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Huo

Fiery pugilist and runaway slave. His temper isn't as bad as his fists.

0 · 1,205 views · located in Gyarazi Desert

a character in “Skaerra: The Unlikely Tale”, as played by VindicatedPurpose

Description

Image
Credit To Dynasty Warriors by Koei


Name: Huo (HU-oh, H-wo)
Age: 24
Gender: Male
Race: Human
Ethnicity: Osu
Place of Birth: Unknown Osu village somewhere in Syakh.
Physical Appearance:
A twinkle of mischief hides behind the sometimes impassioned eyes that burn beneath a scowl. His eyebrows are thick but not bushy. He stands without imposing but certainly far from unassuming. His blonde hair runs and races like the mane of a lion until they end at tips soft to touch but hard to look at. He posseses a lean and sculpted figure, which lends agility and strength but not too much of either. A healing wound stretches just over his ribs on the right. A number of long healed whip scars cover his back serving as evidence of a once incorrigible and disobedient slave.

His general travel wear would be a wool high collared sleeveless vest and linen trousers with a hood from head to toe for good measure. He wears mostly leather boots. Bandages wrap around his fists starting at his hands as fingerless gloves before covering the length of his arm until they reach his elbows. Other times, such as in battle, he wears vambraces or gauntlets. His average stature compared to other fighters requires him to stir the fear in his opponents through the tattoos that run the length of his arms beneath the bandages.

Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Dirty gold
Skin Tone/Complexion: medium tan
Height: 5 feet 11 inches
Weight: 158 pounds

Combat Skills:

Hand to Hand Combatant - Hardened. He fights, and with his bare hands he fights well. He had been fighting since before adolescence. If there is one thing that Huo knows, it is hand to hand combat. He had been trained for half of his life, which gives him knowledge of significant nuances in fighting. Furthermore, he uses Flow to augment his physical hand to hand capabilities.

Weapons Combatant - Trained. He is decent with most weapons, but not exactly talented. If he needs to fight with a weapon in hand, he will pick a sword.

Fighting Style - Aggressive. Huo's hand to hand combat style places an emphasis on mobility over raw strength because Huo is not physically immense. Thus his agility and dexterity allow him to navigate the field of battle against larger and slower foes. His technique is a hodge podge of various forms, but these forms all share aggression as a key facet. Huo is never one for the defensive, but he is smart enough to understand feigned retreats and regrouping to strike again. He knows he is not built for drawn out fights, which is why he must end things quick. He understands a number of punching and kicking styles, which may have a proper name, but he could care less about that.

Magic Mastery Level - Null. Huo never trained in the arts of magic nor will he ever because he did not possess the gift of mana when born.

Magic Resistance Level - Tertiary Level Resistance. A rather prevalent trait found in many Osu, and Dhaxi realized it served the boy well in fights against magic users. Huo's ability with his fists allowed him to catch opponents versed in magic unprepared for a bout with nothing but a slogging of fists.

Flow Mastery Level - Untrained. After that initial discovery, Huo learned, as well as Dhaxi unfortunately, that he possessed some semblance of access to Flow. He shared an affinity with the element of fire, but lacked any sort of connection with the others. He became adept at using the Flow to augment his physical capabilities more than anything. He has potential, but without tutelage of any kind in any direction, it would remain potential.

Huo had no teacher when it came to the Flow. He did what he could, following the instincts of the energy.

Weapons and Equipment: Huo has no weapons besides his fists, yet.

He wears a medium thick cuirass with spaulders that adds several pounds of weight, but it affords protection from most slashing attacks. As decoration, black plumes spring from the middle of the back and rise a little past where his hair ends on his neck to form a fan arching away from him akin to what some imagine a jungle prince may wear. Though, he discarded the vanity decoration for the sake of practicality. He has bronze vambraces on his arms that provide his forearms with protection. Bronze greaves guard his shins. He also carries along a bota bag, a necessity for any traveler.

Personality -
Huo is a brash and sometimes hot-headed individual. Some that know him attribute it to youth, although the madame Phrina believes it is something more. And she believes it is an internal driving force more than anything. He can be stubborn to the point that his stubbornness has given new meaning to the word bastard on multiple occasions. Other times he can possess a crude sense of humor, and he may seem a little rough around the edges to outsiders. In particular, he never talks much to Dhaxi, opting to remain silent and indifferent as a means of being defiant. He occasionally expresses his views with a grim scowl and a huff. Although not well read, he understands things such as formalities, courtesies, and codes of honor. The word honor is something that Huo understands in abstract form rather than written form.

He is not quite verbal, but not quite taciturn either. He speaks when he needs to. Those that face him in the arenas know he is a trash talker of the highest caliber. He knows the right buttons to push to rile up his opponents because he understands anger as well as anyone. He can be unnecessarily temperamental and annoyed by the slightest things at times. Others, such as some of the locals that he has befriended in Opynonias know that he is fiercely protective of friends. Betrayal will earn nothing but the deepest of hatred from him.

Though, a darker side exists within him. One who is aware of the apathy and the abyss. That after all the fighting and killing is done, there is nothing left but a void of meaningless. His frustrations have the potential to manifest into cold pragmatism and to be carried out in unbridled and indiscriminate fury. That one day he may succumb to a blinding rage is a fear that lies in his mind buried beneath his hopes and dreams. The biggest dream for him may be finding his parents, but that's more or less a pipe dream to him. Whether or not that will be enough to keep the shadow at bay is unknown. Freedom to live how he chooses would be a better dream, and one of more immediate concern to him.

The fighter relied on his voice to carry his emotions and thoughts better than the theatrics of hand gestures. His only hand gestures formed fists, which were meant more for breaking cheekbones than persuading minds.

Other times there is a level of insecurity that arises from being a slave. Upon leaving Opynonias, he would grow to realize that he lacked knowledge about the world and life, despite his talents as a fighter. This then results in a hopelessness and helplessness that often has him punching until his fists bleed.

Religious Beliefs - He is pragmatic because religion was never something that Dhaxi cared to instruct in him. He has some semblance of belief in the Pantheon.

Education - He can write, but he can not read as well as others. Most of education throughout childhood concerned serving and fighting. Reading and writing were never of importance to him. That's not to say that he has not learned manners.

Sexual Orientation - Heterosexual.

History -

The slave known as Huo came from a village that was razed to the ground shortly after he was born to two Osu people. They gave him the name of Tiexin (Tee-ay-shin). He does not know much about his parents. Huo's father fled with the boy in a caravan that wandered the steppes. His father sold him at the age of nine to Kurthal, a slavemaster who raised him for two years. Kurthal taught him how to do housework like any other menial slave. Kurthal hoped to sell him off to a Niessen or Sivyne noble one day. One night, raiders attacked their camp and slew Kurthal while they took Tiexin captive. He became the servant of a bandit by the name of Penth who taught him how to fight.

They rested in an oasis where they met another slaveowner by the name of Dhaxi (Doc-shi), who would become his current slave owner somewhere in Syakh. Dhaxi made the proposal for Tiexin, and Penth, upon seeing his opulence and formidable retinue, relinquished the boy.

Dhaxi raised and trained the boy. His training was strict and harsh on him compared to Penth. When Tiexin reached his prime for growth at fifteen, Dhaxi poured whatever pain and misery he could into the boy to sculpt him from the potential that he saw into the gladiator that he wanted to see. It was for years that Tiexin suffered until one day the boy burst into a fit of rage and killed Dhaxi's body guards with fire that he had drawn forth from himself. He attempted to escape, but Dhaxi's right hand man stopped the boy. Dhaxi seemed fearful at first, but then he turned calculating. Dhaxi's overly manipulative nature combined with Tiexin's naivete and ignorance prevented Tiexin.

Dhaxi renamed, or rather rebranded, Tiexin as Huo, which meant "fire" in Osu. The slavemaster marketed him as one of his best fighters. They traveled the arena circuit since with Dhaxi's purse and persuasion a tight yoke on Huo, but none so tight as one of Dhaxi's agents who always kept an eye on the boy. The only thing Huo seeks now is release from this life because it is the only thing he has ever known. Though, Huo had not planned for what would happen after a successful escape, fate may have other ideas.

So begins...

Huo's Story

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Thoom. A loud thud rocked the entire arena.

The mace almost made contact with Huo, but instead bore into the ground only a few paces from where he stood. He sidestepped it, but only barely. It had managed to loosen his balance only for a little bit.

The other fellow was a brawny and tall fighter, about a head taller than Huo. A black mask hid his face, one that Huo could sense was grinning. He probably thought that Huo had difficulty keeping up.

A few breaths here and there to steady himself, "My grandmother could swing better than that!"

If Huo had a grandmother to compare to his opponent, that is. He was a tall Niessen with a sculpted figure. His arms looked as though they could snap a man's neck in half, much less swing a giant mace that could reach farther than his entire wingspan.

That was a disadvantage that Huo had to live with in this particular bout.

To hell with exhibition matches, especially when all he had were his bare fists. The other fighter would not let him an inch to throw a decent punch.

They called him the Black Hammer of Noro, an odd name considering that his hammer was not black and it was not even a hammer. The weapon was a mace in function with a solid chain attached to head of solid steel block akin to that of a blacksmith's hammer

It seemed the other fighter felt self-assured enough with the rest of his figure, perhaps a tad bit boastful of his statuesque appearance. His attire consisted his mask, boots, and crotch guard, all of which was black. The latter of which made an impression on a colosseum crowd back in 3525. Since then, it has been the talk of the townspeople. The average colosseum-goer began to mistakenly expect that all gladiators went about in their duels half-nude.

Certainly was not the case with Huo, who much enjoyed his privilege to dress in full armor and garb. Though, every now and then he felt it necessary to flaunt his abdominals before a crowd that paid good money for a good show.

This particular fight, though, he thanked himself that he wore something that could soften a hammer blow. Even if it slowed him down by a little. The Niessen pulled back the mace as though it were the anchor of a sand skiff. He began to whirl the hammer, ready to fling it at Huo or swing it to sweep him closer to the edge of the arena until the only direction he could move, was forward.

Rather than wait for that to happen, Huo rushed forward at that moment when he still had space between his back and the edge. He had spent almost the entire bout so far retreating, this move caught the Niessen off guard. His grip on the hammer-mace fumbled as he tried to react. He swung the steel block in the direction of the Osu slave, who more than welcomed it by rearing back to avoid the blow that might have taken out his head.

Huo had no teacher when it came to the Flow. He did what he could, following the instincts of the energy. He would have released some flames at his opponent, but that was a considerable drain, and certainly poor sportsmanship.

He just needed to land a single blow with enough force on the Black Hammer. It need not be fatal, just enough to render him unconscious and end the bout. Huo was a fighter, not a killer, at least under his current circumstances. He was sure the other fighter had less mercy than him though.

As the Niessen hurried to pull the head back within his grasp, Huo pulled forward ever closer. Now the Niessen did not need to use more strength because his target was closer. Huo had hoped that his opponent had exhausted most of their reserves of energy during the early stages of the bout especially when the sun was only beginning to show its face. Now that it was beating down heavily on them, Huo would need to strike a finishing blow the sooner the better.

He pulled forward, digging his heels deep to push him as close as possible to the Niessen every time he winded up his swing or throw. The Niessen retreated a couple of steps in between each, he wanted space between them otherwise his weapon would be near useless against a quicker footed fighter as Huo. But each time he tried to widen the space, Huo would close the gap a little closer.

Until, Huo tripped on a rock that was hidden by the sand. He fell forward into a dirt cloud. The Niessen scrambled to retrieve the mace and arch his back for a final swing...

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7th Breh 3528 C.E.,
Signed, Mazha Phrina


Madame Phrina placed the quill down, and rolled her fingers before picking it up again.

She breathed a sigh and craned her sore neck, letting loose a few pops before she returned to her task. She worked beneath the light filtering from the large arch just above her workroom. One hand was settled on attempting to complete several forms for her back taxes. She owed a significant portion of gold to the Imperials, and they had repeatedly threatened to vacate her colosseum by force. The vocal threats felt insufferable and ever unwarranted. Their mouths often shut once the coins fell into their pockets. It was the price to pay to live on their land, do business on their land, and be protected on their land.

