Lahar continued sipping his cactus juice while his patron spoke.
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?"
He shot him a smile he almost thought was friendly, but Lahar couldn't shake the feeling he was up to no good. He made it clear that his wants and needs were separate things.
"All I need are my blades, I'm sure someone of your...Status would be able to get them back for me" He said, refilling his cup, "It is your job to get what I require, no?"
"Please, the least you could do is help me up?"
That only seemed to anger the executor even more. "On the sands, no one will help you up!"
He strode up to Rowan and raised his leg to boot the Asieren in the shoulder.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________"All I need are my blades, I'm sure someone of your...Status would be able to get them back for me" He said, refilling his cup, "It is your job to get what I require, no?"
Kedrin's beamed back at him like a child on their birthday. "Yes!" He exclaimed. "Lyria!"
"Yes?" Replied a pale haired woman who had entered at the back of the room.
"He said it!"
Lyria sighed. "Oh for goodness sake, Artus.
"No, No he said it, just as I said he would! Ready your keys!" Kedrin sprung up like an excited puppy. He swept up Lahar in his whirlwind of energy and ushered him to a room at the back of his manor, it was far removed from the rest of the house. The woman called Lyria fidgeted with a ring of keys until she finally managed to find the one which opened the doors before them. The sight was spectacular.
The far wall was adorned with a host of black blades. They were long, short, curved, straight, jagged and sleek. There must have been twenty of them maybe more. Each one had been crafted with exquisite care, their blade and hilt each just one continuous piece of metal.
"So?" Kedrin said, breaking the silence. "Did I do well, are any of these yours?"
The blades were fine creations. each of them looked to be a worthy weapon. But none of them came in a pair, none of them had the signature hooked tips of Lahar's blades.
Ozrick jumped back and slashed his hammer with his sword putting up an show for the crowd. Orzick cheered, he wouldn't be cheering for long. Ozrick began to slash at Antonius feet who kept dodging the blows. He tried to keep his distance, Antonius however wouldn't let him. Antonius waited for him to swing again and then swung his hammer at the mans head, knowing that since he was slashing it would be very hard to dodge. Antonius hammer had more reach he had to use it to his advantage.
Rowan's gambit seemed to have failed, the executor opting instead to yell at him and scold him about the risks of the sands. Then, miraculously, the executor inched ever closer to Rowans trap. Rowan hadn't anticipated that the man's anger would blind him of his own advice, but he was certainly not about to complain. He just had to keep looking weak for a few more moments and then he could strike. The executor stopped, raised his leg to kick Rowan on the shoulder, and Rowan found his opportunity. Quick as a flash, Rowan swung the pointed end of his axe right for the executors exposed leg, hoping to impale his ankle, or if he was even luckier, his calf. At the same moment, Rowan lifted himself to his feet and tossed the sand and dirt mix square into the executors eyes, a cheap trick but necessary.
Rowan's body ached from his wounds, but he did manage to straighten himself out. If his axe struck true, he would be able to pull the executor to the ground and gain the advantage at last, after a whole morning of being dominated in combat. His losses were not without their own benefits though. Clearly he was getting better, stronger, and smarter from his training. Rowan pittied the man whom he would face next on the sands. His bloodlust would be enough to give him the victory, but now he'd been taught proper Gladiator tactics and techniques.
"What was that you said about dirty opponents? I didn't quite hear you the first time."
Ozrick barely dodged the swing of the hammer, at least he managed to dodge the main bulk of the hammer's head. One of the corners clipped his helmet, stumbling him. The crowd gave out a collective "Oooohh!" and Ozrick righted himself after nearlt stumbling over one of the many corpses that littered the floor. He shook his head, trying to clear his shaking vision. Clearly he would have to change his tactic. He struck a new stance and lifted his visor.He winked at Antonius and blew him a kiss, which prompted a bout of laughter and jeers from the audience.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________The executor was caught off guard by Rowan's sudden burst of movement. Rowan's attack did not go completely to plan but it was effective. The axe caught his leg as it came down on the thin air, digging a deep gash across lower side of the executor's thigh. The clump of dirt did do its job well though catching him square in one eye. Suprisingly though the executor did not cry out in pain, he simply grunted and stooped low, hunching his shoulders over.
"What was that you said about dirty opponents? I didn't quite hear you the first time."
Rowan's voice dripped with smugness in his ears. That was sloppy, I deserve that.The executor chided himself. He turned his sword over in his hand so that the blade pointed downwards and wiped the dirt from his eye. It stung like hell and did nothing to improve his mood. Then, fast as snake, he sprung to life. Delivering a quick jab to Rowan's diaphragm with one hand and drove the sword hilt upwards into the Asiren's chin. He had regained an even footing.
"A decent start. Now show that you can follow through."
The crowd seemed shocked when Antonius just managed to hit a small piece of Ozrick's helmet. Ozrick lifted his visor and then he winked and blew an kiss at Antonius. Antonius looked a bit disgusted but he wouldn't be thrown of his game by this kind of mockery. Antonius used his left hand to wipe some of the blood away, he wiped the blood from just underneath his eye away keeping it on his fingers. Antonius moved forward, then just out of Ozrick's range he shot the blood aiming for his eyes. He quickly stepped forward aiming another sweep at Ozrick's chest. He was still looking for an counterattack but he was more focused on the attack this time.
Rowan slid one of his feet backwards to absorb the impact of the strikes the executor rained down on him. They still hurt but at least he wasn't fumbling around on the ground afterwards. The shot to his diaphragm took some air out of him, and he almost bit his tounge off when the sword hilt crashed into his chin. With his free hand he grabbed at the executors sword wrist, just as he was about to take it away, no doubt for a follow up attack. If he could lock the man's arm in place, Rowan might be able to avoid a finishing blow. Blood ran from the side of his mouth, but Rowan blocked out the pain and tried to get a strong, tight grip.
With his other hand, Rowan swung his axe at the undefended collarbone of the executor. He figured that even if he failed to lock the mans wrist in place, the awkward placement of his sword would make blocking difficult still. Rowan led the strike with the hook of his axe, trying to rip a gash in his foes chest.
Rowan could feel his adrenaline picking up, and was actually enjoying his first real challenge as a gladiator since he arrived at the ludus. the executor was strong, resolute, and unrelenting. Rowan felt a great deal of respect for the man as their fight continued, and regretted that one of them might have to die.
Ozrick let out a wild, sharp laugh as he launched himself into a combat roll under Antonius' hammer. Taking advantage of the few seconds he had while Antonius was off balance, he launched himself at the Imperial, aiming a punch with his bladed hand right at Antonius' neck.
The two fighters locked each other in a grapple again as the executor blocked Rowan's weapon arm, blocking it with his forearm and then slipping it into a vice like grip. "What did I say about grappling!" He screamed.
