“You WHAT?!” Gage yelled. He couldn't believe what Joshua had just explained to him. He wanted Gage to know that he was going to enter the Vistic Tournament.
“Gage, you can't do anything to change my mind. I've already decided this long ago.” Gage raised his eyebrows.
“You decided long ago?” He asked and Joshua nodded. “Exactly how long ago?” Joshua looked to Faith and back again.
“Two months.” He told Gage. Gage put his hand to his forehead and closed his eyes.
“Two months you've been thinking about this...Two Months. Did you ever think about telling anybody, like me for instance? I mean, I'm only your God-Damn brother!” When he opened his eyes, Joshua had taken Faith's hands into his.
“I knew you would react like this, Gage. That's why I kept it from you!” Gage scoffed and moved forward. He sat on one of the seats and leaned across the table. He swung his hand up and hit Joshua on the back of the head. Joshua tightened his jaw.
“You idiot.” Then he turned to Faith. “Listen, Faith. I'm sure you're a brilliant girl, top class and all. I mean look at you, you're a great catch! But Josh is only sixteen!” Gage said. “He's just a flipping kid, like you! And I think that if you talk to Eragon, he might be-”
“Gage! Stop! Faith's sister already tried that!” Joshua was fuming. The muscles in his cheeks and jaw were flaring. “You may not want to face it, but you have to. I'm going to enter the Tournament whether you like it or not! I'm a lot better than you think I am!” Joshua argued back.
He stood up next and Faith followed him like a shadow. “Come on, Faith. Let's go upstairs.” Joshua waited for Faith to head out before he did, being a gentlemen, Gage noted. Before leaving himself, Joshua turned to Gage.
“I know it's something you can't understand, but, I love her, Gage. It's just something I have to do.” Gage let out a breath. Their footsteps lead to Joshua's room and then disappeared.
“I'm going to kill that boy one of these days!” Gage said to himself.
* * *
“Where have you been, young lady?” Sephy cursed herself for forgetting about her mother's walk about in the night. Every night her mother walked around the mansion like a ghost, making sure everything is clean and tidy. She once told her mother it was an OCD, but her mother told her it was just habit.
“I was just outside.” Sephy answered. Her mother could tell when she lied.
“'Outside'? Sephy, it's 2:30 a.m. Where were you?” Her mother's voice was stern. Sephy sighed.
“I went to a bar.” She explained. “Just to unwind.” She lied again. If she did anything productive while at the bar, it wasn't unwinding. First she had been angry about what had happened with Eragon. Then she had told Joshua her plan of entering the Tournament herself, which he only tried to slaughter.
What was the problem with her plan? Was it because she was a girl?
It says no where in the rule book of the Tournament that females can't enter! And she is good. Really good. But of course Joshua had to give her one hundred and one reasons why it was a bad idea. One was,
“But if you enter and something happens to you, someone else will win and your mother will have no daughters!” Ugh. So he had a point. Who died and made him the King?
So after he finished telling her why she shouldn't enter, she went on to say that he wouldn't last a second in there and how she would have a better chance of winning and then everyone lives happily ever after. But he refused to listen to any of it. So she bet him a game of pool. First off they were going to let whoever loses enter into the Tournament because they both knew they had a pretty high rating record at the game.
And then she won....
Not on purpose. It was that stupid guy. He was tall, taller than her and Joshua. He had tanned, golden skin, like the colour of honey. His hair was blonde, sort of curly, but short too. His eyes were gray with flecks of purple and light blue around the edges. His jaw was straight and strong and he looked like he could handle himself. But he was annoying, too. He had been the one to suggest she let someone give her a hand at pool. And then she won.
So she was going to try and hustle him for everything he was worth. But then that big bloke recognised her from the TV show she won when she was younger.
And then he had 'saved' her. She could have kicked that guy's ass easily. So now Joshua thinks he is going to enter the Tournament. But he's not.
She will. Whether he likes it or not.
“Honey, I know you don't want your sister to be involved with the Tournament, but someone has to do it each year.” Sephy looked at her mother like she was somebody she didn't know; she was acting like she didn't even care about Faith.
