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Phobos VII [NaNoWriMo]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by HypoSoc, Nov 3, 2019.

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  1. Threadmarks: One
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    The journey through the Arch was a decidedly uncomfortable experience. The carriage jostled violently as it passed through, coinciding with a nauseating sensation of falling both up and down simultaneously. In retrospect, he should have anticipated this one he had seen just how tightly the luggage had been bundled up.

    He had managed to avoid yelping, though one of his fellows had not been so stoic. Not that he could blame him, when his own head felt like it had been dunked in water and thrashed to and fro.

    But that short unpleasantness was forgotten instantly, as his eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness.

    Marble. Gold. Carved stone and gleaming mosaics tiling the open-faced architectural wonders, those columns and archways and mirrored domes, about them, all glistening in the sun. And beyond all else, the people. Oh so many people. Crowds and crowds of bustling people of all manner and age, donning fineries that painted the reflective surfaces. They manned the stands and frequented them in turn, bustling and shouting into a cacophonous din of noise and livelihood and life.

    “Amazing.” The word came from behind him, and was but a whisper against the thrumming roar of the forum.

    “I’ve never seen so many people in my life.” At once, or in total, it was hardly an exaggeration.

    The forum was a chaotic mess of activity, market stalls of various sizes lining the edges, selling wares of all shapes and sizes. Groups clamored around the popular ones with no care for the space they took, and yet the people easily flitted about to and from their destinations with hardly an obstruction. Ahead he saw a grand palanquin, near the size of a hut on its lonesome, travel without issue through the crowded street, the populace easy parting around it and its eight stone-faced bearers like a creek around a boulder.

    The carriage, likewise, moved steadily as people flowed out of the way of the horses. The clip was far slower than it had been on the rough country roads, but he could hardly begrudge it. Not when there was so much to see.

    Exotic fruits, intricate tapestries. Two silk-clad woman bickered over the price of a headdress. A grey haired merchant proudly demonstrated some flying bauble to a young child. Another stone-faced being collected choice cuts of meat in its basket, before moving to procure loaves of freshly baked bread. Cheerful youths jostled into the stone edifice that marked the bath houses. A musician strummed her lyre as her partner danced.

    And above it all, at postings of the roofs, bird-masked guardians directed their gaze upon the masses.

    He watched it all, drinking the sights in, the people, the marvels, the thrumming excitement of a teeming people. Many, mostly children, stopped and stared at his carriage as it passed. He favored one with a smile and got a beaming grin in return.

    It was simply marvelous.

    Another palanquin, far smaller with only two stone-faced bearers, stopped in front of a rug stall, and he watched as a young woman poked her head out of the curtained interior to speak with the proprietor. A group of children bowled over one another, tossing pebbles back and forth as they ducked between the legs of those far older than them. An elderly man-

    The carriage’s slow pace came to a halt when a group of people failed to give way. The horses snorted and the driver cursed loudly.

    Smiling men and women, all wearing brilliant shades of green in every variation imaginable surrounded the carriage. He blinked as one in particular picked him out.

    “Greetings, oh valiant one, to the city!” The man grinned, asserting himself above the din. “Please accept our warm welcome, and allow us to demonstrate our hospitality with a gift.”

    The verdant man presented a bit of rolled up green cloth, secured shut with a brilliant emerald necklace.

    Bewildered, he could think of nothing else to do but accept the sudden gift through the open window. “Thank you?”

    The cloth, as it turned out, was a tunic. And, by the feel, it was of far greater quality than anything he had ever owned before. “I mean… thank you very much. This seems to be a grand gift.”

    The man’s cheery smile only grew. “I am glad you enjoy it. If it pleases you, you can wear it in your matches. It can only bring good luck to your endeavors.”

    In the front, the driver’s cursing only grew at the group blocking their way. Around him, all of his fellows were receiving green gifts of their own.

    One of the bird-masked watchers leaped down from his post, and moved forcefully towards the carriage. The driver’s eyes lit up at the sights, while the green woman he was cursing at paled slightly. She gestured, and very quickly, the green men and women all dispersed into the crowd, letting their smiles linger, and leaving all their gifts in various hands.

    The watcher, seemingly satisfied, headed back to his post with no further action. From there, the carriage was able to continue onward.

    Nobody else in the crowd was as brazen as the verdant troupe, but, as they approached their destination on the other end of the forum, the number of onlookers only grew. Young women whispered to one another as they gazed at the various riders, children followed along trailing, shyly turning away when spotted, or boldly tilting their head in curiosity. He could not pick out just what they were saying, but he could imagine it.

    The crowds thinned out as they approached their destination, some strong metal gates off the side of the forum, large enough to fit the whole carriage through with five shoulder widths to spare. Two guards, dressed in ceremonial white pulled the barrier open upon spotting the driver, and they were able to make it through with no fuss.

    The gate closed behind them, and with it, the noise of the forum fell to a muffled hum.

    The horses continued down the tiled path of this closed off section, towards a small outpost, where a number of people were waiting, some standing, some reclining on chairs.

    “Here we are.” The driver hummed. “Sorry for the delay.”

    Three men swiftly arrived to claim the baggage at the back of the carriage. Another opened the door to let them all out.

    He followed his fellow passengers to the solid ground, taking the opportunity to work the kinks out of his muscles, and rub the tiredness out of his eyes. It had been a long journey.

    The waiting people came forth, rising from their seats or otherwise, checking their parchments, and calling out names. He listened for his own.

    “Stas?” A bespectacled man called. He was middle-aged, balding, and seemed to suffer from a bit of a gut. His tunic a dreary, if clean, tan that was a far cry from the splendorous clothing he had witnessed in the forum.

    “That is me.”

    Stas walked forward to meet the man, who eyed him up and down. “Hm. Seems like they didn’t lie.”

    “Lie, sir?”

    “In the reports, the recruiters sometimes like to make their charges a little more appealing. Add half a hand of height, tweak with the weight. Nothing truly egregious, but...” He shakes his head. “It is nothing for you to worry about. My name is Ludo, and I will be in charge of you for the foreseeable future. You may refer to me as Lanista, or Master, or sir, or what have you. I don’t particularly care outside of formal receptions. Now, walk with me.”

    Beside them, a one of his fellows got into a palanquin with a young man dressed in finery. Ludo observed his gaze.

    “What? Can’t you walk?” The older man derided. “I certainly hope you aren’t going to be winded by a little stroll. There’s no need to waste money like that when stretching your legs is healthy. Princeps knows its the only bit of exercise I have time for.” Ludo smacked his gut self-deprecatingly. “Now, walk.”

    Ludo led him in a direction opposite the palanquin's, setting a sedate pace. “When we arrive, I will show you to your room. For now, you will be bunking alone, but you may be given a roommate at some future date should I choose to host more students. Afterwards, you will attend to my general physician, so he can get an accurate baseline measurement of your height, weight, musculature, and general health. He will be available for consultation at any time you wish, but you will be required to visit him at least once a week. Similarly, you will have opportunity to meet with my on-site surgeon, who, you hopefully will never have to make use of. Given the current hour, this should last until dinner.

    “The cafeteria is open three times a day, and I encourage you to avoid skipping meals. You will be required to meet with my dietitian at least once a month, or more frequently, at his discretion. The training grounds are open during daylight hours to every student. The instructors will be available there. I have three on site, one for calisthenics, one for sword fighting, and one for arcanum. If you find yourself in need of specialized training, I will likely be able to procure an instructor, though I urge you to make use of the ones already present.

    “You are permitted to leave the school as required, outside of days where you have a match, but you shouldn’t have much reason to leave. If you need anything from the marketplace, you can speak to my commissar. She will provide you anything within reason. And, as a gladiator, I would greatly advice avoiding public baths, as the public is...” Ludo trailed off, offering a bit of a stern glare, “I hope I don’t need to tell you that you shouldn’t let the pleasures of life distract you from your sport. I will not waste money maintaining a hedonist.”

    Stas blinked at the sudden accusation. “I understand, sir.”

    Ludo nodded. “Good. As I was saying… the public baths can be a distraction, so use our private ones. We have a masseuse on hand, and our equipment is as good as any public location. Without the same temptations. And if you do decide to venture out, curfew is at sundown, at which point you must be back on the estate. No exceptions. Understood?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Good. Now, do you have any questions?”

    “When is my first fight?”

    “Unscheduled as of yet. I will see about getting something in after you have time to settle in. Something against one of your fellow students to help get your feet wet. Let’s say… a week from now.” Ludo nodded to himself. “Yes, there should be a good space for a match in a week. I will let you know when it is set. In general, you should expect to have a match once a month, though they are usually scheduled two weeks out, barring last minute alterations. Any other questions?”

    “Can I watch other matches?”

    Again, Ludo nodded. “Of course. Always I good idea to keep up with the tactics of your fellows, so long as you don’t spend so much time watching that you forget to train. Speak with the commissar about tickets for when you want to go. You can always find a few students who would be happy to go with you. Ah, here we are.”

    The door to the wide estate opened as Ludo spoke, revealing the modest entryway. “Come on in. Ah, but first,” he held his arm out. “Give me that bundle.”

    “This?” Stas held out the green tunic and necklace.

    “Yes.” Ludo nodded, snatching it. He snapped his fingers and a servant appeared. “Dispose of this.”

    He tossed the bundle to the servant, who caught it easily. Stas watched on in confusion. “What? Why?”

    “Leave the color politics for the races, boy. Gladiators are above such nonsense.” He turned back to face the servant. “And when you are done with that, let Raphael know that Stas has arrived so he can prepare.”

    The servant nodded, and rushed off.

    “Now… your room, yes?” Ludo snaps again, and another servant arrived. “Lorenzo, Stas’s room is ready, correct? Good, then show him there. I will see about getting that match scheduled.”

    Stas allowed himself to be led off, and hoped he would collapse the moment he saw the bed.


    My November project this year, actually writing a novel instead of random snippets/interludes.

    I don't know if I will finish it in November, but it will be longer than 50000 words before I wake up on December 1.

    This is set in the same universe as my quests. Specifically, it follows this old interlude and this old interlude.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
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  2. Threadmarks: Two
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    The stadium was far grander than any Stas had seen before. Opulent and imposing, the largest of the city’s four amphitheaters was as the forums writ large. He had been informed that near one hundred thousand people could cram into the gilded stands. And, from the sheer mass of people currently occupying them, he had no trouble believing it.

    “The arena is always most crowded on the first of the month.” Alain explained from the seat beside him. “That is when the most anticipated matches are scheduled. Everyone who cares to attend tries to make it on the first.”

    “And that is nothing compared to the spectacle on New Year’s.” Geoffrey, beside him, continued. Geoffrey had already been seating when they arrived, having opted to enjoy the morning festivities. “It is said that the competition for each New Year’s ticket is fiercer than the match itself. But we don’t have to worry about that,” he chuckled.

