[Poem][Little Feet]

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Little Feet

The light steps of children’s feet

Innocent until the day they became older

Before they learned to pace from worry

They ran with excitement and carefree

Of all the time they thought they had it all

To think they could do everything in the gleam of tomorrow

But tomorrow always came

Yet tomorrow never happened

Every day that ticked on by always come to an end

Those little feet became heavy

Their little shoes filled with responsibility

Their little feet came to hold so much

Their little feet eventually hold up new little feet

To fill their big shoes so little ones can be free

To adventure begins again

With the steps of children’s feet

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[Poem][The Same]

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Think back to when it all made sense

Where up was up and down was down

When the sky was blue and the water clear

How you would smile and hold his hand

Who mattered most was always there with you

Why things would change never occurred to you

Think of here, of now, of tomorrow and next week

Is it all still the same?

Would it be better different?

Or would it be best, still the same…

[War of the Seasons][Part 8]

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Susanda was on the verge of arguing with Tracede but Caranne raised a hand to silence them both so she could speak, “the pair of you are speaking too quickly and are obviously privy to more knowledge than myself. Firstly, what blade and what etchings are you referring to? Secondly, the chemists are already testing everything that came out of the arena with you on my orders, and finally, Aeron is…?”

A short paused followed her question and Tracede looked at her, mystified, “the mortal’s name is Aeron. You didn’t ask what his name was, especially considering his victory?”

Caranne was speechless at first but regained her composure in moments, and countering added, “I did not because he was unconscious when he reached the healers. You were also incapacitated by your own injuries and I was more concerned about both your survival than discovering the mortal’s name.”

“’Aeron’, dear lady, ‘the mortal’ is named Aeron,” Tracede reminded her, “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind you or any of us, using his name. Actually, by now the entire Isle would be using his name because of what happened.” During the thoughtful silence that followed, he thought about what seemed an odd action for Caranne, her referring to Aeron as only a mortal. He then realized her behavour wasn’t all that out of place anymore, for he has been noticing Caranne becoming more detached from this world, as though she wasn’t here anymore.

When Tracede had first arrived at the Coliseum, he had noticed that Caranne walked beyond the walls among the mortals on a daily basis. She spoke to them, she listened to them, and more importantly, she enjoyed their company and understood them for what they were. She understood their mortality and their hope and excitement in being able to just catch a glance of her, let alone be honoured to have words with her as though they were equals. He could not pinpoint the day or even the week that Caranne ceased to walk the roads that labyrinthed throughout the Floating Isle, but in time she never left the Coliseum walls. The Coliseum was no longer her home, it somehow became her prison. The degree to which she was now detached became obviously evident and was now beyond any hope of disguising.

Maybe this will be good for her. Maybe Aeron can help her reconnect with the world again, and maybe then she’ll…

Tracede swallowed the remaining food that was on his platter, “as for your other question, the blade is over there. Nothing seemed overly strange about it during the fight or at least I didn’t notice anything. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly in the position to notice anything beyond protecting myself and being on the offensive when allowed. As for the man, Aeron was very skilled and had an excellent technique with the blade he used that simply came from hard work and practice. Unless you’d like to ask something more specific, I’m not sure what else to tell you two lovely ladies.”

Caranne walked to where the ancient sword was set and examined it in her hands, “neither of you were able to read the etchings?” The other pair in the room shook their heads, both only knew that the markings where pristine in condition and of no language they had ever seen. “And if I remember correctly, no outside weapons are allowed to enter the Coliseum and those provided are checked daily, yet this ancient piece was among them. Perhaps there is someone else better suited to answering questions about this sword’s previous location, and I have a good mind as to whom. However, that will need to wait until later. Tracede is there anything else you need to let me know before I check on… Aeron?”

Tracede paused again, a somewhat thoughtful look growing on his face because he was considering the words he had spoken to Aeron as they leaned on the other while leaving the arena. Caranne became impatient, “Tracede please, if there is something tell me now. I need to speak with quite a few people today and I need to do so before nightfall.”

