I woke to the splash of water against my face. Ice cold, drenched, and clearly in a bad mood, I jumped to attack the one who woke me.
I pulled at the sword near my bedside and clashed hard with another. Of course these swords were wooden; no harm was to really come to my interrupter. There, my brother Endraw, stood with a grin as he pushed harder against our clash. "Time to wake up, Nobilis. The tournament for knighthood is beginning."
"Of course, but you didn't have to wake me so rudely." I huffed and nearly kicked him.
He jumped back with a slight laugh, "We owe it to the king to get inducted. So don't hold back your monstrous strength."
"I'd kill someone out there if I went all out." I rolled my eyes sarcastically at him and tossed the wooden sword onto the bed. I was quick to shed my sopping clothes in exchange for a leather duvet and pants, "More like which one of us is going to get first."
"Cocky, aren't you." Endraw had exited with a loud laugh echoing through the barracks.
"Wouldn't be better any other way." I called out running toward him with one boot on. I hastily tried to shove my foot into the other mid stride.
We were orphans, stable boys for the King's soldiers. We lived in the Kingdom of Aria where our reigning sovereign was one of the dragon blood. We were born here but not of Arian descent. Our late father was the commander of King Aria's armies, Risus Sparta, the general of war. He died, and the king was gracious enough to keep us within the walls of the kingdom. We stayed in our father's old barracks; never knowing our mother, we could barely recall what he had said about her.
He died when we were very young, old enough to understand that he wasn't coming back from that mission. I took his last name, Sparta, while Endraw took his mother's maiden name, Palais. It only made sense as I took more after my father than Endraw did.
We both had similar features to our father, but Endraw had inherited his mother's dewy grey eyes. I on the other hand had eyes of onyx. My father had dark eyes, but nothing near as black as mine.
We acquired his belongings, even the ones they recovered from his dead body. Two swords and a wooden device with a trigger. It looked a lot like a crossbow, without the bow part. I never really understood why he carried it with him. I could only assume it was his good luck charm, but it had finally failed him after all these years.
I could remember him trying to tell me how to pronounce the type of wood it was, Yggdrasil. I couldn't say it for the life of me so he named it 'Anti' to make it easier.
His two swords, Elantide and Eruza. The King said he would hold on to his swords until we became knights fit to wield them in battle.
Today was the day we proved to the King we were ready to inherit our father's swords.
People from throughout the kingdom that wished to become inducted into the Arian army was going to be present at this tournament. There were a couple of sections: magic, paladins, dragoons, and regular infantry.
I was inept with magic. When I said I took after my father, I took after his curse of not having the ability to use magic at all. Endraw on the other hand was gifted with white magic.
I remembered the time I accidentally kicked him off of a tall tree. He fell and broke his arm. I jumped down horrified, but a blinding light came from his hand as he grasped on to his broken one. It was then that we figured maybe our mother was of Palaian descent, because he healed without a scar.
I casually sauntered toward the stand, scribbling my name in ink to sign up for regular infantry. I felt him pat my back encouragingly as he made his way towards the Paladin recruitment area. I watched his back as he walked with confidence.
I used to be so jealous of him. I was jealous of his inborn talent to use such a useful form of magic. I sometimes found myself blaming my father for passing his curse to me. He would try and comfort me, telling me that I was one in a million at this point. He told me there used to be a whole group of people far off in their own civilization that could not use magic. It was where he hailed from, Sparta. In exchange for their loss of magic, they were the most athletic, quick witted, and ferocious warriors.
I believed him, and when I doubted myself, I force myself to remember what he said. How else could he have been a commander of an army as large as Aria? It encompasses magic users, beast tamers, and the holy paladins themselves. A great feat for someone who could not use magic. A great feat for anyone actually.
I exchanged my jealousy for rivalry. If he was to train, I went to train harder and longer. I did not want to lose to him, and I would make up for the gap of magic with endurance.
I went over to the fitting room, looking at what weapon and armor to choose from. The usual wooden sword, but these were sharpened and reinforced to make sure it would not break from striking. It also meant that it would hurt even more. I went to grab a two hander and smiled at my choice. A good offense is a good defense. In terms of armor, there were many to choose from, but I decided for the lightest one and slipped it on. I had to make sure I was light on my feet and struck like thunder.
