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Matt Daniels and the Sword of Diamonds
He was lost. He was in a forest, but it was dark out, and he had no sense of direction. He turned slowly a circle, his heart thumping in his chest.
Suddenly, his foot hit something hard, and he fell to the ground. He bit his tongue on the way down, and now he tasted blood. He spat and cursed under his breath. He scrambled back up, although somewhat unsteadily.
He picked his head up, frozen in place, his eyes darting around. What was that?
'It was just the wind, right?' he thought. Yes, that was it, he tried to assure himself, it was just the wind, that's all.
But he knew in his heart that that was a lie. There had been no breeze, so it couldn't have been the wind.
He went warily, his heart missing a beat each time he stepped on a fallen twig.
Something abruptly tackled him to the ground. He cried out, sprawled uncomfortably on the rough terrain.
A darkness spread over him, close to his face. A voice seemed to emanate from it, saying,
"Matthew Daniels... I will come for you..."
Matt Daniels bolted upright, his body covered in sweat. When he realized he that it was just a dream, he fell back into his pile of hay, panting heavily.
Matt Daniels was a 15-year-old boy, living in the Kingdom of Palasia, which was ruled by the mighty King Andrew. He ran errands for the local townspeople to make money, and he had trained himself to be quite good with anything that could be used for stabbing and slashing.
He was also an orphan.
His house had been burned down when he was seven, killing his parents in the process. The local knights had not been able to find who had started the fire. Fortunately for Matt, the people of the town felt pity for him, so he wasn't sent off to an orphanage. Instead, he helped them with their daily chores.
Matt got up, groaning. He stretched and got ready for his day, getting dressed and washing up. After he fed all of the animals, he walked past Farmer Mack's chickens and cows and into the bright morning sun.
Farmer Mack and his wife, Debbie had been Matt's surrogate parents since the fire. They took him in and raised him the best they could. Years of helping Mack on the farm had made Matt muscular and lean and both Mack and Debbie made sure Matt was a polite and courteous young man. Matt had a lot to thank both of them for.
Matt went into the small house and grinned, smelling the frying of bacon and eggs. He loved bacon. He walked into the kitchen, where Debbie was cooking the eggs and bacon and Mack was reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of black coffee.
"Good morning, dear," Debbie said cheerfully as she ruffled Matt's shaggy, black hair. Debbie was a petite woman with an always smiling face. She loved to cook and bake, and spent most of her time doing just that. Matt knew he could usually find a piece of her homemade coffee cake waiting for him after a long day on the farm.
"Good morning, everyone," Matt said, sitting down at the table. He poured himself a cup of coffee, added milk and sugar, and took a long drink.
"Is there anything I can do for you before I go to town?" Matt asked as Debbie brought him his breakfast.
"I'm so glad you asked," Debbie replied. She went over to the kitchen and brought back a list and some money. "Can you go to the market and come back with these?" she asked him. "I need them for my new special coffee cake recipe."
"What's so special about it?" Mack asked, looking up. He loved Debbie's coffee cake almost as much as Matt did.
Debbie smiled. "It's a secret. I'll give you a hint: it has chocolate chips in it."
"CHOCOLATE CHIPS!" Mack and Matt yelled at the same time, standing up suddenly. "YES!!" they shouted, standing up and high-fiving each other.
Mack shouted at Matt, "Well, what are you waiting for? Get the woman what she needs so she can bake her damn cake!!"
Matt ran out the door, letting out a joyous whoop. Debbie shook her head. Men will be men, she thought as she started to clean up.
Matt strolled through the market, whistling as he picked up them ingredients Debbie had asked him to get. He paid when he was done, and started his way home.
As he walked on the main road, he was abruptly pushed from the side. All thoughts of coffee cake disappeared from his mind and he looked for who had pushed him. He rolled his eyes when he saw who it was.
It was Manuel. The Town Ass, as Matt called him. Manuel was an all-around jerk, who did what he wanted and not caring who he hurt. He was also very lazy and what some adults called 'husky'. (Matt just called him fat.) Today he was with a bunch of his wannabes, who were following him like ducks in a row.
"Well well well, if it isn't the little errand boy," Manuel sneered. His cronies laughed behind him. "Are you going to pick some weeds and garden later, like a little girl?" he asked.
