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Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by AlloraSilverfield, Sep 7, 2014.

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  1. AlloraSilverfield

    Sep 7, 2014
  2. AlloraSilverfield

    Sep 7, 2014
    "Why won't you just stay down!" roared the fireminder. Nearly a foot taller than Connor, and built like a tauros, he once again threw a fire blast at the young man. Connor, attempting to stand from the dirt, threw himself to the side, the blast just barely missing him.
    The fireminder didn't seem tired at all. The crowd surrounding the battle gasped at the near miss, murmuring as the fireminder took a step closer. His flaming hair crackled as he marched across the ring, conjuring a fireball in his hand. Connor stood, facing his attacker.
    "I still wish I knew what possessed you, a normal born, to challenge a pure typeminder like this," the fireminder said, shaking his head. Connor crouched, without saying a word. Lightning crackled between his fingertips.
    The fireminder shrugged. "Your loss." Then, he raised his arm, and almost like a baseball, pitched the fireball right at Connor's head. The normal born dodged once again, the fire just barely singeing his brown hair. As he leapt sideways, he shot a lightning bolt from his fingertips, landing a direct hit in the fireminder's chest.
    "Agh!" he cried, stumbling backward. Connor wasted no time. Using the quickness that comes from being electric learned, he sped behind his challenger, using electricity once again to blast him in the other direction. He knew from experience that fire attacks against fireminders do hardly any damage.
    The fireminder, having been blasted both backwards and forwards in less than five seconds, whirled around. His fiery hair blazed angrily as he stalked back towards Connor. The crowd behind the normal born backed up.
    "Why don't you fight fire with fire, huh?" he demanded, hands covered in flames. "I know your two chosen magics are electric and fire, so why do you choose only one?" He stopped, flames branching from his hands up to his shoulders. "Because you know that a halfway like yourself could never match up to a purebred."
    For the first time, Connor's eyes lit with anger. Normally the smack talk of the purebreds that he battled didn't bother him. But the word halfway had always pushed a button. "Why don't we just see about that?" he said cooly, letting the electricity seep back into his skin, and pulling the burning flames from his core.
    "There's no way that a normal born can beat a typeminder with their own magic!" whispered someone in the crowd. "I got 30 bronze on the typeminder."
    "I got 30 on Connor to win," someone said. "Don't forget, this is Connor Alexander we are talking about. The extraordinary follows him wherever he goes."
    "I heard that he beat a fireminder last week using flames!" someone exclaimed through the murmuring.
    "That's 50 for me on the typeminder," someone else said. "I don't care if it's Connor Alexander or not. No normal born can perform a feat such as that." A man in a top hat was walking the circle, taking bets from the crowd. An anthropomorphic aipom was doing the same on the opposite side. Nearly all bets had been placed on the typeminder to win as the two faced off.
    Connor sighed. When will people learn? The normal born brought his hands together, combining two fireballs into one. The crowd spread out even more. The fireminder laughed and raised his hands into the air, conjuring two fire balls above his head, each the same size as Connor's on their own.
    "Get ready to get crushed," said the fireminder menacingly. Connor kept his focus on the fireball between his hands. It was a standoff, each waiting for the other to move. Connor closed his eyes.
    At the sound of the flames hissing as they flew through the air, his eyes opened. Immediately, he opened his arms, the fireball expanding to twice the size of the fireminder's combined. He shot it towards the purebred, his own fire engulfing the twin fireballs heading his way, and also engulfing the typeminder himself.
    "How!" was all you could hear him say as the flames surrounded him. They engulfed him, draining him of energy and forcing him to his knees. As it dissipated, the purebred was clearly on the ground, unable to stand.
    "The... normal born is the winner!" shouted the bet collector. The crowd cheered, ecstatic, even those who had bet on the typeminder to win. But through the cheering, even more prevalent were the questions of; "How?" "Impossible!" "Astounding!"
    Connor, through all the noise, walked towards the fireminder calmly. He wormed his way through the mob of people surrounding the bet collector trying to get their money. He nodded towards the anthropomorphic chansey woman helping the fireminder as he approached. She had already healed most of his burns and scrapes, and he was sitting up now on the ground. "Good fight, man," Connor said, offering his hand.
