The Stadium By Luke Wasacz Chapter 1 You know, I never really thought I was the best storyteller.
Or even a decent one, for that fact. But I do know that my experience here is one that I should probably share, one where the word should be spread. Perhaps it doesn’t have some place or somewhere in this world. Maybe it just has a place in the annals of time to be remembered later, like a file shuffled away to be examined far into the future. Or maybe it is just a yarn to be spun for your own entertainment. Either way, the following story is one that is exciting to me at least, Pat. You see, the story all started a long time ago. All the local kids would gather out in a forest bordering town and hold these contests. Deep in the forests kids of all kinds would come to tussle. Their skin was bruised and their hair scraggly. There were rough kids and sometimes the softer ones would show up, if only because they’re friends wanted them too. But at one point every town in kid would come back into the woods at least once. They would come to see a great battle on a large battlefield cleared of brush. Perhaps it wasn’t healthy (for our bodies or our minds) but it was sure fun. And no one was forced to fight, and no two who fought really disliked each other. They just fought because it was more fun than coming home at the end of the day and watching television or playing videogames, than chatting with friends or running around outside. And it was all because we felt significant because of it. The fighting may have only been with small, 13-year old fists and wooden swords made from nearby sticks, but it was real to us. It made us feel like we were part of something real, not just a fantasy playing out before our eyes on a screen. But one day (and the many days following) the line between fantasy and reality had blurred for me. That day started out like any else – My mom woke up at around 7. I got dressed and brushed my teeth; I got my shoes on and packed my book bag. As I walked out to the bus stop my mom kissed me goodbye and told me she loved me. She patted my scraggly golden-blond hair and sent me out the door. That whole day of school was normal for me too. I had all my homework for the day and everything. Nothing out of the ordinary. At ninth period though, my friend Jake (who sits next to me in that class) passed me a note during a test we were taking. It read: Hey pat, are you coming out to the stadium after school? There’s supposed to be a big cat fight. My ninth period teacher has eyes like a hawk (I was surprised Jake could even get the note to me in the first place without him noticing) so I waited until the test was finished and the teacher let us talk freely for the last 2 minutes of class. “Hey, Jake,” I said. Jake turned his head. He had been fiddling with a paper football. “Yeah, Pat?” “I’ll come. I might have to finish a bit of homework before, though.”
“Well,” Jake said, “Can you do it quickly? Because I kind of, sort of, how do you put it . . . had you scheduled for a fight against Brian.” “Well, why didn’t you tell me? I don’t mind when you do stuff like that, but I would at least like to know in advance.” “Well, you do know in advance. I just told you.” I sighed. Typical Jake. As I thought more about it though on the bus ride home though, I got kind of scared. At first I was more concerned Jake had not told me, but then I began to remember the Brian was perhaps the only kid there that didn’t understand the premise of the stadium in the forest – although it was an unwritten rule, you didn’t really hurt anybody too much to the point where they didn’t want to fight anymore. Those “hate fights” were reserved for places like the football field and behind the school. Brian always was brutal though – one time a kid left the place crying with a bloody nose and a beat-in head after a fight with him. I personally think Brian is insecure – he fully comprehends the ideas of the stadium, but beats people up intensely just to feel superior. It’s sad really. I almost would feel sorry for him. That is, if he wasn’t going to pound my brains out after school. I thought about not going, but I didn’t get the chance to because just then Jeremy sat next to me on the bus and started talking my ear off. “Hey pat. I hear you’re supposed to fight Brian today.” “Yeah, I’m gonna get clobbered though.” As Jeremy continued talking about the latest, I tried to decide about going or not. But Jeremy’s words pervaded my thoughts, I wasn’t the kind of person (unlike Jake) who could sit there and not listen to anything someone said. It was a skill of his I admired, because he always was blunt and frankly honest. If he wasn’t interested, then bang – his hearing went off. I couldn’t think about deserting the fight with Brain since Jeremy was talking, so instead my thoughts wandered onto Jeremy. I know he seems annoying, but he’s a good kid. His major problem is that he’s caught in this cycle of hate. He was initially pretty annoying because he wanted attention when we were younger, in third grade. But soon we grew up and he was still annoying, so a lot of kids started hating him and calling him names – names that scarred him very deep. So now he could only find solace in a few kids who had a bit of forbearance, like me. The trouble was that since he always confined in me and others, we found him very annoying. So now we dislike him we want him to go away, but are not blunt enough to tell him. The more he annoys others the more he annoys us, so all the pain trickles down to the tolerant ones. If he could just stop being annoying and attention grabbing everyone would be okay with him – but it’s already too late for him, he was caught in a cycle of hate. And It was hard to not get annoyed by him, but I tried. “Well, anyway, good luck with the fight,” he said. The words broke me out of my concentration. “Yeah, thanks, Jeremy.” I arrived home about 20 minutes later and unpacked my back pack as my mom walked in. “How was school?” she said. I didn’t look up from my Homework. “Usual. Do you mind if I go out after my homework?”
“To the stadium?” My mom was, in retrospect, pretty cool. She had grown up in the Area and the stadium had been popular while she was growing up. She seemed to have this psychic power to tell when I was going there and when I was doing something else. She was okay with me going. Jake sometimes told me “Man, you mom is the best. I need to sneak out of my room to get to the Stadium.” “Yes, to the stadium,” I said. “Okay, just don’t get hurt. You know what happened to James.” James was this kid who everybody expected to grow up as a drug dealer. He did badly in school and only found shelter in the stadium. Jake and I tried to befriend him but he seemed too out of it to really accept the friendship. When he was at the stadium he was totally different than his normal uncaring, disconnected self. He became a fiery and fun fighter who was everybody’s friend and nobody’s enemy. Maybe that was his problem, because one day he wound of getting in a fight with Brian. Although James was quick, he was cocky, and wound up getting beat almost to death because he had too frail of a body to stand up to Brian’s punches. My mom always reminded me of him when I wanted to go to the Stadium because he was still in the hospital from this incident which happened over a year ago. “Alright, mom. I’ll be careful.” I finished off the last problem of my homework a few minutes later and got up from my chair and hugged my mom. She told me she loved me and I replied similarly. Then I walked out the door and towards the forest. It was about a 15 minute walk from my house to the stadium, but it was worth it. On the way I always passed a wealthy a street and a poor street which paralleled each other. It was kind of odd seeing this people in grand houses living right across the streets from the people who basically lived in shacks. I once wrote a paper about it in school that I got an A+ on. MY teacher said she “found the symbolism very true and important”. I had told her in reply that there was really any symbolism; it was just my reflections of the two streets. She disagreed with me over it though. I finally arrived at the edge of the forest. Green leaves gently floated rustled in the wind on the trees. A worn path lead to the Stadium. As I walked through the brush that littered the forest floor I could hear some noise off in the distance from the conjugation of kids. I round one corner and suddenly filed into a crowd of kids that surrounded a relatively empty brush-free clearing, the only people that stood there were 5 girls that were going to fight. I waded through the crowd until someone grabbed me a pulled me over. It was Jake. “Thank gosh, I thought you weren’t going to show.” “I was thinking about it, but decided to show. You do know Brian is going to kill me, right?” “Nah, he’s not gonna hurt you.” I waited for a moment to see if there was anything else, because I honestly thought he was joking. “He’s not going to hurt me? Do you remember what happened to James?” Jake thought for a moment. “Oh yeah, that’s right. James. Well, listen. He promised not to be brutal like he usually is. I made him promise.”
I decided not to say anything else and just turned to the match. The girls were all close friends, it was just something for them to do, come out her and fight. Immediately two of them got into a wrestling match, but the remaining three got into a sissy fight of sorts. The fight lasted for about half an hour with most of the focus on the two wrestling. One of them I knew, a girl named Jeri. She was one of those kids who really didn’t seem to have any problems. A great student in school and an all around nice person. It was odd how she still fit right in with everyone else out here in the forest. Eventually the fight ended when Brian stormed onto the field, and demanded his fight. He called out my name and I was a bit reluctant at first, but Jake pushed me out onto the field. As I cursed Jake under my breath I walked over to Brian. He towered over me. It actually looked a bit like David and Goliath, I was a pretty small kid and he was really tall and large, overshadowing me completely. Thick locks of ungroomed hair rolled down to his shoulders and he spit when he spoke. “Ready?” he said. I just kind of looked down at the dirt and admired it before I would be sent to the hospital. “Yup.” Then the whole crowd grew pretty silent, and he threw a punch that could have knocked out an elephant. It slugged me right across the face so hard that it sent me flying to the left. I landed on the dirt face first and groaned. For a moment my brain was kind of jumbled over the massive hit, and then the distinct taste of dirt filled my mouth. In the following seconds, if I can recall, my faint vision of the dirt blurred, and I, according to everyone who was there, fell unconscious. Chapter 2 When I finally came too, my vision was heavily blurry – al I could really see was a mix of blue and green and grey. The blue hung over the whole scene and the green seemed to be right in front of my face, the grey hung off in the corner and kind of warped as I looked at it. Around the edged of the shapes they blurred heavily and mixed together, but they never really totally combined. I moaned and then heard a voice nearby. “What was that?” the voice was completely foreign to me, I could not recognize it at all. It sounded like young woman. “I think it came from over there. I think I see something.” This voice was a man’s voice, still unrecognizable. I heard feet rustling the grass around them. So that’s what the green stuff was, it was grass. Then the blue is probably the sky. Soon, however, two skin colored objects hung over my eyes. I could tell it was the two people but couldn’t really make them out. “Maybe he’s hurt.” The woman said. “Possible. But what could have hurt him . . . unless he was training out here by the forest or something.” “Let’s bring him inside.” Still unable to react much, they lifted me up by the head and feet and carried me away from the spot I was in, presumed to be lying in the grass. They carried me closer to the gray splotch that was in my vision. Soon it was the only thing I could see, and then recognized it as a building of sorts. They carried me inside, but then things got fuzzy, and I assume I fell unconscious again around that time.
When I did come too again, I was in a vastly different room this time. My vision was blurry when I opened my eyes, but it rapidly cleared, and I saw I was in some kind of hospital room. The floor was tiled yellow and I was in a bed with clean white sheets. There was no morphine drip or anything attached to me, I guess those nice people must have carried me here from outside so I could rest easily. The rest of the room beyond my bed and the walls were not so nice. Flanking me were two beds with people that looked beaten badly – one had a deep bluish black bruise on their head, the only exposed spot of their body. I could tell from the colors that it was internal bleeding. He was breathing steadily, and they had him attached to a morphine drip. The guy next to me was bleeding pretty badly from his nose and mouth, and every few minutes released a loud cough, reminiscent in sound of bronchitis. He didn’t seem to be attached to anything. I decided to lie down and relax in the bed when I discovered that it was very, very comfortable. It molded around my body and was more comfortable than any bed I had ever slept in. It was a while, I assume (for I felt if I had a good night’s sleep) when someone awoke me. At first they just kind of pushed me and said something softly and I woke but didn’t really respond. Then they tried to wake me up more vigorously until I eventually opened my eyes and stretched my arms. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. When I did catch a glimpse of the person, I was sure it was the woman from before. She had the same voice. “I see you’re better.” She said. She almost looked kind of like my mom (but younger) – she was certainly a lot older than me, maybe about 15 years older. She had dusty brown hair and slightly tanned skin. She wore this kind of armor, it almost seemed to be. All her clothes looked like clunky, heavy metal pieces of a medieval suit of armor. In fact, I’m almost positive that is what is. She was wearing a suit of armor. She was not wearing the helmet over her face, and then I noticed a deep red scar on the side of her chin. “Are you . . .” I paused for a moment. “Are you okay? You seem to have a bad scar on your chin.” She didn’t reply at first. “Oh, this?” she laughed. “This was just from a recent fight, my helmet got removed and I wound up getting hit. Although she kind of brushed it off at first with her laugh, after talking about it she touched it with her hand and she cringed about from how it stung.” Then there was a bit of awkward silence. “So . . . what exactly where you doing out there? I couldn’t imagine how you got knocked out.” “Well, I know Brian knocked me out, but I don’t know how I got there.” “Who?” “Brian. You know, big, tough, curly haired Brian? He doesn’t follow any of the Stadium’s rules?” “Well, we do have several people here at that Stadium that sound like him, whoever he is. But I don’t know anyone named Brian here.” I looked at her kind of weird. My initial impression was that she didn’t know who Brain was because she was older or didn’t live around here. However, she did know about the Stadium, so she must have grew up around here. But the question that really bugged me was: why is she wearing a suit of armor? And what is she talking about, a recent fight?
Before I could really respond, the man from before stepped into the room. Draped across his shoulders was a fancy red robe which covered him from his shoulders down to the floor and dragged along the ground. The red robe had detailed patterns on it that were mesmerizing to watch. He himself had a stubble beard and deep brown eyes. Finely combed brown hair stood up on his head. On his face was an approving expression, despite his crimson looks he did seem to be nice enough. “So your awake, huh? Where you training or something out there?” he said. Training? He had said that before. Training for what? I suddenly had a pretty enraged outburst. “What are you guy’s talking about? Why are you wearing a suit of armor, why are you dressed like some kind of fancy-schmancy wizard, and where am I? What the heck could I have been training for, and who are you people?” They didn’t respond at all, instead they looked at each other and shrugged. Then the women said: “Well, who exactly are you?” “I’m Pat Coddler, I live in Indian Valley, New Jersey, and go to Indian Valley Middle School.” “We’ve never heard of Indian Valley, or New Jersey, and we have never heard of a Pat Coddler or anyone who knew him here at the Stadium.” Said the woman. It was then that it hit me: I wasn’t in Kansas anymore (or rather, New Jersey.) Chapter 3 I just kind of sat there for a moment in a daze well they wondered why I was so weirded out. “Sorry for that outbreak. I just . . . listen. I live in Indian Valley, back in New Jersey, wherever this place is in relation to there. I got in a fight with a kid, and he knocked me out. Next thing I know, I wake up here, and I’m talking to a lady in a suit of armor and some guy in a magician’s cloak.” They bit their lips and kicked the ground. “This is the stadium, a place heralded by many. From all around people come to see fights here, were we, warriors like myself and Dylan over there, battle for our own pride and for the crowd’s enjoyment, to bring entertainment to the crowd and honor to ourselves.” “If you prefer a less knightly tone than Madam Jordan’s, The Stadium is the largest entertainment stadium in the world – people dream of becoming paid fighters here, who fight because – because we don’t know why. But we do it.” “As good of an explanation as any,” Madam Jordan said. I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I could tell that wherever I was, I was not even on the same world that I was in before, what with Knights and stadiums. My friend and family were gone, potentially forever. On the other hand, it was kind of cool – I had always been pretty interested in fantasy books, but never thought some of the stuff that happened to kids in those books could happen to me. I mean, who would? So I was stuck in a fighting Arena called the Stadium, in a potentially medieval world, with little hope of return to my home. Most people would have had two totally opposite reactions. One side would have cried until their tear ducts dried up and possibly
even committed suicide, well others would have jumped for joy – they were given a second chance in life, and had escaped from all their wretched family and abusive friends. Me, though, I was kind of in the middle. I am a very sensible person, so I decide the best thing do to was to enjoy it for the moment, and worry later. “Well then, I get the gist of it. What is there to do here? I feel like enjoying myself.” They were kind of surprised, probably because I had gone from steaming to contempt and curious pretty quickly. “Well – in the central arena there is a fight going on right now,” Madam Jordan said. “Where is that?” “I’ll show you. Come on,” said Dylan. I walked over to him and we all walked over to the central Arena. We passed several interesting people in the hallway, and I learned this was just an odd world in general, not necessarily medieval. Several people looked like me. They wore t-shirts and cargo pants. Others wore medieval looking costumes like Madam Jordan and Dylan, while others seemed pretty futuristic. Several were humanoid animals, and several were robots. It was like a melting pot of interesting and far off tales. When we entered the central arena I was amazed. It was kind of like a football stadium. People were hooting and hollering for their favorite team of warriors, for this was a team battle, as I observed. In the area where the football field would have been there was a large central platform that rose several yards above a pit of sand. On the platform was a group of colorful warriors. One person looked very similar to me – they were about my age, with similar blond hair and small frame. However, they were dressed in a vastly different outfit. While I was outfitted in cargo pants and a red t-shirt, they were dressed in a brown tunic and dirtied white pants, with a flowing green scarf tied around there neck. And unlike me, this person had a noble looks in his eyes – he was courageous and strong, with powerful desire to win. And maybe that’s why he was winning the battle. On the field, the other fighters – An armor clad warrior similar to Madam Jordan, a large, demon like beast, an 8-year old (who was clearly a baseball fan; he wore a team’s shirt and a cap and everything.) and a futuristic looking astronaut esque-man – were getting seriously beat by this boy. He whipped around the field releasing amazing punches and interesting abilities – at one point he, instead of punching someone, spit fire at them. The whole crowd seemed to be rooting for him and just him. I was beginning to wonder if this was a 1-on-4 match, because he seemed to be attacking everyone. Suddenly, a wave of shock came over the crowd. The battle had ceased, when with a blinding flash of light a figure dressed in a business suit had appeared on the battlefield. The boy I had been watching halted when he appeared and nearly collapsed; he was bruised and bloodied, (although not nearly anywhere as bad as the others). “I would like to inform you all,” he said in a very official, deep tone, “that Jacob Instar will no longer be a signed fighter here at the Stadium, due to his inability to follow the rules and regulations.” Jacob, who had been standing next to him, collapsed with tiredness and exasperation. “No,” Madam Jordan started, “they can’t fire him! He is one of the best people here!” she said in a fiery tone.
I watched the conversation unfold. “Let’s not get flared up, Jacob is not one to go without a fight.” “It doesn’t matter, no one can stand up to Mr. Smith. He rules with an Iron fist of tyranny.” Dylan shook his head. “If there is any one person who can stand up to him, it’s Jacob.” On stage, Mr. Smith disappeared in the same blinding flash of light he entered with. Paramedics rushed onto the stage and carried away the injured combatants. “Do you see what this place is like, Pat?” Dylan said to me. I was surprised he had spoken to me. I was silent, and felt a wave of despair. Were the people here oppressed? Before I could think, a glaring announcement came over a loudspeaker to fill up the time before another match started. The man making the announcement talked in a superficial, overenthusiastic kind of way. “Upcoming attraction at the Stadium! Tuesday, one week from today: The anticipated 1-on-1 between Madam Jordan and Nitros! Be there! . . .” The announcement dragged on, but something caught me at the end. “Amateur day, all day next Monday! Anyone not contracted may enter!” Neither Madam Jordan or Dylan seemed to take notice, they just looked on anxiously for the next match. “So, are you enjoying yourself?” Madam Jordan said. I turned my attention to her. “This is very entertaining, I’ll watch for a little while longer. So that is what happened for the rest of the day, I enjoyed fights accompanied by two interesting strangers. Eventually the crowd whittled down to committed fans and the people who where not leaving at the end of the day, like Janitors and fighters who where relaxing by watching some matches. It was kind of fun being there and watching those matches that were there to fill up space, like matches between two people who had just been signed into the Stadium’s range of fighters. The battles didn’t get any less interesting though. At the end of the day Madam Jordan and Dylan took me back to the room they shared, which they explained is why they spent so much time together. Madam Jordan offered me to sleep in her bed well she sleep somewhere else, but Dylan said it would be much easier to whisk up a bed with magic, so that’s what he did. So he was actually a magician, I thought to myself. That night I slept as well as I ever had. After all, I was sucked into an interesting new world of fighting where I already had two very courteous friends. It filled me with a nice, warm feeling. As I lay in the bed I got a chance to think about all the things I had not gotten the chance too today – like if I should have backed out of the fight with Brian, and what Mr. Smith did and how the people of the Stadium felt. But the most exciting feeling was the one I got when I started thinking about possibly showing up at amateur night, and how I could fight in whole orders of magnitudes greater than back home. So maybe I was too far from home for comfort. But I thought, as my brain shut down for the night, that perhaps it was a good thing to get away from the ordinary for a while, to see an adventure in this new world. So this where the story begins.
Chapter 4 The next morning, when I woke up, I rolled around in the bed for a few hours before noticing no one was there. I got out of the bed (still in my clothes from yesterday) and checked around the comfy apartment like area. The wall farthest from the door had a large window that overlooked the grass fields outside. Every once and a while I would look out the window and see people sparring in the fields. Despite two medieval people residing here, it was surprisingly modern. Beyond standard electric lights, there was a television, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The moderness in the air made me feel like I was back at home. I had spent a lazy afternoon enjoying a particularly interesting television sitcom they had. At about 2:00 (as I observed on an electronic clock) I heard a knock on the door. They entered before I even got up, and then I was shocked. It was the man from before. Oh, what was his name – Jake Onstar I think. When he entered he was wearing a slightly delightful, but mostly sad expression. When he said me, he got really angry. “Who are you!? What are you doing here?!” he shouted in a weasly voice. I hopped out of the bed I was watching television in and raised my arms, as if a cop had aimed at me. A cop might as well have aimed at me, because he held up his fist, and I knew he could kill me – easily – if he wanted too. “I’m a friend of Dylan and Jordan!” He calmed down slightly but still seemed very threatening. “That’s Madam Jordan, dirt bag. I’ve never seen you around here before – are you telling the truth, or where you recently hired? Or maybe you’re a burglar or something?” He got angry again and raised his fists. I said my prayers. The front door slammed open, almost hitting Jake. To my incredible relief it was Madam Jordan and Dylan. They looked at Jake. He turned and looked back at them. “He’s with us, Jacob,” Madam Jordan said sternly. Jacob settled his storm but was still not happy about me. “Where’s he from? Why?” “Your always so inconsiderate, Jacob,” Dylan said calmly, coming through the door after Madam Jordan. “He is . . . from somewhere else, and we found him lying out in the fields knocked unconscious. We don’t exactly know what to do with him . . .” Dylan trailed off. I interjected. “Well, I had this idea . . .” I said. Dylan was all ears. I didn’t really say anything, mainly because of Jacob. Somehow, I felt like it would have been very humiliating to say I wanted to try the Amateur fights in front of him. “Go on,” Dylan said. “I forgot,” I lied. Dylan turned back to Jacob. “Well, if he’s not signed here at the stadium, Mr. Smith could fire you and-” “You mean like how he fired you?” Madam Jordan interrupted. Jacob got steaming mad all of the sudden. You could tell he was trying to restrain himself from punching anything. “Punch the armor. It’s won’t dent, I recently got a new coat of Adamantite.”
Jacob turned and released a punch that made that made a sound like a whip cracking on Madam Jordan’s armor. I could swear the whole room shook. Jacob broke down. “I just . . .” tears began to well up in his eyes. “I can’t believe I could lose my Job so quickly.” He said. Madam Jordan and Dylan huddled around him. They condoled him and told him how unfair it was that he got fired for something he didn’t even have control over, and how they should give Mr. Smith a piece of their mind. Once Jacob had let out the pent up anger they sat him down on a bed and he almost immediately fell asleep. “Typical Jacob,” said Madam Jordan to me. “What were you guys talking about?” Dylan and Madam Jordan looked at each other, trying to get the other one to start first. Dylan wound up explaining. “When Jacob Instar was very young, (I made a mental note: Jacob Instar, not Onstar) he had a fatal disease. His single mother and little remaining family members were torn to pieces. These things always seemed to happen to his kindly family. His mother was so desperate to save him that she made a life-threatening decision. She bargained with the demonic forces and got his son cured, but in return he became partly demon, at least in the parts of the body where the disease had affected.” Dylan took a breath. “None of the demon featured are immediately recognizable on his body – most of the damage was internal. However, part of his heart was replaced with a demon heart, and now angry, vicious demon blood makes up a fraction of his blood. Sometimes, he gets an adrenaline rush and his human heart can’t take the amount of blood it has to pump – so the demon part of the heart takes over the job, and quickly he is consumed with more viciousness and wrath than anything I’ve ever seen before.” “That’s what happened the other day,” Madam Jordan added. Then things were silent well I thought about this rather interesting man. Suddenly Dylan broke in, “He was right though, we could lose our jobs as fighters here if Mr. Smith saw that we were allowing you stay here with us.” “Well, that’s what I was thinking about before,” I said. I checked to see that Jacob was still asleep. “Next Monday, in 4 days, I want to participate in the Amateur day. Dylan showed admiration for the idea. “People who sign up for Amateur day get temporary bunking, but I warn you that it is far less luxurious than this.” “I don’t care about that too much; I just really wanted to try the fighting.” Dylan thought about it for a moment. “While I think it will be too dangerous, I can’t stop you. It’s not like we are your parents, we have just been hospitable to you.” “That’s true. Thanks,” I said. “You are humbly welcomed,” Madam Jordan said, bowing. I nodded towards her. “I think I’ll try it,” I said, delighted by the words. “Do you have any, mhmm . . . forte, Pat? What abilities could you use to win?” Dylan said. “I’m pretty creative,” I said, dead serious. You know, with this world I had know clue if creativity had any influence on anything – a had read stories where kids could use their imaginations in these fantasy worlds to alter events, and I figured it might as well be true here. “Though an admirable trait, that’s not going to help,” Madam Jordan said.
“Darn. Well, I’m flat out of ideas.” Nobody said anything; we could only hear Jacob snoring. It hit me that I really couldn’t fight. Sure, I had won a battle or two back at home, but that was where we all had basically the same abilities. Everyone here was orders of magnitudes above me. I was standing on the ground and they were in space. Especially Jacob, he was probably floating by the edge of the universe. Madam Jordan suggested, “Perhaps someone can train thee?” “Sure, I guess. What about you guys?” Dylan immediately said, “Do you know any basic magic?” “None.” “I won’t be a very good help, magic is very hard to teach, especially to people who have never encountered it before.” I looked at Madam Jordan, she shook her head. “The way of a knight is long and treacherous. I can teach thee basic swordplay, but my abilities to teach you end there.” I smiled smugly. “Good enough.” “I don’t think Madam Jordan can teach you enough swordplay to prepare you for the amateur day, though. If you want to have any experience in it beyond getting beaten to a pulp in the first match you are in, you will need an excellent teacher,” said Dylan. I frowned. Why did he have to be so disillusioning? He quickly spotted my disappointment. “There is one person here you that maybe could get you semi-ready in that time allotment.” I smiled again, looking at him. “Who?” “He lives here as a trainer, and only accepts students for a large sum of money, unless they are truly worth teaching, as he says,” said Dylan. “Could you bring me too him?” “We can show you to him, but we cannot pay him with our salaries. He is very costly.” “That doesn’t matter; I’m a student that is truly worth teaching.” Half an hour later we were walking towards this trainer guy, me and Madam Jordan. Dylan said he would take me, but Madam Jordan offered too. There was little conversation, which I had expected, for she was pretty silent. She didn’t talk unless she had too or if she was spoken too. She walk dignified and looked straight forward, unfaltered by any events going on around. We passed some interesting, to say the least, figures in the hall. There was a monstrous thing that came running down the hallway. It seemed to be a large hairball, but the hair was mysteriously absent in some patches and revealed skin. It must have been 5 times as large as Madam Jordan. It walked on two legs, which was amazing for me – from it’s sheer size, I thought It was a mammoth walking on four legs. We passed other colorful figures – there was the man who had been fighting against Jacob that looked like an astronaut, someone who looked like an old lady from my era (accompanied by a man who looked like he was a fireman.), a pack of several small, strange cyborg like creatures, and a centaur – I think. Madam Jordan was stopped by the centaur for a moment and they talked for a minute or so. They must be friends, for Madam Jordan laughed a few times at what the Centaur said. I heard him say “fare thee well, good friend,” and then Madam Jordan and I kept walking.
