Somebody was kicking me.
I jerked awake from where I had been sleeping, on the single bed in my room.
There were two Hâfléngs, both muscular and bulky, and both holding iron knives. One of them drew back it’s foot to kick me in the ribs again.
When he brought his foot forward, I caught it and shoved backwards, toppling him.
The second one struck at me, and in an instant his arm was around my neck in a choke hold.
I gasped as the air was cut off from me. Black spots danced before my eyes as I began to pass out from lack of air.
The choke hold was removed, and I flopped to the floor like a dying fish, gasping for air.
“I said bring her, but don’t kill her, you imbeciles!”
The voice belonged to the same Hâfléng who had bested me in the duel. Apparently he was some sort of leader here.
“Sorry boss,” muttered one of the Hâfléngs.
The second one didn’t speak, just stood there, a little winded from his fall.
“Now carry out your orders and make sure she’s ready before we reach the arena.”
“Yes boss,” the second Hâfléng, the one that I had knocked down, said.
The first Hâfléng dragged me up, and the second one took out an iron ring, which he fastened around my neck. Great, there goes my use-magic plan. At the moment I was too winded to resist, or to do much of anything. The second Hâfléng grabbed me by the arms, and pulled me to my feet, half dragging me behind him.
By the time we reached the arena, I had caught my breath and regained some of my strength. My eyes widened as we entered the arena. It was entirely covered by a metal mesh. The floor was sand. Also, to my interest, I saw there were gold decorations hanging from the ceiling. What were those for?
The guards shoved me into the middle of the arena. I fell, causing laughter to echo around the room. I looked up. Sitting in bleachers all around the huge arena were Hâfléngs. Thousands of them.
And they were all watching me.
The two Hâfléng guards that had brought me here left. I heard banging as the door behind them shut. Now it was just me in the arena.
“Open the cage.”
A rumbling sound came from the other side of the arena.
I whirled and saw a huge black cave. Then a red dragon came bursting out of it.
I caught my breath. That thing was huge!
All was silent. Then the Hâfléngs began to chant a soft rhythm with no audible words.
The dragon looked around. Then it’s gaze locked on to one of the gold hangings. It looked to the sky and breathed fire, roaring.
The gold had driven it mad.
At first it didn’t see me, but then it began to sniff. It’s head turned, and it’s cat-pupiled eyes locked on to me instead.
“Maol help me,” I whispered, praying to the god of courage.
The dragon charged.
I dove to the side and rolled, coming up standing. A mutter ran through the watching Hâfléngs.
The dragon overshot and whirled, coming at me again. And that was when I understood.
This was no thoughtful and intelligent beast. This was a killer of the most powerful and most dangerous kind.
So the rumors were true. I had read a little on gold’s effects on dragons, but I had never seriously delved into it. Apparently, that was a mistake.
The dragon blasted me with fire and I dodged again, just avoiding it. The Hâfléngs muttered amongst themselves, their voices growing slightly in volume.
I felt my blood begin to boil. To them, this was all entertainment, in the way the Roman colosseum in the humanlands had been entertainment.
The dragon sprayed fire a second time, missing me completely. The sand where it hit turned to glass.
Hm… If I could get this iron collar off of my neck…
The dragon’s tail came around, and I was knocked to the ground, causing laughter to ring out through the audience.
I began to get the dragon’s pattern. Using gold ensured that it would not stop until I was dead, but using gold also meant that it didn’t think at all, just attacked. If I could use that…
My thoughts were cut off as the dragon slammed me with its tail, sending me flying. I hit the wall, and stars danced before my eyes.
The Hâfléngs were laughing even more now. Then they began to chant. It was quiet at first, then slowly rose in volume.
“Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!”
I hissed through gritted teeth, and rose. Had… to… get… this… collar… off.
I dodged another spray of fire.
An idea began to form. A crazy, desperate idea, but an idea nonetheless.
I ran straight at the dragon, who, surprised, fired at me again. I dodged and moved closer, taunting it.
“Come on, is that the best you’ve got?” I hissed.
I prayed my guesses were accurate. That one scale looked loose…
The dragon fired again, and I rolled, yanking at a scale the size of my palm. To my luck, it came out. I began to smile.
Then my smile faded, and I screamed.
The scale was burning hot.
Desperately I pressed it against my collar, heedless of the pain. The scale practically seemed to suck the power out of the iron. Dragon scales are so full of magic that they dilute the effects of the iron- and destroy it. The metal dissolved into ashes.
I dropped the scale, revealing my hand.
The crowd had gone silent.
My hand was blackened, burned. But the collar was off.
Light seeped into my hand and the burns closed, healing.
My smile returned. Now it was time for the real show. My way.
I used my magic and blasted not the dragon, but the nearest gold hanging.
