“His challenger! Hailing from the Shattered Kingdoms comes a warrior without peer. New to the pit, this man chooses to wet his blade with the blood of women and children only. Here he is… Aleric the Damned,” said the crier to the jeers of the crowd.
Metal grated against metal as rusted gears ground against one another. Slowly the gate began to rise. Drawing the sword at his side Aleric felt his heart begin to pound. Talondra gave him a gentle shove towards the gate. It took everything he had to force unwilling legs to shuffle forward. After so long trapped in darkness the bright lights of glow orbs fixed at intervals around the arena forced him to close his eyes.
“Look at how he trembles! The Damned cowers when faced against a real warrior,” said the crier to the raucous laughter of the crowd.
Carefully he opened his eyes. From the side something streaked towards his head. Instinctively he twisted bringing the dull bladed sword up and around in a wide arc. Through half closed eyes he saw the white striped fruit bounce unharmed from the dulled edge. Echoing a curse his father was prone to using he turned towards the man they called challenger. Overhead the crier called out once more saying; “Look! The Damned is unable to even properly sharpen a blade.”
Aleric, his patience long past breaking, screamed; “I am Aleric Thronsike. I am no killer of women and children, only of those who would do such despicable acts. If you choose to taunt me… then do so with truth and not the vile lies which come so easily to your cursed lips.”
The plate armored warrior across the sand covered arena charged. Aleric stood his ground, head and sword pointed at the ground. Closing his eyes he took count of the echoing steps of his opponent. A mere three steps seperated the men when Aleric’s eyes snapped open. The curved blade of a broad double handed sword whistled through the air in a downward slash.
Aleric fell back into a roll that took him out of the greatswords reach. Before the man could recover he was on his feet charging headlong towards what he was certain would be death. Stepping left to the man’s off-side he thrust his short sword into the side of a thick breastplate. To his dismay the tip merely slid off the silvery metal. The man spun towards him. Aleric matched him step for step staying at the man’s back through a turn that would make most others dizzy.
The short sword swung in a blur of uncatchable moves that saw it bouncing harmlessly off thick armor with every blow. Every strike saw his grip on the blade loosening as numbing vibrations coursed up an already pained, welt covered wrist.
Another turn passed and still no damage appeared on the man’s armor. Exhaustion began to take hold making each burning breath send a jolt of pain into his lungs. His steps slowed while the champions only grew faster. Unable to keep up with the well rested warrior Aleric dove into a roll that saw the man’s sword cut the air scant inches above his head. From the side of the arena he heard Talondra gasp. He couldn’t help but look her direction.
Without his attention squarely focused on the champion he didn’t see the boot rushing towards him until it was too late. The heavy boots leather sole slammed into his chest sending already tired arms flailing uselessly to break his backwards tumble to the sand covered arena floor.
The faceless champion loomed over him sword raised high with the tip aimed at Aleric’s heart. Aleric skirted to the side as the tip plunged into the dirt where his body lay only a second before. With all the strength he could manage, he wrapped an arm around the blade while kicking up. His boots toe sank deep into the man’s exposed elbow snapping it in two. He rolled onto the blade as the man stumbled back.
Gripping the two handed sword tightly he rose to his feet. In the stands he heard an orcish voice cry out in panic for the mage to do something. Aleric was quicker, bringing the sword in a tight arc he forced the man to dodge or risk losing his head. Before the champion could regain his footing Aleric struck again this time with a boot to the inside of the man’s hip. For a second time stood still as both men stared into the others surprised expression. Then it was over. The man tumbled to the ground with Aleric standing over him. Without thinking he placed the tip against the man’s throat.
“Kill me! End my life that I might die in battle and not from old age trapped in a gilded cage,” said the champion a glimmer of infinite sadness etched in his eyes.
A hushed silence fell over the crowd as he pondered what to say. For a long moment none spoke until a single voice cried out to mirror the longing of his heart. Soon the others joined in until it became a deafening roar calling for the champion to live.
“Strike! Now! Before they can stop you,” said the champion pleading tears streaming from his eyes.
“I do not kill downed men,” said Aleric lifting the sword to the crowds applause.
“Then I will do it for you,” said Talondra the sympathy in her voice mixed with a hint of disdain.
Aleric felt her hand squeeze his shoulder before kneeling down beside the prone champion. In a barely heard voice he heard the champion say; “Thank you… my love.”
The crowd fell silent once more as a stunned Aleric stared on as she plunged her dagger between overlapping plates and into the man’s heart.
Aleric let the sword drop free. For a minute he watched Talondra cradling the body of her lover as tears poured from her eyes. Numbed by what he had just seen he turned towards the gate and the cell he now called home.