The powerful noon sun was burning my skin as I stood in the middle of a poorly drawn square in the ground. Many bystanders had conglomerated around the field, cheering for their favourite swordsmen. I hold my sword tightly, in fear that if I let go, my dream of becoming a dragon rider will end here.
"....6....7....8.....9....10..... OUT!" the host of the duels announced to the general public, he was recently bend down upon my wasted opponent, lying on the ground, without an ounce of energy left on him. The announcer then sauntered toward me and lifted my sword-less arm, "we've got a winner!"
The crowd cheered.
I let go a sigh of relief, happy to have ended the tiresome dueling I was exposed since early in the morning. I smiled brightly and thanked the supreme powers- if any- for bestowing on me enough energy to finish off my opponents. The entire morning I had been fighting in a tournament organized by an old fencing teacher. It wasn't the glory and bragging rights I was after, but the reward: 20 gold coins.
For nearly three years I've been working hard to gather the 50 gold coins necessary to allow me to be part of the "Rider's mark" ritual. Deep inside me I knew I was more than a peasant boy, I was destined to be much more, I dreamed of being a Dragon Rider.
The host of the tournament, Dryn, pushed a sac heavy with clattering gold coins into my hands. His graying hairs and warm dark eyes flashed pride as he embraced me, congratulating me for my hard effort.
I sheathed my sword, inherited from my deceased father and thanked Dryn.
"You deserved it, Lyred," Dryn said, "go pursue your dreams of being a dragon rider. I am sure you have a rider's heart. How much are you missing?"
I gave him a sheepish and grim smile, "I'm missing 5 gold coins and the Council meets tomorrow at Ol'sima..." my voice drifted, "I guess I can wait for the next ritual, I am still young..."
"Nonsense!" Dryn interjected, "your dreams cannot be delayed five years more!" Dryn was a paternal figure to me, after all, he was the one who taught me to sword fight and my current warring skills. He turned to the crowd, his hands on his hips, "I have a boy here, who happens to be the winner of this tournament, he has been working hard to gather 50 gold coins. He is but 5 gold coins away from his dreams, becoming a rider..."
Murmurs rise in the crowd, many of them were accompanied with disapproving and hopeless glances. After the fee was imposed, many farmers and peasants children abandoned their dreams of becoming riders. But I did not, the desire was burning strongly inside me.
"You are better off if you stay with the gold coins!" a gruff shout was heard louder than the rest of the commotion. The crowd parted, allowing me a full view of the owner of the voice, it was the village butcher, Thorx. He was a burly and sturdy man, very muscular, with a stern expression and eyebrows knitted together somewhere between a frown and a smirk. He had a longsword shouldered, and walked forward to meet Drygin and me in the dueling arena.
"You will never become a dragon rider," he continued, "save your money, your chances of becoming one are slim." He let out a laugh, some people from the crowd also laughed.
This irritated me, "you will see, I will become the greatest dragon rider!" I shouted.
"Riders are proficient and skilled in battle," Thorx scoffed, "your opponents were too weak and were easy to take down."
"I can take down anybody, anywhere, anytime," I said through clenched teeth.
"Prove it," he said in a low and dangerous tone. "If you win I will give you the gold coins you are missing."
I shoved the sac into Dryn's arms and beckoned him to walk away from the duel arena, my hand closed on my sword's tilt once again and unsheathed it slowly and stealthily.
Thorx lost no time and charged at me, in a quick movement his longsword was unsheathed and lunged at me. I jumped back, avoiding the cutting edge, when my foot touched ground I propelled my body forward with my sword in front of me. He deflected my attack with his sword and thrust me backward. I back flipped in the air and just as I was landing to the ground his foot connected with my chest. I was sent flying backwards and out of the arena's lines, my back hit the ground hard and scraped it painfully, heaving a thick wall of dust.
I could hear Thorx maniacal laughter as his heavy footsteps approached me. I coughed some blood out, he was a higher level of opponent. A glint of metal above warned me his next attack, I rolled out of the swords attack. Big particles of dust were lifted from the place where his longsword left a dent, he slashed his longsword horizontally.
I blocked his attack, my sword perpendicular to his, with all the strength I could muster I threw him inches backward. I was more agile than he was. With quick steps I ran behind him and jumped on top of him, elbowing his right shoulder. He screamed in pain and let go of his longsword. He thrust his arm behind him, I quickly jumped away, he retook his longsword as I was about to slashed him again. Our swords collided, with great force he sent my body flying in the air.
I could feel the breeze up here and I could visualize everything. I tilt my body and came crashing down on him, my sword colliding with his. His numb right arm buckled and his sword fell, the blunt side of my sword hit his chest... it was the end.
Thorx lay gasping for breath on the ground, his right arm was wasted. With his left he rummaged his pocket and retrieve five gold pieces and threw them at me. I caught them in midair, accepting them as a sign of surrender and good omen.
The crowd cheered again, that same afternoon I started my travel toward the village of Ol'sima, just across the mountain, to attend the "Rider ritual" and become a Dragon Rider.