He woke up, feeling dizzy, in a dark room, stone all around. It would be a nice sight if it weren’t spinning. His guts gave a heave, made him turn his face to the right as much as he could before a sting of pain went up his neck. He ignored it, opened up his heavy mouth and puked. Before realizing it, there was someone holding a bucket next to his numb face. Even though he couldn’t see clearly, he made out a man’s shape in front of him, spoke without much thought.
‘Who there?’ he said while burping.
A deep voice resonated deep into his skull.
‘If you don’t remember who I am, I’m thoroughly disappointed.’
His ears hurt, feeling his heartbeat like war drums that drowned out the voice of the man. This takes me back.
He tried saying: ‘Sorry, I’m in deep shit,’ but it all sounded like a gurgle after the first word. He heard a ‘Sleep tight’ before something pushed his head back on the pillow, forcing him to close his eyes.
Waking from his sleep again, he didn’t have the strength to open his eyes, or move a finger. His ears were ringing, yet he could make out a conversation going on around him. He was feeling exhausted, weak; it made him want to plunge into the darkness once again.
‘Do you think he’s…’
‘Dead? Probably not. He woke up yesterday, so he might have a chance.’
‘Chances are better ‘an nuthin. Maybe he’ll wake up spitting again.’
‘By me fuckin’ eyes.’
As Schamm slowly opened his eyes in order to adapt to the sunlight he could distinguish three faces, two of them as clear as day. Two long faces full o’ scars and much too eager to cut more.
‘Wakey wakey, ye little baby!’ Mok’Rath’s words felt like shockwaves to his ears, so Schamm covered them. Good thing he was adept at reading one’s lips as they spoke.
‘I hope you had a good four night’s sleep,’ Trunkarm continued, placing his thick, long fingered, left hand on the hospitalized warrior. ‘You have my blessings. I urge you to get well soon.’ His big lips moved slowly, but it might just have been because Schamm saw everything happen at a snail’s pace. As he turned to leave the room, he continued: ‘Take care of him, will you?’ The robust man had to crouch under the door to get through, his arms scraping its sides. The damn giant. Schamm could easily recall the times when those boulders that Trunkarm called fists would find their way into his body. Even the thought of it made him wince. His whole appearance looked like a big tree. It just goes well with the name.
Next to his bed there was someone that looked like a doctor, as thin as a stick, taking a look at his left arm. She had her black hair in a bun, with few strands almost getting into her green eyes, under her glasses.
Schamm looked around, everything slightly blurred. His room was a small one, flushed in sunlight from the big windows on the sides of the room. Mok’Rath came into view, a beam of light illuminating his nasty grin. That bald face full o’ scars… most made by my hand. His yellow bandana was tight above his bushy eyebrows that half covered his blue eyes when he frowned. You wouldn’t even think him a killer at first, more like some kind of roughed up sailor.
‘Speak up if this hurts, ‘kay?’ Schamm heard the nurse say.
A surge of pain charged through his body, like a volcanic eruption. He couldn’t feel his mouth opening and screaming, or Mok’Rath holding him down. The memory of him getting the Arena’s symbol tattooed on his back via molten steel popped up into his mind, much like a fountain would appear in the mind of a man who is dying of thirst. He felt his skin melt off his bones, starting to reattach as the memory faded and the agony subsided. Instead, his neck let out a croak and his vocal cords began burning. His lungs grasped for air, feeling as though a dagger was stabbing him with every wheeze.
‘Ah, piss on it. You alright, big man?’ Mok’Rath said with a long sigh. His voice was clearer now, even with the sound of drums going off in his ears. It helped he weren’t just a big blur with lips and eyes no more. His heartbeat slowed, stopped feeling blood rushing into his head.
‘In one piece, it seems. What happened?’
‘You have quite the scar, mister,’ the doctor intervened. ‘Your friend here is the one you’s gotta thank for that.’
Mok was now looking at the ground, in self-disgust. Now that’s a rare sight. One of the most damned brutal, vicious killers in the whole wide world feeling guilt. It’s a full surprise he’s got any feelings to begin with.
‘I don’t much dip into stuff like this, but a man’s gotta face the truth.’ He clasped Schamm’s right hand between his hands. ‘I didn’t know. I killed the man who did it.’
Schamm blinked in confusion. ‘Can you go ahead and… Tell me what the hell you’re blabberin’ about?’ he said with a painful flick of his wrist. As the nurse tied a large bandage around all of his right bicep, the warrior grabbed Mok’s hands, squeezing as hard as he could.