"So what if I am?" Matt said in a plain, dull tone. "At least I don't sit on my ass all day and grow fat." He turned and walked away as Manuel's face grew red as a tomato.
"Yuh-yuh-you'll pay for that!" he spluttered. "I'll get you back, I swear!"
Matt snorted and rolled his eyes again. He continued to walk away from the market. He could deal with people like Manuel. Yes, people like him were pains in the ass, but they were bearable.
A loud cracking noise disturbed Matt from his thoughts. He jumped up, his breath caught. He looked down and saw that he had stepped on a twig.
The dream that he had had the night before came back to him. He shuddered and began to walk again. It was just a dream, Matt thought. It was just a dream.
Matt took a long drink of his ice cold lemonade. The ice clinked against the glass as he tipped the cup back, draining it all in one go. With the coolness refreshing him and the sweet taste reviving him, he handed the cup back to Janis, his neighbor who had brought the lemonade for him, wiped his brow, and prepared to get back to work.
"Wow," said Janis. "You must be really tired. Do you want one of my boys to come out and help you?"
"No, thank you," Matt said. "I'm fine."
"Well, if you need anything, I'll be inside," Janis said. She smiled at Matt and then went back to her house.
Matt picked up his ax from the ground and heaved it upwards. He slammed it down on the wood he was chopping, splitting it in half.
As he went to get another piece of wood, he tripped and nearly face-planted into the ground. Fortunately, he caught his balance and leaned against a tree for support.
His dream came back to him again. OK, hold up, he thought to himself. This is getting too weird now. I thought it was just a coincidence when I stepped on that branch when I was bringing back the groceries, but this has gone too far. I might need to ask the town seer for help.
In Matt's world, there were two types of people- non-magical people and magical people. From there, magical people were split into three groups- seer, battlemage, and scribemage. Seer's had the power to determine people's destinies and see if they had were magical or not. Battlemages had the power to make anything they could use more deadly. In other words, they could use magic to make their weapons more dangerous, no matter what they were using, whether it be a broadsword or a towel. Scribemages could use magic to help them figure out tough problems, like math equations of finding out the theme of literary works. There where sub-branches, too, but so many of them that it would take Matt all day to name them.
Matt shook his head and tried to get back to work. He couldn't afford to stop and ponder his dreams when he had work to do. He picked up the piece of wood he had come for and put it down on the tree stump. He raised his ax and slammed it down, cleaving the wood in two.
The sun was a deep, warm orange as it slowly disappeared under the horizon. Matt admired the orange and purple sky as he lied on the beach. This was Matt's place where he could be alone and think for a while with no one disturbing him. Only him and Mack knew about this place. Matt could sink into the soft, warm sand and lose himself for a while, whether he was dreaming up fantasies or praying to his parents.
But tonight was different. Tonight he was thinking about who he really was.
He knew he was Matthew Daniels, of course, son of the late Mr. Andrew Daniels and Mrs. Faith Baker Daniels. But who was Matt Daniels? In his own eyes, Matt was just an ordinary kid. He had no claim to fame, he was just your average run-of-the-mill teen. The only thing special about him, he felt, was that his parents died and now he was the town's chore boy.
Footsteps padding on the sand snapped him out of his thoughts. He turned around and saw Mack walking towards him with what looked like a loaf of bread wrapped in a cloth. Mack came over and sat down next to Matt.
"Hey," Matt said.
"Hey," Mack replied. "How's it going?"
"Fine, I guess." Matt shrugged his shoulders and stretched, arching his back, looking up at the sky. "What do you have there?" he asked, pointing at the loaf.
"The chocolate chip coffee cake," answered Mack. "Here, have some," he said, passing the loaf.
"Thanks," Matt said, taking a piece. He took a bite and closed his eyes. "Hmm," he groaned. "I think this is the best thing Debbie has ever made," he mumbled through a mouth full of chocolate chips.
"Yep," Mack agreed. He reached over and took a piece for himself. They sat there for a while, watching the sunset and eating coffee cake in silence.
When the only thing left of the coffee cake was a few crumbs in the cloth, Mack said, "So, what's the matter?"
