The healing process took two weeks. I drifted in and out of consciousness. When the last bone had healed, I was awake, and ready to go. But of course, before I could use my magic, I was taken back to the iron prison.
Two weeks. By now, Éif and the others would be in a panic. But they wouldn’t be able to find me. My name would go to the lost, and that would be it. Miranda would be assigned to another Sivva, or sent back to the humanlands. I couldn’t let that happen.
I hissed in irritation under my breath. I wasn’t used to circumstances where I couldn’t control the happenings around me. And of course, I still didn’t know the Hâfléngs’ intentions.
The only thing I was worried about was punishment. If the other Sivvas considered this a failure on my part, this could end badly- the Sivva council considered any failure as a terrible crime, and I could be banished for it. However, if I successfully found out the Hâfléngs’ plans, then it would not be a failure, and there would be no repercussions, though I’d hate to be the Hâfléngs when the Sivvas come.
And yet… there was something… different about this community of Hâfléngs. Their base was a deadly combo of magic and machines. Who knew what else they could do?
“Sivva. Reports came to me that you were totally healed.”
I looked up. Standing on the balcony was the lead Hâfléng.
“You will continue on the schedule today. We will be sending men in a short amount of time.”
“Another arena fight?” I guessed.
The Hâfléng smirked and nodded. “After your… interesting idea… with the dragon, we were forced to make sure something like that didn’t occur again.”
I gritted my teeth. “And?”
“No more information,” the Hâfléng replied. “Don’t cause trouble, or it will be worse for you.”
“That’s why you’re here? To threaten me?”
“No, to warn you. There’s a very specific system here. More than you Sivvas know about. More than you ever will know about.”
I remained silent, but the Hâfléng didn’t yield any more information.
“You’re impossibly hard to make cooperate,” he muttered to himself. “There must be a simpler way…” He considered something thoughtfully, “If we had a name… What is your name, Sivva?” he asked.
The causal question caught me off guard, but I recognized its deeper meaning instantly. They didn’t want my normal name- Râegan. They wanted my true name. The name that held the source of my power and magic. That one word held more power then you would think. Yes, I know. None knew it but myself- and if I would never reveal it to another. It seemed like such a simple thing, just another name, but if they found out they could use it for their spells, and I would be in trouble. A true name holds everything, your soul, power, magic, the very essence of your being. If I just knew one of their names…
“What is yours?” I replied, as if I saw the question as a simple thing.
“That information is something I keep to myself.”
“I don’t divulge my name either,” I replied smoothly.
The Hâfléng laughed. “Two weeks, and still so stubborn. You will give your name freely, or you will give your name by force. And not your called name- you know what I mean. Your true name.”
“I will not speak it to you,” I spat.
If they knew my true name, that would give them utter and total control over me, and who knew what they would do then? Nothing good.
Loud clicks signaled the opening of the room’s locks. Three Hâfléngs entered. They all looked on guard as they saw that I was awake.
“Come on, Sivva,” one of them growled.
I remained where I was, expression completely blank.
One of the three stepped forward like he was sizing me up. He carried an iron blade, and he gestured at the door with it. This time, I complied, walking towards the door. The Hâfléngs opened it…
I bolted. One minute I was there, the next minute I was running. I was going to make it…
Something sank into my thigh and collapsed my leg. I expected the magic to heal it but nothing came. Iron blade.
The three Hâfléngs approached me. One pulled the blade out of my leg. The other two held my arms while the magic healed my leg. Before I could use my magic for, say, escaping, they snapped another iron collar around my neck. I cursed under my breath. I hadn’t really expected the escape attempt to work, but…
The Hâfléngs shoved me forward. I could feel one of the iron blades pressed into my back, ready to impale me if I tried to run.
The hallways leading back to the arenas were familiar, and in no time we reached entrance.
This time, when the Hâfléngs shoved me into the middle, I kept my footing.
There was a muted thud as the Hâfléngs left and the doors closed. Then it was silent.
A loud ringing noise broke the silence, and I saw that high above, in the top of the arena, a figure was standing. The leader Hâfléng.
“Welcome all to our second arena test. Welcome friends from our allied tribes. As you can see, our community has not been idle. We have managed to capture and hold within our walls a Sivva of Simar.”
Murmurs rippled around the arena, and I could feel thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of eyes on me.
“How do we know that she is really a Sivva? I refuse to believe unless you give solid proof!” shouted a voice from the rafters.
I smiled inwardly. Thank you.
The leader Hâfléng laughed. “To unchain her magic would be to unleash a deadly weapon!”
“How convenient. You could have captured any human and claimed her as a Sivva.”
Perfect. This was falling straight into my hands.
To my surprise, the Hâfléng laughed again. “I will show you the records, my friend, and if you are still unsatisfied then we will work a way to show you her magic. Until then…”
NO! Curse you, no! I thought angrily. I had been so close… so close…
There was a loud thunking noise that signaled the opening of either a cage or a large, heavy door.
I turned my attention in that direction, eyes narrowed. Whatever happened, they weren’t going to catch me off guard.
The door slammed back, and my old friend the dragon burst out of it. They had replaced the gold hangings, and the dragon charged.
I somehow knew the scale trick wasn’t going to work this time. They would have made sure of that. So I was going to have to use a different tactic.
