Part 26: Arena

7 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

Oh, wow. So much has happened! This might be the craziest, most busy day I’ve had in a long time. I’m on top of the world, Heath! She smiled at me! She smiled! Oh, it’s so wonderful!

I do this a lot. I get overly excited, and all my journal entries get all muddled and start weird. Here’s a better way to start this entry: we fought a dinosaur, Clio smiled at me, and members of our team qualified for the Great Games.

I should break that down.

Let’s start with the crazy man, Eronus. He met us on our way to the arena. He seemed nice at the time, and spun a story about how his girl, Delica, spurned him because he owed her a sum of money. Eronus asked if we would be willing to speak to Delica on his behalf. Disinclined to do so as we were, we offered to convey his message. It just so happened that Delica was also at the arena on Mount Azorius and we were already headed in that direction.

At the arena, we learned that Delica is a large dinosaur and is actually the Burning Sun’s Avatar. The centurions misunderstood our interest in Delica – remember, we were just going to talk to her about Eronus – and put us into the arena to challenge her in a fight to the death. Delica herself explained to us that Eronus was cursed for stealing from the Temple of Khar’shan and she would be eating him as punishment. Literally, Eronus believed he was romantically involved with her, and she was entirely unimpressed with him.

Here’s the thing that was important, though. Whoever slays a Sun’s Avatar has the right to sacrifice it to the god or gods of their choosing. If we were to leave the arena (as was our intention because this whole thing was a weird mistake), the League of Storms would sacrifice Delica to Amalj’aa. That simply would not do. So we challenged and defeated Delica. This bothers me, though. No matter what, it seemed that she was destined to die. That was her birthright. Someone had to kill and sacrifice her. It was written in the stars, she said. Before she died, I asked her what would be the most meaningful way for her to die. She preferred to die in the throws of combat.

I don’t know why, but I feel bad for her. To be born just to die? It seems like a horrible existence. That said, I’m learning to not make such quick judgements about these sort of things. Delica seemed perfectly content with her destiny. Proud of it, I think. She died a warrior’s death. I’ll remember her.

The Burning Sun’s Avatar will be sacrificed to Kiora later this evening. Briar and Shadow wanted to do it now, but there’s a ceremony and we have to follow the rules. The crowd loved our fight and cheered for us. The centurion who was running everything in the arena led us to a waiting room before the qualifier games could begin.

Here’s one of the best parts of my day. Briar suddenly couldn’t keep it in any longer. She began speaking a mix of fey, gnomish, and some other things, all at Rendu. The words we could understand were that she thought Rendu had been casting spells on the group since we met him. And through Rendu’s explanations and Actaeon’s interpretations, she suddenly realized what she felt towards Rendu was attraction and not the effects of magic.

I get it. Rendu’s attractive. He’s not the one I’m interested in, but anyone can see that about him. It’s that silly wink thing he does. Very captivating. I think Briar felt wholly embarrassed about the whole thing. We all felt a little secondhand embarrassment for her. But unlike whatever Briar is probably thinking, I believe this awkward memory brings our group together more than anything. We’ve had a couple of rough days and we needed a good laugh. Rendu, bless him, is such a charming and polite man. I don’t think he minded it at all. It’s good to have him with us.

The centurion returned and brought us back to the arena for the qualifiers. Being non-athletic myself, I opted to stay in the back and watch. But good news! I get to be a “mystic coach”, which is a fancy word for “I get to cast spells on a teammate and help them!” I made a joke about my friends having to compete for my help but the joke didn’t land.

Torag ended up asking for me to partner with him. I think Shadow wanted to ask me, but in the tumult of the noises in the arena, I missed him asking me. I had thought to help him instead of Torag, but this gives me a chance to get to know Torag better. I look forward to working with him!

Shadow, Torag, Rendu, and Actaeon each signed up for different events. Clio is going to help Actaeon and Briar is going to help Rendu. Rendu asked for Briar specifically, which I think was very sweet. We cast our spells and watched our friends.

Well, we sort of watched our friends. The qualifiers took hours and we “mystic coaches” started getting a little bored. I’ll summarize:

Rendu and Actaeon scored very high on the long jump competition. Torag was still a little tired from getting bit in the chest by Delica, so he had to sit that one out. When I thought no one was looking, I tried doing a long jump. Didn’t get far. Actaeon apparently saw the whole thing and gave me some courteous applause.

Shadow and Torag were in the long distance race and Shadow barely qualified. Torag was getting winded and ended up tripping over one of the other contestants.

