Chapter 12:

Chapter 13: Jodoc & Iovita Run


“Now then, let us start round two!” the priest exclaimed. The volume of the audience had now gotten significantly louder. They must have been riled up because of the taste of blood they had gotten in the previous round. “Please gaze at the board everyone.”

Michael pressed his face against the cube hoping and praying he was next. The waiting was killing him. At first, three names lit up with a spark. None of them were of his teammates. Then another name lit up. Then another. Finally, he saw Jodoc and Iovita’s names light up. Michael kept his cool and backed away from the wall of the cube. The anxiety was getting to him hard. He needed to do something that would balance him out mentally, but this cube was not the place for it. He watched as sparks flew down the board again crisscrossing each other. Finally the sparks collected in a box at the bottom for the board and lit it on fire. When the fire cleared a “H” was burned into the wood. “An H?!? What does the H stand for?!?

“Let’s move on to the next round then! We have a climbing race!” the priest exclaimed. Michael glanced down and realized that the arena had not changed. As if on cue, the priest bellowed into the mike, “Oh great and mighty Altheggan, please bless us with a battleground worthy of this race!”
This time, instead of clouds, thunder, and lightning, the ground started to shake. It actually started to look like an earthquake was occurring. The audience remained unmoved and Michael realized that it was only the inner arena grounds that were actually moving. Suddenly a great rift tore open the earth at the far right of the arena and boulders began shooting out of it. Then, at the other end of the arena, a much larger rift tore the earth open. A mountain surfaced and was in place within 15 seconds. It was quite tall as the top of the mountain had to be quite close to the same height as the ring of the cubes.

Michael watched as the boulders that had shot out from the rift began rolling towards the center of the field and spreading out. It looked like they were creating a barrier. Albeit the barrier was quite loose. “Maybe they are supposed to be a hindrance and not a blockade?” The cubes containing Jodoc and Iovita along with their competitors all started drifting down towards the stage.

“Now competitors,” the priest began again, “please stay in your cubes. Kensia will be presenting you with a suit of full body armor.” The cubes landed in front, and just like before, the doors opened. The cubes turned opaque and a Kensia stepped into each cube carrying a body suit. They were all back outside of the cubes within a minute. The cubes became translucent again and took off for the far side of the arena. “Once you land, feel free to step out of your cubes and wait further instruction.” Michael noticed a mini-Iovita and Jodoc eventually stepped out of their cubes.

“Now then, let’s get on with the explanation and the rules,” the priest began. “You are all now part of the climbing race. What happens next is that when the horn is blown, you will start racing towards the far side of the arena where you must scale the mountain. You will be free and safe as you run across the field, however, once the halfway mark has been reached, small magic drones will be deployed. For your reference, the halfway mark is the boulders. Once you begin to cross over those, you will the magic drones will begin to hone in on you. They will only cast low-level spells at you to keep you paying attention to your surroundings. You must not be hit by any of their spells. Should you be hit, you will be out. On the way, you must also collect six flags. They will appear in six different colors; white, black, blue, red, green, and gold. Simply touching them will be sufficient as the system will register that you have collected that flag.

Once you have scaled the mountain, you will reach the summit. You flags will be waiting for you on the summit. A Flame magic drone will be nearby casting mid-level spells at you. Your task at the summit is to arrange the flags on a table presented before you without being hit by the magic. Should you be hit by this magic, you will most assuredly be out. There are also other perils along the way,” the priest smiled, “and some of you will just be unfortunate in that circumstance. However, you should be able to reach the top if you can keep your wits about you. Are there any questions?”

The players all nodded no.

“Well then I gue- Oh! Ladies and gentlemen, please look forward to this round! This is the ground with the rare twin participants. I am looking forward to what they will do and so should you!” Cameras flocked all around Jodoc and Iovita. Yet again, Jodoc stuck a pose and a smile while Iovita winked and blew a kiss into the camera. It had occurred to Michael that these gestures could have been something that the twins had rehearsed before coming to the race. “Now then members of the audience, Let us count down. 3 – 2 – 1 – Go!”

Jodoc ran as fast as his legs would carry him once he heard the horn blow signaling the start. He felt quite agile as he crossed the open plain. It was not uneven and the footing was good. Jodoc looked to his left and right and did not note anyone. He concluded everyone must be behind him and pressed onwards. Within a few minutes of running, he saw the boulders up on the horizon. They were laid in a manner so that you would have to stop running and walk through them. Weaving in between was seeming like the best option as it would not be physically possible to cross through them in a straight line.

