I Am Gladiator! (Closed, Started)

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"I hope you know how to use more than just words to fight" he said to Rowan, trying to lead him on, "Because a Sword is much more powerful than your tribe would care to know"

Rowan smiled and bent down to get the sword, rubbing some dirt on his hands to give himself a better grip on the hilt before snatching the blade up and getting back to his feet. Rowan whirled the blade around a few times, slashing at the air and getting used to the motions. A sword was certainly quicker than an axe, and perhaps more precise, but the sheer strength of an axe in Asieren hands was unmatched. Rowan could wish for an axe as much as he liked however, it wouldn't change his circumstances. He stepped forward confidently and studied Belkin for an opening.

"I'm not seeing any broken heads!" shouted the exector, cracking his damned whip again. Rowan paid him no mind, his attention now fully on Belkin. He took a long stride forward and drove his leading foot deep into the ground, sliding his back foot along and putting alot of force into his opening strike, a straight slash downwards. He was determined to wear his opponent down, tire him out and gain a small foothold in their training.

After the slash, Rowan redirected his wooden blade to cut horizontally along the oposite direction of Belkin's shield, hoping to force the Pingla to block awkwardly. Rowan would have to be clever and quick, since he didn't have a shield of his own to block the Pingla's attacks and counters. He thought of how he might be able to turn his lack of gear to an advantage, after all the shield would mean Belkin might be slightly slower, and limited in how he could attack. Though in fairness, Rowan hadn't seen many Pingla fight before. For all he knew the shield was just as deadly.

"You know a dummy will only get you so far when you're trying out a new technique." said Vorgis, startling Gaius as he strode up to him, knocking on the wooden man's head. "Come on." He motioned for Gaius to join him in an open patch of ground in the middle of the yard. "Try it on someone who can react." He spread his arms out in open challenge to the gladiator.

Gaius readied the spear across his shoulder and held the dagger close for protection as he stabbed out at Vorgis with the longer weapon. He figured he could stab the spear down to protect himself from body blows if need be, and stab out with the knife. "The argument last night" Gaius said as he stabbed at Vorigs's chest, "Is that common among new recruits? And where are Lahar, Jamuukha and the Imperial?"

'The claws' A wide grin escaped Antonius as he looked at his weapon. The gods had given him the sign that this was his final change, he wouldn't disappoint them or his wife. The game master made clear that the hammer fighter was the biggest threat, he was wrong. the shorter fighter injured the bigger one leaving his flanks undefended as he focused on striking again. Antonius felt his warriors instinct awakening. The smaller one had made a fatal mistake.

Antonius stepped back and flanked the smaller one. When the smaller one used his weapons again Antonius attacked. He quickly placed both his hands around the man's neck, before he could even turn around Antonius turned his neck. A loud crack was heard as his neck was broken, the man hit the sand with an look of mixed horror and surprise on his face. He never knew what hit him. Antonius looked at the other fighter who charged with a loud battle cry, the man used a downwards smash as his opening attack hoping to crush Antonius head. Antonius quickly side stepped, a grin could be seen on his face, Antonius' right arm moved forward at incredible speed with his index and middle finger stretched out. His nails looked very sharp, the next moment the fingers reached their goal.

Both fingers pierced the man's left eye, the strange mix of eye fluid and blood was a comfortable feeling for Antonius he had done this before, many times. The man screamed as his eye was pierced the fluid leaking out as the man lost sight in his eye. The man grabbed with one hand to his eye before he could do anything else though, Antonius freed his two fingers and lowered his knees. He brought both his hands next to each other as he sort of jumped hitting the man under his chin, the hit would hurt as much as being hit with the hammer the man was holding. The man stepped backward stunned dropping the hammer the small new cuts under his chin began to bleed.

Antonius didn't stop his assault as he hit the man's kidney with his left arm. He moved one of his arms to defend his kidney ], as the other one was holding the bloody mess that used to be his left eye. Antonius right arm moved forward as he hit him on the right undefended side of his face, his knuckles making sure he also destroyed the man's right eye. He screamed as he stepped back trying to grab something as his balance was off and he was suddenly made blind. Antonius used a full power right arm punch to knock the man of his feet.

The man hit the ground the air being hit out of him by the impact, Antonius quickly stepped back grabbing the man's hammer. He lifted it above his head and it was swung down with such force it smashed the man's head, a sickening crack was heard as his skull was crushed blood and brain began to fall on the sands. Both man were killed with an minute. Antonius turned around a bit of blood had splashed on his chest, he looked at the game master with an serious look. "you got any gladiators here? Or do I have to keep fighting these weaklings?"

"I'm not seeing any broken heads!" shouted the executor, to which Belkin just shrugged it off. He was ready, he was just waiting on his opponent. He didn't have to wait any longer, as Rowan lunged the sword overhead. Belkin was quick to react, stepping backwards and angling the sword so that Rowan's sword merely rode down it, hardly putting any pressure on him.