Other contestants eyed me curiously or dumbfounded. Here was a guy carrying a heavy handed weapon with barely any armor on. I could only assume they thought of me as really stupid or really cocky, maybe both.
I drew my number and with my luck it was the last match of the infantry battles. I should have known that Endraw would have chosen to try out for Paladins. He was too gifted in magic to be stuck as a grunt.
With my preparations finished, I headed out to the waiting stands for the contestants and began to observe my competition. Nothing beats watching a tournament in front row seats, close enough to probably get some blood splatter too.
I watched my competition, and I was getting bored. I probably should have went to see the dragoons instead, at least they would have been more entertaining. I should have wished him good luck, him being the King's son. Lyke, the prince of Aria, was also participating in the tournament as well. Although he is of royalty, they treated him as any other soldier. This was how the King made sure he would become a humble king, much like how he is.
A prince raised among commoners; we would often play with him, and he would often help us with our work. I hoped he would do well and join the ranks with us.
A body flew from the platform and landed on my feet. He coughed a bit of blood from the landing and tried hard to return air into his lungs. He was out of the ring, so I helped him up with a bit of a pat.
"Better luck next season." I spoke casually to him.
He just huffed sadly and made his way to the changing room. His spirit was crushed, but surely he'd try again next time.
The great thing about this tournament was the gathering of the strong. The bad thing was it attracted guys who were a bit too hot headed or had forgotten a knights chivalry.
A good example was the guy who stood victorious in the middle of the ring. He spewed strings of profanity and demoralizing things to the loser. I grit my teeth, knowing full well I should not get involved, but rubbing in the loss was just a disgraceful thing for anyone to do.
The man looked to me as he stopped screaming at the poor guy and his face skewed with a sense of bewilderment.
"Helping a loser like him, what kind of fighter are you?" He asked accusingly.
"A respectable one." I replied curtly.
He laughed loudly, "I'm going to have a good time beating you with this sword here. Maybe break it on your back and see where your respect lies."
I could feel his eyes look me up and down, "Enough with the staring and get off the stage." I responded with as much calm as I could muster.
"Your choice of weaponry and armor just tipped me off that you're a dumb sack of shit." He spat towards my feet and I stood there unwavering.
Oh, I was going to have a good time caving in that senseless piece of metal.
He jumped down from the arena, leveling his glare at me, and then bumped roughly into my shoulder.
I was going to do a lot more than dent that piece of shit now. I felt stares coming from the arena and those behind me. But something seemed strangely off as there was a specific area my eyes kept going to. Almost like a magnetic attraction, my eyes settled to where the King would sit and observe the tournament. The viewing booth did carry the King and Queen of Aria, but also a woman veiled in black. You could not make out anything about her features past the thickness of the floor length veil. From the outline of her features, the figure was definitely female, and she spoke now and then to the King.
This was definitely new to me.
I was about to tear my stare away, but I saw the shape of her head turn toward me. I guess my intuition was correct when I felt a strange stare. I was being observed, and I could only assume she was an ambassador of the magic kingdom known as Phage.
There were the three reigning powers on the world of Terra: Palais, Aria, and Phage. These three are the biggest kingdoms from north, west, and south respectively.
Phage, the southern kingdom housed scholars that were gifted with magic. They were a kingdom created from the gathering of black mages. Although not considered wholly evil, they are viewed as a chaotic neutral alignment. I was told that their kingdom was made purely from the crystal stalagmites, carved into the side of giant mountains. They believed the reflective properties of the crystals acted as an amplifier for knowledge and magic.
To me, it just sounded like a gathering of mages who wanted to spend their lives surrounded by libraries and study without curious eyes judging their experimental magic … which most of the time isn't considered morally correct.
Regardless, the three main kingdoms were at peace, aligned with each other as the three powers.
I shrugged off the staring. I didn't have time to become distracted at this point. It did make me a little nervous that the king was watching me.
