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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2016 7:01 pm 
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Joined: Sep 22, 2013
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Another Day, Another Fight: Warming Up
by Huey Nomure
Status: Public :diamond:
Word Count: 6892


Content Warnings: Slavery, Violence, Blood, Death, Ableism, Racism


Sharaka was forcefully shoved off the cart and fell headfirst on the ground, little luminous specks dancing against her eyelids. Two pairs of hands grabbed her by the arms and forced her to stand; the thick hood wrapped around her head was the only thing she could see. Her tail was tied with her wrists, so her steps were uncertain and at times, only the grasp of the thugs prevented her from falling.


“Downward steps,” said the thug on her right; it sounded annoyed.


I could fall on purpose, she thought. On the other hand, breaking my neck after four flights of stairs sounds like a bad idea.


She started hearing the steps and the heavy breathing of a few dozen people; forty steps on a straight line and she was dragged to her right. She heard a metal door creak open before her, then she was shoved ahead and Sharaka knew she was in her new cell even before her hood was removed.


The air in the cell was moist and smelled of human sweat; the walls were covered in dust and patches of moss. The light came from a high little window; both the window and the door were secured with thick metal bars. Human steel was weak, but even with her enhanced strength, it was impossible to escape without a few minutes of loud noise. The minion at her right was a scarred elf that looked at her with contempt. Outside the open door stood a bulky human with a tired expression and a vedalken in a very lavish fur-lined white jacket that stared at her with blank eyes.


"This cell is your new home. Your new name is ‘lizard’. In the arena, you will be known as ‘lizard queen’, but don’t let it get to your head.” The blue scum said, while the elf unlocked her shackles; Sharaka stood dumbstruck for a moment. They were freeing her with the cell door open? It was the opportunity of a lifetime.


An elbow to the jaw and the elf fell without a sound. Sharaka inhaled and turned her frustration into energy; her nostrils were filled with the dank odor of blue magic as the vedalken raised an arm.


Her fire turned into snowflakes a few inches from her mouth and her sight blurred. Her thoughts slowed abruptly.


She felt the air in her lungs becoming water. She couldn’t move her arms; her legs were becoming numb. The cold drained all the strength from her body; she fell on her knees. She lost all sense of time, her mind frozen in place.


The only thing left was the freezing, strangling cold.


Then it all stopped. The warmth seeped back into her; she fell on her side, wheezing, while her senses slowly returned to normal. She barely felt the kick the elf gave her on its way out.


“…but seriously, your reflexes are atrocious. Be happy it didn’t try to kill you," the slaver said to the elf, then it addressed Sharaka. "Can you hear me, lizard?” The vedalken was speaking in the same neutral tone. Sharaka slowly blinked; she tried to hiss, to scream, but even her rage had been devoured by the spell. The slaver took it as an affirmative response. “Good. Your cells are made to prevent me from killing you, not the other way around; do not forget that. You will refer to me as ‘master’. You will not talk back to me or any of my workers. Since you are so full of energy, I assume you don’t need food today. Take the rest of the day to make yourself comfortable.” Without another word, the slaver walked away, its two minions in tow.


In the opposite cell, a massive human stared at her curiously. He was a male with brown skin, a black beard and long black hair tied in a tail. The only garment he wore was a worn pair of trousers similar to hers.


“You have guts, kid, but that won’t help you here.” The man shrugged. “Lay low, win fights, and before you know it you’ll have a chance to walk out of here! Or so I’m told.”


“Wi’… hights?” Her muscles were not fully functional yet.


“Well, yeah; if you’re here, you’re a fighter in the master's 'kennel'. After a lot of good fights, you’re given the chance to duel a gladiator to become one yourself. My time is near, I’ve been doing really well lately!” The man's face opened in a wide grin. “Anyway, my name is Klaus. What’s yours?”


“Sharaka.” Now her mouth was fine; her hands were still numb, but she managed to prop herself up with an elbow so she could move her head freely. She noticed two buckets and a pile of rags in a corner of the cell.


“Well, training should begin shortly. Good luck, Sharaka.”


She observed him stretching, and couldn’t help noticing his routine had no exercise for the legs. She heard doors opening, and after a while, the human minion trudged to Klaus’ cell door; the big man followed the minion without a word.


With no small effort, Sharaka stood up and lurched toward the buckets. One was filled with water; the other one’s atrocious stench hinted at its intended use. She let herself fall in the pile of rags. They were rough, dirty and were the main source of the smell of the place, but they warmed her up a bit.
She felt hungry, tired, sore, and cold. She tried to sleep to escape the disgusting cell, at least for a while.