    Stas let out a light laugh at the easy joke. “Ah, yes. These seats are excellent.” And they were. Box seats, the like of which were generally reserved for nobility. Far from the crowds that crammed together, he and his fellows were afforded a level of anonymity. With cushions over the otherwise harsh, stone seating, and space galore, they stood far beyond those afforded to the general public. And the view was one par excellence.

    He did not envy those forced to stand, crammed together in the blazing late afternoon sun, with a view only the most eagle-eyed could enjoy.

    “Ah, but the seats hardly compare to the sands below.” Geoffrey retorted with a grin. “In just a few short months, I imagine, you will be free to enjoy sitting on your ass, and watch me dominate a prime-time fight. I’ll be sure to let you bask in my glory.”

    Another member of the school swatted at him, but it was accepted with good nature.

    “Who is competing today? Anyone from our school?” Stas asked.

    “No, sadly.” Alain shook his head. “Ludo is a newer Lanista, in the scope of things, and not so accomplished that he can organize first of the month fights for his students on the basis of his renown alone. And none of us have yet to achieve the same person acclaim.”

    “It will not be so long yet, my friend,” Zola proclaimed. “We are hardly sitting on our laurels.”

    “Quite,” Alain acknowledged. “As for today’s matches, the lots were held before the intermission. There are three matches of note: Radek Twinblade against Daxton of the Sand, Esmae of Rubies against Lafayette the Hunter, and Lance Victorious against Ostynn the Unconquered. They will be interspersed by a chimera hunt and a show of acrobatics.”

    “And then the closing ceremonies at the end,” Geoffrey interjected. “I will probably be heading back during the acrobatics, with how stuffy it has been here I’ll want some time in the baths and to exercise some before the day ends.”

    “Not much point in staying for the closing ceremonies,” Zola said. “But I do want to see all three matches.”

    “Of course. There is little better preparation than seeing our competition in action.” Geoffrey replied. “Which is why I am staying as late as Lafayette’s match. He has a similar style as my own.”

    “The first fight interest me more.” Alain admitted. “Stas, you are a provincial, correct? Did you know Radek before you both came to the city?”

    Stas shook his head. “No. The country is spread out. Lots of towns, villages, farmsteads. We don’t all know one another. I knew a couple people named Radek, but neither had left for the city before me.”

    Alain hmmed. “Perhaps you might still recognize him. It is not uncommon for a gladiator to change their name. But we shall see. I believe intermission is due to end soon.”

    From the looks of things, the arena staff had finished setting out a fresh layer of sand and removing the props from the previous act. The band had returned to their pit, and were readying their instruments.

    “Yup,” Zola nodded, leaning out of the box’s window. “I think I see the Princeps back in his box, now. Or at least, somebody from his entourage. That’s a good sign they’re about to restart as any.”

    “Hah, you think this is a good seat, Stas, just imagine sitting with the Princeps,” spoke Geoffrey. “I heard the air is kept cool and the noise from the crowd is muted, but you can hear everything on the sands just fine. And there is no better view in any arena than there. I dream of being invited to watch from there, one day.”

    “Who doesn’t?” was the amused reply. “I believe the honor belongs to Horatio Undaunted today, but I am not certain.”

    “Yes, the undaunted has been favored lately.” Geoffrey agreed. “One can only salivate at the benefits of such favor, even for this short an event. To say nothing of the food and drink the Princeps has available. I can only imagine what sort of delicacies his guests have access to from the comfort of their seat.”

    “Oh, shut it with the food talk, Geoffrey.” Alain complained. “You know I am stuck on gruel and bread for this week.”

    “That’s your own fault, Alain,” spoke Zola. “And shush yourself, they are starting.”

    Indeed, from the orchestral pit emerged a sharp clang, as the arena band announced the continuations of festivities. A pounding, powerful proclamation that foretold the competitors’ arrival.

    Stats watched eagerly as, from the far entrance, two men emerged, holding above and between them, a gold engraved litter. And, standing upon that litter, arms raised to accept the roaring cheers of the stadium, was a man in splendid attire: draped silks concealing fine armor, with cuts designed to flatter the eye. His helmet did little to conceal his handsome face, but managed to guard more than not. Dozens of intricate glass bottles filled his bandoleer. A small ,circular shield, and a long, sinuous whip were strapped to his back.

    “That’s Daxton.” Alain explained, as the man leaped from his raised platform to the sand below, basking in the cheers of the crowd. “A crowd favorite. Well… everyone fighting today is a crowd favorite, so that doesn’t say much.”

    The music of the band shifted in tone, slowing and steadying at another arrival. Stas did not have as good of an angle for this one, so he had to lean out of the box.

    “Radek.” Alain explained once again, as the muscular bare-chested man made himself known. The bulking man had two swords strapped upon his back, something Stas assumed was related to his ‘twin blade’ moniker. He lacked even the understated armor of his opponent, only possessing a pair of arm-guards. He wore a simple red sash for a belt and a single ruby earring. A number of glass vials were attached to said sash, though far fewer in number than on Daxton.

    The cheers he received more than rivaled that of his opponent.

    “So,” Zola questioned. “You recognize him?”

    Stas considered for a moment, before shaking his head. “No. I definitely don’t recognize him.”

    “Pity. I was hoping you might be able to introduce us. Oh well.” She shrugged.

    “He’s quite bold, isn’t he?” Stas commented, eyes locked with unprotected muscles of his back.

    “Indeed. Radek has made a point to avoid wearing armor or helmets throughout his career. I don’t know if it is the most intelligent move, but it has endeared him with certain parts of the public.”

    “It’s annoying, that’s what it is.” Geoffrey snorted. “Armor can be uncomfortable and doesn’t always work with what you want to do, but now if you take it off, people just assume you are copying Radek. Feh.”

    “I assume you are rooting for Daxton, then?” Zola broached.

    “Well I know you like Radek, so at least one of us has to. What about you, Stas? Rooting for your fellow provincial?”

    “I just want to see an interesting fight.” He replied.

    “Hah. Well, these are some of the best, so it is sure to be that, if nothing else.”

    Both competitors walked forward, to the center of the sandy arena. As one, they turned to face the Princep’s box, and the music came to quiet halt. Both fighters bowed to their patron, who (though Stas could not make it out from the angle), was certain to have responded in the custom manner.

    They then turned to face each other. Daxton retrieved his whip and Radek unsheathed his two blades.

    And, at some unseen signal, they both moved, the band resuming play as they did so.

    Daxton’s whip cracked forth, snaking across the distance in an instant. Radek wasted no time in dodging the wild swing.

    “Bit of an obvious opening,” Stas observed.

    “That is Daxton,” Alain shrugged. “He always begins the same. He’d be more surprised than anyone else if it connected, but it serves its purpose.”

    Indeed, taking advantage of the space gained from the opening, Daxton reached for a glass vial on his bandoleer, and quickly gulped down the contents in a highly practiced motion.

    He then chucked the finished vial at Radek, who caught the projectile between his two blades.

    The sand around Daxton’s feet began to whir, and the crowd’s cheers grew.

    Alain gestured vaguely. “Hence the name, if you hadn’t caught on.”

    “I gathered,” Stas said dryly.

    The sand around Daxton’s feet rose up into a tornado, forming a spinning wall of desert all around him. The man himself was near fully occluded by the shredding material.

    Radek launched the vial back in retaliation, chucking with far greater force than Daxton had managed. But the moment it reached the barrier, it shattered from the force of the sand.

    “Bad luck for Radek, eh?” Geoffrey mocked. “Didn’t get a hit in on Daxton before he got up and running. And with the number of elixirs Daxton brought he’s going to have a hard time enduring the onslaught. Not like Lafayette, who could shoot him through all that mess.”

    “Don’t underestimate Radek.” Zola declared. “He won’t need to endure. He’ll just win outright.”

    In the ground below, the sand beneath Radek’s feet also began to rumble. The muscular swordsman leaped to the side in time to avoid a grasping maw of sand that threatened to devour him.

    Even as he moved, a solid clump of sand the size of his head was ready to meet him. Radek twisted around it, avoiding the projectile by the thinnest of margins.

    The crowd roared.

    “So confident, are you? Well, we’ll just have to see.”

    Stas let the bickering fade from his hearing, opting to drink in the fight. He allowed himself into the position of Radek, considering just how he would get out of such a spot.

    Maddeningly, there did not seem to be much in his arsenal. Not with the defense, and the constant supply of sand available to Daxton. But that was the point of learning and training.

    Radek remained unperturbed, even as he twisted out of the way of further projectiles, keeping light on his feet to avoid the occasion rumbles of the sand below him. The music matches his movements, frantic, yet steady, urgent, yet purposeful. The swordsman occasional swung at the projectiles or blocked them with his vambrace.

    Stas tried to imagine what the gladiator was seeing, what he was thinking, as he dodged around with no progress made. The dodging was spectacular, to be sure, and a display of masterful awareness and acrobatics, but it was hardly any good at reversing the pressure. A man’s stamina, unlike the sand of an arena, was not limitless.

    In a particularly showy move, Radek actually tossed one of his swords into the air as he dodged another maw from below. The sword spun freely in the air to the awe of the crowd.

    In the same motion, Radek grabbed one of his own glass vials, and consumed the elixir within, before catching the sword upon its decent, earning further cheer.

    Color drained from the swordsman’s skin, leaving a metallic sheen in its place. And, with a dash, he made a beeline for his opponent, the musicians marking it with a climactic beat.

    Radek batted his now empty vial at the whirlwind. This one failed to shatter, only cracking from the force of the sand. Near immediately after, Radek charged through, twin swords readied.

    The wall of sand fell to the ground, revealing Daxton, in the midst of reaching for his third elixir. He had been knocked to the arena floor by Radek’s charge, and had a pair of swords against his neck.

    The crowd near exploded at the sight.

    “Damn it, Daxton!” Geoffrey cursed. “Why did you have to be so frugal? Don’t you dare get smug about this, Zola. This was Daxton’s match to lose and he went and lost it.”

    Stas nodded, parsing what he had seen. “In his attempt to make his supply last longer, he allowed his defenses to weaken before he would replenish his magic.” Stas could appreciate the skill involved on Radek’s part, in noticing the weakness and capitalizing on it immediately. But it rubbed him the wrong way to know that the victory was only due to a mistake. How would Radek have won if Daxton never let his defense falter? He could not rely on his opponents always failing.

    Zola shrugged. “Victory is victory no matter the reason. But I don’t know why you care. You aren’t a fan of either of them.”

    “It’s easy to get invested on this sort of thing.” Geoffrey mumbled.

