"My name is Xarev. Well, as long as they decide to let me keep my name." The War Walker replied.
He remembered hearing stories of gladiators being forced to give up their birth names and renounce their homelands. He would never do such a shameful thing.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Xarev. O and I wouldn't worry about given up your name my friend; the Imperials may be greedy and blood thirsty bastards but they're not that cruel".
Stretching Tanguy stood up from his bed and made his way to the iron bars covering the entrance of the cell. He gripped a section of the bars and shock them which produced a loud rattling which all but ended the quietness which had fallen over the cells. "Well built" he spoke as he removed his hands "And here I though we could easily walk out the front door", Chuckling Tanguy turned round to Xarev and sat a few feet away from him.
"Well since we are the new recruits here, we might as well get to know each other better"
The rest of the day went by in a blur for Vokrash. He trained for the rest of the day on dummies practicing hand to hand. As they were all heading back to their cells as the new ones were being branded the female gladiators started to grope Lahar again, which kept things slightly eventful. When Vokrash got back to his cell he promptly lied down and tried to go to sleep, ready for the day to end.
A few days later...
Antonius & Lahar
The Bloodgrounds were their usual rowdy self, the crowd was baying for their weekly dose of bloodshed and they were determined that Lahar be the one to give it to them. The Vaan could at least be happy that he had been given his black swords for the coming fight. But what Marrick had said to him had set a bad tone for it.
"I'm willing to reunite you with them, I know how important those blades are to your kind. But business is a two way street, a matter of give and take. If I place such fine, expensive, rarities in your hands then I am saying to the world that you are one of my men, one of my finest men! And if I am to do that comfortably then there must be a show of loyalty, show me that you're willing to do what must be done. Chin up, Lahar, this could be the beginning of a very beneficial relationship."
The gates were opened and his opponents were marched out... in chains. They were lined up in the middle of the grounds and forced to their knees, a second gladiator came out with them, lording it up for the crowd. Someone from the noble seats started up their speech. Roaring about how these people were criminals, runaway slaves, rebels against the throne. The criminals, for their part, simply stared at the ground or into space. That was when it hit home. This wasn't a match, it was an exhibition, a public execution. The second gladiator, their face covered by their helmet, drove their short sword into the neck of the nearest slave. The crowd roared their approval.
Behind the bars, Antonius and the Executor looked on. "He's going to choke." The Executor grumbled.
Gaius & Belkin
Meanwhile at the den of hearts things were in full swing. They day had been full of fine and gory fights, every combatant giving their all and putting on some of the finest shows this season. Gaius and Belkin had been shoved and herded through the labyrinthine underbelly of the largest arena in The Empire. They each found themselves standing in front of the set of gates that would lead into one of the side arenas. They were told to choose their weapons, they were up next.
Once they had and the gates opened they each stepped into the glaring sun and the thundering embrace of the crowd. Marrick looked on from his booth, high above the muck and blood. A devilish smirk stretched across his features as he saw the two men sent marching into the open. Belkin and Gaius walked into the arena... only to find they were facing each other.
Vokrash, Xarev & Tanguy
"Apparently you're in charge while the two bigger boys are away." Kirra said, glancing between Vokrash and the instructions she had been given. "You're to see to the general training, keep the gladiators in line - male and female - I'll see to the house slaves. Your main task... iiiiiisss..." She read over the parchment, mouthing the letters to herself. "To see to the proper training of these two!" She pointed at Xarev and Tanguy.
"The master doesn't feel they're ready for proper combat yet. he says they lack a good gladiators technique and mind set. You have Dran and Benjin at your disposal for it. Says here you can use any means you think fit... beating them to a bloody pulp with your bare hands is an option." The last part seemed a little awkward for her.
"Other than that you and I - and only you and I - have got the run of the manor. I'll call you if we need you." She said putting on her most wife like tone. With Vorgis away it made Kirra and Vokrash the 'Lord and Lady' of the manor.
