Abandonment Party 2: Chapter 16 (Second Draft)

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In this chapter Dark is set to face off against his friend Mean in the last semi-final match of the “Two Lives to Play” tournament. As I stated before, something bizarre happened as I wrote the first draft on this scene.

You see, in my head I had it all planned: Just before the match Mean would find out that Gamemaster Kello had seen Dark’s face. It would be a tournament rule; to prove his armor wasn’t remote controlled or something. This would make Mean FURIOUS that Dark revealed his identity a stranger, since he’s refused to show his face to his friends–and even to her.

And I thought that would be an awesome conflict. Dark would step in the ring, clueless, and then Mean would just be standing there, silently RAGING. Then boom! The match would start and Mean would just knock Dark to the ground. She’d tear the ring apart with her magical fury, pinning him down with the rubble. Ooooh-it was going to be dramatic! She’d be crushing him and he’d be saying other dramatic things to get her to stop. What an amazing spectacle it would be!

But the unthinkable occurred: What I wanted to happen didn’t happen! Instead, I wrote a friendly match full of sportsmanship and fun. It’s as if the characters themselves subverted my will; acting on their own to shape the story. A hateful battle would go against the friendship I had built, so it just didn’t take place.

I think that forcing a confrontation wouldn’t have worked for the plot anyway. So thanks, imaginary characters! I’ll let you off easy–this time.

DRAFT START

16 – Unexpected Flight

 

Vornis watched, dazed, as the glass surrounding the arena was lowered. The plate next to the shattered chair was cracked, and the broken surface ground against the ring as it slid out of sight. Voices gathered in the beast’s head now, along with the remarks of his friends as they came from the stands. Templetine stood, chuckling. The hair on his chin and his scalp was longer now, radiating in sharp tufts away from his face. Every strand was a deep black up until the end, where a tiny length of pure white marked the tip.

“You’re just like everyone else,” Templetine said, his voice deep. “Breaking everything that you touch.” He spoke to Vornis, yet his eyes were fixed at a point in the sky. “And you call yourself ‘beast.’ As if that would distinguish you from the others. You all wear the same face to me.”

He uttered a laugh, and turned to the crowd with his eyes still aloft. “I will conquer the final opponent tomorrow!” Templetine announced. He strutted out of the ring as Mean arrived, landing next to Vornis.

“You okay?” she asked.

“I don’t think I know,” he replied. “I was with Zenny, then–I was here? I am here, right?”

“You’re here, Vornis,” Tome said, climbing up the stairs. “I saw what Templetine was doing this time. He was cheating.”

“You saw what now?” Conneld asked, landing on the emperor rory with King, Dark, and Darrow. “You’re making it sound as if you could see the patterns–even through Pinada’s wall.”

Tome closed his eyes, sighed, and squinted over at him. “No. But after watching Parlay’s match yesterday I noticed that I could just observe a reflection.” He nodded over at Dark. “Dark’s armor reflects certain patterns. With him sitting up on the pedestal with you guys, I realized that I could catch any that bounced off from the ring.”

Conneld stood with his lips puckered over his manicured beard. “Tell me what you saw, then.”

“Alright. Vornis:” Tome began, “You started out fine. But Templetine tried the same trick that made you all rush the ring during Trisk’s match: He took thoughts out of other people’s minds and overrode your own.”

“That is not possible,” Conneld stated. Tome swept at the blond stubble on his chin.

“Can you just let me explain this?” he asked. “You did ask me to share what I know.”

“So–what–you saw the patterns?” Conneld asked. “You picked them out of the crowd and witnessed them moving between people? With all the interference here?”

Tome took a slow breath. “Yes. I saw two people in the audience thinking “the Beast should lose.” These two thoughts were shifted to the Beast’s brain. They merged with a third thought in his mind and overpowered it: causing him to believe that he should surrender. But for one reason or another, it didn’t work completely; he resisted.”

“Probably because “the Beast” isn’t his real name,” Conneld said.

Tome nodded. “A possibility.”

“I don’t remember doing any of this,” Vornis grumbled, sitting cross-legged.

“Well, that’s when Templetine began to get worried,” Tome went on. “As you fought the fake suggestion, he started to take every other thought pattern out of your brain. No–not just any thoughts. Memories. Everything that had happened today. You stood there, unable to think, as he sat down in the chair and Kello counted.

“But when he got to the memories from last night something happened–your instincts kicked in. The ones, well, you know the ones. The protective instincts. They were confused however; they knew you were in danger, yet the only thing going through your mind was your meeting with Zenny at the Dead Zone last night. So your brain improvised. Your mind concocted a false confrontation in order to make sense of what was happening in the present. Like a waking dream.”

