Right from the beginning, I've been entering the Steem Monsters fantasy card contests. I wrote a story for most of the common cards, and won a few. I am extremely happy now that they have moved on to the rare cards, and the first up: Malric Inferno!
From my own collection.
Artwork owned by Steem Monsters.
I love Malric. He's my favorite summoner. So I offer this story as an entry into the Steem Monsters fantasy card contest for Malric Inferno, the best and most fiery summoner of them all.
-- Dantil Inferno, Summoner of Summoners
Malric Inferno Vs. Coalfury: The Deciding Factor of the Maturity Rites
It made my father proud, the day I graduated Maturity Rites. My third and final attempt. Had I failed, I'd have been confined to the forges, or relegated to overseeing kobold miners extracting ore from the innards of Molten Mountain. Ah! But fate has its twisted way of turning demons into angels and angels into, well--you know I mean. A winner is a winner indeed.
I had failed twice before, through no fault of my own, to prove my maturity. But, perhaps, truth is, I may have had some small flame of blame. Accidents happen, too, of course. Who knows? History is as history lives.
At thirteen, father registered me for Maturity Rites as is required by law and custom. I fared well for my age. Most efreet boys lose their first. Most, in fact, lose the first battle. But I, in the third, most likely my penultimate, I twisted my ankle and tumbled from a cliff high up on Molten Mountain. I rolled like a boulder to my destiny, the ill fortune awaiting me below. My small injury put me out of the games until the next year when Zymander Pyreheap overpowered me and hurled me into a burning lake. To my shame, I learned a valuable lesson.
Third year failures are relegated to a lifetime occupation of ordinary efreet humility. If I had not won, I'd never have entered War Seminary and the summoner you see today would be a figment of Mitreyya's imagination. Ah! But fate is such a sweet suttee.
I prepared for a year. Father made sure of that. Awake each day before the break of dawn to eat a hardy breakfast before my long run, which was always followed by practice brawls with seminary students of my father's own choosing. They were meant to strengthen me, harden me, mold my resolve. And that, I suppose, they did.
Lunch was very light. Sometimes, depending on my morning performance, there'd be no lunch at all. My father's discretion, of course. After lunch, the short run followed by weight lifting, boulder tossing, and more brawling. Each day was wrapped up with another hardy meal and emotion training. Father has always been a stickler for emotion control. "It is the summoner's most practical and powerful weapon," he often said.
Had I failed at Maturity Rites, I'd have been the only Inferno son for five generations who didn't make summoner. Father would not have that. He'd have sooner seen my die. And I might have welcomed that end myself, I'll add to that.
We didn't know magic. No one in Ferexia, no efreet at least, knows magic before engaging in Maturity Rites. And unless one passes the test, one will never have the opportunity to know magic. Yet, our game is to defeat an opponent for the right to learn what every efreet is born to know. And sometimes victory comes on the heels of a magic so powerful that it surprises even the keenest and wisest of The Brewd. I can tell you stories. Some of the most powerful magic I've ever seen was the accidental magic of a teen efreet winning at Maturity Rites. I've watched them all.
Our performance is on demand. Do as father wills. Do as The Torch demands. Do as Seminary professors and Head Summoners demand. Demand is a fiery furnace that forges the core of efreet souls. So father would say.
Efreet come from every corner of The Burning Lands to see the battles every year. No one misses it. In my case, even the underworld showed liberal attendance. The rebels are often out wreaking havoc in the land during this time of holiday. But this year, there was no crime, no havoc, no ne'er-do-welling of any kind. Every creature in the land was my audience. And they came to see me, middle son of Dantil Inferno, try my best to ward off the superior might of Coalfury the Flaming Tongue, eldest son of Ashenrock the Oremelter. If I won, my next assignment would be War Seminary, the best school in the land. If Coalfury lost, he could return the next year for his second Maturity Rite. But I would be done.
It was my ardent desire to make father proud. If I lost, I would forever be without magic, relegated to supervising slaves in their menial tasks. I could never then own slaves, an efreet badge of honor. I had to win.
But I knew Ashenrock had it out for me. My father's enemy since their own Maturity Rites, he was the most powerful summoner in all the land and held the honored position of matching Aspirants with their battle foes. He wanted his son, a much bigger efreet at thirteen than I was at fifteen, to hurl me from the mountain in hopes that my shame would blaze forever like the soul of an Everburning Tree. If I died in the process, so much the better as far as he was concerned.