“I told him he was the mortals hope, that he couldn’t waiver in strength as we dragged ourselves out of the arena. It’s important, if he’s awake when you see him, that you ask if he remembers what I said to him. He walked in to that arena with honour and with unselfish motives and we need to make sure he still thinks that way.” Tracede’s breath had become laboured in growing anxiety over Aeron’s potential state of mind now that he was victorious in his first pursuit. He had never spoken aloud about his own hopes and concerns for the mortals that they fought and watched as spectators. He was unsure if even Susanda was prepared for a potential life beyond the Coliseum in a world where mortals could live without the watchful eye of the gods.

“I do not think I am entirely sure I understand why you would say something like that to him, but alright. Both of you were exhausted and suffering from blood loss and pain… perhaps when you are of a sounder mind, you can explain to Susanda and myself what you meant, if it still means anything to you by that point.” Caranne said reassuringly if only a little skeptically due to Tracede’s condition and his usual flare for the emotionally dramatic. She moved to leave the room, “I will come check on you later, but please send for me sooner if there is anything you need or remember further.”

Tracede and Susanda shared a look after Caranne left, knowing her last response to them was to be expected. They had both noticed the slow downward progression of Caranne’s grasp on the mortal realm, and as a result she had become less and less understanding of their plight. Spending less time among them devoided her of compassion and accepting of their mortality. What Tracede had told her he said to Aeron, she could not even begin to understand why he would need that sort of encouragement from an opponent whom he had just defeated. Caranne saw mortals as desire driven for wants that consisted of material wealth and the right to boast and not for honour or prestige. They were slowly becoming a breed of animal that thought no more in to the future than beyond their next immediate satisfaction.

Tracede silently kept the hope that Aeron may change that view for the better and reunite Caranne with how the world was becoming. The gods were a fading people among the explosion of mortal settlements that where becoming villages, that were becoming cities, becoming landmarks. Even the Floating Isle was becoming less and less a location of exotic uniqueness as the mortals created their own monuments of grandeur. They craved the need to appear just as powerful as the gods and just as capable of being their own masters. Their negative desires, their selfish distain for the lives of those they trampled and used for their own advancement only caused Caranne to further doubt their ability to behave rationally towards what they should be striving for. Aeron strove to the same degree as these other mortals but he did it for the right reasons and through a means that would only burden himself.

“What you are expecting of her is improbable, I hope you realize that. The rest of us have already, Tracede,” Susanda said quietly but with a matter of fact tone.

“Improbable but not impossible. Until that woman is too far gone and becomes impossible, I’m going to keep on trying.”

~

A foggy haze had begun to cover the grounds, the sky that had been clear darkened with the threat of rain and thunder. The weather seemed to reflect the disbelief of the earlier crowd as they shared what they had witnessed within the Coliseum. It was impossible, a mortal had never defeated a god before; they had never heard of such a thing ever happening. They were unsure what to think of this development and that such a thing could happen, especially in their own lifetime. What did this mean for them? What could this mean for them? If the gods were no longer invincible, who would protect them from the things they could not protect themselves from? Who could they turn to, to rely on, if not the gods? If one mortal could defeat a god, could another accomplish the same?

Perhaps the most debated question that had spread through the streets like wildlife was why the mortal did not kill the god. It was a fight to the death, after all. They had both been injured in the last blow and maybe Aeron didn’t have the strength to finish Tracede. What other reason could Aeron have to leave the god alive to heal and return to the Coliseum arena to take more lives? Whose side was this ‘hero’ on? This Mortal Champion may have won but how did he do it? Did he cheat or bribe the god into falling to his sword? Who were they supposed to have faith in now that a god had bled and a mortal was victorious in the Coliseum?

