The morning sun greeted the new day for Mei Fong and Beren, both of them shared an intimate conversation about honor, duty, and their feelings. When it looked like the odd warrior had finally begun to break through the mask worn by the Crimson Rose bladeswoman, a sudden and tall wall impeded any further progress. The two left as the procession of other warriors from the other clans were steadily approaching, leaving little time to prepare for the fight of a lifetime. 

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The silence of the monastery had dissipated as the morning meditations were interrupted by the arrival of the remaining champions and warriors from the multitude of clans across the Land of Magic. Jade Tiger remained perched atop one of the roof’s wooden beams, studying the myriad emissaries and envoys entering the ancient building. He easily spotted a few warriors from the White Swan, a pair of priests from the Adamantine Dragon, and there were even Kenku assassins from the Twilight Gale. The tabaxi himself was an honorary submission from the Verdant Conclave, and Mei Fong was the champion for the Crimson Rose clan after all. The various visitors and envoys were greeted by the monastery’s many acolytes and disciples, taking their luggage and gifts to their respective rooms and lockers.

Emissaries from the clans often presented gifts to the hosting monastery during such major events. The last time such event happened, was supposedly twenty years ago, and the victor became the ruling body of the Chromatic Lords. The Chromatic Lords are the champions of previous tournaments, victors found worthy by the Mantles. The Mantles were magical embodiment of the champions’ characteristic or an ideal like hope or fear. Each victor was bestowed a Mantle by the wise and powerful sages from the nine clans. This tournament was different, with the passing of the sage from the Golden Spear, a new Mantle was born but one different from all others. This new mantle supposedly had a will of its own, to be worn by an individual worthy of itself. That was the story anyway. Whether or not there were any merit to it remained to be seen, though it was true that the Golden Spear’s sage did in fact pass into the next life. The tabaxi continued to survey the activity down below in the central hall in at the main level.

Several hours passed, the tabaxi grew satisfied with himself and the information he collected on the latest procession of guests and visitors. Always best to know your enemies ahead of time, he thought. A few jumps and hurdles, the feline warrior was back on the floorboards of the highest landing. He quickly turned and saw Beren napping on the corner. Jade Tiger knew better, Beren was the sort to appear out of nowhere and ease drop with his fake-nap facade he always played.

“We have some interesting candidates down below,” Jade started.

Beren remained still and silent, his chest rising and falling to the rhythm of his peaceful slumber.

“You’ll be happy to know that the remaining clans have finally arrived. It will most likely begin tomorrow, the time has drawn closer. We will most likely dine with everyone tonight, and be granted a spectacle or two perhaps from some of the guests here.”

Beren continued to remain resting, with his back against the wall and legs propped down.

“There’s no stopping any of it now. Are you sure you still wish to participate?” Jade looked down at the resting Beren with concern.

Beren smiled with his eyes still closed. “I was always ready. In fact, it looks to be quite a promising tournament. But will there anyone worth enough to claim the Mantle, I wonder.”

Jade stood silent for a while, a mix of anticipation and careful contemplation. Indeed there were some strong adversaries ahead, the battles were going to be hard and worthwhile but ultimately the question remained: were any of them worthy of the Mantle? It was a question that plagued the tabaxi since his arrival several weeks ago, he was certain that many of the other warriors arriving to this monastery had the same thought.

***

Night descended upon the monastery, the sound of revelry and excitement echoed within the massive dining halls. Wine and food were distributed generously between the many visitors and guests, the sound of songs being sung and almost constant laughter. There were still many more workers wandering between the rows of pillows and tables, serving platters of food and pouring drinks. Mei Fong sat in her own corner of the hall, sipping from a tea-cup with a plate of the food. She kept quiet and observed the various individuals present, trying to feel out her possible rivals and adversaries in the immediate future. She spotted Beren laughing up a storm, grabbing an unsuspecting dwarf on the side and raising their mugs into the air with wide smiles. Her eyes occasionally found their way back to him, even when she did not mean it.

The sound of a loud gong erupted and silenced the hall, its patrons all turned and saw an aged elf in red robes standing before them. The elf walked preciously and purposefully through the hall, gazing upon each guest in his path. He stopped in the middle of the hall, taking the time to look at each of the guests present, reading their reactions.

“Honored guests, thank you for making the journey here. I am sure many of you are tired and exhausted, please help yourselves to the amenities provided here. Tomorrow, shall be the first day of the tournament or Chromo Gyam Dre. More information shall be provided in the morning, two hours after sunrise. Those wishing to participate in this event must be present by that time, or not be permitted. Now, please return back to your festivities and enjoy the rest of the evening.” The elf bowed and calmly exited the room.

Once he left, the room erupted into music and laughter once again. Mei Fong surveyed the room again, trying to gauge her would-be rivals again. Tomorrow, mercy would fade and only death await those willing to partake in the Chromo Gyam Dre.


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