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Into the Arena

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#1 Prattitude

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:07 AM

Heads of the Hydra

A Wulfgard short story


Part One: Crime
Spoiler



Part two: Prison
Spoiler



Part three: The Pit
Spoiler



Part Four: Revelations
Spoiler



Part five: Glory
Spoiler



Part Six: Planning
Spoiler



Part Seven: Escape
Spoiler



Part Eight: New Light
Spoiler



Epilogue:
Spoiler



So that's the Wulfgard short story I've been playing with. I plan on posting more in a day or so, and it'd be great to get some feedback! Fixed a minor edit thanks to Wolfy :)

Edit: It's done! I enjoyed every bit of writing this, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Wish me luck in the Wulfgard section of Ter Loki's next contest! :D

#2 Prattitude

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:05 PM

Well it's been two days and no ones posted, but I'm still writing so I figured I'd BUMP this with the second entry. ;)




Part two: Prison
The dank and dusty prison cell that he woke up in was nothing of a surprise. After marching all day and night down the road and through the wild, the small group of slaves accompanied by the Imperial escorts, managed to make their way to Caltha, one of the larger cities owned by the Empire.

Ewan rolled over on the cold hard bunk and instantly regretted it as a searing pain erupted down his back causing him to fall off the small cot and onto the floor. Thankfully, the man had managed to secure himself the bottom bunk, so when he jarred his elbow on the floor and set to cursing like a sailor, he realized that it could have been much worse.

When the pain subsided, Ewan set himself into a sitting position and gradually rubbed the tingling feeling out of his elbow. His dark eyes surveyed the room. It was small and grey, and there was only a small table and a chair besides the bunk bed. The window was poorly chiseled into the stone wall, and it had been barred with metal to prevent any thoughts of escape. Ewan stood and moved to the window.

What he saw outside delighted him, and then brought him to a new low. Men and women dressed in various different colors paraded around the city streets, laughing and speaking freely in their dubious garb. It was a sunny day, and the various white and brown buildings and taverns and shops bustled with the coming and going of the various patrons. An air of excitement wafted between every individual; it was an air that could mean only one thing.

Ewan knew the consequences of his choice. He had been presented with a decision, the ring or public execution. Ewan chose to willingly sell himself in order to prolong his life, as many had done over the years. But this was different; Ewan knew that he could win his freedom back. He had to.

He pulled away from the window and sat down on the floor with his back against the wall. It felt good to press the inflamed flesh against the cold stone, and after awhile he could barely feel it. Boredom overtook him, and for awhile he took to throwing pebbles through the cracks in the metal barred doors, until he noticed the man on the top bunk looking down at him. As they locked eyes, the fellow inmate climbed down the side of the bed and leaned against the metal door, facing Ewan.

“Saw your group come in through the front gate,” the short haired man said after a few moments of silence.

“Well, that makes one of us,” Ewan replied, “I can barely remember anything after that long walk,”

The grizzled man nodded and crossed his arms, “don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what you’re in for,” he commented.

Ewan shook his head.

“Just like all the new meat coming through here,” he said quietly, “can’t own up to what they did,”

Ewan stood up, “you know nothing of my crimes,” he said heatedly, “a strange man who evaluates others moral standards from behind bars,”

The man laughed heartily revealing his jagged maw from behind the graying goatee he wore, “you have anger; you best use that when we get into the ring,”

Ewan took to leaning up against the wall again to ease the burning of his back, “what’s your name old man?” he asked with a grimace, “It’d be a shame never getting to know how to call you in case we come to blows,”

“They call me Jonas,” the old man said, “and I don’t think you have to worry about us coming to blows just yet,”

“Why’s that, Jonas?” Ewan asked, obviously confused.

“Because it just so happens, that we’re going to be on the same team,” Jonas continued as if Ewan had never interrupted him, “new meat and old blood always get tossed in together,”

Just then, an imperial guard clad in bronze armor strode to the front of the barred metal door. With the butt of his spear, he forced Jonas to back away before opening the prison cell. The gate swung inward with a loud screech, and the guard beckoned for them to come forward.

“Training session, slaves,” he bluntly stated as the two men came forward into the sandy humid hallway, “and put these on,” he added, tossing the two men each a green tabard and a rope to cinch the waist.

Ewan looked to Jonas, who was busy tying his tattered shirt to his bare chest, “teams, eh?” he asked as he too pulled the green shirt over his head.

Jonas nodded, “two teams of 18 men each. We’ll be fighting each other until only one team is left standing, be it one man or all 18. The latter’s only happened once,”

“Will there be many people?” Ewan requested as the two followed the clearly irritated guard down the hall and into an antechamber filled with weapons and different armors.

“Chances are there’ll be enough to fill the pit. We’re not fighting in the big stadium today, just a small pit fight to weed out the weaker combatants. Seen it happen too many times to count,”

Ewan nodded and walked into the room. It had a high ceiling and was large enough to comfortably hold an assembly of one hundred. The floors were made of stone; unlike the sand and gravel carpet of the jail cells they called their homes. Already a collection of blue, red and orange tabards where assembling in the large room, fighting each other with the various weapons or testing out different types of armors on their person.

“Aren’t the guards worried there will be a revolt?” Ewan asked as the two amongst the rest of the eighteen ‘green shirts’ were shepherded into the room.

“It’s all dead steel,” Jonas muttered as he picked up a wooden buckler reinforced with Iron plating, “can’t hurt you too much if the weapons are all dull. Now come on, show me what you’ve got,”

Ewan smiled. He had never been in a glorious battle; he’d never fought off any heroic monsters and saved his village, but he had been chopping trees and farming his entire life, making his muscles strong. All of the instruments of war however, looked so foreign to him. There were spears, nets, and even flails, but ultimately he settled for a spatha and settled in to a fighting position.

Jonas laughed, “You’re going to come at me like that? Spread your feet boy, you’ve got to keep your balance!”

Ewan was embarrassed, but he did as he was told, and then steadily advanced on Jonas. The grizzled man shouted out and charged him with just his buckler, swatting the sword aside and hitting him in the chest with the weapon. Ewan fell backwards as the wind was knocked out of him, and Jonas came up and extended his hand.

“First rule of the arena, boy,” he said as he pulled Ewan up off of the ground, “a good defense is the best offense. If this happened out there, you’d have likely had a spike driven through your chest,”

Ewan grimaced. He hadn’t thought about that at all. Really, he hadn’t thought about much more than the fact that he might have to kill someone; he’d never really contemplated how.

“Teach me to fight,” he managed to choke out as he brushed himself off, “teach me everything that you know,”

Jonas obliged, and for the next hour and a half, he taught Ewan the basics of swordplay, and how to implement some other weapons decently. He showed great prowess with the arm buckler, and so Jonas taught him to use it as more than a defensive tool. When they were all forced to leave the training room and dine in the mess hall, Ewan had more bruises than he could count, but he was twice as confident as he was when the day started. He knew he’d need it if he wanted to survive the brutal onslaught that was to come.

