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Challenge #21: Cut for Action

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#1 Solar's Harper

Solar's Harper

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Posted 17 May 2009 - 10:01 AM

Cut for Action

Challenge #21

The roars of the crowds echoed through halls of the coliseum, a bloodthirsty voice of thousands of rich and poor folk alike calling for the deaths of gladiators and fiends alike. All for the amusement of this mob, Darden and his fellows that had been captured on false charges against the false first lord, Maalthiir.

Looking around their small cell of cold stone, Darden took notice of the many hundreds of bruises and scars on his long-time friend and fellow gladiator, Zantharas, a barbarian from the wastes back to the west, and almost shoulder height to any of the giant golems holding the prisoners in line in the accursed prison. The other fellow was a malnourished halfling woman with an eye patch over her left eye, and plenty of scars to show that she had been kept alive for quite a long time... but at a heavy price.

For nearly a year now, Darden still hoped to see his homeland of Kara Tur once more, but as each month passed, and each new battle was fought and nearly lost; that hope slipped further and further away. The chilling echo of the demonic jail master slithered its way into their cold cell, calling his name. He was not afraid of this demon half-breed, what he was afraid of was not returning ? for each time he battled, the challenge was just that much more difficult.

?You better hurry,? the halfling mumbled in a bored tone, ?unless you want to repeat my.. mistake.? With that she seemed to tremble slightly, Darden mentally noted everyone?s movements these days, as if obsessed whether someone were still breathing or not. Hard not to be, when they?re the only ones to turn to when in need of some protection in the hellish prison out here in Hillsfar. Harpers like he, were far from welcome.

Without delay, the guard approached the cell door and released the metal bars keeping them. Zantharas made for the doorway, in an attempt to crush the soldier beneath his hulking weight; it took only a slight of hand to push him back against the wall, a thud that seemed to shake only the loose brick on the opposite side.

?Watch yourself primitive!? The guard snarled then pointed at the dark haired foreigner before him, ?you will come with me!?

Without waiting for reply, the guard turned and left immediately, the call of the jail master came again, more irritated than sinister this time. Defeated of any will to disobey, Darden shuffled his feet out from tiredness into a walking rhythm that minimised his hip pains, it would only return later anyway so why not break it in the mean time?

In the dim light, the gruesome features of a skull-faced demon were still readily apparent. Hillsfar?s own very torture master and keeper of gladiators for the First Lord?s amusement, cackled and sneered, sparing no effort to try and pound Darden?s will just enough to make him fight, but only the opponents offered.

?Now go!? The demon hissed, disinterested in further conversation, ?and do come back in a body bag, I have a buyer interested in that repulsive thing you call a tongue.? Shrugging the seasoned fighter turned his attention to the large gate that opened and the Golem that guarded it. Images always flowed back, from his first day here, when he was foolish enough to challenge his master and end up in this thing?s hand, almost broken to the point of no recovery.

The roars of the crowd grew louder, as did their excitement. It seemed as soon as the one match finished, a new one was to begin. Of all the tournaments, he hated this one the most, sudden death, as the crowd seemed to call it.

Picking up a mace and wooden shield from the rack beside him, the falling of the metal bars behind him ensured there was no turning back now. Stepping into blinding light, it took only moments to see his battle-worn opponent: a half-orc twice his size with the symbol of Bane hanging from his neck.

The half-orc was clearly irritated; wanting hurt the crowd as much as his captors. Indeed, it was as if Darden himself was merely just an obstacle on that path. There was no mistaking this one was a Banite though, as even in the face of oppression he seemed to thrive on the hatred.

?Think you can last a round against a better foe, half-breed?? Darden taunted, catching the half-orc?s attention and earned a snarling reply. ?You dare challenge me human!? Look at you pathetic worm! You are even less ready than these fools cheering for blood. Do you think I will show mercy perhaps? Or maybe that I will end this quickly??

?No,? Darden replied un-phased and unemotional, ?all I expect is a fight. Now can we do this, or are you going to wait until my feet die??

The orcling tightened his hold on the warhammer in his larger hands, clearly a legion of strength behind it, one sure hit and Darden was dead, of that there was a certainty. An irritated crowd member broke off this line of thought by throwing an egg at the Kara Turan, only to miss by a hair?s inch.

?Feel my wrath!? The orcling bellowed, charging forward with murderous intent. Forcing pain and panic aside, Darden tumbled to the left, drawing his longsword and attempting to chip the orc?s armor as he made his pass, barely missing before tumbling out again to avoid a crushing impact from above.

A thrilled echo was drowned out only by the next attack swinging over him once again, a thrust forward was a logical choice drowned by what must?ve been full-plate. Few gladiators ever kept full-plate, many like him preferred the lighter chainmail, some even leather though that was sure suicide right now.

?Ha! You?ll need to do better than this worm!?

Both opponents circled twice before Darden attempted a knee strike, feinted and cut small into the orcling?s right arm. The pain seemed lost on the orcling however, and without recovery time Darden?s side felt the terrible impact of a warhammer that sent him crashing some feet away.