No such luck.



- - -


She had observed the dawn taking the form of a frame of light on the wall, shattered in many little squares by the crisscrossing shadows of the bars. The light squares had drifted a stone and a half below when a minion slid a bowl under the door.


She waited until the sound of steps stopped and the hall filled with slurping sounds; the bowl contained beans drowned into a thick, white-brown liquid. It had no definite smell, and its taste was similarly bland. She gulped down the lukewarm contents of the bowl trying not to think about its ingredients.


“Hey, Sharaka! You're awake!” Klaus half-yelled. She gave him a blank look. He had the same excited smile.


“I guess so.” She replied weakly.


“Can I ask why you’re here? Y’know, a viashino is a rare sight!” His eyes were filled with genuine interest.


“I'm on vacation, I was told smelly cells were gorgeous in this season.”


“C’mon, tell me the truth.” Klaus insisted. Sharaka sighed.


“You tell me first.”


“Oh, I ran out of relatives to bet." Klaus shrugged. "Your turn.”


Humans used people as ante? Sharaka raised an eyebrow.


“You’re kidding me.”


“Well, I may have slightly exaggerated, but the gist is I made too many gambling debts I couldn’t repay.”


“You must be quite stupid.” Sharaka said dryly. Klaus shrugged again and kept smiling.


“Well, everyone has weaknesses. Turns out risking my neck in the arena is more fun than rolling dice in a dark room. Your turn, Sharaka.”


“Killed a lot of trespassers, captured, sold to a slaver, brought here. Nothing fancy.”


“Nothing fancy?” Klaus let out a loud laughter. “You must be one of those barbarians from the mountains! Your tribes are in the tales we use to spook children!”


“Honored to have such an important role in your culture.” The venom in her words made Klaus wince.


“Er... You seem to have visitors, friend.” Friend? What was he thinking?


The vedalken and the elf were approaching. She retreated cautiously.


“Your evaluation is about to take place. Slide your hands under the door.” The vedalken’s tone was emotionless.


The elf carried a pair of bizarre shackles. Sharaka hissed, but knelt and did as she was told. As the shackles were put in place -leaving her tail free, she noticed- the vedalken made an arcane gesture. The shackles lit up.


“Apologize to me, disgusting lizard,” spat the elf. Sharaka thought about flashing her fangs, but her mouth acted on its own.


“I apologize for my unruly and despicable behavior, sir.” What?


“The shackles are not made to soothe your ego, Lucius.” The vedalken said, looking condescendingly at the elf. “Lizard, step back as he opens the door, then follow us. Understood?”


“Yes, master.” WHAT?


She felt her body crawling back and standing. She tried to make another step back, but her legs didn’t obey. She couldn’t even move her head. Terror clasped her mind as she fell in step with the slaver, who didn’t even bother to keep her in its watch. She gathered mana, but even her own magic seemed dead. She was completely helpless. She tried to figure out a way to free herself, but a part of her mind was simply screaming in horror.


After some time, the voice of the vedalken snapped her out of her frantic thoughts.


“Stop. Lucius will now remove your shackles. Remember yesterday before you try anything stupid.”


Her legs obeyed, and her brain started registering the new location. She was in a large open square court; the walls were at least thrice as tall as her, with no windows. Half the space was occupied by targets and target dummies of various shape and size fixed on the ground, and under a canopy there were several wooden closets. No smell of blood; they were training grounds.


The shackles’ light dimmed out as the elf unlocked them.
Her legs suddenly buckled under her and she almost fell; she stared at her hands, opening and closing them slowly. Her body was hers again.


“W-what was that?” Sharaka failed to mask the horror in her voice.


“Those shackles were manufactured with unruly property like yourself in mind." The vedalken's words made Sharaka bare her teeth, but she kept the eyes on her hands. "They will be employed until you learn to behave according to your position,” it added. From somewhere behind the slaver came the sound of a throat being cleared. "Ah, Nero, I apologize for the indocility of this specimen," the vedalken said, stepping aside and revealing a grey-haired man. “Lizard, meet Nero, my head trainer. Nero, I leave it in your capable hands,” the vedalken concluded. Nero donned a chestplate, pauldrons and greaves.


“Let’s start with the basics.” Nero’s voice was blunt and loud. "What do you believe yourself to be competent with?"