Aeron’s victory had tipped the balance of the Floating Isle and the citizens sought answers. The notice had been formally given at the time of Aeron and Tracede’s departure from the arena grounds that Aeron had collapsed in to unconsciousness and had remained so until the evening. The answers that they and Caranne sought would be gotten once he awoke and was deemed fit enough to discuss what had occurred during the battle. The uncertainty of what may come from Aeron’s success shook even the most confident, especially if everything changed or worse, if nothing did. Would change of any sort be beneficial at this point? The mortals seemed to be having a difficult life already without needing to rely further on themselves where they already relied on the gods.

Caranne had walked half the length of the Coliseum to where the unconscious victor was placed to recover. She had taken her time in doing so in order to consider what Tracede had said to her. It was a simple enough statement he had said, but she was aware of the connotations of what it would mean if she informed the mortal of his words. She knew what the others thought of her attitude towards the mortals and their incapability to care for their own wellbeing. They were wrong though, about having absolutely no faith left in them, it was because she did that she no longer spent her time among them beyond the walls of the Coliseum. If the mortals felt her constant presence in the streets, in their homes, there would be no means to urge them to rely on themselves. Yes, they relied on the Coliseum to run their small economy on the Floating Isle and gave them dreams of fame through the battles, but they chose what to do with the attention.

Caranne believed her absence was working quite well because although she missed seeing those kind citizens, it caused the lazy and the incompetent to push themselves in to making a living. Before, simply hearing that a god walked among mortals brought many from hundreds of kilometers away to spend their time and money on the Floating Isle. She inadvertently brought easy money to her mortals, causing them to lower their standards and coast on the income they knew would come willingly. So she stopped her walks through the marketplace, she ceased accepting dinner invitations, and she refused to attend festivals that were held for her and the gods. She created a dark period for them and many did chose to leave the Isle, many of the ones remaining being the persistent and hard working. They created lives that they could call their own and be proud of and she was happy for them. That happiness did not prevent her missing them though.

Beyond the door she stood in front of laid a mortal that could solidify the mortals hope and faith in their own abilities. However, if Tracede had been wrong and this young man had been changed by his first victory, then anything beyond that door would be tainted.

[War of the Seasons][Part 7]

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The battles for the day had ended and the suspension of any further battle was announced soon after the defeat of Tracede. It was the only logical step once the length of Aeron’s match caused those that had been in line behind him to abandon their positions to watch the historic fight. No one wanted to fight after what they saw. The shock of what has occurred was still sinking in as the audience took their time vacating the stands of the Coliseum.

Soon after leaving the arena, Tracede was taken to the infirmary and had the ancient sword removed from his old injury. His new wound had been stitched and dressed as Susanda stood silently by, watching, making sure Tracede was receiving the best care possible. They may have been immortal but that did not mean they could not experience great pain. Now removed to his own chamber, he laid upright in bed, leg elevated, still under the watchful cool eyes of Susanda. Tracede was fighting sleep, having been told by the healers to remain awake at least until nightfall.

“Was a darn good plunge, I’ll give him that,” Tracede mumbled under his breath. “Right in the sweet spot, very good aim. I don’t think I’ll even have a fresh scar, the new one landed right over the old.”

Susanda because slightly livid, “’a good plunge?’ ‘Right in the sweet spot’? He could have killed you. He was trying to kill you, after all that was entirely the point of what we do here.”

A little groggy but no longer sleepy from Susanda’s outburst, Tracede smiled his goofy smile at her, trying to melt that icy exterior of hers. “But he didn’t. He could have easily aimed straight and plunged the blade in to my chest or could have pulled the blade out and cause me to bleed out. But he didn’t. He willingly did what he did, with the intention of preserving my life, and then aided me back for aid. You can be angry that he injured me, that he defeated me if you like, but don’t think h did it because he wanted to, sweetheart.”

Susanda’s posture stiffened slightly at something he said and knew he meant what he said, “perhaps, but do not feel the need to call me that again, ever.”

Tracede laughed, ending abruptly due to wincing in pain but looked back at his sultry friend anyways, lovingly, “we’ll chalk it up to the pain. But Susanda, not ever?”