#3 Maverick-Werewolf

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:37 PM

I love it, Tommy! :D I'm afraid for Jonas, though. :P It seems like he's doomed to die at some point in the story, or at the very least he and Ewan will be separated... or even have to fight each other. But then again, that's how it all goes in the gladiator arena, I suppose.

I really like the portrayal of Ewan's choice to become a gladiator instead of be executed, and his desire to retake his freedom through the gladiator pits. Looking forward to more! ;)

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#4 Crispy

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 11:45 PM

Sounds good dude! Huh; we say that in almost every conversation at least twenty times. :P I'll keep an eye on this.

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#5 Prattitude

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 12:57 AM

I love it, Tommy! :D I'm afraid for Jonas, though. :P It seems like he's doomed to die at some point in the story, or at the very least he and Ewan will be separated... or even have to fight each other. But then again, that's how it all goes in the gladiator arena, I suppose.

I really like the portrayal of Ewan's choice to become a gladiator instead of be executed, and his desire to retake his freedom through the gladiator pits. Looking forward to more! ;)


thanks Wolfy! It means a lot coming from you :D Trying to do the Wulfgardians proud. It's also good to know if any of that happens, it won't be too cliche :lol:

Sounds good dude! Huh; we say that in almost every conversation at least twenty times. :P I'll keep an eye on this.


Haha yes we do! Nevertheless, I'm glad you're reading! :P

Well here's the next part for you guys, finally some action.


Part three: The Pit
It was dry, dark and incredibly smelly inside of the long tunnel that led up into the pit that afternoon. The sun cast its intolerable rays down through the slits above the gladiators’ heads as they slowly strode to the front gate that barred the combatants from the circular arena. The cheers from the crowd were deafening as the two groups made their way forward until the iron grating prevented them from moving further. Ewan stood halfway back directly in front of Jonas.

His eyes darted back and forth, but Jonas’ calming hand on his shoulder kept him from losing his cool, “You’ll do fine, son,” he whispered into Ewan’s ear, “just stick with me and keep your head,”

“Keep my head?” Ewan said whipping backwards to stare daggers at his mentor, “If I lose it now, I’m blaming you,”

Jonas laughed, “You know what I mean, just stay calm and watch my back, and you’re as good as gold,”

Jonas clapped Ewan on the back, and the two fell silent as the announcer addressed the crowd that had fallen silent, save a few misplaced cheers and whoops. Suddenly, the iron gat began to slowly rise before them, and the eight green shirted gladiators made their way out into the circular pit.

This was no royal match, and so the stadium they came into was lined with jagged wooden stakes to prevent prisoners from climbing into the bleachers that weren’t far off the ground. The pit floor was mostly sand and dirt, though there were a few blood stains from what must have been an earlier match. The sun was high in the sky, and it was intolerably hot. Many patrons cooled themselves with makeshift fans of various colors, and those sitting in the circular stands roared with bestial vigor as the dead men made their way to the center of the arena.

Ewan’s ears rang with anticipation, and he watched in horror as the opposite gate opened slowly while his own closed behind him, and the eight fully armored blue shirted combatants strode forth, as confident as ever. Ewan looked to his own compatriot’s who were clad in nothing but the simple green tabard they had been provided with that morning, and a look of revulsion leaped on to his face.

Jonas took note of Ewan’s fear, “don’t worry lad,” he said as he gripped his battle ax fiercely, “they always give the armor to the weaker team,”
Ewan’s heart raced and a bead of sweat ran down the back of his tabard, sending a chill running down his spine as the announcer had the gladiators bow and salute the crowd. He could hear nothing, and his throat was as dry as the sand they stood on, until suddenly, the world erupted in his ears and the battle was on.

Jonas shouted to him as he darted off to the right, but Ewan was rooted where he stood. He cursed his inability to move his legs as one of the blue shirts, clad in a protective helm of bronze and wielding a sick looking trident came barreling down upon him.

This is it he thought as the man readied to bring the three pronged spear down into his chest. But it wasn’t, for all at once Ewan’s training and instinct took hold, and his feet and arms set into motion with the sword that he didn’t even realize he had drawn.

The blue shirt clumsily stabbed his trident forward, and without thinking, Ewan swatted it aside with his left hand and struck out with his right. There was a sickening feeling like poking a stick into a mound of mud, and the other man didn’t move. Ewan ripped his spatha free of the blue man’s stomach, and he sank to his knees clutching the wound with eyes wide and white, and blood spilling freely from his mouth.

He was dumbstruck, and once more he found himself unable or unwilling to move. No, he wanted to reach out to the dying man, to comfort him in his last throes of life, but Jonas was beside him, yanking him fervently off of his knees.

“You did good, boy,” he shouted trying to rouse Ewan from his stupor, “there’s more to fight, and it’s going to be them or us! Them or us Ewan, you have no choice,”

Ewan barely heard Jonas’ words over the sickening gurgle of the man he had ran through so callously, but he knew he couldn’t sit any longer if he wanted to remain alive. Shaking off the guilt, he rose to his sandaled feet and turned just in time to duck under the swinging blow of an ax, but he didn’t have the wits about him to step away from the kick that followed, and once again he found himself on the sandy floor of the arena, though this time with certain death before him and searing pain exploding from the wound on his back.

He rolled to avoid the next blow from the savage ax, and sand peppered his face as he tried regaining his footing, stinging his eyes and making it hard to remain upright. Instinctively his swung his sword, which effectively bought him enough time to rub the dirt that his attacker had kicked out of his eyes.

Where is Jonas? Ewan cried out mentally as he backpedaled to avoid another arcing blow from the bladed weapon. He finally got a good look at his adversary. A tall man with dark skin and a strong upper body, something that Ewan’s thin athletic frame didn’t quite match.

Another swing sent Ewan sprawling back until a sharp spike prodded his left shoulder. He realized he’d been backed into the wall, so as the next attack came blindingly fast, he was forced to roll under the blow and then spin about.

In the split second he had to return his gaze to the battle, Ewan watched a blue shirt get thrown backwards by a massive man and his hammer, and another green shirted man get run through by two spears at once. He grimaced at that horrible death, but he set his jaw and turned to regard his own assailant, who he realized had gotten his ax embedded in the wood, and was having a difficult time freeing it. He readied his sword and charged forward planning to decapitate the man with one fell stroke.

The blue shirt ducked beneath the swing, and using the mans awkward momentum, grabbed Ewans arm with his left hand and elbowed him in the face, causing him to drop his sword and fall backwards yet again, clutching a broken nose.

