The Trial of Champions!
After Elsie had announced they had failed and that they had to choose between two options, the group fell silent. Each and every one of them was disheartened and upset. How could they have failed? How could they have lost one of their own; Roxanne. So young and naive, yet such a strong warrior. She would be missed. But Elsie knew she couldn’t just leave her.
“Good Riddance,” Aelric blurted out. “I’m not going back in there, risking my life, for someone who may or may not be dead.”
“How could you be so selfish?”, Elsie retorted.
“A simple no would have sufficed,” Ailbe added.
“Okay, NO.” Aelric folded his arms and leaned back on the Stonebridge sign. Sam nodded, agreeing with Aelric as if to say ’me too’.
Desiree and Julian joined the argument too, but only in their heads. More than ever did they want to make sure Roxanne was alright, however, there was a really high chance that she hadn’t made it.
Interrupting everyone, Faye declared, “I’m going back round to find Rozanne and the hammer. Elsie, Ailbe, and anyone else, follow if you want to join.” With that, she turned on her heel, heading West. The other two hot on her tail, but no one else moved.
No one even spoke until the three had disappeared, after heading to the south. Then it was Sam to break the silence. “Let’s find somewhere to spend the night and rest our heads before figuring out what’s next.” The group agreed and trudged into Stonebridge.
The next day, when the four were well-rested, they strolled the dwarves’ market. Selling things they’d collected, buying new strength potions, and spotting a poster. When they were gathered around it, Julian read aloud.
The Trial of Champions!
Win 10,000 Gold pieces and the freedom of Chang Mai forever.
On May 1st each year, warriors and heroes come to Fang to face the test of their lives. Survival is unlikely, yet many take the risk, for the prize is great. However, to become champion is no easy task. Some years ago, the powerful baron of Fang, Sukumvit, decided to draw people into the town by creating the ultimate contest. A labyrinth deep inside the hill behind Fang, from which it only has one exit and is filled with many tricks, traps, and loathsome monsters.
Are you able to accept the challenge and win?
None of them spoke after Julian had finished. Yet, words were spoken, “I’m gonna’ do it.” The voice had a thick, country drawl, from someone who had not been brought up in the city. The four heads turned promptly to see where and who it’d come from. They were faced with a girl, one that was masked and hooded. Only her piercing green eyes were left uncovered, staring straight at the poster.
Aelric snarled, clearly not happy to be beaten to the punch, much less by a girl. “You?! This is a real damn tournament, child, not a pathetic game of stick combat.”
“Child? I’m not a child. I ‘ave as much chance as you do of winnin’, probably more,” the green-eyed girl, Kathryn, retorted.
Aelric laughed abruptly. “If you look like a child and sound like a child, then you are in fact, a child.”
“I’m not, and I am gonna’ compete.”
Sam watched the scene take place, wondering if she should cut in. Desiree, however, was in her head, wondering if she was actually brave enough to enter this tournament. While Julian, on the other hand, was quickly getting angrier and angrier. Finally, he couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “Aelric, stop it! There’s no need for such rudeness.”
Aelric ignored Julian and continued talking mockingly to Kathryn. “Child, be careful, there’s probably an age restriction.” He paused a moment and leaned a little forward. “But if you insist, fancy a wager?”
“What kind of wager?”, Kathryn asked.
He smirked. “If you do compete and you win, then I’ll give you 10 Gold pieces, but if you don’t, as I predict, then you give that Gold to me. Though if you die, then the satisfaction of knowing I was right will do quite nicely.”
She pondered the idea a moment before smiling and putting out her hand. “Agreed.” They shook hands.
In a quiet tone with a hint of envy, Desiree asked, “Does this mean the five of us are going to enter the tournament?”
Sam replied, “I believe it does.”
Despite its name, Fang was an ordinary small town in the Northern Province of Chiang May. Situated on the banks of the river Kok it made a convenient stopover for river traders and passengers throughout most of the year. A few barges, rafts and sometimes even a large sailboat could be found moored in Fang. But all that was long ago, before the creation of the Trial of Champions. Now once a year, the river is crammed with boats, as people arrive from hundreds of miles around, hoping to witness the breaking of an ancient tradition in Fang and see a victor of the Trial of Champions. A trial that Sukumvit had designed in meticulous detail so that anybody hoping to face its challenge would have to use their wits as well as their weapon skill. When he was finally satisfied with its completion, he picked ten of his finest, fully-armed, guards and sent them into the Labyrinth. He never saw them again and the tale of their ill-fate spread throughout the land. Rumours, messages, and news-sheets carried his challenge, and challengers flooded in. The first year, 17 brave warriors attempted ‘The Walk’, as it later became known, but not one reappeared. Years passed and the Trial continued, attracting bigger and bigger crowds. Fang prospered every April and May, they even dedicated a festival to it. Everyone sang, drank, danced, and laughed until day broke on May 1st when the town flocked to the gates of the labyrinth to watch the first challenger of the year step forward to face the Trial of Champions.
