i_love_freddie: (Freddie)
[personal profile] i_love_freddie
“Step up, place yer bets! We 'ave a treat for you tonight, folks.”

The tavern patrons paused in their conversation and card games, one or two even lowered their ale as the battle-scarred dwarvern bartender continued roaring excitedly. He knew that his clients were bored and restless, eager for any excitement no matter how depraved.

“A deathmatch right 'ere in our own pit. Borgan the Cruel – ruthless slayer of men, women and children - will take on blademaster Kane Theaza in a battle to the death. Only one can survive. Place yer bets now.” A cheer of approval went up amongst the crowd, for rarely were the fights so bloodthirsty.

As there was a sudden surge of activity, Cory Daemae sat alone in the corner chewing on a broken thumb nail. Only his best friend could be reckless and foolhardy enough to take on an opponent who was obviously some kind of half-giant; easily twice his size. 'How could you let him do this?' he could almost hear Valia lecturing him. That was hardly fair – as if there was anything he could have done to stop Kane. Rampaging minotaurs could not stop the reckless warrior once he got any kind of idea in his head.

Frowning, he watched the bored tavern rabble quibbling over the likely winner and fumbling drunkenly in their pockets for coins. Was life worth so little, he wondered idly, that destroying another in pitted combat was seen as no more than a sport? Of course the answer to that question was one he already knew. In a society where a few people had everything and most had nothing, those with nothing found solace where they could; in crime, alcohol, prostitution and senseless violence. This was just another night of ruthless entertainment, another attempt at finding some purpose in their lives. Cory could see the despair etched in their faces and he suddenly felt nothing but loathing for the city.

“Yer not betting tonight, half-elf?” the bartender gruffly asked, placing another tankard of ale on the battered and sticky wooden table. “Not like one of yer lot to hedge yer bets on a fight like this.”

“Doesn't seem fair to take your money, when I already know who will win.”

“Confident tonight, eh lad? Hopefully your boy won't get too cocky out there – Borgan sure ain't one ta mess with. Rumor has it he once took down three ogres single-handed.”

“I'm not worried,” Cory lied, though his slender fingers were dancing on the tabletop, absently tracing a brownish stain that could have been dried blood. “Kane has fought worse and survived.”

“Ah, true. I am countin' on him to give us a good show. But don't fool yerself: for every skilled warrior there is always one final battle.” Giving a grin that revealed many missing teeth, he picked up the empty glasses and elbowed his way roughly through the crowds.

“Thanks for that cheerful thought,” the young half-elf muttered to his retreating back. The dwarf spoke the truth, but that did nothing to calm his nerves.

Seeing that people were beginning to gather around the circular stone structure that served as the fighting pit, Cory abandoned his bitter-tasting ale and weaved his way through the throng of bodies. The smell of dirt and sweat was almost overpowering especially when mingled with the scent of blood rising from the pit. He was used to it, but it still made him feel a little sick. The spectators were getting rilied up, pushing each other and waving their fists in the air.

“Fight, fight, fight!”

Nimbly he ducked under a pair of flying arms and squeezed himself into a small gap right at the front. Although he wanted to be anywhere else but there, he knew that he had to watch.

The crowd temporarily fell silent as the challengers stepped into the pit. With his head held high, Kane gave off waves of confidence that were hard to ignore. The black outfit he wore – the armour cleverly crafted from the scales of a shadow dragon – complimented his pale skin, his wavy black hair and the dark eyes that burned with fire on the battlefield. Some rumours said he was a vampire and his reputation preceded him – he feared no one and turned down no challenge. With no regard for the whispers in the crowd, his eyes fixed solely on his opponent, sizing him up for weaknesses and not even giving the people a glance.

Borgan the Cruel was far too large in both height and build to be fully human. At over eight feet tall with broad shoulders and bulging muscles, his very presence seemed to fill the arena. One eye glared at his opponent and the eager spectators; the other was lost in the sea of scars that covered his face and framed a nose that had obviously been broken several times. The massive hairy hand that gripped a bloodstained hammer had two fingers missing.

He looked Kane up and down and his face twisted into a sneer. “Are you serious?” he proclaimed to no one in particular. “Too easy.”

“Appearances can be deceiving,” Kane said quietly, his voice cold but measured. He was very tense, Cory could see that his friend held his upper body stiffly. That was not a good start. “May the best man win.”

“Have at it,” the bartender roared.

Kane drew his swords from their scabbards with a hiss of steel and took a single step back, turning them in his hands. Borgan strode forward purposely, swinging his hammer with some force. There was a violent clash of steel on steel and Kane was knocked back slightly by the force of the blow. The half-giant pushed forward in an attempt to crush his opponent against the side of the pit, but Kane knew his plan and gave a sharp thrust of one blade. Although the blow was deflected, it gave him valuable seconds to spin away. Striking out again, he managed to find a vulnerable spot under the arm and pierced the flesh, drawing blood. Despite it being a superficial wound, Borgan roared with pain and hit out with his arm, catching the warrior in the face and knocking him sideways.

As the spectators cried out excitedly, Kane quickly regained his balance and wiped blood from his bottom lip. The hammer came down again and this time he avoided it – the gravity of the weapon took the half-giant off balance and so the warrior ducked under his arm and elbowed him sharply in the ribs. Winded, Borgan doubled up, although not before managing to headbutt his opponent in the face, before bringing his hammer around for another swing.

Cory found himself biting his thumb again, forced to watch as the two danced back and forth for what seemed like hours. Kane was faster and fought fluidly, but Borgan, although slower, seemed to have skin made of thick hide and nothing seemed to deter him for more than a few seconds. The pit was too small for Kane to constantly evade and eventually the hammer found its target, slamming into the warrior's chest with some force and knocking him back into the furthest wall.

As he struggled to his knees, on straw that was slippery with blood both recent and old, Borgan advanced gleefully, raising his weapon to bring it down for the final blow. The crowd hushed waiting eagerly for the kill. The only sound was the ragged breathing of the two combatants.

The hammer came down, and it was what Kane had been waiting for. He raised one long sword to stop the hammer and immediately launched into an offensive attack, hitting the half-giant's chin with the hilt of his second sword – and then taking advantage of his stunned state to hit his torso repeatedly with both weapons. Slowing down at last, he paused for a split second before forcing one blade up and through his eye socket. Borgan grunted and fell, causing the whole tavern to shake when he landed.

Kane retrieved his sword and turned to look at the audience for the first time. His hair was dripping with blood, his bottom lip beginning to swell and everyone could see an impressive bruise on his right cheekbone. He swayed as though he was about to fall, and Cory immediately turned and pushed through the cheering mob of bodies to get to his friend. Suddenly he felt strangely relieved that he had refused to bet; refused to have any part of such mindless violence.
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