Before Rowan could react the executor placed his leg among Rowan's and shifted his weight, throwing the gladiator to the ground but keeping hold of his axe arm. "You were brave boy but you're punching above your weight." There was a flash of movement as the executor twisted himself around to obscure Rowan's arm. Then there was a loud crack. The gladiators in the yard held their breath. The executor let out a deep throaty laugh as he walked away from the, now grounded, Rowan. Holding the two halves of the broken axe handle. He seemed to be enjoying himself as he threw the pieces away and helped Rowan to his feet.
"Good job lad, it's been too long since I've had a good fight. There's a future for you here that much is sure." He took Rowan's hand in his own, giving it a hearty shake. "But talk like that to me again and I'll break your neck." He said in a voice like ice.
"Well That's enough of that." Called out Marrick from his balcony. "Executor, Gaius, Belkin, Rowan. Come to the armoury. I have something to show you."
When they were brought to the armoury the gladiators were presented with a mannequin adorned with a suit of armour. The left arm was particularly exquisite. It was covered in layers of plate armour which widened out at the forearm, forming a built in shield. The fingers on the glove were tipped with curved talons. The right arm was left bare except for a large steel shoulder pad. Unlike most gladiator armour the entire lower half was covered as well, metal at the front and hard leather at the back. The helmet was shaped to look like a snarling wolf face with a visor that was attached separately to look like the face of a weeping man. Marrick looked at it like a proud father.
"Most gladiators are equipped to enter the arena in a specific fighting style. The solider fights with sword and shield. The fisherman gets a trident and net. This," He said pointing to the armour. "Has never been seen before. I plan to make history by introducing this, a new style of gladiator. The Efferus style., named after the greatest gladiator to have ever walked the sands. I plan to give it to a gladiator who's reputation is yet to be made. One capable of winning the love of the crowd and who can prove himself deadly in any given situation. Rowan, I thought that could be you but after your display earlier I'm not so sure. The man I give this armour to will be my future champion. I need him to place himself in my hands." Marrick closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind. "You three are my best options for this. So! What are we going to do about this?"
Ozrick quickly rolled underneath Antonius hammer, Antonius heard an laugh as he turned his head to see the arm blade of Ozrick heading for his neck. Antonius decided that the hammer wasn't the weapon he would use to defeat Ozrick, he dropped it. Antonius waited until the last second while he began to turn around, he just moved his neck out of the way of the blade as he grinned. He grabbed Ozrick's arm pulling him forward and pulling him out of balance. He quickly used his other hand to attacks Ozrick's eye, he had removed his visor and he was about to see effect of such carelessness. Before Ozrick could react Antonius took out his left eye with his 2 fingers, using the same technique he had used earlier. Antonius wasn't dumb however, while he knew how much destroying an eye had to hurt. He knew that Ozrick would probably counter, and he was ready to jump back if needed.
Gaius held his breath as a loud crack was heard throughout the courtyard as the executor held Rowan's life in his hands. He had secretly hoped he was dead. He couldn't take his pride anymore, it was unbearable. Alas, he still lived, and all that was broken was the axe handle. After the fight, he Rowan and Belkin were called into the armoury. There stood a suit of armour, but no ordinary suit of armour, it was intricately designed and adorned with various features, and an odd looking helmet. It did look like great protection though, better than the rags he wore in the last fight.
"Most gladiators are equipped to enter the arena in a specific fighting style. The solider fights with sword and shield. The fisherman gets a trident and net. This," Said Marrick pointing to the armour. "Has never been seen before. I plan to make history by introducing this, a new style of gladiator. The Efferus style., named after the greatest gladiator to have ever walked the sands. I plan to give it to a gladiator who's reputation is yet to be made. One capable of winning the love of the crowd and who can prove himself deadly in any given situation. Rowan, I thought that could be you but after your display earlier I'm not so sure. The man I give this armour to will be my future champion. I need him to place himself in my hands." Marrick closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind. "You three are my best options for this. So! What are we going to do about this?"
A million thoughts raced through Gaius's mind. He had planned to allow himself to be killed in the arena, but this was a perfect opportunity to kill the man who had imprisoned him. Unthinking, Gaius stepped forward.
"I or Belkin are the only options. We are your beast masters are we not? But what is the Efferus style... Master" Gaius put his head down in defeat of that last word.
Rowan grunted as he was bested by the executor, having ignored his lessons in his pride. Fortunately, the only thing left broken was his axe. Rowan was pulled to his feet and looked around the courtyard, noticing the audience his fight had drawn. At least a few of his fellow gladiators wished him harm, he figured. Though as the saying goes, if you wanted something done right you had to do it yourself. Rowan rubbed the dirt and blood from his face before grabbing the executors handshake and drawing him in for a brief hug.
"Aye, I've not had my blood up like that in a very long time. Well fought. And.." he paused, breathing in and trying to hold back the sweat.
"And I am sorry, executor. I neglected your lesson and it almost cost me an arm. The next fight, I will be sure to take your words into account." It was difficult for Rowan to admit when he was wrong, but even an experienced fighter as himself could learn something new. Before he could catch his breath, Rowan was called upon by Marrick, along with Belkin and Gaius. He looked over at his two brothers, and smiled to himself. Belkin was a tough and hearty gladiator, but Gaius was still struggling to find his place. Both of them were well respected by Rowan, however.
As the reason for their being called became clear, Rowan lit up with excitement. The set of armor before them was absolutely exquisite, perfect and deadly. Marrick explained that the three of them were his top choices for gladiators that would debut his new style of fighting, called "The Efferus Style". He added that Rowan was his first choice for a while, but that his display out in the courtyard had given him second thoughts.
Gaius stepped forward and practically spat on Rowan's name, declaring himself and Belkin to be the better of the three options. So much for Asieren brotherhood, thought Rowan. He waited until Gaius was done questioning his honor before stepping forward himself.
"With respect, the people practically cheered my name the entire time myself and Lahar were on the sands. You want someone to debut this new fighting style? The Flying Asiren will be matched by no other. Gaius has been in poor spirits ever since his first fight, and has just now taken to net and spear. Belkin is a grand fighter, but scrappy. Unless you want the crowd to see clouds of dust and dirt as your shiny new armour is rolled into the sands match after match, I am the only option."
It pained Rowan to have to denounce Belkin, but Gaius had already betrayed him with words, so putting him in his place was easier. Rowan kneeled before Marrick and looked up confidently.
"I realize I have been...disapointing, of late. But give me this honor and I will shine in the arena like the sun, and all will praise the bloody glory of House Marrick."
