Shiv stood in the middle of a large coliseum, the stands that surrounded the oval ground was empty but Shiv marveled at how high they reached. Rows of seats spanned like layered steps toward the sky.
“Get ready.” Nigel stepped onto the dusty ground from a shallow tunnel a hundred meters from Shiv. He wore full battle armor and wielded a large battle-ax.
“Ready for what?”
“Your training!” Nigel’s voice boomed like thunder and turned Shiv’s knees into jelly.
“Grab a weapon.” Nigel struck the blunt tip of his battle-ax on the ground. “Take any weapon.” He pointed at a boxed section on Shiv’s far left.
Shiv walked to the chalked ground and looked at the different weapons. There were swords of all shapes, crescent, straight, narrow, foiled, daggers, staffs with hooked blades. None of which Shiv knew how to use. He ran his fingers at the sharp blades and wondered what Nigel had in store for him. He noticed a particular piece at the end of the row of weapons. It was a pair of gauntlets. The gloves were tipped with two inch spikes and smaller rivets at the back. There was a guard of armor that extended to the forearm and ended with a long crescent blade at the elbows. Shiv thought that he was very good with his fists, often times winning numerous drunken brawls in his village. He didn’t know if Nigel was going to kill him but maybe he had a chance with this.
Nigel scoffed. “That is it?” He picked up the battle-ax and swung it over his shoulder. “You are going to fight me with a pair of gloves?”
“I’m good with my fists.” Shiv slipped on the first gauntlet. He tried to focus himself. He took a couple of deep breath’s and picked up the second gauntlet. Shiv looked at Nigel, it looked like the large man was bored. He really is large!
“No armor?” Nigel’s voice jumped a pitch higher than his normal tone. “You are very gutsy aren’t you?”
Shiv looked at the armor’s stacked on his right. They all looked large and very clunky. He thought that his only chance against Nigel was being nimble, his size would be to his advantage. If he wore any armor then he would lose that advantage.
Without any hesitation Nigel took a step forward and screamed. He threw his arm back indicating he was going to strike.
Nigel’s stomp shook the ground and Shiv found himself on his knee. He looked up and was surprised when Nigel swung the large battle-ax in a quick slash. Shiv crossed his arms and the loud clunking of metal against metal echoed in the empty coliseum. He’s quick!
“Come on Shivie boy!” Nigel jumped back and pulled out a large shield from his back.
Shiv looked at Nigel once more. The shield covered Nigel’s chest and legs until his knees. Shin-guards protected his lower legs and armored boots his feet. There wasn’t any open space on his whole body except for his head. Nigel’s head was covered thoroughly by his read hair which made his eyes tiny and beady. Shiv thought that if Nigel wore a helmet he would have no visibility.
Nigel roared. “Come on!” Running out of patience he leaped into the air and swung his battle-ax.
Shiv saw an opening, behind the shield was a leather vest riveted into an ‘X’. Nigel opened up his guard slightly in mid-air and all Shiv had to do was wait. He relaxed his arms and tightened his fist. Nigel was coming in closer. The moment had to be perfect, just before Nigel would strike his guard would be completely exposed. Now!
Nigel pulled his shield down and released the grip as it reached his feet. The impact of Shiv’s gauntlet on the shield provided Nigel with a springboard and he somersaulted onto the ground. The smile on his face expressed his delight at a good battle. “You surprise me human.”
One of the two inch spikes on Shiv’s right gauntlet cracked and Nigel’s shield wobbled on the ground. He could not understand how Nigel could move so fast with all of that heavy armor. He knew he would have a hard time carrying the clunky protection let alone move in it so quickly. Shiv thought that his best defense was a good offense. He needed to take the battle to Nigel. Shiv sprinted toward the large behemoth, the dollar buckle on his belt spun around quickly and he landed a straight punch into the leather armor of Nigel surprising him with his quick strike.
“Ooof!” Nigel took a step back and smile. “You really surprise me.” He laughed boisterously.
Shiv looked up at Nigel and then at his gut. The leather armor was unscathed, but he saw something strange a slight green glow. It looked like ripples on a lake after a stone skipped across it. “What?!” He pulled back his fist and looked up at Nigel. Before he could say anything the large backhand slapped across his face and Shiv slid across the coliseum ground on his chest, palms faced down . “Unhh..”
Nigel walked slowly toward Shiv and extended his arm. “Never leave your guard down Shiv…never.”
Shiv pulled himself up and touched the swollen purple spot on his cheek. “Ow!” He could not believe that there was not a single mark on Nigel, it was impossible. He hit him full on. “How? I hit you! How did you?”
Nigel dropped his battle-ax and smirked. He raised his arm and showed a golden bracelet on his arm. “This protects me.”
“What is that?”
“It is a gift from Esen.”
“Yes the queen.”
Nigel had it on both arms and he thought for a moment. He remembered that everyone in the eternal city had the same bracelet. Shiv looked at the bracelet closer. There were four wavy lines engraved on the bracelet, the same wavy lines that was on the hair clip that Esen gave to him before he met Nigel.
“Anyone who wears this bracelet is protected in the Eternal City.”
“No one can get hurt?”
“Not by ordinary attacks, but it has a limitation.”
“It can only protect from weak attacks, it cannot protect from enchanted weapons or powers of God’s and half-bloods.”
“So it protects you all the time?”
“As long as the queen is alive, yes.”
“Which reminds me.”
“Zakhira you can show yourself now.”
Zakhira stepped in from the shadow at the coliseum entrance. “How did you know I was watching?”
“You smell like your father.” Nigel laughed. “You need to take a bath!”
“Hmph!” Zakhira walked slowly onto the coliseum ground toward Nigel. “The queen told me to give this to …”
Shiv stood up and circled Nigel’s large frame wondering who this new woman who he never met was.
“Ry…ry…ryuu!” Zakhira ran frantically toward Shiv and buried her head in his chest breaking into tears.
Shiv looked puzzled. The woman whom Nigel called Zakhira sobbed and he didn’t know what to do. He looked at Nigel but all the giant did was scratch his head.
“Zakhira!” Nigel screamed.
“Ryuu…where? When? Why have you left me all this time?!” Zakhira rubbed her eyes and looked up at Shiv.
“Ryuu?” Zakhira cupped Shiv’s face in her hands and looked into his eyes. “You look different.” Zakhira couldn’t understand what it was. She looked at the young man, the features were exactly identical. Except for his eyes. The eyes of the man she was looking at was different…it was a different color, more importantly it was a different soul. “Who is he?”
Shiv pulled Zakhira’s hands away from his face. “I um…”
” Nigel placed his large hand on Zakhira’s shoulder making sure not to crease her beautiful green satin shawl. “Did you bring it?”
“Ye…yes…” Zakhira pulled a pair of golden bracelets from under her shawl and hesitantly clasped them on Shiv’s wrists. “Father just made them.”
“Good that looks like a perfect fit.”
“So now I am protected?”
“Esen watches over you now Shiv.”
“Shiv?” Zakhira turned to Nigel. “Nigel who is this boy?”
“He is a child of Esen now.”