Chapter Seven: Part Two

The tournament took place in the large dueling chamber on the top floor of the main body of the temple. The room was large, and edged with mats and cushions for the spectators. Among them were many Jedi masters and knights looking for padawan learners, as well as the clan leaders and friends of the contestants. 

The 32 contestants filed into the room in two single file lines, training sabers on their belts. They'd been paired up with their opponents, and the rules had been explained. After 2 rounds of one on one in the arena, the remaining 8 fighters would continue on to the final round, where it would be a fight to the last man in a simulated environment that could change at any moment.  

Marching in unison, Jaxon, in his position as the 7th pair, stopped just beyond the center point of the room, across from his opponent. Chase, a few pairs behind Jaxon, flashed him a grin and a thumbs-up as they turned towards their opponents and bowed, once again in unison. In a rehearsed movement, they all drew their sabers and saluted their partners, bringing the activated blade up in front of their faces and then settling into the form I fighting stance. 

The introductory salute had been rehearsed for a week by the contestants, and it was to show the discipline of the initiates before the less rigid fighting began. 

After holding the pose for several seconds, they all stood up in unison, sheathed their lightsabers, and stood at attention, waiting for the judges to arrive. 

Master Yoda was at the head of the line of judges, and he walked between the two lines of contestants, smiling at each and every pair, until he reached his special chair at the edge of the room. Sitting in it, it rose up, hovering several feet above the floor. The other judges stood next to him, in line. 

“Begin, let the tournament!” Yoda said, and the initiates all retreated to the edge of the room, except the first pair, which moved to the center. 

Jaxon and Chase found Nita in the crowd, dressed in a long dress in the highest Coruscant style. In whispers as the first pair approached the center of the stage, she explained that she had entered a trade school for up and coming politicians. Nita’s connection to the Force, though not as strong as Jaxon and Chase’s, helped her determine the best course of action during a negotiation, and her teachers were very anxious to see how she would do.

The first fight was evenly matched, two boys of about equal height and weight dueled for several minutes, each of them landing two burn marks on the other before a third was struck and the duel was declared over.

The second was less even. A tall, thin boy who held his lightsaber shakily, stood before a petite, wiry girl with a fierce look on her face. 

“I can’t hit a girl,” the boy said, adopting a defensive position. 

“Then this should be easy,” The girl replied, which earned a few laughs from the crowd. Though the boy defended himself bravely, the girl struck three times in mere seconds.

In the third match, two girls faced off. Their fighting was swift and silent, punctuated only by the whirring of their lightsabers. 

(and so on)

The seventh fight was Jaxon’s turn. 

“Good luck,” Nita whispered in his ear as he stood up, and Chase slapped him encouragingly on the shoulder. Smiling grimly, Jaxon drew his lightsaber and approached the center of the ring. 

His opponent as a taller girl of about 13. “You aren’t going to be like that other guy and forfeit the match, are you?” She asked him. 

“Are you kidding?” Jaxon replied, “I’m going to give everything I’ve got.”
With that, the fight began. The girl was fast, and her height, several inches taller than Jaxon, gave her more leverage, but Jaxon was stronger and slowly, he gained ground. It felt like several minutes before he scored a burn, but the girl scored one on him immediately after. Jaxon redoubled his efforts as she scored a second burn, and he scored another point quickly, but they continued to defend and attack, trading off giving ground and gaining, until finally, the girl seemed to falter, just for about half a second. Jaxon drew on the Force and time seemed to slow down, just enough for him to see an opening and he swung his saber, deflecting her parry and holding the point of his saber to her chest. 

“Solah!” The girl announced, dropping her saber. “Good fight.” 

“Yeah, you weren’t too shabby yourself.” Jaxon said, taking the girl’s hand in a gesture of peace. They shook and then parted again. 

Nita and Chase hurried to congratulate him, then they all sat down to watch the next few fights before Chase stepped up, facing a much larger boy, at least a head taller than Chase. Somehow, Chase landed three marks on him before Jaxon could realize what was happening, and he sauntered out of the ring and back to his seat with a smug smile on his face.

“Have you been practicing without me?” Jaxon hissed. Chase just sat down and leaned back on his hands.