Rowan responded by trying to swing the sword against his shield direction, trying to make Belkin block funny. Belkin smirked, 'Guess I will have to show a little skill then' he thought, as he made his shield go sideways towards his sword. Belkin swung the shield up and into the strike, causing the blow to deviate and swing upwards from the parry. Belkin then fluidly stepped forward and swung his sword into Rowan's neck, hitting the skin with force, but not puncturing it.

"I believe that makes it one kill to me already" he said, backing off to get some space.

A blond gladiator, Irri, was playing with his hair and questioning him ceaselessly about his people's traditions. Thankfully the bear woman, Gelda, kept her hands to her self, well except for the light punch punch on his arm, but at least she had kept her hands away from his bottom. As the feast continued some of the gladiators seemed to make it a competition of who could drink the most. That will not end well thought Lahar. Hw was probably the only sober man in the room.

"We paint ourselves bec-"

He was interrupted by Rowan and Antonius' arguing. They had both had much to drink, but Rowan seemed more effected by the drink then Antonius. He kept a cup in hand as he spoke. Antonius had told another version of his sad story, no doubt to protect his wife, there were many open ears in the feasting hall and Lahar suspected that at lest one of them would sell the truth if they heard it, just to add a few more pieces of gold to their coffers.

They were fighting like children though, but these men had blades and mudcles to fight for them when needed. These mean thrived on fighting, if they could not settle this words they would do so with steel. He was about to add his own voice to Antonuis', but he shot him a look that meant he did not want him joining in.

He sat there quietly as the fight escalated, Jamukha joining in, swearing he would fight as Rowan's second.

Then Vokrash jumped into the fray, telling them off like the children they were acting like. The merrymaking had ceased now, Lahar was certain that if a pin dropped, he would hear it land.

They were ushered away to their cells after that, most of the other fighters were grumbling about how the Imperial and Asieran had spoiled the feast for them. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The next day he was lead to the estate he assumed that belonged to his new patron. He had seen glimpses of land like this when his captors escorted him to the city, but it took his breath away. It was beautiful. The land was lush and full of colour, plants he had never seen before it was the complete opposite to the desert of his homeland, but it did share one thing the city didn't have. It was quiet, from the moment he arrived in the city all he could hear was the chatter of the city folk, but here it was quiet and he savoured it.

The man who greeted him at the entrance to the manor was amiable and friendly, Lahar hadn't expected this kind of treatment from his patron to be. He ordered the guards to remove his chains and wait outside, the guards looked confused at the man's order but complied. Before he knew it Lahar was being lead through the manor, unbound, with his patron at his side.

"Can I get you anything? Water, wine? Something to eat maybe?"

"No, I am fine as I am" He said rubbing his arms where the chains had chaffed his skin."Why do you leave me unbound? I could flee, I could kill you, so why?"

While in the background the executor cracked his whip and shouted at Belkin and Rowan. "I'm not seeing any broken heads!" He took a training axe from the weapon racks he strode up to Vokrash. "Make sure those two get some training in. Break whatever you have to."

"Yes sir." Replied Vokrash. He jogged on over to Belkin and Rowan with the wooden ax in hand when he saw Belkin strike Rowan on the neck with his sword and jumped back. As he walked up to them he barked out "I better see more than that, what is this a ballet? Show some effort!" And with that he hit both of them on the head.

Rowan's attacks were easily parried and countered by Belkin, and he was surprised to find his force and aggressiveness used against him. Belkin's wooden sword swung up and smacked him in the neck, causing Rowan to step back and cough a glob of spit into the dirt. At that point, he was sure that he was being punished for starting the fight at the feast last night. Taking a knee, he quietly tried to think of a new tactic. A brute force approach would just lead to another smack in the neck, that much was certain. He thought back to his first fight with Jamuu, and how the Amon had used quick strikes and feints to try and throw him off the scent. Perhaps that would be a better tactic to use on the Pingla.

"I better see more than that, what is this a ballet? Show some effort!" Rowan felt a bop on his head, and looked up to see Vokrash. The grizzled old Asieren wasn't the most welcome face Rowan could think of, especially after the preivious night's events. Though perhaps this sparring match would proove to be the perfect opportunity to show Vokrash that he was no child to be scolded and sent to his room.

"Yes, sir." He said with all the courtesy he could muster.

"I believe that makes it one kill to me already" taunted Belkin. Rowan rose back to his feet and cracked his neck, which was aching from the shot he'd taken. He charged once more at the Pingla, raising his sword up as if he were to bring a strike down onto Belkin's skull. This time however, Rowan hopped back on the balls of his feet just before the strike would have connected, and swung wildly at the Pingla's midsection, just above his hip.

He dug his feet back into the dirt and spun, trying to dance around the Pingla and attack an exposed flank. Feinting left, Rowan shot right, then up, then right again. He was less elegant than his friend had been, but more controlled and focused. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the blade, and shouted a war cry.

"Cherish that kill, friend. It will be the only one you score."

As Belkin got ready for the next attack, he heard Vokrash come forward with his axe. "I better see more than that, what is this a ballet? Show some effort!" he said, bopping Belkin on the head. "If you can do better, be my guest" retorted Belkin. Rowan once again charged at Belkin, raising his sword up to hit him overhead. As Belkin was about to get the shield to bounce the attack, Rowan quickly leapt back and tried to swing for Belkin's stomach. The swing missed, but Belkin was shielded anyway from it.