“I'm going to bed.” Sephy replied and ignored the hug her mother was trying to extend to her. Instead she just walked by her and up the stairs. “Is Faith home?” She called to her mother. Her mother thought for a second before shaking her head.
“No, she is staying in Living tonight. Well, that's what she said when I called her.”
Living. One of the close by cities. Also their code word for 'with Josh'. She nodded and headed to her room to try and figure out how she would pull off such a stunt with so many complications...
Joshua looked over at Faith who looked worried. “Are you okay?” He asked, sitting on the edge of his bed. She nodded her head.
“Yes.” Her voice cracked and a few tears escaped from her eyes. Joshua moved closer to her and put his arms around her. He felt her tears fall on him as she put her head against his shoulder. “Josh, I don't want anything bad to happen to you. Maybe the others are all right. Maybe you shouldn't enter the Tournament.” Josh shook his head and wiped away the few tears that had fallen from her eyes.
“No. They're wrong. I.Will.Win.” He kissed her forehead. She sat back up and took hold of his face in her hands.
“It's so..” She began.
“It's so nothing. I love you, okay. That's all there is to it.” He told her.
“But..What about your brother? You can't fight with him over me..it's not right.” She whispered. “No one should fight over me.” Joshua smiled.
“Gage and I are like chalk and cheese. But he'll understand, he always does.” Joshua touched his lips off of Faith's. She put her hands on the back of his neck and he placed his on her waist.
“It'll all work out.” He said when they broke apart. “It has to for us. It's fate.” Joshua said, not sure if he was trying to convince her or the two of them. Faith smiled and gently touched her lips off of his again.
“Okay..I trust you.” She said. Joshua held her in his arms for a few minutes. He could hear Gage walking around down stairs in the kitchen, hatching a plan no doubt.
Joshua had known that when he told Gage that it would either go one of two ways; Gage would be completely supportive and would help him with training, or else, he would go crazy and try to find a way of making Joshua stay out of the Tournament and try to get Faith out of the situation too.
He had a feeling of which way it would go. And he was right.
Gage was protective over Joshua because of their past. It was always the way it had been. Josh would ignore Gage when he told him to do something and then he would get himself into trouble that Gage would get him out of. But Gage wouldn't believe that Josh was growing up and he was more a man than half the guys older than him.
“What about Sephy...? How can I tell her?” Faith wondered. Josh hadn't told Faith about what happened with Sephy.
“Faith, she already knows.” Faith sat up and looked at Josh with worried eyes. “Today I went to speak to Eragon to see if I could enter the Tournament. I was in Eragon's waiting office when Sephy caught me..” Josh explained what had happened and how Sephy was planning on entering before telling her that she won the pool game and that he was the one going to enter.
“But, Josh, you don't know Sephy like I do. She'll enter anyway. She's determined and reckless!” Josh shook his head.
“No, she's the one that made the deal. She won't go back on it. She swore on Eragon's throne.” Faith looked down at the bed covers and Josh thought he saw a hint of a smile on her face. She shook her head again and looked up.
“Swearing on Eragon's throne means nothing to her. Just a handful of words without meaning.” Josh let out a breath. He loved Faith and he wanted to save her. He didn't want Sephy to get caught up in the mess, too. He wouldn't let Faith lose her sister.
“I'll make sure she doesn't enter.” He said at last.
As soon as the first light hit the skies over Vistic, Gage woke. He sat up and put on his jeans and a t-shirt. He headed down the hallway and stopped outside of Joshua's door. He was tempted to open it and make sure Joshua hadn't disappeared anywhere, but he would be a hypocrite then. He himself was going to disappear for the day.
He was still angry. Really angry about what had occurred the previous night; with Joshua and his foolish idea. He was his younger brother and he wasn't about to watch him die in the Tournament that ended in 'happiness', even after the death of forty nine men. How could that be a good idea?
Gage had faith that his little brother was strong, no doubt, but not strong enough. Unfortunately, Joshua was determined and Gage knew that he would do everything he could to enter the Tournament. But in the end Joshua wouldn't be the one entering. Gage would.
Gage had more strength and ability that would let him be able to at least last in the Tournament. He would be able to make it through and hopefully come out fighting and help Faith out a little bit, too. She and Joshua could finally just be together. Openly.
