Lahar & Rowan
The crowd was stunned by the sudden display of acrobatics going on in the arena and shouted out their approval. Even the senators and nobles in the Editor's booth were taken aback by it. Many of them were impressed by the grace and and speed the Vaan had shown and amazed by the sheer audacity of the Asiren woodsman in tackling a rider from their horse.
On the ground, the archer had failed to knock back an arrow in time to stop Rowan from slamming into them shoulder first. The wind was knocked out of the unfortunate archer's lungs as the two of them landed in a heap together on the floor.
At the same time the rider Lahar had managed to slash across the back cried out in pain, slumping down over his horse before slowly sliding off the animal and landing on the ground. Dazed and wounded he had dropped his spear and pulled a short sword from his hip. Staggering to his feet with great difficulty he swung the blade wildly in front of him, hoping to deter his attacker. All the while the third rider desperately tried to pull his, now useless, leg from under his fallen horse.
Gaius & Belkin
The Lion crashed into Belkin's shields like a battering ram made of fur and muscle, the Pingla dug in his heels as he was slowly pushed back. Claws and fangs raked his shields and screeched against the metal. The beast did not understand why he did not run. Then, suddenly Gaius appeared, axe in hand. The blade bit deep into the lion's side, opening up the old wound given to him by the original woodsman. At that moment Carvinox went wild. As blood poured forth from his flank he thrashed madly. Shaking the blade from his body, he gnashed and swiped furiously at Gaius. Cutting into the Asiren's leg with his claws and catching the handle of the axe in his teeth.
Antonius & Jamukha
The Black furred Darkling only half successfully dodged Jamukha's thrust. Turning away just a second too late, the spear blade cut a long red streak across his chest, shallow but bloody. He did not seem to be expecting such a fierce attack from one so young and adopted a new tactic by attempting to kick some sand into Jamukha's face and rush past him in the confusion so that he might join his brother and quickly kill their larger foe and by doing so anchor the boy to his corpse.
The grey furred brother was not fairing much better, his enemy was more dangerous than he first thought. Seeing what his kinsman was up to he steeled himself and rushed the imperial head on in hopes of distracting him and leaving his back open for his brother to take advantage of.
Gaius connected brilliantly against the beast, but it was not enough, and though the crowd went wild at the sight of it's blood it went into a frenzy, slashing madly at his leg. Gaius fell to the floor and the beast was upon him with the handle in its mouth. It was a battle of strength, Gaius was just strong enough to hold its head back and keep its claws at the sides of his body without cutting him. "Belkin, hit the side of your shield into the wound!" Gaius yelled, covering his pain with grunts and war cries.
The crowd was going wild, Lahar didn't care, he wanted to end this butchery soon.
The man whose horse had fallen on top of him was having trouble getting back to his feet. Lahar assumed that the weight of the horse had crushed his leg, killing him would be a mercy. He had no life now, he could not work as a slave nor a gladiator any longer and if Lahar did not kill him in the Arena someone else would and he would die in shame not glory.
He walked over to the man whose name he had never known and whispered. "Do your people believe in life after death?"
Terrified the man nodded meekly.
"Then I shall send you to your people."
Lahar slit the man's throat hoping in this awful place he had finally found some comfort.
The other rider who had fallen off his horse had found his feet and was standing, swinging his sword frantically fighting an invisible foe, the man looked dazed and the twin cuts on his back were bleeding badly. He was not dead, but he would be soon unless he got to a medicus.He knew that the Asieren would not show his opponent mercy but Lahar would not end a tribe. He blocked each sloppy swing of the other man's sword hoping he he would signal for mercy
When he didn't Lahar knew he had to intervene, "If you surrender you can fight another day, your tribe will not end, and you can hope to find vengeance."
Antonius looked back to see that the black brother was now aiming for him. Damn I can't take them both on.. Antonius whispered to Jamukha. "Watch my back please, I have an idea but I can't defend myself while execute it. So I entrust my life to you right now." Antonius looked back this would be a gamble but it was the only way.
The Grey brother charged with 2 dagger in his hands. Probably the dumbest attack ever. Antonius though as he prepared himself grinning. The Grey brother jumped and slashed downwards with his 2 daggers. Antonius blocked the man's attack with his shield keeping the mans arms above his head. Making an opening as the man couldn't defend himself right now. Antonius stabbed the man in his gut piercing him flesh and organ alike. Blood spew out of the wound covering the blade as well as Antonius chest.
But before the man could even scream, Antonius took his sword back and with 1 fell swoop chopped his head off. The head looked surprised as it flew to the air landing a few feet away. Antonius smiled as blood had gotten on his sword and his own chest. He then turned around to asses the situation and help if possible.
Belkin held off the beast long enough for Gaius to make a decent impact in the beast, causing the crowd to roar in delight as it bled. 'And they call US savages' he thought, but was quickly pulled out as he saw the beast get around him and slash at Gaius's leg, before pouncing on him and pinning him down. "Belkin, hit the side of your shield into the wound!" shouted Gaius, who was clearly in trouble. Belkin pulled his arm in and moved one of his shields across his torso before charging at the wild beast like a battering ram, shouting as he went. He put all of his force, amplified by the armor, into charging at the beasts gut, hopefully knocking it off Gaius.
