RE: =EC 2021= Grand Arena (Full Version)

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Chewy905 -> RE: =EC 2021= Grand Arena (10/13/2021 10:19:09)

Steel met steel, sparks flying through Jacklin’s blurred vision as she looked down at Milo’s bleeding form. She stumbled back as Milo pushed against her, adrenaline keeping her legs from collapsing any more than they had.

Then her stomach dropped. A weight left her shoulders, as if a gaze she had not known was there had moved on. She understood immediately, even before the dragon’s roar and comforting heat flooded the arena.

She had lost.

Not far from her she saw the crimson pillar burst into flames and dissolve to ash. Darkness followed, obsidian vanishing to naught but dust. That meant…

Jacklin laughed, the motion driving even more bolts of pain through her broken form. She fell to her knees as Levanna’s corpse was engulfed in blazing lightning. The sun vanished above, dark clouds shrouding the sky as thunder roared across the sands. She didn’t need to hear the criers over the din to know exactly what had happened.

Levanna, her chest torn open by Jacklin’s blade, her life ended in a final game, had won.

Jacklin continued laughing, her knees buckling under her weight and the rest of her burnt, scarred form greeting the sands with a thump. “Damn straight, Stormcaller. Give em hell.” She wheezed between pained breaths. It was ridiculous. Two warriors an inch away from death and the lords had picked a corpse. Such was the way of these fickle gods, such was the twist at the end of the game. Jacklin leaned up on one arm, scanning the crowd. Her eyes, blurred with tears, blood, and the falling rain, settled on a yellow blob. She thought she could make out panic in the man's eyes as he looked out at her. Hoping she had the right guy, she shot a wink and motioned with her hands, miming tipping a bottle. She saw the blob stand up as her vision faded to black and blessed rest finally took hold of her weary form.

Vile, bitter liquid trickled down her throat, rousing her from a dreamless slumber. She coughed, her eyes creeping open to a small slit. She could make out… stone, her battered legs and bent armor, and her hands laid out before her, scorched palms up.

“Drink.” A soft voice whispered, tipping a small cup towards her.

She obliged, choking down the lukewarm liquid. She could feel a heat, far far hotter than the drink itself, flood through her form. Then, pain. She grit her teeth as it bolted through her, bones realigning, tears in flesh closing, burns fading away. As the pain faded, the scars, the burns, remained. Memories and treasures of her greatest game yet. She smiled, opening her eyes wider at the cloaked figure before her.

“Thank… you.” Her voice had returned to her, strong as ever, yet she felt she could barely speak. She glanced about, finding herself propped against the stone walls of the outer arena. Her savior was a figure cloaked in red, their face shrouded within their hood.

“We have taken time from your end and moved it to now. You keep your wounds, your scars, your gifts. You lose years. Make them count, and remember that now and forever you are Paragon still.”

Jacklin sighed. She couldn’t have gotten a healer that was more fun; had to end up with a cryptic one instead. Not that it mattered in the end. Her body was healed, and as she stood up she felt better than she had all day. The sharp blade of Cassius in the Fountain, the viscous blows of Levanna in the sands, they were memories now. She saluted as the robed healer vanished into the complex of the arena, then she turned to face the streets of Bren. People milled about, chattering excitedly about the events of the day. The dark thunderclouds had not yet faded from the sky. She took a moment to stretch, touching her toes, stretching out her arms, and jogging in place. She felt wonderful, yet absolutely famished.

She strode down the streets, shaking hands, signing autographs, and accepting all the congratulations the crowds had to offer.

Paragon. I wonder how long this town will remember my name.

Jacklin slipped off her hat and tattered uniform as she kicked open the door of the Leaking Horn tavern. Without even looking, she tossed them over to the counter as she sat and spun twice on a stool. Simon slid two bottles onto the table and caught her clothes in a single fluid motion, deftly folding and setting them aside.

With a flick of her wrist, Jacklin danced a bottle opener to her hand and popped the bottle.

“I’m back, Simon. How’d I do?”

The man shook his head, a broad grin on his face.

“Not good enough. You lost me a bet.”

Jacklin laughed as she tossed her gold onto the counter. “Awww I’m glad I had your utmost support! Start tossing my name around, maybe we can use my thirty-minutes of fame to make back what you lost! And besides, you’ll still have my monthly patronage. You ain’t getting rid of me just cause I lost. After all...”

She smiled as she took a swig of the bottle, washing down the excitement of the day and already planning her next game with her brother for when she’d return home.

“I’m unstoppable.”

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