Rendu and Actaeon both qualified for some game involves throwing javelins. I didn’t even see where they landed. But I was also a little distracted, as I’ll mention in a moment. They also threw some discuses, which are large flat stones. For some reason, throwing them really far is important. I ended up asking for one as a souvenir.

Okay, so… distractions. I wanted to talk to Clio. I used my new staff and made her a flower. She, like I, was not having a lot of fun. These athletic competitions don’t have much for people like her and I. Although I am certain Clio would do just fine doing anything athletic. She smiled at me, the highlight of my day, and thanked me for the flower. We got to have a lively conversation between just the two of us. We talked about not really having much to do during these qualifiers, and I mentioned I might write in my journal next time. We got to talking about journals, actually. I told her about this journal that you gave me years ago. She decided might be be interested in writing her own journal as a way of recording the good things in her life.

Today, of all days, would be a good day for her to start journaling! A lot has happened today. I finally became my true self, we went to a fancy bathhouse, she and I got to see Briar try very hard to talk to people, we defeated the Burning Sun’s Avatar, and now we’re watching our friends wrestle a drunk giant ape. Oh, I should mention, the wrestling competition requires contestants to wrestle an ape named Crusher, and Crusher is very drunk right now.

Clio agreed. Today’s a great day to journal. She told me she’s glad I’m in my true form, but asked about my scars and if they’re from people who hated me only because of my race. Yes, that’s true. They did some horrible things to me. But it’s made me appreciate the good in my life. In the Emerald Isles, I don’t hide the fact that I’m a changeling. I’m in a place where I can be me, and it pains me that Clio cannot do the same. There are still plenty of people who hate or revile the fey. That same prejudice I’ve tried to escape is something that still holds onto her, and frustrates me. I told Clio that maybe our good deeds in Ellandyr and the rest of the Emerald Isles can change the way people see the fey. I didn’t say this part to her: I want the rest of the Emerald Isles to see her the way I see her.

She smiled at me, Heath!

We got distracted next by seeing our friends enter a boxing competition. They had to fight Crusher’s brother, Smasher. Smasher is wearing bronze gloves, and his gloves let out an awful clang every time they struck someone. Clio just laughed, though. She’s Actaeon’s mystic coach, so she was able to help in in the fight by protecting him with her cool powers. After the fights, Briar shapeshifted into another giant ape and… Okay, I need to ask her about this. I think she went to console Smasher, but ended up just sharing some apples with him instead. She seemed in a good mood when she was back in Briar-form.

The archery contest was the last qualifier. Shadow was the only one of us to do it, and he did really well. He said he was a little disappointed that he couldn’t hit the last target, though, but we’re all still very thrilled for him.

The centurion gave us the schedule for the Great Games and we left the arena. I’m going to make Torag work hard so he can win. I’m his mystic coach! He has to get into shape! Or… something like that. I don’t really know what my job is, apart from giving him some buffing spells before competitions. Maybe I’ll just see if he wants a snack every now and then.

Shadow needed to clear his head and went to the fish market on the other side of town while the rest of us went to finish up some shopping. We met Eronus along the way. With Delica slain, his curse was gone. He apologized for misleading us, explaining that he stole from the Temple of Khar’shan because he was desperate for money. Torag laughed it off and went on his way to buy something from Dygo, saying something about love before he left. He said, “So what? You fell in love with a dinosaur. It’s okay to love.” It makes me wonder.

Anyway, Eronus told us a little about himself. He is a former sailor, though his ship, the Drunken Maiden, rests at the bottom of the ocean right now. He said he’d be willing to help us if we ever needed his help. But for now, Briar offered to hire him to escort Dygo to the Mithral Forge instead. I think that was a wise decision, and Briar did so well talking to Eronus about it!

We decided to go to the temple district. The ceremony and the sacrifice of the Burning Sun’s Avatar would be taking place this evening and we wanted to be there for it. Shadow said he’d meet up with us there.

What Torag said has stuck with me today, and it’s kind of funny coming from him. It was about love. And I love my friends! Part of being Leef is being brave and honest with myself, and I can’t help but write that. I owe everything to the warriors who stand at my side. Briar is the sister I never had. Actaeon and Torag are so gruff, but they’re soft and kind. Rendu is one of the sweetest, most sincere people I’ve ever met. Shadow is wonderful and so strong. Clio said I give her hope, but she gives me hope, too. I haven’t felt this good in a long time.

It has been a good day so far. I hope the ceremony tonight goes well, too.