    “Honestly, Geoffrey,” Alain commented. “I think you are still underestimating Rodek too much. Even through all that. he didn’t even use his sword.”

    “His sword?” Stas inquired. The man had used both of his blades to defend against the sand onslaught, so he imagined she meant something special.

    Zola answered in his stead. “One of Radek’s swords is supposed to be magic. His… left one I believe.”

    Stas scrutinized the two blades in the provincial’s hands, trying to discern their supposed magic. They were of pristine quality, to be sure, both more impressive than any weapon he had held in his life, but neither stood out as obviously magical. “What does it do?”

    Alain shrugged. “It can cut through anything, I think. Not sure what else a magic sword would be good for.”

    “And what would that be good for against sand?” Geoffrey scoffed. “Oh, I can cut each grain in half with a swing. All you’d do is double the amount of it.”

    “Would it be doubling if each grain is half the size?” Alain mused.

    The box, and the crowd at large, hushed as the two fighters, swords still in threatening position, turned once more to the Princeps box. The music mellowed to silence.

    Two feather-clad officials, one in pure white, the other in pitch black, slowly trotted forth to the center of the arena. Both wore intricate, beaked masks of their respective color, faces fully obscured.

    “I heard it can cut the air, over a distance.” Zola interjected. “But he never uses it like that unless he has to. On account of it possibly hitting the crowd.”

    “That’s just a rumor, I’m sure.” Geoffrey scoffed. “If I had a sword that I could do that, I’d just learn to aim it.”

    “How do you even get a magic sword?” Stas wondered aloud, considering the sorts of things a magic weapon might be capable of. The thought of having being able to rend space or invoke the elements with a swing... it appealed to him, to say the least.

    Alain shrugged. “I don’t know. Have a fan that is insanely rich and get them to gift one to you? That’s probably how Radek got one.”

    “Just need fans first, before you can reel in rich ones.” Zola smirked, before quieting down, along with the rest of the box.

    Stas, in deference, refrained from voicing his response.

    The officials reached the field’s center and completed a short examination. The white one then gestured that Daxton still lived, as would be obvious to anyone except perhaps the poor fans in the far back.

    The officials and Radek turned towards the Princep’s box.

    Again, the Princeps made a gesture that Stas could not see. The swords fell quickly, and, after the white-feathered official helped Daxton to his feet, both gladiators turned to face the cheering crowds. The music played a cheerful jaunt, matching the grins on both gladiator’s faces.

    “That’ll be me, someday soon.” Geoffrey proclaimed.

    Stas was of a similar mindset.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019 at 2:28 AM
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  3. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    Probably going to get very little traffic on this if you don’t mention it in one of your other threads, very few people pay attention to the SFW side of the site, especially the creative writing section, given that the site own name is “questionable” “questing”.

    Still not sure how the Phobos interlude plays into this yet, but I imagine it’ll come in time.
     
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  4. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    Good idea.

    You are correct. But, as a hint, that interlude focuses on Phobos V.
     
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  5. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    Now I’m wondering wether the mask makes its way off of Earth, or our Protagonist is going to escape Von Graft’s Mat farm, and acquire the Phobos mask on Earth.
     
  6. Artful Lounger

    Artful Lounger Experienced.

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    The forum was a chaotic mess of activity, market stalls of various sizes lining the edges, selling wares of all shapes and sizes. Groups clamored around the popular ones with no care for the space they took, and yet the people easily flitted about to and from their destinations with hardly an obstruction. Ahead he saw a grand palanquin, near the size of a hut on its lonesome, travel without issue through the crowded street, the populace easy parting around it and its eight stone-faced bearers like a creek around a boulder.

    The carriage, likewise, moved steadily as people flowed out of the way of the horses. The clip was far slower than it had been on the rough country country roads, but he could hardly begrudge it. Not when there was so much to see.

    Chapter one, a few paragraphs down, you doubled a word. Shame on you trying to inflate your word count HypoSoc.:p

    I'm looking forward to more of this, although it does make me despair of a new Polyhistor update before December.

    I do have a question though. I get that this is Von Graft's gladiator world and he rules as its God-Emperor. Is the Princeps in the story Von Graft himself? Because that means 'Prince'. So I'm wondering if he just goes by that title regardless of whether it truly fits, or if that's one of Von Graft's children or something.
     
  7. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    In the old Roman sense, Princeps had nothing to do with prince, it was their word for king, literally meaning either “First” or “Chief”/“Leader”. The Emperors from Augustus to Diocletian used it as their unofficial title.

    Originally it was the senate head, so when the emperors started to take power back from the senate, they basically installed themselves as “Speaker of the House” for life, in modern parlance. The actual title of prince is medieval usage, way way later.

    So considering all the gratuitous Latin, it definitely fits.
     
  8. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    The emperors of Rome were not originally called "Imperator" as that was a title for specific military command.

    Most commonly, they were referred to as "Caesar" (read "Kaiser" for the proper Latin pronunciation), after Julius and Augustus.
    But the official title for the highest office, was "Princeps" meaning "first citizen," a bit of political fiction Augustus employed to make his absolute dictatorship more palatable.
    Von Graft, unlike pretty much all of Europe for that time period, does not pretend to be the direct continuation of the Roman empire (and the Caesarian line), so "Princeps" is the title of choice, not "Caesar".

    The Latin word for king was "Rex." But that was a very dirty word in the Roman zeitgeist, as their nationalistic identity included the overthrowing of the Tyrant King Tarquinius Superbus as much as it did being founded by Romulus.

    But then "Ceasar" came to refer to a massive bundle of political and religious positions, of which "Princeps" was one of them. And after a few centuries of that, they all referred to emperorships.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
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  9. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    Nitpicky bull crap here, but technically the offical title was “Princeps Civitatis”, which meant “First Citizen”. Princeps alone really does just translate as “FIRST”, for all your memetic needs. Princeps was the unofficial, but commonly used title. President vs President of the United States, The Queen vs Queen of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, etc.

    Until Diocletian, who wanted everyone to call him “Master”. Nothing weird there, no sir.
     
  10. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    Definitely nitpicky, but that is precisely the sort of bullcrap I support around here.

    But this empire is explicitly meant to invoke the Antonine golden age, so Princeps it is.
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Three
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    “Seems we are facing each other in three days.” Geoffrey offered suddenly.

    “Hm?” Stas set down his weights to acknowledge the other gymnasium occupant.

    “Ludo managed to schedule us a match this Friday. In the Lunar Arena.” At Stat’s lack of recognition, Geoffrey continued. “That’s the third largest one, furthest from the forum.”

    “I see.” Stas had managed to tour two of the arenas is his short time in the city, each grand constructions. To say one was only the third largest was hardly a complaint. “Is there anything special about the Lunar Arena?”

    “No. Not particularly. The smaller size mostly result in fewer seats, not a smaller field. I suppose it tends to be used for naval battles more than the other three, so I suppose the plumbing might be superior in some way… but that hardly matters to us. Unless you plan on sailing at me?” He asked, with mock seriousness.

    Stas chuckled. “I had not planned on such, no.”

    “Hah. Honestly, I am surprised Ludo managed to find something at such short notice. These things tend to take longer. The New Year’s game is scheduled practically half a year in advance. So, if you are going to win fame and acclaim, it would be best to do so before midsummer, otherwise you have to wait even longer.” Geoffrey offered an easy grin.

    “I’ll keep that in mind.” Stas returned it.

    “Make sure you do. This is prime advice from your doting senior, after all.”

    “Indeed, so senior you must be retiring any minute now.”

    “Ach!” The gladiator slapped his heart in fake dismay. “If my joints didn’t ache so much I’d bend you over the knee and teach you a lesson for your cheek, young man.” He shook his head. “In all seriousness, the reason Ludo managed to snag something is likely due to no one else wanting to compete on the day of a big race. I would not expect much of an audience, sadly.”

    “Because they will all be at the tracks?” Stas frowned. “Why would anyone want to watch some charioteers when they could watch the arena?”

    Geoffrey shrugged. “I agree with you, my friend. There’s a reason I chose to be a gladiator, not a racer. And it is not just because a perfume of horse shit does not agree with my pallet. But, to be fair, this is an unusually anticipated race. I myself would have attended had I not been selected for a match. After all, it is better to compete than to watch others compete, is it not?”

    “Absolutely.” Stas nodded solemnly.

    “Good that you agree. But you wouldn’t be a gladiator if you were lazy, no?” He smiled. “So, I haven’t manage to catch you training in the training yard yet. What is it you can do?”

    Stas quirked an eye. “Hm? Worried already? Have more confidence in yourself. I’m sure, as my senior, you won’t have too much of a problem acquitting yourself.”

    “Haha. Very funny. But seriously, what is your style? How do you fight? This is important information.”

    “I am sure it is,” Stas nodded. “Which is why I will save it for the arena. Don’t worry, Geoffrey. I have as little an idea of your style as you do my own, so neither of us has an advantage in this.”

    “Stas,” Geoffrey stated slowly, as if speaking to a child. “If we do not know each other’s style, we will be unable to prepare for it.”

    “Exactly. It will be a truly natural fight, one we will not have an opportunity to replicate. After all, we are certain to fight again many more times in the future, right? So let’s keep this one a surprise.” While Sats could acknowledge the skill involved in making preparations for a specific foe, it did not have the same sort of visceral feeling of going into a duel blind.

    Geoffrey inhaled deeply. “Stas, if we are not prepared, we will not be able to play off of one another well. It would be far too easy to trip up, make a mistake before the crowd. Surely you understand this?”

    “Play off one another?”

    “For the crowd, Stas. For the audience. They come to see a show. We go to be remembered. It is in everyone’s interest for the match to be as spectacular as possible. As glorious as possible.”

    Stas paused to contemplate. The idea of giving up a natural fight was against his inclinations, but Geoffrey was the more experienced gladiator. “So, you want us to prepare countermeasures for one another, to allow us to make the most of the match.”

    “Countermeasures? That would be counterproductive. No, we need to plan how to best show off one another. Make sure we both get our hits in before the fight ends, something to help the crowd get excited. Is there a gimmick you wanted to try out? I could help you come up with one. Always good to establish your first real fans early.”

    “You are making this sound like a dance recital.” Stas groused.

    “Hah. I’d love to take the chance to stage the whole thing out, but I don’t think either of us are good actors. No, we just need to establish the general highs and lows, the rhythms. Something with a good pace before I end it.”

    “Excuse me?” Stas stilled completely. “I thought I heard something very arrogant coming from your mouth, but I may have been mistaken. Care to repeat yourself?”

    “It’s the obvious outcome.” Geoffrey shrugged. “We just need to make it look good for both of us.”

    “You want me to throw the match!”