That one hand managed a quill on the thick stack of papyrus while her attention was elsewhere.

The other hand leafed through several pages of the daily combat records, a list of fighters slated to appear in the arena and their opponents among other information.

She glanced back and forth between her tome and the tax records.

A young boy out of breath reached her open door, "Madame Phrina.."

His name was Ehlan.

"Yes, Ehlan?"

Ehlan was one of her many messengers who relayed the results of each battle to her. She had no particular desire to sit through each individual match when she had other work to take care of.

She looked at his round eyes. Never a day has gone by that she is in awe at the blood that the boy has seen, and yet his eyes still remain bright. They will darken once he has taken a life for himself.

Ehlan caught his breath, "Tumhathil won his."

"Thank you Ehlan," she replied.

He nodded with a satisfied smiled, and disappeared down the hall leaving her alone once again. She was never truly alone though, for she could hear the echoes of the crowds roaring from the colosseum. She could tell a flurry of bets were being placed. Occasionally a piercing scream could be heard, she knew it was someone who had lost his family fortune.

She returned to the tome and flipped to Tumhathil and crossed off his opponent's name for the day's fight.

"The 'Lion' made short work of his opponent," a honeyed male voice came from the door where the young messenger stood only moments ago.

Phrina looked up to see the marred face of her long time friend, Dhaxi. He did not don his usual robes today it seemed, appearing rather relaxed in his white thawb and brown kufi. He had a bit of a shadow growing, she thought it out of character considering he preferred to be clean shaven always. Almost always.

She smiled from the corner of her mouth, before she oped warmly, "Marḥaban. Sleep well?"

"Salaam alaikum. The gods willed it. It seems you are busy, if not I would have invited you to attend a match and then shahan ful."

Phrina's smile deepened before her eyes returned to her records, "You know I do not watch the fights personally, it is more business than entertainment to me."

"Yes, your continued absence among the maenianum is ever felt. The boy is fighting today."

She managed a chuckle at his quip.

"The Black Hammer of Noro," she flickered a glance at his figure before returning to her papyrus, "Clearly another 'short work' to be made."

"If not him, then maybe one of the others. A considerable lot of interesting characters will be making their pay today."

She continued writing, "You seem questionably relaxed this morning. Even if Syel'Breh is coming, I'm rather surprised to ever see you so contented."

The corners of his mouth raised in pleasure, "Contented? Perhaps. I was merely informed by one of my people that Zilindar managed to acquire a wanted Duuthesh thief. She's withering away in one of his rat infested cells. I'll see how the fractious fool will worm his way out of things when the first Imperial soldiers show up in town with warrants for her arrest."

Lovely. And while they were at it, they could get on her case regarding the taxes. She rolled her eyes, things would take care of themselves, she was sure.

"Shahan ful, you said?"

The setting changes from Colosseum of Opynonias to Universe of Skaerra

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Character Portrait: Huo Character Portrait: Caspian Polarus Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Klang! A stranger in a strange bar.

Klang! The hell does she mean, “Red Wind”?

Klang! What is happening to her now? Klang!

Klang! Where did she go?

Klang! Klang! Klang!

The echo of metal on metal rang in the air, stirring with the multitude of sound that rose from the inner ring of the colosseum. Thank the Creator for the din, as it drown out the ever pulsing thoughts that resounded in the tired mind of the youth putting hammer to steel at the time. A young Niessen, fair of hair and fair of skin, toiled at the anvil that was placed just inside the last gate before the actual arena floor spread forth in a field of blood soaked sand. Sweat rolled down the young man’s distinguished features as he plied his trade, mending a gladiator’s fractured shield with a slow weld along an outer crack. He’d told the man that it would be best to just use another, but the fighter claimed he has sentimental attachment and she the young man worked to mend it as best he could, sure any flaw would spell the end of the shield and thus the end of the gladiator’s life.

That was his trade now. Where other blacksmith’s dealt in steel and iron to till the fields and harvest the grain he deal in life and death, in blood and bone. A dagger he crafted yesterday may be used to cut a throat a few days later. At the same time the shield he mended my ford off a lethal strike from that same dagger if he did his job well. There was a new duality to his work that the boy had never considered, never conceived, never even dreamed on a drunken night he would face. To be honest he absolutely despised it.

“Caspian, careful with the leather!” a loud rumble of a voice called form across the forge. Looking up the youth found the deep resonance to have originated in the bulging belly of his new master, a man named Amon who was the head blacksmith at the Colosseum.

“Aye, sir!” he replied curtly and made doubly sure of his next few strikes. The young man was a journeyman as a blacksmith and was doing well by all accounts, but this new job was far from easy. In the past Caspian, as he was called, worked at his father’s shop by day, tending they family tavern with his mother at night, and was ne’er the aware of such a brutal reality as he found in these sandstone walls that surrounded him. But now he had a benefit that his father’s shop lacked, a front row seat to the effect of that sword that he had fired a fortnight past. Caspian redoubled his effort on his work, trying to drown out the images he’d seen weapons of his hand cause in recent weeks. This apprenticeship could not end soon enough.


Klang!

The sound coming from the arena swam with the sway of the crowd as the exhibition bout being fought within took a sudden turn. Caspian could have glanced over through the wooden slats of his station on the sidelines but he didn’t feel the need. These kind of sports never interested him, even as a child, and on the few holidays that the family had made the attempt to trek the few days between the Colosseum and his home town he had never come to the imposing structure to see a fight but rather one of the non-violent performances of a circus or some religious reenactment. His father didn’t like the bloodshed either, saying he’d seen enough in his old days during the war. Apparently, however, Master Amon hadn’t. He glanced up through the slats and whistled through his teeth; “Huo’s having trouble!” he called swiftly as another roar erupted from the crowd.

Caspian continued with his work, stoking another band of thin metal in the fire to be applied to reinforce the cracked shield yet again, he didn’t want to watch these matches any more than he had too; although the thuds of the large weapon being used within were useful in drowning out the nagging and bodiless vocalizations running through his head. Until he heard another Thud! followed by a short cry just a few dozen yards behind him. That didn’t come from the arena… he thought with a sigh as he slowly turned to see if his suspicions were correct. “Damn it.” of course they were.

“Gah!” a another guttural cry escaped the small body of a young boy before being cut short by another kick to his side from one of the three tall guards that surrounded him. The boy wore a ragged cloth tunic and couldn’t have been more than ten years old, a slave brought in to do the menial chores of the grand Colosseum, one of many similar youths that serviced the massive walls. The three guards were also no rare sight, and their current actions of kicking one of the slaves was equally (and disgustingly) common, as they were part of the brigade employed here to simply keep the public under control and ensure that things ran smoothly. To call them guards was being far more generous than those swine deserved. They were thugs dressed up and paraded around for the public showing little to no truth like every other part of this charade. Just trappings on shit sprayed with perfume to make the patrons forget the stench.

“Get up, swine!” one of the guards called with a grin to the boy, who was struggling to even breathe, “when we say stop you stop!” he demanded as he delivered another kick to the boys abdomen with a chuckle from him and his mates. “Get up!” once again he demanded the impossible of the boy he was abusing while his chuckles turned slowly into an angry grimace. “I said, Get up!”

Caspian understood what the guard was feeling, impatience, anger, and frustration against another human being; but the boy just coughed and the guards just stared with their anger growing at the child’s noncompliance and their frustration was coming to a head. When he first arrived Caspian had failed to let his own anger boil over in time to help someone in the same straits, that would not happen again. “If you won’t obey orders I’ll give you a reason to lie down!”

The guard raised his spear, aiming the blunted end for the boys back and plunged. He would have taken their little abuse to a whole new level, as they usually did, had his swing not caught a few inched above the boy’s spine. “Guh!” the guard grunted against the excursion of his one handed strike as his wrist was caught in the grasp of the young blacksmith. Snarling at the interloper as his comrades took a step back in surprise the guard made to wrench his arm form the youth’s grasp. It was a pathetic showing; he tugged once, twice, three times, each with more force until he was bodily pulling himself away from the one handed grip of the smith. Caspian held firm, and as the guard demanded that he release him the blacksmith reached up and unclasp the man’s wrist guard expertly, sending the guard wheeling away and stumbling to find purchase on the dirt as his own force throw him back, “You bastard! The hell do you think you’re doing!?”

It wasn’t even a fight; the guards before Caspian were just for show, like ninety percent of the guards in the Colosseum. They looked big in their padded leather uniforms and their slightly shortened spears to give the illusion of size however these men barely worked at all and couldn’t possibly hope to out muscle a blacksmith who worked with hard steel all day long. As if to prove his point Caspian tightened his grip on the thin metal sleeved leather guard in his hand, bending the entire piece sharply inward while he took a step toward the men, “I’ve been waiting for this kid for the past half hour, you the reason he’s been delayed?” the youth demanded in as deep a voice as he could muster.

The guards were taken aback at first but sneered as they regained their balance, “The hell you talking about, there’s plenty of slaves around, why would you call for this shrimp!?” the man who was the clear ring leader wheezed through clenched teeth at Caspian. “Just cause you say it’s so doesn’t make it true, you’re a liar!”

Taking the initiative had given Caspian an advantage, but even having dealt with countless aggressive drunks at his family’s tavern wasn’t enough to steel him beyond his initial attack. He was flat footed; he’d muscled his way in but had no exit strategy and was easily in way over his head. He stammered for a second until a deep booming voice came from over his shoulder, “An’ wha’ if I say it’s true, eh?” stepping to the side Caspian gave his master a grateful glance and looked to the guards as the blood drained form their faces. “Ya boys go’ a problem with it?” Amon demanded. The tides had shifted again as the child gasped for air holding his stomach looking up at the battle raging in glares and glance above him, “You ther’, boy, ge’ up and ge’ to work!” Amon demanded stone faced.

Slowly the youth managed to brace himself on his arms and knees until he was able to get to a height where Caspian grabbed hold of him and pulled him to his feet. He was dirty and bruised, blood pouring form a small cut on his forehead as a black eye formed slowly on the left of his face as his upper lip swelled but there was a sparkle of defiance in his eyes still that Caspian inwardly cheered. He gave the boy a light shove to stand beside him as Amon stepped into the middle of the guards to chastise them as was his right. Caspian had learned swiftly that this place, like all businesses, ran on a hierarchy of value. Caspian wouldn’t have dared intervene when he had first arrived, thinking he was lowest on the totem pole, however he had learned since that skilled craftsmen that were necessary, like Amon, were far harder to find and replace than a few thugs in tights like the three before him. Caspian was just above the guards himself but having Amon here put the whole situation down in a moment. He would have to thank his mentor in the very near future. “You three, there, what do you think you’re doing?” a voice called form the seating section above; a voice that sent a chill running down Caspian’s spine.

Looking up Caspian felt a cold rush of fury well inside of him as he saw the breastplate of the captain of the guard, the leader of these three thugs, and the only person that Caspian had met in his life yet that he could honestly say he hated with his very soul. The guards looked expectantly at Amon and his pupil, waiting for them to answer their bosses call, though Amon seemed unconcerned as his grin grew wider. After a few moments of mock silence, the crowd was still watching the fight intently oblivious to the tension at the rear of the Colosseum in the ‘back stage’ of it, Amon smiled cheekily at the guards and gestured to their captain, “He means you!” looking up to find their boss glaring angrily at them the guards began to babble excuses and explanations to their commander who just grew visibly more aggravated by the moment.

“Shut it! Get back to your stations now!” he commanded. With a swift snap and a sprint away the guards obeyed, fleeing their defeat in due haste.

Amon chuckled to himself as he came over to Caspian, avoiding the glare that the Captain shot off in their direction, “Thanks ‘or the hand, Vin!” he called over his shoulder to the man who jut grunted. Amon took the bracer still held in Caspian’s hand and gave it a once over, “Ya sure did a number on it, eh?” he handed the piece back to Caspian and looked to the two boys, “Go ge’ her fixed then, an’ you, give ‘em a hand!” Amon ordered to Caspian and the slave. Relief filled Caspian’s mind but he would not show it before Vin. Turning and looking at the slave boy he motioned him forward toward the forge and walked behind the boy who was limping, gently guiding the tired youth with a hand on the back, he was shivering. Amon turned to converse with the man on the balcony, “Thanks again, Vin.”