"Oh! And the Executor left you a note for their training." Kirra turned the parchment over and handed it to Vokrash. There was a hastily scribbled note written on it in a scrawling hand. It simply said:
The days slowly began to blend together. All Antonius did these days was get up early in the morning, eat, train, fight, train some more, talk to a few gladiators and then go back to bed. Still he was slowly getting used to it, and he felt that his skills were improving everyday. He was happy that he had gotten on better terms with a few gladiators, and the new fighters didn't seem all that bad. He suddenly heard that he was tasked to go to the bloodgrounds, he had a bad feeling about what would happen next. When he arrived at the bloodgrounds, he was brought to the arena.
At first it seemed like a normal match, but as soon as the opponents of Lahar arrived he saw it for what it really was. A glorified public execution, It was probably to test his loyalty or something. And if he proved himself loyal the sword were probably his reward, it just showed how ruthless their 'master' was. The executor was standing next to him, "He's going to choke." the man grumbled. "I disagree with you. Even though this is horrible, I think he can do it. He knows what will happen if he doesn't, and the reward if he does." He sounded confident, he hoped that his friend had to stomach to do what had to be done.
Training. Sleep. Nightmares. The cycle continued for the next few days, unbroken, until he and Antonius were called away to the Bloodgrounds, a place no doubt as vile as the mood he had been left in after hearing what Marrick had said. There had still been no reply, no message from Kirra for when he would meet his patron; Kedrin was supposed to be punctual, why he had not been given a response troubled him. He would pester Kirra about it again once he returned, if he returned. Perhaps a meeting with his patron and the other Vaan there would improve things.
They had given his swords back for this fight, a small comfort for this was now ordinary battle to the death. A line of people were marched out of the massive gates. Shackles around their wrist, feet and neck, just like him the day he arrived in this thrice damned city. Except for them a new life of servitude wasn't beginning it was at an end; no amount of gold could buy back these peoples lives. It was a public execution.
This was no job for a War Walker, but if he did not do as his master wished his swords would be taken away from him again.
He walked up to the first of the condemned, "Mercy," Lahar whispered to him before he plunged his black blade into the mans heart.
The next few days past without much happening. Vokrash was left behind as the many of the other gladiators had gone off to the sands. He wasn't sure why until he saw Kirra walking up to him with some paper. "See to the proper training of these two" as she pointed to the two new recruits, Xarev and Tanguy. "I'll call you if we need you." She then handed him a piece of paper from the Executor. "Yes dear!" Vokrash called back to her as she started walking back towards the manor. He then called Durro over to go fetch some swords and shields. As Durro went off to go get the gear called over Xarev, Tanguy, Dran, and Benjin over to him. "Now then, the four of you pair off and spar with each other until the lad comes back where you will then work on your swordplay. And you," Vokrash looked at Tanguy. "No crying this time."
Vokrash then walked off to go check that the other gladiators who were left behind were practicing for at least the most part as he started to read the note given to him by Kirra. NO GRAPPLING. "Bastard won't let me have any fun."
Gaius was once again being herded into yet another arena. He wasn't sure what was happening to the other gladiators, especially those who he planned to rebel and escape with. He was told to choose his weapons, he figured he would go with the battleaxe. 'Best to stick with something I know while I train with other weapons' he thought.
He stepped out into the glaring sun and a cheering mob of barbarians. Gaius observed his surroundings. Where was his opponent. He could see on the other side-
He loosened his grip on his battleaxe as reality set in. His best, and other than Lahar, so far only friend in the Ludas. He couldn't face Belkin, he just couldn't. Belkin was the only person who wore his feelings on his sleeves. He didn't even bark when commanded to at the Ludas, something even Gaius played along to. Belkin made no secret of his hatred for the walls of the Ludas. He was up front with his emotions. Gaius hid them, hoping to get closer to the men in charge, but Belkin still had the spirit of a soldier.
Gaius looked down at the ground and cursed in his native tongue, he looked Belkin dead in the eye and grimaced woefully as he slowly made his way forwards. He hoped whoever lost this fight would surrender and their life would be spared.