Rowan stated trying to feint his way around Belkin, which would have been pretty effective...if Belkin wasn't still holding his shield. Rowan ducked and weaved, trying to get an opening, to which Belkin replied with just his shield still keeping him safe. Rowan taunted, "Cherish that kill, friend. It will be the only one you score.". It was all the incentive Belkin needed. When Rowan moved his form to the left again, Belkin stepped towards him and swung his shield into Rowan, the force from the two opposing momentums crashing, causing Rowan to lose his balance and fumble backwards.

As he fell to the floor, Belkin just walked forward and poked him in the stomach before trailing the sword up to his head, before smacking him on the top of his head with the flat side.

"That's two kills...so far, you're about as skilled with the sword as you are with holding your tongue while drunk!" he said to him, chuckling as he walked away.

"you got any gladiators here? Or do I have to keep fighting these weaklings?"

That peaked the games master's ire. Not even waiting for the bodies and weapons of the slain be cleared away he motioned for two more fighters to enter the ring. "You two, get in there!" Startled, two young men scrambled from the crowd and into the fighting area. One of them had a knife on his person already. The other couldn't have been any younger than sixteen and his face was covered in acne, he didn't have a weapon of his own and gingerly circled around the fight eyeing up the chain-knife that represented the snake. "Grold! You too!" This summoned a muscular man, wearing a bronze helmet to the ring. He carried a rusty, savage looking, curved sword with him.

The crowd showed their appreciation of this impromptu challenge as the knife wielding boy tried to slash at Antonius' arms.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________"The argument last night" Gaius said as he stabbed at Vorigs's chest, "Is that common among new recruits? And where are Lahar, Jamuukha and the Imperial?"

"Not common but not uncommon either. Everyone gets their blood up after their first successful match, tend to start thinking they can do anything and get a bit rowdy.Usually we get a nice healthy fist fight for entertainment. As for all that stuff about wives and honour, that's beyond me." Vorgis shrugged and then dodged Gaius' jabs more nimbly than most men his size would have been able. "As for the imperial, I have no idea where he is." He signalled for Gaius to continue his attacks. "That Jam lad will be in The Hippodrome, his lot always end up there. It's mostly horse races. Never saw the fascination myself but he's Amon'tyr right? He'll feel right at home." He continued feinting left and right to keep Gaius on his toes. "I heard the Vaan's got a patron now. They'll probably want to see him. That'll be interesting. Patrons can be a god send or a curse.... some of them.... they expect extra services for their patronage." His expression darkened somewhat before he blocked one of Gaius' spear thrusts, yanked it out of his hands and spun the tip round to point at Gaius' chest. "You want to twist your torso into the thrust a dagger can deflect but it is not a shield. Twist your torso and you'll present as little a target as possible. Wait till you draw them in to use the dagger, surprise them with it, they'll think if they get close you'll be defenceless. Prove them wrong." With that he passed the spear back to Gaius. "Again."
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________"No, I am fine as I am" He said rubbing his arms where the chains had chaffed his skin."Why do you leave me unbound? I could flee, I could kill you, so why?"

Kedrin smiled at that. He was an older man with salt and pepper hair, cut short. His face was haggard but there was a light in his eyes that suggested a certain cunning. "No, I don't think you will. Where would you go? No. A walker is patient he knows better. If anything I have a few hours before you try to cut my throat, so allow me to try and convince you not to."

He lead Lahar into a wide and luxurious room, sitting him down at small table. A man set up a jug and two cups for them, bowed and backed away. Kedrin poured himself a drink. "Well if you wont have something I hope you wont hold it against me if I do." He took a sip of his drink and let out a loud "Aaaahhh" of refreshment. "Sweet cactus juice, very hard to find in The Empire, help yourself to any if you change your mind." He gave a wry smile and pushed the second cup over to Lahar.

"Tell me Lahar, what do you know of patrons and the arena?"

"If you can do better, be my guest" retorted Belkin.

Vokrash remained silent while Belkin dealt with Rowan but then he turned away and started walking off. As he walked away Vokrash chucked the ax at Belkin and hit him square in the back of his head and Belkin staggered forward a few steps. "I've been a gladiator since before you were born boy, for ten years I've been blind in one eye and yet still I live." Vokrash took the sword away from Rowan. "If you mean to challenge me then at least follow through, one cannot know how to use only one weapon and live for so long."

Rowan got to his feet, furious after being knocked over and beaten yet again. The shield was Belkin's only advantage, but it was a deadly one for certain. Rowan dusted himself off and stared angrily at Vokrash and the executor. then he jumped up and down slightly, loosening himself back up and shaking the rest of the dust and sand from his body. Belkin had beat him twice, but the third kill would be his. Before he could manage to mount a third offensive, Vokrash made to snatch his sword away. Rowan twisted the old man's wrist and grabbed the hilt of the sword, pressing the wooden blade against his throat with lightning quick reflexes.