    “Can you just think for a second, Stas? I’ve been establishing myself for over a year now, climbing my way up. This is literally your first match. If you lose, there’s no hit to your reputation, especially if you make a good showing. If I lose? To a provincial? On his first match? My career is in the toilet.” Geoffrey spat. “It’s the only sane outcome.”

    “And it just so happens that you win in that ‘sane’ outcome.”

    “This is about what is best for both of us.” Geoffrey growled. “The goal is both of us come out of this looking good. And that can’t happen for me if I lose. Look,” he took a deep breath, “if this bothers you so much then, once you’ve established yourself, we’ll have another match and I’ll lose, all right? Then it won’t be some random first timer punching out an up and comer. It will be you showing you’ve grown and surpassed your initial hurdles. Does that work for you?”

    “I don’t want you to throw a match for me. I don’t need it.” Stas responded coldly.

    Any calm Geoffrey had managed to reclaim was lost in that instant. “You’re insane! I’m trying my best to be helpful here and you just throw it back in my face. I didn’t even need to offer! Either we work on this together so both of us win, or I crush you into the dirt on my own. Understand, you piece of shit?”

    Stas spat in his face. “See you in the arena.” And he marched out of the gymnasium, leaving Geoffrey clutching his fist in rage.

    Furious, he marched directly to Ludo’s office, tromping past servants and fellow students with no care for their presence.

    Once there, he rapt on the door with two slamming knocks.

    “What? What?” The startled voice squawked from within. “You don’t have to knock so loud. I’m in and can hear you just fine.”

    Stas opened the door, stepping inside the office. “Lanista, I need to report an altercation with a fellow student.”

    “I didn’t say you could come in...” Ludo muttered under his breath, before shaking his head and setting his papers aside. “An altercation, you said? Is anyone injured?”

    “No. I removed myself before I was too tempted.”

    “Thank the Princeps for that at least. What is it then? What happened?”

    “Geoffrey came to speak with me about our upcoming match. He wished to stage it in advance.”

    Ludo raised an eyebrow. “And?”

    Stas bristled. “He wants to make a mockery of combat! To play fight in the arena because he refuses to risk anything.”

    Ludo took a deep breath. “Stas. People come to the arena to see a show. The job of a gladiator is to provide the show. If two gladiators decide they can put on a better show by coordinating, that is between them.”

    “I refuse to throw a fight just to make for a better ‘show,’” Stas growled. “Sir.” He added after a moment.

    Ludo held up a hand in a placating gesture. “And nobody is forcing you to. Nobody can force you. If you want to fight for real, then fight. Geoffrey can hardly stage the fight on his own.”

    “He shouldn’t have tried to do it,” he grumbled.

    Ludo’s voice turned stern. “Geoffrey is well within his rights to make an offer, just as you are within your rights to refuse it. I understand you have a high opinion of the sanctity of the arena, and in an ideal world, everyone might agree with you. But this is not that world and you have to acknowledge that not everyone sees it the same way.”

    “It’s disgusting.”

    “It is what it is. You can’t change that. You can only control your own fights.” Ludo sighed. “Honestly, if I were your, I would consider taking Geoffrey up on the offer. Even the friendliest fight can result in injury. Even if it doesn’t end your career, you can miss out on months, if not years, of training and matches. At the very least a staged fight minimizes the risk, and you aren’t always going to be fighting against a student of your same school where you have the opportunity.”

    “I am not afraid of injury.”

    Ludo waved his hands. “Yes, yes. I know. You wouldn’t be a gladiator if you were. You’d be a manager like me. As I said, it is entirely your choice. That said...” his voice turned stern once again. “Your conflict with Geoffrey. You will limit it to the arena. You will not fight with him before your match, and, once your match is over, you will consider the matter settled. Geoffrey is your colleague and you will treat each other as such. Am I understood?”

    Forcing a retort down his throat, Stas nodded. “Understood, sir.”

    “Good.” Ludo nodded to himself. “Now get back to training, or whatever you were doing before. I have work to get back to. And next time, wait for me to give you permission to enter.”

    “Yes, sir.” He trudged out of the office.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019 at 4:14 AM
  12. Artful Lounger

    Artful Lounger Experienced.

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    “Hah. Honestly, I am surprised Ludo managed to find something at so short notice. These things tend to take longer. The New Year’s game is scheduled practically half a year in advance. So, if you are going to win fame and acclaim, it would be best to do so before midsummer, otherwise you have to wait even longer.” Geoffrey offered an easy grin.

    Kind of awkward. Most anyone would use 'such short notice'. I'm not sure if that was deliberate or not, as some kind of speech quirk.
     
  13. Ladoss

    Ladoss Know what you're doing yet?

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    Poor Geoffrey. He already said that his style is similar to Lafayette and if he's that wound up by novice gladiator like Stas being a liitle battle maniac... that honestly speaks either of confidence issues, skill issues or both.
    Otherwise, pretty interesting reading even if i have no idea where this going on yet.
     
  14. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    Made some edits to part 2, starting after "It's easy to get invested"
     
  15. Threadmarks: Four
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    The cells below the Lunar Arena where a far different experience from the box seats above. Where the arena above was designed to invoke awe and beauty (even the worst seats played into the wondrous architecture) or outright decadence (in the box seats for the nobility), the staging ground Stas currently occupied was built with only utility in mind.

    Benches were the only respite a gladiator had between matches. No cushions or comforts were afforded, with the vast majority of the space being dedicated to the inner workings of the arena, those contraptions that allowed workers to easily change the scenery, or replace the sand, or flood and drain the grounds, or safely transport beasts to the arena above. Thick, metal cages, currently bereft of any chimeric occupants, also ate up a large portion of space.

    That was not getting into the actual cells, reserved for prisoners. That underground section was kept completely separate, under armed guard. He had watched a number of them get dragged off by the guards to the sands above, squirming and thrashing in an unpleasant spectacle, before the bird-masked guards returned alone.

    It was inordinately distracting.

    Alain had advised him to put on his armor back at the school, rather than change into it at the arena, as there would be no room. The Grand Arena supposedly had an additional floor entirely for gladiator suites where participants could prepare, as did the Stellar Arena, which was never used for chimera hunts, and, as such, did not need to use so much space for the cages. The hardened leather he wore chafed against his skin. He would need to see about replacing it now that he was in the city proper. He would have done it already, but it would have been bad form to have his first match in unfamiliar armor.

    Idly, Stas considered requesting full metallic plating. He preferred to be light on his feet, but it might be worth adapting. At the very least, he would make an effort to try it out.

    Geoffrey had arrived slightly later than him, and was similarly attired. He had opted to sit on the far side of the bench. Which suited Stas just fine, as it made for less temptation. Stewing here for so long was already wearing on his patience. He should have taken Alain’s advice and waited longer before heading out, but he had been concerned about being late.

    An arena worker marched into the room, and gestured for them to come. Stas dutifully secured his scabbard, strapped his shield to his arm, and donned his helmet. Around him, his fellow gladiators followed suit.

    Stas shielded himself from the brightness of the sun as he emerged from the arena’s entrance. Once his eyes had adjusted from the abrupt shift, he took his first view of the scene. Despite knowing that the Lunar Arena was no match for the Grand, it was hard to tell from the inside. The stands all around him seemed to stretch on and on and on, mountains of elegantly constructed stone scraping against the sky.

    They were also depressingly empty. By a quick estimate, there were only a few thousand people spread across the multitudes of seats. A far cry from the packed crowds he had witnessed mere days ago. He could only blame that damnable chariot race.

    The audience was somewhat of a blur at this distance, too far to really make out their faces, other than those directly in the front. To his great dismay, he could see a few of them leaving. Leaving! The gall of it struck him. What sort of degenerates would come for the executions and leave before the main event?

    There were only five musicians in the stands, playing their simple tune, compared to the full orchestra that had performed for the Grand. And the luxury boxes… well, he couldn’t actually make out who was attending those through the windows, but he knew that there was not anyone as acclaimed as the Princeps in attendance today.

    Stas forced himself to calm down. It was easy to see slights everywhere, but this minor event was still far grander than any he had participated in the country. The thousands of people only looked few in number because of how many more could fit in the seats. Objectively, it was a great crowd.

    He relaxed his grip, and brushed away the drop of blood from his palm and nails. Calm, he reminded himself.

    Being rankled by the brightness of the sun, or the sand that had, as always, found its way into his sandals could only hurt his performance. He needed to appear at his best, no matter the circumstances.

    After the workers finished dragging away the corpses, the two feathered officiates stepped forth. Stas listened as the announcer, a fair voiced youth, declared them, before marching in. Names were declared, drawing cheers from the small crowd.

    He listened, with great anticipation, and waved as his own name was announced, drawing its own calm cheer from the audience. He knew, intellectually, that nobody here actually knew of him, that the ones cheering were supporting him more than they would any other unknown fighter. They had no reason to laud him, no reason to know why he deserved their admiration. But he allowed himself to imagine that they did, that a great number of people watching craved for his victory, and his victory alone.

    It was a pleasing sound, and he would strive to more than achieve it.

    After the last name had been announced, the eight of them reached for the box of lots the white-feathered official held out.

    On his turn, Stas allowed the official to guide his hand onto the proper marble, and, like everyone before him, held it aloft for the crowd to see. Or for the eagle-eyed individuals, at least. It would be hard to make out small objects from the distance.

    After everyone had gone, the announcer declared the matches. He was to be in the final bout, it seemed, an unfortunate fact that left him with a frown. Geoffrey looked relieved by the fact for some reason.

    Hopefully going last would allow him to leave a good impression on the crowd. The only immediate result was that he was forced to walk back into the cells below and wait. And so he, and five others did.

    Stas knew he had the option of watching the other matches as they occurred. There was a box directly accessible from the underground area for just that purpose, one Ludo would be observing from. But for now, he just wanted to meditate and prepare for his match. He didn’t want to be near Geoffrey until the match.

    So, he sat on the uncomfortable bench, closed his eyes, and shut out the rest of the world.

    Breathing steady, he waited. He mentally cycled through the routine his old trainer had taught him, letting concerns and troubles escape him. He coiled himself tight as a spring would, to be released at the time of his match.

    The first match ended with little fanfare. Any reactions from the crowd were muted in the underground cells. The two competitors reentered the staging area and two more went to the arena above.

    Stas kept his eyes shut, and cycled his breathing.

    The second match took longer, far longer. For a while Stas assumed he somehow missed its conclusion in his meditation. But when the second pair of gladiators came down, battered and exhausted, it was still not his turn.

    So, he kept on mediating. Keeping himself calm, centered. Not letting it distract him.

    The third match also took a long time, though not as long as the second. In that time he heard one of his fellows exit the arena out the back. Another soon followed.

    The prisoners in the cells nearby became agitated. It was distracting, but Stas managed to shut it out.
    The third pair of gladiators reentered the staging area, and Stas opened his eyes.