Round two in the tournament was similar to round one, and both Jaxon and Chase made it through without too much trouble. Round three, on the other hand, changed every year. It was in the third round that lay the real challenge. Instead of pairing off in preselected groups, the final eight contestants would be set loose in a less controlled environment to fight to the last. This year, they would be fighting in the archives.

The contestants, consisting of 5 boys and 3 girls, were led to a room to wait for the third round to begin. Each held onto the lightsaber they used in the first two rounds. One of the boys, his eyes wild, turned on Jaxon as the count-down began. 

“I heard about you. You were nearly kicked out of the Order a few years ago,”

Jaxon recognized him from the previous round. He had taunted his partner  until the other boy had snapped, flailing around wildly instead of using skill and strategy. This boy hadn’t put much physical effort into the fight. 

“You must’ve researched all of us.” Jaxon said calmly. “To find weaknesses.” 

“There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.” The boy quoted the Code. “And what the records said about you was most interesting. Three initiates, sneaking out of the temple to fight the gangs—“

“To help people.” Jaxon countered

“And then you had to be rescued. Oh help me, help me.” He did a little dance, his arms flapping loosely. “You should have been kicked out of the order then, but now it’s going to make no difference. You’ll have to leave for good, and no one will even care—” His taunts were cut short as a lightsaber swung to a position just under his nose.

“I’d care.” Chase said shortly, and he and Jaxon both advanced on him. But the boy simply pointed at the timer above the door, which hadn’t finished counting down yet. 

“Not yet, unless you two want to end up disqualified.” 

3…2…1…

The door slid open and the other five contestants rushed out, but Jaxon and Chase simply activated their lightsabers and advanced on the boy in unison. The boy didn’t have a chance, and before he could say another taunting word, he was kneeling on the ground, nursing another burn on his wrist.

“Come on,” Chase headed for the door. “They’re not going to come back in here, so we have to go to them.”

“Right behind you,” Jaxon said, and with a last glance at the boy, he followed his friend out into the shelves of the archives. 

Slipping around a corner, his next opponent dropped onto him from the upper level and he barely got his lightsaber up in time to block the blow, but the girl, a 13 year old with fierce brown eyes, knocked his lightsaber out of his hand, though she lost hers in the process and the two fought unarmed. Three others heard the scuffle, and lightsabers were retrieved as the four fought, each fending off three opponents, until only Jaxon stood as a victor. Chase came around a corner, breathing hard, holding his saber casually in one hand. He glanced at the three downed initiates and grinned. 

“Six down, one to go,” and he turned his eyes on Jaxon. “Nice job with those three, but I’m winning this one.” 

“How can you be sure?” Jaxon took a defensive position.

“I know you, Jaxon. You’re my brother, and I was hoping it wouldn't come to this, but we both know that you’re going to surrender, and I’m going to walk out of here as the victor.” 

“I’m not going to throw the fight.”

“Oh, I know, but you’re still going to lose.” Then Chase charged. 

He wielded his lightsaber well, and he hit hard. Each strike jarred Jaxon’s arms; Chase had a few inches on him, and was stronger, but Jaxon was faster. Diving into the Force, he began to anticipate Chase’s blows, but Chase was just as connected to the Force, and the speed of their battle increased until each saber was merely a blur and each boys’ face was a mask of determination and focus. They had sparred and done velocities together many times before, but this particular duel felt different. Chase seemed like he was actively trying to hurt Jaxon. Jaxon felt the hair stand up on his neck, and for a moment, he thought he could see a dark figure standing behind one of the blue shelves, but then Chase’s saber landed on his arm, and the pain of the burn brought him back to the battle. When he glanced back, the figure was gone.

“Jaxon,” Another burn, this time on his leg. “Get your head in the game.”

Jaxon returned to the fight in earnest and managed to land two marks on Chase in quick succession, one on each arm. They were tied up. Then, Chase, using a deceptively quick motion, disarmed Jaxon, sending his lightsaber flying across the aisles. Directing his lightsaber at his friend’s throat, Chase held the position as Jaxon fell to his knees. 

“Solah,” Jaxon gasped. “You win, Chase. You deserve it.” 

Chase visibly relaxed and his lightsaber—deactivated now—clattered to the floor. “Good.” He said with an exhale.

The End

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