    The fireminder eyed him, almost fearful. He gingerly took Connor's hand. "How..." he said again, repeating what he had exclaimed while engulfed in flames. "You're... some kind of freak of nature."
    Connor smiled for the first time, showing pearly white teeth. "Well, I am normal born," he said, words laced with irony. "Name's Connor."
    "Charles..." said the man slowly, shaking Connor's hand. The crowd was dissipating around them. "I hate to say it, but I could learn some things from you, boy." He looked around, as if afraid that someone would hear him asking a normal born for tips.
    "You just have to be patient. As I am being for my payment," Connor said backhandedly. The man shook his head quickly.
    "I almost forgot. A fight is a fight. Here." He pulled from his pocket a small fire-proof sack. Within were 50 bronze and 2 silver pieces. "You won fair and square. Though... I just still can't understand how."
    "Patience, my friend," Connor said, taking the bag and smiling again. Without another word, he turned, and headed home.
    Isabella Alexander sat with her knees pulled up to her chest, leaning against the windowpane of the stone cottage. She leaned forward, watching how the shadows cast on the ground changed as her blonde hair fell over her face. Then she would lean back, until she could just barely see the tip of her nose, and the almost invisible shadow of her long, dark eyelashes. Then she would start over, trying to see if she could perfectly line up the shadow of her nose with her hair, a game she used to entertain herself as she waited for her brother to come home. But, whenever she thought she might have it, a breeze would blow through the open window, messing up her hair, and her little game.
    "Sabra," she called into the house. "What are shadows made of?" She ran her little fingers through her hair again, straightening it in preparation for another round of the game.
    Beside her appeared the anthropomorphic kadabra woman. She straightened her purple dress that had gotten rustled during the teleport. "What did you say, dearie?" she asked, pulling on her long whiskers. The shining star on her forehead faded to a dim glow as the magic ended.
    "What are shadows made of?" Isabella asked again. Sabra thought, catlike ears twitching like they always did. Her fluffy tail lightly swung back and forth.
    "Shadows are just absences of light," she began, sitting on the windowsill next to the young girl. "When you hold your hand up, it stops the light from reaching that spot, right?" Isabella nodded, holding her little five fingered hand up next to Sabra's long three fingered one. The shadows on the ground were crisp.
    "But, even when a shadow is made," began Sabra. The star on her forehead lit up once again as a small ball of light appeared in front of her hand. It floated down towards the shadows on the ground. "Light can still come and brighten it up again." The ball of light reached the shadows, making them completely disappear. Isabella looked up at Sabra and grinned broadly, her eleven year old mind having been educated.
    "Hello?" called a voice from the front door. Isabelle's eyes widened, as did her grin.
    "Connor!" she shouted, leaping from the windowsill and sprinting towards the door, nearly knocking Sabra down in the process. The kadabra only smiled, her eyes crinkling with joy. She stood as well, padding towards the door on her soft paws.
    Isabella squeezed her brother tight, her head only coming up to the middle of his chest. At six foot three, he was significantly taller than his little sister. Normal born humans are naturally taller than type typeminders. That, and they are naturally more attractive as well. While typeminders have traits that represent their own type, normal born are extreme representations of, well, normal. Therefore they grow taller, live longer, and are more beautiful, in an almost eerie way.
    Isabella was a prime example of this. While only 11 years old, she was already much taller than other girls her age. She had no blemishes on her porcelain skin, and her hair was a silky golden blonde. Her bright green eyes were large and vibrant.
    Connor laughed as she hugged him, unable to hug her back, as his hands were full. "Go on, lemme walk in," he said, grinning as she rushed to the table. He placed on the counter two baskets, one with a whole raw chicken inside, and the other filled with oran and pecha berries. A loaf of bread lay on top of the fruit. Connor began to place the food on the counter.
    "So much food!" Isabella said hungrily. "We never were allowed to eat this much in the orphanage!"
    Connor blinked, his hands freezing for a brief moment, before continuing to unload the baskets. "You're right, Bella," he said. "But now, since I make enough money, we can eat as much as we want!" He turned to her, smiling. "How does that sound?"
    She nodded her head, turning back around and sitting at the table. Then, she remembered something. "Brother!" she said turning back around. "Watch what I can do!"