"One should ask politely before stealing a mans sword don't you think?" He looked deep into Vokrashs' eyes, furious already after being shown up twice. He let go of Vokrash's wrist and flipped the wooden blade over, extending it to Vokrash hilt first.

"Perhaps I could learn something from watching you, however." he said with a friendly grin.

Rowan plopped down into the dirt to watch Vokrash and Belkin fight. His technique with a sword was sloppy, and the older, more experienced Asieren might well have developed a more effective tactic over his years on the sands.

Belkin was walking away to get a drink when he felt something hit the back of his head. He staggered from the surprise attack, whipping round to yell at Rowan for using a dirty tactic when he saw the axe on the ground. He looked up to see Vokrash speak again. "I've been a gladiator since before you were born boy, for ten years I've been blind in one eye and yet still I live." he said, trying to take the sword from Rowan with some resistance. As he then got the sword, Rowan decided to sit down and observe as Vokrash spoke once more.

"If you mean to challenge me then at least follow through, one cannot know how to use only one weapon and live for so long." he said, issuing the challenge. Belkin chuckled, "As is the old Pingla idiom: Ka ser Vakren, Mel ser Vakhal" he replied, picking up the axe and throwing it out of the way. He loosened the strap on his shield before throwing it away. "Lets fight as equals then, sword to sword, so we can show the loudmouth how to use a sharpened stick".

Vokrash watched Rowan plop to the ground to watch the ensuing fight. As he looked back up he saw Belkin tossing away his shield. "Lets fight as equals then, sword to sword, so we can show the loudmouth how to use a sharpened stick". Vokrash simply nodded and began to circle Belkin. From what he saw it appears as if Belkin uses the momentum of the other to his advantage. With that Vokrash assumed a defensive stance, allowing Belkin the opening move.

Belkin saw the Old Aseiren nod and begin to circle the Pingla. He had taken up a more defensive stance than Rowan had ever shown, clearly showing he was smarter, as he knew that Belkin had just spend the entire time countering his momentum before. Belkin started to circle in kind, making a small area for themselves, Belkin also keeping a more defensive role.

Vokrash saw that Belkin had also adopted a defensive stance. Vokrash knew that if this spar would be able to start without the executor's interruptions one of them would have to make a move quickly. Vokrash shuffled forward slightly and dropped his stance slightly trying to show an opening to Belkin while bracing his legs to dart out of the way.

Belkin knew the Executor would be getting mad soon, so he'd have to move quickly to try and get the fight started. He suddenly saw the Asieren drop his stance a little and move a bit forward. Belkin took that opportunity to rush forward and do a vertical slice, knowing to hold it halfway down so he could slash into the man if he dodged.

Vokrash had hoped that Belkin would fall for the feint but he also knew that Belkin was a skilled swordsman so he would most likely be able to counter if Vokrash tried to dodge. Instead Vokrash let the swing come down and then at the last moment rushed into Belkin and tackled him to the ground making sure that he still had a grip on his sword.

The swing was just about to connect when Vokrash tackled him to the ground, Belkin managing to hold onto his sword. Belkin quickly used his energy to try and roll Vokrash over so that he would be pinned under Belkin, as the man on top could easily stab the other man.

As they tumbled Vokrash felt that Belkin was trying to roll him over so he added to the roll himself and in addition of Belkins strength he had enough momentum to roll away and spring back up to his feet and then dashed back in with his sword and stabbed the pingla square in the chest.

"No, I don't think you will. Where would you go? No. A walker is patient he knows better. If anything I have a few hours before you try to cut my throat, so allow me to try and convince you not to."

The man smiled at what he said, he obviously knew enough about Lahar's culture to know what he said was a bluff. The man had a certain cunning to him he could not place, it made Lahar suspect that he had something planned for him.

Lahar was lead into an opulent room, his patron certainly wanted for nothing. The villa's atrium had a grand mosaic covering the floor, it detailed a war between what Lahar assumed were his gods, the colours of the stone were vibrant like the lands he owned. The room he was in now was no different, fine silk curtains and rugs, sofa made from luxurious fabrics and a table in the centre. He sat there with his patron, a slave came in carrying a tray with a jug and two cups on it, they were as fine as the room he was in, probably made from gold.

"Well if you wont have something I hope you wont hold it against me if I do." He took a sip of his drink and let out a loud "Aaaahhh" of refreshment. "Sweet cactus juice, very hard to find in The Empire, help yourself to any if you change your mind." He gave a wry smile and pushed the second cup over to Lahar."Tell me Lahar, what do you know of patrons and the arena?"

He accepted the cactus juice graciously, it was a delicacy in his homeland.

"I know nothing of patrons and I only know what I was told by Marrick of the arena" He took a sip of the juice, it was sweet, tangy and refreshing "But I doubt most would go to such lengths to make their fighters feel comfortable."