Vornis’ grey brow wrinkled and his white eyes narrowed. “The last thing I remember is fighting Kay Kary–so, wait, that didn’t happen? A giant wrecking ball didn’t smash up her town?”

Mean chuckled. “No, what? We left you and Zenny alone for a while. We haven’t seen Kary until today.”

“This is going beyond absurd,” Conneld laughed. “I didn’t notice any of this and I was watching directly!”

“And there’s something else,” Tome said. “Templetine couldn’t have influenced the audience through Pinada’s walls. This leads me to believe that someone else is the one shifting the thoughts around; all Templetine is doing is combining them when they reach their target.”

Conneld suppressed a chuckle, shaking his head. “Pinada, are you hearing this?” Pinada was still outside the arena. He had one of his long coat sleeves pulled back. He stared at his watch.

Kello, who had arrived during Tome’s postulation, coughed. “I didn’t observe anything strange either.”

“Well, there’s a lot going on,” Tome said. Kello sniffed.

“I did not miss anything; my job is to remain focused on the match.”

“And who is this other person ‘manipulating minds’ or whatever?” Conneld asked.

“I can’t tell who it is,” Tome admitted.

Conneld smirked. “Of course not.”

“And here I’d thought I’d heard every excuse for losing,” Kello said. “Oh, wait–maybe I know who it is! Maybe Eon was right: the traitor Sing is haunting the arena!”

Tome’s yellow eyes snapped over to her and Conneld. “You’d see it too if you didn’t let your minds wander every few seconds. ‘This country is too hot.’ ‘I should buy a new parasol.’ I’m amazed that you concentrate enough to count all the way up to ten.”

“How dare you–!” Kello accused. She wrung her umbrella’s handle. Conneld frowned.

“Now, we don’t need to insult our gamemaster,” King said, stepping between them. “After all, we can’t prove any of this happened.”

Tome nodded. “I can. It seems that our mystery person can’t destroy memory patterns outright; he can only move them out of one mind and into another.”

“You’re saying they’re still here?” Conneld said.

“Oh that’s just wonderful,” Vornis growled. “So who has ’em, then? Did you see?”

“They’re right over there:” Tome said, gesturing, “At the losers’ table.”

Vornis twisted around, groaning. Caldera sat at one end, and Parlay at the other: with every other previous contestant seated between them.

Tome started over. “Now, we just ask about any anomalous memories that they have.” He turned back to Conneld with a small grin. “And since I know you were spying on us last night, you should be able to tell if their memories from the Dead Zone are true.”

King chuckled. “He’s quite good, isn’t he, Conneld?”

Conneld muttered, walking with the others as they left the ring. Vornis was first to the table, and Parlay look up at him with her wide, bright eyes.

“I’m sorry you lost,” she said. “At least you got to the semi-finals! That’s further than me!”

Vornis flexed his arms before letting them sag with a frown.

“Seems I’ve got a problem, though,” he announced to the table. “My memories from today and last night got swapped into you guys. We need to–ugh–hear about them from everyone. So that we can prove Templetine’s cheating.”

Jelk slapped the table. “Dang, so that’s why I ate breakfast twice!” he exclaimed. “And I remember going into the ring without getting booed.”

Conneld rolled his eyes. “Anyone else? Something from last night? Someone more serious, perhaps?”

Eon cleared his throat. He was clad in a bright yellow jumpsuit with the front zipper open half-way down his massive chest. Underneath was a shirt that bore the likeness of a man with drooping eyes. “I remember something,” he said. “I was in one of those areas free from the taint of magic. There was a woman. It was cold. She wanted to know why I had abandoned her there. But this vision is a gift from Sing: showing me the path I must take. I must free people like her–”

Caldera snickered. “Oh, right, your glorious psycho. Sorry to break it to you, but the only path you’ll be taking is to a padded cell.”

“What did you see, then?” Eon asked. Caldera looked down at his hat on the table. He touched one of the small, square bandages taped to his nose.

“I don’t have to tell you guys anything,” he said.

“Excuse me?” Donzel interjected. He raised his arm. “I remember something.”

“Oh, hey,” Vornis greeted. “Good to see you again.”

“Likewise,” Donzel replied. “And I remember the same woman, I think. She is important to you, isn’t she?”

Vornis swept his palm over the bald spot on his head. “Yeah. I don’t think things are going so well, based on what Eon said.”

“Well, I was kissing her in the, ah, memory,” Donzel stated. “I was–well, you–were quite passionate.”