“Watch that boy o’ yours, Amon, you won’t always be around and I can’t be held accountable for what those idiots do when their prides hurt.”

“Their pride? Or yours?”

The conversation continued but Caspian caught no more of it. Once they reached the forge he moved the boy to beside the bellows, “What’s your name?”

“N-Nomire.” The boy replied, still wheezing. “Th-ugh-thanks for the help.” He managed.

Caspian shrugged as he pumped the bellows twice before retrieving another sheet of metal with his tongs, “I only wish I’d been there sooner. Anyway, I can’t just let you lie down, those three will be watching, you going to have to work for a bit.” He looked sheepishly to the young boy who nodded between deep breaths, crestfallen but understanding, “After that I’ll try and get you some good food, and maybe find someone to mend your wounds a bit. Just hang in there.” He encouraged. The boy’s face lit up, slightly, at the thought of decent food. One of the perks of his station was Caspian and his master were not tied to this hell hole, they were free, unlike the others.; Unlike this boy; Unlike that girl had been. As the boy got to work stoking the fire, his think arms struggling to lift the coal and press the bellows Caspian could stop himself form remembering his first week at the Colosseum nearly a half a year past now. He glanced at Vin, still conversing with Amon, and his fury returned. An image was burned into his mind, shoving the dream from his mind and the voices from his head. All he heard was that last gasp, all he saw was that crimson red, and all he felt was that cold hand. Placing the white hot plate against the shield once again he turned to his work and placed an image of that day, of Vin’s blank expression onto the steel. He brought his hammer down.

Klang!

The setting changes from Universe of Skaerra to Colosseum of Opynonias

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Thoom. Huo managed to push himself from the ground and tumble to the side inches from where the blow struck the dirt. He watched as it struck the same spot where his head would have been pulpified.

The crowd roared, ecstatic at having their expectations for blood circumvented by this performance.

Huo's gaze darted to the Black Hammer who began reeling the flail back into his grip as fast as he could. He staggered about, balancing the weight of his hammer against his own.

The fist fighter pulled himself from the ground only a few yards away from his opponent. He lunged at the Niessen once again, a fist unsheathed to uppercut his foe across the jaw and send him unconscious.

The Niessen fell back several steps while dragging his mace toward him. His grip tightened on the chains as he coiled them once around his fists, expecting to be fighting in close quarters.

Huo threw a jab that the Black Hammer countered just as quick with his hammer coming in from the right. Huo caught the move out of the corner of his eye and lurched back, but he knew he would not avoid the blow entirely.

He tore off focus from striking his opponent into willing the Flow and shunting its energy into a shield that would brace the hit.

The crowd lost it, they were out for blood. The impact shoved Huo several feet away, he rolled to the side with a knee and fist to the ground. He would have to make up for the distance lost once more.

The use of Flow required a breath, he could smell the first sweat droplets form. Though his body remained without bruises, his gauntlet looked nearly battered, such is the power of Flow. He felt the wound just above his rib from a previous fight starting to flare up.

He tasted a bit of blood and realized that he bit his lip during the impact. He gritted his teeth and his eyes flashed in frustration. No longer, could he hold back, good sportsman or not, he needed to end it.

The heat of the sun and the dirt and the many bodies packed in the colosseum bore on him. The screams, the cheering, the roaring, vibrated and dulled his senses all at once.

Time was running out. Huo darted at the Niessen again. The Black hammer struck the ground once, Huo sidestepped that, twice, sidestepped again, thrice, sidestepped that until he was within striking distance.

Huo leapt at his opponent and threw three slugs, one at his chest, one at his lower torso, and one at his chin. The Black Hammer raised the chains of his hammer to intercept, but only managed to block the last of the combination, forcing the fist fighter back unto a knee again.

The Black Hammer winded up his swing, but Huo, once again on his feet, forged toward him. They had to keep the pace of the battle alive, otherwise the crowd might turn sour and make some lanistas angry. Madame Phrina was a generous soul, but it could be the end of any favors he expected from her. Best he kept on her good side, if he survived this fight to do so.

Just as his wound and his fatigue dragged him down, he observed the Black Hammer trying to maintain his fading grip on the mace. He wasn't the only one getting tired.

Huo danced within striking distance, the Black Hammer seemed poised to unleash a final blow, and Huo readied a fist likewise. The Black Hammer only had distance. However, up close without the full capability of his weapon, he stumbled about like a drunk dwarf.

Huo bolted across the dirt toward his enemy. The Black Hammer retreated again, but not fast enough now. He raised his flail and just as he was about to release it in Huo's direction, the fist fighter vaulted in mid air and unleashed a small burst of fire directly at the Niessen's face.

The flames dissipated briefly, only a feint. It was enough to break the Hammer's focus. Huo charged at him, readying his punch, allowing the Flow to coarse its way to his clenched fist.

He could feel the energy drain from other parts of his body, but none of that mattered. Not the pain of his wound, nor the salted sweat, nor the screams and cheers of the crowd that fell deathly silent in his mind.

Time slowed, as it always had. The crowd fell silent, but only for a few seconds. Only one fighter remained standing in the arena, and he had battered gauntlets.

-

Up high in the stands, Madame Phrina and Dhaxi perched in the middle section sitting not too high where slaves and others of the servile class watched, and not too low where the aristocrats sat for fear of having to mingle with acquaintances. They looked like any other ordinary couple, blending considerably well. It helped their cause that the fight engrossed the audience for any to recognize the owner of the colosseum and to a lesser extent, the successful lanista and merchant that accompanied her.

"Your boy, he shows continual improvement," Phrina glanced at the slavemaster amidst the rapturous crowd.

Dhaxi replied, "His attitude could be helped, though. A few lashes may break him yet."

His gaze shifted to the Niessen, who laid on the ground appearing lifeless, but not departed from life. If Dhaxi were his slaverowner, he would have let him die in that pit there. Other gladiator trainers and slavemasters were no different, in the end their "fighters" were just chattel.

Phrina stared at Dhaxi for a brief moment, her eyes fell upon the Niessen as well.

She smiled, "Come, my stomach grows restless and the masses will clog the departure thoroughfare. I heard you hired new cooks."

The setting changes from Colosseum of Opynonias to Universe of Skaerra

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Raikyyn Duarn, under the alias of "Tsamuus Araan", made his way into the cities Colosseum. He had to at least learn the basic layout for his mission, provided he hadn't failed due to timing.

If the information is true, she's a slave here. He is, too, but he is not my primary target.

The assassin surveyed the arena, the stands, and what he could see of the pits under the stands. Large, circular, most likely multi-storied. The slaves and other fighters should be kept below the stands, free men usually separated from the slaves, training, eating, sleeping quarters would all be underground partially. Posing as a guard would be easy, but I couldn't guarantee someone wouldn't notice me. I'm not risking becoming a slave myself, so I'll have to be a free challenger, Raikyyn laid out his plan, double-checking all of the details within his mind.

Raikyyn weaved through the crowd towards a guarded door, the crowd currently brewing over a fight that had just finished. Raikyyn believed he had seen the victor, or at least caught a glimpse of him. His attention turned back to the door, and the two guards outside of it, that he was nearing.

"Excuse me, I'd like to become a challenger for this arena," the Duuthesh informed the two guards, who chuckled slightly to themselves. "You think yer gonna be the nex' best fighter o' this arena?" one of the guards asked. Before Raikyyn caught himself he had replied, "A better fighter than you guardsman, at least."

The guards did not take well to Raikyyn's prodding.

"Oi, we outta throw in the cell for that, you cheeky son of-" the guard was cut off by his friend, "Now, now, let's take him to Ya'weh, and see what she says of 'im."

One guard, the brash one, stayed behind to fulfill his post, his reasonable friend led Raikyyn to another door, down several flights of stairs, and pointed him down a hallway. "There ye are, If Ya'weh's anywhere, it'll be there," the guard informed Raikyyn, who nodded in appreciation.

As Raikyyn entered the room, he noted a small handful of people training with the dummies, three of them completely destroyed, but no trainer. Well, I'm sure this Ya'weh is busy, the assassin thought. He approached one of the people training. "Excuse me, could you point me towards the blacksmith?" Raikyyn asked.

The slave turned around, and proceeded to eye Raikyyn greedily. "And who might ye be to 'ave business wit da smiddy?" he asked. "That's none of your concern, I just want to speak with him," Raikyyn replied, noticing a small group of four others approaching.

"Well, see 'ere mista, I don't right remember where he be. But ye look like someone with coin. Spare some my way, and it might jus' jog my mem'ry. Else, ye'll jus' be anodda kill in this 'ere arena," the slave chuckled, and his friends laughed with him.

"Say, you're a funny guy," Raikyyn began, "So how about a game?" The assassin undid his cloak and let it fall to the floor. He grasped a coin pouch on his belt, saying, "This is where I keep some of my coin. Your friends have already eyed some other places. If you manage to grab the pouch, you keep all the money inside. But when you grab, I hit you back. Wanna play?"

The slaves eyed Raikyyn for a moment.
The one in front made a grab.

Raikyyn finished putting his cloak back on, and left the training room, five slightly conscious, groaning slaves laying on the floor.

Down the hall past a few doors, hang a right, and it should be there. Funny how cooperative people can be with the right persuasion.

The setting changes from Universe of Skaerra to Colosseum of Opynonias

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A mere few moments ago, Huo was standing in the arena before a cheering crowd at the height of ecstasy. Then the giant arched double doors swung close, silencing the swell of voices and emptying the feeling. Only a hollow remained.

He dreamt a dream last night so vivid in its entirety that he could still recall certain bits of what he had seen even as he walked away from the fight. It seemed unlike other dreams where once his eyes flitted open, the visions disappeared as quickly as a feeling of elation.

It was no victory today, he knew. Dhaxi asked him to drag out that fight, he wanted the betting pools to grow larger. The Black Hammer never had a chance. It felt unfair, the match, the feigned tilt. Even if he had been with Dhaxi for awhile and knew how he ran his business, it never settled with him. Never did, and maybe never will.

-

He went into the armory, and unclasped the various buckles of his armor and began to stretch. His arms and legs felt sore underneath all of it. He could feel the Flow tingle throughout his body, but nowhere moreso than his right arm. It was bruised from when he shielded the hammer blow. It would have been a broken arm instead had he not used the Flow.

Had he ended it sooner, he might not have had any bruises. Dryness clawed his throat, he delivered his equipment to the weaponsmaster who would scrub it clean of any blood. The old man was inspecting a sword with a nearby guard.

"Duuthesh. Looks like one dun' it?"

"Looks like one o' 'em foppish pointy swords them nobles use in duels. Eh dint know those darkies used 'em."

"Mmm, belongs to that one 'er that just came. It be a damn fine sword eh?"

"Aye. Could help me cut down some fine tree branches."

They both cackled as Huo left.

-

He entered the cloakroom, observed the other fighters preparing for their bouts and shuffled over to a bowl decorated with black figures. Some of the other fighters nodded in his direction, a congratulatory sign. He cupped his hands in the bowl of water, splashed his face, then took a wool towel from one of the racks and began wiping off sweat and dirt.

He turned to an ewer of water set aside, and without thinking, he guzzled it dry, not caring whether any was left for the next fighter.

Then hunger set in.

-

With permission from their masters, fighters, the respectable ones at least, were let out of the cages to entertain what few dishes the colosseum chefs could make. Sinewy bodies packed the mess hall. Conversation clamored without halt along with the noises that accompanied meal ingestion.

The course of the day was gruel and hard boiled eggs. Huo sat alone, better to make no friends than to make fair weather ones. That was his code since his first day, anywhere. It took time for him to make friends, and that was not to say he did not have any.

There was Tumhathil.

A deep and gruff voice opened, "Good fight today, kid."

Huo looked up at the whiskers spouting from Tum's mouth and the mane that lined his solid jaw.

