Carpathia III: Episode 36 - The Third Trial


Jaze's third trial was a much bigger event than he imagined. There was already a large number of people gathered at the arena by the time Jaze arrived. For as long as he had been at the compound, Jaze never saw the arena being used. Mirage explained to him that it was only needed for special events such as this one. If Jaze passed his third trial today, he would officially be second in command of the nekohumans at the compound. However, The members of the other species didn't care much about that. They just wanted to see a good fight.

Inside the arena was a twisted labyrinth of stone corridors and dungeon-like rooms, none of which appeared to be used for anything in particular. Jaze followed Mirage through the maze, twisting and turning in several directions, passing empty rooms, until they finally came to a room which wasn't empty. It was a small room with a bench and several old, tarnished weapons hanging on the wall. Most of them were swords, but there were also a few maces and flails.

Mirage: Pick whatever you like, Chaos.

Jaze started examining the weapons hanging on the wall. He looked for a light sword, since all of his victories so far relied on speed and dexterity rather than brute force.

Jaze: I'm not really comfortable fighting with real weapons. I've never done that before.

Mirage: I told you before, it's not a fight to the death or anything. You still have to be careful, obviously. The fight ends when there's a clear winner and that's usually when one person is disarmed.

Jaze continued to examine the weapons hanging on the walls wondering how he could possibly wrench a sword from someone's hands without injuring him.

Jaze: And you still don't know who I'm going to be fighting?

Mirage: Other than Thirteen and a few others, nobody knows. It could be anyone from any race from the compound. It's supposed to be a mystery until you get into the arena. Don't think that it will be easy. Your opponent will be promised something good if he wins, so he'll be fighting hard too.

Jaze picked out a long, narrow sword, similar to a Japanese samurai sword and swung it around a few times.

Jaze:They probably picked someone huge and intimidating for me...

Jaze replaced the samurai sword and picked up something a little heavier. He didn't recognize its origin. It was slightly thicker than the other, with a strong curve to the blade. As he swung it a few times, it felt better balanced in his hand and a little more substantial to hold.

Jaze: I'll take this one.

Mirage: Same one I used when I was doing this trial. Let's go upstairs, then.

Once again, Mirage took Jaze through the winding, twisting stone corridors. It didn't take them long to reach the outside. In the short time they were inside the arena, the crowd had swelled substantially. There were people covering just about every conceivable surface with a good view. The upper supports which glided over the arena appeared especially popular. The nekos seemed to have taken up much of that area and in the center circle above the arena sat Thirteen and his small entourage. Some of the crowd cheered and a few booed when Jaze arrived at the top of the arena. Mirage leapt up to the support and sat with the other nekos. It was then that Jaze caught a glimpse of Pestilence, scowling, and sitting near Thirteen. Jaze was relieved that it appeared that he wouldn't be fighting Pestilence again.

Thirteen: Bring the opponent!

Jaze's body tensed, wondering who Thirteen had chosen for him. It was all well and good that he was not supposed to injure anyone, but he had no idea if his opponent would feel the same way.

The crowd on the other side of the arena parted and a lone figure carrying a long, straight sword emerged. It didn't take long before Jaze realized that he knew who it was.

Jaze: Mitani!

Mitani's eyes widened and his mouth fell open, as though in utter shock.

Mitani: Jaze?!?

Mitani seemed more surprised than he expected, but at that moment, he didn't care. Mitani, he knew, was a jerk at times, but he was confident that Mitani wouldn't be keen to hurt him.

Jaze: I'm so glad that it's you! I was afraid it would be someone I couldn't trust!

Mitani continued staring at Jaze, wide-eyed. After a few moments, he turned his head away and closed his eyes. Jaze trusted Mitani, but he started to wonder if the feeling was mutual.

Thirteen: Begin!

The crowd cheered as Jaze raised his sword and immediately charged at Mitani. He wouldn't have been so bold facing anyone else, but he trusted that Mitani wouldn't deliberately try to injure him. For awhile, as Jaze charged, Mitani just stood where he was, seeming to make little effort in defending himself. In a reversal of what Jaze was worried about before, he now wondered if Mitani was going to make things too easy. If he was going to win, he wanted at least for it to be a spectacle.