To the untrained eye, her facial expression did not move a fraction of an inch, but Tracede could tell she smiled, if only on the most minimal scale. He decided to change the subject in case she changed her mind in keeping him company. “Did you bring the blade with you here? I’d be very interested in having a look at the weapon that nearly killed me.”

Susanda made no motion to move or speak, but simply gave him the look of all looks and remained silent. She had brought the blade with her and had already examined it during a short period of time that Tracede was unconscious. Her eyes moved to where she had place it but still made no motion towards it. He was about to ask again when she raised her hand to silence him, “there is nothing about it that cannot wait until you are rested, which you should be doing now. Besides, Caranne mentioned wanting to speak with you when you were up to it. To check on you, I supposed and probably ask what happened out there.” There was momentary quiet as the overwhelming obviousness of what Susanda wanted to know herself lingered in her previous statement.

“You’re adorable when you’re curious, you know that? You want to know what happened too, don’t you? I can tell you, if you like, but you have to allow me to call you ‘sweetheart’ from now on.” Tracede teased her, knowing she would either concede in order to learn what happened or simply leave, and he did not imagine her doing the latter in his current condition.

Susanda turned to Tracede and gave him a legitimate smile, “or I could wait until Caranne arrives and she asks you. Would you give her the same ultimatum as well? Do you want to call her ‘sweetheart’?”

Tracede laughed through his pain, relinquishing to her sunning revelation and enjoying seeing her smile. “Oh no Susanda, you’re the only soul I’d ever wish to call that, even though you don’t want me to.”

The silence that preceded was not awkward but comfortable. Each knowing the other, nothing else needed to be said at that point. The timing was perfect though because only a few minutes passed before a knock came at the door. Caranne entered in all her mild glory carrying a platter of food, drink, and fresh dressings. Tracede and Susanda nodded in her direction in quiet respect for the woman who was essentially their employer, but most certainly their superior. Regardless of her elevated position, she was also their friend and did in fact hold an enormous degree of care for them. However, she may have been considerate in bringing in fresh dressings for his wounds, but nothing would compel her to change them for him. “I was told you look as though you will live to fight again Tracede, but how are you feeling? It’s not every day we see a defeat occur of one of our own, let alone experience it personally.”

“Well, as long as I don’t laugh or move or breathe too much, I’m right as rain,” Tracede jested, wanting to show his worried friend that he was still in good spirits. He knew she came in to the room as a worried friend first and a concerned employer second because she had asked after him first and not about what happened immediately. That was the largest misconception the mortals had about them; that they were immovable forces that had not a care about anyone or anything that did not improve their personal will. Just because they were gods and had the potential to live forever did not mean they had no knowledge of what it was like to be human, after all many of them were one at some point. “Have you seen him yet? He hasn’t passed because of his chest wound had he? I couldn’t imagine having accomplished all that he did only to…”

“Be calm, I have not received news of any decline of his current condition. I have not gone to see the mortal in person yet because he had remained unconscious at this time. I knew you were awake so I came here first, and knowing you, you would be hungry of all things.”

Tracede propped himself higher on his pillows and reached a hand out towards Caranne to accept the platter she had carried into the room, “right as always, wonderful lady. The only thing that could hurt more than my leg is the insatiable pain of my empty stomach.” Accepting the platter on to his lap he began devouring its contents, but not before giving Caranne a look so she would understand he knew her other motive for visiting his so soon.

A mortal challenger had won, and not only that but had spared the life of his opponent even though in changed positions Tracede would have taken his. Tracede’s mouth was full and Susanda was unlikely to say much while she knew Caranne had questions to ask, so Caranne broke the silence, “certainly something none of us have experience before. Every seasons when the weather, temperatures, and conditions change and the first Champion that these mortals face is refreshed, all come with the certainty that they must kill to achieve victory. This mortal’s actions completely contradict what mortals know and expect, so it leave me to wonder if this young mortal…for lack of a better work, has perhaps found a means of cheating. Maybe we should have the chemists have a look at you Tracede and his blade for any signs of poisoning.” Slightly anxious due to the situation, Caranne had begun slowly walking the length of the room.