Belkin had watched the entire fight, hoping the executor would finish the boasting prick. Sadly, it was not to be, only disarming him and wounding his pride. Belkin clapped at the end, ammused and pleased by the Executors domination. When the Empire dog that he had to call "Master" called for Him, Gaius and Rowan to join him in the Armory, he was confused as to what this was about.
He soon saw the armour and the apparent "Efferus" style that came with it. To the Pingla sword and shield user, it was revolutionary: The gauntlet held the shield itself, leaving the clawed hand open to hold another weapon, or help deal extra damage from really close battles, the only real weakness coming from his open sword arm. He heard Gaius and Rowan speak, Gaius saying that only Belkin or himself would be best for this. Belkin was pleased that he was considered equal to the Asieren, as he seemed to be in a different world recently. Then came the loud-mouth and HIS words;
"Belkin is a grand fighter, but scrappy. Unless you want the crowd to see clouds of dust and dirt as your shiny new armour is rolled into the sands match after match, I am the only option."
"The only reason I roll around in the dirt", replied Belkin, "Is because someone else starred the up-close scuffle" he said, looking at Gaius but also remembering Vokrash, "Or because the boasting idiot who I have to teach is so slow at learning how to use a sharp stick, I have to limit how I fight for the idiot to hold a chance!"
Breaking out of his aloof attitude the man suddenly jumped out of his seat and became animated with glee, almost prancing about the room once Lahar had asked for his blades back. He swept Lahar up in his excitement and ushered him into another room at the back of the manor, far removed from the finery of the last.
At least he had finally learned his patron's name: Artus
The woman, Lyria, fumbled with a large set of keys until she found the one that matched the doors in front of him. Once she unlocked them the doors swung open revealing row upon row of blades forged by War Walkers, each one different, some had curved edges, some jagged, some straight, but none his.
There was only one way that this Artus could've amassed such a collection, either by killing or enslaving other war walkers, but he was not the one that did the deed, just a fool with money to spare.
"None of these blades are mine." He said, remaining rigid and stoic, not letting his anger consume him.
Ozrik's shrieked out in pain as blood sprung forth from his eye socket. He slashed out with his sword, cutting into Antonius' torso and rammed into him with his armoured shoulder. Ozrik was fighting like a wild animal, charging at the Imperial until the two of them were almost nose to nose.
"You fight like a girl." He hissed through gritted teeth.
Although despite whatever Ozrik had to say about Antonius' fighting style, the crowd was loving it.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Marrick watched as his three gladiators bickering with each other like children. Rowan even went so far as to kneel. This is too perfect.
"Well you all make a very good case, but I have an idea. We're going to hold a competition to see which of you really wants this more. Follow me!" And with that Marrick lead them all into the courtyard to find Vokrash.
"Vokrash my good man! I come to you with a worthy task for a loyal man of my house. I am too indecisive to make the decision myself and The Executor's judgement is clouded by his disdain for Rowan and his large mouth. Whereas I am fairly certain that you hate all three of these men equally. So I need you to decide who will be the one to claim my Efferus armour for himself. The choice is in your hands."
Marrick turned to face the onlooking gladiators. "There are some minor games coming up in a few days you may want to use them to impress your judge but do not think they can assure you victory. Vokrash! I don't care how you decide or how they impress you but by the end of the week I want to hear your decision. Whether it is who you think is the best fighter or if you make them hold a dancing competition, I don't care how you decide, you are the most veteran man I know when it comes to the games. I will trust your judgement." And with a surprising amount of grace Marrick turned on his heels and headed back to his manor. Content in the knowledge that he had gotten up to a healthy amount of mischief that day.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Kedrin seemed to physically deflate at that new. "I am sorry to hear that. Black swords are a rare find on the market, open or secret. I try to save as many as I can, still I fear to think how many slip through my fingers." He headed back into the atrium. Lyria lead Lahar back with a gentle hand and a sympathetic look.
"I am sorry for the theatrics." Kedrin said, looking completely defeated. "My sources had told me that I had claimed every black sword to come to Ptolemy in the recent months. Two of them even arrived around the same time Marrick told me you did. I was so certain one of them must have belonged to you." He let out a tired sigh. "You weren't expecting this were you?"
Getting up to get himself some wine, Kedrin seemed to be talking to the room in general rather than anyone in particular. "We Imperial folk are so terrible aren't we?"
"Artus, you mustn't be like that." Lyria tutted at him.
"Oh why mustn't I? I'm old I have a right to get moody."
"I wont talk to you if you're going to get like this."Suddenly Lyria had switched to speaking in Vaanic.
"Well no one said you had to speak to me at all!" And more surprisingly Kedrin responded in kind. The old senator turned to face Lahar. "Look what you've done? He must be so confused, poor thing can't understand a word we're saying!" Kedrin started sniggering into his wine.
Lyria snatched the cup away from him. "I'm so sorry, he's not well. And he is not supposed to drink after he has had his medicine!" That last part was aimed at Kedrin himself as she scolded him like a badly behaved school boy.
Ozrick cut Antonius with his sword, but Antonius managed to jump back and avoid any serious damage. Ozrick rammed Antonius knocking some of the air out of him. "You fight like a girl." The crowed seemed to love it though, Antonius grinned to gain the crowds favor he would have to kill this man. In the worst way he could think of. Antonius stepped on the mans foot making him look down. Antonius then quickly hit the man on his undefended jaw with his 'claws' a soft cracking noise was heard. Before he could react however Antonius used his other fist to hit Ozrick in his face, shattering his nose with an loud crack. Ozrick screamed as he stepped back grabbing his nose, looking up he didn't see Antonius however. Antonius had used this small time window to roll past his enemy and grab the hammer.
Antonius hit Ozrick against his left arm, a sickening cracking noise was heard as Ozrick screamed out in pain and let go off his sword. Ozrick turned around to see that Antonius swung again Ozrick just manged to dodge this blow however, the pain was beginning to slow him down and both fighters knew this. Antonius charged again swinging the hammer at Ozrick as he kept dodging. Antonius kept doing this as he lured him into an corner, as soon as Ozrick looked back at the wall he hit when he was trying to dodge Antonius knew it was over. Antonius hammer hit Ozrick on his chest shattering a rib and probably bruising 2 other ones. Ozrick fell to his knees coughing up blood. Antonius grinned as if he had turned insane as he dropped the hammer, Antonius grabbed the curved sword instead his blood still staining it.