    “Geoffrey, Stas.” One of the arena workers called. “You’re up. Don’t dawdle. We are running far behind schedule.”

    “And whose fault is that?” Stas spat. “I didn’t make the schedule too tight.”

    The worker adopted an unamused expression. “Right… just get up there and try not to take too long.”

    For a moment, Stas considered drawing the match long out of spite. Then he reconsidered, instead toying with the idea of crushing Geoffrey immediately just to prove he could.

    Calm, he reminded himself. Calm.

    There was no personalized music upon his entrance, nor a particular staging of it for the crowd like there had been at the Grand. If there were plans for such, they had been dashed by the truncated time schedule.
    Instead he and Geoffrey walked side by side to the center of the arena, accompanied by a standard procession tune. They both turned towards the Aedile’s box.

    The old man acting as the patron for this minor event was certainly not the Princeps. Stas imagined that the lack of pomp reflected the man’s lack of actual rank. Even so, he bowed as was the custom, and received the old man’s raspy greetings with full respect, as did Geoffrey beside him.

    Then, they took their paces and faced one another.

    Stas observed his opponent with a keen eye. Geoffrey had equipped himself with two throwing spears, both strapped across his back, along with a sword akin to his own. Geoffrey did not have a shield, instead opting for heavy arm braces akin to the ones Radek had worn. His legs were armored more heavily than his torso, which seemed to prioritize ease of movement over full protection.

    Geoffrey had a single elixir vial on his bandoleer, a simple sturdy glass container that lacked the decorations of the high class gladiators but promised the same magical opportunities. Stas himself went without.

    Geoffrey looked calm, composed. He was at ease with the crowd and the hot sun.

    Stas grit his teeth at the sight. The coward before him had the gall to demand his surrender without even a fight. And yet the bastard failed to show him any respect, standing there calmly as if his opponent meant nothing to him.

    Fast, he decided. He would crush the arrogant jerk immediately.

    He unsheathed his sword, keeping his grip loose but firm. Geoffrey went for one of his spears.

    Stats suppressed a smirk. Between the sword, the elixir, and the throwing spear, Geoffrey had chosen the easiest one to deal with.

    The Aedile gave his signal, the music resumed, and the match began.

    Geoffrey pulled his arm back, in perfect form to throw.

    Stas reflected.

    In an instant, Stas was behind his opponent, leg sweeping out, while his free hand held the mans shoulder tight.

    Caught completely off guard, Geoffrey could not brace himself and was easily tripped to the ground. The spear clattered out of his hand.

    With his opponent stunned flat on his back, all Stas had to do was put his foot on Geoffrey’s throat.
    He slid his sword back into its sheath, closed his eyes and waited. The whole endeavor took less than a second.

    As he had expected, it took a few moments for the arena to process what occurred. The audience quieted quickly at the scene. The band, barely a measure in, halted. The feather-clad officials hesitated.
    Geoffrey might have said something, but Stas kept the pressure on his throat to prevent him from doing anything.

    The officials seemed to come to a consensus and moved to make their judgment. Stas shifted his foot to allow them to do their examination.

    They quickly noted Geoffrey’s breathing, and the white-feathered official gave his signal.

    The crowd, back in familiar territory, cheered.

    The Aedile, in turn, was quick to signal the end of the match without further bloodshed. Not that anyone expected otherwise. A gladiator would never be intentionally killed at such a low-key event. Stas wondered if the stand-in patron even had the permission to signal death.

    Confirming the match’s end, Stas removed the pressure from Geoffrey’s neck and raised his arms for the cheering crowd. Geoffrey stumbled up behind him slowly.

    To the corner, he could see a worker gesturing wildly, pointing at the stairs. Stas scowled. Not even a minute and they were already starting the next series of executions. Was he not allowed the time to bask? It rankled at him.

    Spitefully, he pretended to not see the worker for a few more seconds, letting his victory wash over him. Only then did he ‘notice’ the worker, and move for the exit.

    On the steps leading back down, he was forced to the side due to the number of prisoners and guards waiting in the wings. At the bottom, he found the worker from before.

    “Was that fast enough for you?” He questioned with a glare.

    The worker averted his gaze.

    Stas, with no reason to remain, headed back to his school.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019 at 8:04 PM
  16. VerBlinkel

    VerBlinkel Making the rounds.

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    *trainer

    As always, your writing is fantastic and a major highlight of any day you post.

    It's funny contrasting these gladiators with the polyhistor students. Even just the first years would destroy pretty much any of these gladiators from what we've seen so far. On that related note, how old is Stas?

    Is there an ETA on the Kroll Acadamy VN? Or is it just "sometime in the next decade"?
     
  17. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    Contraptions

    Technically correct, but I think you meant Arena, not area.

    Fanfare

    Either Arena or Area

    First bit, you’ve got the tenses off, think you meant “cycled” or “was (mentally) cycling”. Second, looks like there’s a missing word, maybe “tight”?

    The
     
  18. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    I'm going to take "first years" as end of first year. Because even novice gladiators are highly athletic individuals with combat training, which is more than the average Polyhistor applicant. But you are right that the students would be deadlier. Far different circumstances that promote different behaviors (regulated one on one dueling for an audience vs survival at any cost). That is not even getting into the fact that Polyhistor has far better resources in regards to magical knowledge.

    Not that you should discount the gladiators. They are hardly slackers, and do fight more often than the Polyhistor students. Top tier gladiators are absolute monsters in the one on one combat they practice.

    Additionally, there are circumstances at play that would make the fight harder for the Polyhistor students, or for anyone that hasn't explicitly trained on this world.

    17ish, so younger than most students.

    I ran into a number of blockers (artist fell through, no such with musician, irritating formatting issues) and came to the conclusion that it would be easier to work on a regular novel first (this one has been in the works for a while) than to try with a visual novel.
    Once I have this finished up I will return to work on Kroll Academy.
     
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  19. Artful Lounger

    Artful Lounger Experienced.

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    As always, very nice. Looks like Stas has some Aeromancy going on.

    The thing that intrigues me most so far is the elixirs gladiators seem to require to use magic. I'm not sure what their deal is. We saw one guy drink one to cause a sandstorm and another one drink to gain metal skin. The first is clearly a geomantic effect while the second could be either Geomantic or Hydromantic. I don't think they're Willpower replenishment, because if so why would they need to be consumed before using magic? Unless its possible for them to grant a temporary Willpower overflow, like push them to 110% Maximum Willpower for the purposes of one spell. Maybe a potion to accelerate Geomantic Attunement in the case of Geomantic effects? I'll need to see more of them in action to say for sure. But so far they're what I find most interesting in regards to the mechanics of the fighting.

    And VerBlinkel is right that I don't think these guys would do too well against Polyhistor students at a similar point in their respective 'careers' except at the very start. Not if the Sand and the Twinblade can be taken as good examples of what a cream of the crop gladiator looks like.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019 at 2:55 AM
  20. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    I can answer questions about this, if you want, as it is not exactly a spoiler for the story in a vacuum. But I encourage you to speculate.

    Daxton is a gimmick fighter with a very good gimmick for his niche. He dominates anyone who cannot overcome him, and flounders against the elites who can.
    Radek is akin to a level 20 fighter. A wizard he is not, but he is VERY good at what he does.
     
  21. Threadmarks: Five
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    “What the hell were you trying to accomplish?” Ludo snarled the moment Stas arrived in his office. He had not been back at the school long before a servant had come to request his presence.

    “I won my match.”

    “Won your match? Won your match? You didn’t just win a match, you debased your opponent, humiliated him! You went out of your way to make him look like a fool.”

    “I only acted to ensure I would win.” Stas held firmly.

    “Do you think I am blind, you brat? An idiot? Do you think nobody in the audience could see the obvious in front of them? Hundreds of ways you could have ended the fight and you chose to make it as forceful as possible. You forced Geoffrey to the ground, you stepped on his neck, you sheathed your damned sword before the fight was called! And that’s not even getting into the fact that you drank an elixir before combat began.”

    “I didn’t drink...” Stas began to defend himself, but Ludo interrupted.

    “That is beside the point, you vainglorious child! You went out of your way to disrespect your opponent. You intentionally chose a strategy that would prevent him from being able to do anything, one that only worked because nobody knew about your magic. You unnecessarily put him in danger with a humiliating submission hold! What if he had jerked, or your foot had slipped? What if you had broken his neck?! There is a reason we teach the submission holds that we do, because there are proper, safe ways to end fights!”

    Stas held is tongue.

    “Any one of those things I might forgive. Ending a fight quickly? Fine. Wasting a trump card on a petty match? Horrendously short sighted, but fine. Using a nonstandard hold? Worth a lecture and remedial lessons, but no injury came of it, so ultimately fine. No, what appalls me is your blatant disrespect for your fellow gladiator, your intentional, selfish maleficence. You wanted to crush Geoffrey, your coworker, someone by all rights you should support and should be supported by in turn, for what? A miserable match of only a few thousand people? What in the Princep’s name made you think that was a good idea? What do you have to say to that?”

    “I...”

    “No. Not to me. I don’t want to hear that idiocy. What I want you to do, what you are going to do, do you understand, is apologize to Geoffrey. I don’t care if he wants you to grovel at his feet. You will do it, and you will not complain.”

    “But...”

    Ludo glared, projecting a level of authority that stood in contrast to his docile appearance. “You will not complain. This little feud between the two of you ends today. It will not escalate any further. You will apologize for your misconduct and it will be done. Do you understand?”

    Stas swallowed his complaints. He was fully aware that Ludo held all the power here. If he were to be dismissed from his school, Stas would be left adrift. Once he had made his mark, another school might be willing to accept him. But he lacked the fame to dictate terms for now. “I understand, sir.”

    Ludo nodded, closing his eyes. “Good. Remember, Stas. Magnanimity in victory is one of the Gladiator’s core virtues. It is not enough to be the better fighter. You must also be the better person. That is what you should strive for.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Ludo sighed, swiveling his chair away. “You are young. Victory seems to be the only matter of importance right now. But in time you will come to understand that the methods of victory matter more than the results. I acquired you because I was led to believe you had the nature to succeed as a gladiator. I expect you will take the steps to prove me correct. Now, go. You have an apology to make. Shoo.” He gestured with his hands over his shoulders.

    Stas exited the office, walking past the servant who attended Ludo. It irked him to know that somebody else had heard his chastisement. At the very least, none of his fellows had been present for the private scolding.

    Stas knew he should just get the apology out of the way immediately. Then, when it failed to have any results, he would have a defense against Ludo’s ire.

    But, he dallied, opting to instead head for the gymnasium to work off some frustration. Ludo had commanded him to apologize today, but he never required that it be done immediately.

