Emily's Midnight: The Gauntlet

Emily must survive the gauntlet in order to gain the favour of the whispering sea.

Emily awoke to the sound of a woman's voice. She sat up slowly and surveyed her surroundings. She was in a small square tent made of what looked like deer hide. There was a small fire burning in the center of the tent giving off a soothing warmth. Emily was no longer wearing her habit, but was instead wearing a warm blue sweater and a pair of black jeans. She was lying on a low cot and beside her sat a young woman with pale skin and fair hair. She smiled and spoke in what could have passed as an Irish accent. "Good morning lady Emily, welcome to the Whispering Sea, my name is Beatrice" Emily rubbed her eyes and sat on the edge of the cot.
"Where's David?" Beatrice smiled and she put another log on the fire.
"After the scouting party found you two on the beach, he insisted on
speaking to my father, the elder" Emily nodded and took the bowl of soup
that Beatrice offered her. "It's going to be a very exciting night for all
of us" Beatrice stated happily. Emily didn't have a chance to ask why
because David had entered the tent. "Morning Beatrice, Emily the elder
wants a word with you" David looked well rested and clean. His blue eyes
were smiling in the light. Emily thanked Beatrice and stepped outside with
David. The camp was a mass of tents in a wide circle in a large and spacious
field. In the center of the camp was a covered pavilion with a long table
inside. David led her towards the pavilion and stopped just outside. "You
feeling OK?" He asked her casually. Emily nodded and they stepped inside.

At the end of the long table was a huge and ornate chair. The wood had
intricate designs carved into it and jewels glittered on the legs. A large man
with a firm square face and long silver beard sat in the chair. He wore long,
flowing robes that were dyed the color of red wine and trimmed with gold. He
clapped his hands as Emily approached him and bowed respectfully. " Ah
lady Emily, welcome, welcome!" he said in a booming voice. "My name
is Lord Raegar, Elder of the village of Tandor and ruler of the Whispering
Sea." Emily smiled nervously. "Pleased to meet you" Lord Raegar
chuckled. "O ho! such a kind young lady" He eyed her softly for a
minute and sighed. "Well, as you know, tomorrow begins the new moon and  thus begins the Gauntlet" Emily looked at
David who shrugged. "The Gauntlet was Midnight's gift to us, to test our
warriors' mettle" Raegar clasped his large hands together. " There
are three rounds, all are equally dangerous" Emily closed her eyes, she
knew what was coming next. "Few make it out alive, but We've heard stories
about you, and you, Emily, will enter the gauntlet this time" David gasped
beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder. Emily sighed deeply. "Let me
guess...if I survive the Gauntlet, I'll have won your favor?" Raegar
nodded happily. "It's simple enough, tonight we feast, drink and be merry
for tomorrow we die and all that stuff" Emily frowned. "I'm no
warrior, I can barely fight." Raegar smiled again. "Put your talents
to use, I'm sure there's a warrior in you somewhere" David held Emily's
hand and he turned to face her. "You'll be OK, besides, we still have a
party to attend, just try not to think of it as a pre-funeral dinner
though" They walked outside and travelled to the top of a hill near the
camp. They sat there for a while, taking in the beauty of the sea and the lush
green hills. "David?" Emily whispered softly. David lay beside her,
gazing up at the stars. "Yeah?" Emily laid down on her back and
turned her face to David's. "You realize that we'll have to go to the
realm of secrets eventually, right?" David grinned and nodded his head.
"I know, it doesn't worry me, because I'll have you with me when we
go" Emily felt herself blush. "David, I'm afraid" David stroked
her hair softly. " I know, but you are a very brave person, you can and
will do this" He gently kissed her, his lips soft on hers. A loud horn
sounded and they broke apart. David rubbed the back of his head, slightly embarrassed.
"Let's go down to the party shall we?" He offered Emily a hand and
they walked down the hill towards the pavilion.

