The Prizefighter Inferno-Mach One: The Kindling.
Author's note: Posting time! This is the first part of the introduction to my newest venture. (The formal introduction, that is; the teaser was something I thought up on the spot to promote this story. Ironically, this was written several weeks earlier.) Anyway, it's pretty long, so I would advise you read it only if you're prepared for a decent sized read. But I hope you do read it, and should you, I hope you enjoy it, and encourage all critical comments made below. But I digress; enjoy!
The Prizefighter Inferno
Mach One: The Kindling
The lad was a hyper, curious sort of child; dashing and leaping about his family’s living room, adorned with an ancient dilapidated couch and a rusty table which wobbled unsurely under its own weight, the child made tiny, high pitched screams of “pow!” as he flailed his arms forward, weaving and bobbing on nimble feet in jovial merriment. He finished by landing on his father, raining soft blows of old fashioned children’s horse play, and the middle aged man quickly fell back in feigned shock, holding his head in both hands as if in pain.
“Aggh! The champ got me! He’s just too strong!” The father’s voice was held rigid in mock anguish, but anyone older than the small boy laughing away as he jumped about in victory on top of his pop would recognize the obvious hints of affection at his child’s happiness. He tumbled up and mussed the child’s dirty auburn hair, gazing into the murky brown eyes that reminded Darin Ward of his late wife’s own beautiful pools of hazel. She had been a red head though; the brown hair was a trait inherited from Darin himself, though his own hair was now a very dull shade of its former luster. His face was deeply lined from constant wear over the years, and his nose was slightly disfigured and crushed into his face, but his body was still broad shouldered and muscular, years of professional training and rigor still palpably visible in his bearing.
He stood ramrod straight as he jumped to his feet, whisking his small, bright eyed son onto his back, beginning to run around the room doing his best match announcer impersonation, making his voice high and rolling. “Annnd he takes his victory lap! The one, the only, the…greatest…ever! Damian Ward, Elemental Martial Arts WOOOOORLD CHAAAAAAAMPIOOOOOOOOON!!
Darin ended by hurling his son with a grunt onto the couch and flipping a blanket on top of him. Damian giggled for a moment longer, before the six year old yawned and began to rest his head on the couch’s saggy, dirty pillow. The boy looked across the living room, one of the three rooms in their family’s home, and let his eyes close in pleased content for a moment at the homeliness of it. He loved their home. Especially the fire place, which always roared crimson, casting a comforting glow and pleasant heat over the room. And above the fireplace hung the centerpiece (to Damian, at the very least) of the household; his father’s belt, from back when he had been a prize fighter, which was a long loop of pure silver, embedded with a blazing ruby in as the centerpiece. His father had been the best, that belt was the proof.
He popped one eye open to swipe a gaze at the belt once more, the ruby shining brilliantly in the light of the flames flickering below. He propped up on his forearms and gazed up longingly at his dad. “Tell me the about your fights again, daddy!”
Darin, who had almost been out the door, silently palmed his hand on his face, smiling while shaking his head. “Again? I swear boy, I’ve told you those stories every day for the past year!”
The small child merely bobbed his head violently up and down, banging his tiny hands on the couch cushions. “Pleeeeaaaase!” He whined, his voice becoming shrill and almost frantic, and his father put a hand over the young boy’s mouth as he sat and plopped him on his lap.
“Fine, fine, I’ll tell you, okay? Just quiet down, you’ll wake your brother. Anyway…which one do you wanna hear? The one where I knocked out Ivar the Terrible in one blow?...Nah, I’ve told you that one too many times. Oh, how about how the time I went twenty rounds with Iceberg, and only ended up winning because of one lucky Flame Fist which landed on his bum knee? No…I told you that one yesterday, didn’t I?”
He scratched his chin pensively, the small hairs of his goatee scratching his fingers, and he laid back. Damian fixed his predicament by pointing a chubby finger at the belt on the wall. “Tell me how you won the shiny one, dad!”
Darin, looking down, frowned a moment before forcing a quivering smile onto his face. “Oh…yeah…the belt. That fight…that fight wasn’t that great, kid. Pretty boring, actually. Over…over too quickly.”
His son glared at him for a moment, pouting, and crossed his arms in an impatient fashion. “But how can I learn how to be a great boxer if you won’t tell me how you won, daaaaad!?”
Darin recovered the feeling in his smile at that, nudging his child by the chin, and gaining a small twinkle in his eye. “I have a better idea…” he started, his deep voice gaining a light tone, hints of long gone youthful ambition echoing in his words, though his son had no ear for them. “…why don’t you tell me how you’re gonna be the best? What do you want your name to be?”