Matt sighed. "Mack, let me ask you a question. Who am I?" When Mack looked quizzically at him, he clarified, "And I don't mean my name and things like that. I mean, what makes me me?"
"Well," Mack began. "I think you're caring, for one thing. I think you're a hard-working, athletic and handsome young man." At that Matt became a bit proud and embarrassed at the same time. "But most of all, Matt, and listen to me," he said seriously, looking Matt in the eyes. "I think you're strong. Not physically, I mean, even though you are, but mentally and emotionally. You've never let your emotions and feeling get the best of you. Even when you're parents died-" Matt winced internally at the mention of that- "you never broke. You have never let Manuel have the satisfaction of you feeling bad about yourself and having the last word. Matt, that's something most don't have, myself included. That's something that makes you you. All of what I said is what makes you the amazing person you are," he finished.
By this time, both Mack and Matt had tears streaming down their faces. They embraced each other in bear hugs, slapping each on the back.
Matt pulled away and said, "We better not tell Debbie we cried like girls, or we'll never hear the end of it."
Mack leaned back and roared with laughter, his bellows echoing in the night sky.
Matt lay his bed of hay, trying to go to sleep. He thought about what Mack had said and felt something root itself in him. It was a feeling of proudness, and it was for who he was and what he stood for. He wouldn't let anyone, Manuel included, change him, no matter what they said about him. That night, Matt Daniels fell asleep thinking that he knew who he was and what he was meant to do.
Little did he know that his life was soon going to change forever.
The gravel crunched under Matt's feet as he trotted on the main road of town. He shaded his eyes from the bright noon sun and made his way through the crowd.
He stepped into the tavern, the smell of freshly baked bread enveloping him. His eyes scanned for an open seat. When they found one, Matt made a mad dash for it, because everyone was trying to get served in here.
Matt smiled faintly, remembering a time that he and his best friend, Will, had tried sitting on the floor to be served. They had gotten kicked out- literally, by the angry customers whose ways they were blocking.
His friend, Jenny, who was a waitress, came over to him. "Hi, Matt! What can I get for you today?" she asked him cheerfully.
"Hi, Jenny," Matt said. "Can I get two chicken pot pies, please?"
Jenny cocked her head to the side. "Why two?" she queried, confused.
"Oh, my friend is coming soon," Matt explained. "Don't worry, I'm not that hungry," he said, chuckling a bit.
"Oh, okay," Jenny said, also laughing. "Is there anything you would like to drink?" she asked.
"Two ice waters are fine, thank you," Matt answered.
"I'll put the order in now," she said as she walked away.
"Thanks!" Matt called as she walked into the kitchen.
Matt looked around the room, seeing if Will had arrived yet. He didn't see Will, but something else caught his attention. On a post near him, there was a sign. It read:
Come show off your skill
Annual Red Orchard
Sword Fighting Competition!
Win Real Money!
Now Just 2 Days Away!
Sign up now!
Next to the sign was a list with a few names written on it.
As Matt dreamed off gaining all the fame and glory from the competition, he felt a finger tap his right shoulder. He looked up behind him and saw a skinny, tan, and blonde boy grinning ear to ear. "Am I late?" Will asked.
"Like always," Matt replied. "How many days were you late in school?"
"Eighty-two," Will said as he sat down. "But hey, that's less than half, right?"
"Yeah, but just barely," Matt said. "Miss Down must have thought you had something against her."
Will had been Matt's best friend ever since he had stuck up for him against Manuel and his groupies. In return, Matt had helped Will in school, tutoring him. From that point on, Matt and Will had been inseparable. They spent the most time they could hanging out and goofing off with each other, even now, in the summer, when Will had to train to become a fisherman and Matt was doing chores for the whole town.
As the two friends talked and laughed, Matt's eyes drifted towards the sign again. Will saw this and looked at it, too. "Are you thinking about joining the competition?" he asked.
"Yeah," Matt said. "Do you think I'd do well?" he asked.
"Well?" Will replied. "Matt, you can win the whole thing! You've kicked my butt a whole bunch of times! You're the best teen swordsman in Red Orchard, if not Eastern Palasia! Come on, let's sign up!" he said excitedly, standing up.
