A short story I wrote 3 years ago…
He sat on the edge of the gold rimmed seat. Aching back slouched, bruised elbows planted on the cap of the rigid table, miserable head buried in his slimy palms. His dreary scales shuddered, and the raging storm of emotions crackled through his skull. The sorrow. The anger. The fear and frustration. Everything was just so shrouding unfair!
His name was Brayzoul, a draezon of Golçour, the center realm where the draçuranne ruled and everything was supposedly perfect. But to him, it did not feel that way. He was molded and crafted from the clever mind and magic of a mighty draçura as all draezons were, but unlike the rest of his kin, he was given nothing to take pride in. Draezons were usually massive, powerful beings, standing up to a menacing ten-foot height with the strength to lift two tonnes in a single hand, their quick-witted minds were unmatched in brilliance by any other race, their beauty was impeccable, flawless painted scales coated their entire body, and they had been gifted with the adept ability to craft just about anything.
Brayzoul was nothing of the sort. His stubby little frame did not even break the seven-foot mark, his hideous pale blue scales were dull and drab, his brain had only the measly capabilities of that of a human’s, and if he tried to put anything together, it would crumble in his awkward grasp. With his infinitesimal collection of piteous skills, it was hard for him to decide what he had wanted to do with his life, although, for his kind the options were quite limited. A Dradazor was a warrior, a draezon who spent nearly every moment of his life fighting. During the day, they would train under the command of a Traizu, and every so often, they would be given the opportunity to fight one-on-one to the near death against another Dradazor for glory in the colossal Drazorium. One the other hand, a Drada was a peaceful civilian, who shaped buildings and invented fancy new objects for fun. They lived in extravagant houses of their own and spent their downtime watching the Dradazors fight in the Drazorium, cheering on their favourite competitors. Neither of these two choices suited Brayzoul’s stature, any Dradazor would crush him with a single swing, and he could not build anything if his life depended on it.
The thing was; Brayzoul wanted to fight. In his dreams, he imagined himself as a fearsome warrior, barbed axe cutting swiftly through his opponents, and standing victoriously over their fallen bodies after an intense battle. But his dreams did not prepare him for the truth.
At the time, Brayzoul truly believed he could defy the odds and become a Dradazor. He thought if he trained hard enough, he could prove himself worthy, but nearly a century and half had gone by, and all he had done was humiliate himself. Day after day, he had been battered and bruised, experiencing loss after loss, he had a record of merely eighty-four wins and well over six thousand losses; the worst record in the history of Golçour. Brayzoul was the butt of all jokes, known as the inept draezon. But as much as he hated it, Brayzoul would not give up, he would keep going until he proved everyone wrong, until he proved that he could become a champion. After all, he was only one-hundred and thirty-four years of age, and most draezons did not reach the top until they were well into their thousands. Brayzoul had plenty of time.
“Brayzoul, get up from there.” He lifted his sore neck from its sweaty case and gazed up at the draezon who stood over him.
It was Uzoom, a pale white creature with dastardly red eyes and a threatening crimson scar torn through his thick scales from the top of his right brow to the bottom of his cheek. He was the only draezon who seemed to care for Brayzoul’s wellbeing, the only draezon Brayzoul considered kind.
“My friend, what are you doing here?” Uzoom’s tone was soft. “You should be up in Kalozhwal, working toward your goal. If you really want to be a champion, wasting away here will do you no good. You need to hold your head up, ignore all those nasty draezon’s insults and listen to your heart.”
Brayzoul shook his head. Uzoom really needed to take some of his own advice; all he did was spend his days drinking Zof in this shrouded tavern, as opposed to training up in Kalozhwal Barracks. He had promise and was actually quite skilled, all he needed was some practice and he would be a great, but Uzoom just seemed not to care, he put no effort into anything.
“You are right, Uzoom, but take heed of your own words and you may give Bruticuz a run for his title.” Brayzoul pushed himself to his feet and clasped his comrade’s forearm in greeting.
Uzoom smiled, showing off his perfect set of golden teeth. “You think too much of me, Brayzoul. I could not even beat Voizu on my best day, nevertheless the champion himself.” The white draezon’s face changed, softening his cheery expression to a more tender one. “Look, it is too late for me, but not for you. You have a strong heart, but mine is weak. I do not believe I can win, so I simply cannot win. It is easier to sit here in Trazzquo’s all day than getting my face bashed in at Kalozhwal. You on the other hand, are determined, and that is the strongest weapon of all. You may be at the very bottom now, but as long as you never give up, and train every shrouding moment of every shrouding day, you can improve; you can grow strong enough to prove all those other Smouldering Shadouls wrong. You can look down at them and spit in their faces for all the wrong they ever did to you, and they will be too scared to fight back. That is what you want, is it not? To prove them wrong?”
