The child has now learned what it means to be a fighter. He did not escape his first foray into this without injury, and was taken back to his original cell to be magically healed. He awakens to find himself being observed and tied down to his manger/bed, but is soon freed after a short visit by his master and some other.
With the return of his preferred solitude, he shows just how much he has learned with this passage here:
“He started on his routine, again using calisthenics, rather than running for the initial work. He drove himself even harder, knowing now what he would have to face. As he worked through his routine, he pushed himself to move faster than before and strike at the shadows with more force. As the torch guttered to its death, he practiced the techniques he had learned from his training to deal the same. The movements were now so much muscle memory, his mind was able to go over the fight from the Arena he had just endured. The agile maneuverings of his enemy, his own responses to their moves – both the ones that brought him proper defenses and those that brought him injury. His thoughts ran along pathways that were beginning to develop the tactics and strategies that he would use in the rest of his Arena career. As his mind worked through the maze of ideas that were spawning, his body shifted into the blend of techniques suggested by the mentally replayed fight.
Against his mental shadows he continued to work for many glass. When his meal arrived, he stopped to eat. After he had eaten in the same methodical way he had worked that morning, he tried to resume his work, but his stiffened muscles refused to cooperate. He found himself having to return to the warm up and stretching exercises again to loosen his body back up. Frustrated because of this, he fought to increase his speed yet again without sacrificing any of the precision he had learned. He sped through the first part of the day again, and approached the afternoon’s routine after several more exhausting glass. The routine he had started the day before began to flow through his mind, and his body followed in the complete darkness that was his first world. His muscles were finally loose and responsive, and the food he had eaten for the meal began to give him the energy and urge to fight – the blend of herbs in the meat proving to be as effective with his physiology as they were with any other. ”
We also discover that the fighters fight because of something more than just their training or desire for freedom – there seems to be something in the food they are given that makes them more aggressive and gives them a desire to go out and fight.
More of the culture is revealed with the response to his second fight – short, brutal, and bloody. But, the crowd’s do not approve. They don’t approve at all. As he is being sent out to his next match, he is given an instruction that allows him to show his adaptability – does he listen to the person who ordered him, or does he ignore it. By rights, he could have gone either way. Let’s see how he decides:
“”Make it last this time! Don’t cut it so short. Living is only part of it. Bore them, and you will die, Silk!”
The surprise almost caused him to stumble as he stepped out into the soft, giving Sands. He had never been given such succinct advice by anyone before. And he was forced to make the snap judgment if it was an order to be followed, or one that the speaker had any authority to give. Replaying the words as he searched the Sands, he decided that it was something he had to follow. He interpreted it as though it had to do with movement from the cell to the Sands. But how to obey nagged at him as he recovered his balance smoothly, and continued out to the center to await the start of the next fight. ”
He is beginning to think for himself, but there is no real direction for his thinking, except brute survival. He must survive his fights – he has been so ordered, and that is what he will do. He doesn’t know any other way to show his obedience.
In this fight, we get to see more of his adaptability, as his chosen amalgamated style is highlighted. He has to shift his style because of an unexpected injury, and along the way he has to figure out how to please the crowds. One of the ways he was doing so is highlighted here:
“His face losing even more of the boyish innocence that had marked him just two days prior. The attitude change was visible even to those in the lower seats of the stands, causing the crowds to roar their approval. It was a rare treat for them to see a boy become a man in the Arena.
Often the fighters that were introduced to were men much before their time; as such it was always a gamble on their endurance, not on their mental state. ”
The scene closes with a high point of his new career – he becomes known for the brutal way in which he finishes off his opponents. He may toy with them, but when he finishes them off, it is abrupt and bloody. It also has a terrifying finality about it, as can be seen here:
“When the end came, it was sudden; a similar repetition of the child’s debut. One moment, the two were contending for dominance over each other, their bodies clashing into each other, hands and feet flying almost beyond visible speed. Then suddenly, the child was standing alone, the opponent he had been pounding on collapsing slowly at his feet. Blood flowed from the nose and throat where the larynx had been exposed to the air of the excitement which had built around the two during the match. ”
That’s it for now. Until next time … keep those pages turning!
If I’ve peaked your interest, you can find a copy of Out of the Darkness on