"Wait a second," Matt said. He had a bemused expression on his face, with a curious smile.
Will stopped and turned towards Matt. "What?" he asked.
"You said 'let's', as in, 'let us'," Matt said. "You're going to join? You suck! Will, you will get crushed!"
"I don't care," Will said, shrugging. "Besides, I've grown stronger by helping Fisherman John around. I think I've improved my strength."
"Okay, okay, if you say so," Matt said. "But when you break three of your ribs, don't cry and blame me."
Will just rolled his eyes and went up to the sign. He wrote his name and then handed the pen to Matt. Matt wrote his name and then sat back down.
"Okay, so here's what we're going to do," Matt began, but before he could continue, Jenny brought out their meals. The boys thanked her and she walked away.
When Matt resumed talking, he noticed that Will wasn't paying attention to him. His eyes followed Will's glazed over ones and he realized that Will was staring at Jenny as she walked around the tavern.
Matt shook his head, silently laughing. 'Look at this,' he thought to himself. 'My best friend is crushing on the pretty waitress from the tavern, and I'm stuck watching him.'
Matt snapped his fingers in front of Will's face. "Will?" Matt asked. "Will! Snap out of it!" he shouted.
"Wha? Huh?" Will said, coming to. "Oh, sorry, Matt! I must have zoned out. I didn't get much sleep last night, so I'm tired."
"Yeah, sure," Matt replied. "Do you want to go to bed, maybe with Jenny in your arms?"
Will's face turned as red as a cherry. "Wha-?! No, no, no, it's not what you think!" he began.
Matt gave him a look and said, "Will, you know I'm not stupid. I know a huge crush when I see one."
Will sighed, slumping in his seat. "All right, fine," he admitted. "Maybe I do have a crush on Jenny, but it's impossible not to! I mean, look at that long, chocolate hair, and those blue, sparkling eyes..." he said, trailing off.
Matt shook his head. "You're a hopeless romantic, you know that, right?"
"Hey," Will shot back, but couldn't come up with a good comeback. "Can we just focus on the tournament now?" he asked.
Matt laughed as he began to lay out the plans for what they were going to do.
Matt and Will stood facing each other, wooden swords in their hands. They stood in a forest, the sunlight penetrating through the high, long branches. Will had a confused look on his face, and Matt was smirking at it.
"Wait a minute," Will said. "You want me... to attack you?" he asked, bewildered.
Matt shrugged. "Yeah. Don't worry, I know how to block," he said, getting into a stance. "Come on, hit me."
Will advanced uncertainly, circling Matt. He would start to advance but would pull back at the last moment in fear of hurting his friend. But after what seemed like an eternity, he lunged at Matt, swinging his sword overhead.
Matt blocked the blow easily, but he said, "Good! Come on, kick it up a notch."
Will smiled and then advanced, and then the fun really began.
Matt stood watching, studying Will's tactics as he battled another man. The other man danced back a bit, then lunged forward as he stabbed at the Will. Will blocked the strike and quickly countered, causing the other man to stumble back.
Not much of a soldier, Matt thought of Will's opponent. A fencer, maybe, but he's not meant for this kind of fighting.
The previous day, Matt and Will had trained their asses off. Matt had taught Will how to attack, block, and counterattack properly. They had practiced on trees for most of the day, but they also had a duel before sundown. Matt had won, but Sam, who had improved greatly, had put up a very good fight. To prove it, Matt had a big, purple bruise on the side of his ribs.
They had also gone to the local blacksmith the day before to get their swords. Both Matt and Will had used almost all of their allowances to buy them. They were nothing fancy, but they were made of very strong steel. Will had gotten a short sword called a katana, with a flat, lightweight but strong blade. Matt had gotten a traditional broadsword, which he now put his hand on, for he was up next.
Will's opponent lunged with an overhead strike. Will swung his sword into his opponent's, blocking it and knocking it out of the man's grasp. He then kicked the other man in the back of his heel, and this time it was him who went to the ground. Will put his foot on his chest and pointed his katana at his opponent's Adam's apple.
The referee blew his whistle and shouted, "Game!" He walked over to Will and raised his hand high in the air. The crowd applauded and cheered as Will walked out of the ring. Matt high-fived him as he was walking to the ring. "Nice job, man!" Matt said. "You're in the semifinals!"
