ship I could make out large circular objects beginning to descend, eventually coming to rest at four points equally distanced from each other above us to the height of the last tier of the arena.

The crowd rose, as did the other fighters and myself soon after. I then heard the booming voice of Lord Ashel, coming from the floating platform to my right, casting its shadow over Saint Morning’s fighters.

“People of Roika, it is my honor and privilege to welcome you all to Saint Morning for the tenth tournament of champions!”

The crowd exploded as Ashel ended the sentence. He held up his hand to bring them back down again, and continue.

“You all know that I’m not one to waste time, but I wanted to announce that this year, things will be a little different. This year rather than having rest periods after each set of matches so all the fighters can fight at their full potential, we will have no break periods save for the time from match to the next. I would like to find what fighters can not only fight at their full potential, but who has the steam to go through their matches with little time for recuperation.”

There were murmurs running through the crowd, and even some of the fighters as well. The only ones who seemed unaffected were Ayako, Modos, and the masked fighter from West Darkon. From where I stood, I could almost make out a smile on Lord Ashel’s face as he brought up his hand again to command silence.

“I realize this must come as a surprise, but I am eager to see who the true champion in this tournament is. With no further ado, let this tournament begin!”

Once again cheers shot out as Ashel took his seat. Calm only began to set back in when four robed men with staves stepped forward as in Flaris. However, this time the men’s robes each had a crest corresponding to one of the four flagships they went to stand under. Just like in Flaris they spoke together to announce the match up. I was distracted however, and could only concentrate on the actors Modos and Ayako. I knew they would pose a great threat in this tournament more now from their mannerisms than what Nelo had told me. Every moment I’ve seen them, they were smiling. I t was as if they had no worries in the world and nothing could surprise them. I pulled my attention away from them and tried to concentrate on the fights instead, waiting patiently for my turn in the ring.

                                                        *****************

It was the fifth match of the preliminaries and a match I couldn’t wait to see.

“Saint Morning’s Modos Ayd versus East Darkon’s Modnar Yug.” The robed men echoed.

Modnar picked up his sword and shield and quickly took the nearest platform down into the ring. Modos however, took his time. First walking to Ayako for a good luck kiss then turning back to the crowd to wave, causing an uproar of cheers and whistles. Still waving, he backed up a few steps then leaned back, falling downward into the fighting pit. Correcting himself midair, he landed gracefully on his feet then turned to face his opponent.

The match began and Modnar brought up his shield in front of him as if preparing for an attack. Modos bowed deeply then finally drew his thin rapier style blade, putting his left hand in the air behind him in a fencer’s stance. Modnar worked his way slowly to Modos, never dropping his shield for an instant until close enough to attack. Modnar was fairly skilled as a fighter, rarely dropping his guard only to attack in instances appearing to be opportune. Yet watching this fight, it was hard to pick this up. For every attack by Modnar, there was a dodge or parry by Modos. As skilled as Modnar may have been, Modos was toying with him, dancing around his opponent, effortlessly avoiding attacks, all the while that same smile never leaving his face. Modnar’s control began slipping with each attack becoming wilder and more hurried. He attempted a shoulder bash but like all other attacks this too was avoided. Only now, Modos seemed to be getting tired of toying around so much. As he passed Modnar’s shoulder, he motioned his rapier toward the ground and ice covered the earth under his opponent’s feet, sending him crashing down. As the downed man attempted to regain his feet, Modos raised his sword as if saluting the crowd.

“Stop toying with this one my love.” Ayako’s voice rang out. “I would like my turn soon.”

“As you wish my angel.” Modos acknowledged.

Just as promised he ended the fight with only a few well aimed thrusts of his sword. Modnar left the ring first after being healed with Modos close behind stopping him before he left the entire arena. I couldn’t hear what was said, but saw Modos hold out his hand and the other man turn his back on him, leaving. Modos returned to his seat, now unlike the rest of the day the smile had vanished from his face.

The next match was called for. Ayako and the masked fighter that was only announced as Anonymous. The lady fighter was already in the ring, tapping her foot impatiently as the masked fighter slowly worked his way to the platform to take him down. The fight hadn’t even begun, yet he was looking to be in bad shape. The stranger was breathing heavily, his slumped shoulders rising and falling with every deep, haggard breath. He never stood straight up. The man’s legs were bent, looking as though they’d soon fail him. He finally stepped off the platform to his spot in the arena facing the female fighter from Saint Morning.