As the dragon barreled at me I leapt, pushing off the dragon, and catching onto the nearest gold hanging. It dissolved at my touch and I leapt to the next. Then the next. Then the next. One by one, they dissolved as I used magic to transform them back to their basic elements- the air.
“Stop her!” shouted the Hâfléng that had been the one to cause all this.
Hm… so he was a leader.
I flipped to the next one. Three to go…
I paused for a moment. What was I doing? If I dissolved all of these… the dragon could kill me!
Oh well, too late now!
I kept going.
Suddenly a knife slashed down at me, digging into my shoulder.
Surprised, I let go and fell all of the twenty-some foot drop.
I plummeted towards the ground and hit with a very painful crunching sound.
Pain flared up all over my body. Several of my bones were probably broken.
The dragon barreled towards me. I stared right at it, unflinching, waiting for it to kill me…
Death didn’t come.
Then I saw that a Hâfléng had managed to hold it back. Wait, not one, I counted six.
Then several more came, and I realized they were coming for me. Great. Now I’m the most dangerous thing on the field.
As they reached me, the others held back, and leader came forward, kneeling beside me.
“So, this is our Sivva,” he murmured, almost mockingly.
I tried to rise, but a flash of pain made me gasp, and I let myself fall back down.
“You put on a good show today,” he commented.
I didn’t answer.
“I could end this right now. A blade through the throat. You would not be able to stop me. But you see, this is my first time having a Sivva around… So I will wait,” he decided. He turned to the surrounding Hâfléngs, his tone becoming more commanding. “Take the Sivva back to her containment. Use a stretcher if needs be, then send someone. She’s broken a few bones.”
The Hâfléngs around me burst into motion, doing what their leader said. Two with a stretcher came to me, and I was put upon it, seeing as I was having difficulty moving myself.
I could almost feel my magic seeping into my bones, trying to repair them.
Unfortunately, they just wouldn’t fix.
Now magic can do many things for me. It can make my breakfast in the morning. It can be used for attack, or for defense. It can give me energy, or make my enemies lose energy. It can outright kill them. But broken bones?
That’s something even magic might not be able to take care of. At least, not immediately. With time, it might be able to help, but I doubted I would be given this time.
Fortunately, the magic at least dulled the pain.
“So… that’s the only reason you captured me. For… entertainment,” I gasped weakly.
One of the Hâfléngs carrying the stretcher laughed.
“Oh no, there are many other reasons, Sivva. But yes, entertainment is one.”
“You are fools,” I spat.
“You are simply the first step in a grand plan. We will observe how you use magic. We will see how you handle different situations.”
“I… won’t cooperate,” I gasped.
“You don’t need to cooperate, Sivva. You just need to survive,” the Hâfléng replied uncaringly.
I groaned. We reached my little iron prison, and I was deposited gently onto the bed there.
A few minutes later, a Hâfléng doctor came in. With him was the Hâfléng girl that had spoken to me earlier.
“Did the dragon get her?” the girl asked.
The Hâfléng doctor shook his head.
“A long fall. About twenty feet. It’s amazing she’s still alive.”
The girl snorted. “They’re careless. They’re going to kill her before we can even study her.”
“Hush now, child. We do not speak of these things in the prisoner’s company.”
“If… you would… let me… use my… magic… I would heal… faster,” I gasped.
The Hâfléng jumped slightly, surprised. “You are awake, prisoner.”
“Let me… use… my magic,” I repeated.
The Hâfléng girl was the one that responded this time. “Ha. Very funny girl. As if we would dare risk you escaping.”
“Broken bones… take a long time… to heal… It would be… worth it… to let me use… magic… to heal,” I insisted.
The girl began to reply , but the Hâfléng doctor stopped her.
“We could put her under guard, child. Besides, wouldn’t you be eager to watch her magic at work?”
The girl’s eyes widened as if she had just thought of that. “Yes. It would be a good time to…” The Hâfléng doctor silenced her again.
She huffed in irritation, and stormed away. I heard the door click behind her as it locked. Regular locks, not magical one. Hm. Regular locks could be rusted, or even destroyed.
The other Hâfléng rose and left my side, calling for other Hâfléngs, maybe. If the door was opened far enough… and I could get there fast…
No. Silly thoughts. Broken bones, and I was still thinking of fleeing? That was stupid.
Two more Hâfléngs came in, carrying the stretcher again. I was placed on the stretcher, then they were moving again. I felt a surge of relief as the magic began to mend my bones.
We went down several hallways and into another room that looked like an infirmary. I heard clicks behind me.
Hm. Magical locks. Interesting.
The scholarly girl in me wanted to study this. The Hâfléngs might be planning something big. Shouldn’t I find out?
The sensible girl in me added that I had broken bones and should focus on healing them.
I was rolled off of the stretcher and strapped onto one of the tables. Wood. Not iron. I closed my eyes, and let magic work over my bones.