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.