Ayako drew her sword which looked like an exact replica of her lover’s, but when I looked at West Darkon’s fighter, I noticed no weapons. Suddenly he broke out into a stumbling run straight for Ayako. I expected a hidden sword or daggers, or anything, but instead the stranger threw a wide and wild punch missing its target entirely. The masked fighter righted himself and turned around only to get the flat of Ayako’s blade across the face, sending him to the ground. The masked fighter struggled to his hands and knees.

“My dear, I don’t think this one is even worth playing with.” Modos yelled.

“I think you may be right love. I’ll join you soon.” Ayako shouted back then looked down at the stranger and continued in a hushed voice. “I’ll do this in one strike for you stranger.”

Ayako tapped her blade with two fingers and made a quick figure against the flat of the blade. She drew back and prepared to thrust as flames grew over her sword like vines. The attack was swift causing some flames to trail off the blade. There was almost a gasp from the entire crowd as we all looked on. The blade stood suspended inches from the stranger’s head being held fast in the man’s gloved left hand. A look of shock on Ayako’s face was replaced quickly with one of pain as the stranger then buried his free hand into her stomach. She hunched over as he picked her into the air with the same hand and began to run. He no longer appeared the sickly, weak, and clumsy fighter as earlier. The masked man was mere yards from the wall of the ring, but showed no signs of slowing down. Dust and the sound of crumbling stone filled the air as nearly everyone in the arena was on their feet to see the actress and warrior Ayako, partially buried in the wall unconscious. The stranger, already walking away toward his place at the ring’s edge knew he had won.

“Ayako!” Modos roared.

The robed men were quick to enter the ring and remove Ayako from it. The main four handed her off to others who would be responsible for healing her. Everybody slowly sat back down again for the exception of Modos who followed the men with his wife.

The tournament didn’t slow down. The next fight was called and over in a flash with Sefton bating out Dawelien. Now it was my turn against Weneibo. He fought predictably as well as most others in the Flaris tournament, and was defeated with little effort. He shook my hand before leaving and I sat waiting for my next match, but was far more interested in the next fight with the masked stranger.

The first two quarter final matches were over, and the match everyone was anticipating was called. Modos Ayd versus the anonymous fighter from West Darkon. Modos’ usual smile was replaced by a look of fury through gritted teeth.

“The only reason you beat Ayako was by deceiving her. You played weak and took her by surprise. You’re scum! You can’t even fight with honor. There’s no doubt you’re strong, but I know if you had shown us all your strength from the beginning she would’ve beaten you. Well, I’ll just have to do it for her!” The angry man yelled drawing his sword.

Ignoring Modos’ words, the masked man began a slow walk towards his opponent. Modos blew on his sword and began twirling it in his hands over his head. After a few rotations a disc of ice as long as the blade of his sword had materialized. When Modos swung his sword, the frosty disc flew toward the masked fighter. The other man didn’t even try to avoid the attack, but instead raised one clenched hand in the air then brought it back down just as the ice disc would cut him in two. His fist collided with the flat side of the disc breaking it, sending shards of ice in all directions. While the stranger never broke his stride, Modos never slowed his attacks sending discs of ice in rapid succession at his opponent only for each to be broken in the same manner as the first.

Finally Modos realized these attacks were ineffective and tried something else. This time he blew on the tip of the blade and drew small individual circles in the air with it. Each of the circles began to turn white as frost formed. Modos thrust his sword at each circle in turn, causing small spike covered icicles to rocket forth. It seemed that the stranger couldn’t simply break these as he could the discs, but dodged them all just as easily.

Modos smiled and said, “Can’t break these ones friend? Good.”

He plunged his sword into the ground and gave it a twist after muttering some words. Suddenly the floor of the arena for the exception of where Modos stood himself became covered in a layer of ice. The stranger stopped, slipping a little on the ice.

“Time to end this fight stranger.” Modos proclaimed making five more circles in the air after pulling his sword from the ground.

Five icicles flew through the air at such a speed I didn’t see how the stranger could avoid them. It looked like his knees started to buckle again. Then, just as he was about to be impaled by Modos’ attack, he launched high into the air on a course for Modos. He was moving too quickly for Modos to react and when the stranger landed there was an explosion of stone and ice. The ground returned to normal and we all watched as the stranger picked Modos’ limp body out of the newly created crater in the ring. Leaving him in the center for the robed men to take care of, the fighter returned to his seat. Once Modos was removed from the ring, it was my turn to fight once more.

Sefton stood across from me, adjusted his glasses, and then smiled.

“You know Chen, I almost regret you got to fight Rusep instead of me. I know we all must have made it sound like she was the strongest of us, and maybe she used to be, but I thnk you’ll find a wholly different challenge in me.”

