Phew! I cranked this one out in just over three hours in total... Fight scenes like these tend to flow really nicely for me for some reason, plus I don't have to think too deeply about the characters' actions.
The opening tournament ended up taking close to an hour and a half. The contestants included a male Skakdi of Iron nicknamed “The Porcupine,” who wore a suit of spiked armor to complement his spine and wielded a large morning star, a young female Glatorian of the Ice Tribe who had apparently looked to Gresh for inspiration in the design of her armor and her use of wrist-mounted fangblades, an aging Skrall warrior who mixed limited shadow powers with the traditional sword-and-shield weaponry of his people, and a male Vortixx who apparently fought for the glory of his master, Lady Soraka, with a spear and a pretty impressive set of martial arts moves.
The Skakdi unfortunately wiped the floor with him. The Vortixx’ fighting style was fluid, with lots of sweeping motions of his spear, the tip of which could apparently light on fire. Unfortunately, none of this did him any good against the iron-clad Skakdi. Soraka’s champion confounded the slow Skakdi for a while by dodging swings of the morning star and constantly maneuvering around him, but the fact remained that his opponent featured both a weapon that could cripple in one blow and armor that he simply couldn’t get through, so that’s how it went; eventually, the Skakdi got a hit in, and after that it was pretty much over. They didn’t even have to run a second fight between these two; Soraka’s man would spend the rest of his life crippled and humiliated. If his master even let him live, that is.
The match between the “Lady of the Frost” (no, I’m not kidding) and the Skrall was more interesting. The shadow powers had enhanced the already fearsome fighting moves of the Skrall even more: his combination of speed, defense with his shield, and offensive striking power with that massive blade was formidable, but when it came to speed I swear the Lady of the Frost was a blur on this battlefield. Even Kopaka must have found it hard to track her as she raced around the Skrall, blocked and redirected his every attack, and finally managed to down him with a sweep under the legs while he was off-balance after a strike. The second round, however, the Skrall came prepared. He used his shadow abilities more this time, using a ‘shadow sword’ move that basically extended the reach of his blade’s wide sweeping attacks. It came as a total surprise to the Ice Glatorian and apparently most of the crowd too, judging from their reactions, and it ended up winning him the second round. 1-1.
For their final and deciding match, the Lady of the Frost packed some extra ammo for her thornax launcher, and it was the explosive kind. She started off by focusing on staying out of the Skrall sword’s range and dodging the shadow bolts he hurled at her while firing thornax in return. The Skrall could easily block the thornax with his shield, but their spectacular explosions both thrilled the crowd and disoriented him with their concussive force. However, ice Glatorian still couldn’t make the inroad that she had in the first match, and the Skrall came up with a novel technique: holding his shield above his head and spinning it rapidly while launching bolts of shadow from the edge, creating an ‘umbrella’ of falling bolts around him. It kept any attempts to get in melee range at bay, but his opponent now got a clear shot with the thornax launcher and took it. That was enough to down the Skrall, and the Lady of the Frost went on to face The Porcupine.
I expected the final between them to be a one-sided affair. She’d shown great skill, but ultimately the Glatorian’s fighting style relied on the same principles as that of the Vortixx, and we all knew how well that worked out for him. Crucially, while he’d had a spear that might have been able to hit a weak spot in the Skakdi’s armor if aimed well, she was relying on slashing motions that would likely have little effect in any case. Turned out that I underestimated the thornax again, though; the Porcupine’s armor only added to the concussive effect of the exploding projectiles, so one good hit left him momentarily dazed. When he regained his senses only a second or two later, he was lying on his back with the Lady of the Frost on top of him and one of her blades at his throat. Several in the crowd began to chant “Kill! Kill! Kill!” but instead she chose to just take the victory for the round.
It only became apparent afterwards, when she tried to get up, that she’d impaled one of her legs on two of his armor spikes in the process of forcing him down; she had to remove it very carefully, and was bleeding severely from the two stab wounds afterwards. With it hastily bandaged up, she was ready to face the second round. The injury didn’t do her well, though, especially given how much she relied on speed and mobility. She did manage to stun the Porcupine again, but was too slow in closing in this time, and to add insult and more injury to injury, he specifically swung low into her legs, all but instantly bringing the fight to an end. However, she had gotten a hit in as she fell, causing the Porcupine to temporarily back off, forfeiting the killing blow. So the match would go into its final round.
The wait between the second and third match was cruelly long, as two Agori medics frantically worked on getting the Glatorian back on her mangled feet. I swear, even over the strong emotions, mostly joy and some kind of primal bloodlust, of the crowd, I could sense in credible pain and agony coming down from that field; how she kept from screaming I’ll never know. Yet somehow, she was standing again fifteen minutes later. But anyone in that arena could already see the writing on the wall: this wasn’t going to be a fight; it was going to be a slaughter. After the bell sounded the start of the fight, the porcupine toyed with his morning star, twirling it around in his hands as though it weighed nothing, and at one point even turning to the crowd and raising his hands as though he was asking them what he should do. They chanted “Kill! Kill! Kill!” again, but the Lady of the Frost wasn’t keen on going down easy.