    After a long enough period that Stas was forced to acknowledge that ‘today’ might be ending in short order, he approached a servant about Geoffrey’s whereabouts.

    “In the baths,” was the reply, “entertaining guests.”

    Stas thanked her curtly, and, after dismissing the option of waiting for Geoffrey to exit first, made his way to the baths.
    He found Geoffrey lounging in the atrium of the baths, accompanied by two women he did not recognize. The guests, he assumed. Geoffrey seemed to be regaling them with some story or another as they picked at a selection of fruit. A half empty bottle of wine sat in the fruit basket, and each of them held a goblet in hand at a varying state of fullness. A completely empty bottle of the same design lay on the floor.

    Stas felt no small measure of relief at that. He had been dreading passing through the changing room to the pools beyond. The servants had already made it quite clear that they viewed clothing in the baths unhygienic, so he would be unable to pass unmolested.

    On the other hand… the injustice of it all grated fiercely. Why did Geoffrey, the loser, get to bask in companionship and simple luxury, while he, who had won handily, had been scolded and forced to grovel?

    Where was the fairness in that?

    And yet, mindful of Ludo’s potential wrath, Stas forced the thoughts from his mind.

    Engrossed in the tale, as it were, none of the atrium’s occupants had noticed his arrival.

    Stas cleared his throat awkwardly.

    Geoffrey turned to face him and, for a mere moment, his expression turned vile. In the next instant, it was replaced by a serene smile. The transition was quick enough that Stas almost doubted his own own eyes.

    “Stas, my friend, what brings you to the baths?” The gladiator rose slightly from his couch. “Ah, I can imagine it is for the obvious reasons, its the best way to wind down day, after all. But first, allow me to introduce my lovely companions. This wondrous, dark-haired beauty is Julia, and the fiery red-head is Augusta.”

    The “fiery red-head” shyly waved. Julia grinned. “Oh, so you are Stas, then? Geoffrey was just talking about your fight.”

    Lying, Stas mentally translated. Geoffrey had been lying about the fight, as there was no way he would have told the truth about his humiliating defeat. Stas bit back the urge to announce such. It would only serve to make apologizing harder, make Ludo angrier at him. What did he care about how two vapid fans were mislead.

    “Yes,” he said instead. “I am he. Geoffrey and I fought earlier today.”

    “We’re sorry we didn’t have the chance to attend.” Julia declared. “We’ve been trying hard to attend Geoffrey’s matches, but this one was such short notice. Thankfully, we have an opportunity to hear about it straight from the source.”

    Only the task at hand prevented Stas from rolling his eyes. “Yes… about that match, Geoffrey… I wish to...” the words were slow to come, but Stas forced them out. “I wish to apologize for my unbecoming conduct. It was… unprofessional of me.”

    The confusion on the girls’ faces was proof enough that Geoffrey had been lying. Geoffrey seemed to note it as well.

    “Hm? Oh, there is nothing to apologize for. I can admit I am disappointed in myself for losing my win streak, but I will recover it soon enough. I can do nothing less for my fans.” One of his arms reached around for Augusta’s shoulder, and she pressed herself into it with a smile.

    “To be clear, then,” Stas reiterated. “You forgive me?” He needed to be sure of this, have something he could point at to Ludo to demonstrate that he had accomplished his task. If the presence of Geoffrey’s hangers-on made that easier, Stas wasn’t going to complain.

    Geoffrey waved it off with a smile. “It’s all water under the bridge, my friend. Come, eat with us. Share some wine.”

    Julia nodded. “Yes, please join us.” She fluttered her eyes. Stas blamed the drunkeness.

    “No, thank you. I have already eaten.” Stas dismissed, before pausing. “Where did you get the wine? Ludo does not provide any alcohol.”

    “I bought it, of course.” Geoffrey shrugged.

    “With what money?” Stas demanded.

    For a moment, there was a calculating gleam in Geoffrey’s eye. “My friend, there are many ways a resourceful gladiator can make some coin in the city. There are more fights to be had than what our master doles out.”

    “You freelance? Is that permitted?”

    “We have our free time to use as we see fit. So long as we keep ourselves in good health for those matches Ludo schedules, we can find our own opportunities. Act as our own Lanista, and get paid for such accordingly. In smaller venues, to be sure, but the opportunities exist. In fact,” Geoffrey’s smile grew, “I know of one opportunity just occurring this evening, no scheduling required. Within an establishment known as The Bell, right on the street south and west of the forum. It would be easy enough to find for anyone who looked. You could easily win some spending money there.”

    “In the evening? Past curfew?”

    Geoffrey raised a hand in a placating gesture. “I am, of course, not suggesting that anyone break curfew. That would be quite foolish. That just happens to be the soonest opportunity I am aware of.” He shakes his head. “But enough of that. As much as money helps for little luxuries like wine, we hardly need any. Julia, Augusta, I believe I have had my fill of fruits. Shall we proceed to the hot bath for a little swim?”

    Augusta nodded. “That sounds wonderful.”

    Julia grabbed Stas by the hand. “Won’t you join us? I’m certain we can have a good deal of fun.”

    Stas blanched. “No… I am not really up for a swim right now. Still tired from the match.” He lied.

    “Oh? No need for anything vigorous. We can relax in the water.”

    “No.” Stas shook his head. Respite came in the form of Alain, who happened to leave the changing room at that moment. “Oh, Alain. Good timing. I wanted to speak with you.”

    “Hm?” He questioned, toweling his still damp hair. “What about?”

    “No need to talk about it here. Somewhere else is good.” He dragged the bemused Alain away.

    “Goodbye, Stas,” Geoffrey called out, heading towards the changing room. “Have fun.”

    Stas did not acknowledge the parting call.

    “So… what did you need, Stas?”

    “Never mind,” he muttered, trudging away, leaving the confused Alain behind. He had an opportunity to scope out.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019 at 11:30 PM
  22. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    If I recall correctly, back when Aeromancy courses were going on, geomancy was nebulously defined as possibly “the inherent aeromancy of all entities within Gaia” (obviously rejected due to divisional politics). Is Von Graft’s arena world somewhat separated from Gaia, either by design or nature? I can see the elixirs being a way of attuning to Gaia from a more “distant” locale. That or they’re using a form of locus attunement, where instead of attuning to all of Gaia, they’re attuning to Von Graft’s world, or something like that. Koslov did mention it was a common, more primitive form of geomantic attunement, and if Von Graft is older than the modern hydromancy division, it’s possible he missed out on the more modern theory when he moved away.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019 at 4:00 PM
  23. Artful Lounger

    Artful Lounger Experienced.

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    Hmm, now that I think about it, HypoSoc mentioned that Von Graft's world doesn't have to deal with Lethe. So that would indicate that either the world is outside of Gaia or is otherwise somehow insulated from her influence. So I suppose the elixir could be some kind of Geomantic booster to get around that, assuming that either method makes Attunement difficult.
     
  24. TrueNameArchFrenemy

    TrueNameArchFrenemy Not too sore, are you?

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    Honestly, what puzzles me is that Ludo was convinced that Stas had drunk an elixir to do the reflection: while I can understand maybe simply not knowing about aeromancy, not knowing of hydromancy should be impossible, which suggests one of two things: either A) the elixirs also are used to enable hydromancy, which, frankly is pretty absurd, given that empowered solipsism is not beyond the realm of hydromancy, I can’t see some external film or barrier that theoretically blocks out Gaia also blocking out access to the self, while not totally annihilating everyone’s sense of self, or B) hydromancy is pretty massively underdeveloped on Von Grafts world, or at least, Ludo really is a rank amateur, and assumes that bodily improvement is the limit of hydromancy, when something like teleportation is perfectly reasonable for hydromancy, especially like our “reflection”, that I do suspect is aeromancy, but could very well be hydromantic: reflect the self into another location.
     
  25. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    Von Graft is Charley's contemporary, almost as old as the Thaumaturgical League itself.

    It's not something I think will be directly addressed in the story, since this is meant to be a stand alone, but...
    Magic is extremely underdeveloped in general in this world. The knowledge required for Hydromancy simply does not exist in the population. As far as the general population knows, Elixir based magic is the ONLY form of magic. They are not even aware of the mechanics of how Elixirs work, or the theories of magic, etc. The knowledge is heavily controlled by the inordinately few people that possess it.

    Somebody who knows Hydromancy would be able to use it fine, but that requires somebody to know it.
     
  26. Artful Lounger

    Artful Lounger Experienced.

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    Whoever makes those Elixirs has got to be rich beyond belief, assuming it isn't a nationalized trade.
     
  27. Threadmarks: Six
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    The gate guard did not obstruct him. Though it was late in the afternoon, there was enough sunlight yet that the guard had no reason to question his going. He had been prepared to mention that he was heading for the public baths, but the guard did not even ask, barely even noting his presence.

    So, he exited the palatial estates on which his school resided onto the forum proper.

    Late in the day, there were fewer shops open. The denizens of the city seemed to love to complete all their work in the morning, should they have any, and leave the afternoon for recreation. Not to say that the forums weren’t still a mass of people. But compared to massed throng that had been present for his arrival, it was far more manageable.

    Those that did wander the forums tended towards the baths, those massive complexes that were certain to be stuffed full at this time of day.

    It stood in contrast to his provincial upbringing, where the needs of the farms kept everyone busy through all daylight hours.

    The bird-masked watchers were unchanged in their presence, still manning the same posts. Stas believe they would retire for the evening soon, or change shifts to lesser numbers, once the forum closed for the evening. He couldn’t imagine that so much manpower would be spent monitoring what only a handful of night workers.

    A curio store manager tried to grab his attention as he passed, but he ignored the advertised wares. Perhaps when he had money he’d be more tempted by trinkets and curiosities. But for now, he made his way south and west, to the edge of the forum.

    Stas couldn’t help but feel that somebody would notice him at this point. He had no real excuse to leave the forum, for all that Geoffrey might pretend otherwise. And yet, just as with the gate guard, he was ignored. Nobody seemed to care that he, among the throng of people, happened to go away from the marketplace.

    Exiting the forum was a bit of a hassle. The marketplace was designed to obscure the exits on this side. The alleyway between the two buildings that marked the south-west street was minuscule, and partially blocked by the store fronts and column architecture. If he hadn’t been searching for this exit in particular, he might have missed it.

    But the street existed, and the cobblestone path away from the forum, a stark contrast to the mosaic of the forum proper, led in the proper direction. Stas averted his gaze from the bird-masked watcher who guarded the egress. The man appraised him, searching for anything of note. But Stas had left his weapons back at the school, so there shouldn’t be anything to attract the guard’s attention.

    His assessment was confirmed quickly as the guard let him pass.

    He walked down the street, unaccosted.

