I felt the sudden impact of the bars on the far side of my cell. Shaking my head to clear the stars dancing before my eyes, I started to take stock of where I was. The cell is small about 6’ by 6’. Its walls were of roughly fitted stone. The cell smelled of beast and man, of sweat, urine, blood, and fear, especially fear. There were 2 doors to my cell, the first was the barred door I was pushed through, the second barred door, the one I hit, opened to some kind of open space beyond. Torchlight spilled in through both doors providing the only illumination in the cell. The sounds of bestial struggle and anguish, as well as the sounds of a cheering crowd caused me to look through the bars of that door and confirmed my worst fears.
There within a thirty foot circular area for reddish sand battled a bull and a bear. Both beasts were black in color save where they bled. A stone wall completely enclosed the pit save for a large gate on the far side of the pit. Above the stone wall that enclosed the pit. I saw the crowd, betting, laughing, jeering and enjoying the show. I have heard that blood pits existed within the Empire in spite of vigorous Imperial suppression. Too bad I had to find out the truth from the inside. Sickened by my predicament, I turned from the carnage outside my cell door and took stock of myself.
Call me Quarrel. I’m called a mercenary though I prefer the term Solder of
Fortune. I have followed this trade for 4 years after a slight disagreement with my hometown’s religious authorities forced me into this profession. The growth of my beard tells me that I’ve been imprisoned for about a couple of days or so. Taking stock of myself, I’m surprised to find myself still garbed in my leather armor. My weapons and equipment however are missing, no surprise there. Raising a hand to the side of my head, I wince as I make contact with a lump. I guess my parents were right about the hardness of my head. I thought I was a goner when I caught sight of hammer swinging toward me. Other assorted bumps and bruises made themselves known as I checked myself over.
The last thing I remembered before catching that hammer was spreading out with my comrades to provide a screen between my caravan and a charging horde of brigands.
I remember catching one brigand in the throat with a crossbow bolt before I was forced to drop my crossbow and draw sword and dirk. I did give a good account of myself; spitting one on my sword and slashing open the cheek of another before the lights went out. I guess that is why they spared me and sold to the pit instead of cutting my throat by the side of the road.
Looking back out to the door that lead into the pit I caught sight of the bear sinking its fangs into the throat of the bull. The sudden gush of bright red blood told me that the bear bit into an artery. The bear grimly held on as the bull quickly weakened and died. Taking my eyes from the scene I looked up into the stand searching for the ornate box at which I was sure I would find the “Master of Ceremonies” of this little show. Ah, there he is, huge, fat, perfumed and bejeweled, wearing enough red silk to make a good sized sail. He seemed to be arguing with some lackey. The lackey arms spread wide said something that Fatty took exception to. The lackey then cringed and suggested something.
Fatty about to roar a response, froze, then thoughtfully nodded his assent. The lackey then scurried off to do his master’s bidding.
My attention was drawn back to the pit as attendants armed with spears forced the bear away from its kill and into the far entrance of the pit. They had a hell of a time trying to force that bear from its well-earned meal, much to the amusement of the audience.
As the attendants dragged the carcass of the bull into the same entrance and raked the red sand, Fatty stood to give an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my apologies, we have encountered some difficulties in staging the main event.” At the growing discontent of the crowd, Fatty, with a placating gesture continued. “Be assured, you will see Masston, the Champion of the Blood Pit fight today. While we await the main event, I have arranged for a little light entertainment”
I jerked my head and looked as the far cell door opened with a squeal. An ill-washed attendant wielding a spear quickly entered. He held blade of the spear to my throat forced me away from the pit door to the wall to the right. As I stood against that wall silently listing the things I would do to that attendant the first chance I got, my thoughts froze as I saw what came through the door after the attendant.
She was beautiful, with long copper colored locks that flowed to mid back. She was short and curvaceous with soft, beautiful white skin. Twisting her arm out of the grasp of an another attendant, she crossed the cell to the pit door like a queen. A neat trick considering all she was dressed in was a white silken shift that had seen better days. As she walked by our gazes met. Only in her wide blue eyes did she show any hint of fear of her predicament. I let my sympathy show, and was rewarded with a wan little smile. At the sound of a drum the pit door opened upward and without a backward glance she walked out to meet her fate.