Belkin was once again herded into the arena, his sword and shield ready in his hands as he readied to fight. He wondered just what he would have to kill this time; more rebels maybe, possibly another animal with some horrid gimmick to it. As he strode out into the sands, he caught a glimpse of the warrior he was meant to fight.
He seemed to look Asieren in nature, carrying a two-handed battleaxe. It seemed odd to Belkin, but he seemed to look like...oh no....Judge enthrall me to Zuul, no!
Gaius, his ally, his comrade, the one man who he considered his friend...would be his opponent.
Belkin's chest tightened. To duel an ally was normal in Pingla warrior culture, but this wasn't something that was fought with wooden instruments, nor could they rest or surrender at will. This was something that could turn bad very quickly, and could result in either of their deaths...or both if they were so inclined.
Belkin raised his shield with hesitation, just focusing on some way to get out of here with both their lives intact.
Gaius slowly moved forwards. Pacing towards Belkin. He looked up and around at the crowd, their faces begging for blood. It filled Gaius with a sense of rage. "Fucking scum! All of you fucking scum!" Gaius roared at the crowd, he wasn't able to contain his anger. He screamed up into the sky and thought of his family. Of his mother. Of his father. Of his grandfather. Of his brothers... his brothers...
The Asier's eyes flashed red and he charged towards Belkin. He would allow the rage to fill him just this once. Hopefully he would just injure Belkin and he would have to surrender- or he would make a fatal mistake and Belkin would win.
Victory was not his biggest concern.
Belkin heard Gaius scream at the crowd, speaking Asier so they nor Belkin could understand, but he could feel the anger in his voice. He was glad that Gaius was just as eager as he was to kill one another, That is to say, NOT VERY. However, he was shocked when he started to charge towards the Pingla warrior, causing him to snap out of his thoughts of escape and focus on the fight.
Belkin blocked the first blow, scraping against the charge and hooking his shield under the hang of the axe part, using his second hand to make it seem like he was holding against vicious strength. "Do you mind not attacking me, I'm trying to think of a way to get us both out of this." he said to Gaius, his voice disguised by the roar of the crowd. He then pushed back and released it, gaining some space. "Block, overhead, use your pommel" he said before running up and swinging his sword overhead, giving it a very wide arc.
"Do you mind not attacking me, I'm trying to think of a way to get us both out of this." Gaius was snapped back into reality as he realised Belkin was forming a plan.
"Sorry" he mouthed to him.
Belkin pushed the head of the axe back, freeing up some space and said "Block, overhead, use your pommel" Belkin followed up with an overhead swing, just like he said, leaving a wide arc. Gaius did as he was told and blocked with the pommel.
Gaius made his next move obvious to Belkin as he nodded down to his knee. "Brace, duck then hit me" he sighed as he launched his knee forward into the Pingla's stomach. It was hard but he tried to lesson the effect, he didn't want to wind his friend early. He followed up by swinging his pommel around at Belkin's head.
Gaius thankfully blocked as instructed, Belkin recoiling and going into a defensive stance. He kept his mind on escape, figuring out a way to get free. Surrender, possibly but with the pig there's every possibility that he'll send them to their death. Hand to hand, more brutal but at least then it'll be bloodless. Pingla Honour rules, daring but he could entertain the fat pig more so they could be let free. Any way he looked at it, it seemed that it would not killing Gaius would lead to a lot of trouble.
He then saw Gaius nod towards his knee, before whispering "Brace, duck then hit me" as he readied to plunge his knee into Belkin. Belkin braced himself for the impact, but as the knee struck, a ping of pain still hit him from the impact. Belkin used the pain to hunch down, dodging the swing before he leached into the space behind the axe, giving Gaius an uppercut with his shield arm. Belkin made it as soft as possible, hitting into the edge of his face and pulling back as quickly as possible.
Belkin rolled out and stood up before raising his arms and giving out a roar as if taunting, making the crowd roar in return. It made the crowd feel happy, as well as the pigs at the top, but the real aim was to distract the crowd long enough for Gaius to recover from the blow, hoping the impact wasn't too much.
