Everyone that says they believe in magic doesn’t legitimately believe magic is real—at least, not the correct form of magic. Much of the population of earth sees magic as an exciting fiction. Even the most enthusiastic delvers in Wiccan and Pagan religions (for example) believe that magic is subtle and, most importantly, invisible. For the last thirty-four years or so of my life (my adulthood), this was my view. Sure, keeping an open mind is essential, but seeing is believing, am I right?
Today was the day I was forced to accept the reality of magic—rather suddenly, after a shower. Stepping onto a soft bathmat, towel already pressed against my dripping flesh, a glowing mist joined the already significant amount of steam surrounding me. Curiosity led one of my hands out to prod the luminous cloud but fell short when the ground disappeared. Freefalling through bright storm clouds, I flailed violently, grasping desperately for something—anything—to break my fall; but I found no handholds.
Constantly shifting directions down this unknown path spun my brain into a jumble and left me with no reference for distance travelled. Time meant nothing; there was only heat and falling. So much wind passed through, and around me, I couldn’t even scream. The moment something substantial presented itself, I instinctively thrust my hand out, pressing my burning flesh to refreshing cold stone.
The mist fled upon my contact with a more stable world, leaving me on my hands and knees. Dark, tiled stone stretched out beneath me, granting much-needed stability after my recent unpleasant journey.
Lifting myself slowly, to prevent another bought of dizziness, I moved into a crouch and turned my attention to the room. I was not alone.
Reflex jerked both my hands down to cover my nudity; my towel had not made the journey. Blinking away the last of my vertigo, cleared my sight enough to realize that the dimness hid the entire room, not just the tiles.
Surrounding me, sitting in a circle, were five hooded individuals, their faces hidden in shadow. Dim light, if you could even call it light, emanated from several flickering orbs, stuck to evenly placed lamps on the round wall. Before I could say anything, a loud crash drew my gaze to a wooden door, just in time to see it explode into fragments. Large, muscular men, of dark grey complexion, rushed through the hole, swinging axes and swords at the hooded figures.
Flames and light wrapped around the robed humanoids as they fought the new entries. On hands and knees, keeping my head down as far as humanly possible, my body moved on its own, crawling away from the fray—fear prodding enthusiastically. The broken door was the goal, with much brighter light beyond. Before making it halfway to my destination, though, a jolt ran through me, starting at my bald head and shaking a path through to my toes.
Shaking awake, it took a moment to realize I had been asleep. Peeling my eyes open revealed a different room than where I’d fallen unconscious. I was still on the floor, just not on the same one. Lying on my back, the chains attached to my hands pulled my wrists—painfully—toward the wall behind me. In a similar fashion to my wrists, the floor held my legs still with metal bands. Even my mouth refused to open, held tight by something gooey. I could still breathe out of my nose, so that was good. Looking over myself, the best I could, it was apparent nobody bothered to cover me.
Despite the coolness of the stone, I wasn’t shivering. The temperature of this floor wasn’t as low as the last, which made my situation slightly more tolerable. Not being able to move, the only option was to observe.
The rounded shape of the walls suggested this was part of a larger, circular room. However, since the wall curved so sharp, it was difficult to see far to either side. The floor stretched about ten or fifteen feet between walls, and the ceiling was just as far from me. Trying to gauge distance while on my back probably threw off my estimations. Oh well, I doubted I would need exact measurements anyways.
The stonework wasn’t completely even, so some stones stuck painfully into my back. Shifting my weight, attempting to find a better position, didn’t get me far, due to the tightness of my restraints. For the better part of an hour, I pushed against my shackles, from every conceivable angle, twisting and jerking, trying my best to find a weakness to exploit. After rubbing my wrists and legs raw, the only remaining conclusion coming to mind was that I was fucked.
The silence that I’d been enjoying transitioned into the clumping of heavy footsteps approaching from my left. Craning my neck, the best I could, toward the sound, I awaited my company. Marching into view, stomping heavily, were two armoured soldiers, with full helms masking their faces. Lots of spikes and studs decorated the dark metal of their suits.
Walking ahead, contrasting with her escorts, was a charcoal-skinned woman with waist-length, white hair. It was hard to decide where to look first. She was barefoot and dressed only in a thin, translucent nightgown, that flowed loosely around her visibly toned musculature. That wasn’t the weirdest part of her—that would be her squished, upturned nose and the two long teeth poking up from her underbite.
Wait, is she an orc? I wondered. Since my mouth was covered, my inquiry would have to go unasked.
She glided to a stop, a hair from my feet, then waved a dismissive hand at her guards. Their graceless clumping faded slowly around the corner. Once the sound was nearly non-existent, the woman turned her attention to me, tracing an eye carefully over my bound form. I raised an eyebrow, but the birthing of thought scattered with a sudden itch of remembrance.
Recalling something you’ve never known before is an odd sensation. A moment before, I had only the knowledge I’d harvested from my exciting life of fast food production and video games. With the appearance of an intellectual itch, I had received a brief description of orc culture.