We approached a flight of stairs that seemed to spiral for a couple of minutes, and when we finally exited the stairwell we came into a long hallway with large double doors at the end. “Those doors lead to Mr. Smith’s office. Come this way.” Madam Jordan seemed to be leading me to the office, but then we turned at a sudden tributary of the main hall. The side hallway led to a much smaller iron door. We pushed along until we were standing stationary in front of the door. “This is it. Enter the doors.” I reached out to a handle that allowed me to open the door. The door was icy cold to touch and a chill zipped through my body when I touched it. I slowly opened to Iron door, and looked inside. I took a few steps inside and looked back at Madam Jordan, who actually smiled back at me. The room was freezing. Wisps of mist rolled around the cold iron floor and flowed out the door. The room reminded me of a meat locker at butchers. I looked around and saw that 10 or so yards away was an arrangement of still iron furniture. As I walked closer I saw that there was a chair, which was not iron – it seemed to be a cozy and pleasant arm chair. Around it were several metal benches, some with weights. One of them showcased an arrangement of weapons, from guns to swords. The room seemed to stretch on forever; I couldn’t see any of the walls. I could only see to the furniture arrangement, and beyond that I could only see blackness. I looked around me and saw that I could only see about 10 yards in any direction. After that a black curtain hung. I shivered in place and my teeth chattered. I alternated from rubbing my arms to cupping my hands and blowing into them, attempting to warm myself. Suddenly I heard a clang behind me. I turned around and saw that the metal door was closed. I rushed back to it and tried to open it, but there was no handle on this side. I was stuck in here. Chapter 5 My initial reaction: oh crap. I was stuck in here. I pried at the door for a few minutes, knowing it wouldn’t open but doing it anyway. After that I sat down and tried to warm myself. After a few minutes of that I decided the best thing to do was to see if anyone was over at the arrangement of the furniture. If no one was there, then I could try and get warm in the nice looking armchair. If someone was there, then they would surely know how to get. In this lose-lose area, that was a pretty win-win action. I started advancing over. I waded through the benches with weights towards the arm chair, which was turned away from me. I got right behind in and looked around the top. Suddenly I saw a man with a pale complexion, with a grey beard looking back at me. “What are you doing here?” he said in a surprisingly youthful voice. I freaked out when I saw him, but calmed down a bit. “I . . . are you the trainer?” “Yes I am, and who are you?” “Oh cool! Listen, I was gonna enter the amateur fights and-” “Excuse me, did I not ask you not just what you are doing here but who you are?” “Oh,” I said, “sorry. I’m Pat Cobbler, and I have only been here for a day. I came here to get trained for the amateur fights.”
“Well, I hope you brought a good enough sum of money with you, because not only do I need to work overtime to train you fast enough, I require a lot just to regularly train.” “Don’t you accept ‘student worth teaching’?” I said. He didn’t answer my question at first, but he stood up from the arm chair and faced me. He was really tall – he towered over me in an incredibly thin figure. He was draped in colorful, grainy patchwork robes that just barely touched the floor. “You told you that?” he said curiously. “Dylan.” “Dylan . . . hmm . . . Dylan who?” “I . . . I don’t know. He is a magician. Stubble beard, brown hair, brown eyes? Crimson red robes, with these-” “I know the Dylan you mean. He is very kind, but he should not have told you that. Very rarely do I take students for free, just for the pleasure or honor of teaching them.” I was silent, and looked away from him. “I am worth teaching for free.” “Show me.” I didn’t exactly know what to do. I thought of the benches with weights for lifting, but I knew I wasn’t that good at lifting weights. I wasn’t particularly good at any physical activity, although I wasn’t bad at any physical activities either. “I . . .” I looked at the ground. “You cannot think of anything? You wish to be taught for free, yet have no proof.” I continued looking down at the floor, feeling really small at that moment. “Do you know how to open the door?” I said softly. He was silent. “Here, come.” He said. He shuffled towards a particular bench that had no weights. He sat me down on the bench and gave me specific instructions. “Run from here to the door until I say stop.” I hated stuff like this. It wasn’t a good test of “determination” or anything. After a while I would get tired and slow down, as I didn’t like to be crawling trying to run on the ground for something I didn’t want very badly. “Mr, uh . . .” “Call me Maxwell,” he said. “Mr. Maxwell, I believe I have a reason for being trained for free.” “Oh really? Tell me, Pat.” “I have never been trained in fighting before. You will be teaching someone who has no previous knowledge on it – surely, it has much more worth to increase the abilities of a student with .1% skill to one with 50% than to increase the skills of one with 50% to 60%?” He looked at me smugly. “Interesting. For the moment, you should get running.” I sighed. I got up and started running for what seemed to be days. I jogged slowly, for I knew I would have to have a good amount of endurance to last. And since I didn’t have the most phenomenal endurance, I had to try and to go slow to preserve energy. Maxwell sat in his chair, not even looking at me while I was running. He was instead reading a book. It angered me because the running then seemed insignificant. Eventually I started
sweating profusely, and then I reached the worst part of the run – after I had sweat a good amount my skin hardened into intensely dry patches, which was agony. My quadriceps were tight and my shins felt like they were on fire. I had a cramp in my side. It was agony. I ran for hour on hour it seemed, and I was on the verge of collapse after awhile. Once I fell, and almost didn’t get back up, because to cool iron floor was much more soothing than running. But I was determined enough, and decided to keep going. Eventually I became so fed up that I decided to collapse on the floor and pretend to have fainted. Perhaps he would she my dedication to supposedly run until I fainted and teach me for free. Turns out I was wrong. He came over to me and knew that I was still fully conscious. “Get up.” I decided the best thing to do was to listen to him. I got up on my feet and looked at the floor in shame. “I’ll teach you.” I was shocked at first. “What? Really? But what about me-” “It is irrelevant why. For the moment, I want you to get some rest, as I can see you are very tired,” He turned and pointed to a large metal bed near the armchair. “That has a blanket and a pillow, as well as a bucket of water at the edge of the bed. Drink and sleep, and enjoy it, because you will be training so rigorously for the next few days that you will wish you never wanted to be trained.” I felt woozy from the running and bowed to him. “Thank you very much, Mr. Maxwell,” I said. “From now on it is Master Maxwell, Pat.” “Yes, Master Maxwell.” I slowly strolled over to the bed and climbed into it. If I wasn’t so thirsty I would have fallen asleep on the spot. I grabbed a large metal bucket and drank nearly half of the water – it was cool, clean and refreshing, some of the best water I had ever drank – and then placed it down. I covered myself in the blanket for their was no mattress, so otherwise I would be sleeping on the cold metal. I placed my head down on the pillow and then closed my eyes. I drifted off into the sweet, sweet realm of sleep. Chapter 6 I knew that my waking hours until I was granted sleep again would be hell when I woke up to a surge of cold water. It shocked me and forced me to sit up and rub my eyes and get out of bed because the blanket was now wet. I stood drowsy eyes in front of Master Maxwell and yawned. He craned his neck down to my eyes and looked at me. “It is time to begin,” he said with a smile. I wasn’t smiling too much about it. After a session of stretches and activities to rouse the drowsiness from me, he led me over to an empty spot in the metal floor. I realized the reason I was still tired was probably because the passage of time didn’t seem to be reflected here. It was always cold and dark, which served to only make me more tired.
“Here, I shall find what you should pursue as a style of combat,” he said. First, he made me perform a series of karate-esque attacks – from punching and kicking combos to grabs and throws. Next, he brought over a weapon for me – it was a medieval sword. I clasped it in my hands and smiled because of how cool I thought it was to hold a sword in my hands. I remember in a lot of books I read they took up these kinds of swords too, and said they were very heavy. That wasn’t true though, this sword weighed only about 6 pounds. He made me perform some slicing and such attacks with it, and I did okay, but not too phenomenal. Next, he brought over a lighter sword – so much lighter, in fact, that it felt almost weightless. It was a Spanish rapier, a stabbing sword, which weighed so little that I could poke in and out with in various strings of attacks. He brought over another sword, this time, a Japanese sword. I held it in my hands and marveled over it. It was a Katana. He instructed me carefully on how to use it, showing me the ins and outs – where the sweet spot was (which he taught me, was the point where the sword vibrated least when it struck something, producing the cleanest cut) which side of the blade was the slicing side, and so on and so forth. He seemed to take extra care to make sure I understood the Katana. After that session of swords, he brought over a different succession of weapons. They included small daggers for close combat, throwing weapons (such as needles), some firearms and some larger weapons, such as spears and lances. Intermingled were also some weird weapons. One of them was quite interesting to me, at least. It was similar to a whip in a way, but quite different. On a thick chain where wooden boards, placed every foot or so. The proper use of the weapon was to hit enemies with the wooden boards, creating an effective long range weapon. The downside for me, at least, was that it was hard to manipulate because of how heavy it was from the consecutive wooden boards and the length of the chain. There was another interesting weapon I saw, which seemed more of a portmanteau of two weapons than one of its own. A sword was attached to the end of a chain, allowing people with good enough control of the weapon to sword fight from afar. After that long session (it seemed to last a few hours) Master Maxwell stood back and told me to take a short break while he thought. I considered going back to sleep, but he wouldn’t let me. So instead I relaxed on the most comfortable object I could find (besides his armchair, which he sat in thinking) and almost fell asleep. I didn’t tire too much during the exercises, but for some reason I felt very tired from a lack of sleep the night before. Did he wake me up very early? It was impossible to tell, my whole daily rhythm was very messed up. Soon he came over and told me that I had a choice for what I wanted to learn. He said that I appeared to have the most interest and skill in using the Katana, and the spear. He told me I could choose to learn any of things he had showed me. I thought for a short amount of time and eventually decided on the Katana. “I want to learn how to use the Katana.” “It will be hard and treacherous.” “I bet you say that for all of them,” the disrespectful comment just slipped out of my mouth. He didn’t reply and didn’t even seem annoyed, it was kind of weird. He stood me up and brought me over to an open area. He put the Katana from before in my hands. “It is time to train then,” he said. From under his robes he pulled out a slim rapier with an almost invisible blade it was so thin.
“First Lesson: defense. Because in any battle, you should always keep in mind that your own safety comes before your need to defeat the opponent. If you need to deal great damage to yourself willingly to win, then you put yourself in too much danger.” I listen intently, and then he began teaching a long series or defensive teachings. At first we had practiced with the two swords, and he taught me the basics of any sword play. He used several different swords to illustrate his point. Soon he digressed into other, more obscure weapons. He explained how dangerous very close combat was for me, being unable to move my sword adequately and how to avoid it. Then he used several weapons, including firearms, spears and the wooden boards chained together from before. He said it was called a Waton Board. For the firearms, he explained how to watch for when a shot would be made and how to immediately avoid it. We practiced this for several hours because he stressed how important it was. The Waton board proved difficult to defend against. My key advantage against someone using a Waton board was how much more maneuverable the sword was, especially in close quarters. It dragged on for at least seven hours. Finally, he told me we had reached the last mode of attack to defend against (and the trickiest) – magic. He stressed how important it was to think clearly and strategically against magicians, and to strike only if you are sure it won’t back fire. To make sure I comprehended, he gave me several situations to think about and respond too.’ “Say a magician had just cast a spell you know increases gravity around you, but not around him. Then, since you are slowed by the gravity, he sets a series of enchanted traps on the field blocking you from him while you watch idly. Eventually, you cannot keep track of the enchantments and their locations. What do you do?” It was a tricky question. If I advance forward, I would get caught in a trap almost undoubtedly. I eventually arrived at the answer that the best thing to do was nothing – since, according to him, a magician could not force a spell to effect you (you had to, most of the time unknowingly, activate the magic – by stepping in a magic trap, for example, or saying certain words.) He would be forced to come to you and perhaps run into his own trap. “Say though, he placed an inaction curse on you, that would activate should you fail to do anything – what then?” he said. The questions continued to build upon the same scenario for a while until he deemed that I had assessed the match to the point where I could win. He warned me though that in the heat of battle, you may not have long periods of time to think – I had to asses clearly and quickly. The defensive training session culminated in a large test he had devise for me. It was not written – instead he put me in several scenarios and asked me to defend myself. I did well enough – on few more obscure areas, such as Waton Boards, I was not quite good enough, but I could remember a good deal of what he had taught me. The test had finished with a large, elaborate question dealing with fighting a very tricky and experienced magician. The question baffled me for long periods of time, and I got the wrong answer at one point and he said that the match would be over then and there. However, he continued the scenario so as to see how I would react to the rest of the situation.
Once the several hour test was finished I slumped down on the ground and sighed, defensive tactics jumbling around in my head. “So my observations were true,” he said to me while I sit on the ground, sweating. “You are worth teaching because you can learn well.” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but I knew it was a compliment so I happily accepted it. I sat for a few minutes and he brought me a bucket of cold refreshing water. “There is little time for rest. We shall now move on too training you to use that Katana offensively, which will take several days of training. Afterwards we will expand upon defense.” “Okay,” I said, not really listening. I was too busy gulping down water. He retrieved a Katana of his own and made me take mine out. First, we did a slight review on defense against a Katana. Then, he went in depth on several slicing and stabbing techniques. Although I am not sure if you were interested in the preceding explanation of defensive techniques, I will not pain you with the teaching of Katana techniques. Instead, you can enjoy the fruit’s of my labors, as explained in the following chapter. Chapter 7 I had learned much and thought I was very knowledgeable about the Katana by the time my training was nearly done. However, that was at the expense of a good deal of sleep. I tripped when I walked and my eyes were extremely heavy. I became less and less responsive and Master Maxwell noticed that. He told me to get some sleep, because there will be a review of everything he’s taught me tomorrow, on Sunday. Then, on Monday, I would enter the Amateur day, hopefully good enough to compete. I amazed myself with what I knew about swordplay – I couldn’t believe I had learned it all in a few days. “You are so very far from mastery,” Master Maxwell had said, trying to make sure I knew that as good as I thought I was compared to me before the training, I was still subpar. I decided to take him up on his offer and slept for a while. This time, when I woke up I felt very well rested and all my movements were sharp again. “Good, so now I can test you to see if your ready,” he said. And so the test begun. First up, he engaged me in a long sword match, where I displayed all sorts of fancy swordsmanship – for which I was punished quickly. Then I went to style and precision he explained to me, and we fought for a good length of time. I actually got a hit on him once. Out of nowhere, he sheathed his sword and pulled out a dagger. I froze up as he ran at me, but I could regain movement in time to remember knife defense with a sword. When he had come at me I made sure to further myself, and used my sword as a ward from moving forward. When I had it pointed out, he could not approach from my front as easily. We went on in that matter, switching between battles and defensive situations until is culminated in an actual battle against Master Maxwell. Although he used a wooden sword as to prevent hurting me, he also combined it with magic as a last test.
It was way too hard – too many times did he force me backwards into a magical trap. I was sweating cold sweat at the end as he had his wooden sword pointed at my neck, my sword having been thrown from my hands. He sighed. “You may be able to win some battles, surely with my training. But don’t get cocky,” he took my hand and helped me stand up. He walked me over to the armchair. “It is late at night; you should sleep so you are prepared.” I took his advice and got my sword. Sheathing it, I walked over to the bed I had slept in twice before. I drifted off easily. After the initial shock and drowsiness of being woken up by a bucket of cold water (again), I was filled with excitement as I knew what day it was: Monday. “Before you leave, you should know one thing: Just because you leave this room does not mean you stop being my student. You still have very much to learn. You shall return to training on a schedule as determined by your performance.” I nodded; I was actually excited about that. It waked me up to where I was – on one layer, I was engaged in this jumbled up fantasy of medieval, modern and future, where people fought with magic and with swords. But on a deeper layer (and they don’t tell you this in other fantasies) it was very much like real life. Everyone was disgruntles about something and heroes didn’t arise from nothing. Hard work was even more real here than it ever was. “Also, I have a uniform for you, if you want,” he said. I looked down at my own clothes that I realized I had had on since I got here several days ago. They were stained with sweat, dirt and had a ton of wrinkles all of them. ‘That would be, uh . . . appreciated.” The outfit was very similar to Master Maxwell’s. He wore a robe that looked like a thin quilt with patches all over it that dragged on the ground. I was given a similar style quilt, made into a lofty, loose shirt. Additionally, he gave me a matching pair of pants, so we know both looked like quilt monsters. He led me to the door and said something. Soon the doors opened and I stepped outside. How pleasant it was out here! The heat and light and air, everything was better out here. It was so cold and dark and musty in there. We walked down the hallway until we came to the main hallway that led to Mr. Smith’s room, the one I had come through days ago with Madam Jordan by my side. Then the thought came to me – what happened to them? What happened to Jacob Instar and Madam Jordan and Dylan? I was so concerned with myself I had forgotten about them. Did they just continue their lives, with me having just been a slight distraction? Better yet, did Madam Jordan actually close the door days ago, and I tried to open it and escape? Or was it some cosmic force? The thoughts of my only friends in this world swirled around in my head. I couldn’t escape the fact that out of nowhere I deserted them. But they didn’t really care to much, did they? Maybe they would be at the Amateur battles to watch me. Or maybe they didn’t care, maybe Madam Jordan did close the door because they thought I was annoying.
Eventually we arrived on the first floor at the registry room. It was a small room with a desk and door. There was a man with a business-y look like Mr. Smith and a laptop computer. As Master Maxwell approached the man saluted him. “John, this is my student, Pat. He would like to participate in the Amateur battles today.” John didn’t say anything and just typed something into his laptop. “Granted.” He said without any expression. The door in the room opened up electronically and we went in. The room was a dump. It was mostly empty furniture wise, although it was packed with people. He only place to sit were stone benches that protruded out from each wall. There was no room though, so people stood in the center. The room itself reminded me of a prison – the walls were made of stone blocks and the whole place was very dingy. There were closed, still stone double doors at the other end, which they opened every once and a while as I observed later, and let a few people through into what I could only assume was a second waiting room that seemed even smaller than this one. Master Maxwell had left me alone in here and told me he would be in the bleachers. He told me he would not be too hard to find, because about as many people show up for Amateur fight days as people show up for amateur nights at comedy clubs (proportionally, of course). Eventually another business-y man opened the double doors and called my name. I waded through the crowd and he led me to the second waiting room, which was far more comfortable, each person had their own bench. There were five other people in this room, besides me and the business man. One of them I could not really understand, he looked like a bear almost, but plated armor covered him in most vital places. Sitting next to him was a tall black man dressed in regal robes. I sat closest to him. On my other side was a puddle of slime that I presumed was something, and to it’s side was a knight dressed in polished armor wearing a shield with a very fancy looking coat of arms and a lance. Directly across from me was a man who looked like he had been a Chinese railroad worker from the 1800s, dressed in a buttoned suit with dirt on his face. I waited for a while for my match. The bear was the first to get a match, and he fought against the man in the regal robes. Two people were quickly brought in to take their place. One of them looked like they were a few years older than me and was dressed in similar robes, but had no visible weapons. The other seemed to be a stone golem, but I couldn’t really tell what he was. Next the knight and the slime-thing fought, they were replaced in the waiting room by two people who seemed to be identical twins. Although the bear v. man in robes match had ended quickly and the slime and Knight went on pretty soon after, there match lasted a while. After a long waiting period, the business man finally called me and the man who looked like a railroad worker onto the field. He led us through doors that brought us out into the main battlefield in the stadium. It was magnificent – seeing the lights and the people, although not that many. He led the both of us onto the main platform, which was elevated above a pit of sand. The platform itself felt something like rubber to stand on. It seemed to be a material that would not hurt as much as say, concrete if you happened to get smashed into it. On the central platform there were some distractions making it not just a wide open, flat
battlefield. A few smaller platforms where raised anywhere from a foot to several feet on the field, where you could climb up on them and attack down at your opponent. I made a note of them in my mind for later. There was a gap between the edge of the stadium and the bleachers where people could fall off into the sand pit below. Rising out of the sand where a few separate platforms on each side. I looked into the crowd and I saw Master Maxwell pretty quickly. He stood out among a small group of people who included Madam Jordan, Dylan and – to my surprise – Jacob. So maybe they didn’t think I was annoying! Finally I turned to the match and observed my opponent. The business-y man was still on the field and quickly ran over some etiquette rules, you know, the whole no hitting below the belt honor stuff. Then he took a few steps back down onto a flight of stairs that led up the central platform, and took out a microphone. “Begin,” he said. Chapter 8 There as a lull between when the match officially started and when we actually started fighting that lasted about 10 seconds. I don’t know who my opponent was hesitant, but I know I was thinking about the applications of where I am – I am in a fantasy world, trained to use a Katana, cheered on by my trainer, a lady knight, a partdemon and a magician, fighting against a man who seemed to have come straight out of the 1800s, ash and sweat still on his face. And then the battle actually began. He got the first strike on me because my mind was wondering. Unfortunately for me, it was a very powerful strike too. He had used some kind of blunt object to strike me right across the field towards the edge. As I stared up at him after landing, I saw it was a hammer. My first reaction: crap. Although Master Maxwell had given me training in dealing with blunt, powerful items such as hammers, I realized that I was a wimp on the battlefield. All my knowledge was still there; my hands just trembled too much and my hands were unresponsive to my brain’s calls of Get in there, you fool! Move your hands, attack! I just couldn’t do it. By then the man had reached me again. If it was a street fight, this would have been the part where I died. I was lying on the ground motionless, with body on the ground. If the man was out of control, he would have pounded my face into the ground and killed me there. However, the stadium discouraged killing. I remember after the night where I first watched the Arena battles, I picked up a pamphlet about joining the amateur battles. It explained some of the outlines of the stadium, saying that it discouraged killing and said matches ended when one side conceded – and if they failed to concede before life-threatening damage had occurred, it was their fault. However, it also explained how fighters could not try to intentionally kill each other. Case in point, this man could not hammer my head in the ground, but he could pick me up and whack me across the field again with his hammer. Which he preceded to do. I landed on the other side of the field and saw his coming to repeat the process. I had to fight back, I had too. Steadily, I tried to stand up. I got up on one leg, but then he reached me and whacked me across the field again. I landed with a bloody nose on the other side. Then I attempted again to stand, and I could get up on one leg – so I decided
that if I that was all I could do, I would have to improvise. He came at me again and I unsheathed my sword, almost having control over it. But he got me and knocked me across the field again. I had situated myself, almost standing, steadying my sword with two hands. Finally, I made the ascension to standing and stood, ready to begin actually fighting. The man came at me and jumped swinging his hammer ruthlessly downward. I ducked and stepped forward, moving past the range of his hammer and made a cut in his stomach. He dropped to the ground and dropped his hammer. He felt the wound and saw how clean and sharp it was, and saw a single drop of blood drip out of it. I wanted the attack him, make a few more cuts while he was distracted, but as I brought the blade down I stopped sword. I couldn’t do it, just slash a person I didn’t know who didn’t seem to be a bad man. My mom had raised me very well, and she knew the stadium back home didn’t hurt anybody too badly (except for cases like James, where people misunderstood the unwritten law of the stadium). But here, I saw that people got hurt. Not just a few proud bruised hurt, but multiple lacerations and internal damage, hemorrhaging and blood loss. I remembered those two warriors who slept, barely breathing, next to me when I first came to the Stadium. This was way too real for me. The man noticed my moment of self-doubt and capitalized. He picked up his hammer and bashed me sideways, knocking me towards the edge of the central platform. He started getting up to try and repeat his attack-run too-attack pattern from before, but I wouldn’t let him. Because I stood up and grabbed hold of him when he did. He tried to swing his hammer, but some cosmic force, or maybe perhaps extreme determination, caused me to grasp his arms so tight he couldn’t do anything. I looked straight into his eyes. He saw a small, wirery boy with a patched quilt get up and scraggly blond hair, holding him back with his bare hands. And as I looked into his eyes, I said something. “I give up.” I whispered to him. Then, I whirled him by the arms off the edge of the central platform and he dropped 10 feet or so into the sand pit. The official business-y man came onto the field and declared me the winner by ring out, and I could here some people cheering, most likely my friends from this place, for my victory. But I had really given up – I had chosen not to fight, but to end the match. Even though I should have been satisfied with myself, I felt a mix of disappointed and sad emotions as the man led me back to the waiting room. Once we got back though he let me go sit in the bleachers because the first matches of several amateurs would continue to go on for several hours before the winners of the matches would start fighting. He told me that for the next round, each winner will be paired up with one other in two-on-two matches, and after that the remaining people would compete in single matches. He told me that anyone who made it to the second round of single matches could be considered for a contract at the stadium. I went to the bleachers and searched for the spot with Master Maxwell, Jacob, Madam Jordan and Dylan. They waved me over and I came and sat. “You fought honorably, choosing to end as non-violently as possible. I commend you,” Madam Jordan congratulated me. “I can understand the shock since this is your first match, but you must know that you should not feel shame for hurting these people. They knew they could be fatally damaged and entered anyway. It was their choice, and if you feel remorse you will be at a major disadvantage,” Mater Maxwell said.
I grunted at the comment, but deep down knew he was right – I guess I was just raised too well to really hurt anyone, intentionally or not, with or without their consent or knowledge that they would be hurt when they fought against me. “Great tactic at the end,” Dylan commented. Jacob took a sip of a drink he had, and said, “Nice win,” without looking at me. I couldn’t tell if it was a compliment because of the spoken language, or a sarcastic insult because of the body language. I sat with them for a while and watched some interesting matches. One of the most interesting was a fight between two fist fighters, which I noticed Jacob took great interest in. As soon as the match started, the two men knocked out each other’s partners and then were left by themselves. These two men hit each other mercilessly, slamming each other with jabs and attacks. Not once was did it seem one had the advantage, they just attacked each other on equal grounds until they were bruised all over their body, panting and smiling because of the exciting, exhilarating, exhausting match. Never did they seem like me, hesitant of injuring one another. But It was not because they were insensitive to each other, they – they were having fun, tussling in this matter. Then they clashed one last time, knocking each other out simultaneously. Jacob, being a fist fighter himself, made comments on their attacks, but showed great admiration to each of them. After several hours the loudspeaker came on and asked all amateurs still in to report to the main waiting room. I got up out of my seat, finished a sandwich Madam Jordan had graciously gotten me because I was hungry, and walked to the waiting room. Once I got there I told them my name and they checked it to a list of names and descriptions to make sure I wasn’t a fighter who lost trying to get back in. Once they had verified I was indeed me, they let me in to the same dingy waiting room. This time though, it was considerably roomier. I stood in the room nonetheless for a while, as time after they time they called groups of fighters into the secondary waiting room. My match took so long to be called that I got to sit on a bench for a while until they called me. Once there was about 20 or so people left they called me in, along with 3 others. This time, he gave a briefing of how the match would work. I was paired up with a large, bulky, bald man who had humongous muscles. Against us was a girl quite unlike Madam Jordan, about my age, who was skimpily clad. Around her knuckles were a pair of bracers, metal bands with spikes protruding out, for the purpose of making every hit of the fist just that much more damaging. Her partner was a man with extremely pale skin and draped in a black cloak. He licked his lips as the business-y man talked. Soon enough, he led us out onto the stage. This time, I thought to myself, I would not mess up. So I unsheathed myself before the match began and mentally prepared myself. Then the man took a few steps backwards off the stage as usual and said “Begin.” The man with the large muscles ran towards the pale skinned man, and the girl ran towards me, so we basically paired off into separate fights. I did a lot better here. Every time the girl tried to attack I made sure to keep my distance and stick my Katana out, as to discourage attacks. We were going around in circles doing this, until she said “You’re pretty good” in a singsong voice. “Well . . .” I said, letting my guard down for a second, blushing from the compliment. Suddenly I felt a group of spikes (not to mention the force of a powerful punch) crushing into my gut, and released a large breath.