"Thanks!" Will replied. "I wish you luck! You're up now, I think. And you'll never believe who you're fighting."
"Who?" Matt queried as he took a drink of his water.
"Manuel," Will said as he took a drink from his own canteen.
Matt spewed out all of the water in his mouth as he tried to register the fact that Manuel was sword fighting. "That oaf? No way. That's impossible! How the hell did he get this far in the tournament?"
Will shrugged. "Beats me. Did you know that he stole a piece of cake that my aunt gave to me last night?"
"That fat asshole." Matt shook his head in disgust.
"Don't worry, it's all right. I don't think it's helping him today, right?" Will laughed. "Besides, you got this, Matt."
"Thanks. Hey, who knows, maybe we'll be battling each other in the finals!" Matt said.
Will laughed. "If that happens, I think the fight will be over very fast. I'm no match for you, Matt."
"Aw, come on, Will, don't be so hard on yourself. You're a great swordsman, and you don't give yourself enough credit. You improved immensely," Matt said, trying to encourage his best friend. "Now, I have to go kick this guy's butt. Cheer me on!"
"Okay, I will! Thanks, Matt! Good luck!" Will shouted as Matt climbed into the ring. "I wonder what immensely means," he wondered when Matt was gone.
Meanwhile, in the ring, Matt lowered his visor and pulled his sword out of his scabbard. He looked up to face his opponent and saw the great hulking mass that was Manuel. He held a giant broadsword in his meaty hand. He had a nasty sneer on his face as he put on his helmet.
"Manuel," Matt said as they met in the center of the ring to shake hands. "I'm surprised to see you here. How the hell did you get past the first round, much less to the quarterfinals?"
"That's none of you're business, Daniels," Manuel replied. "All you need to know is that I'm going to smash your face into the ground."
"We'll see" was all Matt said as he walked back to the corner of the ring.
"Ready..." the referee called. He blew his whistle and then the match began.
Manuel let out a battle cry and started charging toward Matt, his sword raised high in the air. Matt dodged to the left as Manuel brought his sword down with surprising speed and strength. Manuel growled and rushed Matt again. This time, Matt didn't dodge. He blocked the blow and swung the flat of the blade into Manuel's ankles. Manuel went down onto one knee and raised his sword just in time to block the strike that Matthew would have knocked him out with.
Matt let Manuel get on his feet. He could have beaten Manuel right then, but he wanted to have a little fun with him. Manuel was the one who made fun of Matt every chance he got, and Matt wasn't going to let a chance like this escape. Oh, no. Matt was going to make this humiliation veeery humiliating.
Manuel got up, staggering a bit. He was pissed now, and his eyes burned as he glared at Matt. With a savage yell, he sprinted to Matt and started swinging his sword in wild, uncontrolled strikes. Matt retreated as fast as he could. He didn't want to be anywhere near Manuel's attacks.
An idea sparked in Matt's head. When Manuel attacked with another with his crazy swings, Matt jumped back. When Manuel's sword was taken down by momentum, Matt swung his sword as hard as he could into Manuel's to the side. The sword flew out of Manuel's grasp. Matt then stepped forward and slammed his sword into the back of both of Manuel's ankles.
The blow was so hard it swept Manuel off of his feet and made him to a backflip in the air! Manuel landed on his back with a loud SMACK! Matt wasted no time in pointing his sword at Manuel's throat.
As the referee blew his whistle and raised Matt's hand, Matt heard a great big cheer come from the crowd. It was Will, and he was yelling at the top of his lungs. "WOOOOOOOO! Go, Matt! YEAAAAH!" He then turned and started jeering at Manuel. "Hey, fat ass! Did that piece of cake you stole from me do you any good? No? Well, HA HA! Sucks to be you, huh!?"
The crowd laughed and booed along with Will, and Manuel's face turned cherry red. He glared at Will and slid his sword across his throat. He stomped out if the ring and back to where his clique was hanging out.
Will slapped Matt in a bear hug as he came out of the ring. "Dude, you're in the final! That was awesome! You totally humiliated him!"