He just had to get to the Ruler's mansion....
Gage knew that you had to have an appointment or something to get in and see him. But he would just wing it. After all, how hard could it really be?
Turning up outside of the Ruler's mansion without a car seemed to alert the guards for some strange and intangible reason. They seemed to think that a man couldn't just turn up on his own two feet. Okay, so it was still only barely nine o'clock, but what did that matter? They had people in and out of the place 24/7.
“What are you here for?” One of them asked. Gage looked at him and furrowed his eyes..
“To see the muffin man.” He offered sarcastically. The guard scowled at him. “To see Eragon.” The guard didn't like Gage's tone, but he had no other choice but to let him in after being frisked down.
“Don't you think your job is a bit...gay?” He wondered. The guard hit his leg hard.
“Watch your tongue boy, or else you won't have one to use!” He warned.
“Are you homophobic or something?” Gage asked, purposely trying to wind him up, now. He could see the other two guards laughing. The other guard just pushed Gage through the gate and pointed in the direction of a pathway, lined with green hedges on either side of the path.
“That way.” He grunted. Gage headed in the direction the guard had signaled in. He looked up and all he could see while walking through the walkway was the sky. The hedges were tall enough to block out all other surroundings and even part of the sun.
As he came to the end of the hedged walkway, he saw the gray and white mansion. Five stories high and nearly one hundred foot long, it should have it's own zip code. Knowing Eragon, he probably looked into getting it one.
It was fancy...really fancy. It had that sort of look about it, too; the old, characteristic look, even though it was only built when Eragon became Ruler.
The stairs leading up to the front door were made from granite or some expensive rock that Gage didn't recognise. There had to be at least one hundred windows on the front of the house.
Gage whistled inwardly as he took the stairs, two at a time.
“It's a beauty, isn't it?” Gage looked up and for the first time saw a door attendant with a suit standing beside the door.
“It's something alright.” Gage replied. “Is the old fellow in?” He asked him casually. The attendant nodded and pulled the door open. If Gage had thought that the outside looked fancy, he didn't know a word for the inside.
Marble staircases ran up the walls, opposite one another and met at the top. He was sure if he had shouted something he would have heard it echoed back to him in the huge entry room.
He saw dozens of doors leading off to different rooms up and down the hallway on the first floor. How the heck was he supposed to find out where to go? Luckily there were also dozens of guests and cleaners aswell as business meeters walking around too, so Gage wasn't going around aimlessly for long.
“If you go to reception they will give you a map of the place.” One woman told him.
“But can't you just tell me?” He asked. She looked at him blankly. “Where's reception, then?” She pointed to the first door on his right. Gage nodded and then headed down the hall.
There were way too many photos of Eragon here. He had only caught sight of Faith in a few photographs before, downstairs and now in this hallway. Probably advertisement....
Gage stopped when he came to the door. He thought about knocking, but what did he care about courtesy for? He opened the door and saw a woman behind a desk. She had triangle glasses that were down to her nose. Her gray hair was tied back into a bun and she was typing away at a keyboard for over a minute before looking up at Gage after he continuously coughed.
The door behind him opened and in walked the woman he had spoken to before. He turned to her and watched as she sat down at a desk.
“Can I help you?” She asked Gage. She had black hair and it was also tied into a bun. She wore a plain, unflattering suit that made her look...baggy to say the least. Gage looked at her and laughed in astonishment.
“Yeah, can I have a map?” He asked her even though she knew what he wanted. She stood and walked over to the door and picked up a map from a table. Gage took a step towards her but she ignored him and took her seat again. She then extended the map towards him. Gage laughed to himself and took the map.
“Couldn't give a brother a hand, no?” Gage teased.
“You are no brother of mine..” She retorted and went on typing like the older woman in the desk next to her. Gage looked down at the map. Each room was tagged by a couple of words. He found Eragon's office and the reception area before he found bedrooms and then he looked up.
“Talk about bringing your work home with you.” He muttered to himself.
As Gage made his way to the waiting room that he would have to sit in while he waited on Eragon to see him, he took note of how many busts that had been created of Eragon. He had counted eleven on the first floor and then another six so far. Now Gage understood why the house was so big; Eragon needed one big enough so he could fit his ever growing ego and number of collective personal busts.
