Chapter 1 of my novella, 1st draft

 

He was five years old again though he could only remember it vaguely. He sat at his mother’s side within the viewing room. Guests from local lesser houses were invited however the centred resting area was only for his mother and his sister. Shouts and taunts came from others but his mother remained deadly silent throughout the whole viewing. Neither him nor his sister fully understood what was going on however they were told to look pleasant and attempt to look away from the screen as much as possible. He attempted to find interest in other parts of the room but his gaze always drifted back to the screen. He remembered little from what he saw that day however numerous repeats of the games over the years have filled his memory.

His father stood surrounded by three men of the house Grace. His two fellow rangers fell hours before as the two teams met in combat. Blood trickled from his right thigh as he limped into a room. Footsteps approached. The sound booming within the halls and increasing with every second. He remembers his mother’s gasps for air and her tight clutching of the armrest to her right. His father knelt beside the door. He unleashed his knife, which he scavenged from a supply drop, seconds before a man entered the room with the barrel of his gun swiping across the room. The knife flew through the air and entered the man’s throat allowing a slight scream before he was forever silenced. Blood trickled down his father’s fingers as he grabbed the body with his other hand and threw him across the room. Before the body fell the next man was already upon him. Without wasting much time his father grabbed his pistol of his waist and pointed it at the man’s chest before three bullets erupted from the barrel and into the man’s body. Without any hesitation, his father rushed into the hallway to find the last man of Grace frozen in place with his gun in hand staring at the door. His father’s boot stormed the man’s abdomen and pushed him to the ground. His father gave the man a quick gaze and fired two bullets into the man’s chest. Cheers erupted from across the room as his memories faded into the darkness.

The darkness was soon ended by the soft touch of Lisa upon his face.

Her face was occupied by a light shade of brown common for the people of Polis with its constant sun. Blue eyes beamed light everywhere they looked. Black hair collapsed onto her shoulders and hid behind her back. Her features were soft but defined. He realised that his heart was pounding against his chest and that sweat covered his face. As his gaze matched hers his heart began slowing down into a more comfortable pace and his boiling skin began cooling slightly.

“You were struggling. You moved from side to side” She said with a slight discomfort in her voice.

“A bad dream nothing else.” Alex said as he stared into her blue eyes. A sharp feeling erupted within his stomach. He had to force his words from his mouth. “I must go” his eyes fell down to the bed. She raised her hand to his cheek.

“We can always leave. Like I said. Your riches would get us far and away from this. There are talks of villages in the far east where no one would bother us.” She started speaking with slight anger however her words soon resumed to the usual softness.

“I wish for nothing else but being with you but my family is and always will be family. I can’t forget who they are. I’m sorry. Like I said I must go”

“I could go with you. Stand beside you at departure”

“You know my father dislikes you. Angering him at a time like this would only make it harder for us to reunite when I return” If I return.

“I’ll miss you” She said as her lips pressed against his. Soon he left and went into the city hoping to focus his mind on the games.

As Alex wandered down the streets of his hometown, Polis, rich aromas filled him after they erupted from freshly baked bread, expensive perfume or just the smell of Spring welcoming itself into the city.

Alex was a tall man at six feet though he hardly towered over anyone. Maroon hair spread across his hair as if thrown there by mistake though it never grew to the point of looking unappealing. Deep blue eyes usually matched his wide smile but as of late his eyes were alone. Whilst enjoying the streets of Polis, the last time before his departure, he dressed simply. A brown leather coat slightly lighter than his hair over a black long sleeve shirt which tightly formed around his muscular structure. Tight dark jeans covered his legs.

Slaves and servants kept their heads down as he passed them. They were dressed in simple clothes unwashed and unappealing. Alex took little note of them. Shop owners and wealthier people welcomed him on the street and wished him good luck.

Alex’s life was spent in Polis from the youngest years he could remember. He would often sneak through the outskirts of the city to spend time with Lisa away from his guards. The market was a dangerous place with tales of thieves, murderers and rapists within its allies filling Alex’s ear since a young age. Once he made his way through it with his father, he couldn’t remember why. His father stopped when he saw a pair of slaves laughing near a stand of their master. He knelt so Alex could hear him and said “Son this is what people of our sort must do to maintain order”. He grabbed one of the slaves and threw him on the ground. His fists stormed the man’s face as streams of blood went from the man’s nose to the streets. His father gave their owner a silver coin as compensation. Alex was only seven. Most of his memories were from the Villa. His home and the heart of the city. He remembered running down the halls playing with Alice or estimating the fall from each window to find a way to sneak out in the middle of the night to spend time with Lisa. The triangular roof making him cry when he was three. Its pillars towering over him forcing him to accept his insignificance.

On his way through the market a woman was dragged into the streets. She wore a simple, shirt dress stained with oil and blood. Her face bruised and her hair in unwashed strains. Her arms were purple from the beating. A man who seemed to own a stand dragged her by holding her hand and threw her to the ground.

“You wish to define me?!” He screamed so the whole market could hear. A crowd formed around the scene. Shouts of approval came from the people as they came closer. The man took his belt and raised it above his head to strike the woman.

“What is the meaning of this?” The man was startled by Alex’s voice.

“Master Polis” The man knelt as he held his head low. “The slave disobeyed a direct order”

“What was this order?” The man froze and attempted to force a smile.

“She was to- please- Master. Would you have me go into detail?”

“No, none will be needed.” The man gave of a proper smile so certain of his safety.

