Chapter 32 = The Tournament Begins
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
Shiala and Marcus were back in the feral village, having returned from their journey. They had separated from their friends, and now the two of them had decided to return together, and spend an indeterminate amount of time together in the quiet village, maybe even staying there for the rest of their lives…
Currently, they were alone together in a tent, and Marcus was laying out several cushions for them to lie on, while Shiala extinguished the lamps and closed the tent flap, before the two of them came together and kissed passionately, and falling down to the cushions together…
Then, Shiala’s dreams suddenly twisted; the vision of her tent swirled into inky blackness, and she had a horrible vision of a dead Marcus lying at her feet, next to the bodies of Manny, Dave, Xenly, and Visali… she looked up and saw an indistinct black figure, who gave an evil laugh before firing a curse at her…
Snapping out of her dream-come-nightmare, Shiala sat bolt upright under the covers of the hotel bed, gasping for breath and sweating heavily. The curtains around the bed were closed, and Marcus was lying on his side next to her, sleeping soundly, and she felt somewhat reassured as she gently stroked his fins, feeling a little less hot. She could see the elven necklace around his neck, and the rune attached to it lying on the mattress next to him, though it wasn’t easy to see due to the lack of light under the hangings of the four-poster bed.
Lying back down on the soft, springy mattress, she tried and failed to fall asleep again, and simply lay there half-asleep until she heard Marcus groaning and yawning as he awoke and gently shook her.
“Hey, wake up.” He whispered gently, and she rolled onto her back so she could sit up.
“Morning, Marcy.” She said with a smile, and he forced a light chuckle.
“Morning, Shia.” He replied, and she giggled.
Manny’s voice came from the other side of the bed curtains, heavy with sarcasm, “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Hah, they’re better than ‘Kerrie’, I know that much.”
“Hey, Karin liked it!” Manny retorted, drawing back the curtains to speak face-to-face with them, making them hold up their arms as their eyes adjusted to the light. “It’s better than ‘Alzi’; that was just lame.”
“She didn’t mind…” Marcus murmured, dipping his head a little and prompting Shiala to hug him from behind, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Well, whatever.” Manny said, rolling his eyes, “If we’re quite done insulting each other’s lack of imagination when it comes to pet names, shall we go? Visali showed up and he’s waiting on the other side of your bed curtain.”
Just to prove it, the curtains behind Shiala were whipped back to reveal Visali standing next to the bed with bulging saddlebags, and his quadra spear in his left hand. “Get up and we can go… there’s a few things I want to show you first.”
Marcus and Shiala got off of the bed and donned their equipment, muttering darkly about Manny and Visali as they waited patiently for the two lovers to get their things together. Shiala decided to leave her backpack in favour of her new saddlebags, taking the dagger, bow, arrows and quiver along with her, and the four of them left the room and headed out down the street. The sky was partially cloudy, but the sun still shone through gaps in the clouds, making it fairly warm without being uncomfortably hot.
“Dave went on ahead with Xenly.” Visali explained, leading them past the riverside and over a solid stone bridge that spanned the canal. “It’s not too far from here… that’s the whole point of having the halls of residence just the other side of the river.”
They could see it as they turned a corner just after they crossed the canal; a huge, four floor, U-shaped building made entirely from bricks and mortar stood in front of them, with ornate metal gates that were currently open and young people from all three races making their way in through the gate. Just past the gate there was a large, grassy courtyard with fountains, benches, and in the centre of it all was a large, stone statue of a Yoshi in mid-stride, with a book under one arm, and an inscription at the bottom that read, ‘Tivaro, the god of knowledge and wisdom’.
“They have a smaller one inside…” Visali said, gesturing to the statue as they passed it, “They figured it was only fitting, since this is a University after all, to have statues and statuettes of him around the place. Since there’s no real image of the human god, and the Birdos believe in the Intelligent Designer Theory, they didn’t have to counterbalance all these Yoshian religious statues…”
“Intelligent Designer Theory?” Manny asked, and Visali gave a nod. “Rather than believing in a god that is all powerful and creates or destroys things at will, they believe that a greater power designed the universe rather than creating it, and it spread from that design, adapting in itself, becoming what it is today… sounds a bit strange to me, but as they say, ‘to each their own’…”
Visali lead them across the grass and up to a set of double doors, but when he tried to push them open they were firmly locked. “Odd…” he mused, before spotting a scrap of paper attached to the other side of the glass, that read, ‘Tournament entrants, use door on the left. Tournament spectators, use door on right.’