‘It’s me fault. At the duel, some five days ago, another prick handed me my sword, not the usual carrier. That’s when it turned to shit,’ Mok’Rath sighed heavily.
‘We started swinging and dodgin’, he said, shifting slightly from left to right. ‘Like two lions goin’ at each other. I get a cut on your arm, and you fall to the ground, full o’ sweat. I threw my weapon and jumped to suck the venom out.’ He shook his head. ‘I shouted for a help. I searched for the prick that poisoned you. I put bounties on his damn head. Two days later, I found him right outside town.’ He was still looking downwards, yet now there was a kind of intensity in his voice, a burning in his eyes, his lips turning into a frown full of rage. ‘I pulled him out by his hair, punched him a good few times in that mug of his and then put my sword to his neck. The only sounds he was making were some gurgles.’ probably cries of asking for mercy and forgiveness. ‘He didn’t do much as move as I cut his chest, enough so that the poison would kick in. He was found dead next mornin.’ He turned to look Schamm in his eyes.
‘So… how am I lookin’ now?’
‘Well, at least you’re not buried, so you’ve far exceeded the doc’s expectations.’
‘I could ‘a bet on it. It was nice, laying in bed, not havin’ to deal with the lot of you. But now…’ Schamm said with a grunt as he got up, on the side of the bed ‘It’s time to go back to the old routine.’
‘No, no. You ain’t going nowhere,’ Mok said as he pushed him back onto the bed. ‘You ain’t getting up, and you sure as hell ain’t gonna fight. I don’t remember punchin’ your mind outta place.’
For once, he was right. Schamm put all of his strength into getting up that one time. ‘I still can’t believe that you and Trunkarm wish for me to live.’
‘Who would we have fun with else? Oh, and Galluk bids farewells. He left the Arena.’
‘Wait, what? Why?’
‘Going to the Far East. Looking for women to bed and treasures to loot, I reckon. Night’, now. Make sure you wake up after, though. I’ll see you later.’
‘Best of luck out there. And… thank you.’
Mok’Rath smiled for the first time. A smile of friendship… That’s another rare sight, coming from him. ’Don’t mention it, Schamm,’ he said as he punched his chest with his fist.
‘Fuckin’ blast it,’ the warrior thought to himself. Another night of not sleeping, another night of remembering the past. I often miss the days of seeing myself shaved, without hair that reaches my shoulders. The freedom of prancing about in sparkling white and blue armour, with the collection of badges on my chest, mighty charging into battle. Though, I guess the last one hasn’t much changed over the years.
The battle of Saudin’s independence against the bandits that roamed the streets was in full effect. All of the farmers, townsfolk, nobles and even High Commander Gazuvius charged at the foes with all of their might. Schamm was appointed a twelve-man squad commander, set to ravage the hills of upper-middle Saudin and wipe out the resistance. Unfortunately, it had been raining and snowing constantly for the week prior, making the ground resemble quick sand more than anything else. The swords and shields of his company were dirtied and worn down as the exhausted and unhappy bunch were making their way behind enemy lines, Schamm in the middle of their formation.
‘What a fuckin’ shambles this is,’ Schamm heard one of the soldiers say.
‘Walking up ‘ere is harder ‘an swimmin’ through The Crossings with boulders to yer feet.’
‘Sendin’ us to slaughter in the middle o’ fucking winter. What a sack full o-’
‘Quiet, all o’ ya’ll. I don’t much like hearin’ ya’ll mouth about and I’d rather not have those fuckers know where we are, got it?’ Schamm turned around, sick of having to hear their complaining.
‘Scuse’ us, chief, didn’t mean no ruckus.’
Even with their traps shut, the clanks of the armours weren’t helping much towards concealing themselves. White and fuckin’ blue in the middle of a muddy forest is like snot splattered on an empty canvas. The cold wind froze and cut at their hard faces. Plowin’ through mud is shit enough, didn’t need all this to make it harder. But damn was it hard to climb. Hard and slippery, all the while ice-cold snow was getting in their boots and inside their armour, down the back o’ their necks. Fuckin’ winter.
Still, they managed to pull through, working their way up the tall hill, mostly without any slip-ups.
As they got up, Schamm went first, took off his helmet, peeked no more ‘n an inch above ground to check the place. Few trees with arrows stuck in ‘em, some blood here and there on the wilted leaves and pieces of armour on the ground. Schamm heard his soldiers take out their weapons, stopped them with a halt.