Damian imitated his pop, scratching his smooth, unblemished chin, and frowned, then looked up, beaming at his dad’s question. “I wanna have your fighting name whenever I’m the best! I wanna be just like you, and have a silver belt with a big red rock in it! And then everyone will look up to me like they do to you!”
Darin shook his head, shrugging, his gaze filled with a bemused embarrassment. “Ahhh, my name is a bit much for you to think about right now. Put on some more pounds first…get big and strong like your brother, and we can talk then.”
It almost looked as though his son would protest again, but before this could happen, the phone perched on the quivering table began shrieking its cry through the otherwise still night. As Darin moved quickly and picked up, muttering silently and glaring a hole into the wall, Damian laid his head back on the pillow and slowly drifted off. Giving his son one last longing glance, Darin quickly gathered up his coat and car keys, hurryingly throwing on his clothes. As he hit the front, one of two back doors in the apartment room opened slowly, and a thin, well built fourteen year old opened the door.
Rubbing his eyes, he glanced at his baby brother and then at the shadow of his father fully dressed. The light patter of rain was beginning to echo from the outside, and the crackle of lightning was becoming more and more prevalent as the two looked at each other for a moment. “Father…” the young man began, before Darin cut him off with a sharp glance, nodding towards his sleeping sibling. His voice had become low and biting, almost sounding abusive in tone.
“Watch your brother, Domino. Don’t let anyone into the house. Anyone! Understand me boy?” Domino nodded, gulping slightly, his face pale with a fine line of fear lightly visible across the fair face. Appearing more like his mother than his father, with the exception again of having his father’s dark hair, he slowly went to prop himself against the couch. No more words were spoken as Darin rushed out of the dilapidated tenant, and into the ratty corridor of the three person household’s residence. Shaking his head violently, his face now disgusted, hood shading his face, Darin’s hands slowly started to blaze, fire burning on his hands, ready to lash out.
This is Empire City’s Plebian Ghetto, in the era of Aegon the Conqueror. Every day of life is a struggle for survival.
Darin, the former Elemental Martial Arts champion of the Plebian Quarter, fumed in rage at his impotence and the situation of his family. “Don’t you worry, Damian…” the middle age man whispered to himself, holding his flaming fists clenched tightly in front of his face. “…dad’s gonna make sure you’re stronger than he was. You won’t live your entire life rotting away in this hell!”
Empire City, Amateur EMA training facility, eight years later.
Panting and drenched in sweat, Damian Ward bounced on the balls of his feet about an inch to the left, and barely avoided a vicious right hook which had been arced up at his chin. Lashing with his left, he hissed in frustration to find that he too hit little more than air on his own pass, and he grunted in pain as Domino’s left fist hammered squarely into his right shoulder. Barely managing to keep his feet as he flew back several feet, Damian roared in frustration, and lunged forward, chest burning as he forced his body to move faster. As he closed the distance to his elder brother, he feigned with his left, stopping that punch mere inches from his brother’s arms, and as Domino moved to intercept, a small flame, barely a kindling fire, erupted on his right hand, and he brought the fist slamming into Domino’s face, violently lashing him onto his knees.
Damian inhaled in relief, and found the air painfully forced out of him as, in an almost inhuman show of speed and resilience, his opponent drove his right into the younger fighter’s chest, flinging Damian off his feet and into the side of the small square ring the two had been dueling in. A sharp burning sensation had laced its way through his chest, and as Damian lay stunned on the arena’s edge, found that the fiery assault Domino had delivered had actually been serious enough to penetrate the elemental barrier EMA fighters always had on them during training bouts. His brother was…
Domino glared and spat at the ground, a look of disgust creeping across his face. “Pathetic, Damian. No wonder you haven’t won a single match yet, even in the Amateurs Division. That measly little Fire Fist was the best attack you had? Disgraceful. Hurry up and yield brat.”
Rather than respond to his brother’s taunts, Damian brought himself upright and spat blood from his mouth, attempting to steady himself on the ropes, gazing in defiance at his elder brother, not willing to give him the satisfaction of another easy win.
Growling, the fire on Domino’s fist blazed into life once again, and he lunged at his brother. “I said yield!!”
Domino didn’t see the fist that slammed into his head from his blind spot, railing him against the arena floor. Gazing up, more enraged than ever, he shrank back a little as he saw the one who had punched him was their father, his elderly face scrunched up in anger, his fell mood already prevalent as the two young men gulped at his expression.
He barked first, shockingly, at his younger son. “Damian! What have I told you?! Keep your guard up son! Don’t just go for one hit knock outs every punch, because guess what? You won’t get them! The strongest opponents never go down in a single punch. Remember that!”