Antonius stood in front of him and waited for him to look up. "Who fights like an girl now weakling?" Ozrick lifted his head, and Antonius attacked he used the sword to cut from under to above slamming it into the underside of the helmet. He could see the blood running down Ozrick's face but that wasn't what he was aiming for, he tensed his muscles and pulled the helmet of his face revealing the bloody face of his opponent. Antonius smiled as he attacked twice in quick succession cutting of both ears of the man. He then grabbed him by his throat and pulled him to his feet, hitting him once in the face to make him focus. "Last change weakling." Ozrick said something but he was too weak to say it loud enough. Antonius knew he had lost tons of blood but this was how it would end. He waited for Ozrick to attack when he stepped back an cut with his sword. Opening an deep cut on Ozrick's throat the weakened gladiator fell to his knee, only to see an crazed looking Antonius. Antonius brought his weapon back, and with 1 clean cut separated the head of the man. He picked it up from the ground and held it up to the public. The head looked horrible with only 1 eye, no ears and an broken nose.
As Vokrash was waiting for Belkin to strike again after standing up he heard him say "Want to postpone this till after Rowan loses a leg?" After stopping for a moment Vokrash thought it might be good for Belkin to see this, even if he thought Belkin wasn't stupid enough. "With pleasure, and with any luck it will teach you not to be an arrogant ass." As Vokrash walked towards Rowan and the Executor fighting it seemed as if the Executor was just toying with Rowan and trying to teach him a lesson rather than simply killing him like he would to most anyone else.
When Vokrash finally was close enough to finally see the fight in complete detail and the two had gotten into a grapple. 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." With that Vokrash saw the Executor spit into Rowan's eye and flung him to the ground and poked him in the side with a sword. And a real sword no less; this truly is interesting, real weapons are almost never brought out here. The thought flashed past Vokrash's mind and was gone in a second, but it was there none the less. The boy should be dead, and yet he is merely being toyed with. It's almost as if-
Vokrash's thought was struck short as he heard a grunt from the Executor and saw blood running down his thigh. "What was that you said about dirty opponents? I didn't quite hear you the first time." Vokrash saw that the Executor was clearly mad at himself for letting such an arrogant fool play him as one. Then suddenly, the Executor punched Rowan in the diaphragm and hit him under the chin with the hilt of his sword. After Rowan got up he restrained the Executor's sword arm as he swung with his own and went after the side of the Executor who in turn blocked the arm and they were back into another grapple. Then in a flash Rowan was on the ground once again.
Vokrash closed his eyes and sighed. That boy has been in a single fight and now prances about as if he is the second coming of Efferus. Why does the Executor let him live? Marrick must be planning something- As if right on queue Marrick tells them all to stop and ushers in Gaius, Belkin, Rowan, and the Executor. Might as well go back to training, all the fun seems to have stopped. With that Vokrash turned around and went back to training against dummies.
After about half an hour has passed he hears the voice of Marrick calling out to him. "Vokrash my good man! I come to you with a worthy task for a loyal man of my house. I am too indecisive to make the decision myself and The Executor's judgement is clouded by his disdain for Rowan and his large mouth. Whereas I am fairly certain that you hate all three of these men equally. So I need you to decide who will be the one to claim my Efferus armour for himself. The choice is in your hands."
Marrick then turned to face the others. "There are some minor games coming up in a few days you may want to use them to impress your judge but do not think they can assure you victory. Vokrash! I don't care how you decide or how they impress you but by the end of the week I want to hear your decision. Whether it is who you think is the best fighter or if you make them hold a dancing competition, I don't care how you decide, you are the most veteran man I know when it comes to the games. I will trust your judgement." With that Vokrash saw Marrick spin and walk off with a grace he only seems to show when he is completely ecstatic about something.
Vokrash looked at each of them. Rowan: A skillful warrior but much to arrogant for his own well being. If he got the armour then he would surely fall sooner then later. Gaius: The man is like a cowardly lion, big and strong but broke down after his first fight and seemed to have lost the will to live. However, there does seem to be a new fire in his eyes; perhaps Gaius has more to him that Vokrash previously thought? And finally Belkin: he seems the most likely of the candidates right now. He has not shown any massive bouts of arrogance, kept himself cool during the near brawl in the feast hall, and appears to have no reservations when it comes to fighting, if a bit honourable. Still, right now Vokrash is certain that none of them deserve to wear the Efferus armour.
"Now then, tell me why any of you deserve to wear that armour."
Rowan frowned, realizing that Vokrash would be put in charge of who got the wear the new armor and debut the new style. The two of them were on uncertain terms after the feast, and Rowan wasn't sure how long it might take for Vokrash to forgive or forget the whole affair. Belkin laid a few more insults on Rowan, and he found himself wondering just what he'd done to deserve being treated like a child. He'd even complimented the Pingla, and all he got in return was shouts of how much of an idiot he was for fighting the only way he knew how, the way that had served him well during his time as a free man. Vokrash asked each of the gladiators why the might be considered for the armor, and Rowan had to think very hard for a few moments.
"Perhaps you shouldn't consider me." he finally said, rubbing the back of his head and neck with his sore hand.
"I have fought well, proven myself on the sands. But there is much I have yet to learn, obviously. Should you decide that I am worthy of the armor, I won't refuse. But from the way things are going today, I won't blame you if you too find me to be an idiot with an inflated ego."
The words did not come easy for Rowan. There was no doubt that he wanted the armor, and by extension the opportunity to bring pride to his house and to Marrick, but everywhere he turned people seemed to be spitting on his name. Perhaps the smarter play might be to concede the armor to someone else, and wait for a new opportunity to arise further down the road.
Rowan was the first to speak up. "Perhaps you shouldn't consider me." Vokrash was surprised by this but didn't show it. "Well then, what about the two of you?" He motioned to Gaius and Belkin waiting for their response.
Hearing that Vokrash would be in charge of deciding who received the armour relieved him and yet made him anxious. Vokrash knew Gaius was a good fighter and he seemed to try and help him during his times of trouble, however Gaius looked no doubt weak in Vokrash's eyes. Still it may be possible to impress him enough to convince him that Gaius was worthy.
"Perhaps you shouldn't consider me." Said Rowan standing beside him. Gaius was taken aback. Was this a lie to gain favour, or was he finally learning some humility. "I have fought well, proven myself on the sands. But there is much I have yet to learn, obviously. Should you decide that I am worthy of the armor, I won't refuse. But from the way things are going today, I won't blame you if you too find me to be an idiot with an inflated ego."
Gaius perhaps felt it would be necessary to say something to Rowan, perhaps give him some credit. Instead he felt it would be better to just give him a subtle nudge with his elbow and give him a small nod, a look of understanding. Gaius after all didn't want to appear weak in front of Vokrash. In his old life Gaius didn't ever care what others thought of him except for his family, but now his pride was dead, and he had to do things he would never consider in order to thrive in this new life. That said, thoughts of suicide still clouded his mind like wildfire, the efferus armour was, just for now, a helpful distraction.
Gaius decided it would be smart to speak before Belkin had a chance to, he had more of a chance to sway Vokrash's mind considering he hadn't done anything to lessen the older warrior's opinion of him.