Having seen one of Sukumvit’s challenges nailed to a tree, Yoohan decided that this year she would attempt ‘The Walk’. For the past five years, she has been attracted to it, not for the rewards, but for the simple fact that nobody has ever yet emerged victorious. She intended to make this the year in which a Champion was crowned! To make a name for herself, to no longer be a nobody. Gathering her belongings, she set off immediately from Phan Thiet, a small town she’d been working in for the past few months. She keeps moving from town to town, never settling, never connecting, never staying longer than six months. Two days’ walk took her west to the coast, where she entered the cursed Port Blacksand. Wasting no time in that city of thieves, she bought passage on a small boat sailing north to where the river Kok meets the sea, and from there she took a raft up-river, finally arriving in Fang.
The trial begins in three days time, and the town was in an almost hysterical mood of excitement. Crystal and Emyrs had just registered their entry with officials and were both given violet scarves to tie around their arms, informing everyone of their status. For three days, they enjoyed Fang’s hospitality and were treated like demigods. Crystal may have been partaking in all festivities, but the look on her face whilst doing it was another story. She didn’t show anything on her face, no emotion what-so-ever, she never really did. Emyrs was quite the opposite, and it left them both wondering if they were going to be able to work together during this Trial. They had thought so, 14 weeks back, in the Vale of Willow, where they were going to help its people. Then they spotted the challenge and decided that they’d complete this first and then return to the Vale.
Though during the long merriment, Emyrs almost forgot their purpose in Fang and possibly would have too if it weren’t for Crystal. However, the evening before the Trial, the magnitude of the task ahead began to dominate Emyrs’ thoughts. And continued to later on too when both of them are taken to a special guest house and shown their rooms. There is a splendid four-poster bed with satin sheets to help the competitors be well-rested, possibly for the last time, but there’s little time left to sleep.
Just before dawn, a trumpet call awakens Yeonhwa from vivid dreams of flaming pits and giant black spiders. Minutes later, there was a knock on his door, and a man’s voice rang out saying, “Your challenge begins soon. Please be ready to leave in 10 minutes.”
Yeonhwa rolled over, sighing. Why did he have to be first in the line of competitors’ rooms? Though with the flip of a switch, he jolted upright and out of bed. No, today was the day and he was going to win this challenge. He walked to the window and opened the shutters. Already people were thronging the streets, moving quietly through the morning mist; spectators on their way to the labyrinth no doubt, hoping to find good vantage points from which to watch the competitors. Yeonhwa turned and walked to the wooden table on which his trust sword lay. He picked it up and cut the air with a mighty sweep, wondering what beasts its sharp edge may soon have to meet. Already dressed, as he slept in his leather armour, he adjusted it and grabbed his backpack before opening the door. Coming face to face with a small man with slanted eyes who greeted Yeonhwa as he emerged from his room. “Please follow me,” he said, turning left and walking quickly towards the stairs at the end of the corridor.
As one of the last doors to be knocked in the corridor, Scarlet was the last to leave. She and the man who’d knocked on her door left the guest-house, darting down narrow alleyways between houses. Soon she came into a wide dirt road lined with cheering crowds. When they saw her violet scarf, they cheer even louder and start showering her in flowers. The long shadows of the people in front of her shrank as the bright yellow sun rose higher in the morning sky. Standing there in front of the noisy and vibrant crowd, Scarlet felt strangely alone, aware of her coming ordeal. She wished Michael were here, standing beside her, supporting her. Suddenly she felt a tug on her shirt and saw her small guide beckoning her to follow him. Ahead was the looming hillside and the dark mouth of a tunnel disappearing into its depths. As she got closer, she noticed two great stone pillars on either side of the tunnel entrance. The pillars are covered with ornate carvings: writhing serpents, demons, deities, each seeming to scream a silent warning to those who would pass beyond them.