"You two, get in there!" 2 children? I have no mercy so that tactic won't work on me. "Grold! You too!" The man entered the arena muscled and wearing an bronze helmet and holding an curved sword. the knife wielding boy stepped forward slashing at Antonius, Antonius grabbed the boys arm before he could complete his slash and pulled him forward. The boy stepped forward he lost most of his balance, Antonius used his free arm to punch against his jaw. The boy fell to the ground as Antonius was still holding his arm. Antonius quickly stepped on the throat of the boy while pulling at his arm. Another crack as this boy's neck was also broken. Antonius grabbed an knife an he heard an sound. He quickly rolled back just avoiding the chain attack.

The 16 year old had grabbed the chain, he had however no real skill with it. Antonius quickly charged at the boy, who was trying to arm himself for the next attack fear cold be seen in his eyes. Antonius dodged the second blow and stepped forward one quick slash and he cut the boys neck wide open. He jumped back as blood began to spew from the wound as the boy hit the ground shortly after dead. Antonius felt something from behind him, but he wasn't in time with his dodge. The curved sword just managed to touch his back making an small scratch. Antonius turned around and now the 2 men stood facing each other, with 4 corpses in the ring. This man had fought here before Antonius was sure of it, still he wouldn't win.

The man charged and began an fury of combo slashes, he hit Antonius twice making similar cuts on his chest. Antonius looked for an opening and then countered, he moved his left arm forward at great speed. He made an cut on his arm Grold looked quite angry about that as he started another fury of slashes. This time focusing more on attack, Antonius did his best to dodge but he couldn't avoid all of the attacks. Grold's sword headed aimed at Antonius face, the sword only managed to cut a small wound. A cut appeared right under Antonius right eye, Antonius quickly countered by stepping forward as Grold hand was still in a sweeping motion. Antonius stabbed his knife deep into Grold's right hand making him drop the sword. Grold grabbed Antonius and gave him an full power head butt. Antonius screamed surprised by the sudden collision, he did an few steps back and the man were looking at each other again.

Antonius picked up the hammer looking at Grold who picked up his sword with his left hand. Antonius smiled as he quickly span an circle and then threw the giant hammer at great speed, Grold looked surprised as he quickly ducked avoiding the hammer. Antonius quickly charged after having thrown the hammer, and he used all of his momentum in his knee. Hitting the head of Grold, his knee hurt but the knee made Grold fall backward on his back. Antonius quickly jumped on top of the man, Grold countered by trying to slash into his chest with his sword. Antonius grabbed the mans wrist making him unable to kill Antonius, Antonius still had 1 free hand with a knife.

He quickly stabbed Grold in his chest, again and again. Grold tried to counter in the beginning but after the knife went into him 10 times he gave up. Grold's head fell back as the sand turned red around him his blood gushing out from all of his wounds. Antonius grabbed the mans helmet and put it on, and he grabbed the sword in his right hand. He looked up at the game master. "Was that all you got?" Antonius looked a bit mocking, hoping to get an strong challenger. He needed to prove himself and this was the only way how he could.

"Not common but not uncommon either. Everyone gets their blood up after their first successful match, tend to start thinking they can do anything and get a bit rowdy.Usually we get a nice healthy fist fight for entertainment. As for all that stuff about wives and honour, that's beyond me." Vorgis shrugged and then dodged Gaius' jabs more nimbly than most men his size would have been able. "As for the imperial, I have no idea where he is." He signalled for Gaius to continue his attacks. "That Jam lad will be in The Hippodrome, his lot always end up there. It's mostly horse races. Never saw the fascination myself but he's Amon'tyr right? He'll feel right at home." He continued feinting left and right to keep Gaius on his toes. "I heard the Vaan's got a patron now. They'll probably want to see him. That'll be interesting. Patrons can be a god send or a curse.... some of them.... they expect extra services for their patronage." His expression darkened somewhat before he blocked one of Gaius' spear thrusts, yanked it out of his hands and spun the tip round to point at Gaius' chest. "You want to twist your torso into the thrust a dagger can deflect but it is not a shield. Twist your torso and you'll present as little a target as possible. Wait till you draw them in to use the dagger, surprise them with it, they'll think if they get close you'll be defenceless. Prove them wrong." With that he passed the spear back to Gaius. "Again."

Gaius took back the spear graciously and went back into a strong fighting stance. He continued his jabs at Vorgis, twisting his torso as he did so, talking the champions advice on board. He was right, I did make him harder to hit and it gave his arm some extra reach. Vorgis was surprisingly nimble however and he easily dodged Gaius's attacks with the spear. Gaius however was waiting for his opportunity to stab him in the gut with the dagger.

"They don't give them names, you can call him whatever you like."Jamukha looked from his nameless horse to the rider who had just approached him. Had it not been for his fair appearance, Jamukha would have taken him for another Amon'tyr. He rode with a natural confidence common among Jamuu's people. Whats more, his partner seemed just as confident. Such a bond made both rider and horse stronger. Together they would make a formidable pair in a race.

The rider introduced himself as Kranst, and his partner as Shade. Jamukha felt a slight wave a relief when Kranst explained that there would be less blood on the race track than in the arena. For Jamuu, riding came as naturally as walking. He would be able to excel here, where as in the arena his inexperience in battle could very easily cost him his life. This is where I belong, he thought quietly to himself.