The taste of copper festered in his mouth as he crawled backwards from the man who had recovered his sword. He walked slowly forward, pointing the sword directly ahead. An air of confidence hung about his person as he moved in for the kill. Ewan braced for the blow, but when it never came, he opened his eyes and found the man staring at him with a strange look mapped across his face. It was a look of confusion, and recollection. With a look to the stands and a humble bow, he dropped the sword leaving it stuck fast in the sand and walked back to his end of the arena.

The battle was over, Ewan realized as he looked around at the corpses that littered the sandy floor and noted the black maw where his gate had once been. With a grunt, Ewan pushed himself up to his feet, and the crowd cheered and hissed and met him with a welcoming he had never experienced before. He smiled, though he did not know why. He hadn’t enjoyed the fighting, but there was something to be said about the rush of the battle. A patron tossed him a single gold coin, which he pocketed after bowing to the crowd. Slowly he made his way towards the gate alone, until he realized just how alone he was.

Where was Jonas?


Bit of a cliff hanger for you guys! :D

#6 Oufy

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 01:28 AM

>Oh this is interesting
>First one is depressing, but I like it
>Second one is exciting, I love it
>Third one is... JONAS! WHAT?

Love the cliff hanger, man.

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#7 Prattitude

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 11:30 AM

Thanks Ouflah! Well here's the next part of the story. I'm glad that some of you have taken interest, as it's quite fun to write a fantasy story for a change! :D


Part Four: Revelations
It was cold, dank, and the floors had become mud from all of the rain that had poured from the heavens over the past few days. Ewan sat alone in the muck, casually flipping his coin, watching it turn gracefully in the air before catching it with his hand, disrupting its descent. Much had changed in the previous days, and Ewan had been left a much colder, less friendly person. That was the ring; breaker of souls, wrecker of heart.

He grunted as he intercepted another coin flip, and realized just how dull his life had really become in between pit fights. That was all he was now, just a pit fighter; he was a mode of entertainment. His grunt quickly turned into a scowl as he let his coin fall through his fingers and land straight into the mud, half of it still standing erect while the rest was submerged. The rain continued to trickle in through the cracks in the ceiling.

There was a rattle of keys at the gate, but Ewan didn’t bother to look up, not even when the gate slid open and a pair of sandaled feet stood before him. He scratched his beard which was just becoming more than a stubble about his throat and cracked his back callously. He no longer held any desire to treat the guards with any respect, for they gave him none, so it came as a surprise when he didn’t receive a kick to the gut, as was the usual.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” said the newcomer in a low grizzled voice, “I did not see his death, but the way he fought, I am assured it was a magnificent one,”

Ewan looked up expecting the face of a guard in full silvered helm and horsehair, but instead he found himself gazing into the face of the dark skinned man that had declined to kill him not two days ago.

“What are you doing here?” he asked rather frantically, betraying his callous persona, “guard, what is the meaning of this?”

The armored guard at the gate simply shrugged and turned the key in the lock, effectively sealing the two men inside the four stone walls. Ewan turned back to the man, who made no move to depart from his front, so grasping his muddied coin, Ewan rose to face him head on.

“We’re to be bunk mates,” started the dark skinned man as he scratched the top of his freshly shaven head, “if you could call these slabs of rock bunks,”

Ewan eyed him up and down. He was a solid man of a muscular build, and judging by the color of his skin and hair, he was from the south. His eyes were magnificent spheres of light blue; they were a familiar set of eyes. He motioned for Ewan to sit, but instead he leaned against the wall.

“Again, I apologize for your loss,” he said slowly, “the ring is an unforgiving place. It holds no grudges, and it does not discriminate,

“What is your name, my friend? I would see it ill fitting that we who are forced to live in such tight quarters could not acquire a certain friendship.”

“My name is Ewan, southerner,” he started back, rather hesitantly, “what might I call the man who spared my life?”

The southerner nodded, “you must desire to know why I did such a thing,” he started, “I do have a reason,”

“Yes, but do you have a name?” Ewan joked, shifting his disposition a bit to reflect a friendlier manner.

“They call me Erkos,” he said with a smile that showed his great laugh lines, “and they’ve told me that your name was Ewan, when I was being shifted cells. A strong name for a resilient man,”

Ewan took the compliment with a returned smirk, “and you the stronger. You bested me in fair combat, yet you let me live. The gladiators scorn you for it out in the mess hall, and I’m sure the citizens of Caltha do the same,”

“I don’t worry about any of that, Ewan,” he said, “I only worry myself with the opinion of one other person in this city,”

“And that would be?”

“My daughter,” said Erkos, "she serves the spectators of the fights with food and drink. she's a slave like you and I," and suddenly it hit Ewan like a horse galloping at top speed. That set of blue eyes... the young girl on the caravan into Caltha.

“I know your daughter,” he replied, “she arrived here on the same caravan as I did,"

Erkos nodded and rose to shake Ewan’s hand, “and in that, you have your answer as to why I spared your life,”

Ewan returned the handshake with gusto, and Erkos continued speaking in his low gravelly voice.

“She asked me not to harm the man with brown locks and the wild look in his eye. When I saw you lying on the floor, I cast my gaze up into the stands, and there my daughter stood, mouth agape and tears flooding her eyes. I knew then that you must have been the man she spoke of,”

“Why would she ask you such a favor?” asked Ewan. He had no desire to be a burden to anyone, and the idea that someone other than himself was so keen on protecting his life was overwhelming.

“She told me what you did,” said Erkos with a knowing grin, “the old woman on the plains of Illikon. How you did your best to save her, and how you were going to risk your life for another,”

The dark skinned man paused then, and locked his piercing eyes onto Ewan, “I honestly found her story hard to believe after I saw you unable to move out in the ring,” he added with a light hearted chuckle.

Ewan smiled, “it’s different in the ring. In the fights, I don’t stand for anything, but out on the plains of Illikon… with that woman, I could have done anything I needed to. Your daughter saved my life long before you did,”

“Then let us not see that life go to waste,” Erkos added with a wink.

Ewan was taken aback, “what do you mean?” he asked gruffly, “my life is forfeit, unless I win my freedom through glory, or find some way to escape,”

Erkos sat back down on the slab that was a bed, and flashed his rows of white teeth, “then it seems that we’re going to have to break you out,”

The dark skinned man pointed subtly to the barred window, and with a skeptical turn of his head, Ewan found himself staring into the same crazy eyes that he had met on his first day in.

Jonas, fully bearded, hooded in black and drenched to the bone, stood smiling just outside of the prison wall, beaming and clutching the bars as if to break them open himself.

#8 Werewolf King

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 05:25 AM

Your sig is my exact reaction to reading this story. We just finished learning about gladiators in history, so they're pretty much the bomb-dot-friggin-com right now.