‘What’s wrong, chief? Ain’t a battle gotten place ‘ere not so long ago? What if there’s someone left?’
‘If there is, they’ll be on our side. You see those pieces yonder? Those are Saudin armour.’
‘Yeah, so they got killed.’
‘Maybe, but if there were any bandits, they’d have taken it. Can never have enough protection, ‘s what my coach taught me. I reckon them bandits with their leather drapes on ‘em could use some iron, don’t ye think?’
Seems like I shut ‘em up for now, but I ain’t so sure myself. I don’t think these here boys beat a whole army without planning. They must be close; even if they are from Saudin they must be deserters. And the dead know how good o’ people cowards make.
‘Listen up the lot o’ you, I need me three men who’ll go up ‘ere and take a look over that hill. I’m meanin’ to only send three ‘cause if there’s a few lads with their bows ready on the other side I’d rather not get our whole squad dotted with arrows. Now, who’ll volunteer?’ There was a small moment of silence, then a murmur between the soldiers.
‘Ay, you go.’
‘Nah man, I ain’t going.’
‘You heard the chief, c’mon.’
As Schamm looked around, he could see only the effects battle and exhaustion had on his allies. Worn down and scared to the marrow o’ their bones, not even one o’ them willing to give their life. Can’t be helped, guess that’s just how it’s gotta be sometimes. In war, ye can’t choose your circumstances. That’s the whole basic of it, ain’t it? Ye can’t choose your circumstances, but ye damn well can influence ‘em.
‘Calm down all o’ ya’ll. I’ll go meself if I got to. Either that or I get to pick out the three.’
‘Chief, it’s too dangerous out there. I’ve a better idea.’
‘Oh? And who are you, the second in command?’ a heckle was heard from the crowd.
‘Ye better shut it! What this man speaks might save all our lives, so listen up. You’re only allowed to judge if and when he’s wrong. Never forget that.’
If there had been one thing he learnt in all of his bloody life was that he didn’t much care how he’d survive, as long as he did it, didn’t even matter if barely. Barely meant good enough and good enough was good enough for him, as far as he was concerned.
‘Speak up, boy. What ye thinkin’?’
‘Maybe we could split and go to the sides, chief, slow and steady through those thick threes over these here slopes.’
‘That could be good, but it’s gonna be hard, going to the side uphill.’
‘Never said it was easy, chief. I’m thinking we should split the front line from the back line too.’
A few sounds of disagreement came from few in the back, probably from the archers. They don’t much like being left alone, those guys.
‘That’s an interesting proposition. Mind explaining to us yer thought behind it?’
‘If those bandits are clever enough to lay a trap for us, by trap I mean the armour lying ‘round, they’s gotta be smart enough to have hidden somewhere, but I ‘ave a gut feeling they ain’t quite got the wit to expect what I’m planning.’
Schamm thought about it long and hard, was leaning on disagreeing with the man, but then he heard his voice again:
‘With all due respect, chief, even if it ain’t no trap and they just waitin’ over that hill like you’re expecting, I don’t find us a good chance of survival in between that rain of attacks. We’ll most likely end up getting pushed way back this slope again and they’ll just have their way with us. This way at least we stay unseen. ‘S not like a bowman ain’t held a knife in his hands before if it comes to it.’
‘I like the way you think, boy. What you called?’
‘Name’s Falcon, chief. I ain’t got no important family name, so ye probably haven’t heard of me.’
‘Yer right, I haven’t, but I’ll remember it now. If we stay alive through this I’ll be having a talk with Gazuvius ‘bout your position. Everyone else, ye heard the plan. That’s what we’re going with, so I’ll want everyone that has a bow on their backs to go on the left flank, the others, with me. Best o’ luck.’
Schamm and his group had been walking for ten minutes until they reached the point where they could see on the other side o’ the hill.
‘What the fuck?’ Schamm heard a man mutter, up on the hill, few strides away from him. As the bandit turned, he managed to put some distance between the two. Not enough. The next second, his mouth opened and gasped for air but only blood came out of it.
‘Nice throw, chief.’ Schamm’s knife dug deep inside the enemy’s back, halfway to the hilt. Nice and powerful.
‘There’s no time to lose now, lads. By his reaction they’ve no idea anyone’s been sent to deal with ‘em.’