As the pit door closed, the attendant removed the spear from my throat, and quickly backed out of the cell and closed and the door behind him. I ran to the pit door and looked out to see “Copper” and another woman warily regarded one another across the sand. The other woman, who most likely came from the far gate, was slightly taller than “Copper”, with the raven dark hair and dusky skin of a woman of the Desert Lands. “Raven” was dressed in only red silken breechcloth that extended down to her knees. Her large firm breasts swayed freely. With a proudly raised chin she haughtily stared at her opponent? It was like seeing two cats on a fence. I could feel the sheer hatred these two women had for one another. When the crowd quieted in puzzlement, Fatty addressed the audience.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sure you all know of my recent business loss. The fire at the Golden Door, was a great blow to me financially. Not only did I lose the business, the building and a couple of girls; I had to make restitution to the First Family for the death of one of their nephews.”
“You see standing before you now the reason for the fire. Aleena, he gestured to “Copper” and Sharee, he gestured to “Raven” have been feuding for a couple of months.
Their fights have been the talk of taverns throughout the city. Their final fight however knocked over a lantern in my whorehouse and cost far too much. They are going to settle this matter once and for all before an appreciative audience.”
Fatty then addressed the women. “Both of you will be fighting under the standard arena rules for visiting “Guests”. The winner will gain her freedom, her property, and a purse filled with gold. The loser will be drug out by her heels. As an added incentive, the winner will also gain this…” Fatty pulled a dagger from his belt and threw it into the sand between the two women. The well-made blade sank about the third of the way within the packed sand, its hilt glittering with gold and jewels.
Both of the women lunged desperately for the dagger between them as if shot from a bow. Copper, the quicker of the two, had just bent and grasped the dagger as Raven plowed into her. Both hit the red sand with bone jarring impact, raising a cloud of red dust as Raven desperately grasped Copper’s wrist to prevent her from employing the dagger. They frantically rolled in the sand, screaming and cursing, both trying to gain the upper hand. Copper ended up on top with both hands on the dagger, trying to sheath it in Raven’s chest. Raven with both hands on Copper’s wrist started slowly to push the dagger upward away from her breast. Then, with a quick twist of her head Raven sank strong white teeth into Copper’s hand. With a scream, Copper desperately tried to hold on to the dagger and remove her enemy’s teeth from her hand. Suddenly, the dagger went flying over Raven’s head onto the sand about a half dozen feet away. With a quick push from Raven, Copper went up and back on to the sand. Copper came back immediately after Raven, only to be stopped by a hard bare foot to the chest. Raven turned and in desperation, crawled for the dagger.
Copper knowing her life would end if Raven got her hands on that dagger, lunged after her. Grasping her enemy’s breechcloth, Copper pulled halting Raven’s progress just short of the dagger. Raven twisted, kicked and strained, but couldn’t quite reach the dagger. Then, apparently deciding that modesty should take second place to survival, Raven reached down to her breechcloth and unfastened it. Raven gained a dagger, while Copper gained only a scrap of red silk. A quick backhand slash with a dagger made Copper keep her distance as both Raven and Copper quickly got to their feet.
Both stood there oblivious to the roar of the crowd. Balanced on the balls of their feet, they stood, strung tightly as loaded crossbows, waiting to be triggered. Copper still in her shift, her hair and eyes wild, her soft skin stained and abraded by the sand dropped the scrap of silk she had in her hand, and awaited her foe’s next move. Raven stood nude, poised, and triumphant. Slowly waving the dagger before her, she taunted Copper. She too was stained red and abraded by the sand, but in her case with dagger in hand, she seemed like a statue of one of the goddesses’ worshiped by the southern jungle savages.