Continue, good sir!
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#9 Prattitude

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:42 AM

Thanks Werewolf King! Here's the next part, and it's pretty long, so... here! :D


Part five: Glory
The chanting and throaty screams of the audience filled the gladiator’s ears as they stepped out of the tunnel and into the circular pit where they had made their stands far too many times to count. Their sandaled feet were coarse and rough from exposure to the pebbles and gravel and bits of shattered armor that had ripped at their feet over the past week and a half of fighting in Caltha.

Ewan confidently adjusted his bronze shoulder plating that adorned his right bicep with ease, and looked to Erkos who was sporting a silvered helm with a green plume. They had fought together three times, and were the last remaining members of the green shirts. Erkos stood tall and broad, exuding an air of confidence that not many gladiators ever had the chance to learn. It was unnerving, and the slightly smaller young man that stood beside him was glad that he didn’t have to face such a worthy adversary again.

They had developed a system. Fighting back to back, the two men had managed to defeat an onslaught of five men, a starving tiger from the south, and two brutish Orcs that possessed twice the strength of the two men combined. Their technique was solid, with Erkos providing the strong wall of defense and Ewan dancing out to strike at opportune moments, they were the perfect team, and the crowd loved them for it, affectionately naming the two “The Hydra” for their uncanny ability to fight with both heads functioning as one.

Erkos’ helm was hand painted with his own blood with the depiction of a two headed hydra on either side. Ewan had frowned upon him for it, saying that in further opening a wound he’d received in the fight with the Orcs, that he was prone to infection.

“We have to win the crowd, Ewan,” he had said while painting with his fingers, “if they love us, then we can’t lose,”

Ewan looked at the brown crusted hydra, and then into the blue orbs of his friend. Erkos stared back and nodded, patiently waiting for the sound of the other metal grate to come in and unleash the next hellish assignment upon them.

Patience was his virtue, and Erkos showed that in his defensive fighting style. After receiving a cut to the leg from a jagged sword during his battle with the Orcs, he had adopted to using a large rounded shield and a shorter straight blade for poking through enemies’ openings. His patience had been key in going through with Jonas’ plan. They had waited five more days to act upon it, but he knew that the longer they waited, the easier it would be to slip through their captors hands, or at least he hoped.

Erkos stared up into the crowds, and gave a small salute, which set many people into more frenzied cheers and hoots. The turn outs for the fights had become much larger since the pair had donned their mythological mantle and assumed their positions of fame, or as he saw it, infamy. In truth, the crowd wanted to see them bested… or did they? Could it be that they truly desired to see the two prevail against all odds?

Erkos shrugged. That kind of thinking was pointless. He knew that in time, the empire would find some beast or launch an impossible battle towards them. They were criminals after all, and they needed to be dealt with accordingly. Their fame could ultimately become their downfall, he thought as he watched his charismatic friend bow low to the crowd.

He laughed heartily and clapped the young man on the shoulder, “you know the more attention you draw, draws us closer to our demise,” he said as seriously as he could without breaking his showing smile.

“What do you mean?”

“If the empire sees fit, they could kill us in one swift blow. They’ll find another champion for their pit fights after we fall, and we’ll become nothing more than a memory and a lesson to those that have seen us,”

Ewan looked at him like a man would look upon a giant for the first time, “Erkos, the crowd would have a riot. Don’t you see?” he paused and gestured around with his hands, “they love us. We bring in good amounts of money for the empire, why do you think they patched you up so quickly?

“They wouldn’t dare anger their people when all we are to anyone is a form of entertainment. Besides, if we survive this, we’ll be long gone soon enough,”

Erkos nodded, and while he didn’t feel the same, the boy brought up a good point. Either way, he hadn’t the time to ponder the insightful ideas, as the metal bars on the other side of the pit slowly creaked open.

From the inside of the gaping maw, a thin figure walked slowly out and into the center of the ring. Immediately, Ewan froze in place as he watched the lithe form of the man he had hope that he’d never have to see again came slinking into the center of the pit flanked on either side by three armored guards, calling for silence in the stands.

It was captain Roderick.

“Ladies and gentleman of the arena!” he shouted as he gestured to the audience, “my name is Roderick, captain of the imperial guard and announcer for today,”

Ewan’s heart sunk. If ever they had a chance for going through with their plan, today was not the day. He watched as the captain’s metal armor glared with the heat of the sun and cast an array of white light into his eyes. He was a truly impressive sight in his red flowing cape, and with dual gladii strapped to either thigh.

“You may know me from around Caltha, and that I am a frequenter of the tournaments of the great ring here,” he paused and ran his fingers through his thinning hair, “today, I bring great news!”

Erkos shuddered. Great news for the audience was horrible news for the two fighters, and as he looked upon Ewan’s pallid face, he knew that they were in for a special kind of treat.

“These two great fighters have shown you their prowess, their wit, and their guile. But tell me fair citizens of the Empire, have they provided you with ample entertainment just yet?”

A resounding “No” echoed through the smaller pit as more than three hundred audience members unanimously called out. Roderick’s smile stretched across his thin lips as he looked upon Ewan with excitement. Erkos put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“This is not the time for weakness, Ewan,” he said.

“’The Hydra’ as you call the pair, have been invited to the big show my friends! The ultimate test awaits them in four days at the grand arena in Caltha, where these two men will be facing off against a foe so deadly, and so secret that none of you have the privilege of hearing about today!”

The crowd gasped audibly, and some weaker patrons reeled with the combination of excitement and extreme heat. Spots danced across Ewan’s vision, taunting and tantalizing him with the onset of unconsciousness. He had never been so frightened in his life, and he looked to Erkos for support. The larger man held him up as subtly as he could, and kept jostling him awake.

“Yes my friends and fellow citizens, in just four short days, these two will be in for the fight of their lives,” more cheers ensued as the announcer provocatively twirled and pointed with gusto, “do what you must, but be sure to attend this spectacular show! Now, who here came looking for a fight?”

There was a familiar grating sound as the gate behind the pair of dazed men opened slowly. Erkos turned and set his eyes upon the two single largest men he had ever seen in his life.

Bound in chains marched forward two brutish figures that easily cleared seven feet tall and seemed to be just as wide. Ewan snapped out of his stupor as he watched Roderick and his troop back out of the ring and turned to regard the new foes. His right hand grabbed his spear, and his left danced across the pommel of his spatha, which he had grown quite accustomed to using.

The first brutish man had no left eye and was clad all in black spiked armor clutching a hammer in one hand and an ax in the other. He came at Erkos with deadly speed, nearly bowling the powerfully built gladiator over. The large figure swung down with both of his weapons, crashing into Erkos’ perfectly placed shield. The bronze disk bent around the heavy blow of the twin weapons, and Erkos slid under the weight, cursing and trying to shake away the pain.

Ewan watched the second beast man come slowly forward. He bore no helm and wore only the simplest black breastplate with a red hand printed on it. His face was eerily deformed, and lumps protruded from his rippling muscles in odd places. He carried a hand and a half sword in both hands, and he advanced steadily, which unnerved Ewan.

