Bliss. Crimson had no access to senses; only her consciousness existed. It made her doubt her memories; without senses to prove them, it seemed as if they had only been figments of her imagination. After about thirty seconds, she forgot what pain felt like. Then again, there were no senses to prove time's passing. There was simply her consciousness; no heartbeat, no breaths.
Suddenly it was over, and Crimson screamed. The screams of many others echoed. A glowing bracket was all Crimson could see; however, she could feel a squirming body beside her, along with many wounds. She read the sixteen dragon labels. Berry, Flutter, Fafnir, Droplet, Kindle, Flurry, Icy, Hallow, Coil, Bouncer, Crinkle, Sparkle, Wisp, Crimson, Star, Par, Blaze. Crimson realized that her chances of being matched against a dragon she knew were large. Unless I lose in the next two rounds, I'll be in the final four. Then winning will be a matter of life and death. How can I do this? Crimson groaned in frustration. Other dragons seemed to be groaning around her. The bracket vanished.
"Stupid Darkness Clause," muttered a dragon. Crimson nodded to herself. She thought about the voice; she barely recognized it from the interviews.
"It's the Healing Clause that's stupid," Wisp replied. "Honestly, I'm in more pain now than I ever imagined the Games would be. And I can't shake it off."
"After that round, I'm sure we all are," snapped a dragon angrily. Crimson remembered the voice from an interview; Icy had given brusque answers that revealed next to nothing. Obviously he had something to hide.
"I'm not," boasted Fafnir. Crimson rolled her eyes, though she knew nobody could see. He didn't say anything more.
"We all know that's a lie, Fafnir," said a quiet voice. Crimson recognized this as Hallow, a ghost dragon whose interview had involved illusions that the wizard had dispelled in a moment, ruining the effect. Crimson remembered the humiliation on Hallow's face as she was ushered away before she had been asked two questions. She's still in, Crimson noted. Her illusions must come in handy. I'd better look out for that.
"Shut up, Hallow," Fafnir said.
"Why should she?" Flurry challenged. Crimson smiled, then realized how weak he sounded. Snow Dragons are agile, but fragile as well, Crimson realized. He's probably in bad shape. In a horrible way, Crimson felt relieved that she would either easily beat him or wouldn't be against him.
"Because I said so. Do you have a problem with that?" Fafnir asked tauntingly. "I'm the number one dragon around here. If you don't think so, I'll enjoy slicing you apart."
"Honestly, you two, stop bragging," muttered Blaze. Crimson knew the dragon, though she wasn't sure how. She strained to remember his interview. "I'm sure both of you are as beaten as a rag doll."
"And you aren't?" Flurry muttered.
"I didn't say that," Blaze said defensively. Crimson heard moaning beside her. She turned to look in the direction of the dragon, speaking quietly.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Do I look like I'm alright?" snapped the dragon. Crimson didn't recognize the voice.
"Well, I can't really see," Crimson replied. "But you don't sound alright." She heard a sniffle.
"My wing is torn," said the dragon. "I won't be able to fly." Crimson thought back to the last round; her inability to fly had been a major disability.
"Who are you?" Crimson asked. "I'm Crimson."
"Ahh, the kind one," muttered another dragon. The hostile, denouncing voice was one Crimson immediately recognized; she shuddered. Coil. Coil's interview had been like Hallow's; a showy display. However, Coil's hadn't been stopped by the wizard, and he had looked strong and mighty. When the wizard had tried to cast away the magic, he had failed, in all his power and strength. Coil's magic is impossibly strong. He'll be a real challenge. As Crimson thought more and more about her competition, she began to feel more and more hopeless.
"What's wrong with being kind?" Kindle defended Crimson.
"Nothing is wrong with it. But you really don't deserve to be here," said Coil. "Why didn't the last round just deal with you both?"
"I know how to use agility instead of brute strength," countered Crimson.
"But agility won't defeat magic. Magic is unstoppable," Coil said.
"It isn't," said the dragon Crimson had been talking to. "Guardian. You remember him, correct?"
