I missed hearing his voice. I would never have said that if he was still here- it was a fact. But now, I admit it. I miss him. I miss the sarcasm that he always used to bring to the family and the smile that seemed to be the only light in the desolate mansion we called our home.
Now, I would finally see him again. My older brother. Altair.
I know that everyone's been wondering why I volunteered along with Eriene. Well, it's all for him. Altair died for the same reason we will- to try and free everyone of the chains holding us fast.
I never considered joining before he died. I hated him for leaving me alone, without parents. They were never around, always busy with things to do on the Council, and when we were together, arguing. Altair might not have been as bright as others, but he always managed to light up the dark days that made up my childhood.
When he died, there was no hero's funeral. He wasn't a hero. He had tried to be, and I considered him one. But to the rest of society, he was nothing more than some kid who had thrown their life away in a feeble, failed attempt to stop something inevitable. He was only Altair, after all. Not even the brightest star in the night sky. I knew that my fate would be the same, but I had to try. I don't have any other siblings. It was him and I, and I had to take my chance.
I was surprised when I saw that girl-Eriene, I think- volunteer. She didn't do it out of pride or honor, there's something else. That's what I’m trying to figure out.
I walk straight down to the training bay right after I get ready for the day, not surprised to see Therin and Everlys, the Sinistrians, and Anya and Emery, the two competitors from Alcator, already sparring, though, I notice, not using their magic. It's a wise choice on their part, seeing that their abilities will be saved for the actual competition instead of revealed when alliances can still be made and broken. I'm what you'd call a glitch in the system. Not unique,for there are others like me. Born with one type of magic but having abilities of another.
I'm like Eriene.
An Elemental with abilities that would usually belong to the Telepaths. My brother was one, too, being able to communicate to animals while also having the slightest control over the earth. It's ironic since he was named after a star. He could speed up the growth of plants, and found that vines worked the most easily since they already spread quickly.
I walked over to the weapons stand and stared at the blades made of countless different materials- gold, silver, iron, and foreign metals native to Zelara, the sister planet to ours. A sword catches my eye, and I pick it up, wrapping my hand around the dark, leather hilt, tracing the designs etched into the blade. It wasn't light, but it also wasn't overly heavy, as some weapons were. It had a weight to it- a weight capable of taking life. A reminder that you had done so, if you were to send someone to the First Realm with this blade. I swung it through the air a few times, my technique almost perfect. There's always room for improvement, as my father used to say. He was a skilled swordsman, as was Altair. My brother preferred a bow. He hated killing, but knew that it was necessary sometimes. With arrows, death is quick and painless for the victim. By his weapon, you could tell what kind of person he was. Tough yet sensitive. A good fighter, but someone who grieved every time he took a life.
I walked over to one of the training rooms, swiping through and selecting a fairly difficult setting for my holographic opponent. They appeared, holding two swords, just the vague shape of a body outlined in white. I made the first move, and they blocked it with a counter strike to my right shoulder. I winced as I felt a sharp tingle, signaling that I had been hit. It would have been a cut- though not deep- if I had been dueling a real opponent. I sliced the air in front of them, causing the person to take a step back to avoid the blade, and I used the brief second I had to knock one of their swords aside. It clattered to the floor and they dodged my stab to their stomach, twisting to the left and plunging their remaining weapon in the direction of my torso. I turned just as they had a moment prior, slicing the hand that held the sword, plunging my blade into what would have been their rib cage a fraction of a second after. The hologram vanished and I dropped my arm, not tired in the least. "Same scenario, level two." I said to the computer, and, this time, two opponents appeared, one holding a sword just as I was, the other carrying a pouch of either throwing stars or knives.
It was about a minute before they both fell, the misty white bodies vanishing. I mus have gotten to level eleven before I noticed Everlys and Emery staring. I quickly completed the fight, staring at the six different figures as they faded.