With a shrug, the red-orange Yoshi took the lead again, and the others followed him around the edge of the building until they reached a single door with a desk just outside and two Birdos sitting at it, one grey and one blue. As they approached, the blue one continued to sort papers, but the grey one looked up and nodded at Visali in recognition, who nodded back.
“Hey there, Visali.” The Birdo said, picking up a quill and a sheet of paper. “Good to see you… they’ve been making us use paper for some reason, but I personally prefer vaell… I can’t get used to writing with these quill pens.”
“Don’t let Dave hear you say that, Darcen, or he’ll start complaining about how hard it is to read vaell parchment.”
The Birdo, apparently a male, shrugged and replied, “Dave’s already been and gone… who’re your friends? There was some white Yoshi who was here earlier… she said she was waiting for you, then just disappeared.”
“Xenly? Ah, she’ll show up. Anyway, I was wondering if I could enter my friends here… are there any spare slots?”
“Plenty.” Darcen replied. “They made a change at the last minute… they doubled the number of entrants so that they could get everybody in the class in, but that left a fair few empty slots, so they’ve been out looking for people to fill them. Let’s get you done first…”
It took only a few minutes for them to get Visali registered once the blue Birdo, a female, found and handed over Visali’s entry form, and he went ahead and left them, going through the doors and out of sight.
Almost immediately after Visali had gone, Marcus felt someone tap on his shoulder, and he looked around to see Xenly standing behind him, nonchalantly nodding in greeting as though nothing odd had happened. He was about to speak when she held a finger to her lips, and with a frustrated sigh he turned back and stepped forward with Manny.
“Names?” the grey Birdo asked, taking a pair of fresh pieces of paper and dipping the quill in the inkwell next to him.
Manny answered. “Manny Sennet and Marcus… er…”
“Just put ‘Yoshi’… it will have to do.”
“Illegitimate child, hm?” Darcen remarked as he filled in the sheet. “Okay… weapons?”
“A sword and a flail.” Manny said. “And a set of throwing knives.”
“I’m sorry, bows, throwing knives, and that sort of thing aren’t allowed. You won’t be able to fight with them.”
“Oh, okay…” Manny muttered, a little put out. “I think that’s it.”
“I’ll need two gold coins as an entry fee… do either of you know magic?”
“No, we don’t… is that going to put us at a disadvantage?” Manny inquired as he fished around in his saddlebags for the money, throwing the two coins onto the table in front of the blue Birdo.
“Not at all. It’s not allowed, either, so you’re probably better off. Okay, you’re registered… just take this form through with you and you’ll find the changing rooms and participant’s stands. Good luck.”
“Thanks.” Manny said, taking the offered paper and heading through the door with Marcus following him. The grey Birdo put the quill back in the inkwell and was about to strike up a conversation with his companion when he heard a cough, and looked up to see Xenly and Shiala standing in front of the table, the latter holding out two gold coins.
Not even blinking, Darcen plucked the quill from the inkwell and asked, “Names?” as he grabbed another form with his claws and pulled it towards himself.
Marcus and Manny caught up to Dave and Visali inside the locker rooms, where Visali and his friend were stashing everything except their weapons inside a locker, before Visali slammed the door and pulled a tagged key from the keyhole.
“Hey there!” he said brightly as the two Yoshies pulled off their saddlebags. “I see you got through okay. There’s going to be thirty-two teams if they can find enough entrants… with you as well, I think they have another three slots left to fill.”
“Yeah, why the teams thing?” Manny asked as he tossed his saddlebags on top of Marcus’s and closed the locker door. “Is it two on two?”