Then again, if Gage was Ruler, why not have a trillion portraits painted and hundreds of busts sculpted?
Now as Gage reached the waiting room, he extended his hand and turned the marble door handle- seriously, who gets marble door handles? Gage wondered to himself.
Inside there were only two other men, whispering to one another quickly. Gage stepped in onto the cream carpet and took a seat closest to the window. He always went for window seats whenever he could get them.
Sitting there in silence was nearly as bad as looking at the dozens of portraits and busts of Eragon. But with his thoughts to himself, he finally got to think things through. But even now he couldn't. His mind kept going back to one thing in particular- that girl. He was curious about where she had disappeared to and why she had disappeared.
Who was she and where was she?
The two men sitting across from Gage stood up and left the room. A minute later a woman entered and looked around the waiting area. She looked at Gage once and then once she scoped out the room she looked back at him.
“Do you have an appointment?” She asked him.
“Does it say I have?” He asked, chancing his arm. She looked down at her clipboard for a long moment. From where he sat he could see that the clipboard was blank. The woman holding it was short, middle aged and had pursed lips with a hint of a mustache above her lip. Her hair was blonde and short.
“No.” Gage told her and stood up. It was just too bad to let her stare at the clipboard as if hoping that his name would crop up out of nowhere.
“Okay. He'll see you now then. No one else has an appointment.” Gage nodded to her and followed her out of the room and towards two double doors that he had passed. “What's your name?” She asked Gage.
“Gage.” She scribbled something down on paper before heading away. Gage looked after her, thinking that every one here must be on orders not to be sociable.
“Come in.” Gage heard Eragon's voice from the other side of the door after he knocked. He thought it would probably be best if he knocked on the door. He opened it up and stepped in.
“Shoes.” Gage looked up in confusion. “Take them off. It's a cream carpet.” Eragon explained. Gage did as he was told. He threw them to one side and saw that this irritated Eragon. In the corner of the room he saw a woman that must only be his wife. Faith looked exactly like her, Gage thought.
“Who are you?” Eragon asked Gage. He put his hands in his pocket and answered with a clear voice, one that obviously Eragon wasn't used to. He was more accustomed to shaky and whispered peeps.
“Gage Welker.” He told him.
“Okay, Mr. Welker, what are you here for?” Gage waited a moment before answering, Eragon obviously thought he was here to ask for something else.
“Mr. Welker, if you're here for money, you can go beg somewhere else.”
“And what makes you think I'd come to beg you?” Now it was Eragon's turn to pause.
“No reason..” Eragon looked him up and down before furrowing his eyes. “Welker...Gage Welker. Of course, I recognise your name. You have had three warnings, correct?” Gage smiled and nodded.
“That would be me, Ruler.”
“Hmm, yes.” Eragon looked down at paper in front of him. “So, what are you here for exactly?”
“I want to enter the Tournament.” He offered. Eragon snorted. “What?”
“You want to enter.”
“Okay, now I'm intrigued. Why would you want to enter the Tournament? You are a criminal.” Gage shook his head.
“Ah, not a criminal yet, Ruler. I've only yet to have three warnings. I haven't been sentenced yet.” Gage reminded him.
“Either way you're on a one way track to the cells where our hard working good lawyers will have to waste time on you criminals and dirt.” Again Gage shook his head. He could see that Eragon didn't like being contradicted.
“Now, to be fair, Eragon- can I call you Eragon?” Eragon gave a little nod of his head and Gage continued, “to be totally fair, without us 'criminals' and 'dirt' there wouldn't be good lawyers, would there?” He challenged. Eragon stared at Gage for a minute. The air could have been cut with a knife. Gage could feel the anxiety coming from Faith's mother and the guard by the door, surrounding them. Until Eragon smiled, anyway.
He came out from behind his oak desk and leaned against it. The wall behind him was a library of books with dust that had been gathered over several years.
“True...” Gage didn't speak. “Tell me, Gage, do you know what your name means?” Gage stiffened but eventually shook his head in response. Eragon narrowed his eyes in curiosity. “Interesting...that is.”
“Is it?” Gage wondered.