Sharaka closed her eyes and breathed deeply to calm herself. There was no use for panic right now.


“Unarmed combat, knife, axe, hammer, spear, javelin.” She replied with a dullest tone she could muster.


“No swords?”


“Some viashino knives could be considered short swords.” Sharaka replied.


“You mentioned unarmed combat. Show me something.” Nero pointed at one of the dummies.


Sharaka looked at the wooden dummy. Oh, she would show him something alright. She inhaled deeply and imagined it was the vedalken, with its matter-of-fact tone when it talked about it owning her, the casual gesture it used to steal the control of her body…


The dummy turned black as soon as the flames touched it and a second later, it scattered as a cloud of ashes. Sharaka glared at Nero, who turned to address the vedalken.


“Great execution material; the crowd will love this.” Nero seemed impressed. The slaver nodded in reply, keeping its eyes on Sharaka, then whispered something to Lucius, who strode away.


“Good stuff, lizard, but you won’t be using that in ordinary matches. It would end the fight too quickly.” Nero added, walking past her. He unlocked one of the closets, revealing a weapon rack.


“Now let’s see what you can do with a spear, for starters.”



- - -


A few hours later, Nero was satisfied; he took the short sword from her hands and seemed to forget her altogether. The vedalken stepped forward.


“It is time for you to return to your cell. Extend your arms in front of you.” The vedalken eyes were fixed on her. Sharaka stepped back nervously at the thought.


“Please, not the sha- shackles.” Why couldn’t she keep her damned voice firm?


“Who are you addressing, lizard?” The vedalken's tone was calm, but between the words there were hints of menacing cold.


“I’d like to return to my cell without the shackles… master.” She cringed at the sound of her own words. An angle of the slaver’s mouth rose slightly.


“It seems that you can learn some manners… but you have not earned my trust yet. Extend your arms in front of you.” The vedalken's tone became even colder. Sharaka clenched her teeth.


“Now.” The vedalken stepped forward and glared.


“Hear it thrice, earn the ice.” Lucius’ singsong tone sent a chill down her spine. She lifted her shaking wrists, her elbows pressed against her sides. The elf closed the shackles more roughly than strictly necessary, and then it happened again.


This time, Sharaka felt a mana wave washing over her body, erasing her will and making her a living puppet. She held her breath, but realized her lungs were not obeying her. Trying to close her eyes was useless. Sharaka rarely relied on the spirits, but now she was begging all of them that the only thing she would be forced to do was walk.


She didn’t really hear the vedalken’s commands, knowing that the shackles would obey for her. She focused on the feeling of her legs extending and contracting, on the number of steps in the stairs and the number of cells in the hall. The feeling of her knees and her elbows on the stone floor, the sound of two series of steps fading away. Only then she blinked, slowly, hoping the enchantment didn’t rub off on her. She hugged herself, still on her knees with her head on the ground. She half-heard Klaus asking her something. Without a sound she crawled to the pile of rags and buried herself under the rough, smelly cloth, and in the darkness she allowed herself a single tear.



- - -


She crawled out of the rags and noticed another bowl near the door. Two meals a day, huh.
She picked up an overcooked piece of meat from the same bland soup of that morning; its smell vaguely reminded her of hare meat.


“You better now?” Klaus asked tentatively; Sharaka's reply was an incomprehensible mumbling.


“Hey, you got meat! It means you have a match tomorrow! Look, me too!” Klaus was agitating another piece of maybe-hare meat. “Maybe we are paired together! Well, I hope not. I’d feel bad thrashing a newcomer!” He laughed. “Hey, if you ask me nicely I could get you some hints!”


Her only reaction was a blank gaze, but he kept talking.


“You see, I specialize in grapples, so try not to get caught!” Klaus said with a conspiratorial tone. Sharaka finally gathered enough energy to reply.


“…you are a grappler that keeps his hair long? You’re dumber than you look, and that’s saying something.”


“I could say the same of your tail, lad.” Klaus said with a defensive tone. Lad? She held her thick, pointy end of her tail before her.


“You think this is a liability? Please stop talking before you choke yourself to death with your own tongue or something.”


The meat was just slightly less bland than the soup.


“Well, something to keep in mind! I never sparred with someone with more limbs than me!”


The silence following that statement was almost solid.


“Don’t you have someone else to annoy, Klaus?”


“Well, the other fighters ignore me.”


