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It had been three days since he last talked to Mok’Rath. The nurse changed his bandages every day, applying the same salve on his wound, experiencing the same excruciating pain. That day was the day he was allowed to leave.
‘Thanks for helping with packing up.’
‘Here to aid, after all,’ the doctor smiled.
As he got up on his feet, she handed him his axe, tied around a leather sheath-like object.
‘Now, you can wear it on your back, if you put it on your left shoulder, under your right armpit, just like so.’
‘It ain’t the most comfortable thing, it’s gotta be said.’
‘At least you won’t have to carry it around in your hand anymore.’
They heard a knock at the door.
‘Come in!’ Schamm shouted.
As the door flung open, Mok’Rath made his appearance, with a big smile on his face, his weapon tied around his waist. Looking in his friend’s eyes, he said:
‘Now you’re back, I’ve gotta show you sumthin’.’ Schamm raised a brow.
‘You are free to go now, but be careful,’ he heard the nurse intervene.
He put his hand on her shoulder, but it was a bit too heavy for her. ‘Thank you,’ he said as he passed by Mok’Rath.
‘We’re headin to the Old Square.’
‘You’ll see,’ Mok’Rath smiled, showing off his yellow-toothed grin.
Schamm stepped out of his room, took in a big breath. The cool morning air enveloped him in a chilly aura, making him rub his palms. Cold, out here. Almost like the North. The warm sunshine got in his eyes, the dew on the grass and leafs blinding him.
‘Nice and warm in yer room, weren’t it? Sorry for draggin’ you out ‘ere, just figured you could use the exercise. You know, not walking for a week an’ all.’
‘Quite a beauty, ain’t it? Lucky ******* Mok’Rath laughed as he slapped his friend on the shoulder.
It was a life-sized statue of Schamm, made out of a rare white material, like platinum. It was placed on a bronze pillar, which had his name. ‘The Legendary Warrior, Schamm.’
‘This… I didn’t expect this.’
‘I made Gazuvius build it. Cost him a pretty penny. Worth it, though, don’t ye reckon?’
Schamm frowned, bringing his middle and ring finger up to his mouth. That was his thinking pose.
‘What is it? Not satisfied?’
‘And you ain’t mad?’
‘For what? Oh, c’mon. You know it don’t really matter who’s exactly on top, as long as I’m in the top two. I’ll be right ‘ere to bite at your **** from now on, don’t ye worry.’
‘You’ll be number one from now on. I made my mind up,’ he said, wincing from the pain on his arm.
‘What d’you mean? You can’t…’
‘It’s what you think it is. I’m leaving the Arena. I can’t fight no more, not with this,’ he said, pointing to the bandage.
Mok’rath started frowning, quick and nervous breath coming out his nose. ‘No, you can’t be serious. You can’t.’
‘I am sorry, terribly sorry. I hope we’ll never meet again, Mok.’
He couldn’t escape so easily, though. He was pulled by his bandage, a sharp pain shooting through his arm, shoulder, and neck.
‘You ain’t going nowhere.’
Schamm ducked to the other side, leaning with his left hand against Mok’Rath’s elbow. ‘If you don’t let go, I’ll break it.’ Mok’Rath frowned in disgust and anger, but ultimately let go.
‘Fine, but you’re not going to escape this lifestyle or your bloody self. You’re always going to be a walking hurricane, a catastrophe for anyone involved. They’ll call you a monster,’ Schamm winced at that thought, though it was probably true. ‘You won’t be able to live a normal life. Your home is here, in the Arena.’
Schamm had already made it out of earshot range but the last words still resonated deep into his mind. No, it isn’t.
He stumbled home, unlocked the door, opened it with a swift kick, cursed himself for doing it so hard and locked it again. He dragged himself over to his bed, taking off his clothes and throwing them as he limped from exhaustion. The need to sleep was growing with every step closer to his bed. All he had on was his underwear as he slammed himself onto the mattress, his head on his pillow. Schamm could remember Brassbeard’s words when he’d go to bed.
‘Good night. Gotta sleep ta raise tha beast tomorro!’
Schamm chuckled to himself as he closed his heavy eyelids, drifting towards the land of dreams.
There was a loud thud at the door. Two others. It was so loud he thought that it would break at any moment. Slowly getting up from his bed, Schamm leaned on his right hand, sending a lightning bolt of pain through it. ****. **** the Arena, and **** Mok’Rath. They never brought me anything but pain. Clumsily, he got to the entrance, walking slowly on the hard, brown wood. He mistepped, slipped and nearly fell, had to stop himself with his left hand, thanking the Heavens he didn’t mess up again. He got to the exit and opened the door.
‘Who is-’ he couldn’t even finish his sentence and a fat man in the uniform of the High Commander’s servants started talking. It consisted of long black pants and a short sleeved yellow shirt that almost unbuttoned itself due to the man’s belly.
‘Greetings, warrior Schamm. I am a messenger of High Commander Gazuvius. He has been informed of your choice to step out of the Arena. He accepts and honours your efforts by gifting you a sum of 5000 Gold pieces.’ He handed Schamm a paper clip. Inside, there was a slim bar of Gold that had ‘5000’ inscribed on it. ‘He also sends his best wishes and hopes that you may reconsider your choice. Quoting him ‘The Arena welcomes you with a soft and deadly embrace.’ I shall be returning now. Sign this.’
He gave Schamm a piece of paper that had written on it ‘Sign here that you have received this message and the Gold bar,’ and a pen. After signing it, the servant turned on his heel and started going towards the Palace.
Didn’t know Gazvuius hired guys like that… But now what?
