Welcome To The Showdown – Dave Bailey

Welcome To The Showdown

Txomin entered the ring of swords and paused to look around at the spectators. A feeling of helplessness washed over him as he realized what was about to happen. This was the end. It was his end. 

He wanted to turn and run. Like he had done the last time. But there had been nowhere to run to. And after catching him, they beat him within an inch of his life for the second time. 

That had been almost two months ago. He had healed enough to be brought back into the ring of death. 

The once valiant warrior had survived many battles. But after his valley and been attacked and overcome by the Vrazers. 

He had fought bravely by the side of his fellow comrades, but it had been futile. One by one, Txomin watched them fall around him. 

Not a single Vrazar had been killed in the battle. In fact, Txomin had later tried to wrack his brain to remember if he had seen any of them sustain a single wound. But he couldn’t remember seeing them be hurt in the battle.  

Txomin looked around at the masked faces watching him in total silence. The only sound was that of the wind picking up and whipping his hair around his ears and the rustle of leaves around his knees. 

The last time they had brought him here, he had been one of the last gladiators to enter the ring. The grass and flowers had been crushed under the struggle and fight for the survival of those who had fought and died before him. 

As soon as they had released his chains and placed a sword in his hands, Txomin had sprinted for the woods. But they were faster. Faster than any mortal being had a right to be. 

He tried to remember seeing them run. How had they surrounded him so quickly? He didn’t even remember them moving. They had encircled the ring of swords, and then they were encircling him. 

The only thing that kept him from running again was the memory of the cruel beating he had endured after. Having died in the ring would have been a more pleasant experience than what they had put him through. 

The Vrazsars were silent, cruel, and meticulous throughout his beating. He didn’t remember how long he had suffered under their punishment. It felt like forever. 

Txomin felt like they had an uncanny ability to sense just how much he could take before passing out. They kept him conscious throughout most of it. But the relief of finally losing consciousness was the sweetest thing that had ever happened to him. 

The Vrazsar in charge of the battles stepped forward and raised his arms toward the sky as if waiting for the others to cheer. But they remained silent. They raised their hands in unison with the being at Txomin’s side. 

They stood there with their arms raised to the sky for a good thirty seconds. Txomin thought about making a run for the woods again. But he knew he wouldn’t make it. They would simply catch him again, and punish him like the last time. 

Had that been why they had brought him out first this time? 

He ignored the dreadful Vrazsars holding their hands to the sky as if in worship to some unseen being to whom they sacrificed these poor gladiators. 

Instead, he focused on the beauty of his surroundings. The petals on the flowers before him that would soon be crushed under the feet of bloody warriors struggling to survive. 

It seemed almost surreal to see the flowers having regrown and bloomed again so beautifully after the death and carnage they had witnessed only a few short weeks ago. 

Yet, here they were. In full bloom again, as if nothing had ever happened to them or their kind. 

Txomin wondered if humans could be like that. Would they ever overcome the Vrazars and flourish again? It hadn’t been that long ago that they even knew of the Vrazsars existence. 

They had simply come out of nowhere and begun to overrun the land with their deadly armies if they could even be called armies. They were more like a small band of grim reapers that crossed the continent, consuming whoever stood in their way. 

Maybe someday, a warrior would rise up who could face them and match their strength to defeat them and restore peace to the land once again. 

Txomin looked back at the rest of the gladiators behind him. Most of them had no idea what to expect. Still unaware of the fact they would soon face each other to the death. 

The Vrazsar soon lowered the hands in the fateful silence. The tall, masked being beside him, undid his chains and handed him a sword. 

The muscular, burly man rubbed his chafed wrists, locking eyes with his captor. They had done their worse to him two months ago when they had beaten him almost to death. 

He no longer feared them. He hated them. That was the feeling that swept over his body as he took the weapon his captor held out. Rage roiled through his body as he schemed a way to get out of this mess. 

Txomin and his fellow humans had been unable to wound or kill these creatures. Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember ever actually attacking one of these creatures. 

A vague recollection of their battle pushed its way back into his memory. Only this time, it seemed that his fellow warrior had never attacked the Vrazsars at all. 

Flashes of memory and visions of the battle seemed to indicate that he had his fellow fighters had slaughtered each other. 

Was that how he had survived? Had he been the one to kill his friends and family? Had the Vrazsars merely looked on as they struck each other down on the field, just as they were doing here with the gladiators? 

The idea that the Vrazsars weren’t so untouchable flashed through his mind. As the large, dark figure before him turned to hand a second sword to his opponent, Txomin shifted subtly and prepared to attack. 

He lunged and brought up the point of the sword towards the Vrazsars heart and pressed his body forward into the dark fiend’s direction. 

As before, the other Vrazsar rushed in around him. Again, without actually moving. They weren’t there, and then suddenly they were all around him. 

Txomin held his breath, waiting for them to tear him away and beat him almost to death again. Or maybe this time they would actually finish the job which would even be welcome relief instead of suffering through recovery only to be brought back out here in a few more months. 

Only he didn’t back off or give up on his death grip as he hugged the Vrazsar’s body and continued to press in the sword as furiously as his rage and hatred would allow. 

The body of the Vrazsar he was holding went limp, and a collective sigh from the others surrounding him began at the same time. Behind the masked expressions, Txomin could almost see the surprise and shock in their eyes. 

The Vrazsar went limp and slid to the ground. The others dissipated into the wind and swirled around him. 

Txomin pulled his sword back and stared down at his hand in pleasant surprise at this unexpected turn of events. He turned to grin at the other gladiators who still didn’t know how close they had come to dying. 

He tried to tell them that they were free to go, but words failed him. Txomin couldn’t speak. Literally. The men were staring at him in fear and horror. 

They backed away from him and either fell backward over their chains or dropped to their knees begging for their lives. 

Txomin looked at them in confusion as he tried to understand what was going on. He looked down at himself and realized he was no longer wearing the simply gladiator outfit that the Vrazsars had sent the men out to die in. 

A long dark cloak covered his body that was eerily similar to the cloaks the Vrazsars had worn. He realized that even his hand was covered in a black glove that glowed with the same strange blue light the Vrazars had worn previously. 

He reached up a hand toward his face. It was no longer soft and fleshy. It was cold and hard to the touch. Smooth and icy just like the same mask the Vrazsar had worn. 

Txomin tried to pull it away from his face, but it was stuck in place. He dropped his sword and tried to pry it away with both hands to no avail. 

The wind whipped his once-black hair around across his face. Only now it was white as snow in stark contrast to his black outfit, just like those of the Vrazsars before him. 

After a minute or two of struggling with the mask and trying to understand what had just happened, Txomin gave up and picked up his sword. 

He sliced through the chains of the gladiators and motioned for them to leave. They didn’t hesitate and took off at a dead run. 

Txomin focused on the back of one man and instantly, he was there at the man’s side. The terrified man screamed when he saw him and threw himself to the ground. 

He focused back on the ring of swords and instantly was back inside the ring as before just as if he had never left. 

The once-human slid the sword into a sheath across his back. He didn’t know how he knew it was there, or maybe it hadn’t been there before. 

Txomin didn’t know what he could know or do as a Vrazsar or whatever it was that he had become. But he swore that he would do whatever was in his power to undo the damage they had brought to his land and his people. 

Then he would travel to the ends of the earth to uncover the truth and avenge the destruction they had brought and wreak havoc upon those responsible. 

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>> https://davebailey.me/go/crew