Story Contest 2017 #2 Results » Highly Commended - Junior Category
“The Solar Tournament” by Raghav Katyal, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual International Short Story Contest 2017 which was organized by Kids World Fun.
The Solar Tournament
I was in a magnificent room. Its beauty was such that mere words could not describe it. Its pillars were one meter thick in radius and reached to an astounding height of ten meters. They were carved with the shapes of animals, the bull, the ram and the lion. Some sea animals such as crabs, scorpions and fishes were also there. Humans and a creature which had the hind quarters of a horse and the torso of man - a centaur were also carved on the pillars. Great red and yellow curtains bearing the sun decorated the length of the hall. Thirteen giant thrones, each of them different but magnificent the same, were also present there. The most magnificent one was placed opposite the door, right where the king’s throne was placed. It was made entirely of gold and shone with such blinding radiance that one was not able to see it without wearing sunglasses. Beside the throne stood a heavily muscled and tall man, or if he could be called a man for he was around three meters tall, wearing an elaborate crown inlaid with rubies with threatening fourteen inch long horns protruding from its sides. He was wearing blood red royal robes and sported a brilliant handlebar moustache which curved menacingly upwards at the ends. But despite his dangerous looks he seemed all gloomy and sad to me. He was staring hard at the throne and mumbling something softly under his breath. Usually I’m not a big fan of eavesdropping but I wanted to know more about this mysterious place so I drifted forward in the pearly white ghost like body I was having at this moment. As I got nearer I saw that he was on the verge of tears and was constantly chanting a single name- ‘Aldebaran’.
I woke up with a start and found myself sitting on my bed drenched in sweat. I had had a terribly terrifying dream and was recovering from the shock. Questions were running with the speed of light in my mind. I needed to think on this matter with a clear mind, so I decided to take a shower and go down to my mother. When I reached the dining table I found my mother reading the newspaper with a mug of coffee in her hand. On hearing the footfall of my steps she looked up and smiling at me said,’ Come dear. Did you sleep well?’ I sat down and poured out the last night’s experiences to her. She listened attentively and when I had completed, sat in silence pondering on the matter. When she did not give any reply to my queries for some time I became impatient and asked her roughly,’ so what do you think it is?’
‘Well I am not sure about it but I know one person who will be able to give answer to all your questions’, she replied.
‘Then please tell me who is it. I’m eager to meet him’, I asked excitedly.
‘For that we’ll have to go to the next block’, she answered.
We quickly got into the car and zoomed to the next block. On reaching there, mom pulled up to an old looking house which reminded me of graveyards, monsters and magicians. Mom rang the bell while I explored the walls and the lawn. When she did so, an old man who must’ve been in his ninety’s opened the door. He was very feeble and thin and looked as if one good gust of wind might blow him to pieces. He looked up through his spectacles trying to recognize my mother. On seeing her, a look of recognition spread over his face and he smiled toothily at her.
‘Ah, look who’s here. Megan isn’t it?’ he asked, still grinning.
‘Yeah, it is Megan. I think it would be better to get inside and talk, Galvinson’
We followed him into his living room and sat down on the couch. His living room was a musty place filled with dust as if it hadn’t been used in a long time. It was filled with antique stuff, furniture, vases and paintings all bearing a thin layer of dust. This man seemed full of secrets to me.
‘So, what have you come here for?’, he asked.
‘Well Al had a strange dream and I’m sure only you can decipher it’, she replied.
‘So young Aldebaran,’ he asked,’ what did you see?’
So again I told him about my dream, but his reactions were a totally different from my mom’s. As he heard me out he slowly began nodding at first and then a smile started spreading across his face. When I ended he clapped my back and said,’ Boy you are surely very lucky. I would give anything to get a chance like that. But we need to sort some things out first. So tell me exactly how the man in your dream looked?’
‘Well, he was pretty tall and muscular. He was wearing a scary looking crown with horns sticking out from them and had big moustaches like dangerous villains have. And yeah, that man wore red clothes’, I finished.
‘Boy, do you know who you saw?’ he asked.
‘Of course not or else why would we ask you’, I retorted.
‘This one’s got one jolly good temper. Well boy, that was Taurus, the storming bull, the angry one, the one with the raging temper, the crusher of foes and the general of the Sun lord’s forces’, he declared impressively with his arms open just like a magician.
‘I don’t know any crusher of foes nonsense’, I replied,’ ‘cause a crusher wouldn’t weep like a child. And why would he take my name?’
