Last FFF: Introduction
I woke up, face down in a clearing in the forest. I wiped the drool from my face as I regained my wits. The referees must have drugged me. I looked around, and saw two others still asleep, one male and female. I didn’t know how we all had come to be here. But I knew what it meant: my ticket had been called, and it was time to play.
This was the type of lottery that you hoped to never win. Pitted in mortal combat against other kids your age. Yesterday, we were learning how to drive. Today, we’d be learning how to murder. Sure, the winner gets a grand prize. But everyone else gets the unwanted eternal kind. I knew the rules, but it wasn’t what I expected when I entered to win the scholarship.
A stack of books sat in the middle of the clearing. I began to scoot towards it, staying low on my stomach. I watched as I crawled, waiting for the others to stir. They stayed asleep. I was about two feet away from the pile when a loud horn blared. The others shot up with a start, and I knew that my lead was lost.
I popped up on hands and toes and sprinted to the pile. The other followed suit and were closing in fast. The female had murder in her eyes. The boy was unsure, but committed. I scooped up as many books as I could, nearly tripping over my own feet in the processes. With my arms full, I took off running again, leaving only two books behind. They’d fight each other for them, which gave me time to escape.
I disappeared into the woods with my bounty. The light faded quick. I heard them shouting as they struggled and scrapped. Then there was a high, blood chilling scream followed by a sickening snap. I walked back toward the clearing, just far enough to see out, but still in the shadows. The boy stood over the limp body of the girl. Her head was twisted unnaturally. The boy was trembling. He had killed her with his bare hands. He stayed himself, took a deep breath, and calmly picked up the books.
He sat right there and began to read. Maybe this was my chance. Maybe I should rush him, take my chances. But brawn wasn’t the goal. I was here to learn. I was momentarily jealous of his reading light.
I had to move.
I went deep into the forest. When I felt I had gone far enough, I stripped off my shirt. I placed the books in the shirt, using it as a sack to carry them as I climbed up a tree. Once I breached the canopy, I had all the sun that I needed. The sun would set in the next few hours. I wasn’t worried about the dark. I was worried about the chaos that would befall me if we hadn’t finished the fight by then.
I situated myself in the tree top and read.
Some of my books were duds, set in the pile as decoys. There was Cooking with Apples and The Finer Points: Quilting With Alpaca Fur. I doubted either of them would be helpful. I hoped that the books I had left behind were equally as useless. But that couldn’t be counted on.
I let the dummy books fall from the tree and opened the first of the real books. How to Immobilize Your Opponent With Magic. I turned through the pages, trying to memorize what I could as fast as I could. One wrong syllable, and the spell wouldn’t work. But I was a quick learner.
Next, I turned to: Cloaking. This book not only told me how to do so, but also the subtle tells of others who were cloaked.
The next book was another cloaking, and I had two more copies on immobilizing. There must have been three of each book. This was good. It meant that he didn’t have all the same material that I did.
The last was thin, consisting of only one page, and titled: The Final Spell. I had two copies of it.
I spent all the time that I dared committing this one to memory. At a glanced, it seemed easy, as if I could just sneak up on him and whisper it. But things were never that simple.
I cloaked myself and headed back to the clearing. I found it empty when I got there, or so it would seem. The grass appeared almost golden in the light of the setting sun, and there was a boy shaped patch laying over near the middle. I crept ever closer, hoping to be as near as I could before I had to reveal myself.
I waited too long. I heard a rustling, and nearly lost track of him as he ran.
“Prohibere!” I yelled and pointed where I thought he was.
The sound of running stopped. I had frozen him in place.
“Revelabit,” I said.
As I did, he and I both uncloaked.
The sun was almost down, and I heard howling in the distance. I had to finish this fast.
I walked closer. He began to speak, but I stopped him.
“Selentium,” I said.
He couldn’t speak.
I had him right where I wanted. He was unable to cast any counter-spells, and unable to get away. He was ripe for the killing. I looked in his eyes. He still looked unsure, and worse, afraid.
I wasn’t certain that I could kill him. After all, he was like me. He just wanted to learn. I turned my head. As I did, my eyes glimpsed the body of the female. My conviction returned. With fury, I turned back to him.
The howls were drawing closer and I had to yell over them.
“Ad mortem te!” I screamed
Something sickening and dark filled me. I wretched, and the sludge bellowed out from me. It swirled around and swarmed the boy. It consumed him, the thick darkness nearly stifled his screams, but I could still hear them. A moment later, they stopped. The sludge seeped into the ground, and only a skeleton was left behind.
I dropped to the ground. I had won, but at a cost.
The sun returned to the sky, and a thunderous applause erupted. The sky changed, turning into a glass ceiling. A stadium appeared around me, and spectators were going wild.
An announcer sounded, his words boomed through the air around me.
“What an exciting battle. Certainly the quickest dispatching we’ve witnessed. We have our scholarship winner! Welcome to the class of 2020!”