"You saw me at my worst moments but even then I succeeded. I was injured but I still survived and I still killed my enemy. I am willing to put my past behind me. I may not be your first choice, I may even be your last and if that's the case that's okay but I am telling you now I will do anything... anything, in order to wear that armour. To be part of this house is the last thing that I wanted in life but now that I have no other choice, is there any point in life other than to thrive as a gladiator." Gaius didn't know if they were the right words to say, he spoke in half truths. He still hated this place but he was willing to do absolutely anything to wear the armour. And his speech was nowhere near as humble as Rowan's. He may have shot himself in the foot, but also may have convinced him he is worthy.
Vokrash heard what Gaius had to say and looked to Belkin. "And what of you?"
Belkin wasn't shocked that it would have to come to a decision from one of the Gladiators, nor was he surprised that the Gladiator in question was Vokrash, the man he had faced earlier and could last more than a few seconds against the trained Pingla, even hitting him. No, what DID surprise him from the whole ordeal was Rowan stepping back from it, realising that we hasn't The Judge's Champion after all. Belkin was pleased that he did, he felt that Rowan was starting to realise the difference between Glory and Arrogance.
"Well then, what about the two of you?" Vokrash then asked he and Gaius. Belkin thought about it while Gaius talked. He was conflicted as to the choice: Sure, the armour itself looked right for the Pingla with its shield gauntlet and armoured design. However, wearing the armour would be to make the individual his "Master's" Champion, taking him further towards being one of the Empire pigs...no, Champion though he may have to be, there's still a chance he still wouldn't bow to them. After all, A caged wolf with iron armour is just a worst disaster waiting to happen. He then heard Vokrash speak again, this time to Belkin purely. "And what of you?" he said to him.
"The armour itself seems to be centred around the Sword and Shield method I employ, but still keeping the shield hand free so it can be used as a clawed weapon, so I'm the best trained to use the style the armour brings. Aside from that, while the fact that I haven't really killed anyone in the arena isn't really a good point for this, I still used the role I was given to keep Gaius safe from harm. Myself and Gaius are sort of on opposite ends here; he has more strength, I have more wit, he's more ferocious, I'm more cool under pressure, he still has his humanity, I...don't even know any more" he said, suddenly despondent. He then continued, "The point is, it all comes down to what you decide, but if you're going for someone who could pick up the style a lot better, it would be better to go with me."
As Belkin finished Vokrash looked at all of them again. So we have a an arrogant fool backing out, a man with no purpose, and one who tries to show restraint while sayin "I am better than them". By the gods, Marrick, what did I do to deserve this?. Vokrash took a long sigh. "And why do you not deserve this armour Rowan? Not a week ago you were boasting as being the 'Flying Asiren' and now you want out because the executor gave you a boo boo and Marrick isn't lavishing you with gifts? You are more of a child then I could have ever thought. And you..." Vokrash turned his gaze into Gaius' eyes. "I need more than 'You've seen me at my worst, and I'll do anything for the armour'. That's a generic response if I've ever heard one." Vokrash turned to Belkin. "Just knowing how to wield a shield and sword does not reserve you the right. Show me the determination, the need to wear that armour." Vokrash looked off into the distance for a moment before returning his attention to them. "Now then, are you going to stay like that or will you give me a real reason?"
Belkin was annoyed now. Vokrash was making it tough for them, that much was certain, but he was acting like one of those damn Empire pigs now, lording over them and demeaning them with every breath. Belkin retorted, "Well, unless you give us a good idea, this is the best you're probably gonna get. We can't kill each other, those matches the pig suggested aren't for a few days, and if you want to hear us beg, you're going to be disappointed with me!"
Gaius seemed more receptive to Rowan's less boastful tact, which relieved him a bit. He listened as Belkin and Gaius explained why they might deserve the armor over him. Gaius spoke of overcoming his worst moments, and Belkin explained that the armor was practically built for his style of fighting, though Rowan doubted how much of that was true. When Vokrash addressed him once more, the older Asiren scolded and taunted him in their native language, something Rowan did not appreciate at all. Instead of attacking the issue in his usual, headstrong way, Rowan took a small step forward and calmly spoke his mind.
"It takes a man to admit fault, not a boy. You scold me for my boasts, then taunt me for my humility. You are the child here. Give me the armor or don't, but if you think I'll play your games, you're mistaken. At the end of the day we both answer to the same man, don't forget."
Rowan had decided to respond in their native tongue to spare Belkin from having to hear his words. Gaius would understand what he said, and it might serve to build more respect and trust between the two of them. Besides that, he had no desire to let Belkin know his true thoughts and feelings, the way the Pingla was treating him of late.
"In rags or in steel, I will fight just the same." he finished, returning to a language they all could understand.
Vokrash scolded the three of them like children, even insulting Rowan in their native language. Rowan however responded calmly, though speaking Asiren possibly so Belkin couldn't understand. This boiled Gaius's blood, why was he testing them like this? This is pointless. Deciding he couldn't take anymore he spoke up along with the other two.
"What is the point in us telling you why we deserve the armour? This conversation is worthless. Why not have us prove why we deserve the armour."
"One battle does not make a man. You may have been one outside of this life, but now you are once again nothing more than a child. Us answering to the same man has no relevance here; a warrior and a gatherer both answer to the chief but that does not make them equal in stature. Up until now you have been boisterous and proud, and yet you try to show humility only know that Marrick has feigned an interest? You must think me an old fool" Vokrash was not sure if Rowan was truly humbled by the fight or if he is merely acting so he could get the armour; still, Vokrash knew his point had to be made.
Vokrash turned from Rowan and spoke to all of them, making sure not to speak in Asiren so Belkin could understand. "The reason that we are having this 'pointless' discussion is to show you that it does not matter why you think you deserve to wear the armour, because none of you deserve it." Vokrash stopped for a moment before continuing. "And no, I do not want to hear any of you beg, if that happens then it is obvious to both of us that you know you are not good enough." Vokrash stopped again, seemingly as if he was hoping that the three in front of him were understanding what he was saying.
"None of you are worthy now, but that may change in time. Now Rowan and Belkin go back to sparring with each other; Gaius, do as you please. I will not keep you any longer as the sands shall be your judging area. But remember that a champion is more than gaining kills for your lord. Think on what I have said and why I said it. You are all new here and have yet to put your print on the sands. This next week will be the most important of your new lives; this will decide how long your print shall stay in the sands." Content that Vokrash had said what he was thinking he walked off to find something to do, perhaps talk to Vorgis of these sudden change of events. Suddenly he stopped and struggled to stifle a laugh. "And to Vokrash, our wizened mentor!" Vokrash suddenly remembered that from Rowan's drunken speech after his first fight. I've become to soft Vokrash thought as he began to walk towards Vorgis. "Old friend, I believe we need to have a little talk".