They held their positions for one heartbeat, two, then Raven stepped forward with a slash. With a dancer’s grace Copper avoided the first slash and the second. I found myself groaning aloud along with Copper as the third slash caught her along the ribs of her left side. I don’t know how, maybe it was her smile, but I found myself praying to Lord Steel that she will emerge victorious from this ordeal. As Copper danced back toward my cell, I found myself critiquing Raven’s technique. Her wild slashes marked her as a trio. Now a well-placed slash may slow an opponent down, but everyone knows that it is the point that kills. I found myself growing optimistic about Copper’s chances when Raven scored again.
It started with a feinted thrust to the abdomen. When Copper sucked in her gut and bent forward to avoid the thrust, Raven came up with the dagger, catching Copper with a shallow cut across the left cheek. The crowd went wild. As Raven paused to acknowledge the cheers, Copper bent and came up with a double handful of sand, flinging it into Raven’s face. Copper quickly followed the sand, grasped the right wrist of Raven, and with a painful twist, forced the dagger from Raven’s grasp. Copper then started to spin, running Raven around in a circle. Once, twice, then she released Raven. Raven stumbled across the sand. Desperate to keep her balance, Raven had no idea of her destination until she ran fully into my cell door.
When Raven hit, she just stood there against my cell door, her eyes glazing over. I saw Copper behind her take a deep breath and run her hand across her face. When that hand came away bloody, she shrieked. She shrieked not in fear but in soul deep fury. The dagger forgotten, she charged her helpless opponent. The bars of my cell door shook at the impact.
After crushing her opponent into my cell door, Copper took two fists full of Raven’s dark locks and started pounding her forehead against the bars of my cell door.
A nasty cut formed above Raven’s right eye, as Copper did her dammedest to pound Raven’s head through my cell door. Copper must have beaten some awareness into Raven. Raven, though groggy, had managed to bring up her right arm to my cell door to cushion her head against the impact. When Copper noticed this, she abandoned that line of attack, released her right hand from Raven’s hair, reached under Raven’s right arm, and cruelly raked her nails down Raven’s right breast. I had to keep myself from chuckling at the sudden thought that right now I had a better seat to the action than any of the bastards in the stands!
The pain brought Raven to full screaming consciousness. Desperately, Raven pushed and bucked against my cell door, trying to escape the punishment Copper was inflecting on her breasts. A wild elbow flung back to the face knocked Copper back a couple of steps, allowing Raven to turn and meet Copper’s next charge.
Again the door to my cell shook with the impact of Copper meeting Raven. Continuing a successful tactic, Copper latched onto Raven’s breasts with both hands.
Raven retaliated by ripping open Copper’s shift and sinking her nails into both of Copper’s now bare breasts.
There, just outside my cell door, the fight became a trial of strength and endurance. Each woman had her hands dug painfully into her enemy’s breasts. They may well as been a couple of statues, save for the sweat, blood and tears shed, as well as the soft groans, squeals, and curses that only this spectator could hear.
It was Copper who started to weaken first. Slowly, Raven forced Copper back toward the center of the pit. Then with a sudden shove, Raven pushed Copper away and on to her back, raising a cloud of red dust. Diving on to her opponent, Raven clawed at her foe’s face. Copper tried to retaliate, but didn’t have the position or the reach to claw back at her rival’s face. Instead she savagely ripped into Raven’s breasts again, drawing a scream of anguish from her foe. Nearly blinded by tears, Raven reached down, pried Copper’s hands from her tender boobs, and pinned the hands onto the sand above Copper’s head. Now Raven had a bit of a problem. She had Copper pinned, but couldn’t free up a hand to attack, not with Copper bucking and squirming to get free. I wondered how Raven would continue the attack when she suddenly collapsed forward, covering Copper’s face with her breasts.
Raven quickly released Copper’s hands and brought them to the sides of her breasts, tightening the seal over Copper’s face. Copper with her air suddenly cut off, went frantic. Copper tangled her hands into dark hair and tried prying Raven off her. Raven gritted her teeth and pressed harder with her smothering breasts. “Come-on Copper”, I silently chanted to myself. “There is a way out.” Just as I was about to shout my advice through the bars, Copper found a way out.