As Jaze drew near, he began to feel apprehensive that Mitani still had not made a move. Jaze made a half-hearted swing with his sword and Mitani, finally showing some signs of life, blocked it. Jaze circled away and then stood facing Mitani.

Jaze: Come on! We gotta make this look good!

Mitani stood expressionless for a moment and then, slowly, he lifted his sword. Something told Jaze that his heart didn't seem to in the fight at all. Jaze decided to put on more pressure and force him to take the fight seriously. He raised his sword and charged again. He started with an obvious, straightforward attack which Mitani easily blocked, and then he leaped into the air, over Mitani's head, swinging his sword again in mid-leap. Mitani raised his sword just in time to block again and Jaze landed behind him. Without hesitation, Jaze lunged at Mitani's back. Mitani flipped his sword behind him and blocked Jaze's attack. He kept the pressure up, swinging again and again, with Mitani blocking his every move.

Finally, Mitani countered with some attacks of his own. Jaze still felt as though he was letting him win, but now that Mitani didn't appear to be keen to sleepwalk through the fight anymore, Jaze wasn't going to take any more chances with easy attacks. Jaze rushed Mitani slightly to his left side. At the last moment, Jaze leapt to his right, cartwheeling through the air. Mitani barely had enough time to realize Jaze's duplicity and turn to block. Jaze didn't let up, unleashing attack after attack, pushing Mitani to the other side of the arena.

A hard strike landed on Mitani's sword, which loosened his grip. Jaze seized the opportunity and aimed for the lower end of the sword, near the hilt. Mitani's sword flew out of his hands and went clattering down the arena floor. Jaze thrust his foot out and kicked Mitani in the chest. He landed hard on the ground. Before he could get up or make any futile move to retrieve his sword, Jaze pointed his sword at Mitani's neck. Mitani was defeated. He won.

Mitani sighed heavily and looked up at Jaze with more sincerity than he'd ever seen before from him.

Mitani: Do it, Jaze.

Jaze: What?

At that moment, when Jaze was at his most confused, he heard the voice of Thirteen behind him.

Thirteen: Kill him!

Jaze whipped his head around to where Thirteen was sitting. Everyone else in the arena seemed just as shocked, especially the nekos and humans. Only Pestilence, sitting near Thirteen with his arms folded across his chest, appeared to be entirely nonplussed by the situation. It was at that moment that Jaze realized what was going on.

Mitani: Thirteen came to me awhile back and asked if I'd be willing to participate in a death match. If I won, I could go free. If not... Well, now you know. Just do it fast before you get in trouble.

Jaze turned back to Mitani and ignored Thirteen, who everyone else could see, was getting more and more frustrated with each passing second.

Jaze: You knew...

Mitani: And you didn't. They swore me to secrecy about the match as a condition of the arrangement, but I didn't know that they were going to have me fighting you. I'm sorry.

Once again, Thirteen's voice boomed out over everyone else.

Thirteen: KILL HIM NOW!!!

Jaze gritted his teeth. He had been played. Pestilence had his revenge. He had no good options. Jaze turned to Thirteen and threw his sword aside. He looked Thirteen in the eye as defiantly as he could muster.

Jaze: I REFUSE!!!

Thirteen sneered as he subtly glanced to his left and right. Suddenly, two people grabbed his arms from behind and held him tight as Thirteen leapt down from the arch and sprinted towards them, pulling out his dagger as he came.

Thirteen strode aggressively past Jaze and circled behind Mitani. He grabbed Mitani by his hair and yanked his head back as he placed the blade of his dagger up against his neck.

Thirteen: When I give you an order, you will follow it!

Thirteen pressed his blade hard against Mitani's neck and, in one swift, fluid motion, sliced it open. Blood sprayed out in several, violent torrents, covering Jaze from his chest to his feet.

Jaze watched and listened in horror as Mitani gagged and gurgled helplessly while Thirteen continued to hold his head back. Finally, he threw Mitani face-first into the stone floor where Mitani landed with a dull thud.

Thirteen: Clean him up and take him to Maelstrom.

The two who were restraining Jaze immediately started dragging him away. Jaze made no effort to struggle against them. He had no interest in anything at that moment. All he could do was watch as Mitani and the ever-widening blood pool beneath him grew ever smaller in the distance.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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