“Guards” Alex said as he signalled for two guards near the stand. “Take this man to the cages. Give the stand to the rightful heir. If he does not have on give it to his highest standing worker.” The man scram and pled for mercy but his screams were soon put to an end when two guards began beating him until he laid still.

Guards were scattered throughout the city. Men in black shirts and trousers with bullet proof vests and pistols. A necessity if peace were to be maintained. The cages were another necessity. They were designed with inspiration from dungeons from ancient books which remained from before the war but Alex’s father decided that a public showing sent a stronger message.

Alex was slightly distraught after the event in the market however he had matters to attend to. He finally finished his journey to his families’ villa he was greeted by a servant who seemed to be awaiting his return. Worry filled his voice and sweat went down his brow as he said:

“Master Polis!” Almost a shout though not quite. The short fat man attempted to run towards him to get his attention but his efforts quickly came to an end as his breath deepened. “Maestres Polis commented that you must be at the garden an hour ago. I fea- “

“I will handle my mother and take the blame. Do not worry”

The man took his coat and disappeared into the room to the right of the entrance. Alex rolled up the sleeves of his shirt as he felt a sweat trickle down his face. He made his way down the towering halls of the villa. He finally reached the centre garden where his mother sat. His mother was a woman of forty years. Wild hair fell onto her shoulders. She wore a white silk gown which comfortably enclosed her hips and exploded out covering her lower body and slightly reached the ground. She was the one who gifted Alex his eyes and wide smile though this time it didn’t find its way onto her face.

“Maestres Polis” Alex said with a taint of sarcasm and a faint smile as he bowed down and extended his right hand.

“I don’t understand how you can keep your calm days before the games. And you know how much I hate that title.” Oh, mother if you knew the truth.

“Mother, what’s the worst that can happen? I can only die and it must happen to all of us at some point.” I can also loose Lisa. But he didn’t dare say what he thought.

“I just want the best for you” She managed to force a smile but her hands were pushed away. Yet you keep me away from my love.

His father came from the door under the balcony with a servant holding a tray with two glasses of Champaign. The pain was swiftly struck of Alex’s face with a faint sign of fear.

“Father!”

“Alex, it pities me that even hours before your departure you fail to learn the ideals of proper discipline” A permanent frown occupied his face as it always did.

His father was a man of six feet four, primarily grey hairs, blunt maroon eyes and forty- five years. He already had a full suit which covered his bold posture. Alex’s father was a ranger 20 years ago and always expected nothing less of his son.

“Forgive me father” His eyes shot to the ground.

“Walk with me” he said as he grabbed the two glasses of champagne and waved off the servant, who swiftly disappeared into the shadows. The two men walked off into the halls of the villa.

After minutes of silence and occasional sips of champagne Alex said: “Mother worries”

“The weaknesses of a woman commonly cloud their judgement.”

“You think she has nothing to worry about?” His gaze floated towards his fathers and a slight smile formed itself but as their gazes found each other they once again parted ways.

“I think you have trained well” He said as he looked ahead. “Polis has always been represented well in the annual games. The King himself frequented our centres over the decades.” He stopped. “Son”. He looked directly into Alex’s eyes as he forced the most distorted grim. “I believe in you son. You must know that”. The moment occupied the air for a few moments before the silence was once again broken. “Now go get dressed” He said as he looked straight again and took his glass of champagne.

He thinks I won’t make it. The thought occupied his mind for minutes which seemed to be turning into eternity as he mindlessly made his way into his chamber. No. The thought echoed within his mind as he got dressed. A full white suit was set up on his bed with a black tie and white shoes.

But before he could trouble himself with the thought any longer his sister walked in. Alice was Alex’s twin and almost resembled him with every feature. Same large blue eyes, exploding brown hair which only reached hair shoulders and the wide smile as if no troubles even existed. A red dress swirled in at her torso and seamlessly drove outwards to highlight her perfectly symmetrical waist.

“How is my young Master Polis feeling so close to the send-off?” She said as she stopped by the door way. Alex was standing straight still before his mirror blindly staring.

“Huh?” broke his trance. His smile quickly shot back into its place and managed to cover anything underneath. “Good.”

“Do not say you are worried. It was dad wasn’t it? He was scared that a touchy send of might set you off. Don’t worry he just- wanted to show -his -approval.” Her struggle for words was obvious and unhelpful.

“It’s not his approval I seek” I gave up trying a long time ago. And it’s not his words that worry me, it’s the thought of never seeing Lisa again. “But I understand that he had good intentions.

Alice was about to speak but a servant appeared and said “Master Polis. The ceremony is beginning.”.

The two left the room and made their way to the front of the villa. Their stood the other two contestants from Polis, John and Jack, along with Alex’s family, the majority of Polis there to give them of a proper send off and an airship ready to deliver them to the arena.

A presenter was hired to increase excitement and moral for the public. His shouts went over Alex’s head as they did every year. It was always the same thing and even if it wasn’t Alex couldn’t fix him mind on one thing. Failure. Echoed through his mind as he stepped in front of the steps leading to the villa. Embarrassment. Shot across his mind as if a bullet punctured his conscious mind.

Alex stood straight with his known and loved smile as he looked down at the crowd. Explosions of shouts and cheers almost equalled the exaggerated voice of the presenter. He finally forced his mind to clear as he stared across and began waving. He was back to his usual self. He knew he was now ready. Ready to compete. Ready to win. Ready to kill.

If you enjoyed this or saw a flaw that you simply cannot ignore please leave a comment with some advice. I’m a beginner and I know very little about making my writing technically appealing. I also doubt my abilities to properly develop characters so all feedback would be appreciated.

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