‘Oi chief, does that mean…’
‘It does. We’re going in. Say yer prayers boys, they might be the last,’ Schamm said as he pulled out his heavy axe, picking up the blade from the dead body. ‘What it don’t mean, though, is that we’re going to be shoutin’ like mad till we meet ‘em. Be careful, boys, these are their woods now. Only the dead know what kinda traps they have layin’ round. And I don’t think they can tell us much now.’
That’s how it had always been. You say your last words before a battle, then say the last words for the ones that didn’t make it. You dig out their graves, honour them and move on. Can’t afford to spend time on things like that.
As Schamm was making his way into the forest, he ordered his soldiers to look in every direction, make sure they couldn’t get ambushed. As they got few good, long strides into the forest Schamm couldn’t help but think he had gravely overestimated the bandits. He’d heard there were many of ‘em, thought even the smartest cavalry could get demolished by sheer numbers. After all, even the toughest wall can hold so much. Makes me think o’ the breach on Graywool’s Wall. First through, last out. Schamm hadn’t much of a problem for setting new leaders, so long as the previous ones were aching for a changin’. Fightin for Gazuvius then and fightin for him now.
But by the moon he didn’t feel like it.
Maybe the bandits weren’t smart, but it don’t take a genius to cut a hole through someone. Hell, I’m sure I’d gotten myself cut while handling a sword a fair few times. Every step made Schamm’s body sweat some more, feeling like he would just be better off not caring about the whole thing and running off to whatever place needed him most. The shit part is the place where I’m needed most is here. And I ain’t liking the whole situation one bit. He felt like he was starting to grip the axe harder with every muscle movement. So hard, in fact, he was starting to get anxious it might break when he’d try his luck at a swing. His heartbeat was getting louder, now, thumping at his thick skull, feeling the blood rush through his body, leaving an icy feeling as it passed. It felt like somehow he couldn’t control his body. He didn’t even realize until now how sore his feet and legs had gotten from that climb, must’ve been panting all the way up. His chest was tight, felt too afraid to blink in case he’d miss something coming for him. As they were getting deeper into the forest, Schamm heard a gasp, followed by a muffled moan. A few more sounds somewhere in the distance, couldn’t place where they came from and where they landed.
‘Chief, what should we do?’
As realisation hit, Schamm started making a run for it. ‘All o’ you, with me!’ Late, but not let’s hope not too late. The sounds were clearer, now, with every few steps. He could smell smoke along with something metallic. A thought started to form in his mind, telling himself he needed to get closer. Up close and personal. For some strange reason he started to like the smell, he wanted to know where it came from, almost began fantasizing about bathing in that metallic smell, started to taste it in his mouth. He could see a long streak of gray filling up the dark blue sky, like a small tornado sucking in all the air around it, leaving him breathless. It would be the only explanation for his lack of oxygen. There was nothing that could stop him, for he was destined to be a Champion. Destined to be the greatest. Destined for-
He couldn’t shake off the thought that something was wrong. He kept hearing some pest call out his name, didn’t give a damn to turn around and tell him off. All that mattered was what was going to come. He was close now, so close he could see the end of the forest.
He peeked sideways from a mossy tree, saw dead people laying around, dead as dead can be. Or, as dead as he’d ever seen. Speakin’ o’ seeing, he could see the faces o’ the dead, always distorted, most of the time surprised they died in the first place. Died with their pathetic screeches and prayers, turned back into the mud, where they always belonged. There was no man that didn’t belong to the mud, didn’t matter if they thought they had a chance or not. There was no man who could put down Schamm, no man who could hope to do it either.
‘Chief, s’everything okay? You been mutterin’ to yourself for the past few minutes now.’
‘Seems like no one’s here, except for these dead bodies. Maybe they’d been here and we thought too much ‘bout all this.’
‘Fools,’ Schamm said.
‘Dumb fools. The fire. It’s lit.’ He stopped for a second and thought why he even tried to talk to those worms around him, lookin’ at him like there was somethin’ wrong. ‘Got something on my face, boy?’
‘No, no chief.’
‘Why you staring, then?’
‘No reason, chief, I’m sorry.’
‘Shut that fuckin’ mouth and look. If they’re here they’ll be coming back any second now.’ Any second now…
He was right. He started seeing bandits coming out of the other side of the forest, some of ‘em bloodied and panting, some injured, carried by the capable ones. They were dragging bodies with them, wearing white and blue plates. There was a nagging at the back of his mind making him think something bad happened, but not caring to remember it. As the numbers started pilin’ up around the fire, they looked like a sad and displeased bunch, heads all lookin at their boots, sobbing echoing through the forest.
