Before I get to that, I have to offer an apology. Lately, it's been taking forever for me to respond to comments. I've also been meaning to show some consideration and check out your blogs. But, to be completely honest, these last few weeks have been really hard. My new job's tough, and not because it's full-time. I could handle that. It's things like waking up at 5 in the morning and coming physically (and often mentally) wiped that make it difficult.
I'm sorry for not replying to comments as quickly as I have, and for not checking out your guys's blogs. Please have patience with me. I'm still struggling to make work and writing and family and relaxation and friends all fit together. Thanks for understanding. Hopefully things will look up in the future.
On to the real reason you came to this post! You know that old story of mine I've been roasting once a month? Well, I've said in at least one comment on the first post that I have plans to reboot the story and write it much, much better. Depending on how well it does once it's published, I plan to do some spinoffs that take place in the same world. I thought I would share with you guys what I wrote a couple of years back as an excerpt--of sorts--of one spinoff. I simply titled The SkyRing Tournament. It's not perfect, but it isn't completely horrible either.
May you all enjoy this little look into my fantasy/technologically advanced world that I really need a name for. (I also apologize that the formatting ends up looking weird. Blogger and Word don't really like each other all that much.)
The roar was deafening.
Selyth looked around at the crowd. It was bigger than what he had expected, and he wasn’t sure if he liked that. It either means more people to witness my greatest victory . . . or more people to shake their heads at my worst failure.
He glanced up at the box where the Elites would be sitting. It was higher than the regular stadium seats, and the glass was tinted. He had no doubt that his father was watching from within, eyes like flint, staring mercilessly. He could practically hear the old man prattle in his head, “You must carry the family’s legacy in the tournaments. That’s what I was born for, and that is what you were born for as well. Even your son will one day be born for the very same thing.”
Selyth shook his head in disgust. SkyRing Tournaments required something more than most people had. It demanded more balance, more leg strength, more articulate control of one’s body. There was a sixth sense involved, a knowledge of subtle changes in the air currents and such. The training regimen was something that was to be devoted to if someone wanted to have a real chance.
He picked up his shoulder pads and put them on, over his gray shirt that was like leather chainmail. His pants were identical in color and were just tight enough so that they wouldn’t flap in the breeze. He grabbed his helmet, gave it a once-over, then nodded with satisfaction and donned it.
He glanced at the two items left: a broadsword and a knife. Weapons weren’t exactly mentioned in the rules, but pilots who played dirty brought them along. They would attack others, and so if those being assailed really wanted to survive, they had weapons for defense. Most of the time, they were just in case. Occasionally, they were needed, and Selyth could only recall a few tournaments where things became bloody. Tournament Officers were on standby, but it would be wise to still pack a blade.
He lifted the sword. Not too heavy . . . Balanced properly . . . He noticed the family crest on the hilt. A magnificent, dark blue bird of prey, known as a lyrak, stretched its wings proudly, beak raised almost haughtily. He spat on it and thrust the sword into the ground. I hope you saw that, Father.
He grabbed the dagger and attached the sheath to the inside of his right boot. Then he waited. Soon, an amplified voice boomed, “Contestants, bring your SkyRings to the starting line!”
Selyth flipped the gear switch on his SkyRing, which put it on hover mode. Once the disc lifted off the ground, he pulled it up and pushed it along in front of him. He left his station and walked to the two poles that held a banner in the center of the stadium.
The stadium was a massive, circular structure. The seating area was six feet off the ground and enclosed the whole arena. A glass dome could be raised if the weather outside didn’t suit the tournament, but such was not the case today. Selyth admired the stadium as a technological masterpiece, but he had grown to hate it over the years.
Depending on how today played out, he might never step foot in it again.
It was the last race in the tournament, and there were ten finalists. Eight were human, including Selyth, but the other two were different species. One was a creal, about four feet tall with leathery wings and skin the color of scabs. Eyes like that of a weasel darted around. Well, that one’s an interesting specimen. If I remember correctly, the creals keep to themselves.
The second was a terradox. Three black horns protruded from the back of his head and curved upward. On his neck, twin nostrils that resembled gills flared. He hoisted his SkyRing over his head, as if it weighed nothing more than a sack of flour.
The gray-scaled creature glanced at him, smirked, and kept walking. Selyth shook his head. Competition will be stiff today, you can bet on that.
He arrived at the starting line and lowered his SkyRing just enough so that he could climb on. His boots, which had rubbery soles that made for better grip, fit into the sockets at the center, slightly lower than the rest of the SkyRing. He opened a panel in front of him on the raised edge of the SkyRing and pressed a button. Clamps locked over his boots, holding them in place and ensuring he wouldn’t fall off easily.
The announcer, who was standing on a platform opposite the box for the Elites, was silent until everyone was on their SkyRings. Then he thundered, “Welcome to the final SkyRing tournament of the season!”
If the crowd had been deafening before, it could surely blow off one’s ears now due to the sheer volume. Selyth’s helmet did little to block the noise. It’s a wonder my ears aren’t wrecked . . . Then again, I don’t recall any pilots who have had their hearing go because of the tournaments.