Matt laughed. "I humiliated him? Will, you totally roasted him! That was the greatest insult I ever heard! I'm telling you, that was hilarious!"
Will bowed. "It was my pleasure, sir," he said in his most serious and most formal voice.
They both laughed. The two best friends sat down on a bench, feeling like they were on top the world. This was turning out to be the best day ever, the both of them agreed.
Or so they thought...
After the lunch break, Will and Matt went to the woods behind the ring and they both found a tree. They then started to attack the trees and practice their skills. Soon the tree was full of cut marks and barely recognizable. Most of the bark was gone and there were deep cuts in the tree. Matt was so zoned in on his swordsmanship that he only noticed that Will had left when Matt had finished himself.
Matt, glistening with sweat, went to Will, who was polishing his sword back at the ring. "Hey," Will said. "I'm up next."
"Good luck," Matt said, stretching. "Who are up against?" he asked.
"Duke," Will replied. Duke was Manuel's second in command, and his bodyguard. He has a giant, threatening man, with huge, bulging muscles and a no-nonsense attitude. He did all of Manuel's dirty work because Manuel was too fat to fight anyone hand to hand. Manuel had tried one time against Matt, but it didn't go too well for him. He had gotten a bloody nose and two cracked ribs as a result.
Matt stood on his tiptoes, trying to see if he could find Manuel and Duke in the ginormous crowd. He did, and what he saw worried him. He saw Manuel whispering in Duke's ear, with Duke listening carefully, hanging on to every last word. Manuel had a stick on the bench that he and Duke were by, and Manuel raised his sword and swung it down, breaking the stick in half with the flat of his blade. Matt saw Manuel's head turn, and he quickly ducked down to avoid being seen.
Matt hurried over to Will, who had disappeared again. He found him buying a lemonade and a donut. He grabbed Will by the collar of his shirt and dragged him away from the vendor. He started to say, "But my donut!-"
"Will, listen," Matt said. "I don't know for sure, but I think Manuel is planning something with Duke."
"What do mean?" Will asked, worried. Matt could tell this by not only the creases in Will's forehead but by the fact that Will's knee was bouncing. Will's knee bounced whenever he was nervous, but the local doctor said it was nothing to worry about. "Just jumpy nerves" were his exact words.
"I saw Manuel with Duke, and it looked like they were up to no good." Matt said. "I saw Manuel break a stick in half, and I think that he wants Duke to do the same to you."
"Hmm," Will said. "I think he wants to get back at me for what I said when you beat him. Anyways, I'll be careful. Thanks for warning me."
Matt started to say something, but he was cut off by a loud, booming voice.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MAY I PLEASE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION." The crowd quieted down. A frail, skinny man climbed up onto the ring. He was bald on his head but had a big handlebar salt and pepper mustache. He wore a long, purple robe with the insignia of a gavel on it, and thick glasses rested at the tip of his long, pointy nose.
"I am Judge Fitzpatrick," the man began. "Many of you know me, as I am the judge of Red Orchard. The officials of the tournament have allowed me to be the honorary referee for the last two matches of the game. First up, we have Duke Brain and William Johnson battling each other in the second semifinal match. After that, the winner will challenge our other finalist, Matthew Daniels, for the championship. Can Will and Duke please be ready to fight in five minutes, please? Thank you!" Fitzpatrick walked off the ring as the crowd applauded and cheered.
"That's Manuel's father, right?" Matt asked as he helped put Will on his armor.
"Yeah," Will answered. "I wonder why he is so skinny when Manuel is like a balloon."
Matt snorted. "Probably because Manuel takes half his food!" he said, chuckling.
Will laughed, his shaggy blond hair shaking. "Good one!" he said as he put on his helmet.
Matt buckled a final strap on Will's breastplate. "Be careful, alright?" he asked Will with a worried look on his face.
"Don't worry, I'm Will," Will replied as he put his sword in his scabbard.
Matt frowned. "No, it's 'I will', not 'I'm will'," he said, confused.
"No, I am Will. Get it?" Will said, smiling.
Matt shook his head and chuckled. "I'm serious, Will."
"Don't worry, I can look out for myself" was the last thing Will said before he walked to the ring.