I fell back a few steps and instantly knew there was a follow-up attack, because as Master Maxwell told me, “There is always a follow-up attack.” So I waved my sword blindly and luckily prevented the process, cutting the girl in the arm in the process. She rebounded back a bit. I moved forward and pushed her over. Then I retreated back, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to really deal any blows anyway – I couldn’t deal any actual fatal damage. I was too much of a wimp to really hurt her too much. She quickly recovered, and got back to fighting. I continued my defense which agitated her a great deal. Meanwhile, I watched a very different match between my partner and her partner out the corner of my eye. The muscley man was trying to hit the pale one, who weaved in and out of the lugged punches. He smiled contently as the muscley man grew angrier and angrier, throwing more exaggerated punches. “You’re annoying,” the girl I was fighting against said. “Thanks,” I said sarcastically. We continued to circle around each other, myself sticking my sword out. “Neither of the two battles are getting anywhere – wanna switch partners?” she said. I was surprised by the casual conversation. “Sure, I guess.” She immediately turned and ran towards the muscley man, jumping and bashing him with a powerful punch in the back of the head. The pale man sidestepped and I watched as she beat the man in the back. The pale man spotted me, not doing anything, and dashed towards me. We circled around for a while. It wasn’t like with the girl, who circled around because she couldn’t attack, I was holding my sword at regular length and this man was not attacking. Perhaps he was waiting for me to attack? He must have not seen me fighting the girl – I was totally defensive. Our eyes were locked on each other as we circled. Things were silent among us for a while. But I could hear grunting and smashing as the two fighters tussled on the other side of the central platform. “Why don’t you attack?” he suggested in a weird accent – it was very distinguished and audible, but was slightly reminiscent of a German accent. “Well, I was thinking about it, but now I am definitely not going to,” I said. He chuckled. “Smart one, are you? Well then let me show you my attack,” he said. He opened up his black cloak, revealing a grey noble-looking suit. Out of the cloak came flying an array of tiny bats, which swirled around him before they flew towards me. I panicked. Suddenly a group of bats where whirling around me, and I looked around, swinging my sword blindly, fearing one would perch on me and bite me. Suddenly, I remembered a random factoid I had heard in school: most bats don’t suck blood, and the ones that do (namely, vampire bats) very, very rarely would attack humans. I saw one of the bats flutter by my face and knew it was not a vampire bat. The damage had been done though, for suddenly I felt a cold sensation run down my back and fell to the floor, writhing in pain. It felt like frostbite (I had had it once before, when I was young, but it was spotted almost immediately and treated.). I turned on my back and looked up to see the pale man laughing.
“How did you do that?” I said. “A fear trap. You feared the bats, and it trigged a freeze spell to attack you.” I was up against a magician. He had leverage over me, me being on the ground twitching from the frosty feeling on my back and him standing above me. I judged that the best thing to do was nothing, since Magicians, as Master Maxwell had taught me, could punish me with more spells for trying to get up. I gripped my sword tightly and looked up at him. “Why don’t you attack again?” I said. As I did I felt my back, it stung to touch it. “Well, I won’t now, obviously.” “Too bad for you.” I said. I saw the shadow of the muscle man hanging over him. Just as the pale man noticed, the muscle man grabbed him by the collar and chucked him across the arena, landing on the girl who was bruised and bloodied from the tussle. “Thanks, I guess,” I said. He grunted. I could see that while the girl was damaged all over, he was hit in only a few spots – but the spots he was hit in, they looked as if he had been hit with a wrecking ball. Unfortunately, in this case quality over quantity seemed to not be true, as the two members of the other team where pretty beat at the other edge of the arena. “Give up?” I said, as I saw the pale man rising. He looked down at the girl, who was knocked out. The muscle man didn’t bother to wait for an answer – he just charged straight at the pale man, which was a grave mistake. I watched as he fell into a magic trap that sent a large jolt of electricity all though his body, spiking his hair and knocking him out. I stood staring at him, and knew that it was one on one now. It was a lot different fighting a real magician then the simulated test questions Master Maxwell had asked, namely because I had no clue what kind of trap he would set next. I was clueless if I should stand still or charge forward, If I should stare at him or the ground - If I should sheath my weapon or not. I had a level of reassurance in me that I was not completely screwed over because Master Maxwell had taught how it was harder to set a trap for an easier action. For example, it was many, many times harder to set a trap that would activate if I blinked than a trap that would activate if I said a specific sentence, because while I was guaranteed to blink sometime, there was a good chance I would never say that combination of words. I decided to stay still because it was easier than moving forward, and because he had set a trap for the muscle man. Nothing really happened for the next 40 seconds, and I could hear one spectator shout “do something!” I could throw my sword – but not only was that stupid for it unarmed me, but it was also extremely likely to miss, and do no damage if it did. I decided the best thing to do was too was to try and take an unusual path towards him – for he had too set a trap for each spot I could step in, so the odder the path I took to him to attack, the less likely I was to step into a trap. I noticed the platforms that rose off the central platform, and noticed that they arched in a stairway like formation – the closest was only about half a foot off the ground, and they followed in front of each other, rising by about half a foot each time. I could run up the stairway and jump down to attack. So I did.
As soon as I bolted left towards the platforms I tripped. No magic or anything, just clumsiness. And as humiliating as tripping was, it was even worse when I felt a sharp first drive into my back, whipped into the frost and causing some kind of hellishly excruciating pain I had never felt before. I could tell it was the girl – somehow brought back to consciousness. I turned around and looked up at her smiling contently. “I give up.” I said. “Tell the man.” She turned and looked at the business man and yelled to him that I had given up. He announced it afterwards and she helped me up off the ground. The pale man walked over to me and told me it was a good match. “We are only enemies on the battlefield,” he said. “Good match,” the girl said, shaking my hand. “Thanks, I guess.” The three of us together was able to lift the unconscious muscle man’s body off the field and back into the waiting room. They had to go back to the main waiting room because the third tier of matches would start soon, but they introduced themselves first. “I’m Melody,” she said. “My parent’s enjoyed weird names – my sisters are Femaly and Zoey, and my brothers are Brass and Genus.” “Weird – I have never heard names anything like that,” I said. She punched the pale man with the black coat lightly on the shoulder (which I am sure still must have hurt) signaling for him to introduce himself. “I’m Vail. I am . . . a vampire.” “Cool. Hello.” “He’s not very social,” Melody said. “Well, thanks for the introduction. I’ll see you guys later,” I said. The business-y man led me out to the room. I went to the bleachers and joined the others. “Congratulation, it is a noticeable accomplishment to even make it that far,” Madam Jordan said. “You’ll get ‘em next time,” Jacob said, punching me lightly in the shoulder. It hurt. Badly. Dylan was engaged in the next match. Master Maxwell took me aside and talked too me. “I am . . . I am pleased with you. You did well.” “Thanks, Master Maxwell.” “Tomorrow, at 2 o’clock, we will continue your training.” I nodded. We watched the remaining 3 matches in this round, before the next tier of single matches began. In this group, as the loud speaker explained after the last team match, there were 16 remaining fighters. Each one would fight, leaving 8, who would fight until there were 4, then there would be two matches leaving 2 left, and then (you guessed it) they would fight. That champion would be given a contract (as well as anyone else who looked like they were good enough). Dylan explained a funny story where one person one year won the amateur fights and got a contract as a fighter at the stadium. At the end of the year, however, the stadium dropped him. Then, he entered the Amateur battles again and won, gaining a new contract. However, he lost this one at the end of the year too. Finally, he entered and won the amateur battles again – only this time, the stadium didn’t offer him a contract, and he
got so mad that he ran away to somewhere afar away, perhaps another fighting arena, and no one saw him again. We waited awhile before the final matches began. I got some food and the others did too, and we shared some stories. Jacob seemed to take a particular liking to me. He kept telling jokes and interesting stories and such. He seemed like a friend in a way more true that Madam Jordan or Dylan was – he was about my age, and he understood me, and I understood him. Finally, just as the stars began to shine overhead, did the single battles begin. First were 8 matches between the remaining 16 participants. Some people who made it here were just lucky – they might have gotten paired up against wimps or there opponent might have forfeited or made a fatal mistake. But after these 8 matches I was sure the remaining 8 people would be tough and powerful – after these matches, everybody could probably be signed as a fighter of the stadium. The first match wasn’t too exhilarating – It was two people I had not seen before, and they fought each other rather cautiously, one only making a move every few minutes or so of studying the opponent. I think one was a magician, but I couldn’t tell, because I got distracted every time they made a move. Eventually the one I thought was a magician moved on. The next match was pretty interesting. It was the Knight from the first round fighting the bear-creature from the first round. While the bear made several lunges forward, the knight kept his distance and struck from afar, ultimately knocking out the bear once it was inflicted with several cuts. The third and fourth matches were okay to watch – they featured mediocre people compared to the other matches tussling with weapons such as axes and bows. One large man, over three times the size of his regularly sized human opponent, won the third match, while a man with a broadsword won the fourth. The fifth match was Melody versus an odd slime creature, different than the once from before. It created pools of slime and stretches to cover everything, engulfing melody in slime at one point. However, she was a very powerful and determined lady – not to mentions stradegical. She ran to the one of the smaller platforms rising separate from the main platforms. The slime followed her, dripping off the edge of the stage into the sand pit below. The overseer of the match called it off quickly, determining Melody the winner. The sixth match pitted a man using a Waton Board (the boards connected by a chain, mentioned before) fought someone who was very small and wirery – even more so than myself. The small man began the match by attacking, arms firing rapid punches. The man who had the Waton Board trailing behind him in his left hand easily dodged all of them, and the small man became increasingly frustrated. Soon, it seemed the man with the Waton board was laughing, as if it was a game and he was having fun playing it. This pushed the small man to the edge, causing him to fire off one daring combo rapidly. The other man sidestepped him, and suddenly the small man had punched himself right off the edge of the stage, falling into the sandpit below. The man with the Waton Board smiled contently and walked off stage after being declared the winner. The seventh match was particularly interesting. The two men who had knocked each other out before had there match declared a tie, and as thus they were both eliminated. However, due to the uneven amount of fighter’s left, they brought the two of
them back in. And they were, quite coincidentally, skirmishing again. They were still badly damaged from their previous fight, so I had no clue how they survived past the first hits. Blow after blow, they just beat each other up past the point of consciousness. It seemed impossible for either of them to keep going, but somehow they managed too. The match wound up ending the same way that their previous one did – in a tie, disqualifying both of them, for good this time. The eighth match featured Vail against an interesting man dressed in a suit that seemed to be entirely white – it gleamed even in the starlight that hung overhead. The match was largely a stare down, until the man in the white suite suddenly launched some kind of laser. Vail reflected it, and then the man tried to charge into Vail, only to fall into a magical trap that busted his mechanized suit, which ended the match. The next tier of matches began almost immediately. First, the remaining eight brawlers were randomized onto a bracket that would be used until the end of the matches. The bracket looked like this:
Melody Sir Tandrawn
I didn’t know the names of much of the fighters. I assumed Sir Tandrawn was the knight, for obvious reasons. I guess I could recognize the fighters in the next matches as they came up. First up, Melody versus the Knight. They both walked onto the stage. However, immediately the knight went into a fit. He called the overseer over to him and started talking to him. Master Maxwell said, “Pat, look. The knight refuses to fight Melody because she is a girl,” Madam Jordan grunted. “He cannot break the Knight’s code of old, to never do harm to a woman – he is oblivious to the new age, where we exist as equals.” The knight was removed from the Arena, but not without some effort. At one point Melody started yelling at him because she really wanted a fight. They also had to march melody offstage, eventually. They declared neither the winner until later. I knew who the next two were as they walked onstage. The man with the Waton board was facing the man who I believed was a magician. As they both walked onto the stage there was some cheering from various people. When the match started the man with the Waton board lifted it up and swung it at the magician, who was whacked to the side, being badly bruised. The man with the Waton Board did nothing as the magician recovered. Then they did little for a few minutes. The man with the Waton board swung it again, but this time purposefully missed. The magician was caught off guard as the man 27
rushed in and dealt and powerful punch, which knocked him backwards. This guy knew magicians. Then the magician released a trick similar to the one Vail had used on me, he reached under his robe and pulled out a large, hairy spider that crawled in his hand spastically. He cupped it in his hands and then threw it at the man with the Waton board, who had no reaction when the spider landed at his feet. In fact, he laughed. He almost fell to the ground laughing. The magician was largely embarrassed, so much that he dropped his head in shame. When the man in the Waton board did recover from his laughing fit, he said something to the magician, and then the magician gave up. The bracket had shown Euechis moving up, so I now knew the man with the Waton board was Euechis. The next match was a big weapons brawl – the man who was humongous and armed with an axe battle the man with a broadsword from the fourth match. The axe man was surprisingly fast with his blows, and the man with the broadsword was cut a few times. However, he was able to, most of the time, dodge the swing of the axe and make a deep slash into the giant’s skin. But it seemed to have no effect – the giant kept on swinging. The match dragged on until the giant was leaking blood from various wounds, and the man with the broadsword tired greatly – he was being hit more and more. It seemed that the man with the broadsword would lose until the giant collapsed to the ground from various wounds. Although the man with the broadsword fainted shortly after, he was declared the winner. I saw Brian move up, so Goliath was the giant’s name (and may I add a fitting one, too) The next round of matches took a while to start, which was very inconvenient, because it must have been 11 o’ clock. The loudspeaker came on after about half an hour, announcing the plans for the next round. “For the next round, we will be bringing back Melody, Sir Tandrawn, and the two who had tied. They will be mixed into the bracket.” The large screen that had been displaying the bracket changed. It now looked liked this:
It then took another fifteen minutes or so before they started. Eventually melody walked onstage with one of the two who had fought each other twice and knocked each other out, twice. This one was Daniel. As I studied the bracket it became evident that they didn’t randomize it this time – they tried to make sure Daniel and George wouldn’t fight again, and that Melody and Sir Tandrawn would not clash again. As soon as it began the match became brutal. Melody slammed into him with tons of force and Daniel returned it in equal amounts – the match turned out to be even more exciting then watching Daniel and George fighting each other. The clashed with Melody gaining a clear advantage in damage (also because she was not any where near as bruised from previous matches as he was), but Melody tired while Daniel seemed to keep going. Soon Melody was pretty tired and Daniel was getting in many hits. When it came down to what was surely nearly the end of the match, Melody got up and slammed him in the face as one last attack. Daniel wound up going down. Euechis and Brian came on the stage very quickly to make up for lost time. There was some small talk between them, but then the match started when Brian made a swing of his sword at Euechis. They went back and forth with attacks. Every time the Waton Board was swung Brian would find some way to avoid it. Euechis was actually cut up a few times by Brian, though. I guess one of the advantages of Euechis’ weapon was that it could end matches in one hit. Because in one moment of doubt Brian was distracted, and one thwack from the Waton Board sent him flying off the stage into the sand pit below. The next match pitted Vail against George, one of the two men who had fought each other twice and tied twice. Down on the field, Vail unleashed his swarm of bat again, presumably for the fear trap. George was very frightened, and I knew that his back became cold as ice. Vail then did something interesting – he came up to George while he was paralyzed by the sheer cold and punched him. Knowing the two of them, this seemed to be a grave mistake. However, when George characteristically punched back even harder, he fell into a magic trap – for punching, presumably – that simulated his fist running into a brick wall. He screeched in pain. George recovered not-so-surprisingly quick, and dealt a punch Vail had not expected (or at least the reaction lead one to believe he had not expected it, but Vail should have known how quickly this guy recovers.) It knocked him back to the other side of the arena. Vail spitefully got up only to be barraged by another flurry of attacks, perhaps fueled by George’s anger. Vail seemed helpless into the tornado of punches and kicks. When he was pinned to the ground though, waiting for the final punch, he made another trap that would seem to cause George the match. When he punched with a ton of force he rebounded off what seemed to be another invisible brick wall. Another punching
trap. The major difference this time from last time was that George broke his hand. Vail got up from the ground and went over to defeat George, where he found out that George had two hands, and found a punch to the face waiting for him. Vail was knocked unconscious. George had won, despite the skill of Vail. Now three matches remained: Melody vs. Euechis, George vs. Sir Tandrawn, and the winner of those two matches fighting each other. I was mixed with feeling about it being over. It was exciting to watch and I loved it, but at the same time I had to fight just to stay awake in between matches (and during some matches) because it must have been about 12:30. The next match began soon. Melody and Euechis were laughing when they came on stage, having a casual conversation. Melody was quite a social butterfly. When the match did start, it was intense and perhaps the most entertaining yet. Melody bum rushed Euechis, arms swinging. When Euechis went to swing his Waton board Melody jumped over it, landing behind him. She dealt a punch that probably could shatter bones. Euechis fell to the ground. She attempted a follow up attack, but Euechis shifted the right and she missed, landing on the ground. “You’re too good.” Melody had later told me he had said too her. Euechis lifted up his Waton board and made a move that disqualified him: While Melody was on the ground, he slammed her with the Waton Board in the back. There was a sharp cracking sound of splintering wood from the force. The overseer immediately blew a whistle and called the match off. He came on stage and took Euechis away. Euechis showed no resistance, He just chuckled to himself while Melody looked back at him, finding her back was broken. If Melody’s back was broken, she surely couldn’t fight, so the winner of the next match would probably be the winner of the tournament. George and Sir Tandrawn walked on stage. While George massaged his broken fist and threw some practice punches, Sir Tandrawn held himself high with Dignity. For this match the screen normally displaying the bracket zoomed onto the warriors, and allowed there speech to be heard by the crowd. Sir Tandrawn lifted his lance and pointed it at George. “Surrender, you are injured and only stare at more injury, possibly death.” He said in a clear, dignified voice. George had a rough accent, and laughed at the remark. “I only need one hand to beat you.” I looked around and saw that very few people were left in the bleachers at this hour. Besides a few dedicated fans – presumed to be family member’s and friends, many of the disqualified fighters were the only other people left. Daniel, George’s friend who he had tied with, cheered him on in the same rough accent. Brian, the man with the Broadsword, sat next to Daniel and cheered on George. Vail and Melody were absent, Melody was rushed to the infirmary because of the very serious injury and Vail must have gone with her. Isaac, the Magician that had lost to Euechis, sat next to the small wirery man who also lost to Euechis. Joined by them were several other fighters, who had presumably lost to Euechis. It was a “lost to Euechis” club. The fight started after the small talk. Sir Tandrawn could manipulate the lance surprisingly well considering how fast George was. When George initially rushed forward to attack Sir Tandrawn swiped at him with his lance. George actually jumped up on the lance and ran along it, riding straight to Sir Tandrawn’s face. Sir Tandrawn
recognized the danger and dropped the lance, making George fall. Sir Tandrawn took out an impressive sword. Its guard was a golden colored chalice with eloquent designs carved into it from which the blade rose out. The blade itself was magnificent. It was polished so thoroughly that it was not gray at all. It shone marble white in the star light. George recovered and ran again at Sir Tandrawn. He was ready though, slashing as soon as George came in range. Then he relentlessly attacked with his sword, but miraculously, George swayed in and out of the strikes, and punched Sir Tandrawn in the face. Sir Tandrawn only stuttered back a step to the surprise of George (perhaps because his heavy armor acted as an anchor, keeping his grounded), and slashed him in the arm. George retreated to the other side of the arena. Sir Tandrawn lowered his visor, making him now look like a suit of impenetrable armor. He marched over to his lance while George recovered and took it up again. Once George had recovered he ran towards the knight again, jumping and preparing to come down with a punch straight to the helmet. However, Sir Tandrawn lifted up his lance, making it so that George would be impaled by it. George couldn’t stop himself, and made a desperate move – with his working hand, he caught the lance and stopped himself. However, he impaled his working hand, leaving him unable to fight with either of his arms. Sir Tandrawn didn’t give him a moment of rest. He dropped the lance and pulled out his blade again, and ran at George. George, sitting on his knees staring at his wounded hand, didn’t react at first. Sir Tandrawn lifted his blade up high to come down of George. George, however, was especially determined. He lifted both of his feet and kicked the knight away, him landing on his back. While before he was like an impenetrable fortress, he now seemed to be a turtle. He was rolled on his back and only protected by the armor, which seemed breakable with George’s unbreakable determination. George sat on the ground for a moment, breathing heavily, and watched Sir Tandrawn try to get off his back. George eventually walked over, and after a brief moment, placed his foot up on the belly of the armor. “I win,” he said. George then pushed his foot as deep into the armor with as much force as he could. The armor bent and cracked under pressure, and then an exposed Sir Tandrawn was laying there, only covered by his Royals Robes (which typically didn’t help when someone as strong as George was kicking you) George kicked Sir Tandrawn in the side somewhat lightly in comparison, and Sir Tandrawn landed on the other side of the Arena. He surrendered seconds later. Everyone still there cheered for George. He lifted his impaled hand, now soaking with blood, and waved to the crowd. The loudspeaker came on. “Due to Melody’s injury, George is the winner of the Amateur night,” the announcer sounded kind of drowsy. The few remaining began filing out of the stadium. George came out to the entrance of the stadium and everyone congratulated him. Daniel and Brian talked and laughed with him while everyone passing congratulated him. “You are a very powerful warrior. You are good to be able to beat the arrogant knight,” Madam Jordan said. Dylan thanked him too, and so did Master Maxwell. “Hey . . . you were awesome. Nice job,” I told him on the way out.
“Thanks,” he said in his rough voice. Jacob stayed behind and talked to him a while. The others were waiting for him, but he told them he’d be here for a while and they should go. They did, and I decided to stay behind, although I am not totally sure if I was welcome. “This one, he is a swordsman, George. His name is Pat,” Jacob said. “Hello,” I said. He said hello back. “So, are you gonna accept the contract?” Jacob asked him. “I dunno,” said George. Brian and Daniel, George’s friends, told a funny story about being in the waiting room. We all laughed together. After a while Brian and Daniel left and George told them he would catch up. I was getting tired too, and wanted to leave too, except I realized that I had no definite place to sleep. The place that would break the rules the least would be to sleep in the bed Master Maxwell had for me in his training chambers, but I wanted to stay out of there. It was cold and dark; I would become a cave bat if I stayed there too long. After a while I was falling asleep standing up, when Jacob said, “Alright, I’ll see you around, George. Congrats again,” he woke me up and we started walking towards his room, I assume. “We should stop by and see Melody and Vail,” he said. Oh right! That was a good idea. Suddenly, I remembered them and got worried about Melody, so I agreed. When we arrived at the infirmary it must have been 1:30. We came into the first room I had seen here and saw several of the Amateurs asleep on morphine drips with many bandages. I was curious and looked at the medical charts – some of them listed internal damage and said they needed surgery. We scanned along the lines of the beds until we came finally to Melody, placed at the very back of the room. She was knocked out when hit in the back brutally with the Waton Board. Now she breathed very lightly, which was still better than not breathing at all. Vail was nowhere in sight. Then again, it wasn’t his obligation to visit her, because they seemed to just be a team chosen in the team matches. It seemed that they had known each other for a while though. I heard footsteps and turned around to see Vail. He approached us. “Hey,” I said, looking at Melody. “Hey,” he said, not paying too much attention. Jacob, Vail and I stood there for a while silently for a while. “So . . . what’s the deal with you two?” I said. Jacob was over looking at some other people who were injured. “Do you really want to know?” He said, turning to me. “Why? Is it really long? Really complicated? Or it is too gruesome, too adult for me?” “Yes,” Vail said. “Cool. I love those kinds of stories.” Vail sighed. “I can’t tell it to you now,” he said, looking back at Melody and stroking her hair with his pale hands. “I can wait.” I said. He threw an irritated glance at me. “It’s late.” That one hit me. Suddenly I realized how incredibly tired I was.
“Maybe another day then,” I said. “Once Melody is better, if she gets better. The doctors said the blow might have paralyzed her. They have to wait until she awakes from the potential coma to see. If she does get better I will tell you,” he said. “What if she doesn’t?” I said, yawning and stretching. “Then I’ll have to leave here and get back to where I once belonged. This place is just and intermediate step – we still have a long way to go,” he said. The message was cryptic but I didn’t care to pursue it for the moment. I left him to stroke Melody’s hair. And walked over to Jacob. “Is there anywhere I can sleep? Any temporary beds or anything?” “Not that I know of, Pat,” he said, “But I have an extra bed I never use, if you have nowhere else to sleep.” “That’s okay, I don’t want to impede. I’m sure this place must have some amateur beds or something.” I sat down on an unoccupied medical bed and remembered how incredibly comfy they were. If I could have, I would have resisted it, but I was conked out on the bed in the next few seconds or so. Chapter 9 “Nurse, what is wrong with this patient?” “I don’t know sir, you’re the diagnostic doctor.” “You know I am not a diagnostic doctor, Nurse Jean, I am a surgeon.” “Oh, sorry. I always get you mixed up with Doctor Brown, Doctor Turner.” Once the doctor said his first line I woke up, but I was still half asleep and just listened subconsciously before I actually woke up, deciding the bed was too nice too leave. “So, what is on the chart?” “There is no chart.” “Did he come in late last night or something?” “I don’t know, Doctor Brown.” “I’m Doctor Turner, Nurse Jean.” “Whatever you say, Doctor Brown.” I wriggled and then threw off the sheet, still wearing my clothes from the night before (or rather, earlier this morning). The doctors freaked. They promptly threw me out. I sat in the Hallway wondering what to do, and then remembered I had a training session today. I found a clock in the hallway, and saw that the time read 1:00. 1 o’ clock? Had I really slept that long? From 2:00 to 10:00 was the recommended 8 hours, but 3 extra hours? I must have been extra tired from past days. I reached for and found my Katana was still at my side, sheathed. I decided that since it took about half an hour to make my way to Master Maxwell’s, I might as well start the trek there early. Then I realized that not only did I have no clue how to get there, I had no way to reach Madam Jordan, Jacob, Dylan, or Master Maxwell. I poked my head back in the hospital room. The nurse and doctor were talking about who was who again. “Excuse me?” I said.
“Yes?” the doctor said, glad to cease the conversation with Nurse Jean for the moment. “Do you know the trainer, Maxwell?” “Yes, I believe I do.” “Do you know any way I can contact him – phone or, directions on how to get to his training chambers?” “Sorry sir, I’m a Doctor, I have only heard of him.” “Okay, thanks. Um . . . do you know where Madam Jordan, Dylan and Jacob live?” “Who?” “They’re fighters here.” “I don’t specifically know them, but if you take your second right from here and then keep going straight, you’ll hit the apartments of the fighters.” “Thanks,” I said. I rushed out of the room and down the hall. In about 3 minutes I came to the apartments and noticed that I still wasn’t in too good of a condition, because there were tons of them. I heard footsteps coming from the left, and turned to see Jacob coming down the hallway. “Jacob!” I yelled. He strolled over to me. “Why, hello Pat. How was your sleep in the hospital?” “Good,” I said, “Do you know how to get to Master Maxwell’s?” “Why? Do you need to go train or something?” “Yeah, I was supposed to be there at two.” “I think you’re good as it is, why don’t you spend the day having fun?” “I would think Master Maxwell would be mad at me – not to mention stop training me for free.” “I don’t think it would be too important. I know this really cool river right outside the stadium where if you dip your hand in it then-” “Look, Jacob,” I said to him, looking in his eyes, “I really think I have to be there. So do you know how I can get there, or not?” Jacob sighed. “I know how, because I know this place like the back of my hand, but I don’t know if you’d remember the whole thing. Let me bring you there. It’ll be easier.” “Sure,” I said, part satisfied that he would take me and part disgruntled about the argument. On the way there he had more funny stories and such. We met several people in the hall that complimented him and he stopped to talk to them. I had this sinking feeling that he was stalling, or something. After the latest conversation we kept on walking and he was pretty silent, which is especially surprising considering how vociferous he was. “Hey, Pat,” He said. He seemed melancholy all the sudden. “Yea?” “Do you . . . Do you ever wonder if there’s something else?” “What do you mean?” “Like other worlds and planets with life, and if there another life waiting after this one, and if there are other universes beyond this one, and if we really aren’t what we seem, and-”
“Feeling philosophical today, Jacob?” He chuckled. “Well, I only said it to get it off my chest – some thing shave been really bugging me lately, and I can’t seem to get out the bog I’m in.” “What do you mean? You’re the cheeriest, friendliest person I’ve ever met!” “Well . . . yeah. I can still be cheery. But on the inside . . . it hurts when I have to think about that.” We were pretty silent the rest of the way. We ascended the large staircase until we reached the Hallway leading to Mr. Smith’s room. “I know the way from here, he’s just down the hall,” I said. “Okay. See you later, Pat,” he said semi-cheerfully. Then he started the journey back down the staircase and back to what he was going to do today originally. I walked over to the thin hallway leading off from the main one and followed it to the cold steel doors. I opened it and walked in. “You’re late,” Master Maxwell said once I approached him. “Well, I was up real late and fell asleep in a hospital bed and then-” “Excuses. Let’s start to make up for lost time.” This time he was retraining me all the techniques I had learned for defense before the Amateur battles. He said that he gone over each of them in basic form so I could have a decent guard. Now he wanted to perfect my guard against most weapons. He said that each day we would go over 5 weapons in 4 hours. Then, at 6, I was free to do what I wanted. Today we reviewed three types of swords, a knife and a weapon he had not explained before, a boomerang. He said he had skipped out on it some weapons (like the boomerang) because they were obscure or not often used, and we needed time for other weapon defense. It seemed that a Waton board was not too obscure then, as Euechis used it and he taught me defense against it. The whole time he taught me, my mind was thinking about anything other than the training. I wondered how Melody and Vail were, what Vail was talking about last night, what Jacob was doing and the questions he asked me. I wondered what Dylan and Madam Jordan were doing. I wondered what they had done to Euechis after he hurt Melody, and what George (winner of the Amateur battles) was doing. I wondered if any who participated in the Amateur battles was offered a contract, and if anyone had accepted. Finally, my mind jerked back to the time that seemed so long ago – before I was here. I wondered what my mom was doing – if she was mourning as if I had died, or maybe I was in a coma and she was crying over me. I wondered how Jake took it finding me gone and how everybody else did – who Jeremy talked too and what happened to Brian for potentially killing me. Suddenly, just as the training ended, I felt incredibly homesick. “What is wrong Pat? You seem to not be putting your full effort into this.” “I dunno – I guess I’m homesick.” “Interesting. Where do you come from?” “Somewhere far, far away from here, in more ways than one.” “I am sorry, I cannot really help you then. I hope you feel better Pat,” he said. “Thanks. When’s the next training session?” “Oh,” he said, “I do not know. I have another student tomorrow, so you do not have to come tomorrow.” “Thanks,” I said again. He brought me out to the main hallway.