The announcer let the yelling run its course before he began introducing the racers. Selyth ignored most of the names until he heard, “Nyk-graash of the creals!”
The crowd cheered, not as loudly as they had before but still a decent noise level. What does Nyk-graash mean . . . C’mon, remember your Toreth lessons. Ah, yes, it means “the stranger” or something. Wonder why he was called that. Selyth knew a former pilot who once said that the name of another racer could reveal a lot about them.
“Zunvix of the terradox!” The crowd howled wildly at the name, especially the section where several terradox were sitting. Zunvix means . . . “he crushes.” Pleasant. I’m staying clear of him; I’ve got no need for him to do any crushing of me.
“Selyth Lyrakan!” the announcer bellowed. Please, don’t say my name like that. You make it sound like an obscenity. The crowd didn’t think so; in fact, they cheered loudly for him, louder than they had for Zunvix. The terradox slowly turned his head toward Selyth, eyes narrowing. He snarled quietly, baring his teeth. I don’t want to see what you just ate, thank you.
After the remaining two racers had their names shouted out, the announcer said, “Jets on second hover!”
Selyth moved the gear switch to the next position. The second hover mode allowed the device to rise the maximum limit of ten feet; if one wanted to go higher, he had to activate the fly mode. The four jets on his dark blue SkyRing droned as they maintained the hover. He kept still as he waited for the others to be done. SkyRings were controlled by movement, and that’s why not many could use the rings properly. One of the other contestants was fidgeting a bit, causing his ring to rock back and forth.
“Ready?” the announcer asked. Upon the racers nodding, he continued. “Then . . . GO!”
Selyth leaned a bit, putting his weight to the front, and his SkyRing shot forward. He raced straight toward the opposite side of the arena, zooming over the trimmed grass and hard turf. Once he was close to the edge of the arena, he shifted to the left. The SkyRing turned left, and he began the first lap.
He quickly took note of the other racers’ locations. One was in front of him, and the others were close behind. Zunvix was in the middle of the pack, and Nyk-graash was the head of the group. Selyth knew that pilots in the lead were the first to be attacked, so he slowed and let most of the pack pass. He kept his distance from Zunvix, who glared at him suspiciously.
After the first lap was complete, hatches in the ground opened, and the powerful fans beneath blew hard. The contestants rose higher until they were about twenty feet off the ground, a comfortable viewing level for the crowd. The fans would continue to blow until the number of laps—unknown to the racers—was complete. Then a couple of fans would begin to power down. Only an experienced pilot would sense the change in air currents and use those fans to get low enough to pass underneath the banner.
But while the actual tournament was going on, the officials controlling the fans could shake things up with by adjusting the airflow even just a little. And you better be ready for when that happens.
He saw his first advantage: a male racer who seemed to be a touch off-balance. Selyth thrust his body forward, and the jets swiftly boosted to the top speed in hover mode. He zipped right by the man, close enough to almost clip the racer’s SkyRing. The pilot was caught unaware, and he tipped to one side. The SkyRing was thrown completely off-balance and spun like a leaf in a most violent storm. Selyth couldn’t afford to watch anymore, but he knew that if the pilot didn’t regain control soon, a Tournament Officer would bring him back to his station.
A moment later, the announcer shouted, “Loug is out of the tournament!” Thought as much. Today probably wasn’t his day. But will it be mine?
Up ahead, there was a skirmish going on. Two of the contestants were grappling each other fiercely. Their SkyRings bumped multiple times, and they had descended a ways. Selyth saw a disaster waiting to happen and pulled himself up. The SkyRing lifted just high enough to pass over the fighters. The two men jerked, startled, and moved away from one another.
Selyth kept an eye out for any more signs of trouble brewing in the tournament. The first few laps were essential in finding who was weakest, who was strongest, and who was most likely to crack sooner than later. He figured Zunvix would be the stiffest competition, and Nyk-graash would be a slippery little eel to catch. Another male pilot and the solitary female opponent also looked as though they would be tough to beat. The others, he wouldn’t have to worry about.
After several laps, in which he passed two racers and stayed ahead of the four behind him, he saw his instincts were correct. Nyk-graash seemed to be clutching a stout club next to his tunic. As he passed the man in the lead, he swiftly lashed out. The movement was but a flicker. The club struck the man in the back of the knees. The pilot toppled and almost fell out of his SkyRing. He should’ve checked his clamps to see if they were faulty.
Even though the man didn’t fall, he lost control. A black-suited Tournament Officer on a steely gray SkyRing raced to his side and grabbed onto him, keeping him steady. The Officer led him toward his station, and soon the announcer called out, “Kritom is out of the tournament!”
Two down, four behind that won’t catch up, and three ahead that will be hard to pass.
“Lyrakan!” Selyth spotted the woman heading toward him, a gleaming axe in hand. He recognized her in that moment. He had taken first place from her in one of the earlier tournaments. Now she wants revenge? Well, sorry, sister, but that’s not going to happen.