Dave shook his head. “Nah, tag teams. Both team members have to be disarmed, incapacitated, or they have to surrender for the other team to win.”
“Incapacitated?” Marcus said, swallowing heavily.
“Any injury serious enough for them not to carry on.” Visali replied. “If you’re bleeding heavily and fall to your knees or onto the floor, they call and end to it… they don’t want any deaths, you see. But that doesn’t usually happen, so don’t be too worried. Did they tell you the prize? If the winner is one of the weaponsmithing students, they get their design sent to a couple of weapons manufacturers, and if one of them buys it they get the thing sold commercially! Any non-student who wins gets a thousand coins, and their weapons coated in silver, so I’m sure there’s plenty of incentive for you two to try and win, I’m sure… anyway, shall we head for the stands?”
The four of them left the locker room and found themselves in what looked to be a large assembly hall that had been converted for the tournament; permanent-looking rows of seats lined one side of the hall, and in the centre, and a fighting ring had been set up, with sturdy ropes enclosing anyone who decided to fight in it. The ring extended a bit beyond the ropes to allow enough space for someone to stand outside of them, and chairs lined two of the other sides of the hall for the competitors to use. On the fourth side, there was a row of five chairs occupied by students that Marcus assumed to be from the magi-medicine class, as Sira was one of them, and behind them was an enormous tournament board, showing a branched tree spreading out from the centre. Contender’s names had been written out in big letters on sheets of paper, then attached to the board with needles, arranged to show the match-ups of the competitors.
They found some good seats two rows from the front, but just as Marcus was getting comfortable somebody took the seat next to him and tapped him on the shoulder. Just as he was about to complain, he saw who it was and sputtered, “Shiala?”
“Who else?” she said, putting an arm around him. “Me and Xenly entered as a team…”
“But it’s dangerous!” Marcus protested.
Shiala glared at him a moment, before holding out her arm and flexing it, making her muscles bulge. “Look, Marcus, I know you’re my boyfriend and all, but I’m stronger than you are, so I think that I can decide for myself what’s dangerous and what’s not, okay?”
“Sorry…” Marcus muttered, as she put his arm back around him. “I keep forgetting that you’re stronger than you seem…”
She smiled, clearly forgiving him, and gave him a kiss on the cheek, before turning back to the ring and watching as an announcer stood in the centre of it, holding a wand. Marcus recognised her as being the blue Birdo from the entrance, and she said something inaudible while pointing the wand at her throat, casting a spell that amplified her voice so everyone could hear her.
“Ladies and gentlemen, students and teachers, Yoshies, Birdos, and humans… the tournament will begin shortly, so please be patient. I would like to announce that no further bets on the outcome of the tournament may be placed, though they will be open after the first round is finished and we are down to sixteen teams. Our first two competitors are Maria Slikan and Gemma Mortir, blue and yellow respectively, two Yoshies not from the University, but from the Club Veils down the road from here. They are up against Carl and Amelia Slater, human brother and sister from the University’s weaponsmithing class. Our first team is fighting using a pair of…” the Birdo paused for a moment, squinting at the paper, before continuing, “…a pair of combat whips, while the second team is fighting with their creation, the ‘Quintdent’.”
“They won’t win.” Visali said with a tone of certainty in his voice. “The Quintdent is just a trident with five tines in a cross pattern, and though it’s a good idea at heart they made it very shoddily. This won’t last long.”
Marcus saw two humans and two Yoshies leaving the competitor’s stands and heading out into the ring. Marcus couldn’t make out much on the humans, except that one was a man with shaggy black hair and a beard, and the other was a woman with long, brown hair that went down to her shoulders. The Yoshies, however, seemed to have come straight from the club they apparently worked at; they were decked out in silk veil headdresses that only exposed their eyes and the tops of their noses, and were wearing tailored silk garments that covered their backs and most of their coloured skin, leaving only a part of their tail visible. Marcus could barely see that the one in the lead was blue, somewhere between Manny’s skin colour and a sky blue tone, while the other was dark yellow.
“Wow, nice.” Manny muttered, giving a low whistle as he kept his eyes on the two Yoshies.