The beast was barely knocked off of Gaius, he took the opportunity however to slam the handle of his axe into its neck. He stood up quickly, stumbling on his injured leg and slammed the axe towards its neck, hoping to have enough force to kill it.
Belkin & Gaius
The axe hit home with a wet thud and Carvinox was struck still, his body jerking to a rigid stop. The crowd fell deathly quiet. Slowly the lion's head turned to face the ragged Asiren, his neck making a horrible squelching noise as it faught against the axe. As the light faded from his eyes the beast let out one final snarl and raised his claws to the woodsman, only for his body to fail him in his final moments.
The once noble creature fell to the bloody sands, lifeless, his mane now soaked in his own blood, his eyes staring blankly at the pale sky. After a pause the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. Marrick, who had been watching from the editors booth, rose from his chair.
"Ladies and gentlemen. I give you Belkin and Gaius the beast slayers of house Marrick!"
The crowd seemed to enjoy that and equal chants of Belkin and Gaius' names began to spring up from groups among the audience. At that the gladiators were escorted off of the sands and Marrick went back to shadows and the reports of his other slaves who had been keeping an eye on the other matches.
Once they were back inside the two warriors were met by the executor, his haggard face seemed to be wearing the beginnings of a smile. "You did well out there, that was no mean feat for a pair of greenhorns. Rest up and get that armor off, there are viewing areas for you to watch the others. But you," He said pointing at Gaius. "You get to the arena medicus and get that leg stitched up."
His spear tasted blood, but it was not enough. The black brother was not only quick, but cunning as well. As Jamuu lunged forward with his spear for a finishing strike, he was met with a cloud of sand. Rough grains of sand blurred his vision and choked his lungs. Jamukha's form broke and he coughed raggedly, the sand scratching his throat as ruthlessly as it burned his eyes. Blinded, there was nothing he could do as the black brother dashed around his attack and toward Antonius.
"Watch my back please, I have an idea but I can't defend myself while execute it. So I entrust my life to you right now." The Imperial's voice broke through the painful blur that had become Jamukha's world. It was pointless trying to reply, every breath he took was a struggle.
Jamukha heard the clash of metal and shield, then the tearing of flesh. Was it the Darkling brother or Antonius who had been wounded? Jamukha could not tell. He turned wildly, hoping to catch a glimpse of the action. He could see the grey brother hit the ground, a head shorter. Jamukha also saw the enraged black brother slash out at the exposed and defenseless Imperial.Unable to stop the attack himself, Jamukha could only hope that the wound would not be fetal.
With the dark brothers back turned to him, Jamukha had the opening he needed to finish the fight. He dropped his spear, not trusting his ability to hit the Darkling Brother with the Imperial so close by, and instead wrapped his hands around the chain dangling from his neck.
Stepping quickly behind the brother, Jamuu looped the chain around the wild man's neck, and pulled backwards with all his might. He yanked so hard that both he and the Darkling brother fell backwards and crashed into the sand on the arena. No doubt Antonius would have suffered from the fall as well, his own neck bound by the same chain.
Jamuu hooked his long legs around the Darling brother's torso, locking them. He then twisted the thick chain around the Darkling Brothers neck, waiting for the bone to snap, or the brother to surrender. Whichever came first.
Gaius's axe hit true and the beast was struck dead, and painfully so. However... something about the way it died unsettled Gaius. It went to strike him once again but there was no strength left in the beast's limp body. Gaius looked in its eyes as they faded looking towards the pale sky. He kept staring at the animal's dead eyes until they closed over. The deafening sounds of the crowd became a distant cheer to Gaius as he looked up towards the same sky. 'Carvinox... a murderer... no. An animal looking for food. Just like my people do. And the Vaan and Amon'tyr, and the Pingla and even the Empire...' He began to regret the eagerness in which he wanted to make the creature suffer. 'It should have been a clean kill. I was taught to kill cleanly'. His face was emotionless as he realised his hatred for the Empire made him want to torture. Even Garonex would not be pleased with this kill, its not like he could eat it or use it's fur. He attempted to put such thoughts to rest, it was him or Carvinox. He leaned down and tore some fur out of its mane, gripping it tightly. However he didn't realise how badly injured he was and he stumbled to one knee grabbing Belkin's shield for support.
He didn't want to appear weak in front of the Empire crowd though, he needed their 'approval' to survive, and to keep fighting as he needed to stay in good shape in order to escape. So he pulled himself up and walked valiantly out of the arena before dropping to his knees once out of view of the crowd. He turned to Belkin, still gripping the fur in his hands and spat out "Va'kesh Skaad! That beast was just using instinct and they made it fight for fun instead of putting it down." He pulled himself up against the wall and whispered in a harsh and husky voice "Marrick's "Beast Hunter" will be the one to kill him. He's more of a beast than all the animals in my forests." He winced in pain but tried to cover it as the executor came, seemingly about to smile.
"You did well out there, that was no mean feat for a pair of greenhorns. Rest up and get that armor off, there are viewing areas for you to watch the others. But you," He said pointing at Gaius. "You get to the arena medicus and get that leg stitched up."