The woman threw the axe, which whirled at him in a deadly arc. He twisted to one side, and the axe nearly grazed his shoulder. He balled a fist and, when the woman was mere feet away, launched an uppercut. The woman’s head jerked back from the impact, and she careened through the air away from him. He glanced back in time to see the woman surrounded by Officers.
“Ushani has been disqualified!” the announcer bellowed. Yeah, but now my hand stings like Lurkem himself has sunk his fangs into it. The crowd yelled his name, obviously impressed with his theatrics.
He took stock of the situation again. The two racers who had been fighting before were at it again. They’re a lost cause, squabbling with one another. Now where are the other two back there? Both pilots passed him with a burst of speed. Oh look, there they are. Nyk-graash was in the lead, with Zunvix on his tail.
Suddenly, he sensed a shift in the air currents. Feels like . . . ocean waves. He dipped down a little. Get ready to crest the wave. At what he deemed the right moment, he jabbed himself forward and shoved his arms back to gain a bit of momentum.
The wave caught the other two human pilots off-guard, but he coasted right between them. At the top of the wave, he bounced up, causing his SkyRing to jump with him. The crowd thundered at the sight, nearly drowning the announcement that the two racers behind Selyth were out of the race.
More waves were coming, and he repeated his moves. He was quickly gaining on the remaining two racers, who weren’t handling the waves as well. Zunvix had gotten ahead as Nyk-graash clumsily traversed the boiling air currents. Selyth pulled up alongside and noticed the creal was switching the club to his left hand.
Geyser of air coming up on the right. Selyth lowered himself, and the SkyRing ducked down. A blast of air shot up on the right, propelling Nyk-graash to the side. Not giving his opponent a chance to reorient himself, he rocketed back up to the normal level and aimed a nasty elbow at the creal. Nyk-graash blocked the move with a wing, but he was still pushed back. It was all Selyth needed. He dove ahead, blazing back up to maximum speed and barreling toward Zunvix.
The terradox glanced over his shoulder and howled. One of his hands reached for something Selyth couldn’t see. He grabbed his own knife and readied himself. The moment he drew up alongside Zunvix, the pilot attacked. Selyth held up his knife to shield himself from a heavy overhand blow with a short sword.
Zunvix growled with a deep, hard-edged voice. “Fool of a human. My glory awaits. You will not be winning this tournament.”
“You think your victory is assured? You should think otherwise. You want glory as a tournament champion, and I want to escape the wrath of my father for a while. Who do you think has a stronger motivation?”
Zunvix’s unibrow lowered in thought. Selyth lunged with his dagger, knocking the sword out of the terradox’s loose grip. Then he pressed forward, moving ahead of Zunvix, who snarled curses. I need to get away from that lug. When is the tournament going to finish? Then he felt a slight change in the air flow. On the left . . . on the far side of the arena. They’re making us cross the longest stretch of ground possible.
As he approached the spot he had guessed would allow him lower himself back onto ground level, his body tensed. Don’t be nervous; there’s only a couple thousand people who could see you mess up. He rolled his eyes and nearly missed his target area. Biting back a vile curse, he shoved his weight down on the left. The SkyRing turned sharply, and he straightened.
He realized he had miscalculated by a small margin. He was partially on the dip and partially off. If he stayed there, he risked losing control of his SkyRing. He leaned to compensate, and the SkyRing slid into the dip. He was off-balance by a tad, and regaining that balance cost him precious seconds to maintain his lead.
He took off again, but his wrist was grasped firmly. Zunvix scowled at him, showing his black gums. “I will not allow your family to win yet another tournament.”
Selyth tried to pull away, but the terradox refused to let go. Zunvix’s arm muscles tensed visibly, and before his mind could totally catch up, Selyth was tossed away with the ease of someone throwing away a dirty article of clothing. His SkyRing struck the ground and rebounded. That’s not supposed to happen! The SkyRing hit the turf again, but it didn’t bounce this time. He tumbled along, boots still clamped onto the bottom of the machine.
He came to a stop just in time to hear, “Zunvix has won this season’s tournament!” The crowd bellowed, no doubt also booing Selyth and his embarrassing failure. Then the announcer shouted, “Nyk-graash has come in second place!” A moment later, “Waujy has come in third! Everyone else has lost . . . including our very own Selyth Lyrakan!”
Selyth groaned. He opened the panel on the SkyRing and pressed the button inside. The clamps let go of his feet, and he pulled himself out. He peered at the gear switch. Why is it on the off position? That sneaky terradox! He must’ve used his free hand to turn off the hover mode just before he flung me.
He turned to see he had landed just outside his station. The sword was still thrust into the ground, the lyrak mocking him. Spittle gleamed on the blade. Selyth groaned again at what he knew was coming once he got home.
Father will be furious.
What did you think of the excerpt, dear readers? Is this a story you'd be interested in reading? Do you have any questions/comments/constructive criticism? I'm all ears!