This month brings you a scene from the second draft of Storge, specifically the inciting incident in chapter 2. It is a fight scene, so content warnings for blood and two “on screen” minor character deaths. It’s 1470 words, so nothing tooo long. I’m super excited to share this with you since it’s one of my favorites and I’ve only ever shared isolated lines before, so please let me know what you think!
Every butcher, baker, farmer, tailor, merchant, laborer and beggar packed themselves into the cramped arena stands to experience the spectacle. Seldom did they see bloodshed beside their own, and they would not waste the opportunity for entertainment. Stuck as they were, Grace strained to see over the crowd. They held their breath against the stench of body odor and fish that baked into the air under the hot evening sun. Luca fought the urge to take off his long-sleeved shirt to cool off, but the sight of the Atilan viewing boxes made him think twice. He tugged the edges down over his wrists instead.
Venders hawked their wares to the crowd, hoping to make some extra money off the event by selling the oily, salty snacks of dried meat. The advertising cries drowned when the crowd rose in a sea of shouting as guards dragged the rebel Master onto the sand. He didn’t take arrest easily. Blood and sweat shone on his bald head and dripped down his bare, lash-scarred back. They chained his hands behind his back, but it didn’t stop him from straining against his bonds. It took three soldiers to force him to move. Jeers sounded as the people of the city unleashed their pent-up frustrations and anger.
The High Atil strode onto the raised dais that stood in the exact center of the arena and raised his hands for silence. Gradually, the crowd hushed and anticipation replaced the fervor. He sneered at the rebel leader and slowly stretched out his arm, pointing his index finger towards the ground.
The rebel master glared at the councilman, and spat onto the ground. He would never bow to a tyrant. The High Lord smiled wryly and raised his arms to touch above his head. His fingers shimmered with the aura of magic, pulled from the gems nestled in the countless rings and ornaments he wore. He shouted an incantation, calling upon the name of Daza, the sun god, and flung his hands down to his sides. At hearing the name of the Atilan’s god, Luca and Grace glanced at each other before making a quiet gesture, touching the first three fingers of their right hands to their foreheads, lips, and chest.
A force collapsed on the rebel. He struggled to stay standing and braced himself against the invisible blow. The Atil whipped his hand and flung the magic to the side. The master stumbled to his knees. Cheers erupted as the Atil turned his back to the rebel leader, but second, louder cry came from behind the Laine’s seat.
“End the Atilan!”
The line echoed as more figures emerged from the crowd. They all dressed differently, as ordinary Debilan hiding among them. Each donned identical masks that hid their entire face, painted black except for a single white line that arced across the cheek from the eye to the chin. The mark of a criminal. The cry of an anarchist.
“End the Atilan!”
Luca’s head whipped around to find the uncomfortably close voice. A white-clad figure rose from the swarms of frightened people. He too wore a mask. The anarchists charged forward. They crashed through the barriers and knocked anyone inconvenient out of their way in their mad dash to the floor of the arena. The spectators froze in shocked horror. Luca pulled Grace closer to him as she strained to see. She would be ready if it came to a fight.
The High Atil shouted for guards to defend him. In his arrogance, he stood on the dais alone, but he would not fight that way. Thirty guards charged forward, brandishing spears, but the anarchists already surrounded the dais. Other anarchists dropped from the stands behind the spearmen, catching them off guard with their attacks. The rest converged on the Atil and their Master.
He didn’t flinch. The Atil whipped the wavy ceremonial dagger out of its sheath and ran down the steps of the dais to the prisoner. His skills sharp from his Trials, he embraced the fight. The anarchist in white reached the guards holding the rebel leader and beat them back. He rushed to his Master and tried to break the chains when when a magical blast sent him flying backwards. He landed hard and rolled to a stop. Sand clung to his clothes and skin as he shakily stood, too late to counterattack. The Atil whipped the leader around to face him and plunged the dagger deep into his stomach. The Master’s face froze in the defiant sneer. He ripped out the dagger triumphantly, and the anarchist collapsed. His blood spilled onto the sand and stained the tan grit an ugly shade of dark red.
Seeing their leader collapse, the anarchists faltered in their battles. The one wearing white released an anguished scream as he saw his mentor fall. The plans disintegrated at once. He flashed forward, magic speeding his steps, until he reached the distracted Atilan leader. The Anarchist’s knife slashed his throat open in one smooth movement, and the lifeless body toppled to the ground next to their master.
The Anarchist paused over the two bodies lying at his feet; one his mentor, one his enemy, their blood pooling together. Only now did he kneel. He dipped his fingers in the mixing blood, brought his hand to his face and drew on the mask he wore, staining the white mark of a criminal literally blood red. Now he bore the mark of a murderer, and he bore it with pride.
Chaos erupted as the anarchist with the newly painted mark stood. The rest of the rebels clashed with the spearmen, fighting with them from all sides and breaking their ranks. Many others lay dead on the field, some rebels, but mostly the guards who had come to the defense of their leader in vain. The Atilan messengers called for more soldiers, but they had yet to arrive at the scene. Mass panic spread among the spectators. People climbed over each other, desperate to get out. Friends dived out of their neighbor’s way. Terror only grew as they reached the locked gates and realized what Luca already knew.
They were trapped.
Screams and prayers to the gods echoed off the high outer walls of the arena, but they didn’t stave the bloodshed on the field. The Anarchists regrouped around their new de facto leader. The rebel with the red mark spun to address the rest of the Atilan Council.
“Look at your fallen leader,” he thundered, “Your most powerful magician could not defeat us. He cannot save you. End the Atilan!”
“End the Atilan!” his anarchists chanted in unison. The red-masked rebel raised his hands over the dead Atil, drawing out the leftover magic that spilled from his clothes and jewelry. With a practiced movement, he formed it into a million shards of glass and flung them into the Atilan section.
Luca and Grace watched in horror as the blast hit the section next to theirs. The magic pierced through the densely packed people like a needle through sheer cloth. In one blow, the council was as dead as the High Atil they had served.
The surge of magic rocked Luca to his core, and he braced himself against the bleachers to stay standing. Muscles tensed and his skin crawled as memories flooded over him: the surge of power, the flash of light, the roar of fire. His breath came in labored gasps as he struggled to keep his balance. Glowing energy seared through the scars on his arms, as painful as the day it first burned through his skin, but he did not let it escape.
Grace stood unfazed, absorbing the magic as naturally as she breathed. The taste of honey filled her mouth and a heavy blanket of warmth wrapped around her. None of the shards reached them with energy left to hurt.
Realization hit Luca as hard as the blast of magic. The red-masked rebel moved to make another blow. He wouldn’t stop at the Atilan and he wouldn’t spare the bystanders. Something snapped in Luca’s mind. He tore himself away from Grace, pushed through the screaming crowd, and sprinted down the main isle. Grace called after him, but he didn’t hear, focused only on his mission. She chased after him and caught up to Luca just as he’d reached the barrier between the bleachers and the arena floor.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Grace screeched as she caught her brother’s arm and turned him to face her. “We don’t need to worry about the Atilan hunting us. They’re dead. We need to get out of here!”
Luca set his jaw in complete determination. “I can stop this madness,” he said, and before she or anyone else could react, he hurdled over the barrier, sprinted onto the battlefield, and released his magic.
Learn more about this story:
Storge is the prequel to The Laoche Chronicles. It’s a YA high fantasy that takes place in the world of Laoche roughly 1500 years before the start of the series and lays the groundwork for the worldbuilding and major plot points later on. It’s a character-driven story that’s part political drama, part civil war, and…Keep reading