The Osu stared at the Felidin before returning to his food, then he grinned at the lion, "Are you expecting me to say 'thank you,' old man?"

Tum snarled, "Bah. You ungrateful punk. And I'm not that old."

Huo chuckled as Tum sat down on the other side. Tumhathil was about the only person Huo would ever joke with. Conversely the same could be said of Huo for Tum. They had a mutual understanding as warriors. Never had they ever had to face each other, and maybe that was good fortune. Friendships rarely lasted between gladiators, eventually they would be decided by the sword. Huo hoped that day never came for them.

The lion smacked his lips, "You seen Ya'weh today?"

"No," Huo's left cheek had a solid half an egg and a stuffing of gruel churning inside.

"Something troubles her," the Felidin played with his mane, picking at whatever little mites irritated him, but he was deeper in thought than anything.

Huo continued chewing as the lion spoke.

"It could be Zoni, you think those two are...?"

"Are...what?" Huo glanced at the lion, then he realized, "You know, for a Felidin you have one pretty damned si-"

"Fah," Tum dismissed him with a wave of his paw.

"What do you want me to do? Talk to her?"

"You? Talk to her? Bow before Oelne, that might make things worse."

Huo gave the lion a hard look, "So what then?"

The lion's amber eyes shifted to the Osu then back into empty space, "Something troubles you too, apparently."

Huo stared back at his almost empty bowl of gruel, "Bad dream last night."

"Dreams eh? Didn't know your kind had dreams."

"Watch it lion," a halfhearted threat as Huo wiped his mouth clean.

"I dreamt I was outside of a tavern that was marked by this creature, white in color, with the head of a woman, the body of a lion, and large wings like that of a bird."

Huo sat and wondered, while the lion was already on his feet, he stopped listening a long time ago. It was better that way, this was his dream not Tum's, and he knew Tum was no dreamreader to understand.

"Weird kind have weird dreams. Did you drink last night?"

"No?"

Huo could not determine its significance and would not attribute it to a bad drink, but Tum interrupted, "Come then, I'm thirsty. I'll buy you a drink. There's a place called 'The Luckless Maiden'."

"I need to speak with Dhaxi first on those things. He probably wants his handlers and one or two of Phrina's guards on me."

"Go ahead, I'll be waiting."

"And what about you? What's your master gonna say about this?"

"Bah," the lion beat his chest with a fist, "I'll take the heat for it later, though I'll doubt Kail will care. Who knows?"

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Huo found his master and Madame Phrina conversing just outside one of the gladiatorial barracks.

"Madame Phrina," a curt nod in her direction, "Tumhathil invited me for drinks at 'The Luckless Maiden'. Can I have permission to go?"

"Can you have permission? I didn't know you could. My, Phrina, look at how much of an upstart he's become now," Dhaxi glanced at Huo.

"You had a great showing today my darling," Phrina smiled at the Osu.

The young pugilist remained quiet as he stared down Dhaxi, waiting for his actual response.

"Ah, let him go Dhaxi, it's just a few drinks. I think he's earned it."

"Earned it?" Dhaxi chortled, rubbed his hands, and glared right through Huo.

"Go boy. I'll have people watching you, should you try something foolish."

As Huo turned to leave, the slavemaster called, "Ah ah, what are you supposed to say?"

The pugilist swiveled around, "Thank you master," before he continued on.

-

Dhaxi and Phrina neared one of the exits when a harsh voice roared from the other end of the corridor and diverted their attention.

“You blasted fool! What kind of a guard are you?”

It was Zilindar Kail, the gladiator trainer and owner known for his exceptional ruthlessness and brutality with his fighters. Many pegged the Sivyne as coldblooded, Phrina saw him as calculating and competent. He shared many similarities with her friend, though Dhaxi would deny it and try to set himself apart from Kail if the subject was ever broached. It could be that they were two sides to the same coin.

Kail had bad breath, but that never affected his management skills. He stood as much a contender in the colosseum business as any other, even Dhaxi.

Phrina still thought his temper could use some adjustment, and so could his hands. He had notoriety as a flirt, or rather womanizer. He was no gentlemen, and a few of the women of Opynonias could attest to that. He enjoyed groping, and often times Phrina had to remind him of their purely professional relationship. In addition, he was far from her type.

He went everywhere with his whip, it wasn’t just symbolic or for show. It was a weapon, his weapon of choice. Phrina knew he had skill with it. Once, a trio of other lanistas got together with Kail on one particular night to celebrate. They had much to drink and one of them had had doubts about Kail's reputed ability with the whip. One wager later and Phrina was witness to Kail whipping a flame clean off of its candle.

Kail’s methods were eccentric but effective, not that that made the life of any of his gladiators any more desirable. Many had tried to escape, but Kail always found them. He had a knack for finding ones that he knew could never escape, because as soon as they did they would fall back into their old habits and Kail would come and rescue them.

“It seems our friend is in some straits,” Phrina noted with a casual glance.

The corner of Dhaxi’s mouth held a brief smirk before it collapsed into a thin line. He strode over toward the Sivyne who continued berating one of the guards. Dhaxi appeared concerned for Kail’s distress, but only to glean from the brute of a man news regarding the thief he acquired through illegal means. Phrina followed in pace with a brief roll of her eyes, she had other things on her mind, her stomach for one, and the tax collectors. She observed that a problem was brewing, she didn’t need another problem.

“Good morning,” Dhaxi extended his hand.

Kail’s eyes were still bulging even after he turned his attention away from the guards.

“Morning,” their armshake was tentative at best.

Both men tried to hide a certain disdain for one another, but any woman could see through their thin veiled act of courtesy.

Kail turned to Phrina who smiled with a curt nod, “Morning Madame Phrina.”

“Something troubles you?” Dhaxi asked, gesturing to the guards who seemed close to pissing their pants.

Kail had a grin for everything, “Oh nothing,” his gaze fell on Phrina, “You know Mazha, you should really invest in better scumbags for colosseum guards.”

One of the guards interrupted, “You will address her as Madame Phr-“

“Is that so?” Phrina halted the guard with a palm, Kail addressing her by her first name unnerved her.

The Siyvne forced a sly smile, “Indeed, I was informed that a few gladiators were beaten before their bouts. No doubt by a trespasser.”

Phrina turned to one of the guards, “Is this true?”

The guard clenched his fist, “Yes, Madame. We found several fighters beaten but conscious afterward. We sent for the apothecaries as soon as word reached us.”

“And there was a trespasser?” Phrina questioned.

The other guard responded with hesitance, “One of the guards admitted a fellow who requested to become a…challenger.”

“And where is he now? What did he look like?”

“His whereabouts, we know not. I was told he was a Duuthesh, but no significant features to distinguish him from any other. The fighters may recognize him if we-“

“Forget it, if he wants to be a challenger, so be it. Those other fighters should know what they do for a living.”

“I should hope so,” Kail said.

Phrina dismissed the guards, “…Back to your posts.”

“Yes, Madame,” the guards bowed and left.

She glanced at Kail, not surprised that he was stirring up trouble.

If anything unsettled Phrina even more it was Kail's broad smile, “Hmm, that was some fine work Madame. I’m content that this little incident was not too much trouble for you.”

He departed with a laugh, “If I didn’t know better, Dhaxi, I’d say that you sent someone to tip the scales in your favor.”

Dhaxi scoffed, “I’d have sent someone to injure my fighters instead, just to make things fair. Such fraud is beneath me.”

The colosseum owner watched the Sivyne leave.

"Phrina. You know that I would never.."

"I know," Phrina pivoted toward the direction of the nearest exit, "Kail has his antics, I know that as well. I also know that you hired a new chef. I wonder if you know how fastidious I am when it comes to our people's cuisine. I hope this fellow of yours knows how to cook."

Dhaxi's lips crinkled with amusement, he followed after her.

The setting changes from Colosseum of Opynonias to Universe of Skaerra

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  1. Edited for grammar and new content, bottom of page. 1/30/16

    by Elrith Eldwind

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Caspian had not really given much thought to the possibility of his dream actually meaning anything. He'd only brought it up as a means of making polite conversation to this man whom he barely knew of let alone knew. So the surprise he experienced when not only did the man seem interested but he seemed near sheet white at the thought and froze with an emotion that Caspian couldn't place was nothing short of mind numbing. Blinking a few times Caspian attempted to keep up with the scholar who was now not only interested but was firing off round after round of strange questions as he hastily drew on a piece of parchment.

"Those objects... What do you remember about them?" the mage inquired, "Were they the heart of the Vormycere, water from the spring of Biel'Guria, and a leaf from Yparil, the Tree of Life?"

Caspian swallowed and shook his head with uncertainty, "I couldn't tell, to be honest I don't have a clue what you just said. I can't remember details like that from dreams, I only remember faces." he explained backing slightly away from the manic mage as he finished his drawing and held it up.

The picture the man had sketched was of a you elven woman whose soft features and shapely face were every familiar indeed. it was also not a bad likeness actually, a fair skill with the pen this mage had. "Did she look something like this?"

Caspian nodded vehemently as he agreed, "Yes, yes that's the woman form the dream. She's an elf I have never met, I'm sure of it but I can remember her face clear as day.... hey, wait; do you know her, Master Magus?" Caspian questioned having suddenly thought it odd this man should know of the girl he had seen in his dream.

***

Amon went back to his work as the mysterious fellow left back into the bowel of the Colosseum. Scratching his head at the thought of the odd types this place attracted he looked up as the trumpets sounded again, marking the entrance of a new batch of fighters into the belly of the beast. He was interested in only one of the matches that was to take place later that evening, a feeling shared by many apparently as the stands stood a little emptier with the end of the Lion's bout. Most were either heading to work or off to get a bite to eat before they would returning in a few hours. The day was full of exhibition matches to be had but that evening was going to be a show; a challenger had stepped forth and called out the champ.

There was this big man with an ax that had managed to win himself the required fights to have his shot, and he'd taken it. Head-Splitter was the name he went by, if memory served, not original but it was accurate, and the crowd was rather attached to his overly brutal fighting style. Now he'd managed to get himself through to finally make a challenge. Other fighters had done so too, but many forwent their championship bout and instead took a prize pot to live better in the pens or maybe even buy their freedom. Still every now and then someone like this Splitter brute would make it through on dumb luck or rigged fights and would call out the reigning champ. The mroe skilled and smarter fighters knew better, or were told so because of their value.

His ring-side name was Caliburn, but the crowd had taken to calling him the Dragoneater when a promoter had placed him against a guy calling himself the Dragon of the East and the fight ended in the first round. Be'd been champ for almost 4 years now, and only appeared when challenged. If memory serves, this here would be his first fight in near three weeks. The turn out that evening was going to be huge, and the guards would have there hands full. Amon smirked to himself as he nudged a large crate with his foot. When the cats are away he thought.

Fights like this one took the entire staffs' attention so Amon often took the opportunity to bring some goodies to the fighters and slaves below; sweet meats, wines, and the like. He'd gotten a rather large stash for this fight because he wouldn't be watching any of it. After all, he and all the old hands already knew the outcome without even having to think. This Head-Splitter was quick on his feet, wore full armor, had good form and was a fan favorite... he didn't stand a lick of a chance.

"Now the Lion and the Dragoneater, now tha'd be a fight te see!" the old blacksmith remarked to himself.

Standing tall and wiping his dirty hands on his apron the old hand turned and headed back into the barracks. He had that fool apprentice to find, but he knew where to look.

The setting changes from Universe of Skaerra to Colosseum of Opynonias

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Huo returned to the mess hall, then left bare save a few fighters. It seemed the lion had wandered off into the labyrinthine underbelly of the colosseum.

Opynonias belonged to the second tier of colosseums, an unofficial and arbitrary classification bestowed by colosseum goers. It was up there, though, with the likes of Carelle and Turserta. The second tier was the penultimate tier before the first tier colosseums, and only one was granted that distinction, the Colosseum of Aetumnas.

However, many knew that in order to fight in Aetumnas they had to first succeed in Madame Phrina's pits.