Lahar was confused, why were Imperials speaking Vannic?
"Why do you speak my peoples toungue? And what do you mean by saving my blades?" He said after the brief exchange between Artus and Lyria.
Antonius held the severed head high for all the crowd to see. And they loved it! Cheering their appreciation, the sound threatened to bring down the building. The games master looked on in dismay at the ruined husk that was once the champion. One of Marrick's guards who had accompanied Antonius appeared at the games master's side. "Say it."
The games master sighed and raised his arms for all to see. "Your new champion!" He bellowed, pointing at Antonius.
The crowd got even rowdier at that, the noise reaching a deafening volume. The rest of the guards descended on Antonius, scooping him up in chains and encircling him in an improvised shield wall. "Get him back to the Ludus" One of them called over the din. "Marrick will want to hear about this!"
So they started their journey across the city, half the crowd from The Cauldron seemed to be following them and they swept up more onlookers in their wake. Most of them scrabbling at the shields of the guards, trying to get a glimpse at the new champion.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________At the hippodrome the crowd had begun to shuffle in and the riders were each armed. Pole arms were the choice of the day. Spears, tridents and other variants on the sharpened stick. Jamukha was given a saddle bag filled with three short javelins.
Overall the crowd was small compared to those in the main arena. Racing season was just getting started. There were twenty riders in total. Arrayed into a block formation of five by four. Jamukha was placed in the middle of the formation, tightly reigned in by the block of horses.
The horns and trumpets gave a loud and gaudy fanfare, though surprisingly the horses didn't seem to mind. There was pomp and ceremony announcing the start and offering up praise to the gods of The Empire. This editor lacked the ability of the ones at The Den of Hearts and his speech was flat and stilted. Finally a silent signal was given, a flag was waved, a trumpet sounded and they were off!
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ "Why do you speak my peoples toungue? And what do you mean by saving my blades?"
Lyria looked at Lahar incredulously."You mean why do I speak the language of OUR people?"
"And why does she allow me to sully it with my crudeness?" Kedrin chimed in. His voice made of gravel.
"Artus, why don't you just tell him?" Lyria had switched back to the common tongue.
"Because the story is ridiculous and frankly, unavailable." He took another swig from his drink, before putting it down with solemn gravity. "Look at him. He's been shooting daggers at me since he saw those swords. No, better to show him." Kedrin reached into his robes and produced a dagger of his own, but it was not a normal one. It was made of one continuous piece of black steel.
"I'm in fit state to translate and I wont insult you by sullying your mother tongue. My story is a long one and better left for another time, but I can show you the end of it. It's been so long since I left the desert,I can't completely remember what we're supposed to say when we meet each other." He looked at the dagger for a moment, his eyes seemed to try and devour the blade. Until finally his gaze rose to meet Lahar's.
"I have walked the sands alone and weary. I have followed in the footsteps left by Zail before me. I have watched for the shadows in men and seen them in myself." He pointed the dagger at Lahar, blade first. "Light as feather, heavy as stone. This is the shadow on my heart given form. It is my calling, my duty, my privilege. All men have their burdens, but they need not carry them alone. For carry the burdens of all, for all."
Kedrin sank into a chair, slamming the blade into a table but his eyes never left it.
"The more we try and separate it from ourselves the more a part of us it becomes." He laughed to himself, looking to Lahar he said. "Do you understand why I brought you here now?"
"The reason that we are having this 'pointless' discussion is to show you that it does not matter why you think you deserve to wear the armour, because none of you deserve it." Gaius heard Vokrash berate them more over why they didn't deserve the armour, trying to destroy and delusions of grandeur. "Gaius, do as you please." With that Gaius decided to return to the training area. A plan was formed in his mind, possibly not the best as this same plan got the Imperial hated on the very first day, but perhaps he would start smaller.
He noticed the man he sat with at the feast practising against a dummy with a sword and shield. He remembered his name as Benjen. Gaius walked over to Durro and picked up the wooden battleaxe, flashing the boy a quick smile, forced though he was a cute little child. Even with his new strategy of Spear and dagger he decided it would be best to use what he knew best. Striding up to him Gaius patted him on the shoulder and said simply "Benjen is it? I wish to spar." Benjen nodded in response and smiled, readying his weapons.
They stood opposite each other, both in their best defensive stance. They inched closer and closer before Benjen decided to strike first. His attacks were strong and controlled, hard to block or dodge but Gaius managed to deflect with his handle. Finally Gaius started forcing his opponent's sword back with the handle. Benjen kept stepping back before finally jabbing Gauis in the stomach, this was in vain however as Gaius simply stepped back and hit him hard in the jaw with the hilt of his weapon. Benjen was staggered badly and spat out some blood before restarting his attack on Gaius. He jabbed and stabbed at him with his sword, forcing Gaius to sidestep until he was backed into a wall. Benjen went to swipe at his knees but Gaius was one step ahead and struck the hilt of the battleaxe into the dirt to block his legs, before elbowing Benjen. However, the other Gladiator was smart and knew how Gaius would escape. He blocked himself and blunted Gaius's elbow against his shield before jabbing into the Asiren's chest.
With no other options, Gaius went with raw strength and gripped Benjen's sword arm tight. Holding his wrist he just barely avoided the stab, metaphorically saving his life. Benjen was about to slam his shield in Gaius's face but found himself in a surprising amount of pain. Excruciating pain in fact and his sword dropped out of his hand and his fingers contorted. Gaius headbutted him and forced Benjen back and to his knees, still gripping his wrist. Benjen slammed his shield against Gaius's side, forcing him to flinch but he still held his grip hard and tight. The Asiren grabbed the battleaxe and slammed the handle into Benjen's shield arm, before bringing the wooden blade down into his shoulder.
Benjen grunted in pain but tried his best not to scream out, he failed however and certainly drew a crowd as they saw Gaius standing dominantly over someone more experienced in the arena. Gaius let go of his grip and held out his hand to Benjen. Calmly, the fallen Gladiator took his hand and got up off of his knees before saying calmly "Impressive." He slapped Gaius on the arm and picked up his shield. Gaius responded in kind and nodded, handing him his sword.
Antonius stood there he could see the faces of the crowd. They had been cheering all this time but only now did it reach Antonius. The sound was very loud, they were all screaming so loud that a few people looked worried if the building would hold. Antonius grinned brightly as he could feel their cheers reaching him. It was lifting his spirit all the sadness and bad treatment of the other gladiators just vanished.... he felt reborn, he was no longer an slave... this moment changed his destiny forever. He was now a gladiator. And he would make sure that he would get the respect he deserved. Antonius screamed loudly as he held the head up turning it to every side hearing even more cheers. The pain of his cuts washed away as the cheers continued. He saw the game master looking down at what used to be his champion, he look dumbstruck. One of the guards stepped to the game master, Antonius just managed to hear "Say it." Say what? The game master sighed. He then raised both his arms, "Your new champion!" He pointed at Antonius.