“I wonder why…”


She noticed a rag under the bowl. It seemed a short sleeveless shirt; it smelled less than her new bed. She wore it, uncertain, and looked at herself. It covered her chest, and that was it. It didn’t warm her up significantly. Its utility remained obscure to her.


“Are you… female?” Klaus seemed embarrassed.


“Yeah, what of it?” Then it struck. Humans had that taboo about female breasts.


“Sorry I called you ‘lad’ before, um… lass.”


“So that’s the reason why they gave me this? So they can understand I’m a woman through a human dress code tied to your shame of breasts? That’s beyond stupid!”


“Well, I didn’t know viashino were so… libertine…”


“Viashino don’t even have breasts, you idiot! Our first meal is meat! Also, how can one possibly breastfeed an egg?”


“Um. I guess.” Klaus had difficulties looking at her. Insulting him right now felt like kicking a prey before the kill. She really missed hunting… Her mind went to her tribe. The anger evaporated, leaving frustration behind.


“…I wonder how much time has passed since my capture.” Sharaka said, her gaze lost beyond the cell's walls. Klaus stared at her quizzically before she continued. “If they know I’ve been captured. How many of them are dead… how many are dying right now… my kind is dying half a kingdom away, Klaus, and I’m here worrying about my tragedy of being mistaken for a man and being bossed around.”


“…I’m sorry.” He managed to sound sincere.


“Yeah.”


“Wanna talk about that?”


"It’s not like I can do anything.” Sharaka shook her head.


“I guess you're right... Training should start soon. How has yours been?” Klaus tried to change the topic.


“My crawling should have given you a hint.” She stared absently at her claws; even that small admission of weakness was painful.


“Oh. Right. I’m sorry.”


“We’ll be killing each other tomorrow. Why are you apologizing so much?”


"Oh, don't worry about that, the matches are rarely to the death.” Klaus shrugged.


“Huh?” She gulped down another piece of meat. Depressing conversation was doing wonders to divert her thoughts from her meal.


“Well, the boss lost good money to get us fighting, one way or the other, so it makes no sense for him to lose us until we make a profit, I guess.” Klaus said, pensively.


“So I’ll be kept alive until my profits disappoint him. What wonderful news.” Sharaka rolled her eyes.


“On the bright side, once you are promoted you are free to keep fighting and make a lot of money, or you can work for him like Lucius and Mark, or even leave and never turn back.”


“Oh, that disgusting blue trash seemed very eager to ‘promote’ me.”


“Don’t worry, he has to rough newcomers up a bit. It’s a way to ensure we learn our place, something like that.” Klaus shrugged. Sharaka wondered how much abuse he could withstand before getting angry.


“You tried the shackles too?” She asked; Klaus shook his head. That explained a few things.


“Ask them for a ride with that thrice-damned device, then.” She spat.


“They’re that bad?” Klaus asked, bewildered.


“How about snatching from you even the freedom to blink your blasted eyes without their permission?”


“Ouch. I had no idea.”


“Now you have.” She looked at the empty bowl before her. Then she turned her head towards the little window. “Anyone ever tried to escape from those?” The reply to her question was a confused stare.


“I’m strong, Sharaka, but no one could possibly bend iron bars that thick.”


So battlemages were not standard prisoners here. She stood up and looked at the bars; they seemed sturdy, but maybe with banefire…


She jumped and grabbed onto the window opening. The bars didn’t seem particularly resilient but had the fishy smell of blue mana, with a hint of the obnoxious incense of white magic. An illusion blurred the world beyond the bars. She reached toward them, but she found her fingers gripped around the handle of an axe.


The mountain filled her senses; the air smelled of promised snow, her whole tribe was watching her in silence. Sharaka looked down; her mother was kneeling, her head held down to expose the vulnerable spots between the neck spikes, and singing that off-tune lullaby. Sharaka felt her arms lifting the axe above her head, readying for the culling strike. Tears blurred Sharaka's vision, and when she managed to blink she was in the cell again. The figure on her knees was now Sharaka with her shackled hands under the door, hoping for a release that would never come. The floor started freezing, terrible cold penetrating her feet and shins. The Sharaka on the ground was slowly turning blue, unable to move away from the glacial fog gathering around her. Her arms were still held up; she couldn’t run, she couldn’t escape. She could only show mercy to her other self. Her neck spikes were covered in thin ice. She couldn’t do anything else. The ice already reached her thighs.


She breathed in the cold air and brought her arms down.


She was on the floor of the cell. It wasn’t covered in ice. Neither was she. Her right shoulder and tail hurt. Around her she heard other prisoners shuffling around, exercising, carrying on their captive life.