Brayzoul nodded. Uzoom painted the perfect picture in his mind; himself looking down at everyone else, no fear, only pride. It was a moment he could not wait for, and it would all start with his first win in the Drazorium. “Yes, my friend, I will prove them wrong, all of them. I am going to make a request to fight in the Drazorium, against whoever Zudrazu Ziphon chooses to throw at me, and when I win, all of Golçour will see.”
A trace of amusement flickered in Uzoom’s eyes. “Are you serious?”
Brayzoul maintained his confidence, holding his head up high.
“Oh shrouding hell, you are.” Uzoom pounded his scaled skull with a hard fist. “You do realize you are only going to shame yourself even more by going in there in this state. I do not want to crush your hopes, but for now you should stick with the arena in Kalozhwal, until you get some good wins under your belt. Then, once you have beaten the other weaklings, you can make your way up to the Drazorium.”
That was not what Brayzoul wanted, it would take too long. He was eager to see the look on everyone else’s face when he showed his dominance in the mighty arena. “I am going to fight in the Drazorium, Uzoom, regardless of what you think. Thank you for the confidence boost, I will take my leave of this shrouded tavern and head to Kalozhwal.”
Brayzoul gave his friend a nod of farewell and turned to leave, but a smooth hand caught his shoulder.
“Before you go”, Brayzoul craned his neck to the side, directing his ear-hole toward Uzoom’s reptilian voice, “I want to wish you good luck. I know there is no convincing you, you are too shrouding stubborn for that, but I will warn you that a fight in the Drazorium is nothing like the little scrimmages we have in the baby ring at home. You must be fully prepared both mentally and physically, and if you lose, you will spend weeks in torturous pain, waiting for your cracked scales, broken bones, and bloody gashes to mend themselves. I can tell you first hand that losing in there is not fun. They go very far; to the point where you feel like you are dead. Keep those thoughts of pain in your mind, and let them fuel you, push you harder so that you are not forced to experience the agony of losing. Now, let us hope our Zudrazu does not pit you against anyone too powerful. I will see you around Brayzoul.”
“Next you see me, I will have my first win in the Drazorium.” Brayzoul took hold of Uzoom’s forearm one last time, and shared a cordial nod before withdrawing from the rackety room.
He stepped outside, into the crowded golden streets of Grozgurb, not pausing even a moment to take in the beauty of his world. Brayzoul’s mind was set, he would not pause for anything until he had won in the Drazorium. His graceless feet dug between the cracks in the sharp stones beneath him, shoving his adamant frame forward, past the elaborate structures erected on either side of him, through the glittering sea of godly draezons, toward his goal; Kalozhwal, the prodigious spectacle of land where the mighty Dradazors resided.
Thirty minutes later, he was there; standing at the base of the magnificent area, the place he had dreamed to love, but learned to hate. The land was flat, coated in a glistening sheen of pure gold, much easier to traverse than the bumpy roads of Grozgurb; it was good for fighting on, but hard to fashion. Hundreds of sets of fences sprouted from the smooth surface, forming perfect squares for practice, each of them was stocked with racks of deadly weapons of all kinds; from serrated daggers to blunt war hammers to elegant bows, everything was available. Some of the compounds were massive, thousands of feet in area, those were the spots the Traizus taught full on lessons to hundreds of draezons at a time. The smaller enclosures were for the draezons looking for more specialized practice; training with a partner for the duos tournament, receiving individual aid from a Traizu, or battling it out one-on-one against an enemy in a mock matchup. Then there was the miniature coliseum, a sixth of the size of the Drazorium, settled on the far left of the Kalozhwal training field, an arena where draezons fought each other in full-on fights that counted towards their record. But it was mostly the weaker draezons who fought in there, the stronger ones got to go in the Drazorium, to put on a show for the bloodthirsty crowd. According to Uzoom, it was also much more dangerous in there, and Brayzoul had thought this small arena in Kalozhwal quite painful; he always left battered and bruised, body aching for days. But he did not care; he was going to convince Zudrazu Ziphon to let him fight in the Drazorium anyway.
In the center of it all was the Drazunuk, an immense building where all the important draezons resided; the Drazu and Zudrazu, the Traizus, and the top ten Draizadas. The main section of the structure was a sturdy rectangular box with towering walls and an overarching roof, with intricately carved statues of glorious draçuranne lining the ridge. Sprouting from the embellished walls, were dozens of offshoots leading to smaller cubed shaped rooms; living spaces for the high-ranked warriors. That is where Brayzoul wanted to stay one day, he wanted to be recognized and rewarded for his skill. And now was the time to improve his record, before his losses corrupted his wavering mind.