Raven suddenly shrieked like a banshee. She desperately tried to pull away from Copper’s face only to be stopped short by the teeth planted firmly into her right breast. Copper hung on grimly and chewed, loosening her grip only after Raven clotted her on the side of the jaw. Copper rocked Raven to the right, then rolled and with a furious shove, pushed Raven off to the left. After a quick couple of rolls to the right, Copper found her feet and slowly stood. Raven also managed to gain her feet as well.
Both fighters swayed almost drunkenly from pain and exhaustion. The scratched and bloody chests of both women heaved as they drew in air to replenish themselves. Keeping an eye on Copper, Raven checked the damage to her breasts. Copper used the opportunity to rid herself of her shredded shift, for now it would only hinder her. Nude, Copper was magnificent. The bruises, cuts, and abrasions did little to detract from tight, high, breasts; soft, milky, skin; and hips meant to cradle a man. Raven was also wondrous to look upon, in spite of the bruises, scrapes and bites that marred her fine dusky skin and full breasts. The crowd, once loud and raucous, quieted at the lull in the action. Raven and Copper seemed to have other things on their minds, ignored the crowd.
When women’s breathing slowed to normal, they slowly started to circle. The crowd started to buzz and bustle. They knew, as I did, that with this coming clash one woman will be victorious, the other dead.
As the women circled, Copper darted forward, only to pull up short and leap back. A feint, but it got Raven to stumble back in surprise, much to the amusement of the audience. Raven flushed and charged at Copper intent on making her pay. Copper neatly sidestepped and with a short sexy leg, tripped her charging opponent. I winced at the impact of Raven hitting the sand. She slid forward a couple of feet, screaming as the sand abraded her wounds. She coughed and cried as the rising red dust irritated her eyes and lungs. But those proved to be the least of her worries as Copper straddled her back and started to dig her nails into her face.
Raven desperately bucked and twisted to dislodge her hated foe. So energetic were her attempts to escape that Copper had to abandon the attack on Raven’s face and grab Raven’s black hair to keep from being dislodged. When Raven started to tire, Copper released her enemy’s hair with her right hand and reached around to claw her opponent’s face again. This time however, Raven was ready for her. As the clawing hand dug into her face, Raven grasped the wrist with her left hand, pulled, and bit hard into Copper’s arm. As Copper’s shriek reverberated through the pit, Raven twisted under Copper and then rolled her foe on her back.
Now it was Raven’s turn to straddle Copper. Raven clawed for Copper’s eyes. She missed as Copper twisted her head away. Her nails caught Copper’s cheek instead.
Spurred by the pain, Copper made a mighty effort to escape the pin, clawing, scratching, and hitting, only to windup having Raven firmly on top, pinning her chest and left arm. Copper turned her head to bite Raven’s thigh. Raven having none of that caught Copper by the throat and started to pound her head on the sand. Then, getting a better grip on her enemy’s throat, Raven started to squeeze.
Copper started to become frantic. She reached up and latched her free right hand onto Raven’s tender breast and squeezed. Raven stiffened in pain, but ignored it and redoubled her effort to strangle the life from her foe. Copper panicked. She squirmed and twisted, right arm flailing as she sought to escape. Then to my admiration, she suddenly punched her foe in the side once, twice. Copper was losing, but she is going down fighting. I’d hoped that I would still fight as hard when my doom came.
Then to my amazement, Raven stiffened. A stricken expression of shock and dismay crossed her face as bloody froth appeared at her mouth and nose. Her body suddenly turned boneless as Copper rolled pushed her on her back. Then raising the once lost and forgotten dagger high, Copper plunged it down into a screaming Raven. Shrieking almost hysterically, Copper stabbed her foe again and again. Suddenly Copper stopped and kicked herself away from her fallen foe. Sitting in the sand, shaking, she dropped the dagger and watched Raven breathe her last.
Copper sat there staring at her fallen foe. Nothing seemed to matter to her. She ignored the hysterical crowd, her painful wounds, and the attendants advancing toward her. All her attention seemed to be on the wreckage of what was once a lovely and vibrant young woman. Firmly, yet with surprising gentleness, a pair of attendants picked up the dagger, helped Copper to her feet, and guided her out the now open gate at the far side of the pit. Another pair of attendants dragged the husk of Raven, I mean “Sharee”, through the far gate by her heels as another pair of attendants raked the blood into the sand. I remember thinking at the time that the sand came by its color honestly.