That was weird. Here’s hoping I’m not losing my mind, I thought.
The scantily clad woman took a few steps around me, still sizing me up. Her attention to detail made me feel like a piece of meat. Abruptly, she dropped down to all fours and crawled up to look me in the eye. Her pale hair hung like curtains beside her, matching the bright ring of white tightly circling her pupils; which contrasted the abyss that was the rest of her eyes. Up close, despite the distinct orc features, she was rather attractive. The thin material she called clothing, did little to hide anything—granting an uninhibited view of her womanly wiles.
Many years had passed since my youth, but my libido had never declined, unlike my looks. An overwhelming sex drive mixed with ugliness was quite a frustrating combination.
“Not the best physical candidate, but that’s not your specialty, is it?” She said. The woman’s voice was either thickly accented or altered by the shape of her jaw and teeth. Her face drifted close enough to my skin to feel her warm breath; it made my hair stand on end.
She traced an absent finger up my body, watching as small sparks jumped around her sharp, black nails. My muscles locked up around the touch.
“I can feel your power,” she said, watching her fingers intensely. “It coils around your being. You will help create a great hero.”
I wanted to ask what she meant, but the gag muffled my query. She put a finger over my mouth in a universal signal for silence. It was a pointless gesture, considering.
“You are not of this realm, young demon. So, I shall explain,” she continued. A hand slid down to my hardening member and took a firm grip. She looked to her hand briefly as she began to move it.
Was this turning into what I thought it was turning into? I wondered. Then I watched her, feeling helpless as she did whatever she pleased.
“To rule, one must be powerful,” she said, before crawling backward. She stopped once her face was level with her new toy, she eyed me suggestively, moving her hand faster. I squirmed in my restraints. She stared at me for a few moments, watching my reactions.
Just because my body is reacting, doesn’t mean that’s permission! I spat non-verbally.
“You possess the strongest blood I have ever seen, and I am a woman in a male-dominated kingdom.” Stopping her hand suddenly, she took a brief taste of my organ, forcing it surprisingly deep into her mouth. My sudden sharp breath in response only increased her pleasure.
Fucking dominatrix-bitch over here, I swore internally.
She continued to suck on my member for a couple of minutes, building up a thick layer of saliva.
Taking a breather, she continued her monologue, “Despite being firstborn, even with my magic, my father will still pass the throne to one of my brothers.” Standing, just long enough to strip off her pointless attire, she crouched down, positioning herself over my erection. She locked eyes with me while I slid inside her. An all too familiar expression warped her face, as she managed to fit my entirety in one go.
“Unless—” she paused to gasp, “Unless I produce a more powerful heir, of course.” She began to move her hips. “Then, my father will see the necessity to grant me the crown, so that my child would succeed me, thus adding demon blood to the royal line.”
Looking down on me, she fell into a routine, her motions aiming to pleasure me as fast as possible. Not wanting to give her what she wanted, I dwelled on every disgusting thing I could think of to prevent the inevitable. However, despite a valiant effort, my resistance was in vain. She gained my seed as planned.
Well, I have a low sperm count, so fuck you, orc bitch, I thought.
After lifting herself off my twitching member, she licked me clean and left. If this were under other circumstances, I might have felt differently about it. But as it was, I was pissed.
A low rumble started, that shook the ground beneath me. Looking around for the source revealed nothing. So, I did the only thing I could; I waited, and I listened.
The shaking increased, reminding me of a massage chair. I could have sworn I heard gears moving. Then, my bindings tugged at my arms and legs, pulling me up into a sitting positing; travelling along grooves in the wall and floor, I hadn’t noticed before. The uneven shape of the stone scratched at my back like claws, ripping flesh as I slid across it. Blood leaked down my back and legs as I continued my journey upward. The shaking dimmed as my short voyage up the wall came to a gradual halt, leaving me hanging a few feet from a small red puddle. My restraints dug into my skin and strained my joints. I preferred the floor.
When I woke up this morning, my to-do list certainly didn’t include hanging from a wall in a medieval torture chamber; and having sex with an orc princess.
Now that the rumbling and gears had fallen silent, I strained for any other sounds that could help. Maybe I wasn’t the only one kept as a prize.
Following a deep breath, I grunted into my semi-liquid gag; it wasn’t loud, but the sound might carry in absolute stillness. I waited for a response. Silence. I groaned again, as loudly as a sealed mouth could go. Then, waited, once more. Nothing. It was worth a try.
Without means of tracking time, it was difficult to guess how long I hung there, and when I fell asleep. Well, passed out would be more accurate; that was probably related to blood loss. When I came to, I was on the floor again.
Great. Not sure what the point of that was, I thought. Wait, I’m clean. Was I washed while I slept?
Orc bitch must have had some means of keeping eyes on me, because, shortly after returning to consciousness, she was on me again. We repeated the same show, minus the talking. Once I finished, she left, and I rose up the wall.