She made her way across the arena, using one of her blades as a cane to help steady herself, the other one at the ready. Her posture was slumped; blood loss by this point had left her barely conscious. Yet, when the Porcupine raised his weapon and swung it down over her, she instantly reacted, dodged, and rolled to the side, slashing into the thinly armored back of his leg in the process. The Porcupine… he saw his prey was still up for it, but that she wouldn’t be for long; dark spots appeared on her bandaged shins and rapidly grew larger. She was bleeding again. So what did the bastard do? He backed off, stood there, and waited. I don’t remember how long it was, but it felt like ages. She stood there, unable to really walk, weakened but still defiant. She even shouted at him. I couldn’t hear her over the chanting crowd, but I swear she was taunting him, throwing the worst imaginable insults at him, and he deserved each and every one.
Slowly, her head began to sink, her arms dropped… she fell on her knees, but still did what she could to hold at least one blade ready as the life drained out of her. Believing her sufficiently incapacitated, the Porcupine now moved in, carrying his morning star like an executioner’s axe. The crowd’s chant had turned into a deafening roar; when he raised the weapon over his head, I turned. The ice Glatorian was all but lying on the ground, her strength having drained out of her almost completely; I couldn’t bear to watch. Turns out, I didn’t have to, because when the full force of that weapon came down on her head, the crunching sound was broadcast through the entire arena, followed by a triumphant announcement of “PORCUPINE WINS!” The crowd cheered. The announcer informed them that, with his great victories, the porcupine would be moving up to the top tier arena rankings. I felt sick.
I asked Kopaka if he could tell me when they’d cleared the field before I dared look down there again. He’d watched the whole event without displaying any emotions of any kind, positive or negative. In fact, when I tried to focus in on him to try and detect any, I couldn’t find a thing. Had he actually been watching? It wasn’t long before the announcement came over the speakers:
“And now… the match that everyone has been waiting for!” Kopaka tapped my shoulder to indicate the field was clear, and it wasn’t… really. It was as clear as it was going to get, apparently, but there still was a very large dark stain where the young Glatorian had fallen, along with bits and scraps of armor strewn around. I guess that was too hard for them to get that out. The announcer continued: “And entering the arena now, the current champion! The one who brings the heat just by walking in! You’ve all seen him, you all know what he’s got, it’s TAHU, THE MASTER OF FIRE!”
A blast of flame erupted from one of the entrances to the arena floor below. It lasted for a second or two, and when it vanished, Tahu entered the arena with fire erupting from his swords, walking determinedly across the open space until he reached the center. There, he raised his swords over his head, crossed them, then brought them down and swung them around him, sending a heat wave in all directions that we could feel even in the back row. The crowd went wild; Tahu now assumed a ready stance, looking in the direction from which his opponent would appear. I looked to Kopaka; again, not a hint of any emotion or feeling was coming from him, even at the sight of his brother.
“And his challenger for tonight,” the announcer continued, “you’ve all seen him before, fighting his way up out of prison with the fastest climb through the arena ranks that anyone as ever seen! Beware the Skrall elite, the Special Forces, the Ultimate War Machine! It’s STRONIUS, LORD OF THE SKRALL!
His appearance was heralded by a blast of thick, acrid smoke from the entrance opposite to the one Tahu had appeared from. It lasted a while, but when it cleared, it revealed a warrior who frighteningly reminded me of The Porcupine, except in black and red with a monstrous spiked club for a weapon. The jagged, spiked armor, the way he held himself, they were almost identical, and just like his Skakdi counterpart, he twirled that massive weapon around him like it was a mere toy, much to the crowd’s amusement. He slammed it into the ground twice, leaving small craters to taunt his opponent. Tahu responded by swinging his blades around, lighting up the edges, and then planting them in the ground, sending streaks of fire through it which erupted next to Stronius and all over the area between them.
“Well, it looks like these two are more than ready for the FIGHT OF THE CENTURY!” The announcer really didn’t have to do anything to get this crowd riled up even more, but yeah… that’s what he was doing. “Well, how’s about we LET THEM HAVE IT!?” At this point, just the noise and emotional volume of the crowd were becoming exhausting for me, but this I had to see. Both fighters assumed ready positions about ten meters apart. The Announcer counted down: “And they’ll proceed to pummel each other in Three, TWO, ONE…” a small pause for effect…
“… AND FIGHT!”
author's note: I know I promised we'd get to see Tahu in action, but the opening tournament ended up taking about a page and a half more than I initially thought it would... Next chapter, we'll see Tahu really heat things up (pun very much intended).
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!