Felix saw Baron Sukumvit himself standing by the entrance, waiting to greet the contenders in the Trial of Champions. Felix counted 16 others standing proudly in line, their violent scarves displayed for all to see. He smiled, eager to start ‘The Walk,’ then looked to his left, to two bare-chested barbarians dressed in furs. They stand completely motionless, legs straight and slightly apart, arms thrust forward to rest on the hilts of their long, double-headed battleaxes. A tall, slightly bulky man with curly, brown hair and stubble was standing next to a blonde, meek-looking girl with a flail and a harsh-looking redhead with a bow and arrow. Felix chuckled to himself as he thought the girls should probably switch weapons. Next to the redhead was a dark-skinned dwarf with a big hammer who actually rather friendly and a what looked like the figure of a masked and covered girl. Next to them was a sleek, elven woman with golden hair, and feline green eyes like the hooded girl. She adjusted the cross-belt of daggers wrapped around her leather tunic. Felix turned to his right, to his employee of about a year, Derek. Derek had arrived in town during the last trial and met Felix at a town pub a few days later. Hearing that Felix had been struggling to cope with maintaining his land alone, Derek offered to help out, for payment, of course. So that’s what happened, Derek stayed for a year and worked as a farm hand, although it took the two months and months to be friends, if that’s what they could be called now. But they were close enough now to agree to attempt this together, even if one may have had to persuade the other. Derek nodded to the smiling Felix before looking to his right. A young man was there and a little girl with very short, brown hair. Both carried swords and Derek thought that both would be dead very, very soon. The same went for the next girl with a bow and arrow who looked way to classy to be here competing. Next to her was a long-haired man who looked a lot more rugged than Derek and a long-haired, freckled child whispering to him. Or she looked like a child to Derek and children had no place here, neither did women. Of the two remaining men, one was covered from head to foot in iron-plate armour with a plumed helmet and a crested shield; the other is cloaked in black robes, only his dark eyes showing just like the green-eyed girl. Long knives and other death-weapons hung from his belt.
Half of the 17 contenders acknowledged Kendra’s arrival with almost imperceptible nods of the head, the rest didn’t even notice her. She turned to face the exultant crowd for the almost the last time. Suddenly a hush fell over the crowd as Baron Sukumvit stepped forward holding twelve bamboo sticks. Kendra drew one from his outstretched hand and read the word ‘eleventh’. After years of smaller battles and fights, while trying to find her family, it was time to attempt this Trial and put her skills to the test. the woman may have saved her life and taught her everything she needed to know to survive, but she had refused to tell Kendra one thing; where her family was.
Then the trial began! The knight was first. He saluted the crowd before disappearing into the tunnel, and was followed 15 minutes later by the elf. Almost everyone else gets their turn, both in groups and individually, until only Kendra and other barbarian stood there. Now it was her turn to salute the crowd. She held her violet aloft, then took one final deep breath of cool fresh air before turning to pass between the stone-pillared gateway into Sukumvit’s corridors of power, to face the unknown perils of ‘The Walk’ through the mighty baron’s Deathtrap Dungeon.
East turned North eventually, until finally, they reached the river Kok, where Sam had told a sailor what they were doing, and with much excitement, he granted them free passage onto his boat. Now they were starting ‘The Walk’. The clamour of the spectators gradually faded behind the group as they ventured deep into the gloom of the cavern tunnel. It reminded Aelric of the large hole belonging to the Sting Worm, except minus the slime, and he hoped it would stay that way. Large crystals hung from the tunnel room at 20m intervals, radiating a soft light, just enough for them to see their way. As their eyes gradually became accustomed to the near darkness, they began to see movement all around. Spiders and beetles crawled up and down the chiselled walls, disappearing quickly into cracks and crevices as they sensed people coming. Rats and mice scurried along the floor ahead of them, and Desiree had to bite her tongue to stop herself from screaming as she pressed her body into Aelric. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind much as they kept walking. Droplets of water dripped into pools with an eerie plopping sound, which echoed down the tunnel. The air is cold, moist and dank, but after about five minutes, the group stopped at a stone table against the wall to the left. On it are 18 medium-sized boxes, each with a different name painted on its lid; there are five in the front with the group’s names.
@jdepisode, @EchoRavencroft, @CrazygirldY_dY_dY, @amberose, @daunt, @SilverRose, @amaiaxx21, @Littlefeets, @AnimeOtome, @Miumi.hp, @Caticorn, @Thecode004, @Wengliujing
For everyone: (if you are in a group then you’re welcome to discuss it in chat)
Do you wish to open your box?
- Another option that I’ll mention on the chat thread
Then shall you go West or East?
- Another option that I’ll mention on the chat thread