As the lights lit up the sky Petrova wondered how late it was and she quickly gathered her items and ran down the stairs. Halfway down them she stopped to see if she recognized anybody. The pub part of the inn was nearly deserted as the games were about to begin. She didn’t see anyone she recognized, but the bar maid caught her eye and nodded to a door near the back of the room below. Petrova shook her head in acknowledgement and walked slowly down the rest of the stairs so as not to draw attention. She was not wearing the brown hair wig.
She made her way to the door in the back and opened it slowly. She expected to see a number of people who would help her prepare for her fight. In previous fights she would be assigned three or four men or women to put together her warrior’s suit. But when she opened the door and slipped inside she found only a single boy. He was tall, skinny, lanky and his light-colored hair was tousled. He sat on the edge of the bed, giving her the unpleasant profile of his extensively large nose.
“Sorry,” she said to him. She assumed she had opened the wrong door.
“No, no no no. You are Petrova?” He said to her as he stood up from the bed.
“You are my countenance?” She asked.
“Yes, just me.” He said. Then he smiled a relieved smile. “I thought they were putting me on, I thought you weren’t going to show up.” For a moment he stared at her, in awe.
“Please, let’s get started,” he said, making way for her to sit on the bed where he had sat.
“We are nearly late, so we must hurry,” he said to her as he opened the door to an armoire. Inside were new chest and lap plates.
“They are Japanese metal?” She asked him.
“Of course. Petrova wears only Japanese metal,” he said, bowing his head as he handed them to her.
Petrova took the plates and inspected them carefully. The metal was light, yet strong. It was encrusted with Imperial Topaz, the stone that would help ward against the negative magic she would be up against. Imperial topaz was found in both Japan and Russia and is a fire element stone. It also would ward against sudden and untimely death. It was the perfect stone for her fight tonight.
The familiar coolness of the hard metal felt like home to her. She admired how they shined in the light. Her countenance may be just a boy, but he was a very good at presenting her chest and lap plates.
“And the scepter?” She asked.
“Vanadinite gemstone surrounded by Golden Yellow Apatite , just as you asked,” he said, putting the small scepter into her grip and bowing once more.
The scepter was the tool by which weapons were dispensed onto the grounds. All weapons took the form of a ball, varying in colors and sizes. Sometimes one weapon could be mistaken for another weapon of similar size and color so it was important to know the weapons very well.
Petrova ran her fingers over the red stone’s crags. It was blood red and the power hit her immediately.
“Endurance, persistence…” she said to herself under her breath. “And sexuality.” The power of the vanadinite was great, but its counter point was that it made it hard for Petrova to not be distracted by the attractiveness of the opposite sex. She was normally not distracted by such foolishness. She remembered the chatty, giggling girls outside the arena when she had watched Eric almost a year ago in a game. She could remember his fluid movements, his precision and his obvious deep knowledge of weaponry. For the first time in a long time Petrova felt fear. She had confidence that the longer she held the scepter, the more the power of the apatite would shine through. Golden Yellow Apatite was a fire stone that increased learning and helped with overcoming fears. It also had tremendous healing powers for the bones and cartilage. The combination was perfect for the game.
The entire scepter was six inches in length, a very small size compared to others she had held. But the gems were what were most important. The silver plated stick was twirled with designs and indentations. She was happy with the appearance of the scepter, especially the wonderful color of the blood red gemstone atop it. She smiled slightly as she ran her hand over the scepter one last time before wrapping it in her laplette and securing it to the belt that would go on her waist.
“Four Crunch pencil boots, light brown,” the boy said, handing Petrova the boots for her ensemble. They were made of soft, light-brown, yellowish leather.
“No tread?” She asked.
“No tread, just as ordered,” he said. She could tell he was confused about the order. What warrior wanted shoes without tread? But he would find out soon enough.
She turned the boots over to see their bottoms. It was nothing but a small, smooth slab of rubber. She needed boots with no tread because she planned to attempt a weapon release ritual she called the Fire Bird Totem Release, which required her to slide some distance. Weapon release rituals were a new thing for the games. She had seen one in the last fight she watched nearly six months ago and had been researching them since. She hoped that all her fire elements and her Fire Bird Totem Release would strengthen the use of the Ball of Fury. It also helped that she was born under the Sagittarius sun, which was a fire zodiac sign. The Ball of Fury was her going to be the main event.
He handed her the belt that would strap across her shoulder. It would carry her weaponry. She slid the chest and lap plates over her head and secured them on top of her Japanese floral kimono. The Japanese metal lap plate resembled a short, pleated skirt. She strapped the belt across her chest from shoulder to hip like a sash. The scepter she stored in a hip belt and strapped it around her waist.
“Head adornment?” She asked the boy.
He handed her the sheet of flowing linked metal and she placed it over her red hair. Most Warriors wore hard helmets, but she had never seen the use in it. It only added heavy weight to her head, making it difficult for her to balance and sometimes to see. She imagined other warriors believed heavy helmets protected against kill shots, but honestly if an opponent issued a kill shot, a heavy helmet would not do much for protection. She had seen it too many times.