    It was… different than the forum itself, more than for the material of the street alone. Modest houses, simple store fronts. He noted a bakery right near the forum that looked interesting, despite being closed at this time of day. One of the houses had a minor crack in its facade, something none of the buildings on the forum suffered.

    It was the architecture, mostly. The buildings in the forum were designed to impress, art unto themselves. Here though, just out of view, there didn’t seem to be any care. Simple, efficient buildings, of reasonable size in various states of repair, completely abandoned by crowds that would flock to the forum and its baths.

    There were people, to be sure. Sleepy-eyed individuals slumped up against the brick exteriors, standing, or pacing, or sitting in some measure, wearing simple garb. One ate, slowly, deliberately, boredom clear in his eyes. Another two were in conversation with one another, about the chariot race he realized. They spared a glance as he walked through.

    People, idle, doing nothing. No urgency or purpose. Not like the forum where everyone happily moved to a fro from store to amusement.

    A man was sleeping on the side of the road, loudly snoring, a bit of fabric over his eyes. His clothes were dirty from the ground, which itself was far less pristine than the tiles of the forum. Nobody seemed to bother him.

    The path had thinned at some point, the minor street’s cobblestone twisted from a straight, if simple road, into a haphazard assortment of stone and dirt. Refuse lined the edges in ways that would have been unthinkable on the forum. And the people themselves were more tattered.

    “Oi.” A raspy voice called towards Stas. “You just came from the forum, didn’t you? Have any grub to spare? Any tasty treats?”

    “Oh, come off it, you lazy bastard.” A woman’s voice responded, shoving aside the older man who had called. “You should have waited in line today like everyone else, if you are hungry. Skipping on food, just to gamble on races... honestly. And who would even carry food like that here, honestly?” She shook her head, before turning to Stas. “But did you get any change from the stalls? Any extras in your pockets? A quarter would be enough, just want to get in the baths today.”

    Stas quickened his pace, pretending to not hear. He felt somewhat naked without his sword.

    “No?” The woman called after him. “That’s a no then? Then just say no, you mute bastard.” The woman scoffed, but didn’t pursue.

    The street continued in that vein. The buildings were outright ramshackle by now. And the people, while they did not beg like the man and woman had, were certainly attired for the occupation. Not all of them, to be certain. Some wore cleaner clothes, some had clean-shaven faces. And the youths he witnessed were hardly messier than some of those he saw playing by the stalls. But most of the street’s occupants would look out of place in the forum.

    Ahead of him, though…

    Stas had to stop at the sight. To the side of the road was a child, young, perhaps nine years if not younger. His clothes were tattered and dirty as was the blanket he clung to, but his face…

    Distorted, lopsided, one eye horrifically big, the other swollen shut. His skin seemed scaled in places, and near absent in others. And, it was hard to see from the boy’s sitting posture, but it seemed that the child’s arms were radically extended, as if there was a second elbow near the first.

    The boy noticed Stas’s gaze and, with a mute expression on his mangled face, held his hands out towards him, cupped together, palms up. On the ground next to him were some scattered coins.

    Stas noticed that everyone else was studiously ignoring the boy.

    The boy waved his hands up and down slowly, looking directly at the gladiator.

    Stas averted his gaze. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I don’t have anything. Sorry.” He felt a deep sense of awkwardness, and inordinately wished he had something, anything, he could toss over to the boy just to relieve that uneasy feeling.

    Instead, he kept marching past. Now, though, he avoided looking at any of the people, studiously focusing on the buildings for some sign of ‘The Bell.’

    Which, thankfully, was not a long walk. Stas had no trouble noticing the large building with a simple etching of a bell on its sign. The commotion from within made it more likely to be the correct place.

    Outside the large, wooden double doors stood a gruff man with broad shoulders and a patchy beard. His arms were crossed as he observed the passersby on the street. Stas walked up to him.

    “Is this The Bell?” he asked.

    The doorman rolled his eyes. “Obviously.” He held out his hand. “It’s a fight night, so entry is a half assarius. If you just want cheap swill, you’ll want to go somewhere else.”

    “Actually, I want to compete.”

    “Hm?” The doorman appraised him. He seemed to come to a positive conclusion “Fine, then. Head off to the left when you enter, through the doors. Talk to Odon, he’ll get you sorted out. But if I find out you’re only trying to skip out on the entry fee, I’ll take it out of your hide, got it?”

    Stas rolled his own eyes in response. If he wanted to watch matches, he had far better opportunities than whatever this stage could provide.

    The doorman opened the door, and Stas walked in.

    It was… grungy was perhaps the best word for it. The place was a primarily bar, from what he could tell. Customers dotted the various seats and tables consuming some frothing ale or beer or whatever it may be while two wenches skittered between them. One carried some sort of fish dish to a bald man, with an awful smell he could make out from the entrance.

    He was not alone in that opinion. A dark haired woman who had the misfortune of sitting near said customer curled her face up in disgust. She swapped seats for one further away, abandoning her drink.

    The center of the building was dominated by an elevated wooden stage, simple, and exposed on all sides for the audience, with small steps to get up on two of them. There were no barriers or rails on the platform, only the short fall to the ground below marked its edge. And no sand coated the construction.

    He could make out a bit of blood staining the wood, a direct consequence of that lack.

    In the back, men were smoking from simple pipes. Bloodshot men loudly inhaled powders from small boxes. Two obviously drunk patrons were loudly arguing with one another.

    To the right, he saw a man behind a bar writing up some numbers on slate, as other customers lined up in wait.

    A man pushed out from behind him, and Stas realized he had been standing and watching for too long. He made his way for the unmarked door on the left, as he had been directed.

    Behind it, were a number of men, waiting on benches. Some where clearly nervous. Others exuded calm. One seemed to be polishing a small blade. Another solemn faced man was fiddling with a snuff box, not partaking like the patrons outside had been.

    Standing off to the side, tallying something up on a piece of slate was a man who greatly resembled the doorman outside. Odon, Stas presumed.

    He presented himself to the man.

    “Excuse me.”

    The man looked up and blinked. “Hm? You here to fight?”

    Stas nodded. “Yes. I was told to speak with Odon.”

    “That’s me,” he shrugged. “Coming a bit late, aren’t you? You’re a first timer right? Don’t recognize you. But whatever. You wait in here, and I’ll let you know when to go. Winner of each match gets three assarii. You want more than that, place a bet at the counter on yourself. Try to bet on your opponent, and we’ll toss you out. If you toss anything around that could hit a customer, and we’ll toss you out. Wreck our stage and we’ll toss you out. Match goes till surrender, or death, or whatever. Anything that makes things obvious works. Otherwise, anything goes.”

    Stas nodded.

    “Right. We have some weapons back here.” He gestured to a locked chest by his feet. “You can use them, if you like. But if you try to steal them...”

    “You’ll toss me out.” Stas interrupted.

    Odon gave an unamused glare. “We’ll skin you alive with it first, then toss your sorry ass out.” Odon took out a key from his pocket and removed the lock from the chest. He opened it, letting the heavy top thud against the wall.

    Stas grimaced. The contents were abysmal. Rusty blades, chipped knives. A single, studded glove. One of the ‘weapons’ was just a wooden slab with a metal spike jutting through it, something that almost certainly came from one of the chairs in the establishment.

    Far from a treasure trove or an armory, this chest was more of a garbage dump. And a mostly empty one at that.

    Stas selected a single, dented shield from among the refuse, before stepping back.

    Odon quirked an eye. “You sure you don’t want something sharp, too?”

    Stas shook his head. He was concerned those poor excuses for knives would fall apart in his hands if he used them. He’d be far more at risk from lockjaw than anything his opponents might be able to inflict. Besides, using a weapon one was unaccustomed with was always dangerous. He did have some training with his bare fists.

    Stas noticed that the other men were watching as he made his selection. All but the boldest turned away when he turned his eyes towards them.

    Odon shrugged, and let the chest fall shut, before locking it back close, before grabbing his slate again and getting back to his tally.

    Stas moved to one of the benches and set about trying to secure the shield to his arm. The strap was broken, so he had to attempt to tie it in place. The result was a mess that chafed against his forearm, but it was at least reasonably secure.

    Odon finished his task and opened the door, making a gesture to the outside without leaving. He then closed the door, turning around to face the men within.

    “Right. We are starting soon. We got any volunteers for first, or we doing this by lots? Bah… I don’t have time for that.” Odon closed his eyes and swirled his fingers in the air. “Right, you...” he pointed randomly at the man sharpening his sword, “and you,” he pointed at a particularly nervous man clutching a knife. “You two are up. Go out and let the bettors see what they have to work with. You know the drill.”

    He opened the door, and the two designated men wandered out.

    “After them will be… you” he pointed to Stas, “and you.” He pointed at the man with the snuff box. “When they get back in, go to the bookies table, and let them see you all. When you tells you, you’ll come back here to wait for your match. Or wait out there, for all I care. Third up will be...”

    Stas tuned out as Odon determined the next two matches, leaving one unlucky man without a competitor for the round of bouts. The two men who had been sent out first returned, and Stas, with his opponent by his side, went to the bookie’s table, where patrons were already crowding.

    The bookie gestured for them to come over. “Name?” He inquired towards Stas, as he appraised him, eyes focused on his choice of weapon.

    Stas considered for a moment, determining to offer a pseudonym. He didn’t necessarily want to associate this dirty place with his future career. “Brutus.” He decided.

    “Brutus.” The bookie repeated, marking it on his slate. “And you?” He appraised the man, focusing on the man’s overall build, his knife, and the snuff box he held.

    “Tristan.” The expressionless man replied, voice steady.

    “Uh huh.” The bookie pursed his lips, and marked it down on his slate. He called out towards the crowd. “Right. Second match for the night is Brutus” he gestured at Stas, “versus Tristan,” he gestured at the other man. “Odds are evens for Brutus, and two to three for Tristan.”

    The crowd immediately made their own appraisals, before clamoring for the table.

    Stas parsed through that statement slowly. He scowled at the realization that the bookkeeper seemed to think Tristan was more likely to win than him.

    Beside him, Tristan also seemed annoyed, for a reason he could not determine.

    “You can go now,” the bookkeeper shooed. “Odon will let you know when you are up. Sit down, or head back and wait.”

    Stas considered staying to watch the first fight, but the smell of fish and the noise of the bar was too distracting. The backroom was at least somewhat protected from that unpleasantness.

    So, he headed back. Tristan did not opt to join him. As soon as he entered, Odon sent the next pair out.