Opynonias had seven pits, of which a fight always occupied one. On a slow day, the fighters used two other pits for training. On this day, when talk swirled in the air of an open challenge to the reigning colosseum champion, all the pits were open for "exhibition fights."

Great fighters came from the surrounding provinces to test their mettle in exhibitions. Few could lay claim to that greatness. Perhaps the greatness lay with their managers' ability to weave tales convincing anyone, be it commonfolk or noble, to attend the spectacle.

Caliburn, though, could. His claim lay in that he bested any fighter who tested him and every fighter in the colosseum of Opynonias. Every fighter in the colosseum had fought and lost to Caliburn at least once. Even the Osu pugilist.

He held his own for the early part of the match, but he knew Caliburn had held back. He was a kid then. When he stared down Caliburn's sword, he exhaled a single breath in nonchalance because he ached too much to continue further. He had no fear of dying, numbed of fear, numbed of pain, numbed of reason. Numbed of hope for anything more to his life than the grains of sand that he dug his nails into as he laid there until nobody remained in the colosseum except for Dhaxi.

His master whipped him that day. He remembered that day, it was the day that he realized he had nothing more to lose except his life. To lose his life, he then realized, would be a waste. He resolved that to forge on remembering Caliburn's sword as having given him a second chance, one of many second chances.

Caliburn was probably the only other fighter who spared the lives of defeated opponents. His skill and popularity helped the audience overlook that, and his manager never had much of a say in the matter. He had bought himself out of this work long ago, now fighting voluntarily because that was the only thing he knew. Huo could only hope as much for himself.

Huo wandered through the eastern barracks, Zilindar Kail's ward neared the next corridor. The Osu overheard voices from within as he watched the shadows on the wall.

"Ale? You think one win today gives you the right to go out?"

It was mainly one voice, no doubt berating someone else. It was a voice Huo had heard all too often, it belonged to a harsh Sivyne slavemaster. One who's presence anywhere in Opynonias could not be missed. The Osu listened on.

"Who are you drinking with? You're right, you're right, you're right, it's none of my business."

The bigger shadow stayed silent, it seemed less of a conversation than a speech.

"It becomes my business when your drunken ass can't even hold a sword straight with your good hand."

A pause.

"Let me make it clear to you that you have no friends here. They are all competitors."

Another pause.

"Go! Stinking beast. If your next opponent doesn't die of your sword, he'll die of your stench."

The bigger shadow lumbered toward the end of the hall.

The voice called after, "Be back in time for the Dragoneater's bout. I want you taking notes for when your time comes."

A chuckle from the same voice followed.

Huo slipped back into the corner he came from and waited a few seconds before reentering the same corridor.

He spotted Tumhathil walking down, who for the briefest of moments looked nothing like the ferocious lion he was known as in the pits.

That moment flickered when the lion exchanged a glance, "What'd your master say?"

Huo flicked a thumb at himself with pride, "Dhaxi gave me the okay. You?"

"Eh, he doesn't bother much," Tumhathil lied.

"Alright old man, let's see how many pints you can take," Huo smirked like a man who knew his ale.

"Hah! Look to yourself kid, you'll be under the table by the end of your first one."

The setting changes from Colosseum of Opynonias to Sirine Hill

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Madame Phrina leaned over the balustrades of a balcony overlooking a waterway that ran around the sides of an inner courtyard until they reached piscinas that were flanked by shrubbery. A few attendants trimmed some of the hedges and she watched them at work.

She sipped her rosewater in peace and listened to the songbirds chirping. She had not noticed that her host observed her in the same manner she observed his home. Dhaxi's villa lay nestled in a more quiet part of the city, the district of Sirine Hill.

When she she turned to and saw him, she laughed, and he laughed. They were friends, lovers once, but just friends now. Every so often he had tried to court her since they ended that part of their relations, with varying degrees of success.

Maybe it was her, she never felt ready to settle. Never felt stable enough to settle. The air between them never felt stale or uncomfortable because of it. She watched him as he signaled his servants. She admired his authority from a distance.

It oppressed her when they use to walk the streets together hand in hand. That was many years ago, though, when love was innocent. She knew he had changed, but in many ways he had not. She knew the same of herself.

Dhaxi gestured with an open palm toward the table that had been decorated for them, "Sit, Mazha."

A train of Dhaxi's servants flowed into chamber at a steady beat like the water that ran in his home's fountains.

The first servant entered with his arm serving as a rack for cloth napkins, of which he took two and handed them to Dhaxi and Phrina.

A second servant uncovered his tray and slid two full plates before them. Shahan ful consisted slow cooked fava beans and an ensemble of chopped green onions, diced tomatoes, cheese, yogurt, olive oil, and legumes. The dish's origins lay in Syakh, where the natives often ate it with their hands. Phrina and Dhaxi were both D'homani, this dish reminded them of home, but only when it was properly crafted.

A third servant delivered a communal bread basket made of yucca to be shared by the two of them.

A fourth servant delivered two chalices of bright pulpy pineapple juice, no doubt fresh squeezed. The drink coupled well with the savory elements of the dish.

Phrina eyed all of his servants, "Living comfortably aren't we?"

"Most thanks to you," Dhaxi nodded curtly.

A fourth servant came with a black figure ewer of rosewater and refilled both of their cups. When he left, Dhaxi and Phrina toasted, split their bread, and went about their meal.

Phrina asked first "What is it you wanted to discuss?"

She noticed the imperceptible smile adorning Dhaxi's face as she tasted the ripe baby tomatoes and legumes. She always went straight to business even over lunch.

The setting changes from Sirine Hill to Marketplace of Opynonias

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Peira crossed the sky at a gait, her light bright, her fire only warm. The day seemed nicer than usual, a nicer day to get drunk than usual.

The aromas of freshly baked bread wafted in the air and they tempted his Huo's nose and tongue. Above his head in the city streets, the clotheslines formed an intricate web. The fabrics crisscrossed into an amalgamation of oranges, blues, and reds, that fluttered and flapped at every gentle push of the wind. The Osu turned to see the lion creep along the fruit stands. Several elements of the market crowd eyed him with curiosity, for he was, after all, a celebrity.

However, Huo knew they watched Tum because of what they had seen him do in the colosseum. An unattended fighter meant trouble. An unattended lion could mean danger. Out of the corners of his eyes, several town guardsmen slipped into positions around them. Dhaxi's hired hands joined the guardsmen in shadowing them.

He watched the lion when he reached a rack of lemons, fresh lemons that he felt would do the trick.

"How much?" Tum asked a hapless vendor with a sharp claw pointed at the bunch.

The vendor's mouth fell wide as he gawked at the Felidin, "You're you're Tumha..."

Tumhathil interrupted with an eye roll, weary of meeting another admirer, "Yeah, yeah, I asked 'how much?'"

The vendor licked his lip and snapped out of his brief trance state, "Uh...two for one."

Tumhathil grabbed four of the lemons, took out his pouch and fumbled inside for the coins. They clinked when he dropped them into the vendor's hand.

The vendor blinked once, twice, looked at Tum as he receded into the crowd, and then back down at his palm, "Wait! Wait!"

Huo smirked and shook his head at what he had seen and raced to catch up to the lion.

The Osu stared at the lemons with a cocked brow and piqued curiosity, "What are those for..?"

Tum flared a grin at the Osu, "It's something I picked up from the Sivyne, you'll see what I mean."

The lion inspected his lemons like a cat would with a ball of yarn.

"I think he meant two coppers for each one."

"Nah, I don't think so," he dismissed with a snort.

As the Felidin continued on, Huo stopped as he watched before him the bustle of the city market. He felt alive in a crowd as much as before a crowd, at least on this day. He watched the throng of people move about. Rather than try to weave his way through the dense life that packed the streets, he decided to walk through the mire until it ingested him whole and he became faceless like them. A chance to escape, he thought. Where could he go?

Then he spotted a familiar head in the distance. Golden locks of hair, the pointed ears. She appeared to be an elf, a Sindrelei. Dhaxi once helped him distinguish between the various elf folk.

He blinked, she reminded him of his dream. His eyes narrowed and he glanced back at the face, which turned around and faded. He blinked twice only to see a haze of faceless faces filling the gap.

"Kid!"

Huo turned to see Tumhathil waving him in another direction.

"This way," the lion disappeared through the crowd.

Huo gazed back at the spot where he had seen the face, nothing had changed. He went after the lion once more, still questioning in his mind what he thought he saw.

The setting changes from Marketplace of Opynonias to Sirine Hill

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Dhaxi put down his piece of bread first and wiped his mouth of crumbs with the napkin. Beyond the chirping birds, he could hear the subdued voices of the city beyond the walls of his home.

Phrina noticed her companion had paused, her expression softened, "Something troubles you."

She waited for a response, but knowing Dhaxi, he would not reply with frankness about such feelings. He had always been contained when it came to his emotions and anxieties.

"It is about the boy, is it not?"

Dhaxi inhaled deep and exhaled, "Yes, he is a great fighter. One of the best I have had in years."

"And what of Gythos, Balphon?"

"The boy is as skilled as they are, but he lacks what they have. Submission. Every now and then he defies me, never in the open, but I sense the discontentment boiling beneath."

"Ah, his independent streak..." Phrina scooped some of the onions and yogurt into her mouth.

"The boy's stubbornness confounds me, Mazha. At every moment that I try to instill into him the notion that he will NEVER leave the arenas, he..." Dhaxi paused.

Phrina chuckled before she took a bite of the tomatoes that had soaked in olive oil.

"I don't understand. He has been a slave longer than he has been a freeman. And yet..."

Phrina swallowed her last bite, "Perhaps it is the will of Oelne."

Dhaxi dismissed the notion with a wave, "Mazha you can't possibly expect me to buy that."

"No, you never buy anything I sell, I've come to expect that."

"Mazha..."

"I don't own gladiators, so I know not of your struggles."

"You jest, Mazha. Owning gladiators is like owning any other servant, except their duty is to fight," as Dhaxi said this another servant took the emptied basket of bread and replaced it with one full of piping hot buns of rich brown that were soft to the touch.

Phrina took a bun as soon as the servant left, "What do you want me to do?"

Dhaxi leaned in, "I want you to set him up for a fight with one of Kail's fighters."

Phrina stopped, her eyes beamed quizzical in his direction.

The slavemaster whispered, "The lion perhaps. They've grown too fond for my comfort."

Then she cleared her throat and said, "The boy is not ready for him, but mayhaps the Tlamani girl would suffice? She shouldn't be too much trouble for him?"

"Very well, can you draw it up for tomorrow?"

Phrina wiped her mouth and stood up, "I can make arrangements. Lunch was pleasant, a bit too mild for my tastes."

"A better one can still be found Dhaxi," she smiled, gave a polite curtsy that signaled her departure and she left through the hanging beads.

The setting changes from Sirine Hill to Marketplace of Opynonias

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People hailed the "Luckless Maiden" as one of the best taverns in all of Opynonias, which did not say much to its quality. If it was considered one of the best taverns in Opynonias, then it was judged based on the amicable dispositions of its tavern keepers, in particular a certain Hans Holst.

He conversed with a woman shrouded in a cloak to remain hidden, for fear that her quest might be sidetracked by those of more ill intent.

"I think I might know a gal. She's a formidable fighter, decent at least. She's a Tlamani from Kes, one of your people?"

"Not quite," the woman exhaled, "Might I know of her?"

"Well I..." Hans paused as his mind traced back to the night he met the drunkard of Kes, "You know, I'm not sure. She might have some notoriety, but..." he chuckled as he trailed off.

"Well I want to thank you for your services."

"I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help," Hans said as he wiped an empty mug and placed it on the rack behind him.

The stranger smiled and issued forth a couple of silvers and departed.

Huo and Tum came in after she had left. The Osu swung around, he could have sworn she looked familiar. He struggled to remember their face, but he shrugged, maybe he was seeing things.

"Two mugs of your finest mead!" two fingers hoisted up in the air in front of the sociable tavern keeper.

Hans Holst smiled because he had never seen those fingers before. Though, he could guess whom they belonged to. Not many Felidin saw the streets of Opynonias except for one in particular.

"Coming right up sir!"