“I will find a way to contact you when I have decided,” he said. I went down the stairwell and realized I was yet again lost. Man, it gets annoying when you never know where you are. I didn’t exactly know what to do now. I waited until someone passed me. In this case, it was a man who looked like a pirate, with a long scraggly black beard, and a pirate coat. He had an eye patch and a pirate hat. It almost really seemed like he was dressed up as a pirate because he fit all the stereotypes, as opposed to being an actual pirate. “Excuse me, sir,” I said as he passed by. “Arr? What ye scallywag be wantin’?” “Do you know Madam Jordan, Jacob, Dylan, anyone, anyway to get to the fighter’s apartment rooms?” “Well, Jacob be leavin’ today, because he be fired. As for the others I not be familiar, but the fighter’s apartments be to the left, two rights, and three more lefts.” “You talk weird.” “Arr.” Anyway, I followed the Pirate’s directions, and repeated them in my head as I took them to try and remember. Soon enough I arrived at the fighter’s apartments. I scanned along the hallways, which were crowded with many rooms. I couldn’t skim past the halls because it was futile – the only thing listed on the doors were a number, and there was no indication as to who lived where. I wandered around and bumped into a few people. No one I knew – but they were interesting. Some were belligerent while others were nice and said hello when I passed them. I asked each of them if they knew Madam Jordan, Dylan, Jacob, or there locations. They all knew Jacob and knew he was leaving today. The rest of them didn’t know anything else about them, except for one. They seemed to be a talking monkey, but I wasn’t sure – things could be real messed up around here. “Yeah, I know Dylan. We fought once, afterwards we became casual friends. I think he’s like that, social and whatnot,” he said, scratching himself. “Do you know what room he stays in?” “I think I still do – I haven’t seen him or been to his place for a while, so it might be slightly messed up. It was either room 534 (which he thought was the correct one) or 345(which might be it, but he was pretty sure it was 534) I decided to take his advice and check 534 first. First, I surveyed the area and tried to understand the structure of the hallways – at first it seemed that the numbers had no rhyme or rhythm as to where they were, but I was able to understand it eventually. Each block had one number in the hundreds (for example, all the doors on one block started with the number 5, and all doors on another with the number 6) then each door was labeled by a separate set of numbers, counting up from the last number on the previous block. So if block 5 was to the left of block 6, and the highest numbered door on block 6 (for example, 624) then the lowest number on block five was 525. It seems confusing, so here is a drawing to help show it: 431 432 430 429 528 526 36 527 525 624 622 623 621
So anyway, I was able to navigate the hallways and find my way to 534. I knocked on the door twice. I heard a deep groan, like one from a whale, from inside. “Yeueus?” it said, exaggerating each vowel. “Sorry, wrong door,” I said, stepping away from the door as if it was going to fall over on me. I ran out of there and towards 345. The 3 block was to left of the 5 block. When I arrived at the 3 block, I knocked and heard Dylan’s voice. “Yes?” “Pat.” “Oh. Sure, come in.” I heard the door unlock and when I opened it he was lying on the bed watching T.V. “I didn’t know you watched T.V.” “Why wouldn’t I?” “Well, you’re kind of medieval.” “I’ve never heard that adjective before.” I came over the bed next to him and watched the television. Some kind of crime investigation show was on. I noticed my Katana made it uncomfortable to lie on the bed, so I unstrapped it. Then I realized how it was kind of funny to untie a Katana strapped to my waist because I wanted to watch T.V. with a magician. After a while I asked the question I had wanted to ask. “Well, what exactly do I do know?” “What do you mean?” “Well, I am not a signed fighter but I am being trained, have nowhere to stay otherwise and not to mention, have no way of getting back to my home.” “Do you really want to get back?” “Well . . . I’m feeling kind of homesick.” “If I knew enough about where you lived, I could warp you there.” “I think it might be in some other dimension or something” “No problem. A warp moves you to wherever you want, no matter where in the Macrocosmos it is. There is no extra charge to warp across eons ahead in time and past millions of dimension of space than there is to warp from here to the next floor up. All you need to know is the exact location in time and space, and a lot of magic power.” That sounded a little technical to me. “How would I know exactly where I was in time?” I said. “Well, time describes an area just as much as space does. Suppose you and a friend decide to meet at building in the exact center of town, 3 stories high and 20 feet by 20 feet on each floor. You can surely both meet at the exact same area in space. But if you are there at 12:00 and he is there at 3:00, you will not meet. “It’s really pretty simple – time is just as important for describing-if not more important-a location as space.” “That was a nice little digression, but how do I describe where I want to go In time?”
“In seconds. That’s the only way.” “Seconds? But wouldn’t that wind up being an extremely high number, especially since the earth is supposedly some 4 billion years old?” “Earth?” “Sorry. I mean the planet where I live. We call it earth.” “That’s pretty interesting – I don’t think we call this mass of rock a name, specifically, beyond its scientific notation. Anyway, the number would be even higher than you think because you have to take into account not just how old your earth is, but how old that particular universe is.” “That’s what else I was wondering – how do I know which universe I have to warp too?” “Well, I can go more in depth, but it gets really complicated, what with universal clusters and whatnot. Then there are universal systems, possibility trees, and the ether.” “Sounds interesting,” I said. “It is. We magicians are enlightened about these things. There are books, but they are written in old languages that only cryptologists can read. Most of them have been translated into a readable language, but they lose most of there value in translations.” “Well, I am interested in this kind of stuff. I once read a book about Einstein, and I thought it was really great.” “Who?” “Oh, sorry. Einstein was this guy back where I live who was probably the greatest scientist out there, rivaled only by another guy, called Isaac Newton. This Einstein guy pretty much discovered how light and the gravity work, and redefined how most of the universe works.” “Hmm. So he was the discoverer of many things in your universe? You know how light and gravity work? Your universe is ahead of many. Most are still babies being cradled by the greater universe they were spawned from, not even developing life yet. Few are as advanced as yours or ours. So tell me, how did he explain light and other such things? I am curious because while our universe has knowledge of others, we are still working in that area – it is a tricky one to decode. Can you explain?” “Well, the simplest thing to say is that all motion is relative, that time and space vary depending on motion, and that light always goes the same speed. Beyond that, it gets confusing, with Spacetime, quantum physics, the cosmological constant, and many other complicated things.” Dylan pondered for a moment, clearly intrigued. “We should have a time to talk about these things – if I tell you about the nature of the Macrocosmos, and you explain individual physics in each universe, it would be very great for scientists everywhere. Revolutionary, even,” he said excitedly. “Well, I can explain the basics, but sadly I am not the person to reveal it all – I know nothing about the mathematical equations and relatively little about the actual theory.” We were silent for a while and both of our minds wondered. Then, I attempted to get on topic, since we had really, really digressed. “Anyway, I don’t need to go home right this minute. In fact, I want to try staying here for a while longer. I just wanted to ask you what you think I should do know – I have no where to stay except for Master Maxwell’s, where I would prefer not to stay, and
nothing to do. Suddenly it’s as if my train burned up the last of its coal now it has nowhere to go, nothing to do. I’m stuck.” “Well, you can try to become a signed fighter. There are more ways than the Amateur battles to get signed, although doing well in the amateur battles is your best bet. Or maybe, you can watch some matches if you want. Madam Jordan had one in half and hour, and she’s warming up. That’s why she’s not here,” Dylan said. I breathed heavily, thinking and rethinking the options. Finally I said, “What about Jacob? He’s leaving today, right?” “Sadly, yes. He’s a great guy, very nice. But he got fired, and by the end of the day he’ll be all packed, have said his goodbyes, and be gone. Chances are, sadly, that none of us will ever see him again.” “Well, where do you think he’s going?” “He is one of the top fighters – rivaled by only two others here at the Stadium. Chances are, he won’t let his skills go to waste. Knowing him and his ambitions, he’ll probably fight his way to the most prestigious fighting arena on distant shores, in a land far, far away from here.” “It’s unfair,” I said, “That he got fired if he’s such a cool guy. I mean, I know him. He’s really nice to me. It’s a shame that he will be leaving, and it doesn’t seem to make sense, because if he is so good and leaves, the remaining two fighters who could rival him would hold a monopoly over the whole arena.” “They are demons,” Dylan said, “the other two. They killed people they did not like here in battles, and were ruthless. Jacob was the only person who could keep them away, and even then, just barely. But without him, any of us could be gone within a matter of hours. Anyone who had overstayed their time will be gone. They’ll return to their dastardly ways and the stadium will become the hostile place it was. He really was the cornerstone of the whole place,” Dylan said. He sighed. “I never knew he was so important – Mr. Smith must know what the Demons do, so why did me fire Jacob?” “That’s what I wonder.” Now I was really in a slump, and was pretty gloomy over all of this. Jacob had to stay somehow, or someone had to take his place. I was especially scared because I seemed damned either way – If I stayed here, hiding in this room not as a fighter, they would probably kill me. And if I did become a fighter then I was in danger of being killed. We watched T.V for a while more and I kind of eased up a bit. Dylan had this science show on now, a documentary, but whenever there was a commercial break he flipped to a funny sitcom. I enjoyed the both of them equally – I was very interested in the science, and I love to laugh. After about 20 minutes, Dylan said, “Well, do you want to see Madam Jordan’s match?” “Sure,” I was kind of interested. The only one of the group of sorta-friends I had gathered who I had seen fight was Jacob, so I thought it would be interesting to see how Madam Jordan did things. Knowing here, I bet she was really precise and powerful, like Sir Tandrawn only swifter and much more skilled, because she was professional. Dylan got up and followed me to the arena, where I saw there was much more people than at the Amateur battles. Madam Jordan was pretty popular, because we had to
stand by the entrance after getting tickets. Or perhaps someone pretty big was fighting later. The fight itself was actually already underway once we had got there. I went up to the railing and looked over; because that was the only way I could see. Down on the field, Madam Jordan carried a large polished lance that she swung as if it was as light as a feather. Her armor shone far brighter than before, and especially polished parts twinkled in the light overhead. It was just past twilight – the moon was not quite out, but the sun was mostly gone. Against her was a familiar face. He wore a blue jacket and had brown pants on. A dark hat covered his face and in his hand was a Waton Board, made of fine wood. I was surprised in one way and not-so-surprised in another. It was Euechis. I had imagined, because of his improper attack on Melody at the Amateur battles, he would not be offered a contract. Yet there he was, swinging his Waton Board at Madam Jordan from above her head. If he had not attack melody though, I would have assumed the offered him a contract. He was definitely one of the best fighters at the amateur battles. On the field, it was interesting how Euechis’ skills were put into perspective. Whenever he swung his Waton Board Madam Jordan didn’t move. Instead she braced herself and took the full blow with a shield that she held in her free hand. She stabbed him with the lance each time he made an attempt to attack her and she had blocked. He seemed pretty beat up. Madam Jordan kept his hands full. Euechis wore a frustrated expression on his face by the difficulty of the battle. Euechis was straining to come up with a strategy, but Madam Jordan was too precise with her strikes. I could see the beginnings of a false attack to set up a powerful blow, but Madam Jordan recognized it every time and attacked him. Suddenly Euechis did an unexpected move – he ran forward with his Waton Board in his hand. Madam Jordan expectedly tried to hit him, but he pulled a familiar move. Or rather, he attempted. He tried to jump up on Madam Jordan’s lance, like George had to Sir Tandrawn. However, he may have not been as physically apt as George, or maybe Madam Jordan was more ready for it. Because when he did he pierced his foot and fell back. Madam Jordan pointed the lance at his throat. The crowd went wild. They cheered. They screamed. Some booed, but I couldn’t imagine who. Madam Jordan was quite entertaining to watch, it was true. However, suddenly Euechis proved he was more than some relatively weak newbie. He grabbed the lance pointed at him and dug it aside into the ground. He jumped up and ran towards Madam Jordan. By the time Euechis was there it was too late, she couldn’t pull the lance out fast enough. The crowd gasped in horror when Euechis jumped up in the air and intended to end the match, swinging his Waton Board down upon Madam Jordan. She let go of the lance and grounded herself. She raised her shield just in time to defend from the deadly blow. It bore down on the shield so heavily that Madam Jordan almost dropped to the ground. When Euechis landed from his jump Madam Jordan ran forward to him and pushed him to the ground with her shield, toppling him over. She pinned him to the ground with the shield and took out a sword. Her sword was quite different from Sir Tandrawn’s. The hilt was made of aquamarine, and it shone as if the sea flowed through it. The hilt was rather simple,
containing only a handle and a simple guard. The blade rose out of the aquamarine eloquently. It itself was made of steel that was tarnished darkly. However, patches of the color that the Aquamarine made as it reflected the light pervaded through the ashes on the sword, giving it a surreal look as it shone but was black. With this sword she truly pinned him down, holding it above his head while sitting on the shield pushing onto him. Her voice was magnified by the loudspeaker. “Give up,” she said. Euechis had only groaned. “Surrender, or else it will be problematic for you,” she warned him. Euechis sarcastically said, “What are you going to do, kill me?” Madam Jordan plunged the sword within a hair’s with of his head. He suddenly froze and everyone could tell he was terrified. “I detest people like you. You have no honor, hurting people ruthlessly. It would be a pleasure of mine – nay, a duty, to get rid of you.” Euechis held his words, still trying to be confident and defiant. It was obvious though that he wanted to give up. The whole crowd could tell and held there breaths, waiting for the result. Madam Jordan had never actually murdered anyone, Dylan later said, and rarely did. But whenever she threatened to they surrendered. However, He had no doubt in his mind that she would kill them if they had refused. She didn’t joke around like that. “I . . .” Euechis had said when she dislodged her blade and raised it high above his head. Euechis’ face went pale when the started the plunge down to his face. “I surrender!” he said, when the blade was 4 or 5 inches from his face. Madam Jordan stopped the blade with expert precision and put it away. The loudspeaker was just turning off as Madam Jordan said, “You are still not forgiven for. . .” and then the message faded out. Madam Jordan walked to her lance, still lodged in the ground. She sheathed her sword and took the lance and then proceeded to walk away. Euechis lay on the field a while, breathing heavily. Medical officials came over and asked him if he needed a stretched because of his foot or some help. He didn’t need a stretcher, but one of them let him hand of there shoulder so he could walk without putting too much pressure on the injured foot. The crowd cheered and Dylan smiled. “That puts Euechis in his place.” A few more matches went on and I watched them because I had nothing better to do. After a few matches the lights focused down on one spot and a deep, enthusiastic voice came over the loudspeaker. “Ladies and Gentlemen – tonight we bring you the final bout of Jacob Instar, against his opponent of choice, Kliken Sathrin! Prepare for an epic battle!” The lights followed Jacob as he walked out onto the field, a look of serious determination of his face. He didn’t wear his normal brown tunic and scarf attire. Instead he was adorned by a different suit, fit to fight as best he could. On hand he wore a bracer that had curved tips at the end, meaning that it dug into the skin when he threw a punch right, dealing excruciating pain. On the other hand he wore a more traditional brace that I assumed was for when he couldn’t throw a hook punch to use the other brace. He had a white shirt on that looked like it was some kind of light chain mail. He wore pants of the
same kind. Once he was stationed on the field one light remained on him while another fighter entered – this time vastly different. He, or rather, it, was a hulking beast. Its skin was a deep red and fit so tightly over his muscles that it seemed to have enough tension to potentially tear at any point. It walked on all fours, with its arms being much longer than its legs. Its body was oddly shaped. At every joint there was a sharp spike, perhaps of iron, steel or maybe even his bone that seemed to rip through the skin. Its face was the worst of all. It wore a constant face as if it was screaming in terror, and it displayed its long, sharp teeth, that were rotten and black from lack of care. Its eyes were so sinister than it seemed dangerous to look at them. It lugged onto the field and stared devilishly at Jacob. Jacob didn’t falter. For that, he was definitely the bravest person I ha ever met. Not only was the beast terrifying, but it was many times larger than him, reaching about 10 feet while is walked on all fours. It was clear though that it was not meant to walk on all fours. If the thing had stood upright it would have been 20 feet tall, or maybe even taller. It was much wider than Jacob, taking up almost the entire width of the field from long end to long end. The loudspeaker said something but nobody cared, for an eerie silence hung over the crowd as they were fixed on Jacob. When the fight begun, it really begun. Jacob leaped up high into the air and was face to face with the monster, dealing a punch with the curved points bracer into its face. Even though to monster rebounded back a step it seemed to have no real effect, which made the match seem even more daunting. When Jacob landed he dashed to the side and avoided a swipe from the beast. He ascended the pillars and jumped straight off of the last one and into the beast’s stomach. He struck several times, and each time there was an enormous cracking noise. When Jacob landed the beast lifted its foot and pushed it down on him. Jacob grabbed it and held the foot above him, straining to trying to keep it from crushing him. He threw the foot aside and the monster fell off balance, almost toppling over. Jacob jumped from the ground to the monsters face and let it all out – a furious series of attacks that enthralled the stadium. The monster wound up falling on his back and Jacob landed by his face. Jacob quickly rushed towards the exposed stomach and pounded on it. The still undaunted beast grabbed him with both of its hands and squeezed the life of out him. Jacob let out a cry that pierced the air and frightened everyone. The monster seemed to be laughing in delight at Jacob. Deep shrieks of terror they sounded like, and they shook the stadium. Jacob struggled to escape the demon’s grasp and eventually was able to wiggle out of the two hands. He jumped down from them onto the belly of the monster and continued to pound. When the monster tried to grab him again he kicked away to hands and continued pounding until the monster eventually tried to get up. Then he was thrown off and lying on the ground, probably the worst place the be. The demon – I now realized it had to be one of the demons Dylan was talking about that were rivaled only by Jacob. The battle suddenly became much more important. Jacob intended to beat the Demon before he left. Possibly injure him beyond repair, maybe even kill him. The Demon stood up and was about 20 feet tall as I had thought he was. He rained down on Jacob with punches and stomps. Jacob had gotten up in time to avoid being squished, but he now dodged in and out of the assaults, now dodging for his life.
It all took place in an eerily surreal way. The crowd was silent and too absorbed to give any support to one side or another. They watched as Jacob ascended the pillars again and jumped towards the Demon’s stomach again, which now was brandished by a noticeable scar in the skin that seemed more like a crack in armor. Before Jacob could hit he was intercepted a caught by one of the beasts hands. He raised Jacob up to eye level and spoke to him in a deep, naturally demonic voice. “Jacob, you are a fool. Surrender, you have never beaten me or Jedrus in a battle, and you never will. Why did you not choose a match that you could win?” There was no loudspeaker. We could all hear his voice loud and clear without it. Jacob shouted his response and it was so quite in the crowd that we could hear it too. “I choose to fight you for everyone here, to show that there is hope. You two will not reign forever, especially after they see what will happen to you.” With that Jacob burst free of the Demon’s grasp and stood on the fist, looking dirtied and valiant. He jumped forward and continued his path towards the beast. When he reached his stomach, he hit right where the scar was. And he hit with such a powerful, determined blow that the whole place shook and everyone stood up and screamed, letting out there excitement as praise for Jacob. Then in the midst of the screaming there was a clear, sharp Crack! And then another, and another. Then I saw what was happening – I saw the Demon’s skin crack open on his stomach to reveal a soft fleshy interior. Jacob grabbed onto the soft skin revealed underneath the armor like skin, and dug deep into it with a punch. There was a shriek much different from the ones of laughter before. This time the beast cried out with so much pain people had to hold their ears. They watched as it folded and dropped to the ground, and Jacob fell lightly and look so valiant and triumphant. It was the stuff of legends. Jacob stood on the monster’s chest and looked at the pink mass of flesh. It had already ripped and twisted revealing an even more fragile interior, of organs. His heart was pumping, creating to steady bump-bump, bump-bump sound. Jacob could kill him. All he would have to do was finish the job, give a blow to the heart, and it would be over. He was undoubtedly going to, but then someone appeared from a mass of smoke on the chest of the demon. The smoke cleared and standing there was Mr. Smith, dressed in his business attire. “Jacob, you villain! You almost killed this fighter!” Jacob didn’t say anything but lunged at Mr. Smith with a punch. Mr. Smith grabbed his hand, extremely surprisingly, and contained him. “It was a bad idea offering you a final match like sane fighters. Mr. Instar, leave immediately, or else there will be consequences. Grave consequences.” Jacob looked at him in rage and anger. He relaxed his arm and took his breath back. Jacob gave him an intense glance, and walked offstage. Chapter 10 The crowd was furious. Mr. Smith stood, undaunted, on the demon while the crowd booed him.
Dylan pulled me aside, “Things could get dangerous here. Mr. Smith might do something to this audience. We should leave – and find Jacob.” He grabbed my shoulder and we ran out of the arena. Madam Jordan was waiting outside the entrance. Together the three of us took a furious path down the stairs to where the fighters entered. Halfway through, we met up with Jacob. “Jacob,” Dylan said, “Are you going to do it?” “Yes,” he said. “Best of luck too you – it will be treacherous,” Madam Jordan said. I heard a slight quaver in her voice for the first time – she was emotional. “Like how fighting that Demon was treacherous?” “Good luck, old friend,” Dylan said. “I’ll see you guys later – perhaps never. Thanks for being great.” I felt obliged to say something, “Jacob – good luck, I guess.” “Hey, thanks Pat.” With that Jacob sped down the hallway. We stood there for a minute waving goodbye. In the next minutes I could feel some kind of cold brush against my face. Then, in the next second it was gone. I looked around while the others stood. “Did any of you feel that? That cold sensation?” I said. “Yes. It was the hunters. Unless Jacob is already where he was going, they will probably catch him,” Dylan said. “Hunters?” “Indeed. They enforce the laws of the Stadium,” Madam Jordan explained. We stood there for another minute before Madam Jordan and Dylan simultaneously decided to go back to the apartments. As we walked there I was filled with an overwhelming sense of dread. It eventually doused the initial feeling of incredible excitement. What will happen to Jacob? Will that Demon recover? And what will happen now that he is not here? I imagined the demon’s killing everyone – how could Mr. Smith tolerate what they did? Through the entire match the demon was consistently trying to kill Jacob, yet Mr. Smith never interfered. Only when Jacob was going to kill the demon. When we reached the room we shuffled in quickly. Several other people were waiting at there door, so when we were all in the beds were taken up and some people had to stand. “Why so many people?” I whispered to Dylan. Dylan didn’t reply directly to me, but instead drew the attention of everyone in the room. “Listen, everyone. We were about to put this plan to action before Jacob arrived, but now we have several new people to explain it too since Jacob will not be fending off the demons anymore. So listen up!” he said, and then took a breath, “This is a plan to insure out safety – of the magicians here, they are spread out into four groups of 5 or 6. One group will be staying in one block. Together, with the combined magician’s power, we can use a large spell to ward off demons. Since each of the groups is positioned in blocks adjacent to each other, the four hallways between the blocks are also safe places.” Let me cut him off here for a moment to help you a bit. He was saying how all the fighters split into groups with 5 or 6 magician, and they would ward the demons off with a large spell. Each group stayed in one block, and since the four blocks were adjacent,
then the spells would mix and the hallways between the blocks and surrounding hallways would also be protected. He is a very helpful diagram to explain: Ward 4 or 5 magicians 4 or 5 magicians
4 or 5 magicians
4 or 5 magicians
Dylan continued, “The ward only lasts when Magicians are near each other. So when we leave the room, we must leave as a group. However, with just 5 or 6 magicians one group may be too weak for their ward to totally work. We might have to move in group pairs.” Okay, sorry for cutting him off, but I want to explain this again. Since a single group’s worth of magicians might be too weak to totally protect against the demons, two groups might have to travel together. I don’t really know how to explain it better. “Anyone who leaves the room without sufficient protection does so at their own risk,” he finished the explanation. Then, less formally, he said, “Now, I know it’s cramped, but would you rather be cramped and safe or alone, afraid, or possibly dead?” I asked him a question, “What happens if someone has to go too a fight? We won’t ever be able to all stay in here at all since someone has a fight at any point in the day.” “Ah, good question, Pat,” he said, “Each day, we will organize all the people who have to fight that day into a single group with a magician or 2 from each group, and then they will spend the day at the arena. Anybody who is not fighting for the day does not have to go, but anyone who wishes to spectate must travel with them.” Another question popped into my mind, “What is people need to do certain things, like visit a trainer, or meet there family, or do whatever?” “Well, if we subtract any more magicians from the web for each group it will become too weak. So, I suggest to cancel all unnecessary activated and only do absolutely necessary one occasionally.” Nobody else had any questions, so Dylan sat down on the bed. “What do we do now?” I said to him.
“I dunno. It’s late at night. The magicians will have to stay up all night, because that’s when the demons are most likely to strike. We will sleep most of the day, I guess. It will be straining, but it is a noble enough cause to protect my fellow man.” Suddenly I admired Dylan so much more, the valor in his voice and his willingness to sacrifice sleep and his own care to protect others. I examined the room, having nothing else to do. I saw the pirate and talking monkey from before, the centaur who had talked with Madam Jordan and others. Looking at it all made me sleepy, and suddenly I was lying on the bed, drifting off. Chapter 11 When I awoke many people were standing or sleeping, but two people were missing. I assumed they had to fight. Dylan was absent, and Madam Jordan took up a good chunk of space in the corner, asleep. She didn’t have her armor on – too uncomfortable for sleeping – but was wrapped up in a cozy – looking quilt, and sitting upright with her eyes closed. I guess you learn those kinds of things when you’re a Knight. The television wasn’t on. The room was kind of lifeless overall – most people were awake but drowsy or falling back to sleep, and those who weren’t were actually asleep. I wondered what to do with the day, because there was nothing to do. I couldn’t watch fights, because Dylan not being here told me that they had already left for the fights. I enjoy relaxing – doing nothing really, but this was overkill. Nothing for 24/7 got boring . . . quickly The day dragged on for what seemed to be multiple days before Dylan came back, weathered and weary. With his came to the two who had been absent from the previous day. When Dylan came over to me, I had to tell him. “Dylan . . . could I come to the matches tomorrow? I’m very board being here all day.” “Sure, but I’m not going tomorrow. You’re going to have to be ready by 7 and go with Vail. He is in <insert room number here>,” “Vail is a fighter now?” “Yes – he was offered the contract only about a day ago, but he accepted.” “Okay, thanks.” The next day I woke up at about 6:30 and saw that everyone else in the room was asleep. I carefully waded through the minefield of people, trying not to wake anyone up. Once I got through the people, I walked to Vail’s room. It was kind of spooky walking in the hallways at this time. The darkness of the night was just fading, giving that mist-like appearance of the light. I felt unsafe despite the supposed magical barrier protecting me as I went through the hallway. A noise only faintly caught my ear. I turned and looked around. I couldn’t see anyone or anything on any side of me, but it still creeped me out. I ran to Vail’s room. Before I could knock he opened the doors and stepped out with three people trailing behind him. “Ah, hello, Pat,” he said. “Are you a fighter now?” “No,” I said disappointedly, “But I want to come watch the fights.” “Sure,” he said.