This pattern repeated for a few days. On occasion, someone, probably a servant, brought me food and water. Dark robes and an indistinct mask always covered the bearer of sustenance. They somehow pushed food through the goo over my mouth and served water through a wood straw. I took note of every detail, every pattern.
I paid attention to that little spark trick the orc woman liked to do with her fingers. At a glance, her nails looked like, well, nails. However, at closer inspection, they didn’t connect to her fingers, as nails should. The shape was too smooth. She had no cuticles. From what I could tell from observation—and the knowledge I’d gleaned from that forced epiphany—orcs were, in essence, exaggerated humans with squished, almost pig-like noses, pointed ears and lower jaw tusks. Well, as far as appearances went, anyways. Their fingers should have a human-like shape. Which meant this woman was wearing something over her fingers, possibly a device that allowed her to use electricity.
If I could take a couple of those, I may be able to use them to escape. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it was something. Now, convincing the orc woman to open my restraints, would require a great deal of acting talent.
Next time she visited, I changed my body language; as much I could anyways. Hopefully, this orc woman could pick up subtleties. To reduce the chance of suspicion, I had ceased resisting, the last time she rode me.
The show started with an attempt at thrusting. The motion was minimal and uncomfortable, due to the tightness of my binding—but necessary for my plan. Maybe it was the thrill of the moment, but miss dominatrix took the bait. First, it showed in a raised eyebrow. Then, her stride changed; instead of robotic motions, she relaxed and took a more personalized pace. With eyes locked, she watched me, clearly enjoying my change of enthusiasm.
Without warning, she reached a hand to my face and peeled away the jelly over my mouth. Before any sound could escape, her lips were on mine. The short tusks jutting from her mouth were just far enough apart to allow it, but the sensation of teeth poking my cheeks was odd. It felt like bumping into facial piercings, so it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. The orc princess wasn’t a bad kisser, but the whole, non-willing thing put a bit of a damper on my opinion.
My body matched her passion with my own, playing the part of a lover, as close as possible. I pushed against the restraints, trying to grind into her more with every opportunity.
Maybe if I’d shown this much enthusiasm in the past, I’d have saved a few relationships, I briefly considered.
Heavy breath wafted down to me from a glistening face. Half hooded eyes wandered over to my arms as she unlocked each of them. Before the chains could clatter to the floor, she returned to kissing me, with wild ferocity. Snaking fingers over the side of her head and into hair for grip, I pulled her further into the kiss. Meanwhile, my other hand wandered to explore her curves. Overly athletic types were not generally my type, but the charade required the eagerness of new lovers.
Both hands eventually made their way to her hips. Since my upper body was no longer bound to the ground, I sat up. Using my leg bindings as leverage was a little painful. The soft wince of pain that escaped didn’t go unnoticed: she immediately released my legs. With legs free, our activity shifted over to the wall, allowing me to rest my back against it. We explored that position for an exhausting length of time, to the point of causing lower back pain. I wasn’t a young man anymore.
Guiding her to all fours, I slid into her from behind, extracting a whole new selection of sounds. Building ‘stamina’ had been one of my pastimes, due to a slight addiction—but her groans of pleasure weren’t helping me last longer, so I would need to act soon. I may have gotten too into character.
Lying down on top of her, she released little whimpers to emphasize each thrust. Being in a dominated position, the orc princess didn’t have anything to grab onto. So, her nails scratched absently at the stone in front of her, leaving small white lines of damaged flooring. This motion ended up slipped off one of her claw rings.
Perfect. Now to grab it without my captor noticing, I thought.
Leaning forward, a few kisses to the side of her neck granted the perfect cover to look at her face; both eyes stayed safely sealed. So, without changing pace, one hand snaked out slowly toward the prize. Keeping her eyes in my peripheral was a necessity. If she opened them, I would grab her hand and try again later. I didn’t know what I’d do once I grabbed the ring, but there weren’t many options at this point.
This little ploy wouldn’t last for long, as she would stop sleeping with me once she knew she was pregnant. I wasn’t sure if they had a method of checking for pregnancy in this world, but assuming there was more time available than there was could be disastrous.
Reaching the ring without incident, something odd happened upon contact: a familiar, mental itch began. It felt like earlier, when orc culture dumped into my brain.
Not now! I complained silently.
Incredible detail on enchanting flashed through my head. I could suddenly remember years of experience in a craft I never knew existed a few seconds ago. The flood of new memories slowed, enough that I noticed two things: first, I had closed my eyes at some point; second, I had stopped moving.
Crap, I thought.
My eyes flew open, meeting another set, glaring at me. I panicked, trying quickly to slip the ring on—it didn’t fit. Both of the woman’s hands shot up and grabbed the sides of my head. I knew what was coming, but I didn’t have a way to stop it. She would either kill me or chain me up until she got what she wanted; then kill me.
Well, shit, I swore internally. Electricity shocked me unconscious.