“Maybe that’s why he won though,” Tracede managed to voice, mouth full of fresh bread.

“Do you feel more poorly? Do you think you have been poisoned? Do you feel feverish or chilled? Are you having any chest pains or pain in your arm?” Susanda began to panic at the notion that Tracede could have been poisoned and sat untreated while all he did was continue eating. “It was probably that old blade and those etchings; maybe they were made with something laced with poisoned, with or without the mortal’s knowledge. But then, who would have willingly used an aged blade among so many finer, newer blades…”

Tracede quickly cleared this throat, “no, no, sweetheart, I don’t mean the poison part. Maybe Aeron won because he didn’t come ready to kill his opponent but because he came prepared to win or die but not to kill. You said yourself Caranne, he’s acted completely contrary to what every pervious combatant has acted. Unlike them, unlike all others, literally all others, he was victorious.”

[War of the Seasons][Part 6]

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The sword in Aeron’s hand seemed only to lighten as the battle went on, having lasted longer than anyone had thought possible. He assumed the swords lightness in weight was because he was tiring, that his body and mind were beginning to become effected by the immense fatigue that he should have been feeling. Blocking the lunging at his skilled opponent, he noticed that Tracede also showed signs of fatigue, and equal surprise that the youth before him was capable of continuing for this long. Tracede also showed a sort of intrigued enjoyment that he was finally matched against someone that was truly dedicated to winning and not just to have his name among the fallen mortals before him.

Muscled bodies quivering in their fluid movement of battle, drenched in sweat from the exertion and sheet heat from the boiling midday sun. The entire Coliseum cheered for both men but only a dull roar reached them down in the arena because their intense focus was solely fixed upon the single man that was before them. Both combatants were bleeding, having their skin brushed by the steel of the others weapon with neither having landed a fatal blow yet. It was with those glances though that Aeron identified his point of victory.

Aeron had not only spent his time training his body, mind, and skill with any weapon he may have been required to use. He and his trainers concocted numerous situations and circumstances that could be presented against him in his battles with each Champion. He also spent hours, days even, at a time learning all he could about those he would face. He read every story, listened to every legend the elders could remember with their many years of knowledge, and absorbed it all disregarding nothing. No matter how small the detail or how farfetched an account was, Aeron committed all he could learn to memory, and to heart, in order to give him the greatest chance of success. This was how he knew what to look for.

The most widespread tale of Tracede was how the day the Spring Trident was found it had sliced open his leg, nearly killing him. What could have been a fatal injury then was a weakness now, and Aeron could see that Tracede was in fact favouring his uninjured leg now that fatigue was setting in. Only through his own endurance could Aeron have discovered this to be true and an advantage against the Champion. He knew what he had to do now in order to be victorious, but it would also mean opening his own defenses and exposing the center mass of his body. He knew the risk and he knew he was not here to play it safe.

The moment was now.

Tracede had lunged with his Trident at the center of Aeron’s body, expecting either to hit his mark or be blocked by the ancient-looking sword his opponent held. Instead of blocking though, Aeron lunged directly at Tracede as well, turning his body just enough to only be grazed by the Spring Trident, his own blade smoothly sliding through the empty space between Tracede’s arm and knee. Aeron’s blade hit home in Tracede’s weaker left leg, entering through the thigh and hitting the trampled, sweat and blood soaked dirt ground beneath them.

The longest moment of both their lives past until the Spring Trident wavered, its tip hitting the ground, the small amount of Aeron’s blood rolling down the blades in to the ground. The silence was deafening, the crowd having gone silent in disbelief of what their eyes had never seen before. A mortal had finally won and yet there were no cheers as the two fighters had still not moved from their extended positions. Aeron did not move to pull out his sword from Tracede’s leg, but instead he placed a hand on his shoulder and sought eye-contact. On Tracede’s face was an expression that nearly made them both laugh because it was one of pain, disbelief, and enjoyment at the unexpected.