Brayzoul stepped forward, holding himself high, ready to prove his worth in the Drazorium. One step after another, he pushed his way toward the Drazunuk, sharp eyes focused on the large ornamented doors. He slowed down upon reaching the entrance, left to confront Hurgiz, the hulking maroon-scaled draezon who controlled admittance to the building.
“Let me in, Hurgiz, I need to see Zudrazu Ziphon.” Brayzoul deepened his voice.
The monstrous draezon rolled his eyes and sighed, then collected himself before taking a powerful step forward. The entire realm seemed to shake, knocking Brayzoul’s weak form off balance, and when he had gathered himself, he was left looking up into Hurgiz’s dark purple eyes. The massive eleven-foot beast loomed over Brayzoul’s puny body, sharp teeth barred through the orifice in his golden helm, annoyance made plain by his creased brow. “Zudrazu Ziphon is busy with important business, he has no time for your paltry complaints, worm.” Hurgiz’s booming voice roared down at Brayzoul with an intense irritation.
Brayzoul almost apologized and turned to go, but then he remembered why he had come, and his confidence returned, revitalizing his spirit. “I am not here to complain.” Brayzoul raised himself onto the balls of his feet.
The muscular guard did not falter. “What is this shrouding little prick here for then?”
Brayzoul kept his face stern and serious. “I am here to win my first fight in the Drazorium.”
There was silence for a second, then Hurgiz burst with an explosive guffaw. The action nearly knocked Brayzoul from his feet, but he seized his muscles and stabilized his wobbling form. He would not let this monster bully him.
But before Brayzoul could make his grievous comeback, Hurgiz spoke through his bumbling waves of laughter. “Oh shrouding hell, may Freiças save me.” Laughter overpowered Hurgiz’s speech again for a good minute before he could speak again. It was too loud for Brayzoul to speak over, leaving him no choice but to stand before the brute in an uncomfortable manner, trying to ignore the curious eyes of the practicing Dradazors around him. “It seems I shall let this shrouding pitiful excuse for a draezon enter after all, and hope to Lord Lustriçious that Zudrazu Ziphon agrees to let him enter and earn himself a shrouding beating and a lifetime of embarrassment. Go on in rusty nugget.” With a forceful shove, Hurgiz pushed the doors open before moving his blocky body from the path.
Brayzoul frowned, and felt his hatred for the world grow. He would show Hurgiz, he would show the entire shrouding realm what he could do! And then he would be the one laughing at them. Oh, he could not shrouding wait. He gave Hurgiz a dirty look as he walked through the entrance, but the nasty guard took no notice through his incessant laughter.
The central portion of the Drazunuk was an impressive room that served as a meeting area for the skilled Dradazors who lived there. The floor was coated in a thick layer of soft glossy gold, dazzling walls were formed from intricately carved bricks of the finest quality, a small, but exceptional bar rested in the corner with a draezon ready to serve his exquisite Zof, and several benches had been built around it, seats cushioned with a velvety metal, waiting to be relaxed in. Dozens of wide openings had been drilled through the back and side walls, serving as entrances to the smaller rooms beyond, but the only hole Brayzoul was interested in was the largest one directly across from himself; the long hallway to Zudrazu Ziphon’s quarters.
He strode forward with purpose, feet squishing into the soft surface below, until the flooring hardened again under the dim light of the hall. The walk through it would have taken a regular draezon one minute, but Brayzoul was in a hurry, for it only took him a quarter the time. In his head he kept repeating the words he would say to the Zudrazu, the words he would need to convince his leader to allow him to fight in the Drazorium. He needed to let them out, before his mind exploded with anxiety.
Brayzoul took a deep breath and stepped into the light of Zudrazu Ziphon’s room. It was a medium-sized space, but tremendously intimidating. Hundreds of hungry blades and razor-edged shields eyed him menacingly from their nests on the wall, daring Brayzoul to come any closer. A life-sized statue of Crazorix himself glared at him through a spiked helmet from his stand in the corner of the room, searing into Brayzoul’s soul, judging his every movement.
“What the shrouding hell are you doing here?” The deep voice rumbled with an otherworldly power, resonating with a profound sense of authority. Brayzoul felt his muscles begin to twitch and seize uncontrollably, he had forgotten how shrouding terrifying Ziphon was. He was too afraid to speak, or move, or even unlock his eyes from Crazorix’s horrifying stare.