Jerking up suddenly, my hands instinctively found the sides of my head. The sudden pain of electrocution still lingered, like a bad dream. It took a few minutes of lying in the fetal position, for me to realize how soft my bed was. Well, calling it a bed was stretching the truth. It was a few layers of thick cloth sewn together. This layered cloth was still more comfortable than the stone mattress from the last few days.
My other realization, happening shortly after the first, was the total lack of bindings. Thankfully, nudity wasn’t a continuing theme. Tan pants were the only clothing available to me, but it was something. This new dwelling was significantly warmer than the last, but not any brighter. It was, in essence, a straight-line hallway.
My ‘bed’ was one of many lined along the opposite wall to the torches that lit the room. We barely had enough walking space to pass by, without stepping on someone lying down. The flickering orange light kept me from completely waking up, as it gave the impression of nighttime, despite cracks in the wood walls seeping in daylight. Scooping a handful of the dirty sand making up our floor, I let the warm granules trickle from my grip, returning to their source, beside me.
Unlike my last few days, loneliness wouldn’t be a problem. A variety of orc men and women socialized and slept on the beds provided. Not everyone on a bed was sleeping on it, though. Farthest away from the central door, couples of various sexual preferences displayed zero shame during public intercourse.
Despite these displays of sexuality, one huge orc man stood out; brandished weapons have a way of raising awareness. Blocking the only exit, at the center of the prison, was a lightly armoured muscle factory. The weapon that had drawn my gaze was a large, curved blade that reminded me of a cleaver. Somehow, I doubted it was used to prepare meals. The red sand at the guard’s feet added a telling accent to the room.
Lovely, I thought. So, basically, if I try to leave, I’ll be testing how sharp the guard’s weapon is. Good to know.
After finding a more comfortable sitting position against the wall, it was time to set my priorities.
This situation was incredibly unrealistic, so planning an escape was daunting.
Where should I start? I asked myself. I was captive, among orc, which I still found unbelievable. There may or may not be magic in this world. Some of the things I’d seen so far seemed like magic, but who knows, maybe it was just advanced technology.
That seemed just as unbelievable. Then there was the information that had downloaded into my brain. The first artificial memories to show up were details about orc culture and religion. These details included a variety of must-know facts about everyday life that would aid those living among orc—like a care package, but with memories. I now had a mental library filled with religious beliefs, including rituals, a list of gods, and how to identify worshipers of each religion. I understood orc money, along with the names of well-known shops and inns in the capital, where I could spend it.
There was a variety of customs and laws listed, as well as things like the holidays they celebrate. The second group of false memories to show up was about enchantments. That was the hardest part to accept, which is weird because an orc is a fantasy creature. However, to take enchanting seriously required belief in magic. Magic doesn’t exist in my world. Yes, I love the concept, but wanting to believe magic is real, isn’t the same as being presented with something that straight up says it’s real.
Looking through the list in my head reminded me of a video game screen describing spells for my character. However, along with the descriptions listed, were symbols and rules to follow to activate and use them on an item. All spells had to be prewritten onto an object to use as a channel. One particular issue I had with this information was that it included methods of feeling the flow of magic, which I couldn’t recreate. These memories about enchantment told me magic was ‘real.’ But who knows, maybe I’m just delusional, or drugged up. Lots of things can screw up your brain, right? I needed more information.
On that note, I turned back to observation. The guard didn’t move much from his post—just shifted his weight occasionally, like anyone standing in the same place for an extended period. Now that I had a chance to get a good look at an orc male, it was easier to see the differences between orc and human. First off, some of their lower teeth stuck out past their upper, which was probably related to the tusks altering how they all sat. Male orcs had much bigger tusks than the females I’d seen so far.
The information dump I’d received mostly included culture, not biology, so I could only make assumptions about body structure, based on what I’d personally seen. Every female in this room was either occupied or facing away from me. So, looking over faces would have to wait.
The orc in this room were all dark-skinned but of various shades and (surprisingly) colours: green, purple, red, grey, and brown. That’s just in one room. The possible combinations found in a large crowd, like in a major city, for instance, could be outrageous.
Another difference from humans was their oversized ears, with a slight point at the top. Nearly all the men in the room had at least one ear piercing, which consisted of either a bone or a wood spike. An artificial memory flickered before me, reminding me that ear piercings, among orc, were a mix of religion, family and something called a ‘trinket.’ To earned a trinket, an orc had to complete a feat of strength or skill. Not all orc were warriors, so the ‘skill’ definition allowed for the inclusion of inventors and scholars. It was reminiscent of the Nobel Prize, or being in the book of world records. They were recognition, with a punch.
Engraved runes on the trinkets enhanced the existing talent of the wearer, encouraging them to push to new heights. However, orc took these trinkets very seriously. An orc caught wearing one they did not earn, ended up in the gladiator pit. If they survived, they won the right to wear one; if not, they were dead, so it would no longer be an issue.