To use a weapon she would place the orb in the hook of the scepter and wait for it to glow. The longer she waited, the more the weapon would glow. Then she would sling and release it, aiming for three feet in front of the opponent.
Sometimes a warrior could slam the end of a scepter down on the ground to release the weapon, but it was hard to aim doing it that way. To do so required a staff as opposed to a scepter because they were longer. She had seen many of them, but preferred the shorter scepters. After release, when the ball hit the ground it would burst into a glittery fog of various colors according to its element, initiating its power. For a kill shot, the user aimed directly for the opponent, either the head or the chest. Learning how to throw the weapons was key in a warrior’s training. A perfect shot was imperative.
Petrova turned, lifting her hair, initiating the boy to connect her chest and lap plates to her weapon belt from behind. He clasped them together and stepped back. She turned to him, expecting to be handed her arm guards. When the boy did nothing but stand there staring at her she lowered her head and looked at him from under her brows.
“Oh!” He said at last, understanding what she needed. He hurried to a side table and opened the drawer. He brought out arm guards made especially for her delicate arms and hands. They were silver plated steel and heavy. It would make it difficult for accurate shots, but she would manage. Sliding the steel onto her forearm she admired the dark red fabric that stretched across it. A triangular shaped piece of the fabric dangled from her wrist and she slid the hoop onto her middle finger. She smiled as she admired the look.
The rest of her protection lay on the bed. They were shoulder pieces made of the same Japanese metal as her chest and lap plates. Attached to them was a flowing blood-red cape. She lifted them over her head, making sure to keep a portion of her head adornment underneath the plates so that it secured it to her body. She stood and admired her arm guards once more.
“Ms. Petrova,” the boy said with his hands clasped behind his back. She looked up at him from under her brow again without saying a word.
“We must hurry,” he said. The look of concern on his face indicated he did not intend to rush her, but wanted her to be on time. He was a good countenance.
She nodded to him and quickly put on the second arm guard. She breathed in deeply as she ran through her mind the checklist of items she would need. When she was satisfied she closed her eyes and let calmness run through her veins.
“Let us go,” she said to the boy. The boy moved the bed by pushing it aside, uncovering a passage in the floorboards. He lifted the passage door open for her and she saw there was a ladder that went down into the darkness. She positioned herself on the boards and slid down into the hole, grasping the rungs of the ladder with her warm hands. The rungs were cold and slightly damp, making her feel uneasy in her grip. She imagined the ladder to go deep into the ground, but just as her head disappeared from the boards above, her feet hit firm ground. If she were any taller she would need to crouch. She took a few steps ahead into the darkness and waited for the boy. He did not use the ladder, but jumped down into the hole, nearly his whole head still stuck up out of the floor boards. He carried a lantern that flooded the area with an orange glow. She watched him use a shepherd’s hook to pull the light bed back over the passage way entrance and close the opening, ducking his head inside.
They were in one of the many tunnels of Carthusa, used only by Arena Warriors and royalty. The tunnel snaked around the underground of the city, following intricate piping systems that carried water to and from the houses and market buildings. It was not a long trip before they arrived at the end of the tunnel, which opened up directly onto the Arena field.
Petrova could hear the crowd above the ground and her heart beat fast. They were chanting something, but she couldn’t understand what it was they were saying. Her lips and mouth had become dry and she wished she had sipped some of her herb and flower holy water before she left her room. Sweat beaded up on her forehead and she felt especially grateful for the Golden Yellow Apatite, otherwise her fear would be mounting.
Petrova took her place on the lift and cleared her mind, letting the roar of the crowd dissipate into the wind. All she heard was the voice of her master, repeating the Warrior’s prayer.
She felt the jerk of the lift as it initiated. The mechanical noises drifted into her mind as she heard the boards above her begin to open. The breeze flowed in and rustled her hair up against her face, tickling her cheek. But the fresh air felt good against her skin and she lifted her face up to the light, closing her eyes to convince her insides to resort to the calmness she had accessed in her meditation that morning. The Golden Yellow Apatite must have started its wonderful power because all the fear released from her mind and calmness settled in its place.
As her head emerged from the ground she lifted her face and opened her eyes. She took her stance with her left foot in front; legs separated shoulder-length apart. She stood tall as the rest of her emerged from the ground. Her cape floated behind her in the wind. The night air was light, cool and breezy. Across the venue she saw her opponent had been lifted onto the ground at the same time. There he stood, tall and proud just as she was.
She knew her arsenal well and she needed her first play to be a defensive one. She wondered what Eric the Natural had in store for her. Then she saw the bright green glow of a weapon ball. Bright green meant an earth element. As the glow grew bright she felt a slight rumble under her feet. And then, fast as lightening, the glowing ball spun free of its captor and exploded in front of her, sending blasts of dirt into her face. Instinctively she covered her face and turned her back to the flying debris using her cape as a shield. Tornados of brown dust reaching over twenty feet high formed around her and the wind ripped past her ears, sending a high-pitch ring deep into her ear drums.