“Ziphon asked you a shrouding question! Open your shrouded mouth and show your respect you incompetent lumpy-faced Torinian!” It was Drazu Razgore, his raspy voice tainted with an intense anger.
Brayzoul had lost all his mettle, scared beyond belief, forgetting everything he had planned to say on the way here. He slowly removed his eyes from Crazorix’s gaze and set them upon the two godly draezons who stood before him, the two most powerful draezons in all of Golçour. Drazu Razgore stood; his scales blood red, eyes a flaming orange, burning holes through anything they stared upon. He wore a glorious helmet, covering all but his eyes and mouth, the top sprouting up into a sharp Mohawk-like design, making him look all the more ferocious. The sides were ridged with conical spikes and a black line was coloured across the brow, which had been painted in a furrowed position, giving the draezon a look of constant anger. He wore vambraces and faulds and greaves, but no breastplate, showing off his well-defined abs and muscled chest, body a steel block of muscle and power. Two ravenous blades hung threateningly from straps which stretched from his pauldrons, down his back, and to the top of his belt. A necklace hung around his thick neck and dangled down between his breasts and hanging from the thin golden threads was the brightest and most glorious gem. Zudrazu Ziphon sat to his side, stationed in an elegant chair rimmed with glorious golden orbs, a seat of a king. This draezon had the most alluring scales, ones that were pure gold and encapsulated the light around them, emitting their own warm glow. His eyes were ringed in a vibrant turquoise and could see through anything. His helmet covered most of his face, with horns protruding from the bottom sides, like tusks from a boar. His pauldrons were shaped into the faces of roaring draçuranne, mouths open wide, razor-edged teeth showing. His breastplate held a picture of a mighty draçura, flapping her godly wings, and embedded into the center of his chest piece was a dazzling light-filled gem, matching his partner’s.
Brayzoul’s mind was frozen, but fortunately he managed to bow his trembling frame.
“What do you shrouding want, Brayzoul? Razgore and I are busy and have no time for your complaints.” The voice was tainted with a hint of irritation.
Brayzoul shifted uneasily, keeping his eyes pointed toward the floor. “I… I… um, I want to prove myself in the Drazorium, Zudrazu.” His voice was quiet and clumsy. Brayzoul cursed in his head; this had not gone at all like he had planned, he did not sound even the least bit convincing.
The room fell into a state of quietude, and Brayzoul could only imagine the looks of amusement plastered to both Ziphon and Razgore’s faces, but he did not dare look up, lest he become too petrified to function.
“You want to fight?” Ziphon broke the silence. “Okay Brayzoul, I will let you prove yourself in the Drazorium, today, at this very moment. Dymiraz and Bruticuz just finished up and the Drazorium is eagerly awaiting keen competitors.”
Brayzoul felt himself brighten, and his quivering came to a stop. Maybe Zudrazu Ziphon was nicer than he had thought; he had given Brayzoul the chance to reach for his dream without any questions asked, and had completely disregarded Brayzoul’s disrespectful behaviour. For the first time in years, he felt… happy.
“Thank you, Zudrazu. I am glad someone finally understands me, you are one of the only draezons to actually do something kind for me, and I will never forget it.” Brayzoul held himself steadily, looking warmly into his Zudrazu’s face.
Ziphon smirked. “Oh, you are very welcome. I hope you enjoy fighting Uzoom to the death.”
The words cut into Brayzoul’s mind, jabbing and ripping at his brain, pushing him into a state of agony. He could not fight his only friend in the realm. He could not. No. But, deep down inside, he knew there was no arguing with the Zudrazu. His fate was sealed, he would have no choice but to fight the only person he cared for. Shroud. Everything had shrouding changed so quickly. Ziphon was a shrouding monster. All these shrouded draezons were monsters!
Razgore leered at Brayzoul, then smiled as he stormed toward him. He did not slow as he drove his dagger-like fingers into Brayzoul’s scrawny collarbone and pulled him along behind. Brayzoul’s vision blurred and all he could hear was Ziphon’s wicked laugh through his muted ears as he was dragged across the rough floor.
His senses returned after what seemed like hours of wailing through the crowded streets. The spikes retracted from his throbbing shoulder and his hollow frame crashed on the rocky surface below.
“Get up you smouldering Shadoul! This audience is looking for a show, and you had better give them one! Let Turz introduce you two, then kill Uzoom or die trying.”
Brayzoul pushed himself shakily to his feet and gazed around. He stood in the center of a massive circle, and around him sat hundreds of thousands of draezons, cheering wildly, yelling for blood, cheering for action and entertainment. Now this was something Brayzoul had always dreamt of, and he should have felt a joy unlike any he had ever felt before. But it was not there. Only pain and sorrow filled him as he gazed across the field of jagged rocks toward his opponent, his best friend.