We walked around and collected the people who were fighting today from their rooms and a few more magicians. Once everybody was assembled, Vail led the march to the arena. “How is melody doing?” I said. Vail sent a sharp glance to me. “Well . . . not so good. She is now inflicted with a disease that came out of nowhere, now that they found she could still walk. As we speak they are trying to diagnose it, but some of the symptoms – they have never seen or heard of some of the symptoms.” “That’s horrible.” He didn’t reply. Soon enough we arrived at the waiting room. Once the fighters shuffled in only me, one other person and the magicians were left. One of the magicians actually had to fight. Vail led me up to the bleachers, which were pretty empted. Only a few dedicated fans were here, spaced throughout the stadium. Fighters got to watch for free, but Vail had to buy me a ticket. We went in and choose pretty much whatever seat we wanted. We sat for only about 15 minutes before the loudspeaker came on, greeting everyone who was there today. It told that the first match would be starting in 15 minutes. I guess it wasn’t that big of a match, because by the time it started there were only a few more people in the arena. George came out from the waiting room. Trailing behind him was a sight for sore eyes – Euechis. The loudspeaker announced George as “Champion of the Amateur battles” and Euechis as “The powerful master of the Waton Board.” The fight was an interesting one. George bum rushed Euechis, and no matter how much Euechis swung his Waton Board he couldn’t hit him. George got one punch off and Euechis flew to the other side, rubbing his cheek. He got up and got a very, very lucky hit on George. George was slammed straight into the ground by the Waton board and must have been incredibly hurt. Knowing George though, he got back up as if nothing had happened. I noticed George was functioning properly, the arm and foot he had injured in the amateur battles may have been rapped in bandaged, but they were still functioning nonetheless. I could imagine how the doctors probably George he shouldn’t fight in the bandages but he did anyway. Suddenly, Euechis swung his board brutally down at George. George sidestepped but then pulled a tricky move – he grabbed onto the Waton Board, and when Euechis retracted the board George suddenly came racing up to him, and smacked him with a punch that sent him flying into the sand pit below the stage. The battle didn’t seem that hard for George, but Euechis was crushed. As they took him away from the field I thought I saw a few tears drop off his face onto the ground in the silvery mist floating around. The next match pitted another familiar face against someone I had not seen before – Sir Tandrawn went up against a man who looked aesthetically like Dylan, he wore the same robe but his psychical features were different. Sir Tandrawn was suited with his armor that George had broken. It was very crudely melded down the middle The match started off with Sir Tandrawn trying to impale him with his lance. However, with a smile on his face, the man dodged the lance in one way or another. Sir
Tandrawn tried to keep his composure, but he got increasingly angry as he tried to attack for 15 minutes and the magician did nothing. After a while, something interesting happened: Sir Tandrawn’s armor suddenly snapped in half and fell off, leaving him just in basic tunic and pants. He was stunned because nothing had really happened to him, but I was able to see what had happened from Master Maxwell’s training: the man who looked like Dylan was a magician, and he had set an anger trap, which triggered when Sir Tandrawn became very frustrated. It broke his armor and left him defenseless. Victory wasn’t assured yet, because Sir Tandrawn grabbed his lance and sword and continued fighting with them. The magician didn’t do much; he instead let Sir Tandrawn tire himself out. When Sir Tandrawn relieved his arms and dropped his weapons for a minute he suddenly found his body frozen due to a fatigue trap. The magician came over to him and pushed him into the sand pit, ringing him out and ending the match. The match’s continued in the same fashion for a few hours, and with every new match more and more people came into the stadium. At around 1 it was full and I was tired of the matches already. However, at this time they started pulling out the big matches. I watched two giant –like beasts wrestle, only for one to poke the other in the eye and end the match. The crowd was excited by that, but not as excited as when a man who looked like an astronaut fought an alien like creature. The excitement was escalating until it culminated in an unexpected match which featured George. He was once again pit against his friend. I felt like one of the very few in the crowd who would know what would happen in this match. Soon they were off to the races, matching each other blow for blow until they were beaten and could only continue on their will to win. And even after there will to win depleted they began fighting with their second winds, and when they depleted they were struggling to move, fighting with a will to live. Eventually the both knocked each other out, simultaneously, as was the custom for their matches. The day eventually turned into late night and the waxing moon hung overhead, projecting a light glow over the stadium and bleacher full, once again, or dedicated fans. After the battles wound down with small matches as the day had began, Vail, the magicians, the other spectator, and I left the bleachers and joined the crowd of fighters waiting for us outside the waiting room. As we came though I felt an arm grab me on the back. I was scared and turned around to find Master Maxwell. “Oh, hello Master Maxwell,” I said. “Pat, I have something very important you have to know. You should know, but if you think that you can’t handle the information than you don’t have to come. If you know, it will change your life. Come tomorrow, if you so wish.” He left just as quickly as he appeared, and I turned around and caught up with Vail. We walked back to the rooms and I returned to the room too find everyone sleeping like they were this morning, as if nothing had happened. I once again waded through the minefield of people and found a comfy, open spot on one of the beds. As I lay down I found I wasn’t too tired. I thought about what Master Maxwell had said. Should I come? I had no clue what was so important, but apparently it would be life changing. I thought about when this kind of thing happened in fantasy books and tried to apply to this
world, but I couldn’t figure out anything. Thinking about it almost magically seemed to make me tired, and I fell to sleep wondering the implications of Master Maxwell’s important news. Chapter 12 People were jumbling around the room when I awoke, stomping over things and trying to get out the doors. I few seconds later I remembered where I was and I looked around for Dylan. He was at the back of the crowd, trying to gather everyone’s attention in the crowd that was trying to force their way out of the door. “Everyone, be patient!” he yelled a few times in succession, but it was in vain. They kept trying to struggle out. I noticed the centaur’s form slipped through the door and then the struggle was considerably less congested; eventually they all just threw themselves out at once and landed in the hallway in a daze. Dylan looked back at me, “Oh, I see you’re awake Pat. I’m just trying to get these guy’s rounded up so we can go to the fights . . . did we wake you up?” “It’s okay,” I said, rubbing some more sleep from my eyes. I got up, still in Master Maxwell’s clothes which I noticed were getting very grimy and dirty. I tried to remember where my initial clothes were, the set I was wearing when I came here what seemed to be so long ago. As Dylan was just walking through the door I said something. “I need to go to Master Maxwell’s today . . . he told me he had important information I should know.” “Well . . . you’ll have to come with us to the stadium, but once there I can walk you to Master Maxwell’s.” “Won’t be not be safe without multiple magicians?” “Ah, that’s right. I could grab a few of them who are coming along, but they have matches spaced throughout the day . . . I’ll try to get as many as I can, but if not, then I think we will be safe anyway. After all, this is a large building, and I am one of the most skilled magician’s here. If we do by chance run into one of the Demons, Master Maxwell’s chambers are an impenetrable fortress.” The spiel didn’t make me fell much safer, but I bet I could trust Dylan. So I came along with him and the others who had thrown themselves into the hallway. When we left the room the only people left were someone who was knocked out on the bed and Madam Jordan, still sleeping upright like she was a few days ago. The group progressed, more unwillingly perhaps that before, towards the arena. As I looked around trying to figure out the disgruntledness, people overall just seemed to be wearing a dimmer expressions. If three days of living in closed in rooms, rarely changing clothes had already beaten them up that much, what would happen to them as time went on? It became more and more obvious why everybody loved Jacob so much – because even while they were safe, they felt like they were not safe, and they were safe at the dispense of their personal comfort. When we arrived Dylan herded the fighters into the waiting room and talked with the other 3 magicians who were there. One of them in the end decided to come, while the other two had multiple matches throughout the day.
“Alright – just in case, follow between the two of us and don’t try to make too much noise,” Dylan told me. I nodded and became frightened for a moment. How dangerous exactly was wandering the hallways? We set out at a moderate pace, and the two of them didn’t seem to worry and talked about current events, exciting matches and magician things. After about 10 minutes though, we heard a large groan emanate throughout the hallways. It sounded like they it was far off, but it was unmistakable – one of the demon’s was somewhere around here. Immediately the magicians ceased their speech and went into a far stealthier mode. It was about a minute or two before we set out again, and I didn’t know what they were waiting for, because for all we know it could be getting closer. With every rounded corner the hair on the back of my neck jumped and then I relaxed as I saw there was nothing. And with every noise, even those that were clearly not the demon’s I jumped, because they sounded like something frightening when I was in this alert and overly frightened state. Every obscure shape and every shadow was suddenly transformed into some kind of monster in my mind. Eventually it seemed that the hallways were narrowing and becoming darker. I almost clutched Dylan’s cape, and I kept looking back for reassurance at the other magician, and to make sure nothing was following. I never liked the whole horror genre – I preferred to laugh, I to this day don’t understand what the fun of being scared is. After a long, greviating time we came to the long winding staircase that marked the near end of the journey to Master Maxwell’s room. I sighed with relief and the magicians, still being slow and stealthy, lead me up the long staircase and to the large main hallway which branched off into Master Maxwell’s room. When we arrived there I opened the door and, after deeply thanking them and wishing them a safe return trip, and stepped in. Once I was completely submerged in the dark cold room I actually felt safer than I did out there. I had never pondered what was beyond the darkness, and now when I did it didn’t seem to scare me – because I assumed the room was a closed off room, with steel walls and a steel ceiling too, just that it was so large and unlighted that I couldn’t see them. I approached Master Maxwell’s furniture and he got up and greeted me promptly. “Pat, are you sure you are ready to know what I am about to tell you?” he said. I nodded, and he then took me over to his large, comfy armchair. He let me have a seat in it, and I graciously accepted. He paced around me while talking. “Pat – have you ever considered what is beyond the darkness in this room?” I waited for a moment, and then realized I was supposed to answer. “Uh, I always thought it was one large metal cube, a closed off room, just like any other.” He paused, preparing to release his, perhaps, his important information. “Its not.” I stared at him kind of weird. “What?” “It’s a vertex – a crossing point between universes. This room flows into other dimensions in and out infinitely. If you go far enough in one direction, you will find yourself in another dimension, or universe, whatever you wish to call it.”
One doesn’t in general know how to respond to something like this. I at least had a bit of comprehension of this because I was into that kind of stuff – but he would need to elaborate. Luckily, he did. “Imagine it as an intersection, and the universes as highways. They all travel along, sometimes parallel into each other, but at one point they join and run through each other. It’s like that.” “Well, how do you know this, or even, why are you here?” “I am a guardian of the vortex – I am destined to make sure the universes don’t crash into each other head on and mix. You see, the reason why all people from everywhere collide here – medieval, futuristic, modern, everywhere, is because they tumble out of the vortex. That’s how you ended up here.” “But I was in the fields outside the stadium when I arrived.” “The vortex pulls you here and drops you anywhere it pleases – although it is likelier that you will end up in this in-between universe, you could have arrived in any of the intersecting universes, or halfway across the world.” “But why me? I am just some average kid who got knocked out in a fight. I am no one special.” Master Maxwell had to think for a while. It was evident he was straining, and maybe he had hoped I wouldn’t have asked the question. “To be honest, I don’t know. But the vortex chose you for some significant reason. For what, I don’t know. Maybe it was your hard work.” “Are you kidding me? I don’t work anywhere near as hard as some others from where I come from other.” “Well maybe,” Master Maxwell said, bending down to me and looking me in the eye, “Maybe it was because you are a unique blend – a blend of intelligence and hard work.” I pondered it for a moment. Master Maxwell didn’t say anything. “Why should I know this?” I finally said. “Because I thought you would be concerned about Jacob.” “Jacob!? What does he have to do with this?” “Jacob is an interesting one – he was pulled from an incredibly distant universe and has the greatest will of any I have ever seen. You see, the demons that terrorize this place came from a universe all their own – a primitive universe shrouded in shadows and terror. They terrorize this otherwise great place, and Jacob’s main objective is getting them out of here.” “How?” I said. Master Maxwell paced around the chair for a while and I thought about all the information I had to soak up. He walked around for a long time, and went from place to place in the room. He sat on each object of furniture pondering, perhaps, how Jacob would do what he wants to do. After a long time, I had an understanding on the knowledge and he came over to me. “If you are sure you want to know, I will tell you. But once I do, you must help Jacob In his quest.” I was shocked and had to think carefully. I thought back to when Dylan and Madam Jordan were wishing Jacob good luck on his journey, or whatever he was doing and I wondered how dangerous it must be.
I wanted to ask a few questions before answering. “Will I die if I take on this challenge with Jacob?” “It is treacherous – I cannot guarantee anything.” I thought about what I had to live for. I thought about it – saving all these people here from constant terror, and being hero. Then I turned to the darker side of the possibilities, how I could die without making any difference. Surely the skill gap between me and Jacob was so great that if it was dangerous for him, then I would die. I chocked on my decision, I didn’t know. Chapter 13 I looked down at the floor pensively. “I don’t want to know,” I said. As soon as I did, I felt my heart sink. I am not a very prideful person – I don’t get disappointed by rejecting something that would take incredible courage or manliness to get through when its gonna kill me, or even when its not, most of the time because I know my limits. I know that some things are just out of my reach at my current state, and accept that. But for some reason when I said that I felt disappointed with myself, like I was letting Jacob down. Surely he would not have wanted me to throw my life away- right? “You are a wise one, Pat,” Master Maxwell said. “Yeah, I am, I guess,” I said. He raised an eyebrow at me. “Disappointed with yourself?” “I don’t know why,” I said, and I almost felt a tear come to my eye, “I just am.” “It is understandable. I know why the vortex picked you – you have the motive to do things within reason, but know your limits. You know you can extend your limits, and push past them, but not without extreme effort and risk. You’re down to earth.” I didn’t answer, I didn’t really know how too. “Thanks, I guess,” I said. “You’re welcome,” he said. I looked around, and gazed up into the darkness enshrouding the area. I thought about what lay beyond – universes and other dimensions just beyond my reach. The more I thought about it, the more fantastical it seemed. I am a normal kid here, staring up into a darkness that leads to another universe. I was gifted to have this experience. And then I began thinking about it. What now? With the demons here and me not helping Jacob’s cause in any way, I had nowhere to go, nothing to do. I was stuck here, at this wonderful place, in less than wonderful circumstances. The only way I think I could get home was through a warp spell that would surely be messed up; because I have no clue how old my universe is exactly. If anything, the only thing left for me to live for was to restore this place to what it was before Jacob left. “Master Maxwell . . . do you think, with proper training, I could be an aid to Jacob?” Master Maxwell was surprised. He examined me closely, and at that moment I felt something – something different. A motivation, perhaps strong determination. He looked in my eyes and a grand smile erupted onto his face. “Come, we have much to do,” he said, excitedly.
--After the whole story played out, Jacob told the events he had experienced on his journey in a set of tales he called <Insert name here>. He told them orally in first person, so here, to increase your knowledge of the story; I have detailed the first of them here, with others to be disclosed later: To think it all started so long ago . . . You see, when I was young, much younger than I am now, I came to this place. It was, in one word, spectacular. People from everywhere came and I tried to talk to them as they passed in the hallways. But I was ignored, because I was an annoying child. I had come with my Uncle Jesse, who was a renowned fighter here. He brought me for one summer, and in that time I had gained an apprenticeship with Master Maxwell. It was at this point one of the children asked a question: “Mister, who is Master Maxwell?” Jacob had responded, “He is a trainer here, who trained me for free because I was a prodigious student.” He continued: I was signed after winning the amateur battles that summer, and Uncle Jesse was so proud of me. He was the coolest guy – no matter how bad his day had been, he would come home and be as nice to me as possible. He told stories and always had a fun sense of humor in his back pocket. Some days I was tired from fighting, and frustrated at my losses, and I was ready to break down the whole building in frustration. On these days he could soothe me almost magically. While the Stadium is great and free now, back then it was even better, because it was run by a great man named Victor who promoted sportsmanship and was just as wanting to make everyone comfortable as Uncle Jesse was. In fact, they were great friends, and a lot of time Victor came to the fighter’s apartment with Uncle Jesse and they talked while playing cards or something. He was nice enough to let me room with my uncle. At the end of the summer I had to decide to return to my parents or not. Victor said that if I come back when I was older (I was only 12 at the time) then he would offer me a contract again. So I decided to please my parents and went back to the farm home where I worked until I was 18 – and after that point, I decided to return. When I did return Victor gave me a contract and Uncle Jesse seemed just as good as he had ever been. But it wasn’t long before the paradise was broken – before those two great men were lost. Victor suddenly grew very ill and a few weeks afterwards, he passed on. Uncle Jesse was devastated. The Uncle Jesse I knew turned into a man who could still make me happy but silently suffered on the inside, and every night I could hear how he mourned. As if another blow to the Stadium, Mr. Smith came into power as the head. He denied Uncle Jesse various rights and separated us into different rooms. He was the first owner of the stadium to have never been a fighter or previously had worked at some position in the stadium. He seemed to come up from nowhere. Mr. Smith signed many strange fighters and didn’t have a hand in keeping fights fair. In fact he seemed to promote unfair fights. One pivotal day, he signed three demons that would terrorize the Stadium. Later that day, Uncle Jesse . . . he was found dead. At
the same time other iconic figures here were found dead and that marked the beginning of the fear, where we lived in fear of the demons and they ruled over not just our bodies, but our minds. It crushed me. My punches became fiercer and I fought with more primal aggression that devotion. Although I fought better, when I wasn’t fighting I was crying silently in my room. In about a year I found my skills rapidly developing almost to the level of Uncle Jesse’s. Eventually I was ranked top at the stadium and my only rivals were the Demon’s who I knew had killed my beloved Uncle. When I was first paired against one of them, I almost was killed. But in time my skills grew even greater, and soon I was an equal to the weakest of the three demons, named Cagnazzo. One fateful day, Cagnazzo murdered my best friend still alive here. In a burst of fury and rage, I killed him with my own two hands – and I regret how bad it felt, killing something so brutally, but it satisfied my rage. But if had another very important effect – the other demons stayed away. Within weeks the effect was noticeable, and people began to live free in the stadium. I felt so proud of my accomplishment that I vowed I would try and defeat the other demons and return the stadium to its former glory. I fought to defeat them over the years, culminating with my battle where I almost killed the stronger of the remaining two. Then I fled to Master Maxwell’s chambers, where I began my journey to uncover their weakness – I went deep into the demon homeland. --Hours later, Master Maxwell and I completed an intense training session. He had taught me how to defend against creatures various magnitudes larger than me, and began amore refined, advanced offensive swordplay training. I felt so exhilarated. “I recommend you stay here until I deem you ready. We must train as quickly as we can.” I nodded, feeling determined deeply for the first time in my life. I felt like I had a true purpose now. Master Maxwell prepared a bed for me and I plopped down into it, “nonstop training tomorrow,” he had said. I nodded in agreement. As he was walking away and I was about to drift off, I remembered something important. “Master Maxwell,” I yelled off to him, “These clothes I am wearing are very dirty.” “It’s okay,” he said, “I have a new pair I can give you tomorrow for more comfortable training.” Then, I drifted off. The next morning I got out of bed, changed (he turned his back) and we began. We worked the entire day on swordplay. He taught me everything from tricks to recovering my sword if lost to dealing the final blow. We practiced it, and then practiced it again, and then practiced it more. Although after a while it seemed route, I enjoyed it. When I could feel I was growing tired and my muscles grew weary from training we
relaxed. He provided a meal, something he had done before, only before it was water and basic meat. This time, it was the most wonderfully exotic dishes that energized me and set my mouth abuzz with taste sensations. Then we trained deep into what I assumed was the night before I finally rested again. The next day I woke up early again and we went right to work. Halfway through the day we stopped the swordplay training and we decided to take a break for something else first. We went over fire arms defense, which didn’t seem extremely relevant. I imagined wherever Jacob was going; he wouldn’t have to deal with firearms. However, it was a possibility because I had no clue, at the time, where he was going. We reviewed that for a while, and then eventually Master Maxwell let up and we had another of those energizing dishes. We went straight back to work after that, we immediately began more sword training like from yesterday. By know I seemed to be able to almost match him, although I am 100% positive he was going easy on me for the sake of training. I still felt empowered though, being able to beat him. I felt like I had taken another step closer to mastery. Hours later, Master Maxwell had told me to go to bed. I didn’t feel tired though and actually wanted to keep going. He was so impressed by my determination he kept going, and deep into the night did the sword clash and sparks dance. --Another of the <insert name here>, as told by Jacob. After fleeing from the fight I came to Master Maxwell’s chambers, where he told me the instructions for what to do. I headed north, into the darkness of his steel room. Suddenly I fell and only kept falling, falling. I was falling for so long I actually fell asleep. When I woke up my head hurt. Then I looked around, and was awed by what I saw. I was on a small rocky platform which was surrounded by lava, like it was an ocean. For days I drifted, hungry and finding nourishment only from my water I had packed. Like Master Maxwell had told me, a few days later someone fell from the sky, which is what I think happened to me. It was a good and powerful friend of mine, a monkey of sorts who could talk. Together we drifted, only taking from the water supply when it was absolutely necessary. Over the days others arrived on the platform, each one bringing water provisions that helped all of us survive. By the time we were all together, there were 6 of us. We were some of the most powerful and renowned fighters at the stadium, and the bravest. When we reached land it was a platform as desolate as the one we had drifted on. It seemed more of a much larger platform than a continent or island. Around us the world seemed to be entirely red. We traveled inland for days, passing no life of any kind, only rocky soil. Eventually the seas of lava were gone and it seemed much more pleasant, however, it was still a hell of sorts. The sky was not blue like here, it was a deep red, with smoke in the sky blotting out any kind of sun it might have. At that time our collective water supply was about half gone. With no more provisions in sight, we needed some sort of way to refill our supply.
We traveled on for days until eventually only drops of water were left, and then we all became incredibly thirsty. After 2 days, where it seemed we would surely die, we found a patch of grass on the barren, rocky soil. As we neared the grass we found a shallow pond, only about a foot deep, with murky, dirty water. But we didn’t care, we drank until the pond was almost gone, and collected as much of the remains as we could and carried on. However, we soon found many more patches of grass that surrounded ponds. We feasted on what seemed to be infinite fields of ponds. When we had finally quenched our enormous thirst we packed as much extra water as we could and carried on. Only a day later the rocky soil was replaced by a complete field of grass and a blue sky. We thought we had returned home, but then we saw a magnificent city on the horizon – lights shot out and towers spiraled above the rest of the city. We rushed to it and came to it at the end of the day. When we arrived at the fences no guards or greetings were there. However, soon we were approached by an old man. “You new here?” he said. “Well . . . sort of. Say, you know what this place is?” The man was shocked as if it was a stupid question, “Why, It’s Tartarus, the city on the top of the world. Trust me; you don’t want to go in there.” “Why not?” one of the men with me said. “Because there’s no way out. Plus, when you’re in there the sky is red and the soil is rocky and the sun is blotted out, like far away from here.” I paused. “Say, we’re are we?” “What exactly do you mean?” “Like, what world are we on? What realm?” The old man said, “Hell.” --Early the next morning (or at least I thought it was early in the morning, I couldn’t tell.) we put down our blades and Master Maxwell whipped up another of those energizing, exotic dishes magically. This time it tasted like chicken that had been bathed is some kind of sauce reminiscent or marshmallows. However, there was some new flavor I had never tasted before and couldn’t distinguish that tied the whole dish together perfectly. It was so great I wanted seconds, but Master Maxwell advised we just get back to work. “Say, where did you get these dishes? They’re so good.” “It’s a long story – to make it short, they are dishes from where I come from.” “Well, where do you come from?” “That,” he said, a light flashing across his eye, “Is something no one can know.” We continued training. He went back to defense against opponents much larger than me to see if I remembered, and I recalled well. After that he decided to shift the focus to something different, and decided that I needed to increase my physical speed and strength. I disagreed, but he said I would need it. So I had to run for a long time and I tired quickly, but kept running. After that I was burned out and the lack of sleep last night hit me, and I fell asleep on the cold floor.
When Master Maxwell awoke me he demanded I get running again. I ran for what seemed to be hours, and then we took a break to eat. This time the dish tasted more like it was mixture of sweet, sour and spicy vegetables which were roasted and covered with what seemed to be some kind of cheese. Afterwards we did some more sword training and we reviewed defense against Axes and spears more in depth. And after that, back to the running. Why so much running? --Another of the <insert name here>, as told by Jacob. It didn’t come to a shock to us that we were in hell, because it is the demon homeland. In fact, we were arguably happy to find Tartarus because in it was what we were looking for. You see, our plan was too find a lost tome that wound up here written by an ancient writer describing the weaknesses and information on demons. It is talked about it various books and some books offer fragments of advice, but all the real information was available in this book. While we were happy were found Tartarus, we were largely discouraged when we heard we couldn’t leave. We knew leaving and entering would be hard, but we didn’t think it would impossible. I turned around and looked at the large fence surrounding the city. “If there’s a way in, there’s a way out.” I said. “If you think so, sonny. But I wouldn’t advise it.” I turned to my followers. “Come on, we have to try.” They nodded and then simultaneously jumped up high beyond the fence and landed in alley. Suddenly I felt as if my heart had been ripped out, I felt exposed and drained. I looked up at the sky and saw how red it was, like blood, and despaired. I had to keep diligent though, so I decided that we should press on. The magical effects of Tartarus would not deter me. When we came out into the road we saw a city that seemed to be of once great architecture in shambles. On the outermost part of the city a road wound around the perimeter, forming a perfect circle. Then there more roads, each terraced above the last, which elevated until they reached a grand palace that consumed the highest up terrace. However, all the roads and houses on each terrace had fallen into disrepair and monstrous forms roamed the streets, resembling smaller versions of the demons back at the stadium. We carefully weaved between the houses and moved up each terrace slowly, almost caught several times. Although we could easily take on any of these demons as a group, alerting multiple demons, perhaps all of them would be fatal. So we instead made our way up to the highest up, 9th terrace, where the grand palace, also dusty and fallen into shambles, stood. When we entered the grand foyer of the palace there was debris everywhere, as if from some explosion, that we had to weave through. Soon we came to large double doors that lead into another room of the palace, and that room had multiple doors, stairways and obstacles, [It was almost like an ancient Mayan temple filled with traps, if you could envision that]. We spread out and carefully
looked through the area and each came to separate doors, which we each took and explored further. Inside my particular door, I found a small dome room encased in Ice. There was a man who was frozen in the ice, his body still preserved. At the other end of the room was another door, so I quickly shuffled onto the next room. The next room was another large one, filled with chandeliers on the ceiling and a seemingly bottomless pit on the floor past the small platform I had stepped out onto. On the far other side of the room was another small platform extending out of the wall with a door. I jumped between the chandeliers, each one falling into the pit as I jumped off of it onto the next one, until I reached the small door. When I came into the next room, I met up with one of the people with me. His door had brought him to the same place. We talked until at the top of the room, far away, the rest of the gang showed up. It seemed all the doors led here. We all came to the center of a large, featureless room, with no doors except the ones we had come out of. It was very tall vertically though, and I saw all the way up on the ceiling, a door. What kind of warped architecture was this? We could not reach it, so I had a rather simple idea, cutting the Gordian knot if you will, of punching through one of the walls. However, when I attempted to I rebounded back and felt my bruised hands. I don’t know if it was magic or what, but I couldn’t break that wall. We were stuck. --We trained for a couple more days, me running for long stretches of time until I could kind of bare it, and then finally Master Maxwell told me that I was ready. When he did I exploded with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment. He sat me down on his arm chair. “So Pat, I deem you apt enough, if you wish to take on the challenge, of aiding in Jacob’s cause. You may still wish to refuse because of the risk to your life, so choose wisely.” I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about it, “I want to know.” “Fine then,” he said, “I will tell you.” He bent down to me and looked me sharply in the eyes. “Jacob and some others have gone into the Demon Homeland – Hell – to retrieve a book about defeating demons. If you wish, you can use the vortex to join them. Because of a special beacon Jacob is wearing, anyone who enters the dimension he is in will come to where he is.” I thought about the new information. “Alright then.” “Alright then? You are brave, almost foolish. You will need to bring some water with you to drink, because that it what the others brought and the only nourishment you will get.” He got some water for me and I lugged it away. He guided me towards to area where the vertex lead to the demon land. “Pat, this is your last chance,” he said as the darkness enclosed around us, “If you want to go back.” “But I thought you said I had to help once I knew.”