Gaius nodded and hobbled off towards the Medicus. He had no interest in seeing the other fights, only to fix up his leg. Lying on the blood stained wooden table the ugly as sin man treating his wounds attempted to take the fur out of his hand, and was met with a harsh and bloody snarl. He did his job, however he did say Gaius couldn't train or fight for about five days. Maybe now though he and Belkin would get some respect, even if all they did was kill an animal, it was a Lion after all. And it didn't bite him like Belkin, which amused Gaius a little.
Antonius turned around only to see a knife heading for him, he tried to dodge but was too late. The knife went over his chest making an cut on it, not to deep but it still bled quite allot. Antonius stepped back shocked as the blood began to drip from the wound. He had anticipated that his fellow recruit could have at least watched his back, it seems he was wrong. Antonius dropped his shield and tried to close the wound as much as possible with his left hand.
He then felt the chain getting yanked and he was pulled to the ground. He landed on his back as he hit his head. he kept the wound closed as much as possible with his left hand. He looked at the fight which seemed to have turned into a struggle. He saw that the black brother was being strangled by his ally. Antonius was determined to finish the fight as quick as possible, he didn't want to bleed an more then necessary. So strangling was not an option. He lifted his right arm as he looked at the man. He was trying to get the chains of of him lifting his arms in the process. Antonius remembered something his master had said. "The fastest way to reach the heart is though the armpit. And you also don't have to use much force as there aren't any bones there either."
Antonius grinned as he stabbed the man through his armpit aiming downwards. His sword going completely into the mans body. The black brother died instantly as both his lungs were pieced along with his heart. Blood spat out Antonius quickly avoided the stream of blood. "He is dead you can let go now." Antonius stood up yanking the chain. He yanked his ally upwards an bit as he offered his hand to him saying. "That was an good fight brother." He smiled as he offered his empty right hand, the sword still in the man and his left hand trying to keep the cut closed. He knows I fought better then him and that he failed to protect my back. And he has been annoying me for his fun, but this might be enough to put that behind us. God knows I could use another brother.
The charge didn't work, his arm hurting as the attack looked like it barely effected him. He bounced off, quickly trying to get up, his shields not helping him at all. Belkin got up quick enough to see Gaius swing his ake into the beasts neck, a sickening thud emanating as the beast suddenly went still. He noticed the crowd go silent as the beast made it last move, trying to attack Gaius but never getting there.
The crowd's sudden cheering startled Belkin, who looked around in his armor to see them all clapping and welling. He looked over at Gaius, who seemed to be visibly disturbed by the kill. 'He did what he had to, or else we would both be dead. Us, or that. he thought to himself. The shouts were loud, even through his helmet, and he heard the Empire pig who owned him yell out, "Ladies and gentlemen. I give you Belkin and Gaius the beast slayers of house Marrick!". The sudden chanting of Belkin and Gaius's name took some getting used to, only taken out of it by Gaius being helped up by lifting himself on his own shield, but he was happy to have won.
However, he was also confused: Why would he be happy that they were chanting his name? Was his time captured softened him to what the Empire was, was he enjoying his fight in the arena, or was he just happy with living? He didn't know, but he was led back into the complex where all the other Gladiators were without any resistance. It was when they were out of view that Gaius dropped to his knee next to the wall. "Va'kesh Skaad! That beast was just using instinct and they made it fight for fun instead of putting it down." Gaius said, Belkin silently agreeing. Again, it was either the beast dying by his hand, or us dying by the beasts claw. "Marrick's "Beast Hunter" will be the one to kill him. He's more of a beast than all the animals in my forests." he then said. That would be indeed true: While he was still confused as to what he truly thought about the Arena, his thoughts on the man who held his chain were still the same; a gruesome, terrifying death to the man.
He saw the Executor walk up to them, a small smile on his face. "You did well out there, that was no mean feat for a pair of greenhorns. Rest up and get that armor off, there are viewing areas for you to watch the others." he said before turning to Gaius and telling him to patch up his leg. Belkin said his goodbyes before asking one the people who had helped him put on his armor before. "I need these off" he said to the man, motioning to his gauntlet mounted shields. He got the gauntlet off easily with the help, and took the rest of the armor off quickly, having only now realised just how much his body ached from wearing the stuff. He sat down on a nearby stool to get a bit of rest before heading down to where the Empire slave and the Amon'tyr were. "Wonder if they've already bickered each other to death" he wondered out loud.
Rowan's gambit had paid off, as he and the archer collided, tumbling down into the sands with a monstrous crash. The horse, frightened and confused, skidded off to the other end of the arena, far from the fighting and bloodshed. Rowan could hear the crowd's roaring approval, but the massive cloud of dust and the jarring aches caused by his harsh landing prevented him from seeing if Lahar had been doing just as well as himself. Rowan rose to his feet with a mighty growl, arms outstretched in open challenge. Spinning his axes in his hands, Rowan charged his downed enemy and began to slash wildly, targeting his gut and chest. Fortunately the panicked archer was able to draw his own short sword and hurriedly began to parry Rowan's strikes. The gladiator even managed to lash out with a few strikes of his own, though with two axes to one sword, Rowan was easily able to avoid being struck.
