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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19. Seventeen - Alec

          I honestly don’t know what has come over me, but as soon as I saw Faith Rathbone tied to that pole, I had the greatest urge to protect her, to clear her name from whatever she has done. Of course, now that I am standing, her soft fingers in mine, I know that it is foolish to think that I can protect her from her own people. I am an outsider to these lands and these people, no matter how much they may be cheering and clapping at the minute, are hoping for me to fail and so that their champion has his third year in succession. Whatever may happen here, I must always remember that if I die, my sister will be in the hands of these people.  Despite the smiles and the general light-hearted mood of the townsmen, I know that when it comes to the Fight, there will be no questioning who they are betting for.
          Faith is still smiling, and she looks stunning in that dress. Her pale skin is almost the same tone as mine and she looks so fragile and so delicate, but her eyes hold something completely different. There is a guarded glint in that hazel that looks like a protective wall concealing something softer and less wary. Though this Corpe girl is smiling, I know that she will not forget about being tied to the pole. If there is anyone I wish to befriend, it is Faith Rathbone.
          The tall man who introduced himself as Skaliy Jackats suddenly appears and towers over the pair of us. He places a creepy and forced smile onto his lips, but I can see that in his eyes, there is wariness. And then, when he thinks no one is looking, I see him glare at Faith with so much malice and hatred that I suddenly want to run a mile. What a strange and hostile place this island is. With the host being as fake as the plants in my house back on Bloor and the prize throwing punches but smiling at the crowd. I wonder if the time spent here will change the way that I look at my own life back home.
          Jackats stands at the front of the platform, which seems to have turned into something of a stage. I let go of Faith’s fingers and our hands drop to our sides. The slimy man slides between the two of us and makes a big deal of clearing his throat.
          “Ladies and gentlemen of Corpe, it gives me great pleasure to introduce this year’s champion from Bloor, Mr Alec McFadden.”
          Again, the crowd erupt into excited applause and I try my best to smile. I should treat being here as an experience, and try not to dwell too much on what is to happen at the end of the Fight Week. Despite the pleasantries and the smiles, there is something that is lapping away at everyone here’s head; that they are counting on me to lose, so that despicable man Katesby can have my sister. And though it is done with hospitality and friendliness, there is a menace that everyone seems to overlook. I believe the general feeling on this island is that if it has nothing to do with their families or their portly selves, they can rest easy for he another year and think not my problem. I know that is exactly what I would be if I wasn’t so deep into this deadly peacemaker.
          Jackats taps me on the shoulder and motions to me to make my way off the platform. Even in the short time I have spent with this man, I know that he is fuming with anger so deep that it practically radiates off him. Oh Lord, what have I done? I follow, Faith close behind me until we reach a tavern at the edge of the High Street. People reach out to touch us as we pass, but I keep my head to the ground, looking only at the cobbles beneath my feet. Everything a champion does in the Fight Weeks is crucial to the look he builds up for himself and I wonder what people will make of my strange introduction. I feel a soft and brief touch graze my palm before it was gone again. I knew without turning that it was Faith, for it seems that when our hands were joined, it was like I would recognise her for the rest of my life, just by the gentlest caress of her hands against mine. Bloody hell, what is that matter with me! Getting sentimental at a time like this may be the biggest mistake that I ever make.
          The tavern we enter is dark, trembling and stinks of too many beer spills and heavily of smoke. The dull overhead lights swing on an invisible draught. One grizzled old man wipes the wooden bar and looks up as we enter the dingy room. Light from the slit windows around the top of the room make the dust dance and is the only source of light in the whole room. I have no idea the name of the pub, but I know that in my Fight Week here, I don’t want to be stuck in here with or without Skaliy Jackats.
          He leads us through a hidden door where a large chalkboard with the native tongue scrawled in white, illegible marks. Though we speak the same language with different accents, the way we write and read must be extraordinarily different. Jackats catches me looking, but otherwise says nothing. He stops in front of the board, and it could be that he was just another too large, foreign letter on that blackboard with his alabaster face and dark navy coat up to his chin. I can see by the steely look in his eye that he either isn’t pleased with how we’ve reacted so far, or what he is about to tell us. I hold my breath and wait.
          “Quite an entrance to the people’s hearts, Mr McFadden, I must say. Congratulations, you have won them over and proved yourself to be a worthy champion.” He sneers, his voice dripping with sarcasm. I don’t flinch, for I have been brought up on sarcasm and it has long lost its sometimes vicious intents. He then turns his unforgiving gaze on Faith, and it as clear as the sodding day that he hates her guts. I thought he had been attempting to intimidate me, but now seeing him looking at Faith, it’s clear that I got off lightly. “Miss Rathbone, I trust that you favour Mr McFadden more than our own Mr Katesby. I hope that you will show him the great sights to be held on our island. You two will appear together at the Gallas Hall for the traditional Champion Feast. It is a formal occasion and requires the both of you to dress up.”
          With a glare at Faith and a stiff nod at me, Jackats left, closing the door behind him. That leaves me alone with Faith Rathbone, the prize from Corpe.

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