“If we pull the blade out, you may bleed to death. Please, it would be my honour to escort you to the infirmary,” Aeron offered. “Let us not test your immortality today.”

Smiling at the humour, Tracede knew that this day would not be his last, even though this would have been a fine battle to have made his final bow. But today was not that day and this battle would not be the last by any means. “Lucky I wasn’t wrong about your honesty in having honourable intentions for fighting here today. Lucky I lunged when I did or one of us may not be here altogether.” With the aid of Aeron’s own fleeting strength, Tracede rose with the ancient blade still puncturing his leg. He motioned towards another entrance to the arena, most likely the one he had entered by earlier that morning, before any blood had ben shed.

“Luck seemed to be on both our sides fortunately. If you had wounded my any more deeply, we would both be bleeding out in front of all these eyes. The last one conscious would not in good conscious call that an honourable victory,” Aeron added, saying only what came to mind, struggling to remain awake. The wound in his chest was deeper than he though was the vibrant life-blood of his mortal body continued to flow heavily down his abdomen, the stream reaching down his thigh to his knee. Aeron could not help but weaver slightly as they neared the second hallway leading beneath the Coliseum walls.

Tracede’s grip on his new friend tightened, purposely causing pain to shoot through his body, front to back. “You’re a strong man, young Aeron. Victory is yours today so do not allow these mortals to see you weaken. Let the see a new hero, a new Mortal Champion that they can place faith in and use to motivate them to become more than what they are now. Let them see the mortal carry the god while giving in can come later, behind closed doors. See? Physicians just beyond the darkness of the stone.”

Aeron nodded, no longer able to spare the energy to speak on audible response. He pushed his sore and tired muscles to their known limit in order to fulfill the requests of the wounded Champion. Though he did not expect such advice from someone who minutes before was set on taking his life, he understood now why so many of the Floating Isle’s inhabitants chose to continue to remain here, and why they spent hours, days, attending the unmatched battles between mortals and gods. It was for hope and faith in their own mortality; they wanted to know that they could be capable of more if they attempted to be. They were frightened of death, so sought their own bravery in the bravery of the young and old that walked out in to the arena. They lingered day in and day out because they had yet to see anyone even come close to achieving what they thought they needed to see.

Could anyone blame them though for looking somewhere other than the gods for support in their daily lives? The gods were on an entirely different plain than mortals that it was impossible to look up to them for anything other than the impossible. If mortal needed someone to eclipse the sun or send waves crashing in the opposite direction or even someone to be turned to stone, a god could only accomplish those. But what about hope that a poor farmer could endure harsh season conditions and still produce a plentiful harvest or that a sickness in the family could be cured through knowledge rather than through an unpayable price to be cured by magic? Faith in mortality was weak but could be restored via a sole individual who could be worthy of reinforcing that faith. It could not be just any mortal though and that was what Tracede desired by continuing to be a Champion of the Coliseum.

He had been waiting for a young man like Aeron who not just showed promise for the future but showed it now. Tracede saw what he needed to when Aeron had spoken his presence at the Coliseum; he was there for the betterment of his family and for no other reason that could actually benefit himself. The idea was completely ludicrous to any other previous combatant and to nearly all who sat and watched each battle every day. Tracede’s only true fear now was that he was wrong. What if Aeron changed because of his victory?

No, no his heart and motives were true and will remain so,” Tracede reasoned as Aeron and he reached the waiting beds beyond the dark hallway.

Tracede remained conscious just long enough to see Aeron collapse in unconsciousness into the arms of Caranne who had appeared to make sure no one lost their lives.

Hmm, they look pretty good together.

[War of the Seasons][Part 4]

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Tracede still remembered that first day Susanda spent, locked up in her room until night fell and all on their small island had went home to their sleep. He had been restless from the moment she had withdrawn from the doorway and shut him out. He had taken to his own room in an attempt at gaining some silence to process his initial interaction with her and where he could progress from that point on. He paced the length of his chamber, he sat and stood a dozen times over, and he polished his weapon: a trident that had been forged on the spring solstice on a small island surrounded by the clearest of crystal waters.