Huo and Tum seated themselves at a table in the middle of the dimly lit tavern, where a few peep holes permitted some sunlight in. They sat in the middle of all the goings on in the tavern. If any fights started, they had front row seats.

Moments later Hans stepped by with his tray of mugs and slid them over to the two fighters who sat with patience.

Huo nodded, "Thanks."

"So what brings both you good sirs to our lovely establishment this fine day?"

Huo propped up his pair of feet on the table and took his mug, "We heard this place had some fine drinks."

Tum tossed Huo a lemon, gestured to him to squeeze it into his mug, then he turned to the tavern keeper.

The lion leaned forward, smiling with his teeth and fangs proud and obvious, "And some luckless maidens..."

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Huo and Tumhathil stared at each other for what seemed to be eternity. Out of the corner of his eye, Huo watched Tum's claw tap without cessation against the table, as if counting time.

"Ya drunk yet boy?" The lion tried to rile him.

Huo's eyes narrowed. Then the two both shook and heaved as laughter erupted between them, Huo almost fell out of his seat.

-

Eight pints later and Huo found himself blinking more often than usual while. He was unsure how long they had been there.

"Goin' ta drain the junior," the lion staggered from his seat and out the door.

Huo stifled a belch but caught wind of a conversation between other patrons in a darker corner of the tavern. He shifted to hear better.

"A've ben ta Noro. Eh rec'mend Fencer's. Blight aven't rough'nd the citrus fields. Bartenders won't speak, but me wits say they be saltin' the grog with sea salt."

Huo's eyes reached a dwarf who's mouth did not understand what staying shut meant except when he needed to use his oaken pipe. Their eyes exchanged gazes for but a brief moment before dwarf returned to his audience.

The dwarf puffed from his pipe, "A dwarf knows his brews. But thar be a place 'at served me the finest wine and ale ah've 'ad, this be swinepiss compar'd ta 'at."

Huo scooted his stool closer. The dwarf had the other patrons enraptured by his words. He had a gift of the tongue.

"Called the White Sphinx, a beast of wilds, of legends. Bearing the head of a woman, the body of a lion, with the wings of a bird."

Huo's ears perked. White sphinx? The image seemed familiar. The pints started to have their effect as he found it harder to concentrate. He shook his head to clear the grogginess, but he cursed when he couldn't.

"In the city of Khi'ir. It lies across the sea beyond, what ye call the Meroan."

Across the sea, how in gods am I going to get there? Huo let his head hang back as he pondered. Something told him he needed to leave, but how and why? What would he leave behind, Dhaxi, Tum? Then again, who were they to him? Tum was the closest Huo had to a friend, but that was...

The tavern door swung wide with a gentle creak, several Imperial soldiers walked through the doorway, their armor spotless. They strolled in as though they owned the place.

The lieutenant, denoted by his well decorated chestplate and his ranking insignia sewn on his tabard, whistled, "Barkeep, a couple of pints for me and the boys."

They settled themselves next to Huo, one of them glared straight at him and snorted, "What are ye lookin' at ye slant eye?"

Huo snorted in derision and turned away.

He overheard the soldier say to his comrades, "Bloody bored to hell already in this shitehole. No women, only plenty of old men," the others chuckled.

Tum returned from the outside and stumbled to their table, but he fell against one of the soldiers and spilled the man's drink

The soldier cried, "Oy ye stinky, feckless.."

Huo watched the confrontation, he knew Tum was drunk, and he knew Tum didn't know he himself was drunk. Messing with the soldiers was trouble.

"Pipe down ya squeak," Tum fingered his ear, trying to grind out earwax that he could flick into the disgruntled soldier's face or his drink.

"Look at me boy, who de ye think ye are," the soldier's voice grinded down to a whisper.

The rest of his squad had their hands on their swords.

Tum sat down at the table and burped and slurred, "I'd rip you in half, 'boy.'"

The soldier threw a punch, Huo was there to intercept, "He's drunk, let it go."

He and the soldier locked glances once again as they had earlier. All eyes fell on them, Hans swallowed. The dwarf took a puff from his pipe. The torchfires seemed to burn brighter in that dark tavern in that moment.

Huo felt as though his jaw had loosened, he blinked and wiped his mouth. Blood. He staggered back.

You son of a...

Huo swung around and uppercut the soldier, who flew back and as he landed, his weight cracked the soldiers' table in half down the middle. His head felt light, but not so light as to forget to avoid the next fist. All of it became a haze.

His comrades screamed, Huo jabbed at several of them, the whole tavern entered a frenzy of fists and punches. Teeth flew, drinks spilled.

A random fist almost caught Huo in the eye had it not been for a timely weave, and then he countered with a crushing hook that was enough to force a grunt.

Then the fighting stopped and everyone fell deathly silent as the tavern door had swung open. An Imperial army captain strode into the tavern, Huo could see more of the iron clad soldiers follow in after, reinforcements. He felt lucky that his hand gripped the collar of another man who was not the man he had punched into the air. The Osu watched the older soldier inspect the havoc that had been wrought.

"What is the matter here?"

The soldier that Huo had punched and started the entire fight, stumbled to his feet, his eyes wandering about until he caught Huo's eyes.

"'At one! He started it! Bastidge spilled me drink and punched me!"

That was not true, Tum spilled the drink and...

"Oy ye stinkin' clay-brained fob!" he began to draw his sword.

"Stay your blade," Markath bade the soldier, he glanced at Huo, head cocked to the side.

"What's your name boy?"

Huo glared at the lying soldier, but he remained silent in the face of the captain. Normally, Dhaxi was the one to do the talking. He spoke better with his fists, but sometimes that kind of language may be considered foul. He tempered his breathing, his heart raced. Tum was fast asleep, he could not expect any aid from him.

Silence pervaded the air.

"I said, what's your name, boy," the old captain's voice deepened.

Huo began to open his mouth, which had burned from the first punch thrown, but another voice rang and interrupted.

"Oy swabbie! Feck are ye doin' 'ere? Get back to the ship yet louse!" Huo felt as though it was addressing him.

The Osu swung around, it was the dwarf. Pipe in mouth, his face stern and the lines on his forehead had become marked. Huo stared at him, confused.

"Is this one of your men?" the captain pointed at Huo.

The dwarf chuckled, "Ha, yes m'lord, he be a shiphand o' th' Flyin' Dwarf, Eiraendar be th' name, and I be her skipper," he turned and surveyed the broken tables and the spilt ale.

"Aye, drinks make men wild don't they?" he pointed his pipe at the aching belligerents, then he turned to Huo, "Go on boy, ye came fer a drink right? Oy Hans!"

"Yes sir!" the barkeep, unfazed by the brutal scuffle, "A pint yes? Coming right up..."

Huo looked at the dwarf who scowled at him, "Go on then!"

He walked over to the main counter as Hans turned the nozzle on a barrel and allowed the red drink to pour into a wooden mug.

The Captain seemed content with that, uninterested with drawing too deep into that matter.

He turned to one of the soldiers, the head of the small group that came first, "Lieutenant Gabeil, I want a word with you after you've told your men to pick themselves off the ground, yes?"

"Uh, yes sire."

With that, the Captain left, and the fresh soldiers that flanked him departed after. Huo remained seated with his back turned toward them, the hairs on his neck stood stiff. His breathing fell into place at last. The dwarf finally came and took a seat next to him. The other patrons began to reorient themselves to what they were doing before the fight.

"What did you do that for?" the Osu asked.

"Because ye looked at me funny when I was tellin' me stories."

After a moment of staring at the mug he was supposed to drink, "Is it true?"

Eiraendar perked.

"The place across the sea..." Huo was surprised he could even think, he was supposed to be drunk, but he supposed that the fight woke him a bit.

"Aye, all of it. Lemme guess, ye want to see it eh? I don't charge lightly. Thirty silvers."

Huo craned his neck, "Thirty silvers?"

The dwarf said, "What? Ye don't got it? Too bad then, me ship's a beaut."

Huo exhaled and said nothing.

Eiraendar looked at him, "Tell ye what, we can work out an arrangement, ye look like a fighter by the way ye 'andled 'at soldier. How's aboot I let ye aboard me ship and we take a slight excursion before we get to Khi'ir eh? I'm in the mind to search for a bit trouble that ye could assist in dealing with."

Eiraendar pulled out a purse and sifted through and dropped several coins, "Barkeep, hope this be a bit of help for the damages."

"It'll do."

The dwarf ship captain turned to Huo as he left, "Ship leaves tomorrow, let me know eh?"

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#, as written by Tyce
Zoni smiled and nodded at the guard who had another female that he favored. She then excused herself from the guard. She stood a few steps back waiting for Ya'weh and the other guard and sighed a breath of relief. She pushed some of her hair back behind her ear. What was she doing? She did trust Ya with her life, but this was beginning to be quite unnerving. What if he HAD wanted his way with her. She wasn't even upset that he didn't, something that normally would have bothered a just-short-of-beautiful girl like her. She waited patiently. Eventually the guard, looking a little flustered, came out of the chamber. He and the other guard had a brief exchange. Ya'weh came out and spotted Zoni.

"Ya'weh, we need to talk." Zoni spoke sternly. Ya'weh stared back at her. She hadn't seen this side of Zoni before.
"Ya'weh, you nearly put me in a dangerous situation. I was almost compromised. I am aware you didn't think he would follow through, but I am not some ugly slave. Men can be easily tempted and what if he was? That would have rode on your conscious."

Ya'weh's eyes softened. She drooped her head slightly, something only those close to her would even notice. Zoni watched as the wheels clicked.
"Zoni, you are right. I ask forgiveness for what I have done. This dream I've had and finding out others have had it." She dropped her voice, whether magically or not Zoni wasn't concerned. "We are planning an escape. We have been shown the way. We have a mission and we must accomplish it. I know that I have been completely out of character. Even I am angry. I've been sneaky, manipulative and calculating. We will leave tonight. Would you come with us? Please consider..." She looked deeply into Zoni's eyes.

Zoni stared at her for a moment.

"NOOOOOOO! My baby!" a woman screamed in the distance.
Zoni was groggy and her vision was slightly blurry. Side effect of her talents she was all too familiar with. She stood up slowly and braced herself against a tree. Four heavily armed guards were at her feet.
'Guess I timed that one right,' she thought. She turned just as an arrow sliced her cheek.
"Ow." She shuddered. The arrow barely touched her but it bit. She looked over and saw two guards coming up on her. The female had fire around her blade. The markswoman had another arrow drawn and aimed. Zoni concentrated. She screamed and blasted at the male guard like a cannon. Her shoulder nailed him in the chest and he flew back five feet. She bounced her energy at the woman swinging the sword. It made contact with her leather armor and she felt blood trickling on her leg. The woman twisted four times sideways in the air after impact and landed lifeless on the ground. As she neared the markswoman the pain from her cheek and leg increased ten fold and she lost momentum. She fell right into the woman's arms. She was grabbed by the hair and dragged out of the wooded area. Then she lost consciousness.


"Zoni?" Ya'weh asked quizzically. "Where did you just go?"
"Don't worry about it," she muttered in response. She turned and noticed a maiden, probably from a local bar, standing near them. The woman was not familiar to Zoni but Ya'weh and her nodded. She felt Ya'weh's magic around her. Most likely to keep the sound in.
"A message for you," she whispered faintly, unnecessarily. "A message from Caliburn. His left arm." Then she turned and took off down the halls.

Zoni turned back to Ya'weh. "What did she say?" Ya'weh asked.
Zoni just pointed at her left arm, obviously confused. Ya'weh looked at her. "Follow me," she said. Zoni obliged and followed her down a few halls and into a room known for its postings. Ya'weh scanned the board quickly and pointed out Zoni's name. Zoni nearly started crying. She had only had one fight, and while she hadn't revealed her abilities, it was stressful knowing either she dies, or her opponent does.
"Worry not, we can get straight to training. You will make it through. You must. We need you for our travels. Death has shown me. I know many of his moves and of his 'big bad man' fighting style. We must get to work."
Zoni nodded weakly and they walked towards the training area.