Uzoom stood across from him, disbelief plain in his sad red eyes, pale white form shuddering ten meters away. But he was prepared. His body was plated in a thick set of silver armour from head to toe, armed with a long curved blade. It made Brayzoul realize that he was not ready at all; he wore nothing but his faulds and greaves. He snatched his barbed axe from his waist and held it heavily in his right hand, not wanting to use it.
In an instant, the crowd fell to a hush, and the resonating voice of Traizu Turz took the stage. “This match will be between Uzoom the Ivory knight and newcomer Brayzoul Death-Axe!”
The crowd remained silent, seemingly uninterested by the introduction.
Turz continued. “But I shall add, that this match will be a battle to the death!”
Roars of excitement erupted among the stands, but Brayzoul felt the exact opposite. He felt sick beyond measure, and draezons did not sicken easily.
“Let this battle begin!”
Brayzoul stood his ground, shaking his head, trying to convince himself that this was truly happening. He did not want to fight Uzoom, but it seemed he had no other option.
Uzoom stomped toward him, running gracelessly over the pointed chunks of rock, blade swinging in his pale hand. He neared Brayzoul’s position in a matter of seconds, and with a loud grunt, he let down his blade. Brayzoul regained his senses at the right moment and raised his axe to block the hit, and when their weapons collided, they held them there and stared into each other’s faces.
“Listen to me Brayzoul. You are very young, and have the chance to become a legend, and I know that is what you want. Me, I am nothing. Hardly any draezon knows I exist, or cares. I honestly do not even care about anything anymore, except that you achieve your goal. I did not want it to end like this, I will miss our talks down in Trazzquo’s and livening up your spirits when you are down, but only one of us can walk out of this alive, and that will be you. But we must not make my loss look purposeful, we must play it out, and kill me when the time is right.”
Brayzoul’s scales shuddered in sadness and he opened his mouth to speak, to tell his friend that he was the one who deserved to live. But before he could, Uzoom unlocked his blade from Brayzoul’s and made a forceful uppercut into the bottom of his vulnerable chin.
The impact was tremendous; it snapped Brayzoul’s head back, and lifted his light frame from the ground, before he crashed back onto the sharp rocks below. The single punch nearly took Brayzoul out of the action, but he could not give up now.
Brayzoul rolled to the side and pushed himself to his feet, eyeing his enemy. Uzoom was on him again, slashing his sword toward him, but the strike was deliberately slow and easy to avoid.
Brayzoul leapt to the side, his face mere inches from the tip of the blade, and with a ferocious two-handed stroke, he dashed his axe into Uzoom’s unprotected arm, breaking the thick scales and cutting deep into his inner flesh.
Uzoom’s wretched screech brought an awful pain to Brayzoul’s mind, and he wanted to stop, but Uzoom recovered from the blow made a quick counter with the hilt of his blade to Brayzoul’s head. The force of the blow knocked Brayzoul back, and he stood motionless for a few seconds, unable to think. His mind swirled as if it were trapped in a treacherous whirlpool, spinning and spinning, bashing against his brain. He was too weak for this kind of stuff, even Uzoom, who was not even trying and was considered weak among the draezon society could beat him. And if he could not stop Uzoom, he would stand no chance against anyone else.
“Brayzoul, leap left then overhand diagonal swing straight into my neck. It will be quick.”
His vision cleared and his eyes focused on the rushing blade before him. He had plenty of time to avoid the savage strike, and very easily could have. But he did not.
Brayzoul stood his ground and watched Uzoom’s face change from despair to horror. His scaled lips widened with his sharp eyes as his blade tore across Brayzoul’s open chest, cutting a deep gouge from shoulder to hip. Thick golden blood spouted from his gash, streaming down his scales, sputtering onto Uzoom’s shocked form.
Brayzoul fell slowly to his knees, and every little sound, from the roaring pleasure of the crowd, to the clanging of his greaves against the hard rocks below became audible in an acute manner. Uzoom wailed wildly, screaming in pain and agony, but Brayzoul felt nothing.
“Why Brayzoul! Why?” Uzoom fell Brayzoul’s side, clinging to his dying body. “It was supposed to be me. Not you! Not you! Not…”
Uzoom’s howling faded as Brayzoul’s senses deafened. He could not taste the sizzling blood surge through his throat and spurt from his caked lips. He could not smell the foul stench of his rotting corpse. He could not feel his battered body crash onto rugged ground below. And the last thing he saw before his consciousness failed was Uzoom’s sad eyes looking into his own.
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