I took up arms as it was my first battle in the bracket. I walked up the steps as people cheered; the cheering was not for me. A man appeared on the opposite side that was gruff-looking, tall, and clearly well-built. I guess he was a town favorite of sorts. If I remember correctly, probably the blacksmith's son.
"Let's have a good battle." I extended the long two hand sword.
He looked at my choice of weapon and armor, plainly perplexed by my choice and tapped his traditional shield and sword onto my extended blade.
It was a formality to signify honorable duel; something that guy from before had no shred of.
"As to you." He responded with blooming confidence. It seems he thought he had this in the bag. I know my choices are definitely unorthodox, but I only smirked in response. I studied hard to take after the massive strength in my father's fighting style.
Make do with what I can do and push it to the limits.
"I … don't want to seem rude, but you do know that long sword is a two hander, right?" He offered me some advice a bit meekly.
"I do, thank you for your concern." I smiled back at him as we backed up and waited for the signal to begin our skirmish.
I stood there casually as he took a very simple stance, sword poking out and shield raised. His very common weapon choice, most versatile and easy to understand. Strike and cover, easy enough.
I stood there with the sword tip resting on the floor. The proctor gave us the signal to start and the crowd roared.
He inched toward me slowly with his shield up. He was a defensive warrior, careful in his steps, and a bit rigid. He may have trouble if someone were to flank him.
I lifted my sword and he held down his ground, assuming I would strike. I remained still as he peered past the shield. He was really nervous.
He loosened his grip on his shield and ran up to strike. I used both hands to parry as we clashed. Using the momentum of his downwards strike, I let his sword slide off the side of my blade and it struck the ground hard.
I darted my left hand to grab his face and used my right to swing upwards, batting the shield right out of his hand. I jumped back as he swung his sword upwards.
I watched as he watched his shield roll off to the very corner. There was a very large crack in the shield, it was rendered unusable.
He stared at my right arm, wondering how I managed such power with a one hand swing.
"You struck the shield on the grain of the wood, making it split easily." He spoke with a shaky breath.
"Wood is easy to split." I replied casually and resumed my fighting stance once more. It was unfortunate, but this match was mine.
He had already lost his fire when the shield broke as he swung rashly at me. I blocked, dodged, and then gave him a swift kick to the gut. I heard the hollow ding of his breastplate against the floor as I walked over him to kick his weapon out of his hand. I won by disarm. I extended a hand for him to grab, and he took it with grace.
We shook, the crowd cheered, and my first match was over.
He was a blacksmith; he had a future in town. It's better off than going into the field and dying.
"I've never seen anyone fight like that. I've only heard of it in stories from my grandfather, Risus, was his name?" He praised me.
I just laughed, "Yeah, that man named Risus is who I aspire to be. One day."
"You seem to be well on your way, good luck with the tournament." And with that he went off to remove the gear.
I could tell that the eyes of the participants begun to look to me in a different light, a fearful awe. I was beginning to miss the dumbfounded stares at this point.
I made my way through a couple more battles with the same amount of effort. No one really compared to how I clashed with Endraw. Most of these contestants were farmers, or sons from professions around town. They did not spend their time training like I did in my free time.
But some did stand out, and I was ready to face the one I really actually wanted to hurt. It was the match to get me into the top two, and here I stood with the seething hunk of metal. His name was Gaius, son of a cattle farmer, and ruthless to the people around town. He was not liked for his flaring temper.
At least that's what I picked up from overheard conversations.
I stood there, lamenting whether to humiliate this guy or not.
"I expected you to lose first round, lucky me, eh?" He grinned at me as he readied his mace and shield.
I watched all his matches out of curiosity rather than necessity. He literally ran like a mad man toward his opponents and proceeded to bash them as hard as he could. Don't get me wrong, he is okay with the shield actually. He would block those not frozen by fear and then proceeded to bash them like no tomorrow.
He used his aura of overwhelming force to have a mental advantage over his opponents.
It wasn't going to work on me.
I lifted my sword toward him, "Let's have a good battle."
And as usual, he refused the formalities and walked away. I could hear the booing, but it was what was expected.