“I could never force one like you to do that. If you do not feel up to it, you do not have to go.” I looked down at the floor for a moment. Suddenly I heard a noise like wind whipping in my ear and hushing my words. I said something to Master Maxwell, but only watched as he faded away and I started falling. Chapter 14 . I fell; infinitely it seemed like, until I landed with a thud on a cold stone floor. I was conscious but my vision was blurred, I could only see as a group of figures. They splashed me with a bit of water. “Pat?” I heard Jacob’s distinct, gruff voice. “Yes? I groaned. “Pat, what the hell are you doing here?” The other people there helped me up and I rubbed my eyes. “I – Well, to put it shortly, I wanted too.” “Pat, this is too dangerous. You should have never come.” “Master Maxwell trained me real-” I cringed. Suddenly I felt like I was really tired and all my energy was drained, I just wanted to slouch down on the floor. I coughed a bit. “That’s what Tartarus does to you, Pat. I told you, you shouldn’t have come.” “Tartarus?” I coughed. “Yeah, this is a run down city in the demon world.” I struggled to stand up straight, and then looked around. I was in a room that was average sized floor, but when I looked up the ceiling was far, far away. I saw what seemed to be the faint outline of a door, almost. “We’ve been stuck here for a few hours – we don’t know how to get to that door up there,” Jacob said, pointing up to the door on the ceiling, “No one can jump that high.” I wondered how they could ever make that architecture. “Maybe – hey, I saw this in a video game once, what if you-” “Video what?” “Oh, they’re games we play where I come from on the television. In fact, this world and the stadium are kind of like a Video game, in a way.” “Hmm. What where you going to say?” “What if you guys used the walls as surfaces to jump off of?” “Huh?” Jacob said. “For example,” I said, pointing a finger at the wall to my left, “What if you jumped onto that wall, and then jump from that wall,” I pointed my finger to the wall to my right, “to this wall, and then continue until you reach the door?” “I figure with your Herculean strength, it would be a small feat for you.” Jacob thought about the idea and scratched his head. “I’ll try it. Pat, did anyone tell you what a large vocabulary you have?” “What do you mean?” “’Herculean’?” I sighed.
Anyway, Jacob was the first to attempt it. I led him through the process again, and then he attempted it. At first he jumped from one wall and landed, and then I told him that he had to land on the other wall and jump off of it. Then he realized it. The next time he tried it, it was rather simple for him and he reached the door, barely grabbing onto the doorknob. The door swung open and Jacob hung by the doorknob. However, the door broke off its hinges and then the group of men here had to catch him when he fell. When he was back on his feet he commented, “Brilliant idea, Pat.” “Don’t thank me, thank plat forming games.” Jacob took me on his back (I was quite frightened) and did it again, only this time he grabbed onto the ledge where the door had been and pulled himself up into the next room. The rest of the men followed suit, and soon we were in the next room. This room was a long corridor, dimly lit, with a blank wall behind us and grand, red double doors far ahead. The men walked leisurely, but I was a bit afraid and flinched at the slightest abnormal sound. When we reached the doors Jacob carefully pushed them open, and we walked in. This room was very well lit and, unlike the last room, was very nice looking and clean. At the far end of the room was a chair, unoccupied, and a pedestal with a book in front of the chair, as if for reading. “The throne room,” one of the men whispered. Jacob nodded, and we advanced forward. Jacob picked up the book on the pedestal and thumbed through it. I peeked over his shoulder. The pages where old and dusty, and under them was just barely visible text, which looked like weird markings and scribbles. Jacob closed the book and carefully examined the front cover, which was hard and looked almost like wood. As he looked at it he seemed to recall something and think intensely. “This is it.” Jacob said. He picked it up and tucked it under his arms. The men nodded and we began walking out of the room, almost tiptoeing. Suddenly, a shadowy voice, one that whispered almost silently and sent chills down one’s spine, slipped into my ear: Death, it said. I stopped and so did all the others. We all suddenly jerked our heads in different directions looking for the source of the voice. It slithered into my ear again, like a serpent: Death. “We should get going,” Jacob said. The others agreed. We walked slowly, and the voice no longer came, but the damage was already done. I was terrified, paralyzed almost, and the others, while not nearly as frightened as myself, were a bit spooked too. We found our way to the room with the door on the ceiling and climbed down carefully. Jacob slid down the walls and jumped between them, softening the fall. Once we were all down, one of the men lead us through a series of rooms leading back to another main room with large doors that lead outside. “Pat,” Jacob told me, “We have to be very careful outside, because demons roam the streets. Follow close behind the group.” When we came outside immediately we found the nearest shelter and started stealthily moving around. The outside of the palace, as it seems we were in, was a great city, which was described earlier in the <insert name of Jacob’s stories here>. It was large city with a dark red sky which was terraced into levels with round roads on each level.
We sleuthed our way down to the lowest terrace, when we slipped into a dark alley where we could hide. “So now, how do we escape?” Jacob said to the others. “Well, the old man said there was no escape.” “There’s gotta be. Think about it – how did this book get lost in here? Either demons exited the city, chased it down and got it, or the author entered and lost it here, in which case, how would knowledge about it be so well spread? They say it was lost here long after the author died.” “Well, what do you suggest?” “We can jump the fence. I mean, that’s how we got in.” “I doubt that will work.” “No harm in trying.” Jacob backed up a bit and then took a great leap, however, when he would have leaped over the fence and outside the city, he seemed to just hit a wall. He slammed into it and sled back down. “Very weird,” I said. “I told you that wouldn’t work,” one of the men said. “It was worth a shot,” Jacob said. “No it wasn’t.” While they argued, I thought about ways to get out, since apparently jumping the fence didn’t work. Digging, perhaps? Maybe there was a gate? “Hey guys, was there a gate when you came in?” By this time they had gotten into a friendly skirmish about if it was a good idea to try and jump the fencer or not. “No, it was entirely fenced off.” “Well, what if we dug our way out?” “It’s possible,” one of them said, “But if jumping the fence didn’t work, I doubt digging will work. Besides, the land here is too hard and rocky to dig well.” “Well, I don’t know a way we could escape.” “What if it says it in the book?” One usually silent man said. “That might be a useful idea, if any of us could read it. It is written in some crazy language that is almost impossible to decode.” There was a loud roaring sound that rang out clear behind us. Then, stampeding feet, and we all turned and knew what it was. Standing behind us was the hulking figure of demons. We were trapped against the walls of the alleyway. They stood there for a moment, breathing heavily in their awkward form, before they screeched and dashed forward. “Here is an improvised escape,” Jacob said, and he unleashed a punch against the fence that released a crackling, crunching noise. While it didn’t immediately break the fence, when the entire pack of demons bum rushed up against it, suddenly the fence collapsed open into the blue daylight and the grass. We spilled into the sunshine and reveled in it, suddenly feeling energetic, and like a great weight had been lifted. The demons didn’t like it so much. When they spilled out they underwent a shocking transformation. Their crimson skin boiled away leaving human flesh, and their screaming faces and sharp bones dulled into kindly expressions. Their arms and legs shortened to proportionate size of their body and lastly, they shrunk down to human like size. Sitting
in the daylight were humans garbed in flowing blue robes and gold circlets around their heads, some with golden blond hair and others with frazzled brown hair and a fair complexion. Needless to say, we were shocked. The old man from when they had entered the city rushed over and looked at people, rushing between them. Some of them had consciousness while others lay in the grass. He yelled over to us, “I thank you deeply for liberating them.” “Your welcome, I guess,” Jacob said. We walked over to the man. “What just happened?” I said. “It is a long story,” he said, “Sit down.” The man recounted the tale of a once proud race while we sat in the grass. Every once and awhile I would look over at the hole in the fence, which no one still inside the city seemed to notice. “Long ago, this whole continent, nay, world, belonged to us, the Artisans. All the artists and architects came together here to build this wonderful city, which we named Articivitas, the city of arts. We prospered for a long time and lead this entire world in everything, from science to arts to philosophy to technology. But one day, the demons invaded. They came over the land and turned our oceans to magma; they ravaged our land and spread to Articivitas. We had no army because we were peaceful and allied with powerful city-states that could protect us, but were already taken over, so they crushed us and took over the city.” “So wait a moment, this isn’t the demon homeland?” Jacob said. “No, I suspect their original land is far off, somewhere long away from here. They take over whole planets and put them under their dominion.” “Darnit,” Jacob murmured. “Why are you annoyed Jacob? We found the book,” one of the men said. “I know. It’s just . . . I dunno. Maybe I wanted more adventure of something, or heroic-ness.” The men laughed, and soon Jacob started laughing too. He hadn’t said it sarcastically, but one of the men had said “typical Jacob.” The old man kept trying to get his story back going, but the men started talking friendily and whenever the old man tried to say a word he was interrupted. He coughed loudly. “Excuse me, can I continue with my story?” “Sure,” Jacob said, turning back to him. “So anyway, the demon leader claimed our wonderful palace and it fell into shambles. He took over the hearts and minds of everyone in the city, and transformed them into his minions. Did you men feel like your energy was drained and the world was dreary inside there?” He said. “I did,” I said “And so did I. In fact, I think all of us felt that,” one of the men said. The rest nodded. “That was the magic of the city working on you. If you stayed there for an extended period of time, you would have transformed into demons,” he explained. He continued, “Suddenly the sky turned red and all hope was lost. I was the only one who had escaped the city. I cherished my only remaining hope, a book I had
completed on demons and fighting them, when they took it from me. Because of my knowledge of defense against them I could escape. Until today I waited out here for someone to save us, and you were just the people.” “A book defense against demons?” said Jacob. “Yes. Why?” “Do you mean . . .” Jacob held up the book we had taken from the palace, “this?” The man’s eyes suddenly lit up. He dashed over to Jacob and seized the book from his hands. He leafed through it and a tear came to his eye. “I thought I would never see it again.” “So you are the author?” “Yes, I am Critis, author of this fabled book, Defense against Demons.” “That’s great!” Jacob said, standing up, “Listen, we need to borrow it because demons might be trying to take over our dimension. Can you translate that scribble text into English?” “I can translate it into many far less hard to decode languages, but I have never heard of English.” “Well, then how are you speaking it?” “This? It’s the gift of tongues – an honorary award to all outstanding citizens of Articivitas. All demons have it at birth, too.” An idea popped into my head. “Speaking of English, how do you and everyone at the Stadium speak it, Jacob, if you don’t know about Hercules and video games and other stuff from where I come from?” He turned to me, “What do you mean? I’ve always spoken English.” “Weird . . .,” I said. “Anyway, can you translate it into something that an average scholar could translate?” “I can read it off in English,” he said, “Why don’t you just take me back wherever you’re going? I’m willing to help any cause against the demons.” “Sure,” Jacob said. By this time all the people were waking up and dusting themselves off. They were scratching their heads wondering was what going on. One of them spotted the old man and ran over to him. It was a young woman. She spoke, but it was jumbled up into a weird language. “I . . . I am Critis. Why do you ask?” said the old man in response to her apparent question. Because of the gift of tongues, it sounded like English to us but the weird language to her. Her eyes lit up. “….Critis?” Critis’ eyes lit up too, “Can it be . . . Sarah?” She nodded and they hugged. “Ah, you’ve grown so much, my niece. You were just a little baby when they took over.” She spoke again, saying whatever she said inquisitively. “It is a long story, Sarah. But I have to leave soon. Once I return, we will take back our city and our world.” Critis faced the crowd, “Everyone, this people standing behind me freed you. I have to come with them to help pay them back, but when I return, we will take back over
our city.” One man cheered and a few clapped for us. Then Critis turned around. “So, how do we return to your dimension?” “Simple. It involves a bit of dimensional science, but basically, I have to remove this thing around my arm. It’s like a dimensional anchor, and anyone not from here is weighed down by it. When I take it off, since I am one of the few people whose native dimension is the one with the Stadium, you must all hold on to me. We will all wind back up at the stadium. “But Jacob, what’s to say, if we are all hanging on to you that we won’t go to one of our home dimensions?” “As long as you are all holding on to me but not to each other directly, then we will wind up at the Stadium. I forget why.” “Jacob, you have it all wrong,” Critis said, “The vertex works as an anchor, and since it’s the closest dimension to this one, if we all hold onto you, then it will pull us there because you will warp there.” “Right,” Jacob said. “How did you know that?” “We are a very smart people.” “Anyway, are you guys ready?” Jacob said. He stretched both his arms. We each placed both of our hands on one of the arms. “Yeah, we’re ready,” one of the men said. “Okay, well then,” Jacob said, sliding the ring off. As soon as it was not touching his skin we vanished. Chapter 15 We reappeared, instantly, in a heap of legs and arms at Master Maxwell’s room. He was kind of alarmed when suddenly he heard a big crash. Jacob wiggled his way out of the pile. “We did it!” Jacob said, beaming and hold up the book. Master Maxwell rushed over. “Did you really, Jacob?” Jacob laughed. “Yup, and we brought along the author, too,” he said. Master Maxwell saw Critis and walked over to him. He bowed. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Critis. You’re book and your presence may save our dimension from the demons taking over.” Master Maxwell was surprised when he replied in English, “Thank you very much.” “Ah, you speak English?” “No, the gift of tongues. It is quite handy.” “Indeed,” Master Maxwell said. “So, we should get too work. We need to decode the book first,” Critis said. “It will take a while,” one of the men said. “I will write it down in English for future generations, and then we will get to the business of defeating the demons. However, in the meantime, you men should go back to your rooms. Jacob, you are free to stay here, or you can hide with one of them.” “I think I’ll come back to the apartments and stay with Pat,” He said, patting me on the back, “If you’re okay with that.”
“Well, it’s crowded, but probably about as crowded as every other apartment. If you want.” “What do you mean? Did they put that plan with the magicians into effect?” “Yeah,” “Man. Well, anyway, I’ll have to lay low and not still be seen here, especially since the hunters are probably still looking for me. So I’ll stay with you two.” “Okay. You men are free to return to your rooms.” The rest of us shuffled out as Master Maxwell whisked up a piece of paper and a fine feather pen, inside the bindings of a well looking book, and as Critis began reading the book off in English. When we were all outside the lights were dim and we realized it was night. The other men were paranoid because Hunters and the Demons were especially prominent at night, so they rushed quickly and silently, myself barely being able to keep up with them. Soon we arrived at the rooms with no disturbances; however, I thought I head a weird noise several times and felt a chill cold run down my neck. I opened the unlocked door to my room and crept through the mine field of people. Both of the beds was occupied, so I laid on an unoccupied spot on the floor and quickly drifted off. When I awoke a good chunk of the room’s populous was gone, leaving only the centaur, Dylan, a few others and I. I got up, stretched, and rubbed the sand from my eyes. Dylan must have been knocked out because the magicians got so little sleep with this setup. The centaur was asleep too, but slept standing up like a horse did. The T.V was off so I turned it on and got real close, on the edge of the bed (now unoccupied). I was just loud enough so that I could hear it; however, it was soft enough that it didn’t wake anyone up. About an hour or two later, Dylan woke up. “Hey Pat, what where you doing for so long at Maxwell’s?” he said. “Master Maxwell’s.” “Whatever.” “Jacob found the book and made it back from the demon world,” I said, not answering his question. “What? How did you know about that?” “It’s a long story, but I’m willing to tell you.” “Sure,” he said, “I’m curious as to how you’re involved.” So I explained the whole ordeal to him and his interest grew with each word. After about 20 minutes I finally ended the story with when I got up today and turned on the T.V. “Wow Pat, that was brave.” “Why, thank you,” I said, beaming. “And stupid.” “I know.” “So how long do you think until they finish translating it?” “I imagine it will take a long time. But once they’re done, I know that they will formulate a plan with everyone here to defeat the demons and overthrow Mr. Smith, then go back to Critis’ world and free it.” The next few days went by like molasses, and I am sure Jacob and the rest of the men who had come with him were just as inpatient as me, waiting for Jacob and Master Maxwell and Critis to return.
I was bored so I went to the fights one day, the other I stayed home and Madam Jordan was awake. It was hard to pass the time because of the sense of unease waiting for them. After a few days, nearly a week, Jacob suddenly burst into our room. “Jacob?” I said. The other people there gasped in surprise. Only one person was absent today from our room because they had a fight. “Yes, it’s me. We’re done.” He said. The centaur rubbed his eyes, “Is that really you, Jacob?” “Yes. I can’t stay here long though; we need to prepare our grand plan. So anyone who wants to get rid of the demons once and for all, come to Master Maxwell’s chambers. There is no obligation, but help would be appreciated.” Jacob said. Then he went from the room as quickly as he came and left everyone in a daze. “Alright, well, anyone want to help?” I said, standing up. “Are you crazy?” said one particularly small fighter, almost the size of a sponge. He said it in a high pitched voice. “Think about it – Jacob almost beat that one demon. Surely, all together, knowing their weaknesses, it will be cake. The only problem is that Jacob can’t fight.” Dylan chimed in. “Yes, exactly – it will be foolish trying to match his power to defeat not just one, but both of the demons. It’s impossible.” The Centaur said. I wouldn’t accuse him of being a coward, only of being reasonable. “By lone selves, it is indeed impossible, but united, any goal is achievable,” Madam Jordan wrapped it up nicely. “I stand behind Pat. He was brave enough and strong enough to join Jacob in retrieving the book that tells us the demon’s weaknesses, and he is determined, I can tell. Through him I know we can do it,” Dylan proclaimed. “I too, support Pat,” Madam Jordan said. “Who’s with us?” I said. The array of fighters in the room looked around and stared at each other, wondering what to do. “I’ll do it,” The little thing around the size of a sponge said. “As will I,” the Centaur agreed. “Me too!” “And me!” “I’ll do it.” “I’m with you.” I had the whole room’s support. “Then let’s go!” I said. I led the march outside the room, where we were joined by a large crowd of people. All the fighters had conjugated together in the hallways. Among them I saw George, and Vail, and I saw that Melody had recovered successfully as was on her feet. I saw fantasy figures like elves, dwarfs and centaurs, giants and tiny, little beings. There were Knights, like Madam Jordan, and wizards, like Dylan. I saw people like me – some looked like they were soldiers, others, like George, had the figure of a boxer. Others seemed like they were Karate experts and still others had the wrestler-type build. I saw futuristic people, who ranged from spacemen to aliens themselves. I saw pirates and cowboys, railroad workers and just about every kind of person who ever had
to endure hard work and fighting – they all meshed together in one group, supportive of a grand cause, to free themselves from the cold death-grip of the demons. The procession marched towards Master Maxwell’s room valiantly, and I could tell the magicians still had the demon-ward barrier up. No one seemed to care and no one needed it, we felt like we were on top of the world and unstoppable. We came through hallways and up the spiral staircase leading to Master Maxwell’s. Eventually we were all pouring in, and when the last of us were in the doors were closed and the large crowd almost spilled into the darkness leading to other dimensions. Master Maxwell stood above the crowd. “Everyone, we must prepare a plan to free ourselves. Right now, we prepare the plan, and we will determine when to put it into action.” All day we planned and withered away the night oil deep into the night preparing the grand plan. Chapter 16 The next morning I awoke and wondered how I got back to the apartment. Everyone was exited and dressed and I was passed out on the bed. Once I had awoken they began their plan, a long chain of events that would lead to the freedom of the Stadium The first event was the fights that day. I had come with an abnormally large group of people. They went as usual until Madam Jordan had a fight – against Dylan. The two of them had walked onto the stage, starlight above head, with a large crowd cheering on two of the stadium’s most beloved fighters. Dylan opened up his cloak for the first time, revealing a large array of scrolls and other such magician tools. He took out one and placed in on the ground, pushing on it hard. It had a powerful effect; a shockwave of energy was sent out around the ground and transformed it. The nice platform suddenly melted into sand that collapsed into the sand pit below. The crowd went while when Madam Jordan responded by trying to stab Dylan. The fight proceeded and seemed believable – but all the fighters knew how it would happen. After nearly 10 minutes of a magic tussle, Madam Jordan went to stab Dylan, and Dylan sidestepped. Suddenly, Dylan became incredibly angry. This was the risky part. He used a powerful and dangerous spell – one to increase his physical strength to a level equal to Jacobs, and started pounding on Madam Jordan. Though it seemed ruthless to the crowd, it was formulated to deal as little damage to Madam Jordan as it could. Although that’s not to say it didn’t hurt – it probably put a major beating on her. After almost a minute of the beating Dylan was panting and Madam Jordan’s armor was cracked and part of the torso fell off. If he had to push it any further it could actually be very dangerous. He knocked her around more, and decided that he needed to throw a fatal punch to get what he wanted.
Dylan stood in front of Madam Jordan, lying on the ground, and yelled furiously, adding to the angry and out-of-control persona. He unleashed a punch aiming straight for her face that would dig her into the sand and probably kill her. Suddenly though, in front of him, appeared Mr. Smith in a puff of smoke. While the crowd booed, the fighters cheered at the success of their plan. “You’re fired,” Mr. Smith announced to Dylan. The fighters cheered again, but the crowd’s boos overshadowed us. “I can have you all ejected,” he said. The crowd silenced. “Mr. Dylan, what is your desire for your final match?” “Kliken Sathrin,” Jacob said. Mr. Smith was surprised by his sudden reaction. “I’m sorry, but I can’t grant that request,” Mr. Smith said. This time, everyone, including the fighters, booed. “Shut it!” he said. We silenced. “Any other requests?” he asked. “Jedrus Zedalu?” he said. “Hmm. . . I’ll look into it. In the mean time, pack your things.” Suddenly our plan was foiled, almost like that. We weren’t going to give up yet; we still had a chance of defeating Jedrus (the other demon besides Kliken). Our original plan anyway was to attract the other demon by defeating the first. We returned home slightly dampered, but the flame of determination still burned very bright. Before the second event happened, where Dylan fought one of the demons, we needed Mr. Smith to get back to him about it. A few days later, we got a big boost when we found out that Mr. Smith could grant the request. The next phase of the plan would soon be put into action. Nearly a week later most of the fighters set out for the arena again and sat themselves there, ready for the big events. The fights that day seemed less than great – probably because of the anticipation of the match. After a long time the lights dimmed and two spotlights appeared on stage in a fashion similar to way back when Jacob fought the larger of the two demons. “Tonight, we bring you the final Match of Dylan Rebus, against the terrifying, Jedrus Zedalu!” the loudspeaker blasted. Dylan walked onto the stage. Trailing behind him was Jedrus. He was different than Kliken – he was smaller, more compact, and his skin was a lighter tone, almost orange. The bones that stuck out of his skin were duller than Kliken. Overall he seemed smaller, less fierce, but that’s where his strength was. His deception and his intelligence. He walked on stage and spoke in a voice of exaggerated “s”s. “Ssssso, Dylan, what isssss your dessssire to die?” he said, sounding almost insane. “Don’t be cocky,” Dylan said boldly. “You’re cocky for even thinking you could beat me,” he replied. “I know your weakness.” ‘Oh, do you really?” he said, laughing his demonic laugh, which sounded more like shrieks and howls.