“Woo!” Jelk squealed, stomping his foot. “Go, beastie, go!”

Donzel glanced at him. “Anyhow, after a while you began to tell her that you’d atone for some previous behavior. That you were going to make things better between you two.”

Vornis leaned closer. “Did she buy it? I mean, what did she say?”

“She seemed wary,” Donzel went on. “But I don’t know what happened after that.”

Jelk toyed with the tuft of hair below his bottom lip. “So who’s got the next part? This is getting juicy.”

“I’ve heard enough of this,” Conneld said. “If I need to know any more, I’ll investigate on my own.”

“But wait!” Vornis cried. Conneld cut him off.

“I’m sorry for what happened, but there’s no way I can link any of this to Templetine.” He tugged at his uniform and the medals clinked as they bounced on the ribbons hanging at his chest. “I’ll notify Kello of any progress I make.” He stepped away from the table, and Vornis looked to Parlay, Tenny, and Trisk.

“Well, do any of you know what happened next?” he asked.

“No,” Tenny replied. “I only remember being with Trisk last night.”

Jelk sat straight up. “Whoa, are you for real? How come I only got the crappy memories?”

Donzel shook his head and Parlay shrugged her shoulders. Vornis hissed through his teeth, looking over at where Caldera sat.

“What?” he uttered.

“You know what happened next–I can tell,” Vornis said. Caldera drummed his fingers on the domed hat that lay on the table.

“Why should I tell you?” he asked.

Vornis touched the blade sticking out from his side, then drew his hand back. “Look, I don’t have anything against you,” he said. “And we both got beat by that jerk. He’s scamming all of us somehow, and I think that the less we fight each other–the less satisfaction that smug idiot gets.”

Caldera clicked his tongue, looking sideways for a moment.

“Alright, fine; here it is: You said that after the tournament was done you’d try to get enough money together. You said that you would find an apartment in the dead zone.” He took an exasperated breath. “So that you could be with her from then on.”

Parlay attempted to hide a smile. Vornis slapped his hands down on the table, nearly causing it to tip.

“I said that I’d live there!?” he gasped. “How did she talk me into that!?”

Donzel looked down at the tablecloth with a blush. Darrow slapped Vornis on the shoulder.

“I’ll miss you, big guy,” he sobbed. “Have a great life.”

Vornis grumbled and tipped his head at one of the empty chairs next to Trisk. “So I guess I sit at the loser’s table for now.”

“And I suppose we’d better get in the ring, Dark,” Mean said. “We don’t want Little Miss Parasol tossing us out because we were two seconds late.”

“Yeah, good luck Dark,” Darrow said, walking off with Tome. “I mean, we know who’s gonna win, but good luck anyway.”

“Gee thanks,” Dark said, heading for the ring stairs.

Jelk perked up, sticking two fingers in his mouth and blasting out a whistle. “Time to party with the Darklord!” he cheered. “You got this!”

“You’re kidding, right?” Caldera chuckled. “He has no chance. I don’t see his guns and she can move that armor he wears.”

“Oh, I know,” Jelk said. “I’m just talking about his performance. Do you think people remember me for my wins? It’s the antics they crave!”

Dark climbed the stairs to the ring. Half of a smile stretched beneath the crack in his visor as he took his spot.

“What?” Mean called out. She took her side as well with a raised eyebrow. “Are you going to do something silly again?”

“Nope. I’m just thinking that you’re going down–” Dark expressed, pointing at the floor, “big time.”

Pinada lifted the glass walls. Mean let out a smirk.

“Start the match!” Kello announced.

“Alright, here we go,” Dark said, fishing around in his cape. “And look what I got!” Out from the black folds he presented an object: a remote control adorned with flat buttons.

“What is that?” Mean asked. She crept forward, keeping the chair between them.

Dark pointed it her way. “I thought you’d remember;” he said, waving it around, “you used it all the time!”

“Oh! My remote!” Mean said. “My thing-making one!” She put her hand on her hip. “So you’re going to use my own tricks against me?”

“Well you weren’t using it,” Dark replied. He began to press a few of the buttons. Mean flicked her fingers and the remote slipped from his hand.

“What was that?” she hummed. She gestured again and Dark wobbled. He clattered to his knees, catching himself with his arms.

“Hey now–you’re getting a bit too cocky,” he said, his arms quivering as he fought to hold himself from the floor. “I think someone needs to shut you down!”

Mean took light steps around to the chair’s seat. “I guess you’d better get rid of that armor if you want to teach me a lesson,” she said, sitting down.

“One,” Kello counted. Dark bowed to the mat: his helmet clunking against the surface.