Finally, the fight began. The fury of cacophony rose up from the crowd that lined the ridges of the mountain that day. A raucous celebration of grunts and howls reverberated off the walls of the mountain's cliffs. Ferexia for miles around were panting with anticipation. Who would come out the victor? I was not the favored choice.
The Commencement Horn blew and my nerves jostled as Coalfury stood from his Aspirant Seat. I rose from mine. We dashed across bluffs and scarps, from peak to peak and crag to crag, wrapping ourselves around each other to see if either of us could gain an early advantage. I think my strength surprised Coalfury, much bigger than me. He was slower, larger in frame. My agility proved to be a clear edge. When we clashed, a clap of thunder echoed around the canyons of the mountain. Penumbras of echoes raced through the caverns, pushing their rings and choruses through the tunnels of Molten Mountain like barrels of hot tempo. This would be a long fight.
And it was. We wrestled. We tussled. Our skirmish moved from hill to hill, ridge to ridge, valley to deeper valley. Like a pair of obsidian orbs chasing each other around rings of metal tracks, each pushed the other from limit to grueling limit. Coalfury seemed to never tire. Our sweat beads mingled like the flaming oils of an ogre's blood. Like teardrops, they rained on rock and mineral for what seemed like eternity. Brute strength propelled against brute strength until two young efreets frustrated themselves with effort. We struggled until late in the evening, well past the death of light in the sky.
Finally, embraced at the top of Molten Mountain's highest peak, we began to sparkle like magic strobes. I caught the first glint of starfire in Coalfury's wretched eye. His arms firmly wrapped around my shoulders squeezing my neck like some obsidian vice, and mine around his waist like a belt cutting off as much circulation with every ounce of muscle force I could muster, our eyes made contact and combusted like oxygen and flame. A tongue of flame escaped from Coalfury's left nostril. A shot of fire flew from my right ear. Before long, our eyes and ears were burning from within. Flames formed on my lips. I could feel the heat rush from my feet to the tip of my head. And I could equally feel the heat rise from within my adversary as he struggled to take me down.
A first in my life, I could taste the thermal energy in another on my tongue, I could feel it brush against the growing flame inside me, and, all at once, the kinetic fabric of Coalfury's soul mingled with mine until I could barely tell the difference. We twisted, we pulsed, we compressed, and we thrusted ourselves toward each other like magnets seeking to outdo the other. Like demons, we danced over the forges below, in the very soul of the mountain, and I could feel our own forge beginning to burn as it surged from the sparks between us, rising up from the depths of our combined energy and conflagrating into a ball of flame such that onlookers could not tell us apart.
We lit up that mountain with the flames of our souls as we struggled to topple each other down. Then, finally, when I thought he was going to push me over, I could feel myself losing my grip. My fingers slippery from sweat, my footing about to give in, I knew, I was staring eternal shame in the face. I could not dishonor my father a third time, to murder my family name. I could not do it. It was anathema to me.
I let momentum win. Rather than let myself collapse as I did in my first Rite, I gave in to Coalfury's weight and strength.
On the right opportunity, I limpened. I welcomed the strength of his large body pressed firmly against mine, pressing me backward against my heels. Thrusting myself off the cliff with the balls of my fiery feet, I aimed for a solid piece of rock down below and allowed my shoulder to absorb the impact. I rolled and pulled Coalfury with me toward the lower regions of the mountain. His flaming body flew over my head toward the giant lake of fire thousands of yards below us. I released him and let him go. He tumbled, rolled, and bounced from rock to rock like hot lead toward the bottom of the mountain. As I watched him go, I reached for the closest thing I could find to grab onto. With fiery fingers sparkling at the tips, I latched onto a limb from a tree growing from within the mountain.
Jerk. Like a spring, I slammed against a big rock and bounce upward toward the sky landing on my belly atop the flat stone that seconds before had caught my shoulder. It buckled me. I could feel the surge of rage overtake me. I do not know whether the torrent of emotions I felt at that moment ravished me or if I simply submitted to them, but they pummeled me like a tidal wave of bricks to the head. A cerberus emerged from my eye and chased Coalfury down the craggy face of the mountain. A flaming pheonix followed, taking flight from my left ocular portal. I lost sight of them quickly as they tore down the mountain as fast as they could go. The first spell I ever cast was the sweetest, most unexpected, and I knew not, right then, how it happened.
The victory earned me a place at The War Seminary where I would be trained to control this magic inside of me, to treat it responsibly and with concentrated fervor. Today, I am the most powerful summoner in the land. And I owe it all to the perseverance of the fire within.
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