“What happened?” Asked Klaus, alarmed.


“The blasted. Blue. Scum. Cursed. The bars.” She hissed, articulating each word slowly to keep her tone from wavering.


“Oh. I imagine it’s related to the visit of the master’s apprentice to your cell earlier.” He said casually. Sharaka glared at him with bloodshot eyes.


“…you’re telling me someone enchanted my cell this morning and you didn’t tell me?”


“I didn’t think it mattered…” Klaus was staring intently at his feet.


“You didn’t…” She felt her lungs fill with fire, her head instinctively rearing to spit flames, then realized she couldn’t blame anyone but herself. The vedalken sent someone to ward the bars because he had underestimated her! If she had tried to escape the day before... she was a banefire blast away from freedom and she decided to go to sleep… Stupid brainless lizard!
The mana burst within her, her whole body shaken by scorching energy.


“What… what did you just do?” Klaus was pale; it was the first time she heard fear in his voice. Sharaka looked at her smoking hands; the mana release had been more violent than she thought.


“I've been training as a shaman since I was young. That includes learning magic,” she answered. Klaus backed away slowly. “Don’t worry, Klaus, if I tried to burn you these damned bars would probably block the fire.”


“You could turn me into a pile of ashes? Now I don’t wanna fight you.”


“I’m not allowed to use pyromancy during fights.” Sharaka clarified.


“So you could burn me to ashes.” Klaus made another step back.


“Klaus, if this cell wasn’t warded, I’d be able to incinerate you through the wall.”


“…and you’d do it? If the cell wasn’t ‘warded’, I mean.” He became even paler.


“In that case, I’d be already out of here. You’re somewhat annoying, but you don't deserve immolation. Also, you’re the only one who explains things to me. Thank you for that, by the way.”


“You’re… welcome?” Klaus was clearly confused. Sharaka sighed.


“Don’t you have training today?”


“Yeah, soon.” Klaus seemed relieved by the change of topic. “Maybe you’ll be allowed to train with us after your fight!”


“Yeah, maybe. Have fun, I’ll rest.” Sharaka said, tiredness seeping into her voice. Klaus nodded and started stretching; Sharaka coiled upon the rags and tried to relax. She failed miserably; it was well past midnight when she finally fell asleep.



- - -


Sharaka woke up at the sound of the bowl scraping the stone floor; she rolled towards it, and when she picked it up she noticed the vedalken standing at the other side of the door.


“You will fight for me two hours from now. It will be an unarmed combat; you are not allowed to use magic in this fight, and you will stop when your opponent gives up or is unable to keep fighting. Do you understand?”


“Yes… master.” She heard Klaus’ cell door open.


“Looks like you’re a fast learner. Klaus, you’ll follow me now. You will need some preparation.” The slaver gestured Klaus to exit. The massive man gave Sharaka a quizzical look before following the vedalken; she shrugged.


This time, Sharaka tried to distract herself from the shackles by remembering the war songs of her tribe, but the broken lullaby her mother sang before her culling kept coming to her mind.


She heard a lot of people clamoring as she entered a dark hall; the only light came from between the bars of two metal doors. She smelled a faint scent of blood; this was it. The shackles were removed; this time her only reaction was a brief shudder. Beyond the door, in the middle of a dirt-covered space, a pale man was screaming over the crowd’s noise.


“…you may wonder why our Black Bear is dressed up like this! Open your ears, folks, ‘cause his opponent today is a monster. Not like our Reaper or the Golem, I’m talking about one of the wild barbarians raiding our eastern borders from the Savage Mountains!” The doors were opened as the crowd began booing. Sharaka hissed instinctively while the man continued. “You heard me, folks! A true lizardman, or should I say lizardwoman, since this is the first match of… the Lizard Queen!” The booing doubled when she entered the arena.


It was a circle a hundred steps wide, defined by a wall twice as high as her and full of rusty spikes. Beyond the wall there were at least twenty thousand sneering spectators, though at least half the seats were empty. Something hit her head. She turned and saw a human pointing at her and laughing. She let out a small cone of flame –it didn’t even reached the spikes– and the man tumbled backwards.


Don’t even try to flee or harm the spectators. What the- I’m watching you. One wrong move and your brain will become an ice block. Sharaka hissed furiously; she couldn’t be left alone even in her own head. Klaus had a sorry expression on his face; his arms and legs were covered with some sort of padded sleeves. The shouting man finished his speech.