Dylan didn’t reply. Instead, he stood there until the announcer said, “Begin,” Immediately, Dylan took out a scroll from under his cloak and opened it. Jedrus stood still and watched. Interested. Dylan threw the scroll to the ground and walked up to Jedrus. While he was bending over, walking on all fours like Kliken, Dylan came up to about waist his elbow. Jedrus bent his head down and stared Dylan in the eyes. I couldn’t imagine the fear, staring right into a demon’s eyes half a foot away from them. Then, Dylan did something uncharacteristic of him and magicians everywhere – he punched Jedrus in the face. Immediately Jedrus swung back, but Dylan ducked and Jedrus toppled over to his left, landing in a magic trap. It sealed him to the ground, and Dylan leisurely walked around to his exposed back. He carefully pinpointed a spot on his back and then placed his hand on it. From there he pealed away some soft skin and the demon’s flabby real skin, under the armor, was exposed. Jedrus’ face suddenly was struck with terror. “I told you,” Dylan said. He peeled away a few more shreds off the soft spot of the armor, and Jedrus began to struggle desperately against him, but was caught in the trap. Normally, Jedrus wouldn’t be extremely worried, Madam Jordan told me (because she, as well as all the other fighters, were watching), because his armor was almost impenetrable. He didn’t need to worry about getting damaged, because his armor absorbed all damage and kept him totally unscathed. It was almost unfair, because she recalled how it withstood even constant pounding from a brave warrior once, who was killed at the end of the battle. I wondered how Jacob had managed to penetrate it, and asked her. “I do not know – I always assumed that it had some sort of magic that could not be pierced by physical means. But perhaps Jacob’s strength was so gargantuan that he could actually pierce it,” she explained, “I don’t really know.” Dylan moved in for the kill. He opened up his robes again and this time pulled out a dagger. Jedrus was so shocked that it was funny. Dylan concentrated, and then drove it into his soft, flabby underskin. Jedrus released a scream that pierced the ears of everyone; it was the menacing shriek of a dying animal, releasing sorrow and almost prompting tears from the agony of the beast. It was dually a dark shadow in everyone’s memory that would last forever, and a lifting of a similar dark shadow, a single beam of light striking out from the dark clouds cast overhead. It was hope, but it was also the dying words of a beast in agony. Jedrus slumped to the ground, dead. It was interesting, the reaction. Mr. Smith didn’t appear. The crowd didn’t cheer, and they didn’t boo. No officials called off the match, no announcement came over the loudspeaker. Nothing. The spot light just shone on Dylan and the corpse of Jedrus. Defense Against Demons had revealed the demon’s key weakness, the weak armor in their back. Directly under it, paradoxically, is their heart. Perhaps the shadows residing within them pushed it their, or maybe it was the hidden curse of their nigh-impenetrable armor. Either way, once attacked, it was over for them. The first thing that happened was the Dylan’s hands began to tremble. He pulled his dagger out of the monster’s side and put it back in his cloak, removed his spell and
collected himself. Then, nature took the next step: a droplet of rain fell on my nose. And soon the rain hurled out of the clouds and soaked everyone. Many left, but none of the fights, we sat their and almost enjoyed the rain. When I looked closely, I could see the blood now coming from Jedrus’ body. It mixed with the rain and diluted. Soon, it came out in greater force, and it was at that point where Dylan stood on the field, the lights were turned off and we were the only ones left in the stands. The rain gave a solacing sound, and finally, we had to leave. We walked out with our heads hung down and soaking wet. The lights in the hallways bugged me and I bet everyone else. Let me explain it this way: Have you ever taken a shower with the lights in the room turned off? I bet for some people it might be depressing, but for me, it is the best. The peace of the dark with the water coming down from the shower head is relaxing and soothing. It only really works in the morning when you are still half asleep, but you get to chill and kind of fall half-asleep. The lights just remind you of how you need to get out of the shower and get dressed, and what a busy day you might have. With the lights off, you find peace. For us, the lights in the hallway were kind of like the lights in the bathroom. They disrupted the semi-gloomy mood maybe when some of us wanted it that way, because it relaxing – not celebratory, but not sad and depressed either. We just wanted to go back to the apartments and sleep, trying to find order in the chaos. Maybe we could celebrate tomorrow, maybe not – but for the moment, just peace. And silence. … … … … … … … … “Pat, are you awake?” I looked up drowsily. Madam Jordan hung over me; she was wearing a slightly happy expression, uncharacteristic of her. “What?” I groaned. “It’s 12:00. We all slept for a long time, seemingly eons, but none as long as you.” “Well, let me go back to sleep,” I said, pulling the covers over me, which were wet and knocked me out of my drowsiness. “Ah, darn blanket,” I said. “So, you’re awake?” “Yeah,” I said, standing up and stretching, “Why?” “Well, despite our regrets – now Dylan has to hide as a shadow, just like Jacob – we have to advance the plan. And you know the next part involves you.” “Yeah, but do we have too? Jedrus – he’s dead. We are fine with only one demon, right? Or can we at least wait a while? I mean – I don’t know why, but the death of the demon – it was more sad than it was scary. I don’t know why I would have sympathy, but I do.” “We all feel that way, Pat,” Madam Jordan said, garbed in full armor, standing up from the bed that she had been sitting on, “We are all confused, but something leaves this world when a demon dies – they say they are corrupt souls trapped in the armor, and
killing them – it sets a punished one free and on the path of redemption. We didn’t necessarily feel for the demon – maybe we were sympathetic for the wayfaring soul we released.” I didn’t know what to say. “Pat, we can’t let everyone down. We have to put the next part of the plan into action.” I stood up from the bed, and grabbed my Katana, that was laid by the foot of the bed. I strapped it on. “You’re right. Let’s get going.” We walked out of the now-empty room since we had left (all the others were either helping with this phase of the plan or relaxing in their apartments). Today we were too put into effect two events that would have great usefulness later. One was in case of failure; the other was to aid in success. I was the integral part of the later, while Vail headed the former. Why choose me? Let me explain. Jacob strongly recommended me for this part because of my willingness to get the mission done when necessary. Also, not being a fighter, the demon (I was indeed supposed to meet with the remaining demon) would reportedly not feel threatened by my presence here if I told him I was not a signed fighter, which I was not. Even then, I was still incredibly scared, even backed up by the fact that the rest of the people involved in this part of this step of the plan would try everything to ensure my safety. Madam Jordan lead my down the hall. This time the lights didn’t seem disrupting, in fact, I enjoyed how they right now particularly felt like natural, warm, fresh sunlight, rather than the corked up light from bulbs. It only boosted my determination. After a while of walking, we stopped. “You must go alone from here,” she said, looking down a hallway that didn’t look particularly threatening, but I knew it was. For at the end of the hall were the lavish rooms (or rather now room) or the demons, number 1366 and 1467. Because of their size each of the whole blocks was a room for them, being much larger than a regular room. “I know. Wish me luck.” “Good luck,” she said, and she slipped an autograph book into my hands. I grasped it tightly. I looked up at her. “Thanks,” and with that, I started down the hallway. I was apprehensive, quite scared, to know I was near the remaining demon, Kliken Sathrin. As I approached an eerie ensemble of flutes and rings faintly caught my near, which creeped me out. It was lovely – tempting to find – but I resisted, I thought it was some sort of trap. When I came to the door I noticed it took up a whole side of the block, a gigantic double-door, and that on one side of it was a smaller human sized door that I knocked on. I trembled. From behind the door I heard a low rumbling. “Brave, or foolish one, who dare knocks?” “Excuse me,” I said, trying to not sound scared, but it didn’t really work, “I’m not a fighter. I’ve come to get your autograph because I am your biggest fan.” He laughed, which was like wolves howling. “Come on in,” he said. I opened the door and walked in. The room was surprisingly different than I expected – instead of very morbid, horrible room that I thought he would enjoy, the room
was lavish and comfy, with him seated in a large lounge chair (many times larger than myself). I sat myself on a nice, comfy chair next to the door. “So,” he said in his deep, terrifying voice, “You really wish for an autograph from me?” he laughed again, which made me shake. “Yea. You’re the best fighter here; I don’t understand why you think this is weird.” “I don’t, just . . .” he trailed off, “people don’t understand me. I’m scary. You’re not frightened?” I bit my lip, trying not to shake. “Nope, I am just shaking with excitement, because this is so cool. Sometimes I can’t control my body like that.” “I’m afraid I can’t sign your autograph book,” he said. I suddenly was alarmed, as if he had found me out, but tried to hide it. “My hands are too big.” I sighed. Then again, he was right, the whole autograph things wasn’t too good of a ploy. It didn’t make sense, a dedicated fan overlooking the fact that his favorite fighter himself was too big too sign a small autograph book. Suddenly, he started unloading it on me. “You . . . why don’t you find me scary?” “What do you mean?” “Well, I am terrifying . . . it is one of my most powerful strengths, just the sheer intimidation. I feel . . . both insulted and flattered.” Suddenly, some sort of bizarre rush of a life story rained down on me. He told me about his strength above other demons and how he has always been pushed and sent out to do the toughest work. How he initially was a runt but became strong because of that. He became strong because it was to fend off the others who attacked him. It seemed almost a little human, but it was much fiercer; as where humans would pick on each other, these demons nearly killed him when he was very little. He told me about how he came here, which was an interesting story. He lived as a higher up of Articivitas, but, of course, was sent from his leisurely life to try and take over this place. I made a mental note of his life story. “Wow, I never knew any of that,” I said, when he finished. “I don’t tell anybody that. I guess I have more anxiety than I thought.” I felt sympathetic. Then I was trying to beat it out of myself, why should I? I thought we all hated this guy, that he ruthless and killed our friends. Was he misguided or something? I had to tell myself no, but I was still thinking about if he was. Suddenly, I remembered Madam Jordan’s words: “something leaves this world when a demon dies – they say they are corrupt souls trapped in the armor, and killing them – it sets a punished one free and on the path of redemption.” He was a lost soul – perhaps bullied by the other lost souls, but one nonetheless – waiting to be freed. It was a humane side of him of I was seeing – almost as if the lost soul was remerging – and it was calling to me from deep within the armor, telling me to free it. I have always been careful to not be fooled by over devotion to something – like getting so deeply into religion that I reject everything that doesn’t fall into its guidelines. So I took a step back and saw how it could just be the humane side of the demon itself – I
considered how even in the evilest of evils there can be a slight glimmer, if tiny, but still there nonetheless, of goodness. And it was unearthing itself, coming into view. “You are . . . kind to me,” he said. I looked up at him. I really didn’t know what to say. Suddenly, his attention was pulled away from me. His face turned red with rage. “You are the worst kind of evil! You try to comfort me, but are just a spy! Come here!” I didn’t have a choice; he pulled me and nearly crushed my bones. I heard a sharp snap after some squeezing and I knew it was a leg bone. His eyes raged, “Did you think I would not notice the pitiful fighters around here?” “I won’t play dumb,” I said, him squeezing the life out of me. I barely got the words out, “But to be honest, I didn’t know you could be humane until I met you.” “Lies! You fighters killed Jedrus - and Jacob killed Cagnazzo long ago. I cannot even spare your life.” My face went pale, and he squeezed me again. I felt a sharp pain and a muscle tore, it was excruciating. I decided, if I die, that I must at least advance the plan. Since my arms were stuck at my sides, I wrestled a small vial out of my pocket filled with purple liquid and flipped off the cap. I splashed it vigorously on his hand, unlike the more subtle way I was supposed to do it when he bent down near me to sign the autograph book. He screeched violently and let me go. I fell to the ground as he tended to his hand, which was searing with pain from the liquid. It was a foreign liquid that had great healing effect when rubbed on the body, so much as to magically heal cuts, bruises and wounds. It didn’t dry up when it was used, and only could be removed magically. On demons, however, it had the reverse effect. While the original plan was to pour a droplet that was very small, and since he was so large, the droplet would spread and damage him, until the effect was only noticeable once he was fighting George tomorrow. At that point it would have eaten away the armor on his hand and left him vulnerable there. From there, once inside the armor, it was easy to remove more chunks. We chose to take this approach rather than the skin on the back approach we took with Jedrus because Kliken was so large George could not reach his back, and was semi-potent at magic, not enough to remove the liquid, but enough to free himself from most traps. So this would be our best bet. However, since the effect was immediately noticeable when splashed largely, he let me go and tended to his hand. I rushed out of the room immediately before he could grab me again. I ran, ran far down the hallway at desperate speed. I heard a roar, and he came thundering out of his room, crashing through the large double doors that took up one whole wall. He came storming down the hall at an alarming rate, thump, thump, and roared devilishly. I sweated cold sweat and I almost tripped as he neared. Suddenly, a swift wind it almost seemed to be picked me up. I was still running, but not going anywhere. Then, I realized Jacob had grabbed me and was carrying me away. “Jacob?” I said. “Yeah. Hold on tight, Pat, we have to escape.”
With that he ran even faster, departing from the demon, and rounding a corner, kicking up dust. All around me was a blur, and next thing I knew, we were back at the protected part of the apartments. We came inside and I laid on a bed. “Jacob, I’m sorry,” I immediately said. “It’s okay, you’re safe now. You tried your best, and now his armor may even be whittled away by his fight with George.” “So then why didn’t we just splash the whole thing on his in the first place?” “Well, it would have put you in mortal danger – he probably would have killed you instantly,” he explained. “I was about to die if I didn’t use. He had me in his grasp, about to kill me, and I freed myself and ran.” Jacob didn’t respond, but I started wondering about what the demon said. “Jacob, when the demon thought I was a fan of his, he seemed a little bit human – like he was capable of being nice,” I almost felt a tear come to my eye, “He seemed . . . happy, to know someone in this world liked him. Then he only became more furious when he discovered, somehow, that fighters were spying.” “I heard the whole story while I was spying,” Jacob said, “I don’t know what to think.” “I almost don’t want to kill him now. In fact, after what Jedrus’ death was, I don’t want to kill him.” “Pat,” he said, sitting down on the bed I was sitting on, “You are a smart kid. Definitely smarter than me – I never was the best student. I know you would be skeptical about killing him, but you have to know,” he said, “That killing the demon is different than killing a person. It’s like removing a prisoner’s shackles, killing the demon, not killing the prisoner.” “But what if that’s not true? Madam Jordan wasn’t sure. What if they are beings in themselves, with their own souls, not the ones of others? What if . . . what if we can redeem them?” Jacob didn’t respond, but I knew he had expected me to say that, and just not knew how to answer. He tried his best: “The fact of the matter, whether there are trapped souls or not,” Jacob said, “is that no matter how humane he seems, he killed many of us, and one of his peers killed my best friend. We can’t remove him without killing him, and if we don’t, Dylan and I will have to hide, and everyone will be trapped in fear of the demons, and eventually demons will take over this world if we don’t remove him now, in the early stages.” “But we can’t redeem him? Is there no other way?” “The good are often forced to do the bad to expel the bad. It is sad, but true – some are so evil and unreasonable that even the virtuous must kill to try and protect their virtues, paradoxically. It is a sad cycle of evil.” I took that in and began to understand him. “Well, Pat, I have work to do, so you rest for the day. It’s been stressful enough for you already in the last hour.” I didn’t argue with that logic. “Thanks, Jacob.” “See you later.” I nodded to him, and he left the room and ran off.
I sat there for a while wondering what to do. I felt sort of unsafe because I didn’t think the demon-ward was up, but that was because there was no one else in the room, so it was quiet, peaceful and uncluttered for the first day in a long while. Eventually I turned on the T.V. and watched it for a while, and felt guilty for not aiding in the other part of today’s step in the plan. I sat there watching some comedy show anyway. Jacob didn’t return, and it was late at night and no one else had come back. It was nearly eleven when I fell asleep. I opened my eyes drearily. The soothing light from the window behind me shone down and awoke me. I quickly got up, and looked around. Everything was in the same order as before. The covers were on me like when I had fallen asleep, and no one else was there, and no one had disturbed the room. I looked up at a clock, and saw that it was 11. 11! I hadn’t slept for 12 hours, had I? It seemed impossible. But somehow I must have, and realized that I had to get to the arena. Later today was the big match, where we, even if we don’t want too, defeat Kliken and ensured our freedom. I got up and rushed to the arena. I didn’t feel unsafe in the hallways for reasons unknown. Maybe I felt like we had already slayed him. Or maybe I felt like I was on top of the world, surviving an encounter with the demon. For whatever reason, I threw caution to the wind. When I arrived I realized I didn’t have money to buy a ticket. Normally Dylan, or Madam Jordan, or Vail, or someone would buy me one. But now I didn’t have anyone with me or any money to buy one myself. Suddenly I heard a loud stomping from behind me, and Melody crashed into me. “Hey, Pat, I haven’t seen you in a while,” she said, dusting herself off and picking the two of us. “Well, it’s probably because you were almost dead for a while,” I said. “True. They said I was extremely lucky to not be paralyzed – Vail explained how they were sure I was not going to be able to walk.” “Well, it’s great that you are okay,” I said. “Yeah. But let me tell you – If I ever see that Euechis again, I’ll kill him.” “Not surprising,” I said. She looked over at the ticket booth. “Are you trying to get in? Fighters get in for free, so I don’t have to buy a ticket. I have some extra money though, so I’ll buy you a ticket.” “Cool, thanks.” “No problem.” She pulled out a few coins of an odd metal that was extremely dark and reflected little light. It had no shine, as if it was tarnished. She turned around and gave them to the ticket-booth man and took a ticket. “Here you go,” she said, handing it to me. “Thanks,” I said, handing it back to the ticket booth man who ripped off a piece and returned the stub to me. We walked in. The match wasn’t happening for a while, but there was a lot of excitement among the fighters anyway. The arena was nearly full, which was surprising for so early in the morning.
Each fight took place with enthusiasm, and produced some great matches. In one, the arena was now full, and the crowd was roaring through the whole thing about the back-and forth strategic battle of wits and power. After each match both of the fighters came out to the crowd of fighters and eventually everyone except George and, of course, Kliken was there. Once the exciting day drew close to the match, two fighters came out: Euechis and Vail. It was the penultimate match, an appetizer for the final match. Vail was motivated by Euechis’ attack on Melody, and Euechis motivated by his apparent lack of skill – when Madam Jordan put him in his place; he had started training, becoming better. So now the two minds clashed. And it was so exciting; I’ll tell it to you here: They had come out with no announcement. The loudspeaker projected their words, like most of matches after 3 or so, because they were the larger matches (the demons [or rather now, demon] were never in a match before 3). It was around 9, and very dark. Overhead the stars twinkled, unaffected by the excitement. On the stage the lights were on, though not centered on the fighters but just the stage in general. “Begin!” the stadium official said, but neither did anything. After the silence, Vail said, “Euechis, if I could, you would not leave this arena alive.” The crowd cheered. Then, silence, as Euechis spoke, “Well then, let’s fights.” “Gladly,” Vail said, and then it began. Vail stepped back and opened up his cloak, casting it aside, revealing an array of clothes on formal pants and a vest. Euechis took a step forward, and swung his Waton Board. Vail jumped over it. “You will need much more than just that Waton Board to win,” Vail said, pulling out a particular scroll and opening it. The parchment cracked and almost fell apart, and Vail began reading off the words, “The ground dost wish to grab thy foe,” in old English. Suddenly, from above, Euechis’ Waton Board rained down. Vail took a step to the side, still reading, “So be sealed to the ground with woe,” Euechis grunted and swung his board from the side again. Vail dodged it again. “In the ground you will stay,” he recited. Euechis swung his Waton board again sideways, Vail jumped again. “Until I dispel you away.” Euechis jumped up and threw his Waton board down, it crashed into the ground and made a smashing sound. When he landed and tried to pull it back for another strike though, it stuck. “Now I get to play with you,” Vail said. As he approached Euechis struggled to lift the board but finally realized it was impossible. Vail now stood in front of him, and he took out not a scroll, but a long scepter with a glowing orb at the top. It was wooden and carved beautifully with designs. “I won’t flat out defeat you – I will bring you to the brink of despair and then pull you back to defeat you,” Vail said. In retrospect, it was horrific to do such a thing even to Euechis, but Vail was angry beyond belief. He waved the scepter and a veil of shadows sprung up around him and covered the arena. It disappeared with Vail standing at the top of the line of ascending pedestals on the stage, looking down at Euechis. He couldn’t spot Vail.
“Let’s play a game. I have made a taboo action, and when you do it, you will fell intense pain, like 1000 needles shooting into your body. Can you avoid the Taboo for 3 minutes?” Euechis finally found Vail. He didn’t say anything, but Vail jumped down and faced him anyway. “Why you-” Euechis said, and tried to punch him. However, it was the taboo action, a magical trap causing the 1000 needles effect. Euechis dropped to the ground and cringed in pain, screaming desperately and wiggling around. “Shame, you couldn’t control yourself?” Vail said. Euechis looked at him despairingly. “How about another try? I changed the Taboo. Now, can you survive for 2 minutes?” Vail said. Euechis struggled up to the ground, and took a step back from Vail, having learned his lesson. “You monster.” He said, exasperatedly. Suddenly, Vail became very passionate. “I’m a monster!? You hurt the innocent! That is why I am doing this to you!” Euechis breathed heavily. “You hurt her! She almost died,” Vail recoiled back from his rage, asking, “Do you even know who she was?” “Melody was her-” Euechis cringed and fell to the ground again. He writhed in pain, and held his head, screaming an ear-piercing scream. “Taboo number 2: Saying Melody.” He said. Euechis didn’t even pay attention; he was screaming a blood-curdling scream that scared me. “I’ll give you one more chance: only 1 minute. If you survive, then I will finish you off. If not, then you don’t even want to know what will happen,” Vail said. As he said I noticed him breathing heavily, and I realized how hard it must be to replicate the effect of 1000 needles twice, especially for an action as general as punching. In fact, he probably made the “say melody” one more specific because he didn’t have the strength to make another magic trap so general. Euechis stood there, staring at him. “Just finish me.” He said. “Not until the game is over,” Vail said. “Screw the game!” He said, having an outburst of anger. He punched Vail and Vail stumbled backwards on his but. The crowd gasped and cheered at the turn of events. “You are sadistic,” he said, “You enjoy playing with your food. Do you do this to everyone?” He said, grabbing Vail’s collar. He started sweating. “Only the people who deserve it,” he said, smiling wryly. “Vail, stop!” Melody screamed from the crowd. He heard it loud and clear. Euechis dropped him and looked up at Melody. She jumped from the group of fighters down onto the stage despite the effort of everyone to stop her and her crazy self. “Vail can’t control his anger,” Melody said, standing in front of him. Euechis stepped back. “Why did you attack me?” she said. Euechis turned white and looked away. “Why!?”
“Because . . .” he trailed off. Melody didn’t wait for him to finish. She smacked him in the face with a raw punch that knocked him out and sent him flying off into the sand pit below. The crowd jumped up and cheered wildly. “Vail, I wanted to finish him!” She said, turning to him and helping him up. Before Vail could say anything, the cheering stopped and Mr. Smith appeared. “Melody, what are you doing?” He said angrily. She would have punched him too if she knew she could do it, but there was something odd about Mr. Smith, with his ability to stop even the punch of an enraged Jacob. He seemed invincible. “Explain yourself!” “He almost killed me!” “So you almost kill him back?” “I shouldn’t ever have had the chance to almost kill him back!” She yelled exasperatedly. “You should have never hired him!” He grabbed Melody’s hand and lifted her up off the ground. She dangled from her one hand and didn’t attempt anything, to some of the more vigorous crowd member’s disappointment. “Melody, you are your friend are fired.” The crowd stood up and was so enraged I thought they were going to storm the stage. They booed and threw trash onto the field. “Shush! You will all leave if you don’t shut up!” The crowd was silenced, to their dismay. He had officials march Melody and Vail away. “As for the rest of you,” he said, pointing at the crowd, “You will behave yourselves, or suffer the consequences. Then he disappeared as quickly as he had come, and the next match started immediately. It was weird, starting off on such a threatening note. In fact, no one had any enthusiasm; the excitement was gone and replaced by rage and furiousness. “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Tonight, as the main attraction, the up and coming hero, George Macklin, will battle the furious, Kliken Sathrin!” George marched on stage. He was wirery but strong, wearing a casual t-shirt and some nicer battle pants that were black. On both hands he had a bracer, each one extra sharp, and his hair was frazzled and scraggly. It was amazing that he was about my age. On the opposing side, marched out Kliken. He was vastly different this time, though. When he approached haze seemed to fill the air and block out the stars. I struggled to see the monster. The crimson red skin hung over his body, with sharp bones point out and ripping through the skin. His head was a contorted shape, his mouth in a constant state of screaming, though noise never came out. His left arm was eaten away by the purple liquid. Under the armor was an exposed flabby skin, with bones protruding out, which were more painful looking that the bones that came through the armor. It seared, burning away the seaming haze around him. Every once and a while he would feel his arm and cringe at the pain that coursed through his body. The two of them stood on the stage, facing each other, staring intensely. The crowd was immersed in the silence from before the match, before the storm that would
sweep away the darkness and bring the hope and freedom of living without the demons. But the question everyone was thinking: Could George do it? Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, the match began. George burst forward with speed, rushing up to meet the demon. However, Kliken stomped and his foot met George. Everyone held their breath, and it seemed the match was over as quickly as it had started. Everyone wondered if that was really it, and a tear even came to my eye from the disappointment. Suddenly the whole fighters section burst into tears and Kliken released his howling laugh. It screeched through the night and everyone held their ears. “Fools!” he bellowed to the section of weeping fighters, “You really thought this puny thing could save you!” We didn’t respond, we couldn’t. It was all over, the whole plan, and he would kill us and that would be the end of it . . . it was the end for us. A crack was heard throughout the whole stadium, so loud I’m sure people far away could hear it, if only faintly. We were too preoccupied to notice, but someone tapped my shoulder. It was Madam Jordan. “Look!” I looked down at the foot that killed George. Slowly, unbeknownst to the demon, it was lifting up off the ground, higher, and higher, until it was visible, the light in the darkness: George! The news spread throughout the arena, suddenly everyone seeing while the demon laughed. “I win!” He said, “I win!” Suddenly, he noticed, as George was holding up his foot. He shouted out to the demon: “I will not lose to anyone, especially you!” he said. Then, he threw the foot up and the demon lost his balance, toppling over into a section of the arena. The people dispersed and George ran along the armor, following his body up to his head. He stood there, looking all valiant, following in the footsteps of Jacob. “This is for everyone here – the strongest punch I have ever given!” George pulled back his arm and unleashed a punch that howled through the night, and hit the demon’s armor. But nothing happened. Not even a dent. George collapsed to his knees, and the demon began his laugh again. “That’s your best?” George didn’t move or anything. “Ha!” He roared into the night, “If that’s the case, then I will destroy you all now! Better time then ever!” We didn’t expect him to reach his hand over and he fished out a group of fighters from the fighter’s section. The civilians scattered and fled. Except for me, because he had specifically tried to grab me. He placed us down on his stomach. “Where is the little traitor?” he said, searching through the crowd for me. I was hid by several, and tried to crawl away.
“Ah, found you!” he bellowed, picking me up. “I will save you, the sweetest, for last,” then, he picked up the pirate who had given me directions, and dropped him into his mouth. I heard crunching. “Delicious! I should try another!” he said. The fighter’s didn’t stand there – they valiantly split up and ran around, trying to attack him. A few group threw powerful shots and tried to crack his armor, but couldn’t. The rest of the fighters stormed over and tried attacking, but no matter what anyone did, he kept taking fighters and crunching them up. The whole scene seemed surreal, as if it was all happening in slow motion. The massacre . . . it was horrible, too horrible too watch. But I had too. I saw George still sitting on the armor, looking paralyzed by his failure. His eyes stared off into space, and then, someone passed him, and I saw Jacob standing behind him. He put his arm on George’s shoulder, and nothing still happened. I looked around and saw Giants pounding away and doing no damage. The Centaur stood alone and kicked fiercely, but had no effect. I saw Madam Jordan and Dylan beating away with lances, swords and magic respectively. I saw everyone and everything I had seen here and more joining together, all in vain. I shook myself out of the trance I was in and realized something extremely important – Kliken was laying on his back. I didn’t want to jump 10 feet or so, but I did anyway, off his belly and into the empty bleachers. I landed and cut myself badly on the arm, but didn’t care. I ran over to his shoulder, and noticed there was a gap between him and the bleachers, his back was accessible. It was pretty narrow though. I crawled under it nonetheless. Under his back it was cold and dark, almost nothing could be seen. For what I was doing I might as well as have been blind. I crawled around and felt his back, despite how uncomfortable it was. Suddenly, what I was looking for! I felt a soft piece of skin, and pulled at it. It easily tugged off, and I felt there again and pulled off more and more of it until suddenly, I felt my hand touch something moving. I was freaked at first, but then I realized – it was the heart. I fiddled for my Katana, barely being able to pull it out of its sheath. I was able to get it out, and said a few final words. “Be free, wayward soul.” I went to plunge it in, but I couldn’t it. I had second doubts, I was too weak to even hurt a man, never mind kill a demon. I couldn’t do it and didn’t want to. But I had too. I remembered Jacob’s words: “The good are often forced to do the bad to expel the bad.” I gripped onto every word of encouragement I ever had and had to shed my inhibitions. I fought a fierce mental battle with myself to do it or not. My hand went to do it again and again but my mind refused. I tore myself apart trying to do it. I couldn’t kill it, someone else had too. But I knew I was the only one who could, I was the one who had too. I forced the blade forward, screaming, and heard a sound only describable as a splunge. For a moment nothing happened, but then I felt a drop of hot blood on my face, and then it came pouring out.