‘Chief… bad news.’
‘What you want?’ As he turned around he saw the face of a younger man, couldn’t remember where he saw it before.
‘I think those bodies they was carrying are our back line.’
He took a long look at the dead men scattered round, didn’t remember they had a back line to begin with. His mind started to fill with anger and killing intent. Things o’ beauty. He reached for the sword in his sheathe, let his axe down and put up two still fingers for aim.
‘Chief, what are you-‘
Schamm threw the sword, sunk deep into the bandit’s bald head, streaks of blood gashing out of the wound to the song of the screams. His smile widened, now, his muscles achin’ for a battle. There was someone trying to tell him it wasn’t a good idea, shook the thought. A cowardly thought. Cowards were the ones who thought of strategies, warriors only needed might.
Not a single fighter amongst the whole forty to fifty men was armed with more ‘n a sword, axe, and shield. As he started sprinting towards the fire, his vision shook, felt his heart’s booming pumps, filling him with energy. The first man he met had just a bowl of soup in his hands, blood spilling into it and then unto the ground from the cut on the bandit’s chest. He started to number their heads, saw another one fall with a knife in his chest, looked back, remembered he wasn’t alone. He picked up his axe again, started running towards the enemies, mouth hanging open, screaming at the top of his burning lungs, the bandits barely realizing what was happening, hurrying to get themselves up and ready for battle. It was too late for the second one on the chopping block, his head falling, cut just underneath his jaw. He could now remember what the metallic smell came from. The sweet fountain of death. He felt the need to stop and breathe, but his empty lungs only told him to go further, his burning legs only inspired him to finish what he had started. The third attacker was smarter, had already pulled out his thin, long sword but he had been no match for the Champion’s brute strength. He lifted his axe with a mighty roar, saw the colour of the bandit’s face turn pale, cut through his weapon and into his head, painting his blond hair in crimson. A sea of red, in which to swim. Maybe he could get into swimming if it were like that. He started hearing shouts from all over the place, wherever he’d look, heads chopped off, guts spilled out, legs and arms all over the place. Just the usual in my line of work. At least it seemed like he wasn’t doing everything by himself. The man he’d talked to a few times was good at fighting, for a normal person’s standard, which didn’t apply for himself. For he was more than human, after all. He saw the glint of steel with the corner of his eye, turned around just in time to slam his body into the attacker’s, heard a few cracks and felt something wetting his body. Took a step back, but when he did the man fell to the ground, clutching his ribs with both hands, coughing. He lifted his axe up, saw the panic on the bandit’s face and let it drop onto his neck. Quick and easy way of dealing with problems. He only wished he could do it more often, considering the pain in his arse from whenever Schamm preferred words than action. He’d realised Schamm wasn’t much a’ warrior, made it so he had to step in sometimes. He saw the bandits getting good and ready, few of ‘em with hard looks on their faces. Must’ve been that some of ‘em had the experience of battle, but it didn’t much matter, now, facing certain death. The same could be said about his boys, not giving up easily on a fight. For them to be outnumbered ‘bout one to six, taking ‘em down was more ‘n unexpected. Then again, talking never did him any good, all the while felt like he needed to go back to killing. And his next juicy target was coming right into his trap. The bandit had been walking towards him for a while, scared he might die like the others. It’s only natural to fear the strong.
His blade took a good bite out of the bandit’s side, just like cutting down a tree. One-two-three and his axe cleaned him right above the middle, a spray of red dirtying his scarred face. It got in his eyes, lifted his arm up to clean himself, heard swift footsteps sprinting towards him. Joke’s on this kid. With his eyes closed, he could better concentrate on hearing, making out his opponent’s shape clearly in his mind. He pretended to lift his free hand up to wash the blood off, turned his back towards him. He didn’t even need to know what weapon the bandit had, he just turned around and made his arm a human sling, making his axe cut into the man that was now screeching in agony. He heard a weapon fall and clatter against the ground, then a soft sound, like a gurgle followed by the music of battle.
After killing what seemed to be about a dozen enemies, he noticed one of his allies get impaled by a long spear. Dead. Another one fell beside him with an axe in his head. Dead… Useless. Even for himself, battling like that was tiring him out, felt himself starting to lose grip on his axe, now coated in blood. He pulled back, trying to regain his strength for a large counter attack. To his horror, four more of his men died, and the bandits still had about twenty in their ranks. The enemies backed off and regrouped, making a circle around the two men. He looked behind him, saw the same familiar face, but still couldn’t place why he knew it.