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Huo sat in the alley behind the Luckless Maiden and watched the moon, bright and shining. The stars in the sky, they seemed aligned. The stars made up the great constellations who were each once great heroes. Ya'weh, the colosseum's master at arms often spoke about the "heroes" of old. There was Aquila the Eagle, Sagittarius the Centaur, Taurus the Bull, and so on bearing their brilliance in the night sky. Huo never bought into it much, but if there was anything ever worth believing in, maybe it was them.

"I have to go. I need to go. Something is telling me that I have to go."

The impassioned plea was met with a blank face freshly awoken from an ale induced slumber.

"Kid, you're drunk."

"I am not drunk."

"Where are ya gonna go? Across the sea? You don't even know what the sea looks like."

Huo met the lion's blank face with a blank stare. He never thought of that.

The lion didn't understand, and Huo saw that. He needed to hatch an escape plan, and having Tum on his side would prove useful. The lion possessed considerable fighting skills, and if he needed anybody in a dire hour to help him fight off guards it would be the lion.

Huo was no mastermind of the faculty of thought. His talent was in the battlefield, if he could punch his way out, he would do that. He was no servant, and he wore his emotions on his sleeve very clear to anyone who dared look upon him. It served him well when he needed the anger to drive home his purpose, but worked against him when he needed to deal with prudence.

How could he convince the lion? Was it even possible to convince him? Did he need convincing? In the end, Huo resolved that whether or not the lion was convinced, he himself was convinced. That was all that mattered. Whatever it was that may have been calling to him, he could hear its echoes resounding ever stronger now. The dream that he had began to take shape more vividly.

Punch his way out...the thought lingered in his head, it was a possibility. No, if Tum decided to stay, then he would have to find another method, devise a real plan. He would have to find others who would go with him. He had heard of fighters making an escape. Every now and then a familiar face would vanish, and whatever happened to them beyond the walls of the colosseum, beyond the city of Opynonias, no one knew. There fate was in their own hands. He could run now, while he was still free in the city. He could not, however, because of Dhaxi's handlers shadowing him.

Huo exhaled a sigh, "Maybe I am."

He pretended to rub his forehead, "But I still managed to drink you under the table."

"Hah!" the lion bellowed, "You call that drinking me under the table? I was watching you fight those Imperials off for me. You got guts kid, but you still lack form."

Huo glanced quizzically at him for a moment before he propped up a smile, "Form? Yeah you, on the other hand, sleeping there? That was the best form I've seen out of you in awhile."

The Osu looked up at the moon again, perhaps his last time from Opynonias. Enough of the moon, it was time to see the sea.

Then he turned to the lion, "We better go, the title bout is starting soon if it hasn't started already."

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Huo careened against one of the walls in a dark passageway of the colosseum. He held part of Tumhathil's weight as the ale finally made the fool of a lion.

The lion may have said something, but Huo rolled his eyes as though the words meant nothing other than gibberish. In fact, the lion spout nothing but gibberish the entire walk back, first when he started to stumble and then when he collasped just as a wagon rumbled by. They passed by several insulas before they reached the braziers of the Colosseum. When they arrived, Huo noticed Imperial soldiers cordoning off an entrance.

They slipped through another smaller entry, less crowded and not quite known to many.

"Alright old man, easy there," Huo tried to control their pace.

Carrying the lion seemed like a two person job. Kail's ward seemed so far away, or maybe Huo finally felt the effects of the ale himself.

When they reached the cells, Huo could smell a musk odor from within. Darkness shrouded the ward, dankness filled it. It needed more torches, as did any of the other gladiator cells. A single brazier lit the empty and quiet cell block. Most of the fighters slept, preparing for tomorrow. The flames glinted off the rusted metalwork bars.

He heard the dulled echoes of the colosseum crowd. The sound of a leak dripping without cessation pervaded moreso in this corner of the gargantuan labyrinth, though. He watched as it formed a small gloomy puddle in a pointless corner of the ward. The water came from the floor above perhaps from one of the baths. The ceiling tiles needed some repairs, otherwise this floor might end up flooded eventually.

Huo set the lion down against a wall outside of a cell, he peered in to see an elf woman sleeping inside through the commotion. She seemed to be dreaming. Even slaves dreamt. Huo sat himself down on the opposite wall and heaved several quiet sighs until his heart settled. He kept his voice low as he spoke to the lion, unsure if Tum still resided in a state of drunkeness.

"I need to go. I...I just..," he never had eloquence, "I can't get those visions out of my head. That woman, I saw her nearly everywhere today, I might have seen her when we came to that tavern."

The lion murmured, half snored, and then spoke, "Who? Go? Where you going? Bring back some jerky for me."

"I don't think where I'm going will have jerky."

"I remember a place full of sand as far as the eye could see..." the lion cleared his throat, Huo considered whether or not he was drunk.

The Osu looked at his hand and he could feel it burning. He drew some of the flame from the nearby brazier until the ember danced in his hand on its own, fueled by the flow or else it would die. His face glowed bronze as it flickered.

"Where do you think you're going? This is the life for people like us boy. The only way out is to fight your way out," the lion chuckled.

Huo dispersed of the flame and looked at the lion who sat there with eyes shut.

"I don't even remember what my mother's face looks like," Tum said.

Huo considered the lion's words for a moment. He watched the lion exhale. An echo of voices came along the corridor. Was that Zilindar Kail? Sounded like him. Shit.

I need to get out of here, Huo thought. He got up, but stumbled. Damn that ale. He shook his head to clear the drowsiness. Time to leave, he looked back at the lion. It might not be the last time he would ever see the lion. Or it was. Ale was not a bad way to say goodbye to a friend.

-

"Where is the boy?" Dhaxi asked one of his servants.

He sat in his personal balcony overlooking the stands below. Normally, all fights happened early in the day, but this was a special occasion.

"We followed them as far as we could into the city. They arrived at the tavern and apparently, one of them got into a fist fight with some Imperial soldiers."

"Is that why they are outside? Because the boy committed a crime?"

"He didn't commit any crime, milord."

"Assault on an imperial soldier, may as well be one."

The servant remained silent, waiting for an approaching order.

Dhaxi spoke in uncharacteristic fashion, "Let him go, he won't get far, he just needs to stay away long enough for the heat to die down. I want someone on him, preferably someone skilled who can bring him back when the time comes. Can you find one?"

"I think I can."

-

Moments later, Huo stood in the near empty armory. Almost all of the staff went off to enjoy the final fight. It had not even started, and the crowd seemed in a frenzy. Just the appearance of the so-called Dragoneater could make a man piss his pants silly. The name came from a one sided bout. An old bushy browed weaponsmaster, the same one he had delivered his equipment to in the morning, appeared from the interior.

"You have it?"

"Yeh lad, what d'ye need it fer this hour o' the night?" the weaponsmaster handed him his gauntlets, iron cuirass, and boots, "I can't give ye yer weapons, madame's policy."

Huo began strapping on his equipment and nodded to the old man, "I understand."

"Yer nut set to fight tonight. Th' last one's 'bout teh start. Ye gwan..."

Huo had already disappeared down the corridor.

-

"We are in the middle of a fight. Can this not wait until all have left?" Phrina pleaded with the Lieutenant Farnham.

"Sire," one of Farnham's corporals spoke, "This colosseum is too large for all of us to search before night's end."

"We only need to find dark elves," Farnham turned to Phrina,"On the contrary, madame, when this place becomes choked with the crowds, we may have an even harder time identifying this thief."

Phrina folded her arms, unsure of what to do next. She felt grateful that they had not asked her about her taxes, they were not tax collectors. Thank goodness. Yet, having all of this steel clanging in the halls outside made her uneasy.

"Wait, there was incident earlier today of a Duuthesh having beaten down a number of gladiators," she tried to connect the dots to make it somewhat believable to herself, "It's possible that he came to break the girl out."

"This happened earlier today? And then what? Where is he?"

Phrina paused before she propped up an excuse, "Well, at first we thought he was merely an independent, upstart challenger seeking to prove himself, so we let him be."

The lieutenant crossed his arms, "So you let him go."

The colosseum owner breathed a sigh through her nostrils that spoke it all.

Lieutenant Gabeil and his men arrived.

"Gabeil. I need you to round up any Duuthesh present in the Colosseum. And where the hell is Miss Capet?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Huo Character Portrait: Danairia Feyn Character Portrait: Vadania Moonwhisper Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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As if a shadow herself, Vadania seemingly skipped through the darkness; a quick stone, gliding across the surface of the pond, leaving only ripples in the surroundings of where she had previously been, only to already be gone by the time anyone would have noticed any kind of movement. It was far too quiet to be normal. She has yet to see even one presence of a guard detail or any other opposition and she was already seeing indications that the 'chow hall' was nearby. How peculiar it was.
As if to prove her wrong, fate would have it that two guards could be heard rounding the nearby corner. Perking up at the jingle of chains, Vadania dives behind a crate, hiding in it's shadow, despite the fact that it holds nearly the same level of illumination as her surroundings with the twilight-nearing sky providing much less light than but an hour prior. Cursing the effect dark vision has on her abilities to sneak around people at night, the thief quietly thought jealously about those fortunate enough to have the ability to manipulate shadow through magic to suit their needs, for it would certainly be a useful trick to conceal herself further. Instead, she prepared herself. If she were to be discovered, there was no way she was going to go back to that cell. Not a chance in Hell.

"Hurry up, y'snail. 'e figh's a'ready sta'ted! Can't y' hear tha'?" One of the guards badgered the other as they passed by. The two men rounded another corner before hurrying their way up a flight of stairs. They seemed far too interested to have come even close to glancing down to their left and seeing Vadania prepared to fight for her freedom.
Vadania sighs.

That's right...some of the meat in the rest of that asshole's cell block were talking about some big fight going on. That must be where everyone is.

The Duuthesh peaks from around the crate and begins to move once more.
That should make this much easier. Cannot be too careful but at least I can expect the welcome fact that there is less chance of being spotted.
It only had been but a short moment before Vadania reached the hall. Not more than a few mess slave workers were left there and they stood around chatting anyway, for it appears even their handler had left to watch the fight, despite the likelihood that such an act would be unauthorized. What people did not know would not hurt them, sure, but Vadania could not help but victoriously chuckle. Someone did know and they would live out the remainder of their days without as much as a hint that they had failed in their little attempt to be slick!

Apparently feeling especially childish this evening, the thief carefully sneaks through the side of the room and into the kitchen, looking around for her target.
That store room has to be around here somewhere...
Vadania moves through the serving area, scanning through to the back walls, in search of some kind of door or opening...but finds something else. A set of rather...useful cooking utensils for her current needs. Looking around her to assess her surroundings for any threats, she moves down the length of the counter and acquires a kitchen knife from the surface, inspecting its edge to find it nice and sharp.

Perfect...

Still crouched, Vadania glides down to the end of the counter space before peaking around and finding an opening, lightly covered by a curtain. 'Bingo,' thought the elf as she slipped in.
It certainly was the storeroom for the food, that much was obvious. Various unprepared ingredients lay unprotected upon shelves. Slop may be a rather...popular delicacy around here but there is more than just that. Likely for the patrons not subjected to any kind of ownership, the likes of meat and actual bread lay upon some of the shelves.
Vadania's stomach growls at the presence of actual food. There is no greater desire than to indulge in the taste of meat but there was no way to cook it. The situation cannot be helped. She will just have to stick with a bit of bread and cheese and be happy that there is anything worth grabbing at all.
Quickly, the Duuthesh girl skims across the shelves, grabbing a half-full sack of potatoes, dumping them out, and using the empty bag to hold each loaf of bread; each wedge of cheese. Only a few of each go in but it is enough to not restrict movement too much while providing an appropriate amount for the two.
Danairia seemed to be quite the thin one. She should be okay with this much.
With that thought confirming there was enough, Vadania closes the bag and makes her way back.
-
The room seemed to hold a comfortable noisiness to it. The familiar sounds of drunken patrons lent their presence to the atmosphere as a group celebrated the day while another seemed to be helping a rather elderly gentleman stand up. "Alright, old man," the younger one encouraged, "easy there..."
There she was, sitting in the other corner of the tavern, a plate of jerky oddly enough sitting in front of her. The sensation of déjà vu already tugged at Danairia to move toward the woman before she could even think about doing so and a seemingly familiar cloaked woman greeted her. The soft voice of an elvish kind graced her ears, beginning to ask for Danairia's name, only to be interrupted within the very second she began. "Oh great...you people," the drunkard started sarcastically before giving the woman a chance to finish, an unspoken invitation only heeded after staring at the sell-sword.
"My name?" Danairia wondered aloud. "Danairia. But you can call me the Drunkard of-"
The elf's words are cut off by a rather impressive, explosive burp.
"-...Kes." The cloaked woman shoulders seem to drop in an inaudible sigh as her new acquaintance continues to speak. "But I'm not important. Now, tell me YOUR name."
Just as she did previously, the elvish maiden lifts her head, ready to speak...
..."Danairia...get up..."
Confused, Danairia tilts her head and stairs at the cloaked figure, an eyebrow cocked higher than its twin.
"'Ay...you stupid bitch, we gotta go."
The eyebrow falls back down to meet the other in a furrowed expression before Danairia brings up her hand and slugs the stuck up Sindrelei right in her tramp-face.