"I can see why there are so few of you. Weak warriors such as yourselves make easy prey for those that are truly strong." Rowan spat at the Clansmen. His barb clearly infuriated the man who lashed out with an angry slash. Rowan's arm was cut, though not terribly deep. With an angry war cry Rowan swiped at the man's gut, sending a splash of blood out into the sands; some of the blood even landed on Rowan's armor, blending with the drippings from his own wound.
The Clansman looked shocked, and dropped his blade as he struggled to remain standing. Rowan brought his other axe down across the man's chest, creating another gush of blood. The Clansman wobbled before dropping to his knees, and Rowan followed with a brutal kick to his chest, sending the poor soul to his back. Rowan watched as the man struggled to breath, blood bubbling around his mouth and turning the sand around him a deep crimson. He raised both arms in triumph, glancing around the stands to look upon the crowd. He had completed his transformation into a true tool of Morgal, by finally bringing her a worthy warrior. This was his calling, the reason for his capture. He would relish the blood and the cheers and the glory.
Glory would have to wait however, as there were two more clansmen to deal with by his count. Looking around, Rowan realized Lahar had done his work well. One of the spearmen was trapped unmoving under his fallen horse. Looking closer Rowan could see that his throat had been cut. The last of the Maurie was locked in battle with Lahar, and the Vaan was urging him to surrender. Judging by the severity of the man's wounds, surrender seemed like a good choice.
Rowan quickly made his way over to the fight, though he dare not get close enough to interfere. He had been given his kill, and he would not rob Lahar of the same. The crowd would need to see them both in battle after all, if they were to make an impact big enough to justify their worth to Marrick.
Thick chains dug into the Darkling Brother's flesh, slowly crushing the man's throat. Despite his adversary's constant struggling, Jamukha kept his grip firm. Red eyes began to bulge from Brother's head. Spit and blood leaked out of his mouth in equal parts. Just one more good twist and the fight would be over.
"I will not burn your body!" Jamukha grunted into the dying man's ear. His enemy did not deserve that honor. Instead is spirit would be forever trapped in this life.
The Darkling Brother's side gushed out fresh blood, spilling it out onto the sand. All resistance quickly left the Darkling Brother's body, and his neck snapped in one violent motion. It was only then that Jamuu released his hold and turned the dead body off of him and onto the sands.
Jamuu got to back to his feet quickly, and brushed the sand from his chest. Looking down at the dead Brother, he could see Antonius's sword sticking out from under his arm. Did the Imperial think I could not finish the fight on my own? Jamukha's pride felt more wounded than his body.
"That was a good fight brother." Antonius offered his hand out to Jamukha. What was it he expected?
"I was too slow and undisciplined. You bleed for my mistake, and for that I am sorry." Jamukha grabbed the Imperials hand and raised it above their heads. The crowd responded in kind with thunderous applause and shouts of praise.
"But if you rob me of a kill again," Jamukha had to raise his voice to be heard over the crowd, "I'll finish what the Darkling Brother started." Jamuu looked to the wound on Antonius's chest. He would not have another warrior finish his fights for him, his pride would not allow it.
"I was too slow and undisciplined. You bleed for my mistake, and for that I am sorry." "No apologies needed we are both still alive are we not?" Jamukha grabbed the Imperials hand and raised it above their heads. The crowd responded in kind with thunderous applause and shouts of praise. "But if you rob me of a kill again. I'll finish what the Darkling Brother started."
Antonius respond with. "I am sorry for killing him, I forget your tribe thinks of kills like that. I knew you could easily finish him, it was only that I didn't want to bleed any longer then necessary." He looked at Jamukha. "I know that because of our previous lives we might never be the best of friends. But let us at least stand in the arena as brothers so that we can fight to live another day." He smiled at Jamukha hoping that he would agree. He stretched out his hand again. Taking it would symbolize that he agreed, while shoving it away meant great disrespect. Antonius knew that he would have to visit the medicus after this. He wondered how Lahar had fought. Though with his skills and the weapons he got, he was sure Lahar would have won the match.
The young spearman was left off balance by Vokrash's sudden flash of movement and haphazardly swung around to face his opponent, slashing out with the spear point, trying to open Vokrash's stomach. The attack was fierce but his footing was sloppy. The boy was clearly new at this and the panic in his eyes only grew as Vokrash's laughter rang through his ears.
Vokrash smiled as he saw the panic grow in his eyes as Vokrash quickly leapt on top of the young lad. Vokrash slashed at the right calf of the spearman and he felt resistance as his axe's steel connected with flesh and sinew as the the spearman fell to one knee. As Vokrash turned around he saw a spear flashing towards his face.
The spearman was wildly swinging his spear and Vokrash easily sidestepped the thrust as he swung down with both his axes and split the spear at the middle of the shaft. The spearman was now defenseless and could do nothing as Vokrash kicked him into the sand and planted his foot on his chest and raised his arms up high as he awaited the signal for him to execute the young man.