Obviously named for the time frame it was forged in, the Spring Trident has nearly impaled him, which was how it was discovered after years of being buried in the thick coral of the ocean-side beach by his home. He had gone fishing with a close friend on an unusually hot day in spring. The unseasonal heat combined with no shade in their small wooden boat caused Tracede great discomfort so was resolved to jump in to the rejuvenating waters, regardless of whether or not be scared the fish away. So that was what he did; standing up his thin, sweat-soaked shirt and dove right in, right over the spot the Trident stuck out from the coral. It had torn a decent size gouge in his right leg stretching the length of his calf to his knee. Tracede’s friend had nearly passed out from the sight of all the bloodied water around his boat and was barely able to row them back to land.

Although he was in great pain and light headed from the blood loss, Tracede insisted it was not the coral that injured him, that there was something made of metal down there. No one believed him, something to do with his carefree, light-hearted, imaginative nature that made others question what he believe he saw. So naturally, and against the healer’s advisement, Tracede convinced his friend to return to their earlier fishing spot to inspect the coral beneath. Just as he thought he saw earlier, he saw three prongs jetting out of the coral. Once pulled from the coral, the history of the Spring Trident was told and the decision was made that it now belonged to Tracede, to forge his own sense of responsibility and honour.

Tracede was sent to the Coliseum by the elders of his village, wanting to encourage him to become the leader they hoped he could be, after a string of events that occurred after the Trident was declared his. He learned how to fight and be victorious; he learned respect for his opponent and how to honour his victories and enemies in their defeat. He could now protect those he cared about, but managed to do so while remaining the light-hearted and caring man his mother had taught him to be. He strove to hold on to those traits for as long as he could, not just for himself but for Susanda so she could see that one could be protective but also keep their humanity in the process. He hoped in time she would see that lesson and learn that she too could allow herself to live again.

He took that lesson as ironic, given that their responsibility at the Coliseum was to take lives and push mortals to their utmost limit. The pair sought their lives, new lives to overcome pasts that are better left forgotten, while they took promising lives away from the young and old. But perhaps doing so was the toll they had to pay in order to become alive again. Cruel as it may have been, they did it anyways.

The trumpets sounded on the other side of their new home. Tracede rose from his seat and walked over to the Spring Trident. Pausing, his eyes traced the intricate carvings and textures on its shaft and took it up with both hands. He turned to the doorway and smiled at his beautiful Susanda, “they’re calling. Shall we get going?”

[War of the Seasons][Part 3]

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A chill ran over the skin of his arms, he knew she had entered his room. Susanda did not speak when she entered, only just remained in the doorway, neither inviting herself in nor simply leaving for a few moments of silence. She just waited and allowed her presence to make her introduction for her. Tracede smiled to himself because he knew it was her, in all her dark, chilling beauty of being, his exact opposite, and the love of his life. Forbid the day she found out about that tidbit of knowledge, because he was afraid of its potential chilling effect. One had to tread exceptionally carefully when speaking to Susanda, not only because of her icy demeanor but because of the weapons she carried.

Susanda had come from the north, just appeared one day in the Coliseum arena and spoke to Caranne. Without any additional conversation than needed, she entered the halls towards the chambers the Champions occupied with two blades strapped to her back. They were long and ide but almost went unnoticed because of her long white hair covering the length of her back down to the back of her knees. She appeared a slender and beautiful creature that that seemed peaceful outwards but filled with passion and pain within her soul.

Having arrived at the Coliseum just recently filled with his own pain, one look by Tracede melted his own heart. Something about this woman allowed him to feel again, something he had come to this place to drown in blood in order to forget. He thought he had done just that in the first few battles in his short time there, but seeing her walk through the halls to her new residence instantly changed how he felt deep inside. He knew however, that something inside of her was broken as well, something that could not so easily be fixed. He would tread lightly and be what she needed, and he hoped with time, he could help her feel again too.