‘Oh kid, don’t you understand that you have been chosen for the one and only “The Solar Tournament”, he asked irritated. ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity’.
‘What’s this Solar Tournament and what’s so special about it?’ I questioned.
‘In this tournament thirteen champions fight to death and the winner becomes immortal’, he answered.
‘The offer of immortality sounds nice but the ‘fight to death’ part looks scary. And who chooses the champions’, I asked.
‘I can’t believe that Taurus chose you. The gods themselves choose the champions, boy. They send signals to their chosen champions and then the Guides, like me, are sent to prepare you for the battle’, he replied.
‘So, how will you prepare me for the tournament’, I asked.
‘Well, I’m sorry Megan but I can’t tell him anything in front of you’, he told mom.
‘I see. Al, I’ll be waiting for you outside in the car’, she said.
As soon as mom left, Galvinson stood up and shut the door. Then he covered the curtains and turned back towards me.
‘Now, follow me boy and we shall soon reach the House of the Sun. The champions are awaited there.’ He told me.
‘But you told my mother that you were going to prepare me for the tournament’, I asked him furiously.
‘If I had told your mother that I was going to take you to the palace she wouldn’t have let me do that. This was the only way. And I’ll tell you all the strategies when we reach there’, he replied calmly.
Somehow I steeled my mind to believe him and followed him to a corner of the room where an old mirror was kept. It had a faded gold colored border and some fading words were written on the top of it. To my utter surprise Galvinson walked into the mirror as if nothing was present there. As told, I followed him. When I passed through the mirror it felt as if the whole world’s fury had gone inside me. It raised the hidden sense of power I had never felt inside me. I emerged on the other side feeling strong and brave as if I had been born to lead. I had been pretty tall for my age but earlier I had looked like a pole- tall and lanky, but now I bore my height pretty smartly. In front of me stood a man who was rakishly handsome and stood tall and proud. He was totally unlike the old Galvinson who had been leading me till now. When I noticed him he said,’I see that you are truly a champion. Only one who knows how to channel his anger in the right direction will be able to travel through this pathway’.
‘I certainly feel stronger than ever. Now answer my two questions- First, where is Galvinson and second, where are we’, I asked.
‘Oh, don’t you recognize my new form? I’m Galvinson, but in my original form. The earlier one was a disguise’, he replied.
‘You’re missing Question 2’, I reminded him.
‘Oh, we are at the Raging Residence’, he answered.
‘I mean the Stampeding Shack’
‘I mean that we are at the heavenly abode of Lord Taurus.’
We entered inside to find a gleaming place having unbelievable things like robo-servants made up of gold moving around and doing their chores as well as food made up of jewels. Galvinson lead me to a head of a bull hanging on a wall and pushed one of its horns inside. A secret pathway opened up in the wall with stairs leading towards most probably the man of my dreams, Taurus. Galvinson motioned me to go forwards on my own. I slowly trudged up the stairs and came face to face with the great Lord Taurus. I bowed to him and looked straight into his eyes. He smiled at me warmly and said,’ Aldebaran, since years the house of Taurus hasn’t been able to procure a champion worthy of immortality. But as you have come I am sure that this time we will not fail.’
I humbly said,’ I will try my best, my Lord.’
‘Go young champion, prove your might in the arena’, he ordered me.
What next happened was a wild rush in my mind. A door opened somewhere at my side and with blood pounding in my ears I went forth to fight in the battle arena. Inside the arena, flags and banners emblazoned with the images of the various Lords and Ladies waved everywhere. From twelve other gates the rest of the champions entered. When we all arrived in the center of the arena we were asked to choose our preferred weapon. I grabbed a mace and stepped aside for the others to take theirs. We all were asked to go to the gates from where we had come from. When we reached our respective gates, a conch shell blared somewhere and the champions rushed forward to fight to their last breath and gain immortality. I fought with frenzied aggression. Pushing whatever came in front of me and striking with my mace here and there I moved on unchallenged. Soon the arena was littered with corpses and I was the only one standing. The bloodlust still in my eyes I lifted my mace and screamed for the whole world to sense the victor. The Lords and Ladies sat dumbfounded in their seats still absorbing the massacre that had taken place in front of them. The Great Sun Lord himself came to me and put his hand on my head. It felt as if a wave of pure energy had passed through me. I knew I had become immortal but I wanted to see the winning smile on the face of Lord Taurus himself. When I saw him, his expressions told me his feelings.