    "Give me a second, Bella," he said. Carving off parts of the chicken, he placed them on the stone countertop. He conjured a brief, controlled flame, roasting the meat almost instantly. Sabra laid three plates out using her telepathy, taking only berries and bread for herself, however. Most psychic types are strict vegetarians.
    "Connor," said Isabella again. "Why don't we eat Pokémon?" Sabra's eyes widened as she looked at Connor.
    You handle this one, she said in his mind, eyes smiling. Connor sat down at the table, placing food in front of himself and Isabella.
    "Well, Bella," he began, rubbing the back of his neck. "What do carnivorous Pokémon eat?"
    "Animals...?" she guessed. Connor nodded in agreement.
    "Well, what's the difference between Pokémon and animals?" he asked her. She got excited at this one.
    "Oh! Pokémon are smart, and if we soul bind with them, they can talk, and sometimes even look like people!" She beamed at her brother.
    "Right," he said. "Sentient is the word I would use, but yes. So we don't eat things that are sentient, we eat animals." He picked up a chicken leg. "Like chicken."
    "And regular fish?" she asked. "Like... not magikarp, right?"
    "Exactly." Connor took another bite of his chicken. "Pokémon can use magic too, like people. So we are similar in that way."
    "And so many other ways," Sabra interjected, biting into a pecha berry. "These are absolutely delicious, Connor. Though they are in season, and they..."
    "Oh!" interrupted Bella. Sabra stopped talking, grinned, and gave the young girl a look. Bella backtracked. "Oh... sorry... you go ahead Sabra."
    "No no, it's alright," said the kadabra woman.
    "Well..." she began, unsure. "I got really good at doing this thing today, brother! And I hoped you might watch me do it, and help me." She began to speak faster as she went on. "And it's so cool and I've never done it before and I hope you like it..."
    "Just show me!" interjected Connor with a laugh. Bella's mouth snapped shut, and she nodded. Closing her eyes, she held up her hand.
    The air above her palm began to thicken, and from her hand sprang a droplet of water. Then several more. And a few more. She kept her focus, conjuring more and more of it as she did so, until a ball of water the size of a fist was floating above her hand. She opened her eyes, and smiled.
    "Very good, Bella," praised her brother. She smiled broader, focusing and levitating the ball higher above her hand. "Your control is excellent."
    "Really?" she squealed. "I was hoping you would like it!" She bounced up and down. The ball of water began to shake. "I've been working on it all day to show you and–" Splash! Onto the table fell the water, splashing all over the three. "I was really excited..." she finished, frowning.
    Connor only smiled at her. "Concentration is key," he said, standing up to grab a rag. "I know you were excited, but you can't let your emotions get in the way." He walked back to the table, drying the water from the wood, and from Isabella's face. "Who was your water master again?" he asked. "Uso or Leah?"
    "Uso," she said, the distraction slightly lifting her spirits. "He's the blastoise who lives by the school."
    "Right, right," Connor said, finishing up with the towel. Normal born are not born with magic like a typeminder, they must be imbued with it from a fully evolved Pokémon of whatever type they choose to learn. And then, they must be trained. While they are able to learn whatever magic they wish, they may only learn two kinds, or the power will consume them, and they will die. However, unlike typeminders, normal born may soul bind with any type of Pokémon they choose.
    "Have you thought about your second type yet, Bella?" Connor asked her, sitting once again at the table and munching on a piece of slightly waterlogged bread.
    "I think fairy, like Mom," she said, getting quieter. "I think she would like that. You know, watching from the spirit world, and all."
    Connor nodded, but didn't say anything. The three of them were quiet for a while. Sabra focused hard, trying not to break down. Being their mother's soul bound Pokémon, it had been especially hard for the psychic type to stay strong after she had passed away.
    But she had to do it for the two children, she knew. After their mother had died, the children's father William, a rockminder, had gone overseas with his Pokémon... and had never returned. Two months after he had disappeared... the kingdom had come and taken the kids to the orphanage. Pokémon, no matter how competent, are not legally allowed to care for human children. Therefore, Sabra was forced to watch as the two children were taken from their parents' home, and out of her care.
    That was four years ago. Three months ago, Connor had turned 18, and was legally allowed to care for himself and his sister back in their home. Sabra had taken care of the house for those four years., and when they returned, it was almost as if they had never left.
