“You’ll see what’s in there in a little bit.” He told me, sliding the bag behind his feet. “Trust me, you probably aren’t going to find it fun anyway.”
“Fine. I’ll eat, but then you have to tell me what’s there.” I agreed and bit into my breakfast.
“We start training at 10:30 sharp. Be ready.” He told me and then took his cup of milk into the kitchen to put it in the sink.
“I’m ready whenever you are.” I informed him.
“Fine. We’ll start now.” He said, pulling the duffel bag out from under the couch. “This is what we’ll be using for training.”
Unzipping the bag, Drew pulled out a giant axe, a mace, and three small daggers. Twirling one of the daggers, he grinned and then set the rest of the contents onto the table.
“Worried yet?” He asked, smirking.
“Slightly. What are we going to do with those?” I inquired.
“Train. You’re going to be fighting Sikal without magic. It’s not going to be an easy task. You’ll need to be just as physically fit as you’ll need to be mentally.” Drew clarified.
“So I have to train with weapons?” I demanded. “I’m starting to think that I might not be up for this after all.”
“You’ll be fine.” Drew attempted to reassure me. “Starting out we won’t use the weapons, it’ll just be strength training with some cardio and things like that. Gradually, we’ll move up to using the weapons with some dodging and aiming practice.”
“I’m trusting you on this one.” I let him know. “If anything happens though, you’ll have to live with the guilt associated with my death.”
“I won’t have to worry about that.” Drew informed me. “Also, along the way, I’ll be introducing you to some other people who have gone up against Sikal. Are you alright with that?”
“That’s fine.” I started, curious. “How do you know so much about all of this though?”
“Just experience.” He said offhandedly. “That’s all.”
“Okay.” I said, unconvinced.
That morning, Drew and I began our first hardcore training session. We jogged, biked, ran, and boxed. It was rigorous, but Drew acted like he was just a daily routine for him. Every activity we did, Drew did with ease; both intimidating and impressing me. By the end of the day, I was completely worn out; every muscle in my body ached from the strenuous activity.
Coming into my apartment, I collapsed onto the couch and Drew offered to make some dinner. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to eat anything but to help himself to the sparse ingredients in the kitchen. It had been a little while since I’d been to the grocery store. He fixed dinner and I sat in the living room contemplating the idea that I had just begun a very eventful journey.
With seven weeks left before the duel, we started with serious cardio training for the first week and I met two other mortals that had been tested by Sikal. Andrew was a twenty-two year old who had been tested by Sikal two years ago. During his test, Sikal created an illusion that made the entire apartment building look like it was quickly engulfed in flames. Andrew, torn between which residents to save first, used his magic to relocate the apartment building to an abandon plot of land, leaving numerous mortals suddenly standing on the street completely baffled by the disappearance of their homes. Just as Andrew used his magic, the time limit wore off. His soul was safe.
Michelle had only been seventeen when she was tested by Sikal. A mirage of her mother appeared before her and appeared to be having a heart attack. Luckily, Michelle was able to identify that it wasn’t her mother. Her mother had died two years earlier in a car crash; one detail that Sikal clearly didn’t know. That was what had prevented Michelle from losing her soul that night.
Both of the people I met that first week of training had been incredible. Their stories had deeply touched me, but also made me feel like I was an even bigger failure for not having been able to outsmart Sikal. Drew told me not to focus on this; that Michelle or Andrew could’ve easily done the same thing, but it didn’t make me feel much better. I was sure I was going to lose this battle.
Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.