I stood there and waited for the proctor to signal. I took a stance that caused him to look up in confusion as it wasn't one I used before.
I lowered the blade to my side, rather than before me, and pressed my left hand lightly on top of my right hand. I gripped the handle hard with slight anger.
"Ah, so you're finally using it properly, you dumb fuck!" He called out to me from across the field.
The proctor signaled for the fight to begin and I dashed toward him. It took him by surprise at first, but he did his usual and dashed toward me as well. That slight hesitation was his loss as I side stepped his mace. He raised his shield, as predicted, to block my sweep.
I swept upwards, hard, lodging my sword into his shield and ripped it from his grasp. I watched the redness in his hand drip with blood. He was holding on to it as hard as he could.
I did a quick spin and the shield chucked toward him. He raised an arm to cover the blow of the shield and swatted away at the broken pieces. He was fuming, and I just smiled in jest.
He ran toward me again with the mace. I braced myself as he clashed against my sword. He raised his free hand to punch me in the face. I let go of the handle and raised my left hand to grasp at his meaty hand, rendering it immobile.
I raised my foot and kicked him back, taking this time to sweep upward with my right hand. The tip of my blade knocked his helmet clean off his head. It flew high into the air and landed with a hard clink. He watched as it bounced off the arena.
He became more careful with his approach. He finally realized he had underestimated me.
"Not so confident anymore? I thought you were going to at least land a hit here." I pointed to my face in teasing. My respect toward him was all but lost.
I watched him grit his teeth with anger.
"I'll shove this mace down that stupid mouth of yours!" He shouted in some sense of a battle cry. He made way toward me once more and I readied myself for his swing.
He swung, with two hands this time to force it faster and harder. He had aimed for my shoulders, trying to dislocate it more than likely.
I ducked quickly, pivoting my stance and rotating with my heels. My sword rode the momentum and smacked hard into his side. It left a good sized dent and sent him flying to the side.
I watched him roll as I straightened to chase after him. He dragged the mace on the floor to stop his rolling and steeled himself for the next hit. He shook his head to dispel the dizziness.
He raised his mace in defense but I slammed my boot onto his chest plate and smacked away his splintering weapon. It wasn't going to survive another clash with mine. I pressed the tip of the sword against his throat as he screamed at me, wriggling to free himself from my heavy boot.
"Winner by disarm and pin." The proctor cried out, he lifted the flag toward me and I removed myself from him.
I turned my back away from him and proceeded off the stage.
I saw as the people below pointed quickly behind me with wide eyes. I swiveled around and covered my face just in time to cover a punch to the face. He knocked me down and was soon on top of me.
I heard whistle spewing in the air and people booing. They threw many things and only added to his rage.
"You're fucken dead, I swear on it!" Gaius screamed at me.
The proctor and a few other guards ran up toward us, but he got a good hit to the side of my face.
It was like slow motion as I watched his white knuckled fist come down and made contact. I was able to soften the blow just in time with a hand. It still hurt regardless, but it just edged me into a very, very bad mood. I grit my teeth as the familiar taste of mineral filled the side of my cheek,
"You're the sorest loser here!" I shouted back at him trying hard to keep some sort of cap on my rising anger.
He struggled to free his hand from my death grip. He raised his other arm to punch me but the proctors and guards pressed the tips of their spears onto his neck. They pulled him off of me and a proctor hoisted me up. I spat out some blood and rubbed the back of my hand on my cut lip.
The proctor gave way to a Paladin that offered to heal my bruise for me. I just laughed and shook my head,
"Healing magic never really worked well on me." I responded honestly.
They looked at me like I was crazy, but I don't think they understood what I had meant.
"Are you sure? You are a finalist … the last match will be hard to continue with such a wound." The paladin expressed his worry.
I patted him on the shoulder, "I'll be fine, thanks again for your quick intervention."
I rubbed away at the blood dribbling from the side of my lip once more and waited in the ring for my last match. My cheek was blooming with the familiar sensation of a bruise. It was sensitive to the touch.
I had to give it to Gaius, he got a good one in. Karma got me really fast that time.