Belkin followed his instructions and gave Gaius a painful uppercut, though he could tell he was restraining himself. Gaius had felt the Pingla's fists against his face on the first day of imprisonment in the Ludas his punches were much heavier on that day. He rolled out and pretended to taunt Gaius in order to get the crowd's attention. Smart move. Gaius shook the pain away and lay a wide swing at Belkin's side, aiming for his hip. Belkin was a seasoned warrior, he could easily cast his shield down in time.
As Belkin finished his taunt, he looked upon Gaius who had seemed to recover by now, quickly laying a large swing of his axe towards Belkin's side. He was glad that he felt better from the barge, but quickly got back into the fight by blocking his swing before charging forward and bringing his sword towards Gaius. Before it could hit however, Belkin fainted and span under Gaius's arm and bashing his shield on the back of Gaius's head. Gaius fell onto the sands forwards, as Belkin once again ripped the crowd up. Belkin now had a plan, but for now, he needed the crowd on their side for it.
He walked over to Gaius and stood over him, speaking softly as Gaius rolled over. "Sorry about that, but I have a plan. Step one: Make the crowd love us." He spoke, pausing for a moment to make a fake spitting action to keep the crowd cheering, only blowing air onto Gaius in reality. "When you get up, my back will be to you. Barge into me, start mocking me, loudly, make the momentum swing towards you. Also, Sorry about the sand." he spoke in a hushed tone before kicking sand in his face to add to the presumed mockery Belkin made.
Belkin walked away cheering, his back a clear target for Gaius.
Belkin was a pro at this. He countered Gaius and knocked him down onto the ground. Gaius was starting to get frustrated, he wanted them both to live but he didn't want to be made a fool out of. Thankfully, the Pingla had thought that through. He explained to Gaius a plan to get the crowd on their side- both of their sides. He hoped that it would end with the crowd wanting them both to live. Belkin pretended to spit on Gaius and kicked some sand into his face, before walking away and fake taunting him again.
Gaius knew what to do. It was time Gaius finally showed off his agility. He hopped up with a second and was on Belkin before he could turn around. He ran up and kicked him square in the back, sending him flying forwards. He Lay a large swing overhead onto Belkin's skull, who was smart enough to dodge out of the way and get up. Gaius quickly kicked his shield and swung madly at him with the axe. Belkin dodged and swerved the attacks. However Gaius lay another big boot into the shield and instantly followed up with a pommel strike to Belkin's chest, sending him flying back. If they weren't friends Belkin would have no doubt used the sword to defend himself and not end up on the ground, but he knew his role- as did Gaius.
The Asire cheered and roared at the crowd, laughing at Belkin. He made sure to make enough distance for him to retaliate.
The Blood Grounds
The execution went on with each of the prisoners being cut down, one after another. The crowd seemed entertained by the bloody flourishes of the helmeted gladiator as he dispatched his victims. The Vaan didn't seem to get the same reactions though. The gory show was over soon enough and the gates to the fighting grounds were opened, letting the swarm of gladiators that had been waiting for their bouts, including Antonius.
They assembled on the sands like some ragtag army on parade, some of them so cramped together that they had to stand on the freshly dispatched prisoners. An announcer called for attention.
"As many of you may know, the property known as 'The Cauldron' was damaged in the recent incursion by anarchist forces. Until it is properly renovated our prestigious arena will play host to a number of their scheduled matches and special events. For the first time the warriors of the Blood Grounds and the Cauldron will face each other in noble combat!" There was an uproar of howling cheers and applause from the regular attendees of both arenas. "Standing among you is the champion of The Cauldron. The man here who can best them in this fray and take the title for themselves will be named the victor!"
Most of the assembled gladiators looked at one another in suspicion, most of them had never seen Antonius and had no idea who the newest champion was. News of his victory had been somewhat overshadowed by the riot hours later. The others were regulars at the Blood Grounds and had even less idea as to who they were looking for. But a few had been there the day Antonius had passed the grueling trials and their eyes found him among the crowd.