As Kranst and Shade cantered off down the track, Jamuu mounted his own horse. Swinging his body up onto the creature was as easy and comforting to Jamukha as putting an old coat or pair of shoes. He almost felt complete again.

Surprised at how quickly his new partner was to follow his commands, Jamuu sent his horse down the tack after Kranst. The red horse was calm, and seemed to accept Jamukha as a partner almost instantly. It had taken Jamukha three long days to tame his first horse, back before he had become a slave. He still remember the taste of dirt and blood in his mouth from when the dark brown horse had flung him of his back and to the ground. Dirt, Dirt had been a loyal and spirited partner, and the fastest horse Jamuu had ever known.

"You will call me Jamukha," Jamuu said as he pulled along side Kranst. Though the man seemed friendly enough, he did not yet know him will enough to give his shortened name. "And this," Jamuu paused to think and patted his horse lightly on the neck. "This is Clay."

"You know this place well." Jamukha turned his head to Kranst and kept his voice friendly. " Show me how well you ride." Jamukha was eager to take a few practice laps before the afternoon's races in order to get a better feel for the track and Clay. He gave Clay a slight kick, and the horse burst forward down the track.

Rowan sat cross legged watching the two men fight, and could not help but laugh out loud. they were scrapping and tumbling to the ground in no time, abandoning any sort of structure or technique. He spotted Durro across the courtyard playing with a wooden sword against a dummy, and waved the boy over, making room for him to sit down as well. When Durro sat down next to him, Rowan pointed at the scuffle in front of them and chuckled again

"See that, Durro? That's what happens when you get old."

Rowan turned his head and gave the executor a quizical look. Careful not to offend the man, Rowan asked, "Pardon, but did you not instruct Belkin to teach me the way of the 'noble sword'? As far as I can see, there's nothing noble about rolling in the dirt like a pair of star crossed lovers. If there is a point to this exercise, perhaps now would be the time to make it. Before they roll themselves asleep."

Rowan got to his feet and walked over to the executor, this time much more confidently and much less polite.

"Otherwise, let me have my axes, and leave the sticks to Belkin."

Belkin suddenly felt the momentum shift too far, as Vokrash shifted the weight to roll off him. As Belkin tried to quickly pick himself up, he felt a jab on his chest. He looked down to see the wooden sword hitting him, cursing to himself that he didn't have his shield with him to have blocked it. As he got up and readied for the next attack, he looked over to Rowan, who seemed to be complaining more than learning!

"You know" he shouted over to Rowan, "If you took the time to actually observe the fight, some knowledge may seep into that rock you call a brain"

"I know nothing of patrons and I only know what I was told by Marrick of the arena" He took a sip of the juice, it was sweet, tangy and refreshing "But I doubt most would go to such lengths to make their fighters feel comfortable."

Kedrin scoffed at that. "I doubt most ever even meet their gladiators. Well allow me to explain." Kedrin poured himself a new drink and shifted his weight in his chair making himself more comfortable. "A patron is like a sponsor for a gladiator. As of yesterday I own half of your contract. It is now my duty to supply you with equipment, supplies, whatever you require for when you set foot into the arena. I also pay your living expenses for our dear friend Varlen Marrick as well as anything else you may require. So tell me Lahar, what do you need?" Kedrin shot him his warmest smile.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Antonius grabbed the mans helmet and put it on, and he grabbed the sword in his right hand. He looked up at the game master. "Was that all you got?"

"That's it!" Screamed the games master. "Ozrick!"
Somewhere from within the crowd people began to stamp the the dry hard ground like it was a drum. From their midst came a lithe, broad shouldered man. His eyes were a piercing amber, his head clean shaven. The crowd began to chant. "Oz-rick! Oz-rick! Oz-rick!" The warrior's arms and legs were armoured. His left gauntlet was adorned with a dagger blade, in his right hand he carried a short serrated sword. Ozrick raised his arms and bathed in the adoration of the crowd. One of his fans passed him a bright steel helmet, decorated with images of beasts on the temple. Ozrick put it on and lowered the visor, his face was completely covered. He clanged the flat of the sword blade against the bulky armour on his left shoulder before pointing it at Antonius. "Come On!" He bellowed over the din of the cauldron.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Rowan got to his feet and walked over to the executor, this time much more confidently and much less polite.
"Otherwise, let me have my axes, and leave the sticks to Belkin."

The executor growled under his breath. A reflex more than anything. "Durro," He said in a low tone, the kind a wolf might use. "sword and axe." The boy scurried off into the manor. The executor's eyes never left Rowan's all the time Durro was gone. Slowly and deliberately he removed his leather jerkin, leaving his torso exposed. The man's body was covered in a forest of scars but through it all, his brands stood out like stars in the night. A sword had been burned over his heart, the others ran down in a straight line from it like a set of hieroglyphs. Sword, Spear, bow, axe, every weapon that could be carved or forged had found a home on the executor's skin. Accompanying them were letters. E, H and S but all of them had been crossed over by a straight brand. The only one that remained untouched was an "M" that stood proud and bold in the centre of his chest. Finally Durro returned with the requested weapons but these were not wooden practice weapons, they were made of cold steel. Durro handed Rowan the axe and the executor the sword.

