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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22. Twenty - Faith

The streets are pulsing; the island and my people are one. This is the celebration of the year, so everyone makes it count. I try and stand as close as I can to Alec, for here anything could steal him in the night. Stars up above have begun to burn but their glory is lost amongst the bright bulbs strung up between the street lamps. The whole island has come out tonight, to dance, to sing, to drink. Strangely, I am remembering Mama bringing me here, just me and her. I was still small enough to be carried then and she held me on her hip. She waded easily through the streets, happy and because she was happy, I was. I remember hugging her tightly around the neck and never letting go, because this was mine and Mama’s special day. She joined in with the singing and danced with me as she put me on her shoulders so I could see over the crowd. I cannot even remember the name of the champion or the prize but they seemed so unreal to me – like a memory that’s just out of remembering’s reach. I thought at the time that they floated, drifting like the sea up the High Street. It was one of the happiest times of my life.
          And here now, I wasn’t merely a spectator, but I was part of the spectacle. It is such a surreal concept that I keep having to rub my arms to will heat into them, for my body forgets that it’s cold outside. Normally, I would be inside, sitting by the window, drawing pictures in the sky. I guide Alec through the singing people and towards Gallas Hall at the top of the High Street, where there are drummers illuminated here are so loud that I almost want to cover my ears, but this is the heartbeat I have grown up with. The air carries the welcome to every nook on Corpe, deep into the ocean and right to the core. The pounding of the drums is the only sound the world hears at this moment, and suddenly I realise how small I actually am. It makes me feel part of something bigger. I rather like it, and paste on a smile as we approach the drummers. I don’t recognise anyone here for the faces are cast in shadows but their drums explode with different coloured powder with every thump. It’s so loud out here that I worry my hearing may be damaged, but not caring enough to do something about it. This is most certainly a night to remember.
          Alec has been like a ghost ever since darkness has fallen, and I don’t know him well enough to ask why. He merely walks beside me, keeping himself to himself. You would’ve never thought that it was him who had stood on that platform not hours ago, in front of a whole island of strangers and helped me. I catch his wide eyes now and smile a little, trying to reassure him that tonight won’t be all that bad. The drummers in front of us are still going strong, beating out a rhythm so complicated and so well practised that I wonder how they don’t make a mistake. Their different coloured plumes of powders still rise, all blues and greens and reds and pinks. They swirl into each other and dance to the pounding drums.
          Gallas Hall has large steps that are bigger at the front and smaller at the entrance. It is at the top of the stairs now do I see men emerging. I squint to try and see who, but they are still too far up. As they begin to descend, I see that one of the men is Skaliy Jackats and the other is someone who can’t possibly be here that I think I am imagining him. But no, here he is, the heart of Corpe, Llochgar.
          Rhaun Llochgar is a man only seen by the highest on Corpe. Unlike my father and many of my age-group’s parents, they have never seen Llochgar in person, but only follow his rules and respect him more than any man. He is ancient, they say, for he has seen so many sunrises that he is more part of the island than any of us will be. There are stories that he has said to have witnessed and times that his big, tired eyes have seen the greatest sadness. He still walks strong, even though the steps down from Gallas Hall are steep and can be fatal. Every child born on Corpe has to be blessed by Rhaun Llochgar as have I and all my brothers. I don’t remember it, of course, but here with this decrepit man making his way before me, I feel somewhat humbled. He is the island and the island is him. My respect for Llochgar is far greater than it is to most. He finally makes it down the stones, Jackats and several others – including the head of St Xavier’s – in tow and he makes his way towards us, having a look in his eyes that is not so much unnerving but determined.
          Rhaun Llochgar approaches, his eyes fixed on me.

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