‘We ain’t givin’ up a single meter ye heathens!’ Schamm shouted.
He heard a laugh from a few of the bandits.
‘These here lands ain’t yours no more. How much are ye gonna be kissing that Gazuvius’ arse?
‘Ye’re all just excuses for soldiers.’ another brigand shouted.
‘We’ll notify your next of kin, that you sucked!’
All of the bandits started having a laughing fit, some with their weapons trembling in their hands.
‘You’re all useless! Just give up and we’ll reward you with a quick-’
The bandit couldn’t finish his sentence as he already had a sword in his insides. He coughed up blood, then groaned and fell to the ground.
‘Anyone else with a mouth full of shit he wants to spew?’
‘I’ll gut you, you fuck!’
Anger started clouding Schamm’s vision. It was now blurry, and he could only hear the sound of his own heartbeat, his breath like a horse galloping through an empty field, chased by death itself. His grip was getting stronger now, stronger than before. His body felt as light as a feather, his muscles as tight and sturdy as rocks, his unwavering will and strikes as merciless as The Crossings. His mind was calm, could think about nothing else than battle. After few moments passed, he couldn’t see anything.
‘Chief! Chief!’ he heard a young man scream.
Schamm felt as though he snapped out of a trance. He was panting, hurting all over, in a shambolic state. The armour on his arms was decorated with blade cuts. He noticed he was limping, due to a cut that managed to find its way through, right above his knee. His hands were covered in blood, probably from the dozens of corpses laying around him. He had the metallic, sour taste of it in his mouth. He spat, but more blood was flowing from a cut somewhere on his face. He had a bite mark on the inside of his lip, throbbing with paion. No wonder my head feels like shit. Where’s my helmet?
‘By my fucking eyes,’ he said while looking at the pile of bandits and soldiers on the ground.
The gory display looked like they had gotten run over by a wheat collector. What kind of beast could have done this? He looked ‘round, could only see the face of the young man beside him, filled to the brim with terror, eyes almost popping out of their sockets, knees trembling in fright. As he came back to his senses, he realized there was only one person who could have done it.
‘Let’s go back to camp and report our casualties. We’ve still got some others alive except fo’ us, right?’
Falcon swallowed hard. ‘No, chief. You’ve… They turned back to the mud.’
‘What do you mean, boy?’ Schamm said with a stern look, shock in his angry voice.
‘Chief, you’ve almost killed me too.’
Taking a better look at his hands, he realized that the lad was right. He was grabbing his plate with his left hand, and with the other, his blood coated, almost blunt axe. It was double edged, the blades resembling an angel’s wings.
‘You shall not mention this. It is an order. I’ll make sure you get rewarded for staying alive through this… horrible ambush of the bandits.’
‘Sir, yes sir.’
He didn’t mention it, indeed. He explained everything to the High Commander while I was in the room. Phrases such as ‘uncontrollable rage’, ‘mistake’ and ‘inexcusable’ were used. It was like even then, three years later, he could still hear the fury in Gazuvius voice. Schamm couldn’t take it anymore. He left Saudin and travelled South-West towards Ulrag. There, he met an awfully plump man, by the name of Brassbeard. As he was a native and shared his one-man home with Schamm. One night he explained his whole past over a drink. Multiple strong drinks.
They agreed that they should pay equally for food and repairs if there were any needed. One day, while Brassbeard was coming home, Schamm asked:
‘So where do you work?’
‘Oh, believe me, someone like ye would hate it, especially as a veteran. It’s dirteh work.’
‘Dirty work? What d’you mean?’
‘Beatin people up, sometimes killin em.’
‘So you’re some sorta mercenary.’
‘No, no, nuthin like that. There’s a tradition that has been prosperin in Ulrag for centuries. It’s called tha Arena. There go the best fightas and they get money from the bets placed on them. It’s easy.’
‘So I’m guessing you’re good.’
‘Top 10 material, sonny. How ’bout ye’, tho’? I reckon ye’d kick some arse.’
‘Those days are long gone.’
‘Suit yourself. I can help ye get in if ye want to. For now tho’, let us celebrate the future with a few drinks, what do ye think?’
‘I’d never refuse.’
Good times, those. Now, though, Brassbeard has enrolled in the army. I hope I’ll get to meet him some day. As he was talking to himself, he started yawning. Well, time for my beauty sleep.