Live by the Die

Shut up and Roll...

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After the fact...
big_daddy_dan wrote in livebythedie
Well, I meant to add this earlier, but I guess "when I remember" is as good a time as any...

 

            Grey stepped back from the wiry little swordsman, swinging his greatsword in a huge arc to keep him from following. He'd been chasing the quick little guy all over the field, but every time he got close, the swordsman would parry his blow on his shield and duck in close, trying to get inside Grey's reach.

            “I'm not going to be able to keep this up much longer” Grey thought. While he had great stamina to go along with his great size, there were limits. The swordsman and his partner were faster, and carried lighter weapons. He had to end this soon, or he'd be in trouble.

            Taking advantage of the lull in battle while the swordsman dodged back, widening the distance between them, Grey glanced across the field at his own partner, Donaly. With alarm, he watched as a black-cloaked woman with a trident and net removed said weapon from Donaly's crumpled form.

            “NOOOO!” A familiar red haze darkened Grey's sight, and a loud roaring sound rose in his ears as his rage came upon him. Turning back to the swordsman, he leapt forward, bringing his massive sword sweeping down in an anger-enhanced blow. The swordsman moved to block the blow with his shield again, but this time, the shield shattered with a loud crack – as did the arm beneath it. The swordsman collapsed, screaming.

            Quickly, Grey spun around to face the black-cloaked woman, swinging the greatsword wildly as  she charged across the field. Trident met greastsword in a shower of sparks, and the woman twisted her weapon, attempting to pry the sword loose from Grey's grasp. She underestimated the strength of his grip, however, and Grey twisted back, breaking the shaft of the trident, and shoving the woman back.

            A sudden, burning pain across the back of his leg distracted Grey just as he was preparing the killing blow, causing the swing to go wide as his leg buckled. The pain just fueled his rage, however, and he spun on his wounded knee to see the swordsman behind him, Grey's blood dripping from his short-sword from where the huge man had been ham-strung. The little man's shield-arm hung limply from his side, but his sword-arm still worked. The sneak attack didn't avail him any, however, as Grey used the force of his spin to jab the greatsword straight through the little man's stomach, screaming in victory as the swordsman once again screamed in pain and toppled over.

            Victory was short-lived, however, as the black-cloaked killer who was now behind him wrapped her net around Grey's head, pulling sharply back as she rammed the broken haft of her weapon between his shoulder blades and out through his chest.

            The red haze across Grey's eyes darkened to black, and the last thing he heard was the roaring of the crowd.

 

            The first thing Grey heard when he woke up was the roaring in his ears. It subsided after a few seconds, as his vision cleared and his other senses returned. Once again, the clerics had healed him, fulfilling their employer's contract with their guild. Medric Thul, the master of the <insert name> Gladiator Troupe, had a vested interest in keeping his warriors alive – the fines for allowing one to die, or even be permanently injured, could easily put the troupe out of business. Fortunately, the healers on retainer from the Devotional's Guild were among the best in the world, and could handle all except the worst of injuries. Only those that caused immediate death were untreatable, and the gladiators were trained to cause massive bloodshed while avoiding vital organs.

            In the next bed over, Donaly barked aloud “Welcome back, big guy. Thanks for not saving my butt!”      

            Grey chuckled. “What, and add to your disgrace at being bested by a woman?”

            “Hey, she got you, too!” Donaly protested.

            “Two on one aren't' really favorable odds.” Grey retorted. “Besides, I wasn't really looking out for anyone at that point.”

            Donaly grimaced. “I thought Medric had taught you to control that.” Referring to Grey's powerful rage.

            “Somewhat. It's not that I can't control it, but rather...” The explanation was cut short by the entrance of Medric Thul himself.

            The stout dwarf banged through the door of the small recovery room with a scowl on his face. Medric was usually a happy man, and was easier on his gladiators that most other masters. His fees for their room and board didn't match their winnings, as many other troupes did – eventually, his warriors could win enough to buy their way out of their indenture.

            “What's wrong, Medric? The loser's purse not enough to cover expenses?” Grey asked.

            “If I had to depend on you two losers, it wouldn't be.” Medric growled. “Fortunately, I have some other losers that got lucky today. We won't go under yet. That's the good news.”

            Medric's voice got graver, as his expression darkened. “No, we've got other problems.” He tossed a small pouch on the table, which landed with the jingle of coins. He then planted himself at the foot of Grey's bed, and handed him a sheet of parchment.

            “It's the lottery, Ch'Lassis.” Grey's ears perked up at the use of his first name. Medric only used it when he was being his most serious. “You've won. You're a citizen, now.”

            Grey's head swum. A citizen! The lottery was a tradition held over from when the gladiators were mostly criminals sentenced to death, or those who chose to brave the arena rather than face prison, or more often, slaves. Once a year, the King of Siphum would pardon one randomly chosen gladiator, giving him citizenship in the kingdom. The practice was so popular with the crowds that it was continued even after slavery was outlawed, and the arenas transformed into battle dromes for indentured warriors instead and the blood games heavily regulated. The pardon now paid off the indentured warrior's balance owed, and granted them citizenship in the country of Siphum. And now it was his turn!

            Medric let that sink in for a moment, then continued “You'll have your choice of weapon and armor from my stores, and the small purse over there is yours as well. Keep the paper on you as proof of your new-found freedom. The ceremony is tomorrow – there will be a staged fight, so that your investiture will be as climactic as possible. Put up a good show. You will also be inducted into the Warrior's Guild. I know you're familiar with the responsibilities that entails. You'll have to give your first week of service up front, but then you'll have access to the protection and rights that the guild offers. The terms of the lottery mean you can't stay.” The dwarf's massive shoulders sagged. “I'm sad to see you go. You're one of my best, and I've grown fond of you.”

            Grey sat there, speechless. He'd been with Medric's gladiator troupe since he was a young boy, first doing chores and odd jobs, and later becoming a gladiator when his size and strength manifested as he grew. Medric had happened upon the wreckage of the caravan Grey's family had been traveling with – Grey had been hidden inside a secret compartment while the rest of the caravan, and his parents, had been slaughtered by the Stalshin raiders. He'd been fighting in the arenas for several months now, and had had years to go before he could pay Medric back for raising and training him. Besides, this was the only life he'd ever known – what would he do as a freeman?

           

            A week later, Grey collected his gear from the barracks, and stepped out on the streets of Havince. His first service had been quite boring by the standards of the arena; He'd been assigned to the night watch. Policing the streets of Havince by night, as the duty most newcomers to the guild drew, was fairly tame. He'd rolled a couple drunks into common rooms, and broken up a few drunken brawls, but for the most part the law-abiding residents of the city behaved themselves. He hadn't even been wounded!

            Grey squinted his eyes against the morning sun; the first he'd seen it since he'd started his week. With no idea of where to go, he looked up and down the street, watching the morning traffic as farmers and merchants went about their business. Picking a direction randomly, he began to walk. Some opportunity, somewhere, would come. It was just a matter of finding it.

           


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