"Shut up, Star," snickered Fafnir. "Nobody wants to hear your life story."
"You're one to talk," Coil said. "All you do is tell everyone about how amazing you are, and you expect them to listen. Flurry and Sparkle, too."
"Me?" said a voice that Crimson assumed was Sparkle. She thought back; she remembered a Silver Dragon with that voice.
"Of course, you. Your interview bored everyone to death."
"She wasn't bragging," said another dragon. Crimson instantly recognized it as Flutter, the love-struck Butterfly Dragon. "She was just telling a story."
"I liked the story, actually," Star added.
"You know, Coil, you're not better. All you talk about is you, you, you. Do you ever think about anyone other than yourself?" Kindle's words seemed to strike true. Coil grunted and stayed silent. Star moaned again beside Crimson.
"How did you win, Kindle?" asked another dragon. "Everyone thought Flare would beat you."
"Everyone thought that Windflower would beat you, too," said Flurry. "I don't see how you beat her."
"Skill," responded the dragon.
"Winning a game with physical abilities isn't all you can do," said Kindle. What? But she said that she needed training to use healing magic! The mere thought that helpful, caring Kindle might not have been all that she seemed made Crimson become crimson with anger.
"So what'd you win it with? A toy wand?" jeered Bouncer. Crimson remembered Bouncer; true to her name, she had bounced during her entire interview. Crimson frowned. Bouncer had come off kind and playful in her interview; however, her tone of voice now suggested that she had either suffered a lot or wasn't what she seemed. So which is it? In pain, or a liar?
"I won it with words," Kindle answered quietly. There was an awkward silence as everyone took that in.
"Words? Words?" shouted Fafnir. "What kind of an idiot falls for words? I don't know about the rest of you wimps, but I'm not going to be pushed over by stupid Love Dragon whispering silly thoughts in my ear!"
"You know, you've been trying to do that too, whether subconsciously or consciously," noted Wisp. "Your bragging is meant to undermine your opponents; to make them lose hope, because then they'll be much easier to defeat."
"Shut up," Fafnir said again. He was silent.
"Wisp, you couldn't be more right," Flurry said. "That sentence describes Fafnir perfectly."
"I could describe you in a sentence, too," popped in a jolly-sounding voice. Crimson struggled to match it with a face. Could it be Berry? Berry had been a happy-go-lucky Reindeer dragon who stumbled over words in his interview. "You're arrogant. Single-minded. You want to win, and that determination above all else will lead you to do everything you can towards that goal, ignoring everything else. A thin shadow of goodness and self-confidence hides your inside, but a few more rounds of torture and you'll be beyond reason. " Flurry, like Fafnir, didn't respond.
"And you, Berry?" laughed the dragon who had asked how Kindle had won. Crimson finally realized who the speaker was. Droplet. Droplet was a Rain Dragon who had done a very insignificant interview. Crimson remembered no details; the pain from her many wounds suddenly seemed to awaken, and she couldn't think beyond it.
"I don't know. Happy?" asked Berry.
"Perhaps too happy," Wisp commented. "You're probably using happiness to hide something. A bad childhood, perhaps?"
"Perhaps," echoed Berry. His tone let Crimson know that Wisp had been right.
"When are they going to start the round?" muttered Fafnir. "You'd think they'd have opened it up now, if only to let the audience see us."
"The audience can see us," muttered Icy. "They're watching everything we do. I'm sure the only way we'll know the next event is through the bracket."
"No outside contact, and no contact, except with each other," Sparkle said. "Makes sense." Crimson thought of an eternity in the darkness with only the other fifteen dragons to keep her company. The mere thought was torture.
"Indeed," said Wisp. They were silent for a while. Crimson moved closer to Star, trying to comfort the injured Topaz.
"Thank you," Star whispered. "But you're not helping. Go away." Crimson, calling upon her dormant magic, flew up and went away, forgetting how that would have Star feel. Oops. Poor Star.