    Connor would never forgive his father for abandoning them, and he would never abandon his sister like that, as long as he lived. He would teach her to be strong, independent, and reliable. He would make sure that no one would ever leave her like their father did. That no one would ever hurt her like that again.
    "Brother, are you okay?" asked Isabella worriedly. Connor looked down. The table beneath his hands was starting to smoke. He immediately took them off the wood, taking deep breaths to calm himself down.
    "Like I said, Bella," he breathed. "You can't let your emotions get in the way."
    He stood from the table. "Sabra, I hope you don't mind doing dishes tonight..." he asked. The kadabra shook her head.
    "I'll help her, too!" exclaimed Isabella. Connor nodded, turning away.
    "I need to go see Yawe, I think. I'll be back tonight, don't worry." He walked past his sister, kissing the top of her head, before leaving the house. He made sure the door did not slam behind him.
    Between the two sat an old wooden chess board. Gingerly, Yawe grasped his ponyta piece in his paw, moving it two spaces forward, and one to the right.
    "Check," he growled, smoke blowing from his nose. His opponent sighed, and with a webbed hand, moved his wooden blastoise out of harm's way.
    "I told you before I am horrible at this game," moaned the old golduck. he leaned back in his chair, waiting for Yawe to make his next move.
    Yawe studied the board for a bit, before moving a charmander piece forward only one square. "That's because I know how to be patient. You, on the other hand..." he gestured over beside the board, at the large pile of blue pieces that he had accumulated throughout the game. "Move much too fast, and do not think about your actions."
    Taro laughed, his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Wise words from a wise arcanine," he mused. He moved a goldeen diagonally nearly all the way across the board. "But perhaps you are not decisive enough."
    Yawe stared at the board, his muzzle twitching in thought. One side of his muzzle raised slightly, appearing menacing, but in all actuality was just Yawe being deep in thought. His teeth bared, his eyes continued to twitch back and forth. Suddenly, his cheek dropped, covering his teeth, and he sighed in relief. He took his flareon piece and moved it in a straight line in front of the blastoise. "Perhaps... I am," he said. "Checkmate."
    "Yawe?" came the voice from the door. The old arcanine's ears twitched, recognizing the voice he knew so well. Footsteps approached the kitchen where the game was being played. A young man appeared in the doorway.
    "Connor," smiled the fire Pokémon. He stood. "For what am I graced with this visit?"
    "This is Alexander?" questioned Taro, referring to Connor by his last name. Yawe nodded, proud.
    "Just in need of council, master," he said, bowing his head. Yawe nodded, glancing towards Taro. But the golduck was already moving towards the door.
    "I'll take my leave here," he said, looking Connor up and down. "An excellent game, Yawe, as always."
    "Of course," Yawe answered, eyes still on Connor. The golduck exited, the door shutting quietly behind him.
    Connor glanced around the room. Yawe's house had become a second home to him after having lived in the orphanage for so long. The kitchen was simple, with many plates and glasses and forks on the shelves. However, they were dusty, not having been used, for Yawe himself hunted for all of his meals, and ate always in his beast form.
    On the floor was a table and some chairs, very plain, but worn, as if they had been in the house since it was built. And they most likely had been. Yawe sat back down in his seat, beginning to rearrange the chess pieces. "For what am I owed this visit?" he asked again, gesturing absentmindedly to the other seat.
    Connor walked over to the chair and sat down, watching Yawe put the pieces back in place. "I never want to be like my father," he stated.
    Yawe paused for a second, blinked, and then continued arranging the pieces. "Then you never have to be," he said simply. Connor frowned, leaning back in the chair.
    "Is it that simple though?" he asked, both himself and his tutor.
    Yawe sighed, looking up at Connor. "This is just what you asked yourself after you were bestowed with the power of fire. 'Is a flamethrower that simple? Is a fire blast that easy?' And the answer is...?"
    "It was always yes..." answered Connor slowly. "But that was just me, it just came easy."
    Yawe was finishing up his organization. "And because the difficult things come so easily, I expect something so simple as not being like your father to be easier than an ember." He placed the last charmander back in the line, admiring his work. "Understand?"
    "Yes, master," Connor agreed halfheartedly, still not entirely sure himself.