Schamm decided to visit his statue once again. He slowly closed the door, heard it click. He turned and started walking back to his bed, picking up his clothes as he went. The most difficult part was putting on his woolly socks and thick, brown pants. Schamm never did understand why people liked dressing formally, or in anything that wouldn’t allow him to fight properly. After putting on his shirt, he went to the bathroom, holding his left hand on his pulsating wound. He could still feel it stinging, under that bandage. Stinging and throbbing. Like a second heart, pumping away in its makeshift ribcage. Made him want to get drunk and forget about it, but he knew he’d do something dumb and worsen his condition. Surprisingly, Schamm never did enjoy getting drunk. Can’t think when drunk, can’t think after, like some **** good blow to the head. Fighting’s even sloppier.
He put on his boots and coat and started making his way to the statue. As he got close to it, he noticed an old man looking at it, smiling, analyzing every cut on his face.
‘Are you interested in this man?’ Schamm said while behind the onlooker.
‘I wish to find him. I have a great proposal that he might enjoy. You don’t know where he is, by any chance, do you?’
‘I actually do. I know him pretty well. Tell me your name so that I’ll notify him.’
‘Well, my name is Ratin. I would be extremely glad if you’d tell him-’ he turned around and stopped as he saw Schamm. ‘Oh. Quite the coincidence, isn’t it?’
‘You don’t say. What did you want to talk about?’
‘First and foremost, because I am, undoubtedly, occupying your precious time, it will be my treat if you’ll join me for a cup of tea.’ Schamm was a bit confused by the fancy words the old man was using, but didn’t mind it. ‘How ‘bout another drink?’
‘I’m afraid I don’t drink much, but for you, I’ll make an exception,’ the old man said.
‘Come with me, I’ll show you a good place. Your clothes tell me you ain’t been here long.’
Going through the bustling city, Schamm realized that he had never taken the time to appreciate the outside of the Arena. The houses that were from one to five stories tall, depending on the wealth of the owner, were made out of stone, bricks or steel. Some even had multiple windows, with hard iron doors, slightly decorated with gold. Making their way to the ‘Black and Blue Inn’ proved to be difficult, with people coming and going in all directions. The scorching sun was reflecting on the water fountains placed every few hundred steps, and onto their heads, providing Schamm with a mild headache. The bricks they were walking on had different colours, from red to yellow to blue, and sometimes in shapes like a flower or a square. Looking at their feet, Schamm could swear that often he’d see Ratin floating. He was wearing a long blue robe, with a white shirt which’s sleeves were to his elbows. He had a pair of red socks on, but their soles were made of something that made the sound of metal whenever he’d step. His pants went just under his knees, baggy as though he had air in them, coloured neon blue. This would usually get you killed in the North. He looks like a clown in the Arena. That only means he’s unusually strong. Or exactly the opposite.
After twenty minutes, they reached the Inn. Inside, tables of oak wood were occupied with beer bottles and customers, ranging from terribly poor to incredibly rich. The crowd’s noise stopped when they saw Schamm’s face but then continued after a loud ‘Anyway…’ The two stood at the counter, alone.
‘What will it be, boys?’ a young, skinny woman, was rubbing the inside of a big mug.
‘Two beers,’ Schamm said, giving her 10 Gold. She took it, brought out the drinks from under the counter and opened them.
‘Cheers,’ the warrior said and downed the ale.
‘To answer your question… you are right, my friend. I have been journeying for a while. Started in Saudin,’ Ratin said, making an arch above his head with a motion of his hand.
‘Where you going?’
‘Well, I’m planning on travelling the whole world, so no exact destination.’
That does seem interesting. ’And why d’you need me?’
‘I need someone strong, so I figured I’d get the best.’ Schamm winced, remembering his wound. He wanted to say something like ‘You’re looking in the wrong direction’, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
‘And what do I get?’
‘I can’t tell you now, but you’ll thank me. Well, something except experience and knowledge, which, if you ask me, are one of the best things anyone can gain. You don’t seem like the man to value something like that, though.’
‘You’re wrong. I enjoy learning new things, but I can’t stave off hunger by memorising the history of the world.’
Ratin chuckled. ‘You are right, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that. Do you agree to come with me? I don’t think you have any parents to ask for permission.’
A comedian, huh?
‘Fine, sure.’ Schamm said with a flick of his hand. ‘How much Gold you got?’
‘Not much. I’ve sold everything I had and spent quite a lot already for the travels until now. Plus I’ve been mugged once.’
Oh, great. So strength goes out the window.
‘I have about 5000 Gold. I’ll help with money. We first must get food, water, and wood. And backpacks.’
‘I’d suggest buying bandages and antivenoms too, who knows what we’ll encounter?’
‘You’re right. Let’s head to the marketplace.’
Once again into the sunlight, with nothing to protect them.
‘And some hats.’
Looking at the old man from head to toe, raising a brow, he continued ‘First, though, we should get you some armour. Or a weapon.’
‘Don’t worry about that, warrior. I have my own way of defending myself,’ Ratin said with a smirk and a wink.
He says that after being mugged.
After a long sigh, Schamm decided it was time to go.
They spent the next three hours going from stall to stall, trying to barter for the best prices they could get. At the end of the day, they calculated their remaining Gold.
‘3280. Quite a lot still,’ Schamm said after counting up all of the pieces and putting them in a pouch so big that he couldn’t hold it in only one hand.
‘We’ll need a hundred pieces per man every time we pass a border, though. Anyway, may we march on! We’re leaving tomorrow morning, so tell your friends your farewells while you can. Meet me at your statue.’
‘I’ll see you there, old man.’