“Alright people, before you start climbing into the pit… Fight!” The pale man disappeared. A mere illusion.
Sharaka and Klaus started circling each other.


“Let me see the strength of that tail of yours.” Klaus really seemed eager to fight.


“You’ll regret those words, you know that?” She grinned; she was starting to like that dumb giant.


She sized him up: he was larger than her and slightly taller, with a low guard to start grapples and relatively slow legs. With those protections, claws and teeth would have been useless unless he dropped his guard. As usual, she would have to rely on mobility and surprise. She put her right foot forward and assumed a left-handed guard.


He lunged at her, trying to grab her waist; she sidestepped and clubbed his side with her tail. It felt like hitting a rock. They both returned to their guards; the crowd was groaning in disappointment.


“C’mon, that was weak.” Klaus kept his obnoxious smile on his face.


“Do a goblin flight.” Sharaka replied dryly. He raised an eyebrow, bewildered.


“A viashino saying for ‘dive headfirst from a cliff’.” She explained; Klaus chuckled and attacked again.


He feinted for a grapple, then tried a one-two; she dodged leaning backwards on her tail, clawing at his stomach with her foot. He stepped back quickly, but still earned three thin scratches on his abdomen.


“I didn’t expect that.” Klaus seemed impressed. Sharaka showed her fangs in reply.


“Many gutted humans didn’t.” The thrill of the fight was shutting down her rational mind.


It was her turn to advance, landing a one-two that made a miserable soft sound against the padding of his guard. She sidestepped his counterattack and forced him to retreat clawing at his unguarded side, then hit his front leg with a powerful tail lunge. The point didn’t pierce the padding, but his grunt told her what she needed to know. The crowd booed loudly.


“Hey, that hurt.” Klaus’ smile had become a concentrated smirk. Her only answer was a predatory grin.


She engaged and sidestepped again, but this time his fist connected heavily with her snout and the world flashed white. She retreated clawing wildly, shoved him back with her tail and took her distance to assess the damage.
Her head spun slightly, but her sight was fine; her sense of smell, on the other hand, was on timeout. Klaus had gained a nice cut above his right brow and two on his cheek. She licked her fangs seeing the upper wound starting to bleed abundantly.


She kept circling around him, keeping him under pressure with quick blows and hitting his injured leg whenever possible. After a few minutes, the human had to clean his right eye from the blood with his sleeve, lowering his guard; she sprung and grabbed his head with both hands, pressing her claws against his skull while drawing him close.
She jumped and kicked him, sinking her talons in his stomach, then put all her weight on her foot and pressed it down. She felt his flesh tearing with cruel pleasure, and kept her claws against his skull as he dropped on his knees, his arms weakly pressing against his wound. Without a single thought she kneed him on the face, breaking his nose. After the second hit, his arms hung limply along his sides. After the third she heard bones crack and finally released her grip.


The match is over. Come back.
The intrusion in her mind brought Sharaka back to awareness. Klaus was unconscious and bled profusely from his belly. The illusory man appeared.


“The winner is… the Lizard Queen!”


She walked away with her head low. The spectators were mostly silent, but a question arrived to her ears.


“Is he dead?”


She hoped not, but the thought didn’t hurt as it was supposed to. Two humans with a stretcher run past her.


She stopped next to the vedalken without a word.


“Lead the way.” He had that repulsive half-smile on his blasted face.


She tried a few steps forward.


She picked up a careful pace when she saw no one was approaching with the shackles, but at every step her body was in tension, ready to stop at the first word.


She didn’t even realize she was in her cell until the door was locked behind her. She stood still until the noise of Lucius and… him… faded. She leaned against a wall and breathed heavily; every single muscle of her body was shaking.
She couldn’t go on like this; she had slept less than six hours in two nights, her mind was a wreck and the blue scum was getting under her skin. Klaus had paid for her frustration and lack of control, and she needed to be focused to survive this mess. She would escape; she would burn the whole place to the ground to get out from there.


She knelt on the center of the cell and tried to remember the meditation she was taught back at the Forge. She coiled her tail around her legs, closed her hands into fists and laid them on her thighs.
She let the frustration and the tension in her body become unwavering rage, red energy engulfing her body and filling her muscles with power to their very limit, then she painted the image of a mountain in her mind and breathed deeply. Her skin was the sturdy and quiet shell that cloaked the overwhelming strength of the lava until the time was right. She was the mountain, her fire was the unstoppable rage of the earth. She would have survived her enemies as fire survived moths. No armor was as hard as her willpower, no weapon sharper than her determination. The very soul of fire forged her anew each dawn.
She was steel, and steel had no fear. She was the mountain, and the mountain could not be challenged.