    Yawe leaned back in his chair, eyes now fixed on his pupil. "Did you challenge today?" he asked the young man. Connor nodded, eyes unfocused.
    "Yes, a man named Charles," he said absentmindedly. "A fireminder. I beat him, but it was close." Yawe nodded, eyes narrowing.
    "Did you win with electricity?" the arcanine asked. Connor shook his head.
    "No. I nearly did, but then he made a claim that I would not be able to fight fire with fire." He shrugged. "So I did."
    Yawe looked down for a bit, thinking. His cheek raised slightly, baring his teeth unintentionally. "You are very powerful, Connor," he said quietly. He looked back up. "When a normal born beats a fireminder with fire... people talk. And I don't want to see you assassinated by a jealous coward."
    Connor nodded, understanding. He knew he had to be careful about being too showy with his strength. Some people took challenges very seriously, and would rather kill you in your sleep instead of lose a match. "I will be more careful, master," he said.
    "Now go back," Yawe instructed. "It is getting late, and you and I both know that your sister will be worried sick."
    Connor nodded once more, bowing and thanking Yawe for his time.. He left the house, walking slowly back to his own home. The moon was high, and crescent in shape. Stars decorated the sky, and combined with the moon, they created enough light to where Connor did not need one to see. The road almost seemed to glow in the dim lighting,
    The lights were off at the house once he reached it. He crept slowly in, gently turning the handle on the door as he shut it so it didn't make any noise. In the living room was Sabra, in her beast form, deep in meditation. She didn't move at all as Connor silently moved towards his room.
    He stopped by Isabella's room before his own, opening the door gently to check on her. Her blonde head of hair was the only thing visible amongst all of her blankets and pillows and stuffed Pokémon. He smiled, and closed the door once again.
    As he entered his own room, he shot a small flame into a lantern in the corner, with it soon lighting the whole space. He sat on his own bed, plain and black, and leaned his head against the wall, staring at the ceiling.
    He sat like this for a while, breathing, and trying to remember what it had been like in that same house years ago, with his mother and father. The absence of both of them, no matter the circumstance, had been taxing on both himself and Isabella. Isabella had almost been too young to remember either of them, but Connor hadn't. Losing them both... in such a short amount of time...
    Connor sniffed, holding back tears. In doing so, he smelled smoke. He opened his eyes, looking down, and realized his sheets were smoking where his hands were. He quickly picked them up, clenching his fists. He couldn't afford to keep ruining furniture.
    Deciding to channel his energy in a different way, he stood and closed his blinds. Then, picking up a small text book, he opened it to a random page. It was a biology book, with pictures of birds and bird Pokémon throughout. The page he turned to had on it a tailow, a small blue bird Pokémon.
    Glancing around once more, making sure no one would see, he began to conjure fire from his palm. As it grew, it began to slowly change shape. Soon, it had grown to the size of a basketball, and had shaped into a bird. A tailow to be exact. The phantom bird Pokémon made of fire spread its wings. Connor cut off the flames, leaving the burning bird free from his body. Focusing, he made the creation flap its wings, and take off from his hand.
    The fiery phantom Pokémon levitated in front of Connor's face for a second, until he made it fly around his room. He practiced landing it, and then taking off once more, this time from his windowsill, not his hand.
    The art of Creation is highly valued in the Piomingo Kingdom where Connor lived. However, it is seen by some as girly or weak, and those who participate in challenges wouldn't be caught dead practicing Creation. But Connor found it fascinating.
    Creation can be practiced by any of the 18 fields of magic. It is an art, creating things that seem to live and breathe on their own from the powers within humans and Pokémon. It is a female dominated practice, with priestesses often being trained in Creation, performing during worship hours. Even the King himself has Creationists, performing at his leisure for entertainment.
    It is also a method of meditation, channeling magic in a non destructive way to release tension, and this is one of the reasons why Connor had decided to start practicing Creation. He began the practice soon after his parents were removed from his life, and kept up with it in secret both for utility and recreation.
    Letting the tailow land once more, Connor let it dissipate, feeling more relaxed soon after. He laid on top of his sheets, feeling too hot for blankets, and soon fell fast asleep, daring only to think of tomorrow.
  3. AlloraSilverfield