Now, killing a dragon is near-impossible. Their scales are like steel. They don’t have an easy-to-get-to weak point. And even when enraged, this thing wasn’t going to be stupid enough to let me get at it. And the Hâfléngs wouldn’t let me out until one of us was dead. Or maybe they would interfere if I was about to die.
Of course, I wasn’t going to rely on them for anything. I wasn’t that weak yet.
I readied myself and dove to the side as the dragon charged me. It shot fire, but it’s rage was making it sloppy. The shot missed. I avoided the dragon again, and grabbed onto it’s tail.
Fortunately, the scales on the tail weren’t hot. The dragon whipped its tail around, trying to throw me off, but it wasn’t making any progress. In short, I was doing well.
I managed to pull myself up the tail and onto the back. Again, my studies of dragons paid off. Though other Sivvas considered my passion for scholarship odd, I constantly pursued it, reading informational texts whenever I could, especially on magical creatures. And in this case, the texts had been true. Only the underside of the dragon would be burning hot, like it had last time.
I straddled the dragon’s neck, locking on with my legs. I gripped its horns with my hands and held on.
All was silent. The Hâfléngs were probably thinking, what is she doing? Well now I had a plan.
The dragon roared and thrashed, but I was strong, and held on, gritting my teeth as I was jerked back and forth.
I slung my arms around the dragon’s neck, and tightened the choke hold. It fought me, but I had trained in things like this. I wasn’t going to lose. I tightened my hold again, choking the dragon, slowly but surely. The dragon flamed, desperately trying to get rid of me.
I wasn’t going to give in. Not now. I applied more pressure to the dragon’s throat, causing the dragon to howl angrily. But my plan was working. The dragon was growing more and more confused at its inability to get me.
I heard clanking noises, but I didn’t let that distract me. I kept my choke hold on the dragon.
There was shouting, then hands grabbed me by the back of my shirt and yanked me off the back of the dragon. As they had last time, some of the Hâfléngs held the dragon back. But this time I wasn’t lying on the ground in pain. I was up and ready to move.
I punched the first Hâfléng, sending him toppling. Then I dodged another who went at me with an iron knife, and kicked a third’s legs out from under him.
Then, of course, a blast of white magic knocked me off my feet. I hit the ground with a ringing in my ears. There was shouting, and I pulled myself up as another bolt hit the ground where my chest had been.
I ducked a third bolt, and darted towards another of the Hâfléngs. I had to hurry. If I could get one of the relics, I could return my magic, but more and more Hâlfléngs were flooding the arena and I would be overpowered if I didn’t act quickly.
I avoided another blast and reached the Hâfléng. Quickly, I snatched one of the amulets from around his neck and wrapped it around my own.
It hissed, bubbled, then turned to dust, taking the iron collar with it.
A humming sound filled my ears; my magic, wanting to be unleashed. I managed to hold it back, but restraining it was like trying to tame an exceptionally wild horse with nothing but your bare hands. But I knew that if I let it loose, I would most likely kill myself.
The Hâfléngs all hesitated now, but the leader laughed. “Good! Good! Now this is a show! Go on, Sivva, entertain us!”
My anger was incredible. The magic responded to my emotions and the humming became more painful. But I had to save my magic. Unleashing it all in one blast would drain my strength so rapidly that I would most likely pass out. Magic had to be controlled, and I might need it for a potential escape.
A blast of magic whistled past my head, and I lost concentration. All the held-back magic was released, and I crumpled to the ground as my energy was sucked away. Then the world faded away to blackness.
I woke up- as had become the norm- back in my iron cell, lying on the bed. I cursed and leapt to my feet, automatically searching for some escape route.
I had been so close. So close to escaping, but I had lost control and that had been my downfall. I was lucky to even be alive after a burst of magic like that.
My legs gave out under me, causing me to collapse to the floor. I tried to pull myself up, but black spots danced before my eyes, bringing me back to my knees with a gasp of pain.
I cursed under my breath. Once again, I tried to stand. I pulled myself fully up, but my legs betrayed me, , sending me down again. This time I did not attempt to rise. It was a pointless waste of my energy.
I took a few shaky breaths and heard laughter. I looked up and found the Hâfléng leader standing on the balcony, smirking at me.
“Not so strong now, Sivva,” he laughed.
I would have responded, but my voice wouldn’t come.
“You act so powerful, yet here you are, unable to even move.”
“You could… have killed me,” I snapped. “That… magic… was dangerous!”
“Oh, you are hurt?” The Hâfléng said with mock-sympathy.
I didn’t answer, seeing as I was trying to pull myself up.
“I see,” the Hâfléng laughed. “I will send somebody.”
No. I thought angrily.
The door slammed behind him and a few minutes later a couple Hâfléngs entered the room on my level, accompanied by the leader.
I lifted my head, but even that simple effort became too much, and I let it drop.
I felt hands on me, flipping me onto my back. I let out a sharp gasp as pain flared through my body.
“Magic overextension. Too much movement could kill her,” one of the Hâfléngs observed.
My breath came in short ragged gasps, and I found it more and more difficult to hold on to the world as it dipped and spun around me. It was as if I were seeing everything through running water, like a distorted reflection. The world spun and cartwheeled around me again, and all of a sudden, whiteness flared before my vision. I cried out and abruptly blackness enfolded my vision as the world was pulled away from me.