Tracede knew how to chip the first piece of ice off her: by asking about her unique weapons, her Dual Ice Swords. The day of Susanda’s arrival, she spent hours in her new chambers with the door closed and complete silence beyond it. Like an inexperienced schoolboy, Tracede had lingered in the hallway, sitting, pacing, trying to raise the courage to knock on her door and think of something halfway intelligent to say to her. Much to his surprise, she opened her door and just stood in the doorway, looking at him as though he had knocked and disrupted her. All Tracede could do was stand in attention, gazing right back at her.

Her gaze remained on him, firm and piercing the entire while. “Your thoughts were practically loud enough to hear or at least, to give away your lengthy presence beyond my door. What is it you want?”

Tracede’s mouth gapped open as he did a double-take at her words. Recovering some function of his faculties, he greeted her, “I couldn’t help but see you passing through the hall past my own room, and I wanted to give you my own welcome to this place. Of course, my door is always open to you, to anyone really.” He knew he probably sounded ridiculous but at least he could only move up from this point. All she did was stare at him, the situation complete with a growing awkward silence. “Do you… need anything right now?”

Susanda was curt in her reply, “no,” and began to close her door but stopped and then added, in a softer voice, “… perhaps later.” She finished shutting the door completely and once again complete silence protruded from her room.

Tracede was content with that, he had to be, he had to move at her pace no matter how slow that may be. Smiling, he left the hall to return to his own room.

Beyond her door, Susanda had not moved very far after closing herself off the Tracede. She remained as still as she could, waiting and listening for his movements, specifically for his departure. It was not that he was unkind or would necessarily bother her, but she was unprepared and not ready to open herself to another yet. Far too much had happened for her to accept that advances, no matter how true and sincere they were from someone she just met. It was too soon to make that mistake again. Having been betrayed, she had even found it difficult to speak to Caranne about seeking refuge at the Coliseum.

Susanda could take lives, she had before, and it wouldn’t be an issue to do so now, especially with willing combatants. She was reluctant to be a part of a group again, to be in close proximity to the same people for longer than a few hours. But she was afraid, afraid of what she may become if she were alone for too long. She honestly believed that was why the Winter Ice lades found her, in order to save her sanity. She knew that they did not hold a consciousness but they radiated an essence that drew her to where they had been frozen in to a wall of ice within an artic cavern, thousands of years old. She had been hiding from the world, from those that lived with false humanity among sheep that followed blindly. Being the only soul for miles, it was not chance that they call out the moment Susanda was nearby.

The blades glistened like the arctic ice they were forged in, sharp and sleek like the inevitable end of the world. Shining white and blues, bright light and transparent gleans, Winter and Ice appeared twins in looks but were edged and carved as individual personalities would be. They too had their share of disappointed hopes in the mortal realm and the selfish endeavors of those they served. But now, sensing Susanda’s own despair, they were roused in to awareness and sought to repair someone else’s soul. They had not been with her long and had not yet drawn blood while in her hands, but they had been able to motivate her enough to return to a world she had forsaken. They wanted her to remember that warmth that came from caring for someone else again. It was like the warmth of the sun and they too wanted to feel that encompassing embrace once more.

Although reluctant to heed their pull, Susanda began a long wander out of the snow and towards villages and towns filled with strangers. It was in one such unnamed tavern that she overheard a group of young men discussing a strange place that floated above the world, where people travelled to either lose their life or gain a new one. She wanted to gain a new life too, whatever the cost my turn out to be.

Though, now that she was there and having met the docile Caranne and the spirited, well-meaning Tracede, she only hoped she had made the right decision. Standing in Tracede’s doorway now, she had come to terms that the Coliseum was where she belonged, with these people, these friends, at least for now. She knew that Tracede was inwardly excited with how ‘open’ she was becoming, but he knew better than to mention or draw any sort of attention to the change. The change was still taking place, and there was plenty that she clung to from her past.

Even with this new warmth, she still missed the cold.