Digging into the sand with his bare toes, Ewan charged forward in an attempt to catch the man off guard, but he held his place, easily deflecting the first thrust from Ewan’s spear, using the momentum to send the boy sprawling forward and onto his chest. Ewan instinctively rolled just in time to avoid a downward chop from the massive weapon just in time, and came up on the balls of his feet, standing just out of reach.

If they were to do this, he’d need to get back to Erkos, and the only way he was to do that was by finishing off his own opponent. Another swipe from the long sword set him jumping backwards.

Erkos deflected swipe after swipe with his large shield, but his arm was tiring under the great strength of his attacker. He waited patiently for a break in the assault, and when it came he struck out with the edge of his shield, rapping the man roughly in the gut. The dazed attacker staggered backwards, and Erkos lunged forward with his short sword, only to have it knocked away with a powerful swat of his opponent’s hammer. He shouted as white jets of pain streamed up his arm. He backpedaled out of the way of another swipe and looked for his blade, for Ewan, for anyone to help. His breath heated up the inside of his silvery helm.

Ewan deflected a swipe with his iron spear, and stabbed out, catching the brute in the leg. He went down, clutching at his wound and grunting in pain and fear, and while Ewan moved in for the kill, he heard a similar call.

Trusting his instincts, Ewan turned and heaved his spear at the large man looming over his friend. The monster lurched forward as the spear lodged itself into his back knocking him flat on his face, and pinning Erkos to the ground. Ewan smiled and drew his spatha, but it was too late.

Two giant arms wrapped around his waist and picked him up off of the ground, tightening into an iron clad vice grip threatening to break every bone in Ewans body with its tightening clasp. Ewan frantically squirmed and struggled to free himself, let alone breath through the hug of death. With his right hand he tried to bring his sword up into the large mans chest, but the grip was too strong. He started to see spots again, but suddenly he heard the rush of air whip through his hair and past his ears as he plummeted back to earth. The last thing he heard before he blacked out was the cheer of the crowd and the consoling voice of Erkos telling him that they had won.

#10 Werewolf King

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 06:05 PM

Holy crap! Deformed gladiators! A fight in Caltha!

Anyway, I like how you threw the word 'pain' in there. It would hurt like crazy to deflect a sword blow! Realism is most definitely a plus.
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#11 Horatius

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 02:08 AM

I just read it all the way through. I'm completely hooked! I just hope they can pull off their escape before this surprise gladiatorial bout occurs. And I agree with Werewolf King; it's good how you include the pain at the blows to sword and shield. I also really enjoyed the first chapter depicting the cruelty of the march and how Ewan's spirit was almost broken. No unrealistically strong heroes, instead ones that we can empathize with and root for as their character grows.

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

"To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods."

 


#12 Prattitude

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:37 AM

Holy crap! Deformed gladiators! A fight in Caltha!

Anyway, I like how you threw the word 'pain' in there. It would hurt like crazy to deflect a sword blow! Realism is most definitely a plus.


Thanks! Speaking from experience, it totally sucks taking a sword swing with a shield if it's a heavy enough blow. Definitely aiming for realism :)

I just read it all the way through. I'm completely hooked! I just hope they can pull off their escape before this surprise gladiatorial bout occurs. And I agree with Werewolf King; it's good how you include the pain at the blows to sword and shield. I also really enjoyed the first chapter depicting the cruelty of the march and how Ewan's spirit was almost broken. No unrealistically strong heroes, instead ones that we can empathize with and root for as their character grows.


Well I'm extremely glad you're hooked, Horatius! I'll definitely have the next part up by tomorrow, and I appreciate all of the compliments :D

#13 Horatius

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 06:25 AM

Well I'm extremely glad you're hooked, Horatius! I'll definitely have the next part up by tomorrow, and I appreciate all of the compliments :D

I'm glad you're glad! So just to prove I wasn't making it up, I'm following you now. Not sure what that entails, but it looks pretty official. Anyway, now you have a buffer between your last post and tomorrow's update!

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

"To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods."

 


#14 Prattitude

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:29 AM

Two new parts for you guys today! :D


Part Six: Planning
The air was cool against his bare skin, and as he rolled over to stare out the window a lance of pain shot up his spine. He rolled over onto his back and grimaced until the pain subsided, and once it did he laughed out of both relief and the fact that this was becoming a recurring situation for him.

Grunting through the pain, he pushed himself out of bed and found that the door to his cell had been left open. He poked his head outside and scanned the hallway, jerking his head to the left, and then the right. An armored hand grabbed his right shoulder, and he jerked away, clearly startled.

“Lunch time,” said the broad faced leathery guard, “your friend, Erkos is waiting for you.”

Ewan nodded and silently apologized for so foolishly being startled. His skin crawled as he tromped down the long dank corridor and into the mess hall. A plethora of folks were chowing down on the choicest slime that the empire had to offer its prisoners, and despite the fact he hadn’t eaten all day, Ewan skipped the line and made his way straight to Erkos who casually waved him over.

As he sat, he noticed an anxious look in his friend’s bright eyes, “what troubles you Erkos?” he asked a bit too loudly for Erkos’ taste.

With a rough hand, the dark man motioned for him to keep more quiet, “they’ve taken her, Ewan. They’ve taken my daughter,”

Ewan stared at him for a few moments, desperately trying to grapple with the news, “who’s taken her, Erkos?”

Erkos choked on his words and threw his fork down to the floor in rage, obviously not abiding by his own advice to remain quiet, and drawing a few curious stares from the other gladiators.

“The Empire sold her,” he began after Ewan helped him back into his seat, “to some slave drivers from the east. We have to find her, Ewan. We need to escape this prison before it’s too late for my daughter,”

Ewan nodded, “have you spoken to Jonas since the fight?” he asked as he cast a suspicious glance to the patrons eating at his left. The burly man who sat close had obviously been trying to listen, but at Ewan’s devilish glare, decided it was best that he move.

“I have,” started Erkos, who was now gripping the wooden table so vigorously that his knuckles showed stark white against his browned skin, “he said if we are moved to the Imperial arena before we have another chance to fight here, that the plan runs a higher risk of failing,”

Ewan waved his hands out in front of him, “I have yet to be filled in on the details of our escape, Erkos,” he said, “I’d be ecstatic if you’d let me know how in the name of Astra we’re supposed to break out of this pit! There are guards posted all day and night on the watch towers outside, and in the halls,”

Erkos discreetly pointed behind the mess hall to the grumpy old man who was diligently serving a young man his slop for the day, “there’s a backdoor behind the counter that Jonas has tried escaping through before. The guards caught him, though, and so he never tried again,”

“So what makes you think we can do it when it’s been tried?” Ewan insisted, “why don’t we just get out the way Jonas succeeded?”

