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Chapter 39: In Which The Surface Wobbles

I felt my jaw drop in amazement. The main stadium looked distinctly impressive from outside, a bulking monster of stone, wood and metal. But standing within, with thousands upon thousands of people looking down at us, the building came to life and become an enormous stage on which we were the performers. In order to keep the peace between countries, the Tournament had been created and thus magicians had been turned from men of action into entertainers.

Perhaps some magicians viewed the Tournament as a blow to their pride, but I enjoyed the surge of excitement that passed through my body as I stepped onto the round stone platform and raised my head to look at the faces looking down at me. For once in my life I felt every nerve ending, every blood vessel, every hair and every cell in my body filled with life and power. With all these witnesses I felt for the first time as if I really, truly existed.

I lowered my eyes to gaze at the terrain before me. With every competition, the terrain of the arena would be changed. It was as much part of the competition as anything else. We stood upon a round bright-grey stone platform, one of many platforms that covered the entire arena. From where I stood, I noticed a drop of roughly thirty feet to the sandy ground. There was nothing evident holding these platforms airborne, though my sensitive vision detected the thin, filmy, nearly invisible ribbons of magic around the base of every one of them. I could tell that these spells had been masked so that average magicians could not sense them, the fact that I could would come in useful.

The platform wobbled and swayed underneath our shoes, apparently sensitive to every movement. Instinctively we spread out evenly across its surface, preventing it from tipping over. I scanned the platforms; some of them were no more than stepping stones, while others were large enough to accommodate both teams. The distances between the platforms changed with the wind. Some were far enough to step across to while others would require a touch of magic to reach.

Then a voice louder than any voice I had ever heard, boomed over the excited cheers of the crowd, rumbling in the air and in our ears.

"On the east side, I present before you, ladies and gentlemen, the Auranora team of War Magicians, Mirgul Rife, Jea Seminorget, Salan Hortigery, Lord Burgen Winterstarch and, uh, Ret Cooper!"

The crowd roared, but I could do nothing but scowl, feeling my ears boil with anger. Not only did they get my name wrong, but they gave me a last name that wasn't even mine. Having a last name was not a requirement for participation anyway. In Majarist every person had only one name; families were not united by name but by village. As the announcer began introducing the Alavan team standing opposite to us according to age, Burgen turned his head and wriggled his eyebrows at me. I shrugged my shoulders in reply. I was already plotting how, later that day, I would uncover whomever was behind this mistake and wring their necks. If there was someone out there who didn't like my name, it was their problem and I was going to make sure that they knew it.

Then a red-clad Tournament official came out from one of the many doors leading to the labyrinth of rooms underneath the stands, spread a pair of golden wings and rose into the air. I gasped along with everyone at the sight of him, a man almost as tall as Salan, broad-shouldered, strongly built, whose skin, hair, eyes and yes, wings, seemed to have all been dipped in molten gold. The sun bounced off him, its rays breaking into a multitude of colours. He held an empty torch in one hand, and a scroll in the other.

A Sky Monk. A real, living Sky Monk. There is beauty in our world that cannot be grasped, neither with the human eye, nor with Wielder sight.

"Competitors!" he called out to us in a deep, rumbling voice. "In a short moment, the 13th Wielder Tournament shall commence. I remind you, competitors; fight with honour in your hearts. While your wish to win is sound, do not bring permanent harm to your rivals. There is a special rule for this round: if you remain on the ground underneath these platforms for more than two minutes, you will be disqualified from the Tournament."

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