“I've always thought that a man that not knows the meaning of names- let alone tho's- was lacking an ability that would ultimately give him an advantage, but when lacking, would make him inferior to those with the gift and talent of knowing other's true names.” Gage narrowed his eyes fractionally. The air floating around them had thickened again. “Creating a weakness in them...” Eragon added and smirked as Gage tightened his jaw. But even though Gage's one actual weakness was Joshua, he didn't like been told otherwise.
“I may not know the meaning of my name, but I do know that your name, Eragon, Ruler of Vistic and more importantly, Bowland, has not got a meaning.” Gage watched as he saw Eragon grow furious. “Unless you swap the 'E' for a 'D', creating the word dragon...” Gage teased. He knew that if Joshua were here he would have stopped Gage long ago, heck anybody would have. “But my name, my Ruler, has got a meaning. I just have never gone about inquirering about it.” After a moment of glares that would seem friendly among friends but treacherous among enemies, Eragon looked over his shoulder.
“Your parents, Mr. Welker, have they never told you the meaning of your name, or did they not know themselves?” Eragon asked, conspicuously taking a cheap shot at Gage's parents. But he simply shrugged it off.
“No, Ruler. I am sure they did know what they were naming me. I never knew that it mattered so much when I was younger and they were around, and when I grew older I didn't think it mattered and by that time, they had passed away.” Gage explained and picked an apple from a round dish. He took a bite from it and sat on a near by chair.
“I see.” Eragon folded his arms. “I am curious though, about why you were never inquisitive about your name. Almost everyone is interested in knowing their true name, knowing what they are destined to be.It makes a man pure, wouldn't you agree?” Gage met Eragon's eyes when he answered.
“I never pried into knowing it because I don't think the names make the men, but that the men mold themselves to be what everybody expects them to be when they hear their name. I think...winging it is much more satisfactory and pure.” He took a bite from his apple and chewed it. “Not expecting such standards from anyone leads to much less disappointment in life.” He added and watched as Eragon took it in. If Gage had been smart about this, he would have agreed and kept himself from running wild, but what fun is it and what truth would there be to it?
“You have strong theories...” Was all Eragon said.
“Strong beliefs.” Gage corrected in a light way but it could have been taken heavily by Eragon, and from the look of pure resentment, Gage got the feeling he took it heavily.
“So, you say you want to enter the Tournament.” Eragon moved on. Gage nodded his head in agreement. “Is there any reason you have decided to enter this year?” Gage wrinkled his nose.
“Well is there any reason anyone enters, other than for the free booze at the parties during the Tournament?” Gage asked, indifferently. Several parties take place throughout the Tournament, between rounds.
“Well there is always the Prize.” Gage nodded when Eragon suggested the Prize.
“Well of course. Isn't she your stepdaughter?” Eragon nodded his head briefly. “Yeah, her too.” Gage said then. “She's a little young though, isn't she?” From where he sat, Gage saw Faith's mother go still.
“No. Fifteen was the age our ancestors used to be married and bearing children at. Most women today would be lucky to be the Prize.” Gage didn't answer. He had clenched his fist but hidden it well. He thought it was disgusting. As Eragon retrieved a form that Gage knew was what he needed, he stood up and stepped towards Eragon.
“Well, then. Here you go. This is all you'll need. Just return it by tomorrow and I'll see you at the opening ceremony.” Eragon handed him the form.
“I'm already counting the days.” Eragon held onto the paper while Gage put his hand on it to take it off him.
“Stay out of trouble.” Eragon warned.
“You mean so I can get into trouble in the Tournament?” Eragon smiled and nodded.
Sephy passed the fourth self portrait of Eragon since she left her room. This one had a gold frame. She ran her fingers along the wall and had her face in her book. When somebody coughed she looked up. She froze in her spot.
Closing the door to Eragon's office stood the man she had met last night. She made her way over to him. What if he was here to report her. But he wouldn't...would he? Besides why did she care what he or Eragon thought about her?
“What the hell are you doing here?” He looked up and smiled at Sephy. In front of him He folded a piece of paper that he held in his two hands.
“Well, I could ask you the same question.” She narrowed her eyes at him and took off down the hall. She could hear him calling after her, “wait up!” He shouted out.