Rowan & Lahar
The fallen archer's blood fled from his body and his life with it. The last thing he heard were the cheers of the crowd as his whole being went cold. The sight of his clansman slaughtered like an animal broke whatever spirit the last rider had left and he dropped to his knees, tears in his eyes. He raised two fingers, a plea for mercy.
The crowd booed and jeered at this sign of cowardice. The editor made his way to the edge of his box. Taking the time to listen to the sound of the crowd. These two combatants had made brutal and quick work of their opponents. The Asiren had made a short work of his opponent, causing a good crimson spray of blood to delight the masses. The Vaan on the other hand had been death on wings dispatching men and horses with disturbing ease and moving like a bird. Marrick's predictions had been dead right these two would go far in the arena. But Marrick was more than just their master, the editor had orders of his own. Looking down on the combatants he held out his hand, holding his thumb out sideways holding it there for added effect. He turned it downwards. The crowd cheered, chanting "Death, death, death."
The rider looked up to Lahar, his heart in his throat. "Just do it. End this."
The fight was over before it began. Vokrash had made a reputation for himself in the arena and it alone could have beaten the fresh young gladiator without the help of his axes. Still the crowd enjoyed his work, the editor had to admit that splintering the spear was a nice touch. Vokrash' fans seemed to agree. The editor looked to the fallen slave's owner. He did not seem pleased. Still he knew the risks of this match, there was only one reason people came to see Vokrash.
He gave the signal for death.
Antonius & Jamukha
Marrick arrived just in time to see his two gladiators standing triumphant over the bloodied sands. That's my boys. He thought to himself. I'll make legends of them yet. He smiled to himself at the thought of all the coin and prestige this new batch were going to bring him.
Down on the sands Antonius and Jamukha were led back to the bowels of the arena and unchained from each other and their equipment taken back into storage. Their time was now theirs to fill... at least for a while.
"Death." The word encircled Lahar, engulfing him. These people, these civilised people were calling out for blood and they had the nerve to call his tribe monsters, devils of the white sands. The rider had lost a lot of blood from his wounds, a pool of blood was forming around him, if he didn't kill him, death would follow but it would be a slower death then anyone deserved.
The rider looked up to Lahar, his heart in his throat. "Just do it. End this."
Lahar remembered that the rider's people believed in life after death. "When you leave this world you will do it alone, but in the next you will be reunited with your brothers." He said trying to comfort him.
He wanted to give the rider a quick clean death, he had already endured enough pain. Crouching down Lahar quickly stabbed the rider between the ribs so he would pierce the man's heart and stood up in disgust.
The crowd were not happy by the lack of flourish in Lahar's final kill, especially compared to his previous displays. Still it was a result. He and Rowan were lead off as the winners and even met with congratulations from other gladiators once they were back in the arena depths.
They were disarmed and given the rest of their time to themselves.
There was a moment of hesitation, and then Jamukha took Antonius's hand. After everything they had been through, he owed the Imperial that much at least. One fight was not enough to erase all that the Empire had done to Jamuu and his people, but it was enough for Jamukha to look at this one imperial in a different light. Jamukha would never say it out loud, but he was beginning to think that he may have been to harsh in judging this man. They weren't brothers, not yet, but they were not enemies either.
A surge of relief went through his body when the chain around his neck was removed. He rolled his head back and forth in large circles, relishing his renewed freedom. The stiffness in his neck was quickly eased away, but his hands were still raw from gripping the chain so tightly. He found himself suffering just to close his fist. The pain will pass. I cannot say the same for the Darkling Brothers. With their body's broken their spirits would be forever trapped in this life, unable to move on to the next. It was a grim fate.
Jamukha spent the rest of his time after the fight relaxing.There was no use going to see the other fights, as most of them had finished already. He entertained the thought of finding Rowan and exchanging battle stories, but Jamukha wasn't eager to admit that the Imperial had out shined him on the sands.
I will have to train harder and more often. Jamukha thought as he pressed his back against the cold wall behind him. I will not be the weakest fighter here, I will not give the Empire the satisfaction of watching me die on those sands.
Vokrash grinned like a madman when he saw the signal for death. He raised an axe high in the air and came down at the young man's neck; the steel cut cleanly through the flesh and a look of desparation and horror was the last face the young man would ever make in this life. Vokrash took the head by the hair and held it up for the crowd to see and then twirled it around his head and threw it to the wall of the arena. As Vokrash left the sands he looked back and saw the fallen spearman's owner. A look of displeasure was upon his face, one that Vokrash might have if he saw a rat turd in his meals.
Jamukha accepted Antonius hand, something that brought Antonius great joy he didn't know if he had made a friend but he did know he lost an enemy. I guess Marric is smarter then I first suspected. Antonius walked out of the arena, as he walked over to the slave that removed the chains. Antonius was relieved to be able to move freely as the chain was removed. He saw that Lahar had managed to win, this made him smile he would have been sadden to see his friend fall in the arena. He would talk to him later when he was done being stitched up.
Antonius walked over to the medicus, who looked a bit worried about the wound. But after he cleaned it, it only turned out to be an shallow cut. Something which Antonius had already expected seeing that he didn't lose that much blood. The medicus began stitching up his wounds. It hurt but it didn't hurt as bad as the mark, so Antonius mostly remained quiet except for a few pained faces. The result was quite impressive the medicus was quite good. Antonius thanked the man as he walked out of the healing area.
