Chapter 3: Strategy

Chapter 3: Strategy

A Chapter by Trivn
"

Azael readies herself for the tournament. Realizing she is low on funds, she finds a way to make some money.

"

Though the morning sun was blocked from her window, the noisy street let Azael know that it was time to get up. She had the whole day to plan out her strategy for the tournament. Reaching her hands out towards the ceiling, she slowly started going through each channeling sign she knew. First were the elemental signs: Heat, stone, light, air, electric, and liquid. They were the simplest and all but useless on their own, but the fundamentals were the best place to start. Next, the evoking signs, the core of a caster's arsenal. There was no singular idea attached to each one, just an abstract idea that each represented.

By the time she finished, she had convinced herself to get out of bed and pace the room. Her stomach grumbled and reminded her that she had barely eaten yesterday. Reaching for her pack, it hit her that she had a single coin left. It would have been enough for a few days of travel, but fighting was different. She needed all the energy she could to last through the tournament.

Her mind wandered, trying to find some way to make some money during the tournament. Thinking of the night before, she remembered Nowell and Grenar's scam. Making the tokens would be a simple task, the problem would be finding someone to sell them to. All of the potential buyers would be joining the tournament. They might not be the brightest, but no one would risk buying a weapon from someone they may end up fighting.

Throwing her pack over her shoulder and heading out the door, she would continue trying to find a solution while she walked the streets.

***

The noise of the street was much louder out in the open. The street was filled with carts being pushed and pulled, merchants lined up beside the buildings trying to get the best deals

"I've got potatoes here, two silver pieces for a sack!"

"Cabbage, carrots, onions, silver for a pound!"

"Apples here, dozen for  a silver!"

All of the shouting brought back fond memories of her trips here with her father. He taught her how to listen to everyone, picking out the lowest prices. Then how to talk someone into paying more for their produce.

She weaved her way between the carts, looking for somewhere she might be able to get enough food to last her until she could make more money. One gold piece, or five silver. Even the best deals would only last her two days, three if she was careful. Passing by a disgruntled merchant, she overhead their conversation.

"I'll give ye a gold piece for three sacks of potatoes," the merchant said.

"Ma'am, yer bein' ridiculous. Now I told you, I'm sellin' them a half gold piece each. I can't be givin' 'em away for nothin'."

"Now don't ye be treatin' me like I'm stupid. No one'll buy them scrawny bags for half a gold piece."

"I've sold six already, and I'm sure ta sell the rest of 'em 'fore the day's up! Now do you want 'em or not?"

"I can't afford that much. Ye so sure ye can sell 'em, then go do it. I'll pay ye less for 'em when you come back later."

Azael stopped in her tracks with a brilliant idea. She turned, taking off down the road the way she came. She eyed the carts, looking for someone selling potatoes. She found a man pushing a full cart, his daughter was riding along with them. Azael fought the memories and walked over to him.

"I'll give you a gold for five sacks."

"I can't sell ya them for that, that's only a silver apiece!" the man said.

"I heard someone selling them for less. I'll take my business over there, then." She turned and started to walk away.

"Wait, best I can do is three for a gold piece."

"Make it four, that's over a silver apiece."

The man looked at her then his full cart and his daughter. Azael knew he would want to get out of here sooner rather than later, and if he waited too long, he might not be able to find a buyer at all.

"Deal. You have a cart or somethin'?" He asked, lifting a sack with either hand.

"No, I'll carry them." She grabbed the two and put them in one hand then held out her other with her last coin in it. He took the coin and handed her the next two.

"Be careful with those, they won't do you any good dropped on the ground."

"I've got them, thanks!" She started back up the road. She looked for the merchant she overheard earlier. Spotting her in the distance, Azael quickened her pace.

"Ma'am, I heard you were looking to buy potatoes?"

"Don't ye have a cart?" The lady looked at her in shock.

"Sold the cart, all I've got left is the potatoes. You want 'em or not?" Azael shivered as she felt her old accent returning. She would keep in mind to correct it later.

The lady mulled it over for a moment. Azael acted like she was going to walk away.

"Fine, I'll give you a gold for three of em."

"How about a gold and a half for all four? That's less than two silver apiece, best price you'll hear all day." Though her expression was calm, Azael was worried she oversold them.