Visali smirked and said, “Club Veils is one of those places that’s practically sustained by university students… it’s more of a theme place, though, and all the staff are dressed like that. They have great drinks though. I’ll have to take you there some time.”
The blue Yoshi and the woman kept to the outside of the ring, while the yellow Yoshi and the man stood at opposite corners, facing each other and keeping eye contact. The human was holding a long, wooden handle with a five-tined trident on the end, and the Yoshi had a rather thin, green whip that looked like it was made from some kind of plant vine.
The blue Birdo stepped off of the platform and rang a small bell next to it, prompting the match to start. Carl lunged forward and made a stab with the quintdent straight off the mark, but the Gemma nimbly dodged the attack and swung her whip at her opponent, missing only by inches. Stepping back first, Carl thrust forward and kept his distance, but as the quintdent head went past her she kicked up and knocked it away, seizing the momentary opportunity to strike him with her whip. The end caught him on the arm and he cried out as he brought his quintdent back down into a defensive position, but she swung her whip again and the end wrapped around the handle of the quintdent.
It was all too easy for her; she simply pulled back and jerked him forward, and with a second decisive pull the weapon came free from his hands and towards her, whereupon she caught it with her other hand and stood there taunting him with it while he stepped off the platform sadly.
“What did I tell you?” Visali said as cheers almost drowned out his voice. Gemma threw the quintdent off the platform as Amelia stepped over the ropes and into the ring, lunging forward and taking a stab that narrowly missed its mark. Very dexterously, Maria leapt backwards and somersaulted in the air, landing on her hands, before flipping over on the spot and landing back on her feet in time to jump up and over another attack. Rolling sideways on the ground to dodge another jab, she sprang up into the air and whipped her opponent across the face, drawing a bloodless welt through her skin, and provoking a cry of fury.
Amelia leapt up and stabbed downwards at her adversary, but the Yoshi was just too nimble and the quintdent head slammed into the wooden surface of the ring. Pulling at it, there was a sudden snapping sound and the handle came free, leaving the head embedded in the platform, and a surging flood of cheers filled the hall as the bell rang a second time.
“I wouldn’t have bet on them.” Visali muttered. “I’ve seen them working; they just didn’t put any effort into it at all. I could see that coming a mile away… mind you, I placed a bet on myself, so it’s not like I particularly want anybody else to win.”
“Not that they would have let you.” Dave added. “If they let participants bet on other competitors, they figure they’d throw the match.”
The two humans went to the row of magi-medicine students to have their wounds healed, before exiting the hall dejectedly, with Amelia holding her broken weapon shaft in one hand and the quintdent head in the other. The two Yoshies high-foured each other before stepping down and heading back to the stands where the other competitors were, and the blue Birdo moved their names up the tournament tree before calling out once more.
“The victors are, quite clearly, Maria and Gemma! Congratulations to them and consolations to our losers. Our next battle is between two University teams; we have Marcel Sila and Raysa Golden, red and purple Birdos respectively, facing Visali Lestan and David Skiller, a pairing of a multicoloured Yoshi and a human. The first team is using their creation, the chakrata, and the second team is using their own weapon, the quadra spear.”
“Oh god.” Dave said despairingly, “Please tell me I didn’t hear what I think I just heard.”
“Don’t worry man, we can take them.” Visali said, giving his friend a pat on the back. “Just keep your guard up, okay?”
“Good luck, you two!” Manny called out to them as they got up and headed down. “Don’t lose to anyone but me, okay?”
They gave hearty laughs at this, and headed down to the ring, closely followed by a male and female Birdo who both appeared to be carrying plain chakras. “You think they’ll be okay?” Marcus asked, and Manny shrugged. “If they can’t beat these two, I don’t have the time to fight them.”
“They’ll be fine.” Shiala said, tightening her grip on Marcus. He looked over to her, then spotted the empty seat next to her. “Hey,” he wondered aloud, “Where’s Xenly gone?”
“I don’t know, she just said she had something to take care of.” Shiala replied, and settled down to watch.
Where has she gone? Marcus wondered, as he waited for the bell to ring.
To be continued…