    Sep 7, 2014
    In the city of Shawnee, downtown was constantly bustling. People and Pokémon were always in a hurry, and the makeshift challenge arenas were almost always full. There were Pokémon battles and challenges happening almost constantly in the downtown area. Isabella Alexander rushed down the road, holding her sunhat on her head as she did, so it wouldn't fly off as she ran.

    "Excuse me, sir. Pardon me," she repeated, as the young girl wormed her way through the crowd. A small pouch jingled in her hand as it bounced up and down, She squeezed past a couple of street vendors, veering to the left towards a specific challenge arena.

    She searched on her tippy toes until she found him. "Connor!" she yelled, squeezing past a few people.

    Connor, who had been searching the crowd as well, sighed in relief when he saw her. "Why did you run off like that?" he demanded, scolding her. "You can't just... oh," he said when he saw the pouch of money. He eyed it for a second, and then looked back down at her, eyes narrowed. "Just because I don't have money with me to challenge at the moment, doesn't mean disappear for 30 minutes to go get some!"

    "But... the house is only 10 minutes away..." she said, puppy dog eyes staring up at him. "I just want you to be able to challenge today..."

    "Yes but, you can't just... you terrified me just now," he sighed in defeat.

    Isabella gave him a huge hug around the waist, causing some of the crowd surrounding them to smile warmly. "I just want you to win," she said into his shirt. He sighed, holding out his hand. Isabella giggled and handed him the pouch. They turned once more to face the arena.

    A flightminder and a waterminder were facing off in the center. One edge of the arena was a wall, and the crowd formed a semi-circle around the challengers, creating the rest of the boundary. Both circled round the other, eyes narrowed, fingers twitching. The flightminder, a young woman, was short compared to the waterminder. Her hair was a chestnut brown, hanging just below her chin. Large tan and brown wings sprouted from her back. They were fully extended at the moment, making her appear much larger and more menacing.

    The waterminder was an older looking man, lean and fit. He had slanted eyes, and his body appeared transparent, as if it was made of water. It appeared to flow and ripple as he paced. In each palm was a sphere of water about the size of a snowball, hovering just above his transparent skin.

    "Who's winning?" asked Isabella over the noise of the crowd. Connor shook his head, eyes trained on the challenge. He picked up Isabella so she could see better.

    "I can't tell, it's really close," he answered, studying the technique of each fighter. The flightminder, simply pacing at the moment, had been using a bow and arrow focus throughout the fight. The waterminder had stuck with a raw focus.

    For challenges, minders may decide to train their powers into a focus. This essentially allows them to hone their skills into a form, usually an elemental form of a physical weapon. Some say training into a focus helps with concentration and power. Others say it is a waste of time, just something that challengers use to show off or appear more skilled. They argue that using a raw, or non-specific, challenge technique is more effective and less showy. Nevertheless, the practice of creating focus challenge techniques was widespread, being picked up by more and more challengers.

    Suddenly, the flightminder flapped her wings forward, sending a gust of wind towards the waterminder. He threw his arms up, blocking the buffeting wind. At the same time, the flightminder conjured a bow with her left hand, while reaching behind her back with her right and pulling an arrow out of thin air. Both items were non tangible, being created from the air around her. They appeared transparent and pulsing, as they were constructed from the wind itself.

    She nocked her bow and drew back her arm, firing the arrow at the waterminder, who reflexively drew his arm from the ground up over his head, creating a 'shield' of water, almost like a wave. However, the concentrated form of the arrow pierced the shield easily, hitting the waterminder right in the chest.

    He stumbled and fell, his water shield broken. Immediately the flightminder flapped her wings, taking to the sky for a moment. She flew above him, soon after tucking her wings to the side and diving. Just before hitting the ground, she flared her wings, giving them a mighty flap, with the air produced from the attack being razor sharp. The waterminder was completely unprepared, taking the full force of the attack. He didn't move.

    The flightminder landed beside him, panting from the sheer effort put into her attacks. The crowd went wild, exchanging handshakes and coins. "Ava Clandestine!" "So powerful!" "Graceful and serene!"

    Connor bounced Isabella up and down, and they high fived each other. It was always exhilarating watching skilled challengers fight. Ava, the flightminder, was pacing towards the fallen waterminder. Her wings were folded against her back, however they were so big that the tips of them drug against the ground as she walked.

    An anthropomorphic chansey was tending to his injuries. He was already sitting up. The flightminder offered a hand, and he took it, standing up and shaking hands. The crowd cheered.

    A man wearing a large hat, who appeared to be a rockminder, stepped into the center of the ring. He stood, waiting for the noise to die down, before he began. "And, the decisive victory goes to Ava Clandestine!" There was applause, and he held his hand up for silence again. "Remember that entries into challenges cost two silver and fifty copper... paid to the victor of course. Would anyone like to step up?"

    Connor, holding Isabella, stepped up to the edge of the ring. He smiled, his perfectly straight white teeth practically glowing against his tan skin. "I would like to," he began, setting Isabella down on the ground. The rockminder smiled as well, fondly at Isabella.

    The crowd around them cooed at the pair, finding it absolutely adorable that the normal born was carrying his little sister. Connor looked at a woman beside him in the crowd, and jerked his head slightly towards Isabella. The woman, a fairyminder, catching his drift, nodded her head and smiled. Of course she would watch the sister of the tall, handsome challenger during his fight!

    "What might your name be, sir?" the rockminder asked as Connor made his way to the center of the arena. He pulled out a notebook, a quilled pen in his hand, ready to make note of his name, and accept his payment.