I watched carefully as Emery stepped forward, the door sliding open. He gripped his bladed staff with confidence, the look in his eyes one of curiosity. "Care to fight me?" He asked with a slight smirk, and I nodded, eyes not leaving him as Emery walked into the middle of the large space, turning his staff once. "Alaric, isn't it?"
"Alaric Emrys." And with that, he rushed forward. He was quicker than most opponents I had fought, though I still managed to stand my ground, despite almost falling once. The duel ended with a shallow slice in his staff, both of us carrying minor wounds. My shoulder hurt the most. I had wrenched it twisting away from him, though I still managed to deliver a sharp blow to his upper arm in retaliation.
Emery tended to strike to the right, being left handed. That was sure to be useful.
He nodded in acknowledgment before walking out of the room and placed his staff on one of the weapons shelves, reaching over to pick up a set of small knives. I was about to start level twelve when an official entered.
"Come with me." she said to no one in particular, and quickly turned to walk out of the training bay. Therin, Everlys, Anya, Emery and I followed, shelving our weapons and looking at each other with confused glances. I made eye contact with Anya once and quickly looked away. Having her as an adversary would be difficult and easily life- threatening. I could tell just by looking over as she trained time to time. Her skill with both war fans and throwing stars was impeccable.
As we walked down the white marble corridors, the rest of the contestants trickled into our group, also lead by the officials. We turned to a set of large, double doors that opened on command. It was a long hallway similar the others, with doors that looked like they were made of glass, but flickered away as we walked in. The officials gave no instruction, but lead each of us into a room, stepping back, the clear screen flickering back, making the people look blurred around the edges.
"This is tradition for the Dragon Races contestants." A bodiless voice said as a small, white light floated down to pulse in front of me. "Watch carefully." The voice was softer as this was said. "Everyone must."
The light vibrated once then vanished, a hologram filling the entire room. I was in the middle of the arena, as I would be tomorrow. Shapes flickered to life; they were dragons, soaring through the air and spiraling down towards me, passing right through as they pushed and shoved each other, firing arrows and weapons towards the person on the magnificent beast. I suddenly heard screams. The crackling of fire. People shouting to whom they thought were allies, soon stabbed by the ones they thought they knew. The dragons flickered away until four shapes remained. Two dragons, one a mix of bright reds and oranges, and another colored like the night sky speckled with stars. There were two people, both male, one of them carrying a horrid scar down the left side of his face, hair and clothes matted with scarlet blood that dripped to the ground. I turned to the other and instantly looked away. I couldn't watch this. I tried to turn back to the door, but it was only the arena, fire surrounding me on all sides. I had to look back. The bloody one lifted what looked like a mace and the other stood weaponless, though his hands flared with white energy. Vines broke through the ground, but he hacked them away easily, advancing on the person blocking him from victory.
This was it.
He lifted his hands again, glancing back at the black dragon who was now still, a terrified yet determined look in his eyes. He tried to summon the vines again, but any green that had once thrived in the arena had been killed by the fire. His dragon was dead. His powers were useless. He wildly looked around, picking up an abandoned, half- melted sword and lifting it up to block the strike the other contestant aimed at his skull. He held the weapon wrong, hands gripping the hilt awkwardly as he thrust it forward in a jagged, badly- aimed motion.
His opponent easily knocked it out of his hands and he let out a sharp scream, wrists now bloody with new wounds from the mace's spikes. He tried to look around for a weapon, for anything. He tripped, falling on to his back and crawling away, coming up against his dragon's dead body. He looked over at it, tears pricking his eyes and daring to fall down his face. His eyes darted around as he frantically searched for a weapon, but his opponent raised his mace just as he looked back. They made eye contact, and it was brought down.
The hologram flickered to nothing, the room lighting back up. I hadn't realized that I had fallen to my knees. I wiped my face, tears glistening on my fingertips as I stood up, taking in a shaky breath. I had just watched him die. My brother. Altair. Now I knew for sure that he was dead. I had known before, but this confirmed it. He was gone, and never coming back.
He had died trying to end the competition. Now it was my turn to try. I would carry out what he failed to do.