His entire left side felt numb, the footsteps of his opponent clearly loud even as his vision seemed to blur for a second. In no hurry for closure, the orcling threw a large rock at the injured gladiator, just missing his head. Looking desperately for his weapon, or any weapon, he found a small dagger suddenly thrown in from the crowd. Looking up, he could barely make out a hooded woman, smaller than most the crowd beside her. She stared at him once then left, the dusty brown cloak waving in the gusty breeze.

The panting of the orcling drew closer, his victory certain, he stepped even closer to increase the fear of his opponent. Taking every fibre of Darden?s discipline to fight numbness and pain, he reached for the small dagger, and slid it underneath his chest, waiting.

?You are a fool to challenge me. ALL OF YOU! YOUR TIME WILL COME!? The orcling challenged the crowd, some falling silent, others even more riled. ?Bane is a fool! You?re fool, and you?re gonna die, ha! Ha!?

A youthful voice that, a young boy... Darden felt himself suddenly sick and frozen when he heard the fearful force of the titan like warhammer being thrown into the crowd, towards the boy. He had no time to contemplate whether they survived, as he felt powerful hands lifting him, strangling him. Kicking the orcling only tightened the grip, he admitted a small yelp much to the orcling?s satisfaction.

In an instant Darden remembered his benefactor?s gift, and immediately thrusted towards the only weak point he could see: the throat. Arrogant confidence was in an instant filled with fear and incredible hate, as the orcling?s free hand attempted desperately to keep the human hand from sealing his fate.

?You cannot, defeat, meeee!!? The orcling gasped as the push became stronger, all the strength in the human flowing into the dagger hand, edging millimetre by millimetre closer to it?s target, almost touching his brown-green skin and slightly cracking the already harsh skin. Darden clenched his teeth, sweat and a heated face detailing all the effort pulled into his enemy?s defeat. He felt his control of the dagger weakening, slipping underneath the orcling?s power.

Pain roared throughout his body, even where it had gone numb, in desperation, the human kicked the orcling?s lower body, succeeding in faltering the orcling?s strength just a moment and with control back the final push sealed the orcling?s fate, and instantly let Darden?s freefall to the earth all but break his spine.

It took days to recover properly, in that time Darden tried desperately to recall details of his lucky break. Why was this match special? It made no sense; the orc-kin was like any other foe ? his near death near the same. But that woman, whoever she was, seemed intent on ensuring his victory, it was certain he would not have survived without the dagger.

?Hsss! Prisoner Darden! Get your sorry ragged corpse out here now!!!? The demon called, loud and clearly angry. In fact, in all his time, this would be the first time he was ever this angry. Feeling no attachment to his current place however, with his two friends having finally succumbed to their fates in the days of his recovery ? he left wordless, following the guard as always, the guard who seemed to value his own life even less than he realised.

The main room came into view, in all its dungeon glory, but there was a difference, a hooded woman standing next to the jail keeper, a woman who seemed to intimidate the keeper from standing close.

Walking over in a tired fashion, his curiosity heightened when the woman?s features became more apparent, more familiar. ?Well done on your match,? she said flatly in a richly coloured accent, almost elven to be sure.

Bowing lightly, Darden focused his attention once more on his keeper; mustering all his bile, ?you summoned me, my master??

?You?re a free mortal.? The demon said plainly, but clearly with venom of hate behind it.

?Free? How??

?A debt owed,? the woman interrupted silencing the keeper?s scathing unsaid comments, ?you killed a companion of mine, the half-orc Banite, Grozhar. As per an agreement with First Lord Maalthiir, you are now free of your bondage to Hillsfar?s coliseum, and thus for cleared of any crimes against the sovereign state.?

His blinking immediately became replaced with a sneer, ?I don?t suppose you happen to be involved with that rat too??

The woman said nothing, but lifted up her hood to reveal her face, her elven face. ?I am an elf, and Maalthiir is too prideful to employ one such as I to his cause. Especially since we, shall we say... disagree on the basics of ethics.?

?Well alright then, I guess I?m in your service then.? Even as a ?free? man from this prison, he still felt that same bondage. Perhaps this was his fate however.

?No it?s not.? She stated plainly, catching Darden in midstep he faced the elf again in utter confusion.

?It?s not what??

?It?s not your fate. You see. You never made the cut.? She stated again, matter-of-factly, turned and left for the exit down the hall.

?What do you mean? How did I not make the cut? What cut?? He blurted out one question after another, attempting to catch the elf?s arm to be shrugged off irritably.

She then turned to face him, face-to-face for the first time with mere inches separating them, a flurry of golden hair forcing them both to blink slightly. And staring into each other?s eyes, she said: ?You didn?t pass for a mod NPC at the moment of conception. I?m sorry, but this is where you need to find a new job. Goodbye Darden.?

Leaving the human warrior stunned, and the distant cruel cackle of the jail master, he looked into his hand to see a piece of paper stating in two cruel words: ?You?re fired.?

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