“Oh wait!” he chuckled. “I can just fly out of here!”

The mat rebounded as Dark flew straight up into the air: his cape twirling as he flipped and came down next to the throne. As he landed, Mean jumped and sputtered.

“What!? How!?”

He picked her up in his arms. “How ’bout I throw you somewhere for once?” he asked, tossing her aside. She caught herself, hovering, as Dark plopped down in her place. Kello began counting for him now.

“When did you learn that!?” Mean cried. She pointed at Dark and he jerked forward. He leaned back into place with little effort.

“Oh, I’m not doing anything,” he teased. Kello counted to two.

“You’re moving your armor–canceling me out!” she protested. She gestured at the throne and it slid back; Dark fell from it. Mean floated at the chair again; Dark rose from the mat as well, barring her way in mid-air. He held his arms out from his sides, and his cape fluttered at his back.

“Okay, how are you doing this?” Mean said.

“Powers of Darklord,” he replied.

“Powers of bull crap,” Mean shot back. As Dark’s cape caught a breeze, Mean spied the rory clinging to his side.

“Told you it wasn’t me,” Dark said. “Cocoa thinks it’s his shell and that I’m just riding along. It started that night you went out to practice that spell. I’ve been practicing too.”

Mean shook her head, chewing her lip.

“Yeah, you thought this was going to be easy, huh?” Dark said.

Mean darted, swiping her hand at Cocoa. Dark swished away in a swirl of cloth, shaking his finger at her.

“Ah–remember!” he said. “Stone rories shouldn’t be touched!”

Mean withdrew her fingers. Dark danced in place.

“You’re loving this,” she stated.

“Sure am,” Dark said. “I think we should find a better way to settle this, though. How about a race? We fly to–oh, how about that tree on the hill over there and back? First to the chair wins.”

Mean scoffed. “Pft, the hills are covered in trees.” Shading her eyes with her arm, she peered out over the pyramid’s square sides. “Do you see that building the coasters are coming out of?” she asked, pointing with her free hand.

“Alright!” Dark confirmed, his body rocketing off before Mean could reply.

“Hey!” she called after him, zipping off in his wake. On the pyramid’s roof, Kello tossed her parasol down.

“King, your rory!” she demanded, motioning at herself. He raced to comply: straddling the shell and diving from the platform with one hand on the reigns and one on his crown. Kello scrambled on as he dipped close, clasping King around his hefty waist. With a kick of King’s heels the rory ascended again: racing after the two specks in the sky, leaving the spectators abuzz.

“I’m sorry!” Dark shouted back. He tipped his helmet forward and his cape rippled in violent waves behind him. “Cocoa just took off!”

“Yeah whatever!” Mean said, coming up behind him and snatching the hem of the billowing cape. He slowed for a moment and Mean nudged past him: kicking off his armor with one foot. As she whipped ahead she sent Darklord spinning. He righted himself and stopped to unfasten the clasps on his cape.

“Darn thing’s slowing me down,” he exclaimed, taking the cloth and tossing it back. King dipped his rory to dodge it; the wind caught the cape and blew it into Kello’s face.

Mean soared onward and the tops of colored tents rushed beneath her. A lone track snaked across her path, soon joined by others as she neared the painted, wooden tower. With a steady rumble and a choir of screams, a coaster rolled past. Mean dipped and followed behind it: settling on the tower’s roof as the cars were guided inside.

“Okay, Dark, I made it!” she called out, twirling back to face the pyramid. With a metallic flash the armored man bulleted onto the roof as well: catching the surface with outstretched legs and arms; taking off a few shingles as he slid to a halt.

“Oh, yeah, that’s much faster,” Dark said, leaping up. He brushed grit from his hands and shuffled a shingle back into its spot with his boot. Mean folded her arms.

“I’m kind of jealous;” she admitted, “that helmet and suit make you pretty aerodynamic. And the wind gets in my eyes–you don’t have that problem.”

“You’ll just have to wear a leotard,” Dark laughed. “And goggles. It would totally look great on you. Uh, oh–look who it is.”

He pointed up at the jeweled shell hovering in the sky. Kello gestured at them with steady strokes, counting.

“Oh, we touched down out of bounds,” Mean said.

Dark smiled. “It would be funny if we both lost right now.”

They both let out a chuckle and launched themselves from the roof. Dark took a quick lead and Mean swerved as he did: squinting her eyes and trailing at his heels. The Imperial Pyramid loomed before them, its wide top towering overhead. The layers of slanted windows stared back: tapering down to the pointed, angular base. Dark caught a glimpse of Mean following him in one of the window’s reflections.