“What?” Sephy turned to face him.
“You didn't say goodbye last night.” He teased. Her face was blank but her eyes were on fire. She didn't speak for an inspecting moment. His eyes seemed to be calming down from a heated conversation. She wondered what he had folded up and why he had met with Eragon.
“What's your name?” She asked him. He was surprised she had asked him, but he didn't want her to run off again so he quickly spoke.
“Gage. What's yours?” She paused for a second. Would he recognise her name?
“Sephy.” He stuck his hand out and they shook. “Now, goodbye.” She tried to pull her hand away but Gage kept a hold of it. His hand was warm compared to hers. He made sure that she met his eyes before speaking.
“Where you going?” He wondered.
“None of your-” He sighed.
“Seriously? You're still playing 'hard to get'?” Persephone furrowed her eyes and shook her head.
“I'm not trying to play anything.” Gage waited for a second before answering.
“Well, then can we maybe go some place?” She thought about it for a moment, but still shook her head.
“I have things to do.”
“I did save your life after all.” He smirked, jokingly.
“If I do come with you, will you drop it?” Gage slid his fingers past hers slowly, before finally letting her hand drop.
“You bet.” She sighed and reluctantly agreed to accompany him. As they walked down to the ground floor, Sephy saw her mother passing them and heading over to the guest bathroom.
“I'll be right back.” She assured Gage and followed her mother. Before she disappeared into the bathroom, she touched her on the arm. “Mom, have you been crying?” She asked her mother. When her mother looked up, she had mascara down her face and tears in her eyes. “Wh-what's wrong?” She asked. She checked over her shoulder and saw Gage talking to someone with a suit.
“Persephone, it's nothing. You go ahead and go out. I'll be fine...” Her voice spiked up and down like a heart monitor.
“Mom, I'm not going to leave you like this! I'll stay with you. Was it Eragon? What did he do?” Sephy asked, raising her voice. She saw Gage's eyes flicker over and then as he did a double take.
“No, honey. It's nothing, just go out...please.” She looked into her mother's eyes.. She nodded her head.
“Okay...I'll be back later.” Her mother walked into the bathroom and Sephy turned around. She could hear the echoes of her footfalls on the marble flooring.
“You know her?” Gage asked when she returned.
“No. I saw she was upset and I went over. Arrest me.” Gage whistled and held the door open for her. The sunlight outside was shining brightly and it bounced off two pillars that held a roof from a gazebo up in a court yard. When Sephy, Faith and her mom had first moved into the mansion with Eragon, she used to love sitting out there to just read. Now she often stays indoors or else goes to an isolated lake or forest in the city.
“Eragon's wife, right?” Sephy looked at Gage who seemed to be indifferent about it.
“Yeah.” Was all she said. Gage put his hands into his pockets and let Sephy lead the way out of the walkway.
“Where do you want to go?” He asked her. She cursed to herself as the guards spotted the two of them walking. She walked around and stood on the other side of him. “Wh-what are you doing?” He asked her.
“Nothing. Just walk, will you?” She kept walking and didn't notice when Gage stopped to talk to one of the guards.
“Are you seriously frisking me as I walk out of the place?” He asked as Mark, the guard, patted him down. Warlike, that's what Mark's name meant. And he lived up to it, too.
“Right, go ahead.” Gage caught up with Sephy as she waited on the sidewalk.
“So, where did you say you wanted to go?” He asked.
“Good.” Sephy looked up at Gage in confusion.
“I wanna take you somewhere!” He explained.
She had never been in this part of Vistic. It was the back end of it, the place where people with less money lived. She could see that the houses weren't built as well as any of the homes in other parts of Vistic. There was a name for this end of the city- Runt.
There was more muck and dirt here and the people looked more rugged and rougher. She wondered how many of the people that enter the Tournament come from the Runt of Vistic. Gage took her down a side street next and then onto a much busier street.
There must have been hundreds of people, all lining up at different stalls. The sun seemed to beat down on all the workers; half of them had their tops off and they had a blanket of sweat running down their foreheads.
“Don't worry, I didn't take you here to see a load of sweaty, shirtless men.” Gage told her and laughed. Sephy only nodded, amazed at the amount of stalls and people that had gathered here. She didn't realise how many people actually lived in the Runts of Vistic and how bad condition it was in, aswell as the people.
