Garron observed the saberquill’s slow approach toward the sauratian. He narrowed his eyes, watching the sauratian’s movements. How long will you toy with that beast, lizard?
“Is the great Garron suddenly interested in gladiatorial combat?” Saetrim asked. “I’m speechless.”
Garron drew his lip taught leveling his gaze at the arena master. “The fight is over, Master Saetrum, the poor beast is dead.”
“Oh come now, at least be sporting,” Saetrim said.
“Do you know why my former brothers brought him here?” the Inquisitor asked.
“No, I don’t make it a point to look into the rabble brought to my stables. I only make it a point to see they make me wealthy,” Saetrum answered, reclining back in his chair.
“Typical,” the Inquisitor sneered. “A fool and his money are soon parted, as the Teachings say.”
“Oh, you and your Teachings,” Saetrum said. “Could you be any more droll?”
Like a snake, Garron unsheathed his dagger and placed it against the Arena Master’s throat. Saetrum froze, dropping his goblet of wine. “You will respect my ways, Arena Master,” he said. “I was assigned here as part of my retirement from the Inquisition. I serve out of duty, and I do not serve you.”
“Of-of course, dear Garron, I meant no disrespect,” Saetrum said. “Perhaps I should not so overly indulge in the wine?”
“Do as you like, we all have choices to make in this life,” Garron said.
Garron caught the stray glance Saetrum gave at the carpet. He locked his jaw, hiding his disgust. It was new. No doubt the man was concerned about the wine he had just spilled and thinking about how much coin it would cost him to clean.
Garron sheathed his dagger, though he didn’t show it, he was angry with himself. Maybe it was old age setting in. He knew his younger self would have shown more self control. Retirement wasn’t what he had imagined, but he took an oath and oaths were kept, even to death.
It was his job was to hunt down escaped gladiators and bring them to trial. He was also responsible for keeping things civil and peaceful within the coliseum. It was rare when he himself had to handle a situation, but with Saetrum’s appetite for the rare and exotic, Garron knew the Arena Mater would eventually send him off on another hunt.
Garron pursed his lip. From judge to bounty hunter. All at the whims of a greedy pig.
“Garron?” Saetrum asked, calling for his attention.
“Yes, Arena Master?”
“Why is there a young woman jumping over the dividing wall?” he asked.
Garron followed where the Arena Master was pointing and frowned. “I don’t know, but I will find out,” he said. “Good, see that you do and tell the stable master to release the other two. We must entertain the crowd, after all.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” he asked.
“Garron, you may not serve me, but you are still honor bound to fulfill my requests concerning the coliseum,” Saetrum said.
Garron gripped the knife on his belt. “Respect authority,” he whispered.
“Did you say something?” Saetrum asked.
“I will do as you request Arena Master,” he said.
Eleesa hit the ground and tumbled forward. She pushed herself up, shaking her head from the jolt of falling from such a height. Her shins throbbed mercilessly, and she looked about to get her bearings.
The saberquill staring right at her. It had stopped advancing on the sauratian and turned in her direction, deciding that she might be an easier meal. A reptilian hiss followed. Like the sound the threatening an alligator or a crocodile makes. The saberquill turned its head and snarled. Its body tensed, quills shaking. Eleesa’s mouth fell open, knowing what was coming.
The sauratian seemed to understand as well. He took a knee, covering as much of himself as was possible with the large shield he held. He curled his long tail around himself and angled the shield to protect it.
Eleesa reached into her belt pouch, but there was no time. With a roar, the saberquill ejected a small bundle of quills from its backside. She cringed, watching the foot long needles spray in every direction. It would only take a single scratch for the venom in them to paralyze the target.
A resounding clang sang in her ear. Some of the needles had pierced the shield, making it resembling a metallic version of the saberquill’s flanks. Others lay scattered about the ground, protruding from in the stand or embedded in the stone wall and sandy ground at its base. He had been fortunate, but the beast could launch two more such volleys.
Eleesa pulled out the boomer she had stashed in her belt pouch, pressed the button on the small sphere and began counting. One, she thought.
Twenty seconds. That was all she had before the metal sphere blew up in her hand and killed her. It wasn’t her best work, for all she knew it might be a dud. Still, with the rest of her effects stashed at the tavern, this was their best shot.
Seven. The Saberquill stepped back, as if sensing the danger she posed. A hot breeze blew through the coliseum, carrying an acrid vapor with it. The vapor stung her nose, and Eleesa shifted her attention to the sauration.
A pale cream colored liquid dripped from the lizardman’s maw and he breathed in, pulling his head back, then exhaled. A white stream burst from his jaws toward the Saberquill. It cried out, yowling in pain when the liquid touched its left flank.
Eleesa covered her nose, nearly gagging at the smell of burning flesh. The acid devoured everything it touched. The quills, fur, and skin on the Saberquill’s left flank had dissolved, melding together. It was like staring at the meaty scraps on a butcher’s table.
The beast’s cries were heart wrenching. It was clearly confused at what was happening to it. It madly dashed away, distancing itself from the sauration, its left leg dragging, and barely usable.
Eleesa winced, clenched her right hand, feeling the boomer in it. She froze. Scriv!What was the count?
With no time to think, she tossed it at the beast, hoping it wasn’t too late. Seconds later, before it could land, a bright flash followed. The concussive force of the boomer sent her into the sandy coliseum floor.
Through the ringing in her ears, Eleesa barely heard the riotous frenzy the explosion whipped the crowd into. She looked up, feeling heavy vibrations through the sand. Two more gates had opened and from each came another saberquill.
The sauration moved toward her, tossing his axe and shield onto the ground nearby. “Take this,” he said, his voice deep and grading. He flexed his hands, his palms glowing with a sinister violet light. “It appears this is the only way.”
The wounded saberquill, though in agony, had recovered enough of its senses to focus on them. Eleesa pulled herself up, taking the shield and axe.