He walked over to Lahar. "It seems we both survived our fights. So what was your fight like?"
The crowd's cheering had ceased, they did not like the lack of blood, they wanted him to kill the man with more flourish, a man who should've lived, a clan had ended now and it was done by Lahar's hand but not his will. He was disgusted with himself. He was escorted with Rowan back into the depths of the arena, he wondered how the other Vaan, Typhon and Antonius had done in their fights and if they felt as wretched as he did.
He saw Atonious and the other gladiators, but no sign of his fellow War Walker. Antonius had been wounded on his chest, it had been stitched up, but at least Jamukha hadn't left him to die in the arena. It seemed like he was one of the few who had avoided being wounded.
Antonius walked over to Lahar. "It seems we both survived our fights. So what was your fight like?"
Lahar couldn't think of anything to say but, "The Maurie Clan are no more, I ended them."
Rowan walked proudly back through the arena, nursing his cut arm slightly. The medicus would be able to stitch him up nicely, and the battle scar would be a welcome reminder of his first fight. The crowd had showered him with praise, and more importantly the higher ups had seen what he could do, and hopefully that he was worth a great deal more than six gold shards. Lahar had been another story. The poor Vaan had taken pity on the Maurie Clan, and suffered the scorn of the crowd for it. There is no room on the sands for pity, Rowan thought. Although he supposed the Vaan War Walkers were not killers by choice, but by necessity; and Lahar must have thought that the Clansman did not need to die.
Rowan quickly spotted Jamukha talking with Antonius and made his way over. He was relieved to see his friend had succeeded in his fight, but a large part of him had hoped that at least the Imperial would have died. Although perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. The satisfaction of doing the man in himself would be far greater. Ignoring the Imperial, Rowan grinned widely at Jamuu and extended his hand in greeting.
"Good to see you brother."
"The Maurie Clan are no more, I ended them." Antonius saw the sadness in his friends eyes. He remembered that the war walkers preferred not to kill, and he probably had to considering they were all dead. "I am sorry to hear that. I am happy to see that you live and it is always an shame when men have to die without an reason. Well come on let's get out of this place of dead. By the way where is your friend the other Vaan?" Antonius looked around to look for the other Vaan. His wound was still stinging a little but he was more worried if it would get infected, if it would he would have an giant problem.
"By the way where is your friend the other Vaan?" Just as Antonius said it a cart creaked up to the group, pulled by a scrawny looking man and carrying a body covered by a bloody white cloth.
"What do you want done with this one?" He asked the Executor.
"Not like he had any winning to put aside for a burial or whatever the Vaan do with their dead. chuck him in the beast pits, no sense in him going to waste. Unless you lot want to pay for him?" He said turning to the assembled gladiators.
Meanwhile, up above, Varlen Marrick had rejoined the nobility in the viewing platform in The Den of Hearts. He grinned to himself as Vorgis sent his opponent flying across the sands with a swing of his greatsword.
Behind him an elderly senator leaned over and tapped him on the shoulder. "Marrick, while I have you for a moment I was wondering about that new Vaan you acquired for the exotics today."
"You mean Lahar. He's an odd one but what Vaan isn't? At least they're easy to tame."
The senator seemed to grimace at that though he hid it well. "Yes, well I was wondering if his contract was open for patronage."
"You and your Vaan Kedrin." Marrick laughed. "Yes, yes we can go over the details after the games."
"What about that Amon'tyr you bought?" Chimed in another noble. "Since you wiped out the last of my Maurie I could use some new horsemen to swell up my ranks."
"Sorry but Jamukha is not for sale."
"Jamukha....I swear I've heard that name before. These Amon names all sound like gibberish to me. Still I would pay handsomely for him. He seems like good stock and Jage could use the company of his countrymen now the Mauries are gone."
"By the way where is your friend the other Vaan?"
As Antonius asked him the question, Lahar saw a wooden cart, covered with sheet that used to be white, turning a deep shade of scarlet. Whoever was under the sheet had died recently probably from a wound that didn't kill at first, but slowly bled him out. Lahar thought back to the Muarie that he had killed last, this was what would've happened if he hadn't done it himself. No one deserved a death like that.
"What do you want done with this one?" The scrawny man pushing the cart said
"Not like he had any winning to put aside for a burial or whatever the Vaan do with their dead. chuck him in the beast pits, no sense in him going to waste. Unless you lot want to pay for him?" The Executor said turning to the assembled gladiators.
His heart sank, Typhon was the only other Vaan.
"I'll pay for him,"
"I'll pay for him,"
The executor shrugged. "suit yourself, but it'll cost you your winnings. We'll take him from here." he said to the cart bearer. "I'll take care of the rest." He turned to Lahar. "You're our ludus' last male Vaan now. That makes you special!" He grinned patting Lahar on the head like a puppy.