The cell door at the other side of my cell squealed open again as a pair of attendants entered sporting spears and nasty grins. With a level gaze and a shake of my head they paused. With the groan of the pit entrance opening behind me, I spun and to the accompaniment of the drum, marched out to meet my fate.
As I strode toward the center, I took note of my surroundings. The pit was open to the night sky, but well lit by torches and lanterns. Suddenly, I turned and walked toward the Fatty’s box. 6 feet away from the wall I stopped and gazed upward. Ignoring the raucous catcalls of the general audience, I met the eyes of foppish nobles and their painted trollops. I found in the eyes of that box to be filled with, lust, greed, gluttony, hunger, and … sympathy? There, wrapped in a red silk robe, stood Copper. I could see that her wounds were hastily treated. From her look I knew she was relieved to be alive but didn’t want to be in that box. At her sympathetic gaze, I felt my lip quirk up into a smile and was rewarded with one in return. When Fatty started to speak, I had to force myself to pay attention.
In an expansive orator’s voice, Fatty called out “Ladies and Gentlemen”. The crowd settled down to listen. “Tonight’s main event is between Masston the Magnificent and our guest here, the noted mercenary crossbowman Quarrel.” Looking at me with a snide grin, Fatty said, “Take a bow Quarrel.” Though the crowd thought that funny, I personally didn’t see the humor in it.
Suddenly, he stood and with a flourish produced my sword. Then he tossed the blade high. It spun once, twice, to land point down into the sand. I recovered my sword. Fatty drew breath to speak again when I called up and asked, “dirk?” Fatty considered, and whispered something to a lackey, who scurried off. A moment later, the lackey returned with all my gear. Fatty pulled my well-made dirk from my weapon belt and with great ceremony and accuracy buried the blade of my dirk at my feet.
Fatty was about to speak again when some devil in me prompted me to call up to him asking, “Crossbow?” Fatty turned to his lackey and caught himself. The lackey, anticipating Fatty, had my crossbow and quiver of bolts in hand. Fatty froze and flushed at the sudden laughter of the audience. He took the crossbow and with a backhand, knocked the lackey away from him. Then making the best of an embarrassing situation, he held up my crossbow and waggled it at me, drawing a louder laugh from the audience. You can say what you want about that fat bastard, but he definitely was a showman.
Handing off the crossbow to the cringing lackey, Fatty turned and addressed the audience once more. “As with the prior bout, Quarrel is fighting as a guest. If he wins, he will gain his freedom, property, and a purse filled with gold.” I spared at look at Copper and thought, “Maybe something more”.
Fatty paused dramatically and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the Undefeated Champion of the Blood Pit, Masston the Magnificent!”
The gate opened and to the accompaniment of trumpet and drum Masston strode into the pit. Stopping ten feet away from me, he raised his weapons and roared, playing to the audience. The audience responded surging to its feet with a standing ovation. I had to admit to myself that he was aptly named.
The man topped me by a shaven head, and out weighed me by 40 pounds, all muscle. The black, studded leather harness he wore did little to protect him. Instead the harness was there to show case an impressive physique. Red loincloth and black sandals completed his barbaric attire. In his right hand was a brutal looking mace. In his left hand, a wicked short sword. Although he played the crowd, I could tell he was aware of me and what I was doing.
While Masston was whipping up the crowd, I prepared myself. After a quick prayer to Lord Steel, I set myself into a low guard position and waited. Masston seeing I was ready got into position himself, grinning knowingly at me.
“Grin you bastard”, I thought. “Yes I was taught in the classical style of fencing, but my instruction was also held in the seediest back alleys and bloodiest battlefields the Empire had to offer. This pit may be your home ground, but I faced goblin warbands in their hills and shambling dead in their tombs.”
I was ready when Fatty gave the word.