“Yes, Inquisitor,” the centurion replied. “We were attempting to apprehend her once the merchant identified her, but she bolted into the arena. From what we know, she’s Charnoan and a Maker.”
Garron looked beyond the doorway, past the booth where the Saetrum was reclining in his chair and toward the arena. He narrowed his eyes when he saw a sinister violet hue emanating from the sauratian’s hands. The Charnoan stood beside the beast, battered shield and axe held defensively.
The pair of saberquill that Saetrum ordered loosed were working to flank them, while the wounded one remained between them. The beast was struggling, periodically snarling, and roaring through the pain it was in. Though crippled, the saberquill was too enraged for its wounds to keep it from attacking.
I don’t understand why they let you purchase him, Saetrum. His crimes were plain.
“Inquisitor?” the centurion asked. “Something vexes you?”
Garron scowled, his eyebrows pressing together. “Position soldiers by every gate,” he said. “Our Arena Master has failed to understand the nature of that gladiator.”
The centurion stood at attention, placing his left arm across his breast and left. Garron passed through the doorway and stepped out onto the box. The roar of the crowd hit him full force.
“Failed to understand, Garron?” Saetrum chided.
Garron curled his lip.
“Do not think for a moment that the din before you prevents me from hearing things within my coliseum, Garron.”
As if implying something, he began thumbing the pendent hanging from his neck between his fingers. The pendent was attached to a silver chain with a polished red gem set into it. The gem was likely a ruby.
“It is my duty to point out potential issues, Arena Master.”
“Yes, yes,” Saetrum replied, apathetically waving his hand. “Just be quiet long enough for me to enjoy the match. I know the sauratian will win, but I want to see how it plays out.”
Garron turned his attention to the coliseum floor. The lizardman had yet to make an attack. He was waiting, watching his prey. No, that wasn’t right. He was protecting the girl. By her stance and movements, the shield and axe weren’t her weapons of choice.
The sauration had subtly positioned himself a step ahead of her. His tail was curled to his left, blocking the Maker from advancing. The violet light emanating from the lizardman’s palms had enveloped his hands. The eerie glow they gave off intensifying.
The crowd shouted louder, like children unable to contain themselves, as the tension below mounted. The wounded saberquill was advancing. It surged forward, attempting to pounce, despite its injuries.
The Maker, shockingly, tumbled over the sauratian’s tail, raising the shield strapped to her left arm up to get underneath the beast. Garron gripped back of Saetrum’s chair, a slight chuckle sounding from the Arena Master, as she held the saberquill aloft with one arm and tossed the beast aside as if it were a kitten.
A bright flash from of the sun reflected off something metallic on her arm, catching his attention. Garron leaned forward, squinting his eyes when it fell limply at her side. I see, girl. You’ve got an Iron Hand.
It was uncommon among Makers to forge prosthetic limbs for themselves. Their creations were known for going awry, sometimes with deadly results. This one appeared to be of a higher caliber.
“Now this is a sight!” Saetrim chided. “You’re excited about something. Could it be that pretty girl who just threw a five-hundred pound saberquill?”
Garron drew his lip back, grinding his teeth. “I think you are being too casual about that pair,” he commented. The Arena Master once again waved his hand dismissively and resumed watching.
The other saberquill had closed the gap, kicking up sand in their wake as they came in from opposite flanks. The sauration stretched his hands out, unleashing violet bolts of energy from each hand. The blasts hit both beasts in the chest as they leapt, claws extended, sending them tumbling in the sand from the force of the impact.
He turned to the third; it was struggling to stand. Its hind leg was useless. The damage from the sauratian’s caustic breath and the way it had landed, had torn beast’s hip joint apart. Blood was seeping from the tear in its exposed flesh and lay there yowling.
The lizardman stepped forward, the violet glow of his hand shifting to black flames. He stretched out a hand toward the beast and made a fist. It jerked sharply, its body becoming rigid, then went limp.
The crowd went wild. Saetrum was leaning forward at the edge of his seat. The sauration’s display of power display completely enamoring him. He looked like a child eager to get his hands on some long sought-after prize.
“Oh yes, you will do nicely,” the Area Master whispered under his breath.
The remaining Saberquill were circling. They didn’t appear harmed by the lizardman’s magic. The sauration and the Maker were standing back to back. Her left arm was still hanging limply at her side. It seemed throwing the first saberquill had overtaxed her Iron Hand.
Where are all the tricks you Charnoans are known for? Garron thought about the explosive device she had used. Perhaps in her flight, it was all she had managed to keep with her?
“They will pounce soon!”