I was dwelling on that line of thought when the door opened, spilling daylight into the dim room. Raising a hand blocked the offending brightness, but still left me temporarily blind, no doubt like any other prisoners looking that direction at the time.
The new entrant grunted something quietly to the guard, his body casting an intimidating shadow on the wall. The new guy shook his head at the guard after he gestured down the hall. Then he pointed at me. A few more grunted words passed between them, before the lightly-armoured orc visitor strode over to me and wrapped thick fingers around my upper arm. I just gave him a dumb look of surprise until he roughly dragged me to my feet and out of the room. Despite desperately struggling to keep my balance as we moved, the new guard stomped onward, taking little notice of my discomfort.
Daylight slammed into me the moment we passed the open door. Less than a minute of bright exposure turned my pale hermit-skin to lobster-red. A life lived indoors doesn’t boost the skin’s capacity to resist sunlight. So, of course, I held no sun resistance at all. Negative one to sun resistance, that’s me.
The roar of a crowd was audible from the moment I stepped outside. The thin wood prison, the guard so rudely dragged me from, sat flat against a much taller, stone wall. This grand wall stretched around both my prison and a stone structure that was reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome. The burning street we followed was the gap between my low budget jail and the Colosseum look-alike
The sand competed with sunlight in a cooking contest. The main dish? Me. Attempting to tread carefully—to reduce the number of burns I received—was an impossible task while being half-dragged. It was surprising to find such tall stone structures, including a large wall, standing so straight on sand flooring. Shouldn’t they be sinking into the sand? Maybe they have bedrock below.
My journey was short—just down the road, so-to-speak. Our destination, not surprisingly, was a gap in the stone wall of the round, pillared structure. The entrance, or, at least, the gladiator entrance, if I was reading this right, was tall enough to accommodate three times my height. What kind of giants do they let in here?
Crowd volume pumped up as we drew closer, suggesting a particularly entertaining performance. After passing the entrance, my captor ushered me toward a trench that looked like a dugout had a baby with a kennel. With one last hefty shove, I fell into the caged pit. The jailer sealed the door behind me. After eating sand, and adding welts to my welts, another, gentler, set of hands helped me up. This suspiciously kind gesture was surprising until I realized it was an orc woman, dressed similarly to me. Another prisoner, no doubt.
“Don’t see many of your kind around here,” she said, walking me over to an extended bench occupied by a couple of orc men.
“My name’s Kira.” Her accent was smoother than the last one I’d heard, but that was no doubt due to much smaller tusks, almost unnoticeable in size.
“I’m Darren,” I responded.
Her tanned skin reminded me of the Mediterranean, which was the lightest skin I’d seen so far. The bright red, yarn mop on her head was tied in a loose bun, which left me an unobstructed view of her eyes and ears. From what I knew of orc so far, I didn’t expect to see any light-coloured eyes, but hers were such a light blue they were almost white. Hung from the middle of her left ear was a metal trinket.
Metal? I thought. Metal isn’t used for trinkets. Maybe this one is an unofficial creation. That might be why she’s here.
Before raising the question about her trinket, the crowd roared so loud my ears began to ring. Peering through the short, barred window, of our trench kennel, and out to the arena, a tremendous warrior, holding an axe, cheered right back at the crowd, from a nearly central position on a desert field built for violence. At his feet, was a dead body, no doubt his former opponent. Even from a distance, it was undoubtedly a corpse, due to the unattached head lying nearby.
While he continued to excite the crowd, a couple of guards approached the winner and escorted him off the field. Once the noise died down, my lips moved to ask a question. However, the red-haired woman had already begun her journey up the simple wood ramp I flew over earlier. The guard escorting her out sneered at me.
Kira looked over her shoulder and gave me a thumbs-up, before breaking into a jog. She plucked a spear from the ground along the way, giving it a few spins as she skidded to a stop before her opponent, who was already alone and waiting. She let her weapon settle into her right hand, aimed at her enemy in a challenge. Her guard, who hadn’t bothered to keep up, turned to head back to his post, seeing that his charge was already in position. Her opponent must have been brought over from the other caged dugout across the arena.
Looking over the fighters, it was becoming apparent that gladiators did not get armour during these bouts, as this pairing was also in the same light-brown outfit. However, it appeared women had shirts, which I found entirely unfair, as I was extremely sunburned without one.
Kira was facing off against another orc that no doubt outclassed her in the weight category, and he, like the last winner, had an axe. Something told me that weight classes didn’t exist for prisoners. The orc woman stood about my height, which only sat around five-foot-six. That was tiny compared to the almost seven-foot brute before her. I wasn’t watching a match, I was watching an execution.
A loud gong sounded, triggering a ripple of excitement fueled motion in the crowd.
Startling me from a distance, the giant orc was already moving full speed before the sound dissipated. Being slightly squeamish about violence toward women and not wanting to witness a murder, the thought of turning away almost took over. Holding my gaze, out of concern for the first, kind person I’d met here, my reward was hopeful optimism.