She saw one stall was set up just for medical care. A man was leaning over a woman's stomach with a stethoscope, trying to hear the heartbeat of her unborn child over the crowd. Sephy couldn't believe it.
“There's no privacy, but Dr. Galen is real good. The best if you ask me.” Gage announced when he saw her watching him work on the patient. The doctor looked up and saw Sephy and Gage. He smiled and nodded his head.
“Do you know each other?”
“Yeah. When I first came to the city, my brother was really sick and he helped him out.” Sephy nodded her head and looked at the doctor again. Galen. It meant calm healer. Maybe there was more to the legends than Sephy first thought...
Gage moved on with Sephy behind him. She followed him through the crowd, men roaring to and at one another. A stall caught her eye. She recognised the woman behind the merchandise. She was selling balls of string and cotton. She couldn't quite figure out where she recognised her from, though. When the girl looked up and caught Sephy looking her way, Sephy saw what she imagined her expression was, mirrored back. They both looked at one another before finally the girl went bright red, obviously figuring it out before Sephy could.
“Where do I know you from....?” She whispered to herself. The girl was beautiful and Sephy didn't think it was a face she could forget. She had sharp, striking features with short red hair, cut tight.
“That's Dasha.” Gage told Sephy. Divine Display; Sephy told herself the meaning of the girls name and then suddenly she realised who the girl was. She had been a Prize of one of the Tournaments. Two years had passed and the young girl who was once wealthy had now become a market worker in the Runt of Vistic. Sephy realised that the girl had had long hair during the Tournament.
“A Prize.” Gage finished for her. “Her husband was killed in a bar fight about three months back and the family threw her out.” Sephy gasped. The girl was conscious of her eyes on her.
“Didn't anyone help her? Invite her to live with them?” Sephy asked.
“The last person that tried got executed.” Sephy looked up at Gage in horror. He didn't show any sign of mis-truth. Now that she thought about it, she remembered Eragon holding an execution two or three months ago. “The rules of the Tournament state that the girl is the property of the family she is won by. She is just an object, although with an object people are more likely to treat it with a little more respect than what she got from that family.” Gage seemed to be angry about what he spoke about.
“That's disgusting...” They began walking again. Sephy could smell something roasting in the air. She looked around for the source and when Gage stopped, she knew he had shown her.
“No way.” She said. Gage smiled at her and took a coin from his pocket. He handed it to the man serving. “No. I'm not eating that!” She finalised. The pig was being spun around over a fire on a spit. It was already cooked and was just keeping warm now.
“I'm telling you, it's good!” Gage assured. She shook her head. “Come on! Open those pretty little lips!” He teased. “Are you a vegetarian?” He asked when she still wouldn't open her mouth, while laughing.
“N-” He quickly shoved a piece of pork into her mouth and began laughing. She chewed it quickly before swallowing and laughing with him.
“Well?” He waited.
“It tastes like chicken.” She offered. “And what if I had been a vegetarian?” He shrugged.
“You started to say no, so I figured you weren't one of those.” He explained. She nodded and whipped her mouth. She looked down at the tray in his hands and at the pork. “You want another bit?” She shrugged and couldn't help smiling.
“It won't hurt me...” She took another piece of the pork. Gage began walking again and held the tray out to her, offering her move.
“I told you that you'd like it!”
Sephy stopped when Gage did. “Where did you take me?” She asked him. They were standing in front of a large lake. She could see in the distance that a handful of teenagers were swinging on a rope that had been tied onto a thick tree branch. From the looks of it, It had been there a long time, ready to snap. Not that it would have mattered; the whole point of it was to swing into the lake.
“I wanted to take you to this place. It's where everyone around here gets their...kicks. Everyone is too poor to do anything else.” Gage told her. She nodded her head. The water had a nice blue tint to the top of it and it was still.
“Do you want to come out on the water?” Sephy looked at him like he was crazy.
“I- I don't have any spare clothes.” Gage smiled and shook his head. He pointed over to a pier that had a tied boat attached to it.
“On the boat, with me.” He explained. They made their way over.