    "Connor Alexander," said the normal minder. Immediately the crowd began to buzz with excitement. This was a name that they had only heard floating around the city in recent months. A name of a normal bor that seemed to perform just as well as typeminders in his chosen magics. A man performing extraordinary feats of strength.

    The woman beside Isabella glanced down at her. "That's your big brother?" she asked. Isabella grinned broadly and nodded, beaming. The woman shook her head. Her fairy wings fluttered. "You should be very proud, I have heard a lot about him!"

    Connor, during the commotion, held out his payment to the vendor, who took it, and shook his hand. "We look forward to seeing your challenge style, sir," he said. He turned back to the audience, holding his hand in the air for silence. Once it was quiet, he spoke again. "Is there anyone who would like to challenge our friend here?"

    The crowd was mostly quiet. He turned his head, scanning the audience, tipping his hat warmly at Isabella, who giggled in response. Suddenly, to the left, there was a bit of commotion. Then, through the crowd, came a burly looking man. Buff and intimidating, he marched up to the rockminder vendor, passing him the required payment. "I'll take my chances," he boomed, his voice deeper than any Connor had ever heard. His skin was a golden brown, cracked in places, and dusty. His hair was in dread locks, hanging to his shoulders.

    "So... we have a challenge between Connor, the normal born, and..." The vendor looked up at the man, questioning.

    "Matthew, earthminder," he said, looking Connor up and down. Even with Connor's unusual height, the earthminder was at least a foot taller.

    "And Matthew, the earthminder!" said the rockminder in an announcer voice. The crowd cheered again, though less enthusiastically than they first had when they heard Connor's name.

    "An earthminder would have a double advantage against Connor's magic," murmured one person.

    "His electricity would be completely useless anyway," said another.

    "I got 20 on the earthminder," said one more.

    "Go Connor!" cheered Isabella, turning heads and earning smiles. Connor, hearing her, turned to her and gave a small wink.

    The rockminder was backing up out of the circle. Connor and Matthew began squaring up. Once he was out of the way, in his best announcer voice: "Let the challenge, begin!"

    Not knowing what to expect, Connor took a defensive pose. Connor had always trained with a raw focus, preferring the unpredictable nature of a weaponless magic. He had no idea of the focus of the earthminder. He brought the flames from his core, knowing that electricity would do nothing against an earthminder.

    Flames licked against his skin. Each step he took as he circled made the ground smoke. The crowd was quieting down, wrapped up in the tension of the moment.

    The earthminder hadn't appeared to change at all. He paced around the circle, matching Connor's speed. Each just as calculating as the other.

    Slowly, as Connor watched, sand and dirt began to flow from the ground into the palm of the gigantic earthminder's hand. A large weapon of some sort began to take shape. The crowd began to mutter once again.

    Connor, thinking ahead, quickly blasted a warning shot at the arm of the earthminder, hoping to disrupt his focus. The flames hit, but appeared to do nothing to the behemoth of a man. The weapon formed completely. A giant mace made of sand now rested in his hands, spikes covering the ball, each as big as Connor's fist. The normal born swallowed.

    Without warning, the earthminder charged, taking the mace behind his back in preparation to swing. "Ragh!" he grunted, swinging the mace in an arc, his long arms only adding to the impressive range of the weapon.

    Connor just barely managed to duck beneath the terrifying weapon, feeling the breeze from the mace on his scalp. He stood quickly, praying that the momentum of the swing would have thrown the earthminder off balance. Blindly, he fired a fireball in the general direction of the earthminder. The shot was a hit, pushing Matthew backwards in a cloud of dust. He remained standing, however, looking only slightly winded from the charge and attack.

    Wordless, he charged again, appearing to perform the same attack. Connor once again ducked, the mace missing him by a hair. When he stood to fire the firebolt at him again, he was met with a backhanded swing. The earthminder had controlled his initial swing, giving him the strength he needed to reverse the momentum and make almost immediate contact with the normal born.

    Connor went flying across the arena, and the crowd gasped at the impact. He hit the dirt, rolling a bit before stopping. Briefly, he laid there in shock. He could feel the eyes of the crowd on him, including Isabella's. He began to push up from the ground, rising to his knees, then to his feet. He buckled slightly, holding his side. When he removed his hand, blood stained it.

    "Oh!" Isabella gasped, little hands covering her mouth. Her eyes didn't leave Connor as he buckled, flinching as she saw his red hand.

    There was hesitant cheering from the crowd as Connor stood up straight, grunting as he did so. The earthminder was watching him from afar. They both knew that the normal born couldn't take another hit like that.