As condescending as he was the executor was true to his word and secured them a small cremation room near the arena. "This seems as good a place as any." he said as the others filed in, their hands cuffed in order to make sure they do not try anything rash. As they lined up beside Typhon's body they could see that the executor held a brand in his hand. "Normally we wait until you get back to the Ludus but this seems more fitting. To rise beside the fallen." With that he lit the pyre and the flames began to lick at Typhon's cloth wrapped body. Heating the brand in the fire, he set about his task. One by one the living are given the mark of the sword beside their "M" brand. Marking them as true gladiators.
"If any of you have anything to say, now is the time."
Jamukha took Rowan's hand and gave it a firm shake. He was glad to see his friend had not died on the sands. So glad, in fact, that he almost managed a smile. Jamukha found it hard to be happy after such grim work.
Good to see you brother. By contrast, Rowan had no trouble smiling at all. There was something to be envied about the Asieren's easy demeanor.
"And you," Jamukha caught himself before he said brother and instead settled on, "my friend." He had a complicated history with his brothers. One had betrayed his trust and sold him into slavery, and the other was dead, in no small part due to Jamukha's own arrogance. No, it was not a privileged thing to be counted among Jamukha's brothers.
"I trust you fought well." Jamukha continued. "I've already heard talk of a 'flying Asieren' from the other slaves down here." Jamukha gave Rowan a knowing look. "Unless Gaius suddenly sprouted a pair of massive wings to go with his massive arms, I think they were talking about you. How exactly does an Asieren fly, if I am allowed to ask?"
Just as Jamuu was allowing himself to let his guard down, a grim reminder of his reality was wheeled into sight on a wooden cart. Muscles tensed in Jamuu's arms as the executor spoke of tossing the Vaan's remains to the beast. Such a desecration of the body was reserved for the lowest criminals and scum. Jamukha did not know the Vaan well, but he knew that he deserved better than that.
"I'll pay for him," The other Vaan, Lahar, spoke the words before Jamukha could.
Jamukha followed the others into the cremation chamber, keenly observing that the executor had brought with him another brand. The thought of sticking the fiery stick down that pig's throat was the only thing that kept him calm as the hot metal pressed against his flesh. One day, Jamuu thought. One day I will repay this debt to you, pig.
"If any of you have anything to say, now is the time." The pig spoke when his work was done.
Looking at the burning body of his fellow slave, Jamuu found himself at a loss for words. For his people, the burning of the body marked the end of one life and the beginning of another. The fire freed the spirit and allowed it to move on to the next life. But did the Vaan believe the same thing?
"The fire carries his spirit now." Jamukha said, stepping forward. They were the words of his people, and they would have to do for now. He could feel the laughing eyes of the pig on him, but Jamuu continued. "May he find peace where there was none. May he find joy where there was none. May he never know another sleepless night. This life is over, another begins."
Gaius held the Lion's fur in his hand, spreading it between his fingers as he lay on the wooden table. He was lost in his thoughts about the creature when a slave with the Marrick brand on him entered the Medicus.
"You are needed by the executor. One of the Vaan died." Gaius was hardly surprised someone died, although he wanted it to be the Imperial. "Follow me" continued the slave. Gaius limped, following the small skinny man to a cremation room in the arena. There he found the executor had yet another brand for his flesh. Gaius didn't even tense his muscles as his skin was burnt with the mark of the gladiator. He thought of when he first began fighting with his people, and the mushrooms he once ate to supposedly aid him in battle. All it did was make him fight like a madman, like... Carvinox. "Carvinox..." he whispered. 'The mark of a Lion... that I would gladly endure burning flesh for' he thought, still deeply disturbed by his latest kill.
Gaius stood beside the other gladiators as Typhon's body was burnt, some of the other gladiators still receiving the mark. The Amon'tyr said a few words. 'Must be their words of burial'. As he spoke Gaius nodded to the only living Vaan left in their 'group'. He wondered if that was even the right word as most of these men he still considered strangers. And that wasn't even counting the more seasoned gladiators, and he had forgotten about the females.
As Vokrash returned from the sands he saw a small circle of the new gladiators being branded and cremating someone. Upon closer inspection, Vokrash determined it was one of the Vaan. A pity when one dies so early on. As he looked up from the burning corpse he saw that Gaius was whispering 'Carvinox' over and over. Vokrash remembered that name from the list in who Gaius and Belkin were to fight and he could see that Gaius was visibly disturbed from the kill.
"What troubles you brother, I have not seen one such as you so disturbed from death in a long time."
"What troubles you brother, I have not seen one such as you so disturbed from death in a long time." Said Vokrash to Gaius.
Gaius said back to him, trying to hide it from the others "For the longest time I have killed cleanly, even empire scum trying to take my-our home... brother..." he choked out the last word, as he certainly didn't consider Vokrash a brother, but perhaps he was wrong. "And animals even more so, and I have always used every part of the body... To kill something so brutally... and then never to use the carcass for food or warmth," Gaius was breathing hard at this point "I have shamed Morgal, and Garonex, and my Father and Mother and Carvinox..." he clenched his fists so tight his nails cut his palms "All because I allowed myself to be taken by those Va'kesh Se'kol Kuntarra Gunal Farushta."