The merchant and Azael locked eyes for a moment. "Set 'em over there," she said, gesturing next to her stand. "I'll get you your coin."

Azael took the coins and thanked her.

As she walked away, she thought to herself Another hour of this, and I'll have made back the entrance fee.

***

The sun reached its peak when Azael walked into a tavern, her coin bag full at her side. It was mostly silver and half gold coins, but it was certainly better than she started the morning with. Not every trade went as smoothly as the first, she lost a some silver on a few, but made a solid profit on the majority.

Feeling she had deserved it, she ordered a hearty lunch of meats and bread. She took an open table in the corner of the room. With a quick count of the contents of her coin bag, she realized she could eat like this until the end of the tournament and still have some to spare.

***

Back in her room, Azael sat on the edge of her bed meditating. There was no question of her own power, the problem was knowing what she would be up against. There would  be at least one token user that she knew of. They posed a minimal threat, if she grabbed their token bag, they would be all but helpless. Against another caster, she would just have to fight all out from the start and hope she was stronger and faster than her opponent.

That left summoners and enchanters. Summoners could call upon the spirits of this world and beings from other dimensions to fight for them. Azael had run into several summoners who could bring forth all sorts of creatures; anything from small sprites that would be nothing more than a nuisance, to demonic beasts that could tear her in two if given the chance. The best strategy for these was the safest: keep her distance until she knew the nature of the summoned being, then strike for its weakness.

Enchanters, on the other hand, were something she had never come up against. There were rumors that some found ways to use their talents in fights, though she had never seen one in action. She had no way to prepare herself if matched against them.

Her mind wandered to Nowell. She considered asking for pointers, but decided against it. If it was found out that the inn keeper was helping one of the contestants, he might have to fight off all of them.

The sound of a body hitting her door snapped her out of her trance. An argument in the hallway had suddenly turned physical. Azael cautiously made her way to the door. On opening her door, she came to realize that it was enchanted with a noise muffling spell, probably for this exact reason.

The sight of the hallway was striking. In the seconds between the body hitting her door and her opening it, the greater portion of the hallway had been set ablaze. Heat magic was typical of those that could not contain their rage. It was strong and simple, much like their anger.

Azael threw a simple wind barrier in front of herself. It was weak, but it would at least stop any stray magic that went her way.

The body that hit her door belonged to the man who was scammed out of his money yesterday. He still went without his armor, probably thinking he was safe within the inn. Laying on the floor, his fingers formed several signs. Unable to see them clearly, Azael figured they were of the air element as his opponent, a heavy, shirtless man, had his feet pulled out from under him. Now on even footing, or lack thereof, the two elected to fight with their fists instead of magic.

Several onlookers of the fight were cheering. Needless to say, it was probably for the same reason that the tournament was drawing such a large crowd: people loved violence. As the two struggled on the ground, the fires on the walls suddenly dispersed. The cheering subsided as Nowell made his way down the hall. He stopped several feet from the now one-sided fight, watching the shirtless man repeatedly strike his opponent.
"That's enough," said Nowell, noticing the lack of movement. "Any more and you'll have a pretty severe crime on your hands."

He stopped mid swing and looked up at Nowell. Realizing who he faced, he stood up and took several steps back. Nowell leaned down and grabbed the back of the unconscious man's shirt, lifting him in the air with an unnerving lack of effort. He carried him down the hall and walked into an open room. The shirtless man glanced back and forth down the hall as the onlookers slowly retreated from the hall. Satisfied that there was no one else looking for a fight, he fixed his hair and walked to his own room.

Nowell returned to the hall a moment later, locking the door behind himself. He pulled a white stone from his pocket and started marking the wall. After taking a look at his work, he mumbled a few words and the markings faded, as well as the majority of the scorch marks. He then looked at Azael, shrugged, and said, "Damages," before walking out of the hallway and back up the stairs.

Azael stood dumbfounded at the ease of the whole situation. Not once had Nowell changed his expression from the same slight grin he had when she met him. She went back into her room and shut the door. Forget a few pointers, if I can't find someone to take me on as an apprentice during the tournament, I'll ask him! She sat back down to meditate, but found herself too distracted thinking of all she could learn from someone as powerful as Nowell.