Danairia's eyes shoot open, her lips curled into a satisfied grin.
...That was a dream? FUCK!
The disappointment of not actually punching one of her own stuck-up kind sets in, bringing the Tlamani back to harsh reality.
"Psst!...Danairia...We gotta go!"
Danairia rolls back over to face her door and sees a familiar set of ears. Giving a quick thumbs up to signify she's awake, the sell-sword sits up and then twists herself to a crouch before standing to meet Vadania through the bars. The thief pulls from a sack, hands Danairia her share of the take, and pulls the familiar lockpick from seemingly out of nowhere to the girl in the cell. Danairia is baffled.
"Now, this will take-"
"-Shhhh!"
Vadania looks up at the window in the cell with a confused expression 'What's wrong with you?' Danairia glares back down, actually appearing quite flustered.
If Kail catches us, we're DEAD. Shut the fuck up.
It was a wordless exchange but it was not hard for Vadania to understand the message. She continued to work while Danairia began eating.

...

*Click*...
Only about 30 seconds have passed before the door was unlocked. She was afraid she would have a little trouble from obvious lack of practice but Vadania was not much slower than she used to be. 30 seconds was still impressive but it is not even close to how fast she can be with regular...practice.
Slowly, Vadania cracks open the door, making a space just wide enough for her new companion to fit through while being careful not to let the hinges creak. With Danairia free, Vadania quietly closes the door and turns to meet the sell-sword...only to find any trace of food to be gone. Confused, Vadania peaks up on her toes through the window of the cell to find nothing and then looks back at the other elf who simply rubs her stomach and shrugs.

That fast?...

Vadania, despite being quite baffled, recovers, motioning for the two to leave. Just as they exit though, another pair enter...

-

Alner tracks the end of the cell block, having noticed something.

What was that?

...

Must've been my imagination...

Kail rushes over to the empty cell which previously held Vadania and inspects the inside.

"...No."

He fumbles for his keys, picking out the key for the cells and jamming it in the lock. He opens the door and checks the rest of the room.

"She's gone!"

Alner, keeping the movement in the dark in mind, orders Kail, "stay here," before rushing out of the door, picking a hallway, and runs forth, hoping he picked the correct passage.

Left alone, Zilindar begins to pace. Thoughts of punishment once more creep into his mind but, this time, nothing stops them from flowing. The situation looks increasingly bleak with each turn and there seems to be no way out of this grave dug for him by someone he only accidentally crossed paths with.

Dammit...what do I do?! By the creator-what do I do?!

A loud 'thump!' resounds from a nearby cell door, the result of the slumping over creature within.

...

He could not accept defeat. Not yet. He still had a means of clearing his name...

The setting changes from Colosseum of Opynonias to Port of Opynonias

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Character Portrait: Huo Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Huo eyed the surrounding streets near the port district. He saw only emptiness and heard only quiet save for a few wagons and wandering drunks. He did not expect his escape from the colosseum to be as smooth as it were. He made a break for the nearest empty block and wandered along. Huo knew he appeared far too conspicuous especially with his glinting set of armor. Any colosseum regular could have noticed and recognized him. It would be even more unfortunate if they reported him to the authorities.

He had never attempted something such as this before, and he could feel that familiar feeling of fear fall on him. No matter, his fists could pave the way through any physical confrontation. He kept a hand on the curved daggers holstered at his waist, at the ready to hurl at a threat. He kept his pace quick and steady as he tried to avoid the common avenues. He turned a corner where he saw a squad of Imperial soldiers, like the ones he had seen outside the colosseum, run by with torches. He let himself catch some breaths in a shadowy alley and craned his head back in the direction from whence he came to spot anyone that might have been tailing him.

Huo finally reached the docks as night continued to fall. He could hear the swirling and swishing of the water that was blackened like night. The seagulls chirped every now, but without over eagerness such as during the day when they could find more fish. He could see the moonlight reflecting off the water's surface in little ringlets as the waves rolled.

He took a moment to inhale the briny wind. It smelled fresh and different from the stale air he came to accept in the Colosseum. It smelled different from the smoke of the brazier fires that hung in the air on the nights where he laid with his eyes open. Eyes open blinking in darkness, as he struggled to wrap his mind around the concepts of destiny and fate.

The port of Opynonias started out as a fisherman's village until merchants set up shop to sell their wares. Then the Imperial navy came by in the early 3000s whereby the port served as a launch point for Emperor Uriel Loenthil's crusades. Since then, the small village turned into a fair sized urban sprawl.

The Osu runaway walked along the harbor causeways beneath a few bridges where he met an old man who seemed like he knew his way around.

"I'm looking for a ship captained by a dwarf."

Without a word he pointed further down at a sitting galleon, a ship larger than the rest. No doubt it was crewed by a dwarf adventurer who had seen much and drank much. The ship seemed fitted for long journeys on the sea, but what did a slave fighter know about ships? He moved along in that direction like a ghost while watching his shadow along the murky water.

He climbed up the plank onto the ship. Where his gaze met a dwarf's, the same dwarf from the Luckless Maiden.

"So, ye've decided I see? Come then, let's discuss the matter of your payment."

The setting changes from Port of Opynonias to Universe of Skaerra

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Huo Character Portrait: Saskia "Sassy" Kurran Character Portrait: Masten "Mace" Kurran Character Portrait: Lisaana "Lisa" Kurran Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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A soft tune coarsed through the air, sweet and simple yet catchy if one listened long enough. An older looking man, beard as white as snow and head as bare as the desert, played on a hand carved flute. His aging fingers, wrinkled and decrepit, moved along the shaft of the instrument in a subtle fluidity. The waves gently slapped the side of the boat as it sat in drydock. The moon reflected off the surface of the water and gave the illusion of serenity and peace. Mace’s eyes drifted upwards as his lips blew notes into the flute. The sky was beautiful this time of night, and no matter where he was it was always the same. A constant in an ever changing world. Mace closed his eyes and continued the song, swaying gently with each note played.

“Still nowhere near as good as dad used to play it.” A rather coarse female voice stated from off to Mace’s side. His eyes looked sideways but his playing did not stop.

“I think he’s rather close...Maybe a bit too sharp in the middle, could tone it down a bit.” A different voice, softer and more elegant. Mace gave an inward sigh and finished the song he had been playing. HIs hands lowering the instrument with an almost deliberate slowness. He gave a grunt as he moved to confront the two women. Both were in simple clothes, cloth shirts and pants, but they were anything but the same. Saskia had rather wild hair pulled into a loose braid wrapped around her shoulder. Her clothes were simply tossed on her form without any care and she had a wicked smile painted on her face. The other, Lisa, was more refined in how she portrayed herself. Her reddish hair was hung loose but brushed. She wore a light amount of makeup and had an easy smile that relayed a sense of compassion and understanding. Her clothes were a bit more form fitting, trying to look good even when there was no need for it.

“Dad played it better because he was missing a tooth. That’s like having a built in flute.” Mace smiled and laughed a bit inwardly. Saskia gave a snort and leaned on the railing while Lisa only softly smiled.

“I’m sort of surprised you still have a mouthful of teeth to be honest.” Saskia stated, lazily looking over. “It took your hair, your eyes, your youth, but for whatever reason it decided you needed your munchers.”

“Well I’m sure I’ll lose a couple when I say something to piss you off Sassy.” Lisa gave a smug nod, looking over at Saskia who spit over the side of the boat.

“I was taught to respect my elders, or people who look old enough to be my elders.” Saskia stated, staring into the water.

“The only thing you cared to learn was how to wield a sword.” Lisa stated, a little playful venom in her words as she looked over at Mace, her head tilted to the side slightly, staring into the blue glows that replaced his eyes. “And what about you? How have the headaches been?” Mace raised an arm in dismissal as he stood up from his seat on a barrel. His simple robe following him in a nearly tangled mess as he worked to get it straight again.

“More of a dull throb than anything else. Nothing I can’t live with.” Lisa stared at him a bit longer, sensing that he wasn’t telling the full truth. Honestly, he had felt the magical pull from the tome getting slightly stronger as time went on, but he dared not tell them that. Lisa had a sixth sense for this type of thing though, always able to see when people needed help, even if they didn’t want to admit it. Mace walked over slightly, leaning against the railing with Saskia. “Besides, we’re heading home for the first time in a couple years. You should be more concerned about that pimple right under nose and what your husband will think of it.” Saskia looked over at Mace, who gave her a knowing smirk. Saskia gave a slight wink back.

“I...I do not. I would have felt it.” Saskia turned around, leaning on the railing with her elbows.

“Well with the makeup you keep putting on, you probably wouldn’t. It’s there though, right under the nose, red like a bare bottomed ass.” Lisa rubbed a finger under her nose and scrunched her brow.

“You’re joking at my expense.” Mace shrugged.

“Don’t believe us, that’s perfectly fine. I just know how much your appearance means to you...almost as much as fighting does to Saskia.”

“I do love me a good fight.” Saskia stated, slapping the back of Mace’s head who gave an involuntary yelp.

“So much for respecting your elders.” Mace stated, giving a slight scowl as he rubbed the back of his head.

“Psh, 19 going on 57.” Saskia stated, looking back over at Lisa who had already wandered away, her hand covering her face as she made her way to her cabin. Saskia gave a smile, looking over at Mace who simply stared out at the water. “Whatcha thinking about?”

“Nothing at all.” Mace said, a smile on his lips. “Sometimes that’s the best thing to have on one’s mind.” Saskia looked about ready to sling an insult, Mace having set her up for the perfect one when her attention was diverted elsewhere. Someone had climbed the plank to the ship, and was being addressed by the dwarven captain. Saskia nudged Mace, who turned slightly to look at the man. Young, fit, slightly ragged. Whatever he and the captain were talking about, it was out of earshot.

“A new passenger?” Mace asked more for Saskia’s opinion than anything. She narrowed her eyes slightly at him.

“He’s a fighter.” She stated without a hint of humor. Mace ran with the saying ‘it took one to know one’, and trusted Saskia’s opinion when it came to these matters. Mace looked at her slightly, seeing if she would say anything else. She shrugged, arching her back over the railings and hearing a couple cracks. “He looks like he’s seen and done some shit. Maybe hired muscle, maybe mercenary looking for passage. Whichever, shouldn’t matter to us.” Mace gave a small snort as he stood up from the railing.

“If you say so. Try not to make something out of nothing. He looks like he could hold his own.” Mace said as he wandered back towards the cabins. Saskia glared over at him.

“Are you saying I wouldn’t win?” She said, her pride being a very notable button for her. Mace gave a small laugh not unheard from kind old grandfathers.

“I’m saying your hot head could end you up in some very cold water.” Mace said, pointing to the ocean just over the side of the boat. “Do try to not get us thrown overboard before we get home.”

Saskia walked behind him, flapping her hand and mocking his speech as he continued. Tomorrow would bring new adventures and new stories, hopefully it would be anything but boring.