"For the longest time I have killed cleanly, even empire scum trying to take my-our home... brother..." Vokrash heard the choking sound on the word brother and knew that Gaius either did not view him as kin or is wary to be open. And animals even more so, and I have always used every part of the body... To kill something so brutally... and then never to use the carcass for food or warmth. I have shamed Morgal, and Garonex, and my Father and Mother and Carvinox... All because I allowed myself to be taken by those Va'kesh Se'kol Kuntarra Gunal Farushta."
Vokrash looked Gaius and looked him in the eyes and said to him plainly "Let us leave your comrades to mourn for the dead and follow me." Vokrash led him to a bench where nobody was around. "Now tell me about the fight and how you were captured."
Vokrash looked Gaius and looked him in the eyes and said to him plainly "Let us leave your comrades to mourn for the dead and follow me." Vokrash led him to a bench where nobody was around. "Now tell me about the fight and how you were captured."
Gaius sat on the bench, his leg still hurting as he straightened it to lesson the pain. He thought back to how he was captured. Breathing deep he said with a great sadness "I was fighting with my brothers to defend a river... two of them were my actual brothers, not just in war. Same father, same mother." Gaius took a long pause before continuing. "There were too many imperials for my kin to fight off and one by one they fell." Turning to Vokrash he asked "Surely before you were captured you knew our code: that we'd rather end our own lives before being taken as a slave." Assuming Vokrash knew Gaius continued his story "I knew I would either die or be captured... so I killed the wounded... my brothers in arms and blood, so they would not feel the shame of slavery. I tried to kill myself but they took me."
Gaius played with the fur in his hands, giving him some comfort he could not explain.
"I've already heard talk of a 'flying Asieren' from the other slaves down here."
"Aye, that was me." Rowan laughed. he wanted the other gladiators to take notice of him just as much as the higher ups, and the crowd. After all, a fearsome reputation would go a long way in intimidating foes. The Asieren were just as adept at intimidation as they were in combat itself. Hallucinogenic mushrooms, wild battle cries, and a dense, confusing jungle were the perfect mix of confusion and misdirection that had aided Rowan and his tribemates in defending themselves against Imperial oppression. Now he would simply have to adapt new tactics to defend himself against the sands.
"It's much harder than you'd think, Jamuu. My wing's are sore." Just as he finished, Rowan noted the cart being rolled past them with a grim sense of understanding. If Morgal was kind, he would not share the same fate as Typhon. Rowan shot a glance to Lahar, his battle partner and the last remaining Vaan in their group. He thought of how terrible it must feel to be completely alone. Lahar and Jamuu were now one of a kind, stranded with strangers. Rowan wondered if the pair of them would realize this, and perhaps band together. Three strong warriors like Rowan, Lahar, and Jamukha could do great together on the sands.
As they were lead out towards the Vaan's "funeral", Rowan caught a glimpse of the hot iron in the executors hand. The mark of the gladiator. At last, Rowan would be considered equal, and given the chance to truly shine. He took the mark with a wide grin, almost enjoying the pain it brought him. With that pain came the knowledge that he was one step closer to redeeming himself in the eyes of Morgal. The executor asked for words from the gladiators, and Jamuu gave a speech that Rowan figured he must have given many times before. It saddened Rowan, knowing that a boy so young as Jamuu would know so much of death.
Rowan made his way to the executor after the words were spoken and whispered something in his ear, so that only he could hear him.
"Take my winnings and give them to Lahar, please." he said before moving off to find the Vaan. When he found Lahar, Rowan pulled the Vaan to the side and rested a hand on his shoulders. They had both worked so hard to keep each other alive in the sands, and that was a bond that Rowan was not going to forget easily.
"You will not bear this burden alone, Lahar. I swear to you."
Vokrash looked away and towards the ground. "34 years ago I was banished by my tribe for killing the Va'kesh who slept with my sister. For two years I lived alone in the wild with no others but the animals to be my companions. I had left morality and civilization behind; I had become little more than an animal." Vokrash took a deep breath. It had been years since there was another Asiren among him, and even longer since he had told anyone his story.
"For two years I lived in the wild, alone. Then one day I saw an Imperial Garrison in one of my favorite hunting grounds. To you that might not mean much, but to me it was as if somebody walked right into my place of living and destroyed everything and then expected me to clean up the mess. I waited until night and killed all but two of the men there. They knocked me out and dragged me to another garrison where I was bound and was forced to march all the way to Ptolemy. For the first five years of being a slave the only thing that they could do was try to reintegrate me into the 'civilised world'. I lost count of how many times I tried to escape." Anger was beginning to burn in Vokrash's eyes.
"But then one day they led me to the sands and gave me a knife. They said only four words to me. 'Kill or be killed'". Vokrash paused there and was silent for a moment. After a few seconds he turned back to Gaius. "The world you once knew is dead and you will never get it back. If you escape then where will you go? Your tribe will have forgotten you or look upon you as a coward and a failure. The world of the gladiator is the one that you live in now. There are no morals and there is no room for regrets or sympathy. There is only one true law that governs this life. Kill or be killed."
With those last words Vokrash stood up and began to walk off. He stopped for a second and said "welcome to the sands Gaius. This is no place for mercy." and began to walk off.