Chapter 20

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The three other survivors were Bheirz, Vhalk and Mharkhel. Bheirz was a finalist from the previous year and a local tough, the kind of person who lived for this sort of thing. His assets were his size and strength. His claim to fame was a barroom incident where he was reputed to have torn someone's heart out with his bare hands. Nothing was known about Vhalk. He was thin and tall, with lightning speed and amazing agility. He had been precise and masterful in eliminating each of his previous opponents. Mharkhel had been a cold, calculating machine, viewing his opponents as mere obstacles and brutally eliminating them en route to taking his revenge on Setryv.

A large crowd gathered for the first semifinal match. Among the spectators were the King, the Prince and Princess, and Vhyqyrd with his knights. Similar to the previous day, it was observed that Fhyndhella was not in the immediate presence of the Prince. It was also wryly noted that Jhyrenne, widely rumored of participating in sexual escapades with Rhenycyn (though not of late), was in attendance as one of Ellycyn's ladies in waiting.

The announcement of the first semifinal match drew a groan from the crowd. Bheirz had drawn Vhalk, which meant that Mharkhel and Setryv would meet in the other semifinal as opposed to the final.

There was a scramble to place bets as the combatants entered the arena. Bheirz was greeted by a scattering of jeers. He wore only leather and mail, spurning the use of a helmet or other protection. He chose his weapon, a battle-ax, then moved to the center of the arena. He raised his arms high, then flexed and showed off his physique. His short cropped brown hair and beard already glistened with sweat.

Vhalk chose a unique weapon, a double-ended sword. Like his opponent, Vhalk wore leather and mail but he also wore a light helmet with the visor down. Many thought it was more a means of disguise than protection. No one had seen Vhalk's face through the entire tournament and he had been careful to keep it that way.

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