    Stas took a seat, and began to meditate, awaiting his match.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2019 at 4:14 AM
  28. Threadmarks: Seven
    HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

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    May 4, 2014
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    It was a bit of a novel feeling to be above the audience, rather than below. Stas found he vastly preferred the normal way of things. From an elevated position, it was far too easy to see into the crowd when trying to focus on one’s opponent. More than that was the sense of crowding. In a proper arena he knew that he was properly separated from the stands, knew that he could focus entirely on his opponent in front of him while the audience above would have a proper view of the match. Here though, everything was too close. The sights, the sounds, the smells… everything about the small building was an unneeded distraction.

    Stas had his pride as a gladiator, though. He would not allow such trivial matters affect his performance. But they remained in his awareness.

    He forced himself to focus on his opponent.

    The man was built powerfully. Not quite unlike his own peers. But the musculature told a different tale, one of a base laborer. His expression was mute, betraying no direction to the thoughts within. His eyes were sallow and tired, but his body stood firm and vigilant.

    One hand brandished a sharp knife, only of slightly better quality than the ones Stas had seen in the weapons chest. The other clung to the snuff box. It was either of inordinate sentimental value, or represented a weapon of some sort, Stas had to assume by this point.

    He had no armor, or shield. But with an edged weapon he would have a natural advantage in reach. The mans boots would also offer some relative measure of protection, but Stas doubted the man had the flexibility to block blows with his feet.

    Stas checked the integrity of his shield once again. The strap concerned him, but he did not believe he could secure it any better.

    The bookkeeper announced last calls for bets, letting both men stew on stage. Finally, he announced that bets were closed.

    Tristan tensed in anticipation, and Stas found himself matching the movement. Neither dared to look away.

    The bookkeeper clanged a bell and the match began.

    There was no music here, no band to signal the play, no roar of the crowds thousands strong blending together in cheer. Just drunken hoots and hollers. No noonday sun lighting the sand below, just dim, flickering oil lamps in a dim, musky tavern. But it was a fight all the same.

    They circled around one another, getting a feel of the too small stage, neither making the opening move. Stas, for one, did not plan on running head long into his opponent’s knife.

    The audience’s cheers turned to jeers, clamoring for action, but Stas held firm. He batted his hand against his shield demanding action.

    Tristan broke first, charging forth, knife brandished. It was an attack so obvious it had to be a feint.

    Stas met the knife with his shield, letting it slide off the surface, and pivoted his body around to catch the follow up attack.

    One that never came.

    Stas narrowed his eyes as Tristan slowly edged backwards. He banged his shield again and took a step forward.

    Again, Tristan, dashed forth, knife flailing. Again, the motion was easily caught and deflected, and lacked in follow up.

    It was pitiful. Infuriating. “Take this seriously,” Stas growled.

    But the man refused to, only making the same mocking attempt, only aiming for Stas’s unshielded side this time as if that would make a difference.

    Stas knocked the knife arm out of the way with his shield and followed up by slamming his elbow against the mans ribs. The crowd shouted in satisfaction at the hit, or complained loudly depending on the individual.

    Tristan reeled back, hacking. Completely open in a way Stas knew had to be a trap. “Stop playing around.” He hissed. “Take me seriously.”

    His opponent narrowed his eyes, widened his stance. He held the knife out in a pitiful mockery of a guard.

    Stas banged his shield again, but Tristan did not charge a third time, instead opting to hold steady in place.

    So, he moved instead, smoothly crossing the distance, arm cocked back, ready to slam into his opponent.

    Tristan, as expected, reacted by swinging his knife out but Stas was fully prepared to abandon the futile attack. He pivoted, catching the knife with his shield, and kicked out at Tristan’s abdomen.

    The attack connected smoothly, and Tristan, losing his footing from the force of the blow, was knocked back, hard.

    He tumbled towards the edge of the stage, heaving sickly, as if that were a painful strike. Mocking him.

    “I told you to take me seriously! Fight me!” Stas roared.

    Tristan fumbled in his pocket and retrieved the snuff box.

    Stas exhaled, satisfied that he was finally being taken seriously. He didn’t know what sort of weapon this was supposed to be, but he would be ready for it.

    He was aiming to avoid using his magic, to better distance this fight from his career. Such was the downside of unique abilities. But if forced, he was ready to employ it.

    Stas increased the distance, keeping light on his feet. He watched as Tristan opened the box, revealing a dirty brown powder within. Would he toss it, or light it, or…

    Tristan snorted the powder. The veins in his forehead bulged, his face flushed with blood, and his nose released a drop of blood.

    An elixir then. Some strange, powdered version of one. Stas grinned in anticipation. Anything could be coming now, and he would be ready for it.

    Tristan stumbled to his feet, inhaled deeply, and exhaled a stream of fire, no thicker than an arm.

    The grin fell away entirely, and rage reasserted itself.

    Slow moving, small, it would be so easy to dodge. But Stas didn’t have to. Even the pitiful, dented shield he wielded was enough for this pitiful flame.

    He raised it up to block the incoming magic. It washed around his arm, pathetically. He could barely even feel the heat.

    The stream ended quickly. Too quickly, with Tristan out of breath. Stas waited for the real attack, the actual magic. But nothing came. Just his opponent standing there, heaving over, with his tired, mocking eyes.

    Something snapped. It may have been one of his knuckles from the tightness of his fist.

    “Why won’t you take this seriously?!” he raged, charging forth, faster than the piddling fire had managed.

    Tristan didn’t even pretend to block. Stas’s fist crushed into the man’s ribs and they cracked with a sickening squelch.

    The man fell to his knees, heaving. Blood, vomit, bile of all sorts stained the wooden stage. Why couldn’t they use sand. This was exactly why they used sand.

    Stas stood to the side, and waited. Waited for the official to come, for the medic to apply some treatment to the fool who didn’t respect him enough to block or dodge. Waited for the match to end, for the cheering of the crowd to end.

    Tristan collapsed into his own bile before Stas realized no official was coming. The man’s quivering stopped before he realized there was no medic on site.

    “Hah! He fucking punched him to death!” A drunken man bellowed. “Told you you should have bet on him,” he smacked his companion on the shoulder, “but you never trust my gut.”

    “It’s not fair!” Another patron complained. “It’s right cheating! Giving the weakling a knife just so we bet on him, and only giving the strong one a shield! This shit hole just wants to steal our money!”

    Two men came from the sides to examine the body. Heedless of the bile and blood, they hefted the body over their shoulders and dragged it down the steps. A third man came with a broom and swept away at the vomit.

    These were not splendid officials to grant the loser their honors in defeat. Just faceless, dirty men sweeping up the refuse.

    “Cheers to Brutus!” A man called out. “For winning me a good bit of money!” A large number of men joined his joyful exclamation, even as other men retorted with jeers, complaining of their own failed gambles.

    Stas wordlessly walked down the steps.

    He did not feel guilty. There was nothing wrong with what he had done. The man had chosen to fight, same as he. Everyone knew the risks. Everyone who fought was willing to put their life on the line for glory. Even if he had subdued the man properly, the crowd might have demanded his death regardless. The pallid corpse, drowning in its bile, might have had his ribs crushed either way.

    He did feel… disappointed in himself, though. It did not matter he was not fully experienced with fists, that was not a proper excuse. He should have been able to judge his own strength. It spoke of a lack of skill, to kill by accident. That was something to be annoyed about, because there was nothing to feel guilty about.

    Nothing at all.

    Odon waited by the stage, a handful of coins in hand. “Your winnings, Brutus. If you bet on yourself, you can go collect it too.”

    Stas opened his palm and let Odon pour them. He counted them out. Six copper coins. Three measly assarii. Worth less than that stupid knife Tristan had wielded. Enough for a handful of treats in the forum.

    He wanted to throw the pittance on the ground. He pocketed it instead.

    “If you want to fight again, head back to the waiting room for another round. If your done for the day, whatever.” Odon showed absolutely no reaction to the fact he had just killed somebody. He just wandered away with a shrug, no doubt to grab the next two competitors.

    Stas fingered the money in his pocket, contemplating.

    “Hey there, Brutus.” A woman’s voice called, shaking him out of his thoughts. It was the black haired one he had seen before. “Or is it Stas?”

    Stas stared at the woman. Her hair was her most prominent feature, long, and well cared for, in comparison to some of the rat nests the other patrons sported. Her clothing stood out similarly, just a tad too clean for what he witnessed in the area, a bit higher quality. She was almost as tall as him, though far thinner, he proportions were barely pronounced, with her clothing concealing most of her figure.

    Stas wondered why she hadn’t been standing out more before. It was obvious she differed from the other patrons.

    “I saw your match in the Lunar Arena this morning. Who would have thought I’d get to see you fight twice in a single day?” She shook her head with a smile. “It’s funny how things work out.”

    “What do you want?”

    “Hm? Oh, you have me all wrong. I just want to thank you. After all, you won me quite a bit of money, tonight. I don’t think the bookkeeper knew you were an actual gladiator when he made his odds. So, I came out ahead easily, money burning a hole in my pocket. Let my buy you a drink with some of it.”

    “That was hardly a fight worth a drink.”

    “Upset about that bit unpleasantness at the end?”

    “I am not upset.” Stas growled.

    The woman nodded. “Good, because you shouldn’t be. Tristan back there had been racking up debt, and had gotten pretty desperate. He took out another loan and bet it all on himself to try to get out from under it. Losing meant they would come to collect his corpse in repayment. You probably made it cleaner than it would have been.” She shrugged. “And, even if he won somehow, he’d still be in debt. The odds were not good enough for that match.”

    Stas clenched his teeth. “I said I wasn’t upset. You don’t need to explain things.”

    She smiled. “Great. So you are good to get a drink. Not here, the swill is terrible. If there were no fights, there would be no point in coming here. But I know a good place. I’m Eponine, by the way.”

    “No.” Stas simply stated.

    “Please.” She stepped in front of him, and looked up into his eyes. “I insist.”

    The interest this girl had in him was off putting. “Not interested.” He headed for the exit, stepping around her without consideration.

    She frowned, but did not pester him further.

    Stas had no desire to stick around. The fights were certain to be as worthless as that unfortunate mess, and the payment was too pitiful to make up the difference. He had no desire to stay among the dirty, raucous patrons, the smell of blood, vomit, and rotten fish. There was zero reason to stay.

    So, he headed out.

    “Oy!” The doorkeeper called. “That shield isn’t yours!”

    Stas ripped the dented piece of rubbish off his arm and tossed it at the man.

    He stomped off.
     
  29. VerBlinkel

    VerBlinkel Making the rounds.

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    Presumably, how to make the elixirs are a very carefully guarded secret, so that powdered magic's existence was interesting.

    Also interesting is Stas. He was able to tell that his opponent was a laborer, not a fighter, wasn't flexible, and wasn't mentally all there, but wasn't able to put together that all that meant that the opponent wasn't really much of a fighter. Even after the guy was shown to not be very good, Stas just kept assuming that he wasn't being taken seriously instead of the opponent being unskilled.
     
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