Corpe and Bloor

On the rural islands of Corpe and Bloor the annual Fight Week is about to begin in which champions are chosen and lives changed forever. The Fight is between a champion from Corpe and a champion from Bloor. Girls are chosen as prizes for the man who is crowned the winner of the Fight. Faith Rathbone is the unwilling prize of Corpe and the life she had always known is tipped upside down in the form of Alec McFadden, the champion of Bloor. She must decide if she can begin to hope for a life on Bloor but leave her family behind. But her fate is not her own.

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13. Eleven - Alec

The rocking of the boat keeps my heart going, and with each league that the sailor Jim MaCauntilish put between us and Bloor, I remember almost every childhood memory.
           Stroke: Building a snowman with my family and giving Phoebe a piggy back so she could give him some features.
          Stroke: The first time I went to school and every teacher and pupil stared at me.
          Stroke: My brother taunting me in front of his friends and then punching me in the face.
          Stroke: Putting on a fake smile at my father’s congratulations party, for opening a new mine.
          Stroke: The way the sun rises behind Corpe in the summer and warms the world up.
          All my memories, painful, wonderful memories, all belong to the place that I call home. Most people think that I am lucky, being brought up a McFadden, but they don’t know me. They don’t know what a childhood I have had to get to be the person I am now. I suppose, my parents are great, in their own way, but they neglected me when I needed them the most, and favoured Jonathan, the first, golden boy. So when I took up boxing, it was my release, as well as protection, for what the world was going to throw at me. Only the fittest survive, my father had told me right back at the beginning, when I came home to him with yet another bloodied nose, if you don’t get your foot on the ladder, you’re going nowhere.
          And so, here I am, on my way to see the man that I am trying to kill. I have only glimpsed at Roland Katesby from the point of being a spectator and he has won this thing twice before. I wonder what he will make of me; whether I will be considered a worthy opponent, or if I’m not even worth the spit on his boots. Apparently he is vicious, and shows no mercy to those he does not favour. Even on Bloor last year, he was the favourite.
          I will myself to only look forward, for I know that if I look back, there will be nothing but doubt and regret in my heart and I cannot deal with that when the vital first impressions are waiting. The Fight Land is looming ever closer. I can hear my heart hammering inside my chest; this is it, it has already started. I am almost buzzing now; wanting for more than anything to step onto new soil, new and fresh ground that has only been trodden on by so many dead men. I believe that I will be joining them in the history books, and for some reason, that makes me almost proud. It is slightly unnerving to be feeling this just before I meet the infamous Roland Katesby in person, so I shove that excitement down and focus on how to come about.
          And still, the boat draws ever near to the Fight Land, which will either be my hunting ground or my death bed. At this point, it is impossible to say, but I hope that the stars are cheering for me, the underdog; the one who hasn’t been expected to do anything from the moment he was born. I will prove to those who have doubted me – I will show them that I will never be kicked around or forgotten about ever again.
          There it is, the Fight Land; the Land of Remembered Heroes – the Land of the Forgotten Dead. Oh Lord, it is so close now it is almost like I can reach out and touch it. Oh how I wish that I can, for it is alien and foreign and daunting to think that I will have to fight for my life right here, on this scrap of sod which is sparse and baron. The boat pulls ever nearer, MaCauntilish heaves on the oars with all his might as he drags us through the shallows. It is almost like we have timed it perfectly, for the champion of champions from Corpe is also pulling up to the bryony shore.         
          And there he is, the man in his meaty flesh and his towering height. Oh my Lord, have mercy upon me. He is truly a beast.
          He strides like a large, lumbering animal that is so big that it cannot move its limbs quick enough. The cotton top he’s wearing seems old and is fraying at the ends, revealing his large and hideous belly. I cannot pin point his age, but it looks like he could’ve grown from the rocks and the underworld and dressed in farmers’ clothes, wading in and towering over many a mere mortal. I gulp and hope that he is still too far away to see my throat move. His hair is short and greasy, curling and plastering his face like a rat’s fur. His eyes are a piercing but an apparently normal shade of blue under his bushy eyebrows and pictures cover almost every inch of his skin that is visible. He is terrifying, and it takes all my strength not to turn around and jump back into the boat. I am supposed to face him! Surely not, surely they must see how it is such an uneven contest between us. Sure, I may be the best on Bloor, but against this guy, I am dust.
          And then Katesby smiles at me and reveals teeth that are mainly gums and blackened stumps. I can’t help but shiver. Katesby turns his head to my left slightly and I see now that half of his face is in an ugly, purple bruise. It has swollen to twice the size of his cheek and looks incredibly painful, even though it looks a couple of days old now. How on earth can a man like Roland Katesby ever receive an injury like that?
          Unfortunately, Katesby notices my stares. “I’d watch out if I were you.” He lisps through his missing teeth. It sounds more like he’s whistling. “She’s lethal.”
          And that’s about as much as we ever will say. I give him a slightly confused nod, not sure of how to respond to that, or how I am to ask about what he means. He doesn’t mean the prize of his island, does he? Surely not! I have heard that, oh what’s her name . . . ah yes, Faith Rathbone is a beauty far beyond her years. She couldn’t have given a mighty bruise such as that. Well, this was already getting strange and I’m not even there yet.
          “Mr McFadden?”
          I am surprised and also slightly stunned when a lad around my age is standing by the opposite boat, waving me forward. “My name is Lakin Lukehain, sir, and I will be your escort to Corpe. Shall we be off?”
          I can’t help but smile at the funny lad who seems to be so impatient to get off this island that he has even begun to do a little dance from where he stands. Raphie – the boy my father hired to help me around Corpe – loads my bags into the boat and I clamber in, getting water in my boots and laughing at the coldness of the sea. How different everything is here. How magnificently different everything is.
         Once we are a safe distance from the shore, I ask, “What happened to Katesby’s face?”
          Lukehain does not laugh, but the corners of his mouth twitch as if he finds this amusing. “It was Miss Rathbone that did it, sir.”
          “The prize?” So it was her after all. My curiosity gets the better of me, “And how did this unpleasant deed come about?”
          He chews his lip as he considers how to answer. “He insulted her. Well, that what it looked like to me, anyway. He was drunk, the poor sod, and he didn’t have half the control he has normally on his mouth. She marched up and started asking questions. He said something – which I can’t remember now – and she punched him in the face, fuming mad.” Lukehain’s eyes sparkle with the memory. “She then spat on his boots and stormed out, like a tempest in a body. I have never seen such a girl fire up to a temper as such.”
          I shake my head and try to imagine what this girl, this terrifying but beautiful Faith Rathbone will think of me. I hope that in the end, I don’t have the bruise that Roland Katesby does.
          What a strange place this is, and I yet I feel so compelled to witness more; and that compelling unnerves me.

 

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