Iovita had noticed that Jodoc took off at full speed, in typical Jodoc fashion, right at the start and was now well ahead of everyone. Not to be outdone, Iovita began to run at top speed. Iovita was still a bit behind Jodoc, but noticed two others running to her left. She noted that they were there and then tried to keep her distance so that they could not get too close and potentially complicate things. Pressing on a few minutes after that, she spotted the boulders as well and decided that this was where she needed to excel and make sure that she got the upper hand on her brother while still keeping him nearby. Iovita too eventually did reach the boulders and thankfully it was right on the heels of her brother.

Jodoc looked at the boulder wall and started weaving through them. Unfortunately, this slowed him down greatly as they were so close together. He was hoping that swaying from side to side would have been enough. He had to keep turning sideways to make it around the edges of a lot of the boulders. Jodoc’s ears picked up a faint breeze rustle behind him and ducked down immediately. No sooner had he done that, a piece of sky magic cut across in a blade right where his head had been crashing into the boulder in front of him leaving a large dent. It would not have hurt him with the armor, but then again, getting hit was akin to being out so he needed to exercise caution. “So they’re here,” he said. He wanted to press on, but he could not see where the drone was. He was not about to lose either. Jodoc decided after a few more seconds of silence to ease forward a few meters. All seemed to be fine as long as he stayed low. Looking towards his left, here was a white shape where his hand was and he withdrew it quickly. Not a second later, Sky magic struck the rock leaving a bit deeper of a groove this time. At least, he figured, he was getting advance notice.

Iovita decided that walking through the boulders was going to take too long and slow her down, so she ran up towards them directly with a half-thought out plan. Pushing through her heels, she jumped and kept her momentum going by running up the side of the boulder and scaling it. She reached to top and let her speed carry her by jumping across a few more boulders. She glanced behind her to the two others who had tried what she had just done and both failed miserably, falling flat on the ground. One started to weave into the boulders, but ducked down immediately to avoid a Flame spell. Iovita turned around and saw Jodoc running through the maze. Iovita also noted that the boulders actually continued on for a while. She decided to hop forward a few more boulders and then heard the sound of running water. A blue imprint was on the boulder she was standing on. Hopping immediately to the next boulder, a waterfall came crashing down on the previous boulder. Then she saw it.

Jodoc watched Iovita hop over him now. She turned around to look at him and stuck out her tongue. Realizing that this was a good idea, he positioned himself between two boulders and climbed up to the top. He saw Iovita dodge the Sea magic and then there was a scream from behind him. Jodoc whipped around to see a wall of water, clearly high-level Sea magic, race towards the competitor that was in last place. The magic drone that was chasing Iovita must have stopped and saw the person in last place. This must have been what the priest meant when he said that they would have some unfortunate events! The wall of water came crashing into him and the last place competitor was gone in a flash of light before he even hit the ground. This round had no mercy for stragglers, so Jodoc started moving forward, following in Iovita’s steps.

After seeing the Sea magic take out that last competitor, Iovita was now even more determined to win this race. Reaching the last boulder, she was getting ready to jump when she saw a blue shape on the ground in front of her. Instead, Iovita quickly jumped to the left and watched as a pillar of water now whipped up from where she would have landed. She slid down the boulder she was on and reached the ground. Gazing at the now wet ground, Iovita realized that could have been her. She would have been out. With a shiver, Iovita took off running, but she was not free from the grip of the drone. The Sea drone had taken note of her and was now actively pursuing her. It looked just like a slightly oversized magic sphere. The difference being, it had wings. Slowly casting magic at her, it gave chase. Iovita kept going as fast as possible until the grove of trees surrounding the mountain was in front of her. Without a second thought, Iovita pressed inward. Taking refuge under a tree, the drone seemed to be confused briefly. It sharply turned around and took off. Catching her breath, Iovita started looking around. There was a flag on the ground right next to her. Touching it, it disappeared!

Jodoc watched as Iovita disappeared from the top of the boulder barrier and then he too started moving towards it. On the way to the edge, an entire boulder flashed white and suddenly was swept up in a small tornado and gone. It may not have been direct sky magic, but had he not seen the white flash, he would have fallen down and been hurt. Maybe it would have been enough to lose. He saw another boulder light up in front of him. The instant that it did, he jumped towards another boulder next to it. He landed safely and keeping going. He finally hit the ground. So happy to be off of the rocks, he took a second to look ahead. Breathing quite heavily from all of the jumping, he heard a noise to his left and another competitor hit the ground next to him and started running. It was not Iovita. “You gotta be kidding me!” he yelled and took off. However, the magic drone had not forgotten about him.

As he was running, he noticed that the girl next to him was dodging Earth magic as well. In a split instant of rare genius, he started running closer towards her. When close enough, he pushed her slightly to the point where she yelled “Hey!” and stopped. “What was that for?” the girl yelled at him, but Jodoc was off in a second like lightning. His Sky drone had seen her and was zeroing in on her as was the Earth drone as well. Laughing, he kept running until he crashed into the grove too.