Fitzpatrick shook Will's hand as he entered. He said, "Ladies and gentleman, our first semifinalist, William Johnson!" The crowd applauded as Will raised his hand in the air and waved. Matt let out a big cheer.
A huge, hulking figure walked onto the stage. It was Duke, and he looked like a giant compared to everyone else. His silver, bulky armor only made him look bigger. Matt gulped, and he could see that Will's knee was bouncing again, too.
The judge turned and jumped a the sight of the gigantic man. "Oh! Um, uh... Our other semifinalist is Duke Brian!" he said a bit unsteadily. He shook Duke's hand as he did with Will. He visibly winced and let a high-pitched "Ooo! Nice grip you got there!" He tried to cover to up with a cough, but it didn't hide anything.
"Okay, then, let's review the rules, shall we?" Fitzpatrick said, taking a sheet of paper out of his robe pocket. "Ahem," he said, clearing his throat. He began to read: "The rules are: 1) There shall be no maiming or killing in this tournament. 2) There shall be no form of cheating. 3) There will be..."
As one half of Matt's mind listened to Fitzpatrick drone out the rules, the other half thought about what Manuel could have planned with Duke. Matt racked his brains, but he couldn't figure it out what was going on. Damn it, he thought. ' guess I'll have to deal with things as they come.
Not a good idea, Matt.
Once Fitzpatrick finished listing all the rules, he put the list of rules back in his pocket and shouted, "Let the games begin!" The crowd cheered as he stepped back to let Will and Duke shake hands. After that, the two contestants went back to their respective corners of the ring and rested their hands on their scabbards.
"Ready!" Fitzpatrick called. Will and Duke drew their swords. Duke wielded a huge broadsword, which made Will's katana look like a toothpick in comparison. Things did not look good for Will.
"Go!" Fitzpatrick shouted. He blew a whistle and the match began.
Will struck first, trying to slash and get to Duke's weak spots in his armor. But Duke denied him, simply knocking the sword out of the way. Then Duke started to advance, bringing great, forceful blows down on Will. Will was barely able to fend for himself, dodging the strikes in the nick of time.
Then Duke leaned back and swung his sword so hard that it kicked Will's for his grasp. The katana flew in the air and landed with a THUD! on the ground. Will had lost.
But even as Judge Fitzpatrick declared him the winner, Duke wasn't done yet. He walked over to Will, pushed him unceremoniously to the ground, and smashed the flat of his blade on top of Will's kneecap.
Matt could hear the tearing of ligaments and the breaking of bones and a whole bunch of other stuff that he didn't want to think about. But above all that, he heard Will's scream. His painful, wretched, agonizing scream. It was one of the worst things Matt had ever heard.
A swarm of men rushed towards the ring. Matt heard a voice yell, "Order, everyone, order!" It was Fitzpatrick, trying to get to the frenzied mob to listen to him, but to no avail. The shouting and fighting continued. Sighing, the judge grabbed a megaphone and bellowed, "LISTEN UP, GODDAMNIT! STOP ACTING LIKE A BUNCH OF SCHOOLCHILDREN AND SHUT YOUR YAPS! EVERYONE EXCEPT THE DOCTOR BACK THE HELL UP!"
The crowd quieted down and moved away from the boy. Will was withering on the ground, still screaming. Fitzpatrick and the doctor knelt by him, trying to soothe him. Fitzpatrick yelled out, "Does anybody know this kid?"
"I do!" Matt called out. Fitzpatrick motioned for him to come in the ring. Matt bounded up the steps as the doctor called out orders. "It's not looking too good!" the doctor yelled. "I need a stretcher, a-stat!"
"Will!" Matt said as he slid to where Will was.
"Matt, it hurts..." Will moaned.
"I know," Matt said. "But hey, at least I won the tournament, right?"
Before Will could answer, Fitzpatrick butted in. "Sorry, kid, but you still have one more fight to win."
"What?" Matt said. "Who am I going to fight? Duke is disqualified, and Will obviously can't fight. There's no one left."
"Actually, the rules of the tournament state that in a situation like this, the person that you beat would be eligible for a spot in the finals. So that means Manuel, my son, will be fighting you!" the judge said with a smile.
Matt looked up, furious, as he saw Manuel enter the ring with a leering smile on his face.