Antonius was now dumbstruck for a few seconds. Him a champion?! The crowed seemed to love it though. Their cheering and yelling and screaming increased to a deafening volume. Antonius seemed to find his enthusiasms again, he lifted the head up even higher holding his other arm into the air victorious. Then the guards quickly descended on him grabbing chains and encircling him making a shield wall. "Get him back to the Ludus" Ah yes I can finally show those other recruits what I am worth! "Marrick will want to hear about this!" A yes the smug prick. He would finally hear what kind of things I can do! Still I need to focus, I mean I only got so far by staying focused, so I should keep relying on it. Antonius followed the man without complains, as he kept his arms up in the air. His bloody body littered with scars, showing his experience with fighting. The people kept screaming and cheering.
Antonius and his escort made it outside, his new fans however didn't seem to be done cheering just yet. A lot of his new fans followed him trying to catch a glimpse of their new champion. Antonius smiled confidently and held his right arm in the air. A lot of people along the way stopped and looked at what was happening. Antonius loved all the attention So this is what it means to be an gladiator? I love it! Still I love my freedom more... but there are worst ways to work my way up to freedom. Antonius kept walking, he and the escort were drawing nearer and nearer to the Ludus. Antonius began to feel tired and his cuts began to sting a little. Still Antonius would be damned before he showed his weakness.
Rowan grunted, giving Vokrash a stiff nod He was tired from sparring with Belkin and Vorgis, so the prospect of a second bout with the Pingla did not sit well with him. Instead he slapped both of his competitors on the shoulder and smiled warmly to them, his face a mask of courtesy. The game they were playing to acquire the Efferus Armor was just as much mental as it was physical, and after Vokrash's stunt Rowan felt as though he had a firm grip on how to play.
"Good luck to you both. Whatever happens we should all feel honored that we were considered, yes?"
With that, Rowan walked off to one of the wooden dummies in the courtyard. Instead of picking up a weapon to use against it, Rowan raised his hands to cover his face and neck, and placed his feet into a solid fighting stance. He had to prepare himself for the possibility of losing his weapon in the sands. With a swift step forward, Rowan began jabbing and smacking the dummy, ducking and weaving around it. He kept his strikes brief and light to begin with. Taking too long to land a blow might mean a broken arm or a stab in the gut.
Rowan sent a flurry of strikes into the dummy's guts, finishing strong with a punch that splintered some of the wood, cutting into his knuckles. He stopped for a moment, stepping back to survey the damage. His hand a few decent sized splinters of wood in it, but nothing he couldn't handle. Rowan plucked the splinters out carefully and went back to striking. He kept himself light on his feet, attacking at all angles and leaning and weaving to keep himself agile and ready to dodge when the real fights began.
As the race grew ever closer, Jamukha felt himself becoming more and more uneasy. No matter how many practice laps he took, or however many questions he asked Kranst, he couldn't help but feel increasingly unsettled. He had raced countless times before, and won a fair amount. However, it was different in the hippodrome. This was no simple race for pride or honor. Here they raced for the amusement of a barely civilized horde. Not only that, but death was a real and distinct possibility, ready to claim any rider and any moment.
These thoughts terrified Jamukha. I am not ready to die here. I cannot die, not yet. Jamukha's resolve grew with these thoughts. I will not die here.
Finally the time came, and Jamukha was herded together with the other riders as the crowds began to file into the hippodrome. He accepted his javelins without hesitation. The javelin was a good weapon to use on horseback. Light weight and easy to handle, he would be able to defend himself if worse came to worse. There was little time to think of battle strategy however, as Jamuu was quickly led back to the track to take his position in the race.
His heart began to slam against his chest as the other riders fell in on all sides of him. He felt trapped, in the center of a mass of flesh and muscle and steel. From a racing standpoint, he had been given one of the worse possible starting positions. He'd have to be quick and agile to avoid being boxed in and torn apart by the racers behind him.
Clay seemed to sense Jamukha's unease, and began to shake his head from side to side ever so slightly.
"Easy for you to relax," Jamuu whispered, patting the horse on the side of the neck, " I'm the one who's going to take a spear to the back before this is all done."
The trumpets blasted, Jamukha gave Clay a sturdy kick, and the two were off with the rest of the riders. A cloud of dust and sand followed them as Jamuu immediately tried to break out of the center. Though the rider's square formation had started out tight and stifling, it was slowly breaking apart of the faster horses pulled ahead of the group. Even so, Jamuu found his path to the outside blocked on more than one occasion.
He was about to pull out and take the outside when the tip of a spear grazed past his nose. The rider to his left had pulled in closer to Jamukha, and was out for blood. Jamuu cursed as the spear struck out again, this time aimed at Clay. He was only just able to pull Clay out of range of the attack in time.
Kranst was right. The rider's in the back of the pack were quick to resort to violence. If Jamuu ha any chance of surviving the race, he would have to pull away from them. But first he would have to deal with the immediate threat.
Using the spear meant that the other rider only had one hand on the reins, and each thrust put him off balance on his horse. So, when the rider next struck out against Jamuu, instead of dodging, Jamukha leaned back and grabbed the spear with both hands. With all his strength, he yanked backwards, taking the spear and sending the rider tumbling out of his saddle and onto the ground.
The man landed awkwardly on his arm with a sickening crunch. Jamukha looked back just long enough to see him trampled by another rider before disappearing into a cloud of dust.
A decent start, Jamuu thought, rounding the first turn. He was still in the middle of the pack, but now he had the room to advance forward and possibly even take the lead.
Lahar listened to Artus' story intently, he had walked the desert and forged a blade just as he had, he had taken the rage and anger into him and guarded it from others, just as he had. But why would an Imperial become a war walker? Why would he leave his cushy life of wealth and power to walk the sands of the white desert alone? It was no secret that some did not make it back from their pilgrimage.
"Do you understand why I brought you here now?"
Lahar nodded he understood why the man had brought him here now. But he was still uncertain if Artus' intentions were as innocent as he wanted Lahar to believe.
"I am sorry if I offended you Lyria, I did not know and I am ashamed of how I reacted." He said bowing his head slightly, "I am also sorry for thinking that our tongue should be spoken by Vaan alone."
He went over to the table that Artus was sitting at and picked up the dagger to examine it. It was finely crafted, the blade was sharp and the balance was good. He believed that Artus had truly poured his heart into it while forging it. It was made to kill from the shadows, not in close combat, maybe Artus was trying to improve the Imperial society the only way he could, like the way he used his blade, from the shadows.