Of course they will, you scaled saddlebag! Eleesa sighed, raising the axe up and cursing herself. She felt the Iron Hand weighing down her left arm at the elbow. Damaged as it was, the strain of the saberquill’s weight had been too much. If circumstances were different, the shield her prosthetic was clutching might have looked comical.
Eleesa felt the sauratian pull away, though she dare not look at what he was doing. A painful cry from the beast he was facing said enough. She gripped the axe, trying to calm herself. The saberquill bearing down on her paused, its leg muscled tensed. The beast was preparing to pounce.
What I wouldn’t give to have my thunderer in my hands. She swallowed hard, shame filling her at the fear raging in her heart. We learn to fight drakes. What is this beast to me!
Eleesa rested the axe across her chest, eyes locked on the saberquill. It roared threateningly, then pounced. She shifted her weight, spinning to her left, allowing the weight of her prosthetic to carry her.
She felt the rush of air as the beast glided past her and extended her right arm, letting the momentum carry the axe. The head sunk into the beast’s flank, cutting a deep gash across it. In the same moment, a sharp pain shot up her right arm afterward, and she paused. Regaining her footing, Eleesa saw one of its quills had pierced her arm.
She looked up. The saberquill had turned, its left flank exposed. It tensed, a chill running through her. Scriv, Scriv, Scriv! The beast was prepping to launch a volley of quills.
Talking the axe, Eleesa repositioned, rushing around the beast to get clear before she found herself skewered. There would only be a few precious seconds at most before the beast loosed the quills. With it immobile, Eleesa knew she only had one shot.
Leaping to one side, she threw the axe and closed her eyes, praying the Forger favored her. There was a resounding groan, followed by a loud thud. She fell hard onto the sandy coliseum floor, needle-like pain shooting up her left arm at the elbow.
Weakly, she opened her eyes. Her right arm had already gone numb from the quill’s poison. The axe sat buried in the great cat’s throat, blood pouring from the wound.
Eleesa tried to right herself, but the numbness had set into her shoulder and side. The crowd had become a deafening cacophony. She fought with her body, managing to roll onto her back. The sauration was standing over her, his yellow eyes reminding her of the drakes her people hunted.
“You fought well,” he said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
As if to accent the point, she heard a gate open a few yards away. The sauration knelt, placing his hands on the back of his head. Once the guards were on them, he lowered his eyes submissively.
Eleesa felt an icy chill wash over her. Escape will come. Just be patient. She shifted her attention to the other guards. It was like they hadn’t heard him.
By now, her body was tingling. The experience was interesting. It was no wonder in their natural environment that saberquill were such deadly predators.
“Get her to healer before the poison reaches her heart!” the centurion shouted.
“You see, Garron. That, is coin well spent!”
Garron frowned, his eyes locked on the lizardman. “Perhaps, Arena Master, but you lost three saberquill. I hardly find that worth the expense.”
Saetrum stood and gestured toward the crowd in the stands. “Listen to them! Hear how they howl! I can replace three saberquill.”
Can you? I very much doubt the Shaylin will allow you to traipse around their kingdom for a beast whose numbers appear to be dwindling.
“What’s with that look, Garron?” the Arena Master asked. “Do you doubt my reach?”
Garron bit his lip. The temptation to lie was there, but the mere thought ignited the Flame inside him. He winced, then sighed. “Yes, Arena Master, I do.” The Flame went out, and the pain vanished.
Saetrum laughed. “That’s what I like about you Inquisitors. Try as you might, you cannot lie. Your conviction to the truth prevents it.”
“Our convictions, is what makes us capable of impartial judgement.” Saetrum smiled, but the way it curled was almost serpentine.
“So you say, Garron,” he replied. “So you say.” He stepped onto the landing connected to the box and spread his arms out. “Good Absonians!” the crowd cheered louder. “I can promise that in the coming days you will see more of our bestial guest and his vibrant Charnoan beauty!”
At the announcement of her being Charnoan, the crowd devolved into a series of boos and jeers. Garron curled his lip. Gluttons! he thought.
Saetrum gestured toward the gates. They opened, and the next set of gladiators stepped through them. Garron turned away.
“Where do you think you're going, Inquisitor?”
“To check out your purchase and the woman. She’s a confirmed thief, there are proceedings that must be taken into account.”
“Then take this,” Saetrum replied, tossing a sack of coins at his feet. “I’m sure the merchant she stole from will take it as compensation for her crime. She belongs to me now.”
It was only for a moment, but Garron felt a spark from The Flame ignite in his chest. This violated Absonian law. Saetrum could purchase her by right, but process must be upheld.
“Garron, remember, I am law here and you are bound to obey.”
“Of course, Arena Master.” Garron lean over, scooping up the coin purse. “I will make the arrangements.”