Monday, March 01, 2010

There Shall Be Great Rejoicing - Part 3

He stood carefully, favoring his bad left hip, moving gingerly toward the door. She watched him leave in silence, ignoring his infirmity. It was one thing they never discussed, although everything else they did. Deliss had once been in line for the Championship, but in his final match, he was injured, nearly killed.

His opponent, a Minotaur, grappled with him, spinning him above his head. He hurled Deliss into the crowd with such force, even his wings had not spared him the fall, for he had been unable to open them quickly enough in the confined space. Instead, his left hip shattered, seven ribs broke, left arm dislocated and his wings were irrevocably damaged. He never fully recovered. As his fall killed or injured six high ranking, influential people, his reputation was ruined along with his body.

As a mentor, he was invaluable to the guild, who kept him on despite his injuries and disgrace. As Mai was the youngest and least prestigious of all new students, they were foisted off on one another. But the match was smiled upon by the gods of fame, for she had won many duels where she was outmatched. Side betting would be heavy. Many fame tokens would exchange hands today.

A servant came up to her, gesturing for her to follow. "It is time, Duelist Sta," the servant said respectfully. She followed him into the arena quietly.

The sky had cleared, the sun shown brilliantly on the crowd, making them resplendent. Mai blinked as her second eyelid flickered in place to protect her eyes. Her glance wandered across the arena where the accused had been led in by guards. He wore fetters on his wrists and ankles, but even so, he looked proud and haughty.
His black hide absorbed light, while the gold ring in his nose flashed and flickered as if it laughed at her. A minotaur? No one had said what species her opponent was. Mai was horrified
for here was a creature no less than three times her size!

Raising his arms above his head, he shook his chains as he roared his anger and humiliation.
"It is an insult!" He bellowed. "How can you expect that child to best me?" Turning to his guards, he lowered his voice, but it still carried to Mai across the arena. "I do not wish to lose, but this is madness! Would you see justice served? Bring in someone else!"

Mai knew she had been chosen not so much because of her skill as because it was an incredible slap in the face to the accused. Her employer had a keen sense of the ironic.

"It is her turn," the larger of the guards said gruffly.

"She was the only one of her rank available," the other explained.

Mai knew neither statement was the truth, but did not show it.

Muttering and gesticulating angrily, the Minotaur stood still for his shackles to be removed and waited. The proctor stepped forward to read the charges. He was tall and willowy, his skin dark brown, with eyes leaf green and laughing, though he strove to keep his humor in check.

Part 5 -

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