Suddenly, the bracket flashed into view. The sixteen panels shone brightly, and suddenly they all began spinning faster than the eye could track together. Then they came apart. Star vs. Coil, Crimson read. Pangs of sorrow hit her. Star doesn't have a chance. The last round doomed her already. Why couldn't they just take her out and save her the pain and humiliation of losing?
Wisp vs. Blaze, read another bracket. Crimson studied it. Probably an equal match. She scanned the rest for her name; both Fafnir and Flurry weren't against her, thankfully. Finally, she came to it. Hallow vs. Crimson. Hallow, the Ghost.
"Time to go down in flames, Sparkle," sneered Fafnir.
"Fat chance," Sparkle rebuffed. Crimson slammed into a wall, and fell down.
"I taste magic in the air," said a voice Crimson didn't recognize.
"We'll be unconscious in a few seconds," Wisp predicted. He was right. The pain stopped. Alone with her consciousness, Crimson was happy again. All thoughts of her upcoming match against Hallow left her mind. She was at peace.
And suddenly she was back. Pain was the first thing that registered, as before. She got to her feet.
"Hallow and Crimson, Ice Scales," said an announcer. Deafening applause broke out. "The rules of this event are as follows: A dragon will ride the ice down as far as she can go. If the dragon falls off the ice, she loses. Dragons are allowed to interfere with each other's slides. Flying is forbidden. Trying to walk down is not advised and usually results in an instant loss." Crimson saw three white walls surrounding her. The ground she was standing on was ice-cold, and the way in front sloped downwards.
"Get ready!" called the host of the Dragon Games. "Ten! Nine! Eight!" The audience picked up the chant. "Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Go!" Crimson jumped down onto the sloping ice. It went downwards fast, and soon she was spiraling down a cold slide. She glimpsed Hallow beside her on a matching slide. She steeled herself to stay on as the cold mixed with her wounds. She came to a straightaway, then a left turn spiraling down, which was unusual because Hallow's track showed a left turn too, instead of the opposite direction as her last slide had been. Crimson swerved left, using her legs to steer. Empty space veered below her, and she grabbed onto the slide with a claw. She spiraled down to the right, hanging by a single claw. She felt something tearing. Why do I get paired against the master of illusion in this event? she thought unhappily to herself. Couldn't we do that in something harmless, like…No events came to mind, and Crimson struggled to get back up onto her slide. She did, and began sliding down again.
Suddenly, a massive wall of ice loomed ahead of her. An obstacle, or an illusion? She glanced at Hallow; there was no wall on her side. It is an illusion! Crimson ignored the wall, and suddenly she was tumbling over air. The wall wasn't to trick me into jumping; it was there to block sight of the turn! Crimson closed her eyes. I'm so stupid! I lost over a wall. She slammed into ice. Suddenly, she was sliding again. The audience began to boo.
"Legal move," called the host. "She can continue!" Cheers came from several remote parts of the audience. Hallow was now behind. Crimson smiled at her; an illusion of a snowball flew at her. The slide appeared to slope downwards; Crimson wondered if it was an illusion, but before she could check Hallow's side she was flying down it. She gained speed rapidly, and then she was airborne, flying upwards using the momentum from the ramp. Hallow was slightly behind her, doing the same. A crazy, harebrained idea came to Crimson. She swerved to the left, and landed on Hallow's track.
"Also a legal move," called the person who had announced the match. Hallow shouted something incoherent as she landed behind Crimson. She can't use illusions or she'll fall for them as well, Crimson smiled. She slammed her tail behind her, slowing herself down. Hallow slammed into her; her wispy form was airborne. Crimson came to another downhill and picked up speed as Hallow drifted down. Suddenly, Hallow slammed into her. Her light body knocked Crimson halfway off the track; however, Hallow came all the way off, and fell.
"You won, Crimson," Hallow yelled from below. "Some kind dragon you are!" Crimson knew that Hallow was just trying to unnerve her, but the words rung true. Some kind dragon I am…
Then the pain was gone, and so were her senses. So it goes.