Turning about on his eldest son, still crouched in surprise on the floor of the arena, he roughly grabbed Domino by the hair and slammed him into the side bars. “And you! What have I told you about going over the parameters I set for you two during training?! I want you to teach the boy and practice with him, not kill him!”
Domino merely snorted and gazed down, murmuring lowly, but loud enough for both his father and Damian to hear, “that would be fine if he wasn’t so damn weak…”
The lines on his face twitching in animalistic fury, Darin bashed his elbow across Domino’s face, with such a massive display of force that lines of crimson flowed from the twenty four year olds’ mouth. “What was that boy!?” Darin had been angry before, Damian noted, but never this outright violent, he saw as gazed on in horror at his father beating and berating his brother.
Darin continued to lash both his tongue and his fists at Domino, continuing to flex his great displeasure. “You think, just because YOU haven’t won a match in a month, it’s okay for you to overpower your brother because his skills haven’t developed yet?! He’s eight years younger than you, damn it! You’re the pathetic one, Domino! After all of my training, you just flaunt your physical prowess and do what you feel like in the ring, after all. You deserve to lose! They have a special name for you, in the backrooms, bars, and betting circles, you know? They call you…”
“I don’t wanna hear that name from you, bastard!” Darin himself drew back in shock, as his last blow to his son was blocked, Domino quivering slowly, his gaze at his father cold, with murder written in his eyes. “That’s right…I’ve already heard what they all call me. I don’t care. But I won’t take it from you! You…you abused me and beat me until Damian was old enough to remember…then you just beat me occasionally when you came home drunk, when he couldn’t see you. Other than that, I was a baby sitter. For your precious DAMIAN!”
“But it would be fine, I always thought. Everything would be better when I started fighting…and winning. Then you would be proud of me. But then…even when I started fighting, even when I won the Amateur league as one of the youngest fighters ever to do so, all you bragged on was Damian’s promise! And how much better he would be than all of us! What attention did I get?! Where was your eldest son in your praise, father…” the last word was tossed as venomously as any curse Damian had heard. Damian grew pale as he viewed the bruised face of Domino, marred with shades of black and blue from where his father had hit him, quiver in a visage contorted with rage and agony, tears falling down his cheek and mingling with the blood which ran steadily from his mouth.
His breath becoming ragged, his voice coming out in small, sobbing growls of resentment, Domino, looked his father straight in the eyes. “I’m done, you self serving prick. You want to watch Damian be the greatest failure of all time? Fine…I’m leaving. Not new, I guess…mom got tired of the bull shit too, didn’t sh…”
The blow which landed on Domino’s face carried him clear out of the arena, and the younger man landed on wrestling mats about six feet from the ring’s edge. Darin’s body shook, as he fumed in silent rage, unable to even speak. Domino, shaky, glared up at Darin one last time, before darting out of the gym as fast as his legs would take him.
Darin, eyes tearing up, shouted hoarsely, still sounding as monstrously enraged as he had moments before, but feeling the familiar pain of loss welling up in his throat as his voice began to fail him. “No! Damn you, you spoiled brat, get back here! Don’t walk away! DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME!!...please…son…come back.”
Falling to his knees, Darin let his body go limp as he let his hands fall to the ground. Walking next to his father, Damian merely placed his hand on the old man’s shoulder. No words were spoken. The only thought Damian had was that the family had grown smaller, yet again. A long time ago, before he could even remember, he knew the family had been four, and they had been happy beyond compare. One day, without Damian’s recollection as to why, the family had fallen to three. The figure cloaked in mystery known as “mother” had gone. But even at three, the family was still happy.
The family had become two. Damian now knew, had known since he was twelve years old, that ever since the family had been four, his father hadn’t been happy. He now realized that, at two, his own chances of being happy were slim to none.
Empire City. The Promised Land, the bastion of civilization. From here, the greatest country in the world is ruled and managed. Entire nations of subjugated citizens of the Empire flock to this beacon of prosperity and power to find a better life for themselves.
The prosperity is a lie. The only power that is real is the power that crushes a man’s spirit.
This is the story of the family Ward, a family living in the destitute Plebian Quarter of the city. Known in a beneficial light only for its violent claim to fame, the Ghetto Elemental Martial Arts Conference (GEMAC), the only way to truly prosper and escape the poverty of the Plebian Quarter is to fight your way out. This is the story of the family Ward, which has devoted its entire existence in the city to fighting to the top. Their dream…survive. One man will take that dream to the next level, with the power of his fists, shatter the world.
But it can only be one…