“Hey! You slacker! You’re drafting!”

Mean smiled and they both cleared the rail at the roof’s edge. As cheers welcomed them, she gave Dark a nudge: his speed doubled; he overshot the ring and continued upward. Mean laughed and dove into the ring, where seventeen identical thrones now sat.

“What!? What is this!?” Mean asked. Knowing chuckles sounded from the crowd. She scowled back at them, and with a shimmer another throne materialized.

“Oh, you little–” Mean uttered as Dark came back from his trip, settling on the top of the glass wall.

“I set your remote to scan the chair and copy it while we were gone. How good is your memory?” he teased. King and Kello landed ringside.

“Goodness,” King stated. “What happens now?” Kello hopped from the shell, retrieving her umbrella from the ground and sweeping it onto her shoulder again.

“People have tried things like this before,” she sighed. “There’s a sliver of vein on the true throne; it can’t be duplicated.”

She watched as Mean lowered herself into one of the chairs.

“Hey, Kello,” she shouted, “does any chair count?”

The gamemaster said nothing. Mean muttered something as Dark settled into the chair next to her.

“So close, so close,” he said. His grin behind the helmet was brief; no count came; Kello shook her head.

“Crap,” Dark said, “Where was it?” He and Mean leapt up at once. She vaulted over the armrest and into the next chair in the row; he did the same, taking a chair in the other direction. Kello counted ‘one.’ Dark and Mean stared at each other.

“So who do you think got it?” Mean asked.

“Get up and find out,” Dark proposed.

“Two!” Kello announced. Mean rolled her left shoulder, staying where she was.

“So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh, Miss Mean Lavir,” Dark said.

“Yes it is, Mr. Dark Lord,” Mean replied. “You said whoever got to the chair first wins; this just makes it fair.”

Dark tapped the armrest with his fingers as Kello counted upward. “Makes it more excruciating, you mean.”

“Come on, man!” Jelk yelled from the loser’s table. He whipped his fist through the air, urging the crowd into a frenzy.

“Did you see which one got it?” Parlay asked.

“I lost track,” Vornis said.

“This is so stupid,” Caldera groaned.

“Ten!” Kello finished. “Me-anne wins! She will face Templetine in the final round!”

Applause showered the two as they rose from their chairs; another throne appeared and fell to the floor. Mean snapped the remote to her hand and she turned the thing off.

“You did it,” Dark stated, walking to her. “Good job.”

“You too,” Mean laughed. She took his hand and clasped it in hers: raising it up as the glass walls came down.

DRAFT END

Choice Edits:

16 – Unexpected Flight

I replaced the generic “VS” title. Since even I wasn’t expecting Dark to do what he did I think it’s appropriate.

“You’re just like everyone else,” Templetine said, his voice deep. “Breaking everything that you touch.” He spoke to Vornis, yet his eyes were fixed at a point in the sky. “And you call yourself ‘beast.’ As if that would distinguish you from the others. You all wear the same face to me.”

Now THIS character is going to do what I want. You ran off in the first draft, didn’t ya? You are going to stay put and say dialog this time! Then character development will occur! Do it!

“No. But after watching Parlay’s match yesterday I noticed that I could just observe a reflection.” He nodded over at Dark. “Dark’s armor reflects certain patterns. With him sitting up on the pedestal with you guys, I realized that I could catch any that bounced off from the ring.”

I didn’t plan this out ahead of time, but I always try to find details that can work for me. Parlay’s rebound spell from the earlier match, for example. I just thought it would make her battle more thrilling when I wrote it, but I realized that I could expand on the idea to make it more meaningful in the story.

Jelk slapped the table. “Dang, so that’s why I ate breakfast twice!” he exclaimed.

I think I might have copied this joke from an episode of Red Dwarf. Don’t tell Grant. You can tell Naylor, though.

“Oh wait!” he chuckled. “I can just fly out of here!”

In the first draft Dark pretended to remove his armor as a gag. I don’t think he’d kid around about something that’s been so important to him, so I changed the joke to this single line. It is now a callback to what Mean said when she was pretending to be powerless against Kay Kary.

I just get so nostalgic for those chapters I worked on months ago!

“Ten!” Kello finished. “Me-anne wins! She will face Templetine in the final round!”

Man, those plot twists just keep on coming. Don’t feel too bad for Dark; I MIGHT decide to let him do something cool in book five.

NEXT TIME–!

Wow, it’s time for the final match of the tournament! You know what that means! Yes, that’s right–! It’s time to spend an entire chapter building up suspense while the many characters do nothing but talk about what could happen next! YEEEEEAH!

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