He held his staff in front of him vertically and I attacked. I was almost within range when he twisted his hands in opposite directions and suddenly the middle portion of the staff retracted outwards revealing a metal wire running through the middle of the bisected staff. I tried to stop but he moved too quickly, barely flicking his wrist, the bottom portion of the staff seemed to shoot at me of its own will, catching me under the chin. I stumbled back some feet, but didn’t fall. I looked up at Sefton as he moved the staff around his body effortlessly. He switched between defensive and offensive in an instant. Any moment I got close enough I would be struck by one end while he never slowed his pattern. I couldn’t find a way through his defenses.

I finally decided there wasn’t going to be a chance to attack without getting hit, so I decided it was time to just go all out. I began just rushing and swinging wildly backing Sefton up all the while getting pummeled. He finally backed to the wall and I thought I had him, but found my next attack deflected by a small light shield just the size of an opened hand. Sefton used this opportunity to launch a barrage of strikes, knocking me to the ground.

“Like I said,” Sefton said adjusting his glasses, “I’m a whole different challenge. Not too many assists enter the tournaments as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Not for lack of ability, but I think more because many of them make some sort of unspoken oath to not do harm unless necessary.”

“Not you though I guess.” I grunted, struggling to my feet.

He smiled and replied, “Well, we all have different opinions on necessity don’t we?”

He allowed me back to my feet, knowing at this point I wouldn’t win as I was. I had to think fast as the fight was definitely taking its toll on me. Finally, I found my solution. I drove Nelo’s sword into the ground at an angle and stepped on it with all the strength I could muster, breaking the blade. I smiled at the look on Sefton’s face as I picked up the broken portion and held it in my free hand. If the plan worked, I could win, but only if I was on with my hunch. It was time to test it.

I attacked, first stabbing underhanded with the pointed end of the blade in my left hand knowing Sefton would deflect it, as he did with one portion of his sectioned staff, knocking it across to the right side of my body. When he switched to offensive, I was ready, blocking his next swing of the staff with the sword in my right hand. Now I had to work fast. Before he recovered his weapon, I switched the grip on the blade in my left hand and swung it back across my body at Sefton’s shoulder. As expected, the same sort of partial light shield materialized and deflected the stab, so finally I leaned my head back slightly then shot it forward, connecting with his nose. The moment he dropped his small light shield, I drove the blade into the forearm and twisted it. Sefton cried out in pain, dropping his sectional staff. Now I swung with all the strength in my right arm cutting across my opponent’s face, breaking his glasses. I quickly picked up his weapon in my now free hand and began assaulting him. Many of my attacks were avoided both by his magic, and his sheer physical capabilities, but enough were connecting to know the fight was beginning to lean in my favor. Finally, Sefton fell, and I felt like doing the same. I could barely lift my arm even though the blade was half so large.

The semi finals were now started. I was too exhausted to even watch the other two fighters in their match up. My limbs felt as though they would all detach just so I wouldn’t punish them further. Before I knew it, my name was called yet again. On my way to the lift down to the arena, I was stopped by a stranger in a cloak, holding out an object for me wrapped in linen.

“Nelo thought you might need this, and he wanted me to say good luck and try not to break this one as well, for he has business to attend to.”

The Stranger stood across from me in the arena looking much like I did, though by now I knew he wasn’t nearly so feeble as he put on. If only the same could be said for me.

“Leave.”

My eyes shot wide in surprise, hearing for the first time a hollow voice echoed behind that iron mask.

“Leave now. If we fight…nothing good will come of it. Drop out and leave Saint Morning.”

I looked down at the item I received from Nelo still wrapped in its linen, and began unraveling it.

“I probably should. Especially having seen what you’re capable and all, but I can’t. I’m still not sure what may come of this tournament for me,” I stared at the new blade Nelo had left me, then grasped it, looked back at my opponent and continued, “but even with my doubts, there is somebody who has left his faith in me and is doing all he can to help me. I can’t ignore that.”

I felt a strange warmth enter my arm holding that blade, and found the strength to lift it upright, ready to strike.

“I’m sorry then.”

I took one step forward, and the stranger seemed to vanish. All I caught was a glimmer of movement from the corner of my eye, but all too late. When his fist connected with my head, all I could hear was a “click”, before the blow sent me flying into the wall.

I felt my body rise to its feet and saw in front of me the stranger again; his back turned walking away from me. The sword was still in my hand. After one step the stranger turned to face me, and I thought I saw a strange light flash beneath his mask for just an instant, before my body charged. Everything around me blurred as the stranger became the only thing I could see. I became aware of his body beginning to shift to one side and instantly my body reacted, pulling the broken sword from its sheath and throwing it at the masked man toward the side he was preparing to move. The instant he shifted back to avoid the blade, my body launched the new sword of Nelo’s at my opponent. He seemed to not have time to dodge this one as well, but caught the sword by the blade instead. I felt an energy burst into my legs as when I fought the giant bang in Flaris, producing a speed greater than that which I had previously maintained, reaching within a few feet of the stranger almost instantly.