The entire flow of the fight flipped in a moment. Kira was mist in the wind, wrapping expertly around his attack like the very air had taken her with it. She stabbed her spear into the ground, using it as a balance to plant a kick to the larger man’s head. Stumbling, the startled orc shook himself, giving the redhead time to land. As he turned, she moved behind him. He spun his whole body, reading his opponent’s plan, and aiming a broad swing of his axe at nobody. This attack forced the small woman to jump back, but not for long.
She stayed on the offensive, jabbing with her spear and kicking when the opportunity arose. She was much faster than the large man, who kept swinging wildly to keep her from getting an opening. It was apparent what she was doing; she was wearing him down. Before long, his swings slowed enough for a clear shot to the neck, which she took. Her spear didn’t make it; the wood shattered on impact with his axe head.
I jumped off my bench and pressed my face as close to the bars as possible.
With renewed speed and strength, the large man used the short swing as a windup, lining up for a one-handed killing blow.
Cringing, but not looking away, my heart sank. It had been a nice push. Kira was skilled and amazingly fast, so she put on quite a show. Not the worst way to go. Probably not as embarrassing as my death will no doubt be.
Once again, Kira astonished me with her speed and flexibility. Bending in half, something I thought I’d never see an orc do, she let the deadly metal pass over her. While her opponent stumbled forward with his overconfident swing, the woman placed both hands on the ground and kicked him in the jaw during a backflip. Leaving the broken spear on the ground, she continued her flip until she landed neatly on her feet. Before the giant could regain his footing, she kicked in the side of the man’s leg, forcing him to a knee.
He tried to bring his axe to bear, but she was too close and the weapon too long. With a quick hand strike to his arm, the sand collected his weaponized woodchopper. After a knee to the face, the large man joined it, lying, stunned, on his back. Without hesitation, Kira took up the freshly dusted tool of war, raised it with both hands and took off the giant’s head.
She didn’t cheer. She didn’t brag. She just panted, holding the bloodied axe, and staring up at a long balcony that overlooked the arena. If this was like Rome, that balcony held the upper class, including, possibly, their King. The crowd was deafening, clearly pleased by the outcome. She stood there in silence as her opponent left a red trail while being dragged out. Two guards arrived to escort her away; they held back, out of range of the axe still in her hands.
She continued to stare up at the balcony. As the crowd quieted, she dropped the weapon and started walking back in my direction, the two guards trying to keep up. She stopped in front of me as I pressed my face to the bars.
“Top that demon boy,” she said, then winked and walked out the way I’d headed in, her guards now running to catch up.
While still dwelling on the mysterious woman, another guard grabbed me by the arm and, once again, dragged me off. It was my turn. After that last display, my chances of survival seemed minimal. It wasn’t like I was overweight or anything, but nobody in their right mind would call me athletic. Dwelling on thoughts of painful death took up most of my journey across the scorching sand. The rest of it was spent wishing for shoes or a hat, preferably both. Oh, and a shirt, definitely a shirt.
Keeping my head down, not being an enormous fan of crowds, I didn’t clue into my location until my guard disappeared. With my head turned to follow the retreating, orc, I was not expecting a hammer to slam into my chest.
Have I mentioned my complete lack of survival instincts?
The shock of finding myself suddenly flying was almost enough to forget how to feel pain— almost. Skipping on sand reminded me right quick. After skidding to a stop, air rushed back into my lungs in a giant breath. The spinning world kept my aching body firmly against an oven-burner-pretending-to-be-the-ground.
“Ooow,” slowly escaped my lips, once enough air was available to speak. My first thought, after sitting up and twitching uncomfortably from the blow, was to start poking at the bruise on my chest. The quickly darkening mark was forming around a corner shaped cut: the impact point of the war-hammer.
Well, that was assuming the weapon was a war-hammer. If a regular hammer threw me this far, I was fuuuucked. After picking sand out of my eyes, reality rattled the cage of my mind, reminding me of where I was.
Right, I thought, I’m fighting in an arena.
Tracing my path back to its source, granted my first good look at my opponent: a massive, shirtless man with green skin and massive yellow tusks. He may merely appear bigger than Kira’s opponent, as he was closer than the sidelines. The two-handed war-hammer he was lugging toward me had an odd haze around it. Getting a good look was hard, still being a good twenty feet away. That rippling air over his weapon could be from the heat in the arena. Despite the distance, however, I could still see a toothy grin stretching my opponent’s face; it was not friendly.
“Wow, I went that far?” I muttered. “How did I not explode on impact?”
With my danger sense finally up and running, finding a weapon became my priority. Had I been a smart man, I would have snapped up one of the many options littering the sandy field as I’d headed in. However, common sense and forethought weren’t my forte. That was something to work on, assuming I survived this.
After combing the nearby sand with my eyes, the immediate vicinity gleaned nothing more substantial than a pebble. Anything usable was far too distant. Making a run for one of them might work. Or it might leave my back wide open. Getting flattened wasn’t on my bucket list, and I wasn’t sure I could lift most of my options anyway. If I couldn’t find a usable weapon, this wasn’t going to last much longer. What else could I do?