"BEGIN!" And the sands erupted into a flurry of skirmishes. Most gladiators went straight for the man standing closest to them, others seemed to form impromptu alliances and stuck together in an attempt to survive. Five others honed in on Antonius and fought there way towards him through the chaos.
The past few days for Tanguy were a series of boring and painful lessons in the art of arena combat. Although the training wasn't the most delicate; Tanguy had to admit it was interesting to see all the diverse fighting moves and styles of the other gladiators that surrounded him. Even the basic fighting moves, which the Executor was drilling in to his head, were of a whole different fighting method than the ones that Tanguy's father taught him when he was younger. They weren't created for the ferocity of battlefield but rather for a one-on-one deathmatch between to warriors. Although when Tanguy thought about it, it was most likely created to make poor souls like him look good in an arena before they are killed. He did share this thought with the rest of the gladiators. But all he got in return was a swift kick in the gut from the Executor, something which Tanguy personally didn't want to happen again. Apart from this little incident the days continued without much hassle.
Tanguy, Xarev and a few other of the gladiators were left in the care of Vokrash as the others went to the sands of the arena to fight to the death. Vokrash called them over and told them what to do, Tanguy nodded along and was about to find a sparring partner until Vokrash spoke to him "No crying this time."."I wasn't crying my friend...I was...Just...overwhelmed with the fine architecture of the empire" Tanguy said jokingly, he knew the real reason why he had broken into tears and so did most of the gladiators here. But he didn't want to be pressed on the subject so he tried to play it off.
Antonius glanced over worried as Lahar strode to the first prisoner; Antonius hoped that he would be able to kill them all. The gates were opened as soon as all the gladiators had been executed, letting Antonius along with a lot of other gladiators in. He was holding a short swort and a circular shield, a good defensive combination for the impending fight. The announcer then stepped forward, and began to shout at the public in a booming voice that got lost somewhere in the vast space of the coliseum. "As many of you may know....themselves will be named the victor!" His eyes betrayed shock as he quickly scanned the crowd, a few people seemed to know who he was. It seemed that the cursed gods would never be merciful to him. Not that it mattered or was of any concern, he would carve a path of blood and spattered gore to victory regardless.
Lahar was not a person he could bring himself to slay; Antonius knew this down in what heart he had left. All he could do was hope that more than one survivor would be allowed to limp away from the arena alive, for he knew he could not sever Lahar from the world. Suddenly the announcer shouted again "BEGIN!" The sounds of battle filled his ears, he turned around his feet throwing up clouds of chocking dust, and barely had time to react to an impending overhead axe swing. Just blocking the crude but deadly attack in its tracks. There was a large gladiator standing in front of him, laughing. It was fun to see he didn't know basic math. Keeping his shield up, he sent a sharp stab with his sword forward and pierced through the man. Feeling the short sword penetrating flesh and muscle. Antonius was forced to move quickly after the blow, as another Gladiator lunged at him. Antonius turned to face his new assailant, who's eyes flashed with recognition. This cursed gladiator knew him. He could smell the blood around him, and the screams and the clashing of blades pierced his ears and swelled inside the walls of the arena. The gladiator charged at him with a spear, and trusted it forwards aiming at Antonius' chest, who used his shield to deflect the blow, and stabbed with his sword.
This new Gladiator was no fresh sapling, and wasn't to be caught off guard easily. He kicked Antonius in his stomach and pushed him back, before jumping and stabbing at him again. Antonius was just able to dodge the spear, before rapidly shuffling forwards, and sinking his sword deep into his assailant. He felt his sword piercing the soft flesh, and pushing through dense muscle. He pulled his sword out, quickly stepped back and slit his throat. The Gladiators blood, sparkling in the cruel sun, arced and sprayed in all directions; blinding two nearby gladiators. Antonius used this opportunity to grab one of them and shove him into another that approached. The two fell down, and another with a spear pierced through both of them. He looked back up at his three opponents, and Lahar, who was carving a bloody path towards him. A smile spread across his face, he had never been defeated before and today that was not about to change.