"You think you're too good to be taught? You better prove yourself right lad, or I'll kill you where you here and now." The tone in his voice let everyone who heard him that he was not bluffing. Yet instead of attacking Rowan he turned his back on him and spread his arms wide as he walked away into the centre of the yard. "Class is in session!"
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________"You know this place well." Jamukha turned his head to Kranst and kept his voice friendly. "Show me how well you ride."

Kranst gave a short sharp laugh and sped after Jamukha until their horses were running side by side. "You've got good form but you'll need more than that if you're to beat the champion!" He and Shade rounded the corner, cutting into the inside of Jamukha and Clay and inching out to just in front of them.

Rowan watched intently as the executor sent Durro off to fetch their weapons. To his surprise, the weapons the boy came back with were made of steel, not wood. The executor prepared himself for battle, revealing himself to be a worn and tested opponent. Scars and brands littered his body, almost like some sort of sick bloody mosaic. From the many letters branded into him, Rowan could tell that the executor had been a member of more than a few families over the years. The "M" he recognized immediately, bold and proud on his chest. The others he could only guess at, though no doubt they were wealthy and powerful families in their own rights. Rowan did not know whether to feel impressed or intimidated, maybe even afraid of what was about to happen. Regardless, he put his feelings aside and took up his axe with a confident smile. It was well balanced, and with a steep hook for ripping flesh. Rowan was going to enjoy this fight.

"Class is in session!" The executor jeered, his back facing Rowan and his arms stretched out in open challenge. Rowan was not foolish enough to charge his foe, however tempting the opportunity might have looked. Instead he swung the axe in broad, powerful strokes around his body, the steel singing in the air. He took a few cautious steps forward, waiting for his foe to turn and face him before making any decisions about a battle strategy.

"If you bow out now, no one will think less of you." he called back to the executor. "But if not, I'll just have to kill you and explain to Marrick how good of a teacher you are."

"If you bow out now, no one will think less of you." he called back to the executor. "But if not, I'll just have to kill you and explain to Marrick how good of a teacher you are."

The executor turned to face him. "Then do it." He said, the perfect picture of neutrality.

Across the yard, Vorgis had turned from his training with Gaius to watch the drama unfolding before him. "Idiot." He muttered under his breath.

Belkin was ready to square off against Vokrash again when he heard the call for weapons. He turned his head to see the executor take of the leather that covered his torso, revealing a plethora of scars. When the weapons were revealed to be made of metal, Belkin just left his sword on the ground, not wanting his own fight to get in the way.

Rowan and the executor were already squaring off against each other, causing Belkin to turn to Vokrash and say "Want to postpone this till after Rowan loses a leg?"

"With pleasure." Rowan responded.

His taunt had done it's job perfectly, turning his opponent to face him. The executor looked completely stoic, which slightly unnerved Rowan, though he did not show it. Rowan spun the axe in a circle by rotating his wrist, and then sprung out with a strike from above, cutting downwards vertically. if it worked, he could hook his foe's blade with his axe and pull it downwards away from any defensible position, and follow up with another strike, cutting vertically this time to limit the executors options defensively. Rowan breathed in and out, focusing and calming himself as he fought. The rage and intensity would come later.

To follow up with his cut, Rowan sent his free hand to punch sideway's into the executors kidney area, a tactic he'd used a few times on less armored Imperial scouts before. All the while he was very conscious of his defensive possibilities. The fight earlier with Belkin had taught him a few things, even if he was loathe to admit it.

A sidestep here, a carefully timed parry there, and Rowan might be able to dictate the fight. But the executor was angry and experienced, a very deadly combination. Rowan might have to employ more agile techniques such as rolls and sweeping kicks to throw him off.

"That's it!" Screamed the games master. "Ozrick!"
The champion walked out of the crowed, wearing full body armor and he was handed helmet. He was armed with an dagger attached to his armor and a sword. Antonius knew that this would be his final challenge after defeating this man he would have proven his worth. "Come On!" Antonius looked around for the hammer, he knew that with the sword he would never be able to win. Antonius made an feint and then ran toward the hammer, grabbing it before Ozrick could react. Antonius looked at Ozrick he could understand why he was their champion. He was what you would except from an champion. Still his heavy armor made him heavier, this was what Antonius needed to use to win. Antonius charged keeping his guard up he attacked with an sidewards attack, aiming the hammer at Ozrick's side while watching out for counter attacks.

A champion huh? Somehow Jamukha did not find that hard to believe. Unintimidated, he urged Clay to go faster as they approached the turn, hoping to cut ahead of Kranst and Shade. The champion was one step ahead however, and outmaneuvered Jamukha coming around the corner. Jamuu was unwilling to allow Kranst and Shade to get in a position ahead of them where it would be easy for the champion to block any passing attempt. Jamuu decided that he would let the champion have the inside wall, and instead crossed sharply over to put himself on Kranst opposite side. It was the weaker position, but the best that he and Clay could hope for until they approached the next turn.