Another glance at my opponent’s war-hammer rewarded me with a flicker of electricity; his weapon held an enchantment. It was clear now, a superimposed image of light blue lines and symbols hovered in the air around the head of the orc’s heavy steel. I had to blink a few times before realizing what I was seeing. It was hard to believe.
Then a thought popped up in my head, nagging at me to pay attention to it, like a notification on your phone, blinking away until you acknowledged it. Concentrating on the thought, it peeled open, releasing ideas to me in pictures. Reading the pictured pages in my mind, I realized they were a series of enchantment formulas from my library of fake memories; more precisely, they were light-crafting spells. This wide-open, highly reflective area certainly had plenty of solar rays to fuel the spells flashing before my eyes.
Having these ideas pop up in my head was weird. What had prompted these images to appear? Where had it come from in the first place? Looking over the mental pictures triggered a form of nostalgia, making the words and symbols feel familiar. It was like I was calling upon years of trial and error. But, whose experience was I remembering?
There wasn’t any time to dwell on it. To survive the next few moments, I needed to do some quick enchanting— without tools, any enchantable objects, or ink. All while a brute of an orc stalked me in a bright, open arena. Easy.
The only option currently available was creating a sand paste to draw my impromptu crafting. So, I hovered my hand close to my mouth, ready to spit. A tickle on my chest pulled my other hand to scratch the itch, reminding me my chest was wet. Curiosity moved my finger into view, revealing red upon its surface.
Blood is a significant source of magic on its own, so forming a temporary enchantment with it could improve the resulting spell. A small smile crept onto my face. In my peripheral, the large, armed, orc picked up their pace, no doubt sensing I was up to no good. Without a big enough surface available to write on, a crazy idea formed: if I didn’t have anything to write on, I could always place an enchantment on myself, right? Writing on flesh was technically possible, just dangerous, depending on what type of magic you filled it with. With an enemy approaching, my weapon would have to wait.
First, I would build a shield. The light absorption spell flashing in my mind would give me the fuel I needed to sustain me, at least, temporarily. Not having time to waste, I got to work. Using my finger as the brush, blood runes formed on the back of my left hand. Shaking limbs slowed progress to the point of near panic. The sound of shifting sand added all the inspiration needed to finish up quickly.
Not wanting to die, my rune painted hand jumped between my face, and the up swung war-hammer. My hand was open like a shield against sunlight, but palm to my face. A bit ironic, creating a shield from sunlight, while shielding from sunlight. The next step was to visualize the blue light of flowing magic. Technically, envisioning magic is supposed to pair with a physical sensation. But I couldn’t feel it, no matter how hard I tried.
Attempting a magic spell at this point was a stupid risk, as I had no reason to believe I could even use the stuff. But I didn’t have many options. It was better to die trying something crazy than dying doing nothing. Thankfully, a light flickered alive as willpower forced imagination into being. This light flowed around the symbols of blood, fully engulfing them before rapidly soaking in. Once the symbols shared the same brightness as the incoming energy, it began a prewritten process.
First, with mechanical precision, the enchantment sucked in heat and light from a small area around itself. As the elemental energy converted, a blue energy mist formed in front of me (visible to my eyes only). Then, as quickly as the fog had appeared, it moulded into a dome around me, with bright reinforcement lines spreading out like spiderwebs. This entire spell activation had happened between blinks.
The hammer fell.
Squeezing my eyes closed and clenching every muscle wasn’t enough to calm my nerves before impact. A crushing weight slammed down onto me, followed by warmth. Shaking against the blow, I didn’t dare lower my hand. Opening my eyes revealed heavy steel, hovering a couple of inches from the barrier’s source; small sparks crawled across rippling air where the weapon greeted my wall of energy.
After the orc brute finished staring at his hammer in confusion, he pulled back and swung again. The symbols on my hand heated up with the impact, and weight pushed down on me once more. This temporary barrier wouldn’t hold forever, so, dipping a finger into my blood, I began work on a new set of symbols on my open palm. My weapon would need to be simple but powerful enough to disable a huge orc warrior. It would also need to use the energy available.
Thankfully, one of the spells hovering in my mind was a perfect match for that. It would take a bit of willpower to control it, but that was better than relying on the physical strength I lacked. Every strike shook my concentration but didn’t stop my writing completely; thankfully, my opponent wasn’t bright enough to try any other tactics besides bashing in my magic bubble. The heat of the temporary runes burned on my skin as more and more power flowed through them.
Ink runes degrade through use, as ink is just a thin surface covering. Carved runes last longer because they become part of the surface. However, a carved rune isn’t permanent, as wear will eventually chip away the surface until it no longer holds the same symbols.
Interesting fact, but I don’t care for the random information right now! I complained internally.