***

Azael thought she was comfortable with the idea of fighting in the tournament. Her sleepless night said otherwise. The little sleep she had gotten was restless and she woke feeling more exhausted than the night before. Considering that it may simply be hunger, she forced herself to get up and leave. There was still some time before the tournament would start, easily enough to grab a small meal before going to the arena.

The front room of the inn was bustling with activity. The mages were showing off their armor , others, their lack thereof. Each tried to look intimidating in their own way. Some were, others would have a tough time scaring off a squirrel.

Having never participated in such a tournament before, the spectacle bewildered Azael. Tightening her cloak around her shoulders, she quickly left before being dragged into the nonsense.

The roads were clear this day. It was almost unnerving after spending two days pushing her way through an endless sea of carts and crops. Azael walked through the empty streets, in search of a tavern that was not packed with spectators trying to get a quick meal in before rushing to the arena.

Her mind filled with thoughts of the upcoming tournament.

***

Her belly full, she passed the great statue on her way to the participant entrance to the arena. The crowds around the arena showcased people from several different neighboring towns and cities.

This event must be doing marvels for the economy here, thought Azael as she found the entrance.

A guard blocked her way as she attempted to enter.

"Only competitors are allowed past this point," he said, holding his arm out to the side.

Noticing the paper in his other hand, she replied, "My name is Azael." Anger built up inside her as he eyed her up and down. "I paid the entrance fee, are you going to let me in or not?" She gestured to the list of names.

He broke her gaze as he checked the paper. He lowered his arm and turned to the side. "Head inside and wait until you're called. There's no magecraft permitted outside of the ring." The last bit held the tone of a threat more than a warning.

Azael adjusted her cloak and pushed past him. After passing through a small hallway, she entered a large  semicircular room. Many of the mages she encountered at the inn were sitting and standing around the room. On the opposite side, two large boards held the day's schedule. She spotted her name halfway down the leftmost list, and again near the bottom of the right.

That doesn't make sense. Why am I fighting twice? She thought to herself.

A quick count of the names gave her the answer: There would be two fights occurring at any point during the day. Each contestant was expected to fight once on either side of the ring.

Another mage noticed the peculiarity and loudly questioned one of the guards about it. He was promptly knocked back, stumbling a few steps before readying a channeling sign.

A familiar voice boomed from behind Azael, "If you do that, it will be that last spell you ever cast." Everyone turned to see where the voice came from. "Pardon me, miss," the bearer of the voice placed a hand on Azael's shoulder. She stepped to the side, recognizing the markings on the man's arm.

Nowell slowly walked to the middle of the room, then turned to face the mages. "I do not doubt many of you are questioning the schedule. Allow me to explain. Due to the unprecedented number of entrants, we found it would be best to forgo the traditional elimination round." A sense of unease spread through the room. "Instead, to allow each of you a fair chance to continue into the final rounds, every entrant will be fighting twice today and twice tomorrow."

The unease turned to anger.

A short man with runes similar to Nowell's on his arms shouted, "You mean to tell us we're to fight four times in two days? How do you expect us to sustain our spells for that long?"

To Azael's left, a rather tall woman wearing what little more than what appeared to be metal undergarments spoke up, "No one expects you to have much power in that puny body anyway."
Leaning against the back wall, the man who set the inn on fire called back, "And how do you expect to last even a single fight dressed like that? A single strike to your middle and you'll hit the ground."
The meagerly dressed woman turned to him. "Keep talking and we'll see who goes down first."

Nowell decided it was time to intervene. "Enough. You'll have your chance to fight in the arena. Speaking of which, if your name is in the first row, head through the door behind me. The games are about to begin." He allowed a slight grin to form on his lips.

After the four competitors passed by him, he looked each remaining mage in the eye in turn, then turned and walked out to the arena himself.

This should be interesting. Azael thought to herself, taking a seat on an empty bench in the corner.



© 2016 Trivn


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Added on May 9, 2016
Last Updated on May 9, 2016
Tags: Magic, Fantasy


Author

Trivn
Trivn

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"Jack of all trades, master of none, but better than a master of one." I have skills across the board, but I'm not anywhere close to a professional at anything. I like to read and write, play games a.. more..

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