Erkos shook his head, “Because, that would require us to fake our deaths. We’re too well known in the arena, someone would notice. On the other hand, Jonas kept his head low through his entire career,” he paused and looked around to make sure no one was listening, “faking his own death was easy for him. Nobody cared,”

Ewan reeled, “you never answered my question, Erkos,” he said, “how are we going to succeed where Jonas failed?”

“It’s actually quite simple,” Erkos replied, “there’s two of us, and only one of him. There are always two guards stationed in the halls, and Bennigan, the cook, decided that he’d be willing to distract them long enough for us to sneak into the mess hall and get out,”

“It’s too easy,” said Ewan, “they’ll have a guard posted on the other side for sure!”

“No they won’t! You see, Jonas was simply caught breaking out of his cell, the Empire doesn’t know that Bennigan has direct access to the sewers out back,”

“The sewers?” asked Ewan, “what does he need access to them for?”

Erkos chuckled quietly, “it’s where he dumps the leftover slop. It’s really not healthy, but it sure is convenient for us!”

Ewan looked up at the old man. He was bald, and his skin sagged in places that Ewan never knew skin could sag. His green eyes twinkled with an innocent gleam, and as the two met each other’s gaze, he smiled reassuringly. That was all that Ewan needed.

“When are we going to do it, and how are we going to meet up with Jonas?”

“He’ll be on the other side of the doorway with three fresh horses he managed to steal from god knows who. He wouldn’t tell me how, but he said that we need to do it tonight. Bennigan has his directions, and he managed to slip me the key to our cell in my gruel,

“He actually said he had something for you as well. You should go get your food before he closes shop for the afternoon,”

Ewan rose up from his seat and made his way, barefoot to meet old Bennigan. The counter that the old man stood behind was long and made of cheap wood that chipped easy and would mingle in with the food. It wasn’t rare to find that you’d been stuck in the mouth by a rather large splinter upon taking a bite of the garbage the guards passed for food.

Grabbing a small tray, Ewan made his way up the table until he locked eyes again with the old man. Without so much as a word, Bennigan ladled a spoonful of yellow grease onto his plate. Ewan noted a small metal glint as it spilled from the deep spoon and into his hands.

“Thank you,” he said as genuinely as he had ever thanked another person.

Bennigan grunted and scratched at his stomach with the spoon, leaving a yellow and orange smudge on his would be white apron. Ewan noted that he wasn’t exactly the most charismatic of sorts, but as he turned to walk away, the old cook flashed him a white and gold toothed grin that almost read as suspicious, but Ewan made nothing of it, and simply sat his foot down across from Erkos, and pulled the long metal shiv out with his front teeth.


Part Seven: Escape
The hot sand beneath his toes was all too familiar as once again, Ewan found himself facing down another competitor in the ring. The crowd cheered and jeered as Ewan ducked under a brutish mans poleaxe and came up with his spatha, lodging it into the surprised mans gut.

With a scream, the large man dropped his weapon and jerked his body backwards, which in turn freed the sword from his belly and sprayed Ewan in hot crimson blood. Ewan grimaced and wiped the blood from his eyes with his right forearm. He had killed seven men in less than two weeks, but each time always seemed like the first.

Showing his great Mercy, Ewan stepped up and finished the man off with a quick swipe of his sword. His head spun backwards and his body rolled down to one side as another fountain of blood showered Ewan’s face. He wiped his eyes again and looked about.

Erkos, was busy on the other side of the arena. A rather surly Northerner, wielding a spiked mace in either hand steadily pounded on Erkos’ shield with wild abandon. Ewan could hear each metallic pang as the maces collided with deadly force against his friend’s defense.

It seemed that the bearded northerner was going to win, until suddenly Erkos whipped his shield left as hard as he could, swatting aside the mace in the brute’s right hand. Anticipating the next chop from his left, Erkos raised his spiked hand-ax high, deflecting the blow town to the large mans left side.

Caught off his guard and suddenly weaponless, the Northerner attempted to throw a punch with his right, but it was too late. With a sickening slurping noise, the spike atop Erkos’ ax penetrated deep into the bearded man’s chest. Erkos spun the ax inside of him for good measure, which caused the Northerner’s face to contort in pain. The audience gasped as Erkos’ viciously ripped the bladed weapon out of his enemy and brought the ax bit down into his cranium, splitting his skull down to the bridge of his nose.

The corpse fell onto its back just as Ewan made it to Erkos’ side. The dark man ripped his silvered helm from his face and the two walked out of the arena, weapons held high. Ewan smiled heartily, for he knew that that fight would be his last in the arena.

*

Erkos fumbled clumsily with his cell key late that night. The starlight barely provided enough glare through the slotted window for him to see what he was doing. Finally, with a twist and a quiet cheer, the two men made their way out of the prison cell and into the hallway.

They were alone, save the sleeping inmates that filled the cells around them, and so they went slowly, crouching and moving at a speed that would make a snail look quick down the hall. A jingling from behind them caused Ewan to start. He rested his grizzled hand on Erkos’ shoulder and motioned for him to stop as he peered around the corner they had just rounded.

Just visible in the evening gloom was a tall armor clad guard. His red plume seemed grey as the man fumbled with the keys, trying to place them back on to his belt loop. Ewan steeled himself and pulled the shiv out of the back of his pants, but Erkos’ hand stopped him from moving.

“Only if we have too,” he whispered with pleading eyes, “we are not murderers, Ewan,”

Ewan nodded, but did not relinquish his grip on the short weapon. He knew that if the guard saw them and made any noise at all, that the game would be up, and that they would be tortured horribly.

Fate was with them that night though, for as the guard could have turned left, he instead went right, and Ewan got to keep his humanity. They were killers, yes. But to kill in cold blood was something that Erkos could not let his friend do, and Ewan thanked him quietly.

As quiet as they could be, the two night crawlers made their way into the mess hall. The door hinges did not squeak like they usually did, and Erkos assumed that Bennigan must have oiled them to help the pair out.

The mess hall was strangely deserted, but the smell of rotten vegetables and dried meats still clung heavily on the air, and Ewan mused that if he had his trusty spatha he still couldn’t cut through the stench.

Leaping over the counter, the two checked the hatch towards the back of the kitchenette, and with a mighty tug, Erkos managed to rip it open. If the stench in the dining area was thick, then the stench coming from the sewer was overwhelmingly powerful. Still, the two hopped down through the trap door willingly.

A bag of moldy carrots broke their fall, and as they took in the putrid surroundings, they discovered that there was a small hallway dead ahead. Ewan grabbed Erkos’ arm and lead him forward, using the wall as a guide, for it was nearly impossible to see a few feet ahead of them.

It was slow going, but after a few minutes and some time spent belly crawling through the horrendous muck and filth, a single shaft of light illuminated the tunnel, leading the two to their final freedom.