The tornados narrowed in on her, surrounding her on all sides. She had never seen the weapon, but her mind was clear and she knew what to do.
Quickly Petrova sat in her meditating position. She knew many spells to counter the weapon, but she wanted one sprinkled with fire chants to set the stage for her Ball of Fury. The tornados were gathering their strength as they began to combine into one another. The wind around her was fierce and sent pieces of sand stinging into her exposed skin and face.
She gathered dust into a pile, covering it with her hands to shield it from being blown away. And then, as loud as possible she began her chant, circling her body in the same motion as the tornados:
“Gods of the wind and rain, expose the fury before me. Settle the child that is uneasy. Make your way into the center of the pain, shield it against the source. In its place ignite the happiness that puts the soul to sleep, that ripples through the excited heart of man, that closes in on the depressed. Take your wind and turn it to fire!” She yelled. Her voice was barely audible against the raging winds, and for a moment she thought her spell was not strong enough. The tornados had combined to form one large tornado and the spectators were not visible due the swirling dust around her. She stood and unhinged her scepter. Now she would throw the Muhler Tea Sprouts, giving her time to prepare her Ball of Fury. It would be a short fight and the spectators would be upset, but she knew what she had to do to win.
The winds still raged on but the tornado came no closer to her and so she cupped the small orange orb around the scepter’s ring. It latched on quickly and glowed brightly. Though the tornado still spun in front of her she knew where her opponent would be and when the orb glowed bright enough, she released it into the wind. She watched it sail through the spiraling dust and instantly the tornado evaporated. All the sand that the air had held onto fell to the ground in a heavy torrent. Remnants rested on her head and shoulders. As she shook the dust off, she could see her opponent across the pitch, on his knees.
She detached her Ball of Fury orb and settled it into the scepter’s ring. It did not glow quickly like the Muhler Tea Sprouts ball had. In fact it did not glow at all. Petrova breathed in deeply, closing her eyes to concentrate. Her life depended on bringing this ball to life.
In her mind she recited her Russian chants from that morning, asking for strength, power and atonement. To her horror she felt heavy rain drops fall on her head and heard the angry rumble of the skies. Rain would counteract her fire elements! She remembered how she had worded her prayer, “may you squeeze the power from it and let it rain on me.” Quickly she searched her brain for chants, spells, anything that would stop the rain, but she couldn’t come up with anything. She could see Eric across the venue breaking free of his bindings. The orb on the scepter had not even the smallest glow. Time was running out. Her Fire Bird Totem Release would have to be enough. She would have to send an orb that wasn’t even glowing. Was that against the rules? She couldn’t remember. But it would have to work.
Petrova began her Fire Bird Totem Release: She knelt and dug the end of her scepter into the ground so that it would stand on its own. The orb latched to it still had no glow. She stood and gripped her cape in her fingers, letting the material drape around her arms as she stretched them out in front of her and crossed her arms, forming a dome around her scepter. She bent her head forward to finish off the shield for the Ball of Fury. She puckered up her lips and sent light breezes of air flowing from her lungs out into the small confine she had made with her body and cape. She watched with joy as the orb twinged with light as her breath hit it. She began to blow a little harder and with each breath the orb would begin to light until finally it was glowing weakly.
It was crucial that Petrova be able to anticipate her opponent’s next move. Being able to see the color of the orb as it glowed before the release was the only way to know what kind or type of weapon was being used. She knew she had to lift her head and see what color Eric’s orb was turning into.
She lifted her head and could see Eric, in full offensive stance. What she saw she had only ever heard about. She never thought it possible that she might see it in her lifetime.
The orb that was braced in Eric’s scepter was glowing white. Only one weapon had ever glowed white: the Light Ball. It was the king of all weapons and it was said to have only three in existence. The Light Ball was instant death; its only purpose was to kill. Petrova stood motionless as the crack rang out letting Petrova know the weapon had been released. But dread did not consume her. Anger did. This was not how the fight was supposed to go. Petrova did not lose fights. Petrova did not get outdone. Petrova did not get outsmarted. She was the warrior of the century and no one would take that title from her. It was the only thing she was good at, it was the only thing she knew and death would not find her this night. No, it would not. Red, hot, burning anger seared through her body, filling her chest with rage. The Light Ball flew at her so fast it only made her angrier. It cut through the air with ease and just before it smashed into her face Petrova heard the cries, gasps and screams of the spectators. For a moment she thought they were gasping at her death, but looking upward she realized the rain had turned to fire, dripping down from the sky. The Light Ball came hurdling at her and as it smashed into her face Petrova felt herself being flung ten feet into the air, her body spiraling. It was the kill shot.
She could see nothing but black and she knew she was lying on the ground on her back. Even in her death she was going to have the last shot. She moved her arm and even though she couldn’t see it, she felt the end of her scepter. She pulled it to her and with one large swoop, she released what she assumed was a half lit Ball of Fury.