Suddenly, I could hear the demon scream in higher agony than Jedrus had. He curled up and revealed the light, letting me stand up. I got up quickly and ran away from under him. I saw all the fighters on his belly fall off into the sand pit below and the stadium, and he writhed in pain. He screamed and shouted and convulsed. Overhead, the clouds gathered and I felt a raindrop on my head. Then more, and more, and they made the whole world turn damp and I could barely see because of the downpour. I looked as hard as I could, and only saw as the horror played out before my eyes: The demon, instead of dying, stood up and stretched to his full height. He gathered people and was eating a few at a time. I had not killed him. Chapter 17 It was menacing – the beast wasn’t even playing anymore. He was just savagely eating handfuls. It was brutal. The rain obscured my vision, but I didn’t know what to do anyway. There was nothing I could do – how was he alive? Then, hope came in the form of Jacob. I saw a yellow and brown bullet shoot up the arm of the beast and deliver and crackling blow that shattered the armor. The beast recoiled back and fell, and I grew excited and Jacob and a slew of other unknowns – because I couldn’t fully see them – started cracking away the armor, which now came off easily. I decided to come over. I ran and jumped from the bleachers, just reaching the stage and carrying myself up onto it. I looked at the fighters and saw that everyone I knew was still alive and joining Jacob – Madam Jordan, Dylan and Jacob where all there. Surprisingly, I saw Master Maxwell and Critis too. Master Maxwell wielded a broadsword well Critis was blasting the shield with some kind of magic. I climbed onto the body from the toes and met up with them. The demon struggled when everyone was on him, and grabbed blindly into the crowd, his eyes blotted out by the rain. He grabbed me again. “Someone! Help!” I screamed desperately as he lifted me toward the mouth. “Pat!” Jacob screamed, but it was too late. He dropped me. Something came out of nowhere and pushed me out of the way, landing between the demon’s eyes. “Don’t you ever eat anyone else!” He screamed. It was George. “I’m sorry I couldn’t deliver everything I promised to be last time, but I will this time!” George said. He sleeves were torn, and he recoiled back his punch and threw it at blazing speeds, crashing into the armor between the demon’s eyes. It cracked and splintered, starting at that point, and the rest of the armor started cracking, following down to his legs where it all fell apart instantly. Now, the slothful, true form of the demon was apparent. He was a giant yellowish mash of fat with dark, evil eyes and flabby arms and legs. Totally useless, I thought. The demon screeched in terror when everyone saw, in the middle of its chest, its second heart. So he had two hearts, the one I pierced, and the other, as a backup, I guess. Now it was just a matter of finishing it. Jacob took the honors. We walked up to the demon’s fat face, and told him:
“So, it turns out I will be defeating you after all, Kliken.” He just screeched in response. Jacob turned around and came close to the heart. “Goodbye.” He said, and jumped up and landed down with an earth-shattering punch to heart, that disgustingly made it explode and squirt out its contents among the area. The demon squirmed and screeched one last time, a dark, menacing roar that filled the sky and echoed on. Then it slumped onto the floor, dead. Jacob stood, trembling. The rain covered him, as it did all of us. I went over to him. “We did it,” Jacob said. The other fighters were so shocked they didn’t even do anything. They were anxious – was it really over? They thought. “Its over,” Jacob said again. The other fighters looked at each other and just collapsed to the ground, glad to be done. They could relax. There was no applause or celebration, only peace, which is what we wanted all along. Everyone else had presumably fallen asleep or collapsed from exhaustion except Jacob, George and I. George came over and we both held up Jacob. “It was exhausting,” George said, “But it’s done.” The rain slightly softened and I could see most of the people around me. We didn’t do anything for a while, 10 minutes or so, and the rain stopped. George, Jacob and I sat down and breathed heavily. I looked up to the sky and wondered if a lost soul was flying away, freed from its dark prison. Suddenly, at the other side of the demon, the ominous Mr. Smith appeared in a puff of smoke. He walked over, careful to avoid puddles in the flaps of fat that had formed. He came upon us, looking down. “I would have saved Kliken before, but it was raining, and I would get my suit wet,” he said. What kind of excuse was that? “Shame on you fiends, killing him. And I see you and Dylan are still here, Jacob. I can have the hunters here in several minutes – you will not be given peace. You will die for not doing as you were told, and leaving.” Jacob shot up from the ground and punched him in the face. He didn’t block or anything, just flew back feet away. “We’re fiends? He was eating us! How could you condone with someone so mad!?” Jacob said. He was fired up, he was going to attack Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith got up. “Jacob, the hunters will be here in 7 minutes, and then it will be over. So you think you can kill me and survive the hunters?” “I originally didn’t care If I killed you or not, because both of the demons are gone. But I realize you would just do it all over again, so now getting rid of you is the most important part of the plan.” Mr. Smith laughed. “You don’t really want to fight do you?” he said. Jacob grabbed his arm and cringed, he was heavily injured. “Yes, I still do.” Mr. Smith laughed again. “Okay, if you wish your own death.” Mr. Smith suddenly underwent a shocking transformation. His whole body dispersed into a cloud of black smoke, and a human figure emerged from the smoke,
being merged with it. It was an entirely dark, solid black figure, the only distinguishable feature being the white eye hole that dropped down on his supposed face and a white mouth hole. It was an odd smoke being. “I am the king of the demons in Articivitas. Kliken and Jedrus were my subjects. You stand no chance.” Jacob looked up still determined. George turned to me. “We have to stop the hunters,” he said to me. “But how?” I said. “Our best bet is a ward, but we will need the magicians to do it. Find them and wake them up.” I ran over to Dylan, and shook him vigorously. He jolted out of the sleep or unconsciousness, whichever one it was. “Huh? Pat?” he said. “Yeah, Dylan this is important, no time to explain. Get up.” He stood up drowsily and dusted himself off. “Dylan, where are the other magicians.” “For what?” he said, now alert. “A ward against the hunters.” “Of course! We should have remembered that. I’ll get them and prepare quickly,” he said. Meanwhile, Jacob stared down the human size king of demons from the world Critis came from. “So that’s been the scheme all along. You were helping the world takeover.” “Indeed. Now, I’m afraid you must die.” He lunged his dark hands forward and grabbed Jacob by the neck, squeezing the life out of him. Jacob struggled and punched, but it only messed with the smoke, and had no effect on Mr. Smith, or the king, or whatever you wanted to call him. Suddenly, Mr. Smith was thrown away from Jacob by some mysterious force and rebounded back. I looked to my side and saw Dylan putting away a scroll. “Jacob,” he called to him, “Be careful not to touch him, you can’t escape. I have a plan, just don’t die.” “No problem,” he yelled back. Dylan went through the people unconscious on the floor and shook a few of them, waking them up and explaining the situation immediately. In a minutes, the magicians George had met up him. “Okay, now we can start my plan. Pat, George, just stand within the ward, and the hunters can’t come near you.” We nodded; we knew it was out of our hands now. Dylan took the magicians aside and they scattered to six locations, forming a slightly <work describing curvature of an oval> oval. In the center of their oval was Jacob avoiding Mr. Smith. He threw his arms and body parts all over the place, and Jacob put all his strength into carefully dodging them. Mr. Smith became increasingly angry and fiercer. “Okay, now,” Dylan shouted to the other magicians, “The hunter ward, on the outside.”
The magicians all put their hands together and forced them forward, making a barrier out of some sort of struggling, moving substance that acted like fire but didn’t hurt. “What is this?” I said. “Its mana,” he said, “very concentrated mana. Because of how this mana is channeled, the hunters will not be able to come near it.” I looked up and saw that the ceiling of the dome was only about 3 yards off the ground. We were encased in this barrier that radiated blue, giving everything a blue tinge. In the center, Jacob was tiring, barely dodging some strikes. “Now, everyone put up a ward inside this one against demons.” Dylan took one of his hands off the outside barrier, and it immediately faded a bit. Once everyone had removed one hand it was translucent, but still clearly visible. Then, the magicians placed their free hands on the other side of them and formed another, equally translucent barrier that warded off demons. I watched the results. Mr. Smith almost was about to get Jacob again, but then, suddenly, he was forced back, bouncing off what seemed to be invisible walls until he came to a complete spot, confined in the center of the barrier. “Now, since Mr. Smith is on the inside of the demon ward, he can only reside in the center, where the ward is weakest. He is trapped there. Now if we can find a way to finish him-” Dylan gasped and fell to his knees. The barriers immediately became much more see through; they almost seemed to not be there. Mr. Smith expanded a bit, but the two wards were still barely in place. “Dylan, what is it?” I said. “Nothing,” he said, standing up and adding his energy to the wards again, “I’m just running out of magic. I can’t keep this up.” “No need to keep it up, old friend,” I heard a familiar voice say. I looked on the other side of the barrier, and not only were Vail and Melody back, having somehow escaped from the officials, but Euechis had woken up and come with them. He was carrying his Waton Board; I assumed Vail had freed it from the ground. “Guys!” Dylan said happily. “Its okay Dylan, your plan is brilliant. Let me step in, I’m rejuvenated and can handle it. Vail stepped in between the two wards and placed a hand on each. Suddenly, both of them became much more strong and opaque. Dylan stepped out, and after saying hi to Vail, I stepped out with him. Melody held up Dylan. “Pat, we have to finish this. The wards will only last for a few more minutes,” Melody said. “I thought you hated him,” I said, pointing to Euechis. “In desperate times like this, even your enemies are your friends. Euechis nodded. Melody took me and Euechis inside the barriers, and it was the three of us and Jacob inside the innermost one. Mr. Smith struggled to try and escape from his restricted spot, but he couldn’t. We walked over to Jacob. “I can’t . . .,” Jacob breathed heavily, “I can’t beat him. He’s no ordinary demon; we can’t do anything we did to him to anyone else.
Suddenly the wards fell in power greatly and Mr. Smith could expand almost to touch us. We moved away. “Darnit, we are running out of power here. Does anyone know a way to end it?” Vail said, struggling. “I do,” I heard another familiar voice, now awake. It was Critis, who came over and joined the barrier. It surged with power. Master Maxwell had come and helped the barrier too. “Pat, you have come far, but now we have to finish this,” Master Maxwell said. “Anyway, to defeat an apparition kind of demon like this, we need to give it the opposite of its source of power.” “Huh?” Jacob said. “He is a smoke demon, he comes from fire,” Critis said, “Splash it with water!” Jacob was too tired to do anything. Melody and Euechis and I looked at each other, and then went and got puddles of water off the ground. “Splash!” I yelled. I cupped some of the water in my hands and threw it at the demon. He screeched in detest and parts of him disappeared. “It’s working!” Melody said. “NOOO!” he screamed furiously. “I had been there at Articivitas, a part of me, to tell you, Jacob, and everyone else, you would die! I can’t end here, I have to fulfill my promise to kill you!” I remembered the voice that whispered death into our ears there. “Keep splashing!” Euechis said. He screamed in pain. “I . . . will not . . . end . . .” “That’s it! Just one more good splash!” Critis said. I threw the last blow, and then Vail signaled for everyone to drop the demon barrier. The last of the demon was hit by water and sizzled, the smoke dispersed and his last words echoed. “Damn you . . . damn you all.” Then, the smoke rose out into the night, and he was gone. The hunter ward became vastly stronger and they reported, would last for a while because they didn’t have to divide their power I sat down and though about what just happened. Jacob struggled to get up and walked over to me, all of us inside the barrier. We shook my hand and helped me up off the ground, or rather, Kliken’s belly. “Pat . . . thanks,” he said. “So what now?” Melody chimed in. “Well, the hunters and invincible, but they listen to their master and disappear when their master is defeated. So, they should be gone,” Dylan said weakly. “True,” Vail said, “Drop the ward.” The blue barrier let up and now we were standing, in the dead of night, at least midnight, after winning the final battle. Dylan was collapsed, as was many others. A few magicians, Vail, George and Master Maxwell stood around, with me, Jacob, Melody and Euechis standing in the center.
“He’s gone . . .” Jacob said, “He’s gone!” This time, the people conscious cheered and clapped. “What will we do? Who will manage the Stadium?” Melody said. “I know just the person,” Jacob said, “Pat.” I recoiled back. “Me!?” “Yeah. You’re smart, and nice, and will protect the people.” “I . . . I don’t know what to say,” I said. There was a silence. “But my home is not here – it’s far away.” The others looked disappointed. “I mean, I would love too, but what about my family and friends back home?” “Pat,” Master Maxwell started, “I think I know what to do. If you give me one week, then can you, for now, be the head officer of The Stadium?” I looked around. “Yes.” Everybody cheered. “As my first action as overseer of the Stadium,” I announced, “I hire back Dylan and Jacob.” They nodded to me. “As my second act, I want to clean this up – and then we can sleep, and I can get to work restoring this place to normality.” So we did. Everyone went around and picked up the people who were still unconscious and pilled them on one side of the Kliken. Then, with the combined strength of George, Melody and Jacob, Kliken was rolled to one side of the stage. “How they heck are we going to get rid of him?” Jacob said. “I think we can get him away with magic, but we should do it tomorrow. In fact, we should probably close this place for the next few days.” “Good idea. Can we take all the people back to their rooms and do this tomorrow?” “Well, I don’t know, you’re the head of the Stadium,” Jacob said. I thought about it. “Okay, let’s go. Everyone, carry as many as you can. I am probably the weakest, so I’ll get the littlest people. We went over the pile of 70 or so people, compared to the 130 or so before the fight with Kliken. We would honor those dead later. Suddenly there was a crash, and I saw the doors that came from the waiting room. There was a bunch of officials, the only remnants of Mr. Smith. “Hey, you guys, are you all the officials?” I shouted. They were puzzled by the casualness. “I believe so,” one of them said, and all the others agreed. I walked down to them and explained. “Mr. Smith is dead. You can stay here, but you have to answer to me.” “What? He’s dead?” one of them said. “Yes.” “Hooray!” they all shouted, “He was really cruel to us, making us wear these suits and whatnot.” “Wait, so you’re not loyal to him?” I said, surprised.
“No, we’ve been here before even Victor was the head of the Stadium. We are the . . .” They all threw off the suits, and revealed colorful clothing, almost like clowns, under the suits. “We are the stadium managers!” they said simultaneously. I almost dropped to the ground and started laughing. “Well, anyway, you guys are the people who help me manage the stadium?” “Yup. We’re willing to help you do whatever. We love this place, and I’ll tell you,” one of them said, tears began to stream down their eyes, “We’re so glad its back to freedom again.” Then all the others joined in crying, and I decided to leave the goofy bunch there. “Guys, do whatever, I’ll get to you tomorrow.” “Okay, boss,” one of them said, sobbing goofily, as I walked back to join everyone. “Wow, so they really are the stadium managers – I thought Mr. Smith had replaced them because he couldn’t control them. I didn’t imagine he forced them into those suits and made them act so finely,” Master Maxwell said. “What do you mean?” I said. “Before even Victor, the head of the Stadium before Mr. Smith was head, these guys were hired to help manage everything and carry out the head manager’s work. They always goof everything up though, but that’s why we liked them, I guess,” Jacob explained. “Master Maxwell is probably the only one old enough to remember when they were hired, replacing the robots before that.” “Indeed,” Master Maxwell said, “This place became a whole lot livelier one they came.” I had an Idea, and went back over to them. “Everyone, attention!” They all turned to me, still sobbing like the goofballs they were. “Yea, boss?” one of them said in a nasally voice. “See that pile of people over there?” I said, pointing to the pile of people. “Yeah,” they said simultaneously. “Can you guys help me and some other people carry them back to the rooms?” “Of course, boss!” The nasally one said. Together all of the 20 stadium managers, Jacob, Melody, Master Maxwell, Critis, Vail, Euechis, Dylan, the other magicians and I carried the fighters back to the four blocks of rooms we were staying in(nobody felt like distributing them to their proper rooms, we were going to do that later). In two trips we had everybody, and then everyone went to their own rooms, and plopped down on an empty spot, and slept peacefully for the first time in a long time. Chapter 18 I woke up early the next day and saw everybody conked out from last night. I decided, to get everything done, we would need everyone. I went around to everyone in the room and shook them awake. None of them were drowsy, but just asleep, as if almost magically. When I woke them up they stood to
attention. I woke up Madam Jordan first, who had been lugged to the room with some effort in her armor. When I did she jumped to attention, and then looked around and spotted me. “What the . . . Pat? What happened?” She said. “We . . . we did it. Kliken died, though his massive body hasn’t been removed, and we got rid of Mr. Smith.” “So now what?” she said, wondering. “Well, Jacob said I should be the head manage of the Stadium for a while, at least until we can clean up all the mess left by the demons and Mr. Smith. Then when everything is cleaned up, we can open the doors back up and decide a new head.” “The job suits you well,” she said. “Thanks.” “By the way, what do you mean by open the Stadium back up?” “Because of the mess, Jacob closed the doors and locked them until we could be prepared.” “Ah,” she said. “Anyway, can you go around and wake people up? They are all still in the rooms organized for the demon ward. We need everyone, from the stadium managers to the fighters to help.” “I will do it, Pat. You have earned my respect,” she said, and walked out of the room. I smiled smugly; it felt very powerful to have earned the respect of a Knight. Every person I woke up I had to explain the situation and sent them to help wake everybody up. I woke up Dylan last, because he had stayed up with me. Soon, everyone was gathered in the hallways, and I stood at the head of the crowd, with Jacob beside me. There was a loud talk among all the fighters, as they noticed those gone. “Everyone, we will honor the dead later! For now, we must clean up the filth left by Mr. Smith!” Jacob announced. Everyone silenced and looked at him. “What exactly happened last night?” one voice shouted out from the crowd. I stepped into the conversation, “We defeated Kliken, although at great expenses – we lost nearly 70 people. Before honoring them, we must clean this place up from the darkness left behind by the demons.” “But I mean, how did Mr. Smith get removed?” another fighter questioned from the crowd. “Once everyone was knocked out from the overwhelming joy of victory, Mr. Smith intruded on the field and showed his true form, actually being the kind of demons from the city Critis, a great benefactor to our freedom, came from. He had brought the demons in and treated them well in an attempt to take over this world. However, we dispelled him, and now he is gone. So we are totally free.” “Well, who will be overseer of the stadium now?” another fighter called out. “I think it should be Pat. He is smart and kind, he will make a great leader.” “I agree!” Dylan called out from the crowd. Various others joined in with Dylan agreeing. Soon the whole crowd was accepting me. “So then, should Pat lead us?” Jacob asked. The whole crowed roared an outstanding yes, and I felt so proud of myself.
“Hush!” I said, and got the crowd’s attention. “As my first act, I will organize the cleaning of what is left by Mr. Smith. All the fighters, as well as the stadium managers, who were forced by Mr. Smith to wear suits and act seriously, will be helping.” The crowd all smiled with happiness, these stadium managers seemed to bring joy to everyone. “So then, let’s begin!” I announced. Everyone roared. I split the workforce into three teams. The first was headed by Jacob, whose primary job was to remove Kliken from the arena. It included the strengths or Jacob, George and Melody, as well as several other strengths and some magicians. It would be a difficult job, but I was convinced their combined strengths could do it. The second group was divided into several smaller groups, each one to search a part of the building for remnants of his rule and remove them. No particular person headed the group, but people such as Master Maxwell and Critis and headed some of the smaller divisions of this group. The last group was headed by me, with multiple tasks involving organizing. Our first action was to head up to Mr. Smith’s former office (now mine) and look around. We scoured and found various official papers, such as fighter lists and rosters, which I looked over. Everyone else looked around the room for anything else he had left behind, and by the time we were done every trace of his rulership was gone. We had removed all his clothes from the cabinets and drawers in his personal room, and all the personal belongings had either been thrown out or given to Critis to analyze. The next thing I wanted to do with our group was organize the fighters into rooms, but since everyone was out working, it would have to wait. I decided next to find everyone else in the stadium – which included the chefs in the cafeteria, the various doctors that were contained in an entire medical wing, janitors, and trainers besides Maxwell. Some of them had been involved, but they all had separate rooming from the fighters, and were generally disconnected from what was happening in the other parts of the stadium. We went around to the branches and checked the lists of doctors, chefs, janitors and trainers to see if anyone had left. I thought their rooming was already organized enough, and each department was headed by an expert on their subject. I found out that Master Maxwell was head trainer. Once we had gathered all the information my group came back to the office, and we reviewed what parts of the building needed improvement. I took down notes on what should be done, and then dismissed everyone to one of the other groups and took a moment to review all the information I had. The day dragged on and once I had decided all that I needed, I went around and checked how the other groups were doing. Jacob and his group had removed most of the body outside the Stadium, not yet knowing what to do with it afterwards. I recommended building a giant grave. The cleaning people had all finished and I gathered them up and brought them to my new office. I took notes on what had to be done, and then had them all go and help the remove-Kliken effort. I joined them, and as we did the last parts of Kliken were removed. Then I split the group into two, one too join the Janitors ordered here to clean the area and remove small pierces, mostly armor chips, from the area. The other group was put outside and we began digging an enormous ditch to bury Kliken in.
When the sun set the cleaning group had finished and all the fighters were outside, joined by the stadium managers, digging vigorously. Deep into the night everyone went on, and it was one and we were half done. We should have gone to sleep, but we didn’t, we kept digging into the wee hours of the morning until it was all ready. Then, everyone dreary from the lack of sleep the night before, helped quickly move him. Then the effort began to bury him. Chapter 19 Finally, we stood, as the sun rose over the horizon and cast beams of light – sweet light – over the grass and onto our bodies, as the last patch of dirt covered Kliken’s body. The light was warm and soothing, and all the fighters sighed with relief and put down their shovels. Some fell into sleep and others stood, dirt marring their face. Soon everyone was collapsed or relaxing, and I, as weary as I was, had to stay diligent and work into the next day. With the Stadium cleaned up, now some administrative work had to be done. I called in all the fighters and brought them all up to my office, where I took down the names and important things to know about each one. After a few hours I had everyone down and then I swiftly assigned rooms. I had the stadium manager begin a project to take down the demon’s rooms and renovate them as lounges or celebration rooms. Next, I had a very tough decision on my hands: Assigning fights. Looking at the rosters I had gathered of about 70 fighters. I decided, with my current knowledge, to give everyone a worthwhile fight – I tried to pair up things as best as I could. Dylan would fight Madam Jordan for real. George would face off against Melody and Vail against Euechis, only this time in a friendly spirit. I decided I would have to eventually make a standings chart or some sort of organization to see who had the best abilities and would make good matches – but for the moment, I just assigned matches from my gut. When the sun was beginning to set I returned to the apartments and people were abuzz in the hallways, talking and laughing – they had been relaxing all day. While many were clean, some – like Jacob – were still grimy from the digging of yesterday. Jacob was talking with Madam Jordan, Dylan, Melody and Vail. I went over to converse. “Hey, everybody!” I said, and they all laughed and smiled at me. “Hey, Pat,” Jacob said. He patted me on the back, “Have you been working hard?” “Yeah,” I said exasperatedly, “very hard. But I’m so glad to help everyone.” “Well, what will we do tomorrow?” Vail said. “Well, I was thinking of just giving everyone a day off – go into the nearby town or stay here, do whatever they want. The stadium managers and I were going to go into town and spread the word that we were re-opening.” “Great!” Dylan said, “I’ll help too.” “And me,” said Melody. “That’s astounding, but for the moment, let’s celebrate, for all that we’ve been through,” Madam Jordan put eloquently.
“Agreed,” I said. And so everyone talked and drank into the night, until we were collapsed in heaps in the halls. But the night was so merry and the celebration so grand that we didn’t want to fall asleep. Chapter 20 I walked onto the field, the stars merrily twinkling overhead, looking into a sea of faces seated in the bleachers. I cleared my throat, and tapped the microphone I was carrying. “Hello, everyone. Welcome, to the opening night of the Stadium, under new management!” I said. The crowd cheered. “Everyone, I share an emotional attachment to this place, and as the new manager, I will do everything to make you happy. So without further ado, our first match of the evening, Madam Jordan versus Dylan!” I announced them and turned around as the two of them marched on field. In the light they began, Madam Jordan wielding her lance swiftly and Dylan countering, unleashing hordes of magic creatures and spells – the fight was so magnificent that, when the two were beaten and lying, struggling to get up and finish the fight, the crowd almost stormed onstage with excitement. And others dueled into the night, and the crowd remained ever vigilant and cheerful. Finally, when Jacob marched on stage, they exploded. Faced against him were two people who looked like astronauts, and one who looked a professional wrestler. Jacob set the personal challenge of beating them with only one hand – which he proceeded to do in a flashy and entertaining fight. When it was finally over people marched out, still cheering. Garbage was left all over the stands, and as I looked up, I felt a deep sense of pride, organizing the successful night. A few days later, I began forming the rankings of fighters when Master Maxwell came into my office. “Pat, I have ready what I asked 1 week’s time for. Come.” “Yes, Master Maxwell,” I said. “No, please, no need to call me Master anymore, Pat.” I didn’t argue and he led me out of the room to his chambers, where all the fighters were gathered. I wondered what was going on when I saw them all. “Come on,” Master Maxwell (oops – I mean just plain Maxwell) said, leading me through the group. They followed us into the circle of furniture he had, and he came right up to his easy chair and went past it. He came right to the fringe of the darkness, and I saw what he had been preparing. It was doorway, not with anything on the other side, but a simple doorway. “Pat, I was able to pinpoint where your universe is and when – together, Critis and I were able to forge this doorway. It works both ways, and leads directly into the closet in your room.” “How were you able to get it so exact?” I said, puzzled. “We are, how do you say, masters on the subject,” Critis said, joining us. “So then, let me get this straight – I can return to me world and back here again?” I said. “Yes,” Maxwell said, smiling for the first time I had ever seen him smile. Jacob came over, having waded through the group of fighters.
“This way, Pat, you can still be part of here, but at the same time, your family won’t be gone to you,” he said, holding my shoulder. My eyes welled up with tears, and I broke down and cried. “Thanks . . . thank you all, so much. . .” I drifted off. Tears rolled down my face. “Pat, you should know,” Master Maxwell said, “that this portal is only accessible at your nighttime, which is our daytime.” “That’s okay,” I said, getting up, wiping my face. “Pat, you should visit your family. It’s daytime in your world, so go, and we will see you later,” Jacob said. I got up, and turned to him. “Jacob,” I said, but he shook his head. “Go, Pat.” I turned and looked at the doorway, and then took my step through. --Suddenly, I was in a dark space, huddled up with clothes, with just an empty doorway behind me – the doorway that seemed to lead to nowhere. I made my way through the clothes and found a door. It took me a few minutes but I jiggled it open and fell into the next room. It was my room. I looked around. Carpet, blue walls, my bed and my nightstand. I had my posters and my clothes on the floor and everything. It was not just my room. It was my own world. I hurried out my door and saw the long hallway where my parent’s and little sister’s rooms were. I scurried down the hallway and down the steps into the foyer. In the foyer is a large window looking outside, like an eye, made of pure, translucent glass. I saw beyond it the night sky of my world, the stars and constellations of my world, and the things unique to my world – cars, and houses, and roads, and streetlights, and everything. Then it sunk in completely and fully: I was home. Home, sweet home. And, in that moment, in the night where my family was asleep, I fell to the ground and felt the soft carpet, and a few tears came to my eyes. Suddenly, I heard footsteps from above and looked up to the hallway I had just come down. My mom stood at the top of the stairs in a white robe she slept in, hair frazzled, and stared down at me. After a moment, she came rushing down and hugged me. “What . . . what are you doing down here?” she said. I looked at the floor. “Appreciating home.” Chapter 21 So, I guess my story is over. Turns out I had been knocked out by the bully and then brought to the hospital because it was so serious. I had a concussion, and they thought I was in a coma, which, in a way, I was. Mom had explained how they brought me home, and she was overjoyous when she figured out I had woken up. You know, I still return to that place, which seems so far away at the time of this writing, once every week, if I can. Often I can’t and have to come every other week, but the folks there are happy to see me even if I come only once a month.
As for the Stadium back in my world, the paramedics, being from another town, discovered it when recovering me and the police got into the whole thing, now guarding the area of the forest. Once and a while a few kids still sneak in, but it will never be of its former glory. In the stadium I had come to know, with the help of everyone, Critis won back his home world after months of fighting. During those times when I visited only a few people were still there. Most of the medical staff had been forced to come to help with the wounded, so the only comfort was a few mortally injured who had returned and the Janitors. Years passed by, and I grew much older, until eventually, I came to point where I had to leave for college. I had come to everyone at the Stadium and told them how I would be gone for a long time – but every once and a while I would return. They were melancholy, but it was the sad truth. After 3 years, when coming back for Christmas break, I arrived to find the house burning to the ground. The whole family was out, including our pet dogs and several of my things they had grabbed, but the doorway was still inside. The firemen arrived nearly 30 seconds later, but the damage was done. The doorway was forever lost in the ashes. All of us cried tears of sorrow that night, but none as great as I. For they had all lost possessions – some worth a great deal – but I had lost a whole world of people. We found a new house, but it wasn’t the same. I gloomily trudged through the remaining years of college until it came time to settle down, I wanted to be a writer. One peculiar night many years later, when I was typing away at a horror story (my wife was away doing something), I heard a creak from a door down the hallway, and then a footstep. “Pat?” I heard a familiar voice say. I turned, and saw a man grizzled with nearly 25 years of battles and hardships since I had last saw him. He was about my age, with blond hair, and a brown collection of raggy clothes. I rubbed my eyes. “Is that . . . is that you, Jacob?” “So it is you, Pat!” I ran over and we talked, and it turned out they had painstakingly crafted another doorway to here, and it came through that closet. I told him I would come later, and he went back into the closet and disappeared. I stood still for a moment, and then suddenly was hit with a bout of inspiration. I ran to my computer keyboard and saved the document for the horror story. Then I started tapping away, deep into the night, with enthusiasm, at a new story. And began like so: “You know, I never really thought I was the best storyteller. . .”