She was viashino, and her glory would be chanted by the core of the deepest fire.


She slowly opened her eyes, and the image of Mark trembled before her. She closed her eyes again and breathed in the scorching air, enclosing the warmth in her chest. The human was staring at her with wide eyes, a bowl in his hand.
She stood up deliberately, stretching herself at full height while keeping her calm gaze on him. He lowered and put the bowl halfway through the door, keeping his fingers at careful distance from the warm metal, then briskly strode away from her gaze. She grinned to herself and picked up the bowl, warming the contents with her breath.


That night she slept well for the first time in weeks.



- - -


“She is Nive, my apprentice. Her orders are my orders; she is powerful but lacks my precision, so don’t expect to survive another rebellion attempt. She will use the shackles as she sees fit.”


Nive wore a jacket which closely resembled the vedalken’s, but the similarities ended there; the slaver was slender and its movements were sharp and controlled, while its apprentice was chubby and constantly shifting her weight from a foot to the other. She stared at Sharaka with something that could be misunderstood for fascination.


“What’s your name?” Nive asked when the vedalken was out of hearing range.


“Your master calls me ‘lizard’.”


“Master Sophron is a racist jerk. He calls me ‘human’ half of the time.” Nive's words were followed by a thick silence; Lucius glared at her, but said nothing. The blue scum has a name at last, Sharaka thought. “So, what is your name? You already know mine.” The woman insisted.


“Sharaka. It seems you’re not very fond of him.”


“Sharaka.” Nive repeated, and smiled. “Sophron is a powerful mage and a decent teacher, but… let’s say I didn’t choose him for his winning personality.” She added. The elf cleared his throat.


“But I digress. I’m here to keep an eye on you during your training and matches; I won’t use those horrible shackles, but I’ll freeze your heart still if I must.” Nive continued with the same innocent smile.


“Now step back, please. Lucius, open the door.”



- - -


This time, the training grounds were occupied by three dozen people – prisoners, judging by their clothes and smell – swinging practice weapons or grappling. Fifteen guards leaned against the walls while Nero and three other humans observed the training prisoners, occasionally stopping to correct stances and techniques.


“Lizard! Felix! Publio! Come here!” Nero shouted. Sharaka and the other two humans approached the man.


“Your skills have been acceptable lately, so you’re going to get an execution next week.” Nero looked each one of them in the eyes, letting his words sink.


“Executions are not normal matches. You don’t fight to win, you fight to make the crowd roar. You’ll play with those criminals. Break them, humiliate them. Entertaining is even more important than winning for a gladiator, so those of you planning to stay in the arena after the wooden sword had better exploit these easy chances to gain the favor of the spectators. Questions?” They remained silent, so Nero dismissed the humans with a gesture.


“Sophron pitted you against two criminals. Think you can do it?” Nero asked. Sharaka shrugged in reply.


“Weapons? Protections?”


“None. For all three of you.” Nero answered.


“No problem, then.” Sharaka said, flexing her fingers. Nero glanced at her claws and nodded.


“Remember, no fire until they are defeated.” Nero warned. Sharaka nodded, and she was dismissed.


During the whole training, Nive never looked away from her, her arms relaxed along the sides but her fingers in incessant movement.


The woman gestured for Sharaka to return to the cells, and not a word was said until she was locked.


“Well, see you tomorrow!” Nive’s tone was cheerful, but Sharaka sensed fatigue in her words.


The constant vigilance tires her, she observed, but on the other hand this means she’s ready to act at any moment.


Just my usual rotten luck.



- - -


“Good luck!” Nive’s words were barely audible above the booing of the crowd.


“The executioner chosen for these two despicable siblings is... the Lizard Queen!” The illusory man announced her entrance; the crowd seemed to be uncertain between cheering and booing.
Judging by their clothes, the tall and muscular one was a woman, while the short and lithe one was a man. They paled as they saw her approach; she licked her teeth and enjoyed the resulting grimaces.


“Let the execution begin!”