The night was alive with
festive music and dancing, poets were singing songs of great triumphs and
beautiful women and the food was delicious. There was much laughter and
drinking of ale. Lord Raegar's booming voice cut across everyone. "Settle
down people! It's time!" The noise stopped and the people fell silent.
Emily stood beside David who was quietly eating an apple. "Now, as you all
know, Lady Emily is here with us tonight!" The people turned to raise
their goblets to her. "And tonight, is the beginning of the
Gauntlet!" There was loud cheering from the crowd. Raegar raised his hands
and the crowd fell silent once more. "This new moon promises an exciting Gauntlet,
our finest hunters have traveled all throughout the realms in search of
monstrous creatures and our game master has prepared the arenas specially this
moon!" There were some whispers at the mention of the arenas, some
whispered of a dark maze and others of a bottomless chasm. "After
tonight's feast, we will do as we have done for many moons, and travel the
warrior's path to the boats" Lord Raegar raised his large goblet and
beamed. "Now, back to the celebration!" He took a great swig from his
goblet and fell back into his seat, laughing merrily. Emily sat in a corner of
the pavilion, she didn't feel like eating at the moment. She looked outside at
the stars, they were shining as they always did. One flew across the night sky
and Emily held her breath. She closed her eyes and made a quick wish just as
David sat beside her. "You look like you're going to be sick there"
Emily opened her eyes and gave a little smile. The festivities continued on for
what felt like many hours, the people didn't grow tired easily. Soon enough,
Raegar raised his hands for silence. The large man turned his head and furrowed
his brows. "Where, is Emily?" he asked in his powerful voice. Emily
stood up and walked up to where the elder stood. Raegar grinned and placed a
hand on her shoulder. "You'll be travelling with me tonight, Your things
have already been sent to the ships" Emily looked to see where David was
but she could not see him. Raegar patted her back and turned to his people.
"It is now time, to make way to the boats!" There was a great sound
of clattering and shuffling as the people stood up and scurried to find friends
and loved ones. Lord Raegar placed an arm around Emily's shoulders and began to
walk her outside and along a small trail. Behind them were the village people,
their torches burning like a mirror reflection of the sky above. They walked
through a field of hills, their path was lined with torches that burned blue.
Lord Raegar was explaining the Gauntlet to her as they walked. "The island
it's on isn't too far out, only a few hours." Emily nodded, her thoughts
were swirling with images and worry. "There are three rounds, and a rest
area between each." The beach was just visible beyond the hills now.
"We do not watch you in the first round for that, is really your
training" They were walking on the sand of the beach now. Dozens of boats
bobbed in the sea, they were rather small and didn't look too grand. Lord
Raegar helped Emily into one of the ships and began to help others. Emily
walked to the front of the ship and inhaled the salty air. This was the first
time she'd ever seen an ocean. The water was calm and glassy though, it was too
dark for it to reflect anything. Lord Raegar stood beside her and sighed.
"Beautiful isn't it? only ocean in all of the realms" Emily grinned
and the anchor was taken up and the sails were dropped. A breeze began to blow
and soon they were sailing smoothly across the water. There were at least
twenty others on the boat with her, they all had expressions of excitement and
worry on their faces. Emily gazed into the water and gasped. "There are
faces in the water!" There were dozens of faces looking up at her, their
lips twisted into evil smiles. Raegar nodded "The spirits of those who die
in battle float here, listen" There was an eerie song in the air, like a
whisper. Emily shivered in the cool air and Raegar placed a fur shawl around
her shoulders. "Don't worry yourself, you'll do great". These words
did little to calm her as the boat sailed closer to the island that was now a
blob on the horizon. Emily sat down on a sack of flour and placed her head in
her hands and soon drifted off to sleep.

 She dreamt of a wide field, the sky was blood red and stars were falling from the sky. She looked closer but they were not stars, Emily wretched as she saw dozens of angels falling, their wings bloodied and their bodies battered. Gentle hands shook her awake and found that Raegar was standing above her. "Emily, we're here" Emily stood up to see that they were docked at a long beach. There were no trees or bushes, just hills. There was a small beaten path lined with strange stones. Raegar lifted Emily out onto the sand and pulled her towards the path. The other people were walking along the beach, away from her. "They, are going to the
spectator's camp, you'll come with me and your friend to the entrance"
David appeared at Emily's side, he looked tired. The three of them walked up
the path for a few meters and stopped. In the side of a hill was a large golden
door with carvings of warriors and their foes. Raegar pulled a belt and a sword
from his satchel and handed them to Emily. She tied the belt around her waist and
held the sword in her hands. It was lightweight and seemed newly forged. The
handle was made of a black steel with leather tied around it. The hand guards
were shaped into the wings of a crow. The blade was thin and made of beautiful
steel, Runes were etched into the blade and colored a blood red. She sheathed
the weapon and looked at David. He hugged her tightly and whispered. "Good
luck" into her ear. Raegar grinned and took her to the door. "Now,
you'll be faced with Xaria, a priestess of the old serpent cult" Emily
shuddered and looked at the door. "The arena is made to look like the
tunnels of her temple, a labyrinth" Emily took deep breaths and shook her
worries away. Raegar placed a hand on her face and smiled at her. "She
fears the light and will try her best to keep out of it" Emily nodded and
Raegar placed his hand upon the door. The door slid backwards and opened slowly
to reveal a set of stairs leading underground. "Good luck Emily, we'll be
waiting at the rest area" Emily gave one last look to David and began to
descend the stairs into the dark.

The End

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