Adrenaline pumped through Jamukha's veins as they raced down the straight path. He could feel the rhythm of his heart grow steadily until he fell in sync with the beating of the hoofs on the soft sand of the track. Thunder welled up inside of him, and he felt like shouting at the top of his lungs. He could feel the wind pulling on his hair and stinging his eyes. He felt good, he felt alive.

"Go, Go" He whispered to Clay, urging his partner forward. Clay was proving to be everything he could ask for in a horse. Each stride was as fluid as a river and as powerful as a bolt of lightening.

They were neck and neck with Shade and Kranst with the turn rapidly approaching. If I can just pull ahead a little before the turn, I can cut him off and pull ahead Jamukha thought feverishly. The competitive spirit in him had been reawaken. But every time he made a move, Kranst and Shade were able to pull ahead just a little more.

He leaned foward in his saddle and gave Clay a stern kick. "Go!"

The horse seemed to want to win just as much as Jamuu. Drawing on some hidden reserve, Clay surged forward, slowly moving ahead of the darker horse. With the turn just ahead, Jamukha saw his opportunity for victory, and in one moment of horrified hesitation let it slip through his fingers. As he moved to cut Kranst off, the image of his brother flashed in his mind. Stricken with fear, Jamukha hesitated, allowing Kranst to keep the inside of the wall and take a commanding lead going into the final stretch.

Despite his best efforts to recover, Clay and Jamukha were well over a stride behind Shade and Kranst as they came to the finish. Jamukha pulled along side the champion, and tired his best to hide his embarrassment.

"Well done, you truly are a champion."

Gaius saw Vorgis distracted by Rowan and the exectuor and he found himself staring as well. He stabbed his spear into the ground and snarled. "He makes me ashamed to call myself Asiren. He finds great pride in killing for the enjoyment of wretched thugs. My supposed brother must have very little self worth."

Rowan launched a good heavy attack. It would have easily taken apart a lesser opponent, but the executor was no such opponent. Bringing his sword up at an angle, the blade bit into the wooden handle of Rowan's axe. His other arm flashing outwards to grab hold of Rowan's punching arm.

The two men's muscles clenched and quivered as they tried to hold each other at bay. "Vorgis, What did I teach you about grappling?"

Vorgis replied like an obedient student. "Never grapple with a stronger opponent."

"Or?" The executor called back, his face contorting in concentration.

"Or a dirty opponent."

As if in response to that the executor puckered his lips and spat in Rowan's eye. he Asieren flinched back at this and the executor took advantage of this second of weakness. His sword slipped from its groove in the axe handle and the executor closed the distance between them, twisting Rowan's other arm as he went. Spinning his sword in his hand the executor brought the point so that it poked at the side of Rowan's lower rib.

The two of them paused for a moment as the blade point teased at Rowan's flesh, drawing a pin prick of blood. "A man who will do anything to live is unpredictable, never let him get drawn in close enough to bite, scratch or spit." Then he slammed his head into Rowan's nose, causing the Asieren to stumble back. "I have seen far too many scuffles and grapples from this new batch and it is starting to rub off on our more refined recruits. We are showmen as much as we are warriors. Two men rolling around in the dirt like dogs does not make a good show, it makes for a sloppy fight." He pointed his sword at the onlooking Belkin and Vokrash as he said the last part before turning back to Rowan. "Are you ready to go again?"
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________The swing of the hammer would have been enough to crush bone and rend flesh. Ozrick leapt back in the knick of time slashing his sword against the head of the great blunt weapon. Sparks flew out as the two weapons collided. The crowd roared at that, this fight was shaping up to be a better show than the previous ones. Ozrick cheered back at them, egging on the rowdier audience members. He began to stoop low and weave back and forth, slashing out at Antonius' legs. Still he kept his distance, wary of the hands he had seen dismantle the corpses at his feet.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ "Well done, you truly are a champion."

Kranst laughed again. "Me? No, I can't claim that title, though not for lack of trying. No, Reagah would leave us both in the dust." He eyed Jamukha more seriously. "You started out well there. You'll want to be careful about falling behind. The further back you get the stabbier the riders get."

Rowan felt his fist smack into the palm of the executor, and howled in frustration. His axe strike was parried masterfully, and in an instant he could feel cold spit in his eye. He stumbled back, and was ensnared once again, this time the executor's sword poked at his ribs. When the executor sent a headbutt his way, Rowan grunted and fell to the ground, blood spewing from his nose. He was on one knee, breathing heavily but still listening to every word the executor was saying.

A straight fight would be useless, both in practice and in the sands. Rowan would need to adapt and become just as ruthless. Feinting weakness, he coughed up some more blood and scooped a handful of dirt into his free hand, continuing to heave and suck in air. He also slyly moved his leg in preparation for a sweeping attack, and flipped his axe so that the pointed, angled end was ready to strike.

"Are you ready to go again?" called the executor, pointing at him with a sword still wet with blood.

Rowan nodded feebly, and coughed some more, still on the ground. He made like he wanted to get up, but stumbled slightly, still keeping a good defensible position.

"Please, the least you could do is help me up?" he asked, his voice rusty with sand and dirt. The second the executor got close enough, he would spring into action like a viper in the grass.

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