The blizzard obscured the mountains of Stratus, making navigation difficult. Free from Scorch's deserts, Antigone found herself relishing the frigid air she had become used to. In the distance, she could see a faint orange light, as if a tall fire were burning in the midst of the snow. She could think of no one who would be out in such a blizzard, let alone attempting to camp in one. Even the natives of Stratus would be huddled deep within their homes, caring for those who had fallen ill from the toxic smoke and ash that drifted in from Scorch.
Hesitant, she neared the source of the fire only to realize that what had been mistaken for a bonfire of sorts was, in fact, a man. His entire body radiated brilliant orange light that appeared to stop the snow and wind before it touched him. Despite the raging storm, his clothes were immaculate. Not a single breeze or snowflake could reach him. It was as if he were a god.
Turning towards Antigone, the man's face became visible. He looked to be in his twenties or so, with short hair whose color matched the light emanating from his body. A scar curved beneath his eye.
The man stepped forward, arm outstretched, and the world caught fire.
Three hours of rest after escaping from the Nightlands wasn't enough, Trenton decided. He hadn't even managed to shower or change his clothes before being tossed through another wormhole-esque gateway. And so, slimy and shoeless and in desperate need of a bath, Trenton entered the mountains of Stratus.
Eventually, a pair of shoes were tossed through the wormhole and hit him in the head. At least someone was looking out for the contestants.
Peeling his hair away from his face, Trenton sat and attempted to put his shoes on and make himself presentable as snow collected on his shoulders and eyelashes. Presentable for who, he wasn't entirely sure. It was a fight, he supposed, people weren't exactly supposed to show up in tophats and monocles. On the other hand, he doubted they were supposed to show up covered in slime and smelling like decay.
Finished with his shoes, he stood and began to make his way deeper into the mountains, squinting in an attempt to see through the snow and ice. Minutes into his journey, a green blur burst out of the blizzard and crashed into him, knocking him to the ground. When the initial shock wore off, he noticed the blur was actually a girl.
And that there was blood on the snow.
There was also a translucent, giant hagfish full of teeth hovering over his shoulder. He tried to ignore it.
"Hey," it said.
So much for that.
Trenton glanced hesitantly over his shoulder at the hagfish. "Uh, hi."
"Sup?" It swum in the air around them as Antigone slowly dragged herself to her feet, clutching at a hole in her side.
"Jason, we don't have time for this," she said. "We need to keep him away from everyone."
"Who's 'he'?" Trenton asked. He caught Antigone under the elbow and steadied her. Blood continued to seep from her side, soaking into her pants.
"Okay so who's the guy you're talking about?"
"Trenton. My opponent."
Antigone tried to not be annoyed. "No, listen. My opponent is back there somewhere. All I knew before now is that he's a redhead named Trenton and there's something wrong with his eye. Now I know he's extremely dangerous."
"No, that's me."
She jumped back, a suspicious look flickering across her face. "You're extremely dangerous?"
"No, I'm Trenton."
A few feet away, Jason swam through the air, flicking back and forth nervously. There was the sound of cracking wood as a few trees toppled in the distance. Seconds later, a beam of light blasted into the clearing, taking a chunk out of Jason as it passed. He screeched and flailed in the air before crashing to the ground, disappearing as Antigone hastily dismissed him.
Another beam of light followed the first, heating the surrounding air enough to sear the ends of Antigone's hair as Trenton pulled her out of its path. A number of other shots peppered the landscape, melting the snow to reveal the ground below. Determined to avoid the blasts, Antigone ducked behind a boulder before calling up the last dregs of her energy to fling Confusion into the trees.
The blasts stopped and the mountains fell silent once again. Within moments, a glowing figure appeared between the trees, seemingly unperturbed by the previous attack.
After the falling island and carnivorous landscape, Trenton assumed he had seen the worst of the five realms.
As expected, he was wrong.
However, he hadn't expected the next danger to arrive in the guise of a former friend.