Visually checking the colour of my barrier enchantment was unnecessary at this point. I was sure it was dim. A constant burn had replaced the intermittent flashes from earlier hammer strikes. Usually, this form of defence spell is attached to a piece of armour, not written on flesh. However, I didn’t even have a shirt, so my hand was the best option for visibility while writing.
The element chosen for an enchantment, soaks into it, like electricity travelling through wires. As power degrades the ink, the element or elements used, seep out of it. But, since light gets converted to heat when absorbed for defence spells, it’s a bad idea to write a light enchantment on your skin unless you want to get burned. This side effect was my current problem.
Heat, stolen from the light around me, was leaking from the runes on my hand and scorching my flesh. The purpose of this barrier was to give me time to create a weapon, which would require exponentially more power and thus needed way too many symbols.
A quick look upward, to my enemy, showed him panting from exertion. He hefted up his weapon one last time, bringing it down with a grunt. As my barrier fell, the webs of remaining power curled up around my hand, then discharged in a quick burst at the impact area, causing the strike to rebound. Grinding my teeth together kept me from clenching my fist closed in pain. After recovering from the rebound, the enormous green orc rose his hammer for another strike. Curiously, he stopped. His eyes scanned the arena; confusion crept onto his expression.
The screaming from spectators transitioned into murmuring, as frost spread out from me, quickly blanketing sand before crawling up the arena walls. A stretching shadow travelled along with the cold, like a cloud taking up residence above. The crowd edged away from the ice forming below them but stopped when they realized it wasn’t travelling past the arena walls.
The confusion was short-lived, as attention quickly turned back to me. Drawing attention, at this point, was only natural, as a good-sized chunk of the heat and light from the arena had flowed to me—specifically, to my palm. A ball of seething yellow light hovered above my open hand, which now aimed skyward.
Good, watch in wonder while I focus, I thought.
Now that the weapon was forged and waiting, I just needed to wield it.
Simple, right? Maybe, except for the fact I’d never done that before. Also, this was not a small amount of power, one mistake, and I could incinerate myself. No pressure.
It probably wasn’t necessary to pull that much energy, but time constraints had limited the complexity of the enchantment. If I’d taken the time to write those extra runes to add a regulator, I wouldn’t have activated it in time. This spell could have blown up in my face if I had more energy available to pull. Luckily, the runes of this enchantment were strong enough this time around, but holding that much power for long was a monumentally bad idea. Have you ever tried holding in the force of a grenade while it was exploding? That was the risk I was taking placing this much heat and light in my palm.
The shock of my energy pull didn’t last; the hesitation once stilling my opponent evaporated. Rising on unsteady legs, not bothering to dust off the sand caking my pants, I raised an eyebrow at my enemy. With a grunt, heavy steel once again lifted, not straight up, but into a fighting stance. As he stepped forward, my legs twitched a little as I remembered my barrier no longer existed. Twisting my hand to face him, I imagined my will pushing against the ball of energy.
Following my wishes, blue energy flowed out, wrapping around the orb of light in a tight grip. Straining to picture my magic power controlling the ball, proved troublesome. My fear could just as easily misdirect my influence somewhere else. Currently, I was squeezing a bomb, trying to squirt out a beam—without ripping off the barrier, holding it in place. Not being able to feel if anything was happening was incredibly nerve-wracking. Was I opening the right side, or was I about to blast myself?
Concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate, I chanted in my head.
Thankfully, a small amount of energy escaped, in the form of a wave of light, flying directly at my opponent. Judging amounts was tricky, so a blast of half a second was only enough to knock the large man off his feet. He recovered quickly, to the roar of the crowd. They must not like magic wielders. Maybe they were bigots and didn’t like humans.
The booming of the audience cut short when another blast slipped out of the orb, forming a thick beam as wide as myself. Overwhelming light washed through the orc without resistance.
Oops, too much power, I reprimanded myself.
Severed hand and war-hammer fell to the sand as the beam of light continued, slamming the frozen wall below the upper-class balcony; steaming chunks of stone flew in every direction. Silence fell as I watched the only remaining part of the orc—the severed hand—dissolve, like burning tissue paper. Having used up all its resources, the light orb over my palm winked out. Lowering my hand to my side, I let out a long sigh of relief.
It was over.
The returning brightness, and resulting steam from melting frost, forced me to squint, making it difficult to make out the figures now standing on the balcony in front of me. With both adrenalin and magic wearing off, the sand returned to scorching my bare feet. The heat didn’t bother me as much this time, not with the level of fatigue straining my ability to stand. Sure, using an enchantment to pull and hold magic meant the wielder didn’t have to, but trying to direct that much energy using willpower was like trying to control a firehose at full power; it required a great deal of mental wrestling.
Mental and magic stamina was non-existent for me, as I’d never used that ability before. Controlling magic with no endurance left me soo drained that I barely noticed the guards escorting me out.
Somehow, my feet carried me to a bed, leaving me just enough time to settle onto my back and fall asleep.
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