This time, she adopted a looser guard, pointing her claws toward the man and her tail toward the woman. They parted to flank her, and she allowed to be slowly led near the spikes. Their guards were sloppy and their movements amateurish; Sharaka guessed they were probably street thugs, unaccustomed to facing trained warriors.
The man feinted, but he was too quick and nervous to fool Sharaka. She lunged at him and clawed at his guard, easily tearing the tender skin of his arms. The woman’s tentative advance was stopped by a quick tail strike.
Sharaka made a half-turn and hit the bleeding man on the knee with her tail; she faced the woman, who seemed to struggle between retreating to safety and luring Sharaka’s attention away from her beaten brother.
Sharaka feinted low, then her claws rent the woman’s face. The human cried out and brought her hands to her bloodied eyes, then fell as Sharaka swept the woman’s legs from under her.
Sharaka heard the man charge at her; she stepped on the fallen woman and turned to face him in midair, expecting an attack, but he knelt beside the screaming woman instead.


“Claudia, relax, it’s me!” He said as he laid hands on her sister’s face and started mumbling. Sharaka noticed the lack of blood on his arms, then smelled the obnoxious smell of healing magic pouring from his hands.


That’s not fair, she thought. Now I get to use some magic, too.


Her back arched as her rage became invigorating heat, infusing her muscles with unnatural energy.
Her tail hit the white mage on the face, flattening his nose and leaving him sniveling on the ground. Claudia had already been healed, and rolled away as Sharaka tried to stomp on her head.
Sharaka smirked as the woman realized she was between the viashino and the spikes; Claudia tried to get away, but a violent tail blow at waist level kept her cornered.
The man kicked Sharaka behind the knee, and she overplayed her loss of balance. The woman charged a powerful punch, but Sharaka dodged it and grabbed her wrist. Bones crumbled under her claws.
Sharaka turned as the woman cradled her arm and faced the retreating man. She lunged and grabbed his wrists, forcefully opening his guard, then headbutted him and broke his nose again.
She turned back Claudia snickering.
This was fun.


“Please, spare us…” Claudia implored on her knees.


This was not.


“C’mon, you should be hardened criminals! You begged good people to death in the streets?” Sharaka mocked, annoyed.


“We didn’t do anything wrong, I swear!”


“Oh goblin icicles, it’s the first time I hear this!” Sharaka said sarcastically as she stepped forward, looming over the woman. “And what kind of criminals are you supposed to be?”


Claudia punched her in the stomach, and as Sharaka recovered from the hit, the man pinned her arms against her back.


“Con artists.” The woman smiled mischievously.


That’s more like it, Sharaka thought.


The woman hit Sharaka in the snout with her good hand… and lost her smile as the viashino grinned ferociously.


“Not even half as strong as Klaus.” Sharaka sneered.


The man grunted as her tail coiled around his leg and forced him on one knee, releasing her arms.
Sharaka blocked the following punch from Claudia and replied with three lightning-fast blows to the face, forcing the woman back until she reached the metal spikes. Claudia tried to escape from the corner, ducking under Sharaka’s blows, but was stopped by a knee in the head.
Her tail loosened the grip on the man, but as soon as he tried to stand, Sharaka punched his throat.


Sharaka steadied her breath and looked at her opponents.
The man was holding his throat and didn’t even look at her, gasping for air; the woman had a half-guard, but her eyes were bleary and her legs unsteady. Playtime was over; she inhaled deeply and ignited her body with a last rush of mana.
She kicked Claudia against the spikes; the woman’s scream was cut abruptly by a stream of fire. The audience cheered loudly.
The man was staring at her burning sister. Sharaka hit him with a punch that shattered his breastbone; his last breath escaped his collapsed lungs with a hiss. A few spectators were chanting something.


“Burn that scum! Burn that scum! Burn that scum!”


She felt their bloodthirst resonate within her.


The convulsing man on the ground would die within a minute.


The chant grew louder; in its energy she could smell the sulfur of the Mother Forge.


She inhaled deeply, exaggerating her movements, and the crowd roared in ecstasy.



- - -


“Impressive performance! It’s like you were born for this!” Nive complimented her on the way out. Sharaka snorted.


“I was raised to kill humans, in fact.”


“No, I meant fighting in the arena! Your second appearance and the people already love you! You could have an amazing career as a gladiator!” Nive insisted, excited.


Sharaka should have been outraged at those words, but she was still high from the crowd’s uproar. Instead, she shook her head.



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:13 am 
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I made a quick revision; nothing major, I just changed a few paragraph tags, uniformed Sophron's speech, corrected typos... that sort of thing.

Planar location: Thamirelk (Augustor Empire)
New Word Count: 6.9k

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