“Jonas,” Ewan dared to call out as the light became brighter and brighter, “Jonas, are you there my friend?”

“Turn away!” his ragged voice called back, but it was too late. Four imperial guards came down the passage and with sword and spear, seized the two unsuspecting convicts and pushed them ahead until they reached a small clearing outside of the tunnel.

A single guard on horseback stood before them flanked on either side by Bennigan, who stood smiling rather freakishly, and Jonas who had been bound and seemingly beaten. His eye was bruised, and blood trickled down the sleeve of his right arm.

The guard dismounted his horse and stared directly into Ewan’s eyes, “You fools thought that you could actually escape, didn’t you?”

Roderick, the slave handler hit Ewan straight in the jaw with his metal glove. Ewan staggered backward and smacked the back of his head on the ground. A guard kicked him in the gut and shouted for him to get up.

As he stood, he noticed that Erkos was in a similar situation, only he wasn’t trying to get up. He simply laid stil while the guards kicked at his legs and head.

“Stop it you bastards!” Ewan shouted as he pulled his shiv out and charged at the nearest attacker. Suddenly, the back of his head exploded with pain, and he fell face forwards into the muck. The last thing he heard before he faded into unconsciousness was the sound of Erkos shouting out for him.

#15 Horatius

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 02:19 AM

Nooooo! They were so close!

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

"To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late.

And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods."

 


#16 Prattitude

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 09:39 AM

Here's the next bit, guys. This might just be the final bit, though I know I'm going to write up an epilogue explaining a few of the loose ends in this part. But I'm not quite sure, there's definitely potential for a grander scheme of things here, but I just don't know quite how to write that just yet. So enjoy this and expect an epilogue and quite possibly a second story.


Part Eight: New Light
Despite the burning pain in the back of his head, and the equally singing heat of the sun beating down on his bare neck and shoulders, Ewan had long ago given up complaining, as it never seemed to get him anywhere. He had committed his crime, a small crime though it had been, and now it seemed that he was to pay for his sins.

He shook the dirt from his hair and checked his left. Erkos stood, as tall and as proud as ever, both hands throttling his ax hilt. His silvered helm was gone now, and his short coarse hair was easily visible for all to see. Erkos looked to him, and gave him a half hearted smile which Ewan didn’t bother to return.

Ewan looked down at his feet. He knew Jonas stood at his right; he just didn’t want to accept it. The bearded man that had been his mentor for such a short period of time would be free of the Imperial grip if it weren’t for him and his friend, and he bore that weight heavily on his shoulders.

Jonas fidgeted with his hammer and stared up into the throng of people that gathered at the largest arena in Caltha to see the three slaughtered. He waved his right hand dismissively, and with an audible, “bah!” walked over to Ewan, who hadn’t even bothered to pick up his sword.

Kneeling to retrieve the weapon, Jonas sighed, “You aint let me down yet boy,” he said as he rose to meet Ewan’s eye level, “don’t you be starting now,”

The large man thrust the short bladed weapon into Ewan’s closed hand, and it fell back to the sand. Jonas sighed, and made to retrieve the weapon, but it was Erkos’ hand that picked it up this time.

“If we die today, we die together as friends,” he said, ever the wise man despite his youth, “no guilt, no regret. We did what had to be done, and we failed. Would you let the Empire break you to the point of not defending yourself?”

Ewan shrugged, “at the least I’d be denying the bastards a show,” he kicked a rock away from his sandaled foot.

“Bah!” Erkos grunted, “Those Imperials will be getting a show alright! Jonas managed to do me a favor before he was caught by the guards,”

Ewan looked up, and unwillingly met the gaze of his former mentor who smiled and pointed up into the crowd, “Managed to free his daughter, I did,”

There she stood, high up in the stadium seating the young daughter of Erkos. She was cloaked in dark purple, but her mystical blue eyes shone vividly through the shawl that covered the rest of her face. She was clearly a sight to behold.

Ewan shifted his gaze to Erkos, who stood beaming in front of him, “would you let her father die so easily in front of her?” he asked with a playful jab of his elbow, “come on, friend, show some of that spirit you had before we became dead men!”

The spry young man that once had stood in the small pit fight with the two other men shone through then. Ewan smiled and clapped each man on the shoulder, and they did the same in turn until the three became a small inter-locked circle of friendship, and understanding.

“No matter what they throw at us today,” Ewan said to his friends, “we will come out on top. It’s what we do, it’s what we’ve always done, and that is not changing today!”

Erkos and Jonas both cheered as Ewan broke free of the circle and lifted his weapon to the crowd. His presence was one of a hero, not broken but strong, and the hero commanded silence.

“Today we add a third head to the Hydra!” he shouted for all to hear, “and whatever beast comes out of that gate, the Hydra will defeat it as we’ve always defeated our enemies! As one whole monster,”

The call of the hero mustered a rousing chant of “Hydra, Hydra,” from the crowd as the three warriors paraded around the sandy ring, raising their weapons in a salute to their fans, and to taunt their enemies.

As if the chanting wasn’t enough for Roderick, the parading prisoners making a mockery of their own punishment threw him over the edge. The large man gripped the arm rests of his chair tightly before relinquishing them violently. He stood up and let his blood red cloak whip about violently as he produced a longbow from behind his seat.

“Sir, put down the weapon,” a guard nearby pleaded with him as Roderick fitted a black arrow to his bowstring.

“They’re my slaves, I’ll do with them as I please!” he spat back as he drew a bead on the closest pit fighter and let his arrow fly.

Ewan saw the bolt coming, but he had no time to step out of the way. He closed his eyes for the impact, but it never came. Instead, the young man felt himself being jerked away back towards the gate which they had come in through. When he opened his eyes and found that Erkos was the one dragging him away, he realized something must have gone horribly wrong.

“You were saved by my daughter,” Erkos shouted as the three men entered the tunnel back into the small holding area, “she burnt the arrow to a crisp before it so much as neared your heart,”

Ewan stammered, and meant to ask how, but suddenly three guards appeared before them and pressed the attack. Erkos and Jonas stepped forward, and as one seemed to cleave the guards about their midsections, sending all three hurtling backwards either crushed or cut to ribbons.

A fourth guard came out of a small corridor to Jonas’ left, but Ewan was there. With a deft jab, his spatha found the light skinned Imperial’s shoulder. The guard screamed as Ewan yanked it free and finished him off with another strike to the top of the helm.

Erkos yanked Ewan into another side tunnel, “come this way, my daughter will be waiting just outside with horses! We have very little time,”

“Why is it that no one tells me these things ahead of time?” Ewan mused aloud, much to Jonas’ pleasure.

“You’ve got this incredible knack for passing out before we have any time to!” he shouted as he brought up the rear.