Nonetheless, he gave me anger to plough my next opponent. I laid eyes on him, and quickly realized it was going to be a bit harder than I expected.
I observed all his matches. I picked up bits and pieces about him. He is a native to Aria, but he definitely trained for this tournament. He was somewhat a town hero in the more rural parts of Aria, fighting off bandits and such from the plains along with the patrollers. He was quick, and fought with a short sword and parry dagger.
His given name is Victor. But many knew him as Viper, after the snake that attacked with such quickness. His name gave a hint to his fighting style. He may pose me some trouble.
Viper smiled at me, "I hope you know what you're doing. Taking a hit like that without healing."
I just shrugged once more; I was surprised at how many warriors were concerned for me. It was a bit of a reprieve from Gaius, "Thank you for your concern. Let's have a good battle."
I extended my arm to his, and he tapped his sword against mine.
"I watched how you fight, fluid, interchanging between one and two hand swings, very impressive." He commented as he took his stance.
"Your fighting style is going to pose some trouble for me." I replied back honestly.
"Glad to hear it." He smiled.
The proctor signaled for the battle to begin.
I made no hesitation to dash forward. I needed to take him out quickly before he got the upper hand. If he got too close, he would probably shuck the sword from my grip or aim for the neck. That would result for an automatic loss for me.
He was quick to slow my slash with his short sword and proceeded to stab forward with his dagger. It was quick as I barely side stepped it. I swiveled on my feet for a full horizontal swing and he combined the strength of his two blades to stop it.
He underestimated the strength of the swing as the blades pressed against the side of his armor with a loud thud. He pushed back and maintained the distance once more.
I could tell he was calculating where to strike.
He rushed forward and my eyes tracked him. I saw him side step and I stepped forward instead of backwards. I saw his eyes widen at my move and my shoulder connected with his chest, shoving him back with force.
"That was pretty ballsy of you." He panted at being winded from just a shoulder charge,
"Kind of have to be." I returned curtly.
I jumped toward him with a two handed slash descending from the air. He used both blades to block the monstrous strength crashing down on him. He blocked it just in time as I watched his knees shake, almost giving into the strength of the swing.
I took this moment to pull back my sword and with one hand thrust forward with pinpoint precision. It was supposed to be my killing blow, but he lowered to his knee and brought the wide of his blade to block the stab. I was probably using too much strength because the thrust had cracked the short sword and pressed both blades to his body.
I leaned into the thrust and the crack deepened. I saw his eyes watch his blade break in half and fall to the floor. He took this time to duck and thrust forward at my outstretched hand with his dagger.
He slightly missed, grazing the skin of my wrist. I took this time to tumble away from him and regain some distance.
"Guess you should have worn more armor." He jested while flipping the dagger into the air and catching it by the tip of the blade.
"Maybe one day." I shrugged, "Bracers are kind of cramping."
He still held on to the splintered sword, it still qualified as a weapon. He basically wielded two daggers.
He couldn't defend from my attacks anymore, only dodge.
Well, to me, it was over for him. The pain in my cheek was beginning to get annoying, so I wanted to ice it as soon as possible.
"Sorry, I had fun, but it's about time to end this."
He looked to me in disbelief, "Were you not even trying?" I could hear the slight hurt in his voice.
"I am, don't get me wrong. I just didn't want to go all out or something. I swing kind of hard." I muttered while scratching at my scruff.
"… yeah, you kind of do." He retorted with a bit of envy, "But what do you expect from a two hand wielder?"
"A slow attacker?" I questioned as I rushed to him.
He braced himself to go left or right so I watched his feet. He was about to fully extend to the right as I had the blade in my right hand. Smart on him, it'd be easier to dodge my right swing.
He went for the roll, and I skid to a stop, switched my grip, and bashed the hilt of my sword to his shoulder.
He slammed to the floor and raised his blades where the wind rushed toward his neck in an effort to stop his imminent elimination.
He tried to get up but I kept him pinned. I secured my victory.
I hoisted him up easily with one hand and we shook firmly. My deafened ears finally picked up on the crowd's loud cheering.
"And we have a winner!"