My balance and weight shifted and I found myself jumping, my feet connected with the hilt of the blade causing it to drive out of the masked one’s grip and into his chest, with the sound of grinding metal. My body had landed on its feet and one hand once landed only for a short moment before it launched itself once again at the West Darkon fighter. Even with all my speed though, he recovered nearly instantly beating me to the ground with one swift punch, shaking my whole body. The stranger pulled the sword from himself and tossed it aside. My eyes connected with two glowing red and gold orbs from behind the holes in the mask, and the stranger let out a piercing shriek like a thousand aibats dying. My body only managed to get to its feet when the masked fighter enveloped my face with his large hand and long fingers, then drove me into the ground backwards. Suddenly I felt the heat and pain of being dragged across the arena floor at a running speed. My body could not react, though I could feel every sharp and devastating pain, I could not scream out. Finally I was lifted again then found myself spun around as the stranger did, and through his fingers I could see the wall just before he let go and I went crashing into it.

I was buried in the wall only for a moment before feeling a hard punch drive into my back, making me feel as though I would break in half. Still, I could not cry out or move, or control my own body. I felt a hand grasp my leg at the ankle and pull me out of the wall so fast I felt my leg come from its place slightly. The stranger whipped me down first, causing my skull to drag across the ground once more before taking to the air. He lifted me above him. Then, as we came down he swung me as though I were a hammer, into the ground. He loomed over me, and I was sure the end was here now as one hard punch landed. I nearly blacked out before hearing voices call out.

“Enough!”

The robed men were in the arena now and they cast their collective shield over me.
“You are the victor here stranger, please leave the arena and prepare for the final.”

The stranger never took his glowing eyes off me. I thought I was safe until, with one punch, the shield broke sending shards of light to cascade over me.

“What are you doing?!” The men shouted, pulling their staves and rushing the masked man.

He beat them all away easily, only moving a few feet away before coming back towards me. I knew then he was not going to stop until he had killed me. A shadow came over me, but it wasn’t the stranger’s. The shadow belonged to Atrys Yob, who had dropped from the platform he was on with Lady Cerand. He landed between the stranger and where y body lay. Standing calmly he lifted his staff and layer after layer of golden light surrounded us both. this time when the strange man punched the shield, it held firm, causing him to stagger back some. Atrys tapped his staff back down on the dirt and the shield suddenly shifted and grew outward, but only in the direction of the stranger. It moved quickly and once it had connected it sent the other fighter flying back. The shield vanished as the stranger regained his feet.

“I implore you sir, accept your victory and move on. If you continue like this you will be ejected form the tournament and most likely arrested.”

The man didn’t answer, just charged leaving dust and dirt in his wake.

“Fool.” Atrys muttered.

The shield was over us fully once again just as the charging man connected a punch with it. Atrys began making the shield shift again, but instead of sending the masked man into the ground, my opponent put both hands against it flat causing the shield to stop growing. A look of shock entered Atrys’ face. His eyes narrowed and he gritted his teeth trying to put more energy into the shield as the stranger pushed harder against it. Ripples began traveling out of the points his hands were, running throughout the entire shield. Neither man was gaining ground nor giving any. The shield began to flutter and Atrys gave out a great yell. Suddenly the shield exploded and blinding light filled the arena.

“Impossible.” I heard Atrys whisper to himself.

The shield was totally gone, and the stranger was face down, yards away. A sound of shock filled the arena as the stranger began getting back up again. He was almost to his feet when I began feeling a heat. From above came a great flaming bird directly at where Atrys and I were, changing course in an instant t fly toward the masked one. He put his arms up as if to shield himself, but the flaming bird changed course again and began flying circles about him. Faster and faster the bird flew, lifting the man into the air. After a moment of having my opponent suspended, the bird emerged from the flaming cyclone into the air above it, but still continuing the tornado. The blazing eagle arched then came flying down in the middle of the vortex causing an enormous explosion sending tremors, and rubble through the whole arena.

When the smoke cleared, a man landed next to Atrys and held his hand out in front of him. From where the masked fighter lay unmoving, I could see a spear buried next to his body begin to glow then fly into the man’s open hand. He turned to look at me and smiled.

“You’re quite lucky sir Chen.” Said Saint Morning’s leader, Ashel.
chapter 5. and it's the longest. the entire tournament in Saint Morning ends with shocking results.
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