    Connor thought strategy as the earthminder began marching towards him. He was in no hurry, dragging the mace across the dirt, as he approached the weakened normal born. Connor, thinking hard, watching as the earthminder got closer and closer, got an idea.

    He let the fire seep back into his body, bringing out instead the powers of electricity. He did not let it overtake him, however, keeping it inside of his body so the earthminder wouldn't know his plan.

    The earthminder sped up, taking his time no longer. He put the mace over his shoulder like a baseball bat, preparing to swing. When he got in range, Connor made his move. Instead of ducking, he stepped closer to the earthminder's body, shooting him in the eyes with lightning.

    "Argh!" cried the giant typeminder, blinded. He stumbled backwards, hands covering his eyes. Losing his focus, the mace melded into the dirt.

    Connor wasted no time, bringing back the flames, and summoning two large balls of fire. Jumping in the air, he fired them in quick succession at the earthminder, scoring direct hits in the chest. The force of them combined pushed him to the ground.

    Connor broke into a run, directly at the earthminder. He jumped into the air, rotating as he did so, summoning more flames into his body. He brought his foot down on Matthew, the fire leaving an arc in the air, appearing very impressive to the crowd. The move was a success, leaving the earthminder out for the count.

    Connor, however, didn't do so well for himself. After the impact, his ribs shifted, and he laid on the ground, holding his side in agony. The adrenaline had masked the pain for just long enough, but now it was becoming too much to handle.

    Two nurses sprinted onto the battlefield after the challenge was clearly over. Matthew, unconscious, didn't even flinch when the nurse began to tend to his wounds. Connor, however, conscious and alert, twitched each time the nurse felt his side.

    "Because Connor is still alert, he is the winner!" roared the announcer. The crowd went wild, clapping and screaming and exchanging coins once more.

    The fairyminder woman took Isabella's hand, keeping her close in the chaos that followed. They wormed their way through the people, and out into the ring. Connor was standing then, shaking hands with the now conscious Matthew. The healing magic of chansey is quite remarkable.

    Once she could see her brother, Isabella broke free of the fairyminder, running towards Connor and jumping on him. "You won!" she cheered, smiling broadly.

    He bent and picked her up. "That I did," he mused, looking at the rockminder announcer expectantly. He nodded, reaching into his pocket and grabbing the payment from the earthminder.

    "Here you are, sir," he said, plopping the money into Connor's palm. "It's always a pleasure to watch you challenge."

    Then, out of nowhere, there was a disruption. "Attention! Attention!" boomed a voice from the crowd. Connor, Isabella, and the announcer all turned towards the voice. People were shuffling out of the way as a group of warriors made their way through. They marched right up to Connor, ignoring him, promptly turning around in front of him to face the audience. Their broad shoulders and armor blocked him completely.

    "The high King of Prenjún would like to make an announcement!" called one of the warriors. It was completely silent in the crowd. Connor picked up Isabella and began to move around the group so they could see.

    The warrior in the front took a piece of parchment from his belt, unrolling it and clearing his throat. "King Tryndar will be holding a Challenge Tournament in one week's time. The top four competitors will be graced with a special task from the King himself, and rewarded handsomely. The winner of the competition will be known as the greatest challenger in the land."

    At this statement, several crowd members, clearly challengers, began to murmur and clap their hands, glancing around at their newfound competition. Connor, now standing slightly in front of the warriors holding Isabella, glanced around the crowd as well, noting those who acted most interested in the warrior's speech.

    Another warrior who was standing with the group, glanced to his left to see Connor standing slightly off center to the group, but still almost smack dab in the middle of the challenge ring. "Hey!" he barked. Connor jumped, turning his head towards the warrior. The crowd became silent. "Yeah, you! Who are you? Why aren't you in the crowd?"

    "I'm... Connor Alexander," he said, nearly forgetting his name, being put on the spot. The warrior's eyes narrowed slightly with recognition.

    "Oh really," he said, looking him up and down. "Well don't think we aren't keeping our eyes on you, because we are." The ominous statement was left to hang in the air.

    After a brief pause, the warriors nodded. "One week's time," the first warrior repeated once more. And then, almost as if on cue, the six marched out of the challenge ring, leaving Connor standing there in the silence.

    Whispering conversation had broken out by the time Connor had decided to leave the ring himself. He carried Isabella, holding her close to him as he felt the eyes of the people on him. Challengers that he recognized from other fights were staring him down as he left. The two went straight home.
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