The three men carved a path through the narrow hallways under the stadium, and through any rogue guard that managed to spring up in their way, until a light at the end of the tunnel signified they’d made it.

The wooden gate that blocked the three from escaping crushed their hearts as the frenzied shouts of the Imperial guard with Roderick at the helm called from behind them.

“I found the crank!” shouted Jonas as he began to slowly wind the wooden lever and raise the small gate, “push up! Maybe we can get out quicker!”

Ewan and Erkos both pulled the gate up until they could squeeze under the hole. Erkos slid under first, while Ewan waited on Jonas.

“Come on, old man,” he shouted as he pulled him forward, “we have to go!”

Jonas grimaced as his arms and legs bulged with the strain of holding the gate open, “you two are going to have to go without me!”

Ewan blanched. He simply hadn’t thought that the gate needed to be held open once aloft. He’d expected that all three of them would make it out alive.

“Get on out of here boy! I can’t keep this open much longer!”

Without thinking, Ewan kissed Jonas on the cheek and slid his lithe body under the door and out into the hot sun just as it slammed down behind him. He turned about and watched as Jonas brought his hammer down onto one of the Guards helms. He watched as an arrowhead shot out of his bare back and set him tumbling backwards. Ewan watched his friend die at the hands of Roderick the slave driver.

With a subdued scream, Ewan found himself being pulled up onto the back of a horse, and as his body was racked with sobs at the loss of a friend he had already once said goodbye to, he watched the city of Caltha disappear behind him, leaving his life of slavery behind him, and his best friend with it.

#17 Oufy

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 01:00 AM

Sad story, but I liked it. :) Too bad you got my hopes up with Jonas being alive at first...

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#18 Werewolf King

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:45 AM

Confusion! Conspiracy! Uhhhh ... Caltha!

So, Erkos's daughter is a mage - Or something. I need more of this.
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#19 Prattitude

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 10:22 AM

Here's the last bit of my story. I understand that I didn't really give Asha any speaking parts, but that's because I felt that she simply had nothing to say at this point, so instead I hope the first paragraph or so gives you enough insight into her character to tide you over.


Epilogue:
The three sat around a campfire later that evening. The cold wind whipped through the trees that surrounded the fugitives, but Asha assured Ewan and Erkos that they had put enough distance between themselves and Caltha to have a temporary fire. The young woman had shown great courage in the arena; revealing to a large audience of people, especially in a major Imperial city that one had magical capabilities was simply the most moronic thing a person could do, but nevertheless she had done just that, and saved the others in the process.

Well, not all of the others. Ewan let his head hang low, resting his chin against his chest and his back against an oak. He listened to the sound of the boughs swaying in the evening breeze, and he thought of Jonas. He had given his life to let the others go free, and he’d done so without even thinking. Ewan’s head spun, and he fought back the tears that had freely streamed down his face throughout the entire day and night’s ride. He was cried out, and now there was only a feeling of emptiness welling inside of him.

Erkos let his right hand rest on his daughters head as her dark face rested against his thigh. He knew that channeling that much magic in one day really took a lot out of his poor Asha, and he was glad that they had decided to rest for the night. Within minutes, she began to snore, and Erkos decided that he needed to help his friend, he just didn’t know how.

Staring through squinting eyes across the small fire, he could barely make out the broken man that he called his friend. Ewan’s eyes had sunken in and dark circles were forming underneath them. He hadn’t touched the bit of squirrel that Erkos had cooked for the group, but he didn’t particularly blame him; the meat had no taste.

Carefully shifting his daughter’s weight with his caring fatherly hands, the dark skinned warrior slid his rolled up cloakc under the sleeping girl’s head, and kissed her cheek. He rose to his feet and stared at the poor girl She was emaciated; her skin seemed to cling to her bony figure. Erkos’ only wish was to have his daughter back, and now that he did, he found it hard enough to move two feet away, but he did.

Casually plopping himself down beside Ewan, who shifted to make room against the back of the tree, Erkos put his arm around the boy. Ewan started to shrug it off, but after a second just accepted the friendly gesture, and the two locked hands.

“He was a great man,” Erkos started with a half hearted smile, “I just wish that I’d have gotten to know him better,”

Ewan snorted, “yeah, me too,”

There was silence for a second, and then Erkos started up again with a sidelong glance at his friend, “he cared more for us than he cared for himself. Jonas was getting quite old… he told me before you awoke for the final fight that he had made his peace with the world, and that he was ready to move on,”

Ewan shuddered, but not from the cold. He wasn’t sure that he believed Erkos, but the comforting sentiment was enough to set his mind and aching heart at ease for a moment. He rested his face in his hands and let a sob escape his lips. Salty tears trickled down through the cracks in his fingers, and Erkos pulled him in close.

“We all have to die someday, Ewan. Take heart in the fact that our friend died nobly, and on his own terms.”

Ewan surprisingly nodded, and with a friendly clap on the back pulled himself together and stood up slowly with Erkos’ help.

“I think I should rest awhile,” he said slowly, wiping away the snot from his dribbling nose, “would you mind taking first watch? We are fugitives now,”

“Not at all,” replied the stoic warrior, “take your rest, and I’ll wake you when the time’s right.”

Ewan nodded and fetched his old cloak from the saddlebag near the tree the horses were tethered to. With a final bout of holding back tears and a distant glance at the north star, the tired and beaten man lay down next to the smoldering embers of the magically created fire, and slept.

Erkos moved back to sit by his daughter, though he let her keep the cloak as a pillow. He needed to keep himself awake, and so when he caught himself falling asleep, he set himself walking a perimeter. He mulled over many things. If it weren’t for Jonas’ sacrifice, he most likely wouldn’t be with his daughter and his closest friend now.

He sighed and cast his gaze to the heavens, “whatever gods are true and mighty,” he whispered to the sky, “forgive me for lying to the boy. He needed to hear something, and we need him… back the way he was,”

His breath billowed out before him, and he watched as the wisps of his cold breaths drifted up into the sky, dissipating quickly on the brisk blackened sky. Erkos truly felt the weight of shame on his shoulders, for in reality he hadn’t spoken to Jonas before the fight. He made up whatever he had too in order to restore his friend’s fortitude just a bit. He needed the helpful hand and the watchful eye if they were to survive on the run from the Empire, but he felt that even that didn’t justify his lie.

Though, the look that he had seen in Jonas’ eye before he died had betrayed a calm peace. He felt in his heart that the man had accepted his fate long before that day, and so with a measured step and the soothing knowledge that maybe his words held a bit of truth, Erkos the southerner walked the first of many night watches to come, and watched as the sun pulled its way up over the horizon, bringing a new day and new light to their dawning day.

#20 Prattitude

Prattitude

    I know what things are.

  • Nova Member
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Posted 01 June 2012 - 02:54 AM

Little bit of a bump here... hopefully someone else will enjoy it! :D





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