"It is a fine blade" He said passing it back to him, "I understand why you brought me hear."
A few of the other gladiators watched on as Gaius made short work of Benjen. A few seemed visibly impressed, giving a slight nod or a snort of amusement. Most kept their emotions guarded, as most gladiators are want to do. Vorgis, who was watching the fight more closely than others, threw a spear practice into the ground near Gaius' feet. "How about you show me some of that pear work you were doing?" He motioned to the red haired gladiator Belkin was talking to. "Dran, you know your spear work better than most. Put him through his paces."
"With pleasure." Said the red haired man (now known as Dran) jogged up to Gaius, spear in hand and buckler on wrist. Dran struck a fighting stance and levelled his spear. "Whenever you're ready."
suddenly a great commotion stirred up from inside the manor. Marrick strode out with fire in his eyes. One of his house guards trailed behind him, panting for breath. "Rowan! Belkin!Vokrash! With me. Executor, arm these men and quickly." Without pomp or grace The three were thrown a sword and shield each, though there was no time to give them any armour. "Follow this man!" Marrick barked, pointing to the out of breath guard. The man did not seem happy to be on the move again. They were quickly lead out of the house. And don't think of trying anything!" Marrick cried after them. It became apparent as they were quickly joined by a group of five heavily armed solider looking men.
"Marrick doesn't trust outside help." The guard wheezed. "we're to secure Antonius and make sure to get him back here." The group made their way down the streets of Ptolemy and out to the city edges.
The rider that attacked Jamukha was not the only one to die before the end of the first lap. This was a large group and half of them were new to the circuit or were just gladiators thrown into saddles. They were a blood thirsty bunch and the crowd appreciated it.
As the pack rounded the corner the riders on the outside began to tighten up, trying to make it to the inside. The movement of the group of horses flowed like the tide and as riders fell their bodies rolled and skipped like stones.
One of the riders in front of Jamukha was on the verge of getting a spot on the inside of the group but he was frantically slashing out with a cavalry sabre, trying to keep the encroaching racers at bay.
"Well... That's nice isn't it?" Kedrin grumbled. "We don't need to be friends, I wont try and force my company on you. But you do have an ally in House Kedrin. I promise you I will keep my eyes out for your sword." They were interrupted by a middle aged servant coming through the door.
"Sir, Senator Balus is in the solar. He requests an audience with you." That seemed to rile Kedrin out of his stupor.
"The nerve of that man! Fine, fine, I'll play his game and put my host face on but if he wants to try anything he'll regret it. Lyria see to our guest please." He got out of his chair and left the room with all the purpose and dignity of a disgruntled bear, muttering under his breath all the while.
Lyria tutted to herself, though her warm smile never left her face. She plucked the black dagger from the table and tucked it into her apron. "He never used to forget it, never used to let it off his person. Still he's not what he was." She sighed wistfully. "He should have let the blade rest years ago, but if one cannot rest then neither can the other." She seemed to notic Lahar for the first time. "But you know that already. so sorry, excuse me a moment."
She left the room for a little while leaving Lahar alone with his thoughts and the furniture. Eventually she came back. Carrying a long black, neatly folded, coat and a pair of black trousers and boots. "We thought you might like these. Now you can look the part of a Walker. I don't know how much comfort it will be to you but the crowd will love it and the more the crowd love you the easier your life will be. Go ahead, try them on." She said draping the coat over him. "Don't worry I wont look." She covered her eyes.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________The crowd following Antonius was rowdy but they seemed amicable enough. They threw various shouts and chants his way. But one voice stood out above the others.
"Antonius! Antonius!" It was a tall, dark haired man. He bore a striking resemblance to Antonius if truth be told and he wore an Imperial military uniform. "Antonius, over here!" He jostled his way through the crowd trying to get close to the ring of guards.
But as reliably as the sun rises all large, rowdy groups of city dwellers turn violent. To this day no one knows what sparked the riot. No doubt it was a small spark but it started a great blaze of violence and bloodshed. The small group of guards and the chained Antonius fond themselves surrounded by rioters and looters. Still the few men managed to keep their ring and tightened their ranks around the newly crowned champion. They knew he was worth more than their lives were worth now and Marrick would not be happy if any harm came to him. Their captain was a capable man and ordered one of his men to get back to the Ludus and get help. He got away as fast a he can as a volley of bottles and rocks crashed against the shield wall.
The rest held on as long as they could but they were close to breaking under the weight of the crowd. Just when they thought all was lost they saw the most unlikely sight they could think of in that situation. A trio of Gladiators rounding the corner with a squad of fully armed praetorians at their backs. Maybe now they had a chance.
Belkin was now completely annoyed with what had occurred. Vokrash had just wasted their time telling them that he'd need to see more proof, only saying that he needed more proof that one of them was "worthy". Were this in Pingla shores, he could have charged Vokrash with complete disruption of duty from the way he acted for the past few minutes, a charge that brought with it disciplinary action. Belkin inwardly sighed as the day wore on, Rowan clearly trying to gain ground as the Empire does with sweetened words and Gaius trying to show off like a Young Wolf trying to become an Alpha. He spent the time training on a separate dummy, taking a short break to watch the other two practice. Suddenly, he heard a cry.
"Rowan! Belkin! Vokrash! With me. Executor, arm these men and quickly." cried a man who appeared on the Balcony, Marrick next to him. Belkin was quickly given a metal Sword and wooden Shield. 'Whatever is happening, it must be serious enough to warrant real weapons on us' thought Belkin, already getting a feel for weapon he would use. "Follow this man!" Shouted the Empire Pig, Belkin complying and joining up with the man, as well as Rowan and Vokrash. "This a good chance to prove ourselves, or do you have something involving more Beasts to gain favour?" said Belkin to Vokrash, still a little annoyed by his Haughty mood. They were soon joined by five other, more heavily armoured men.
The chaos was thick around Belkin. Clearly something had happened to make the people around them suddenly turn violent and chaotic, but Belkin didn't care, he just focused on following the man. He knew that the fair majority of the people, while Empire scum, were in many ways innocents, so he used his Shield for the most part, using it to bash people out of his way. People who actually tried to attack him, either post-bashing or just in general though were quickly dealt with by his blade, either through a limb or a head being chopped off.
The group managed to reach where they were meant to go, reaching what looked like the Epicentre of the riot, where Belkin could barely see Antonius being surrounded by the Empire Pig's men. Belkin was both pissed and amazed to see him alive, but still had his job to do, so he focused on that. Belkin held back, moving towards Rowan and Vokrash again. "Well, unless you two have any ideas, I say we charge into the crowd and use our shields to help try to disperce them" he said to them, trying to quickly think up a plan.