Life of Fighting
Fourth Day of Storing, Y10
It was cold, as usual. The sun shone down on the icy ground and it glittered in the dim winter light. The distant sounds of children playing wafted through the air, giving a lighthearted feel to the immense gravity of the near future. A cold draft blew into the room, and suddenly the laughter stopped, and silence took over.
The green Grarrl shifted his weight slightly, causing his heavy armor to move and clang against itself with a loud ring that echoed through the chamber. The sound echoed, then quieted down. It was silent once again.
Then, a loud roar erupted from outside. Cheers of delight and cries of amazement broke into the room, further agitating the waiting Grarrl, causing him to shift uncertainly, his armor clicking and clanging in the pseudo-silence of the room. A hush rushed over the crowd, and a loud, penetrating cry shattered through the walls of the room and caused the Grarrl to step back, wishing he could run from this place and never come back.
Then came more cheers. They echoed and bounced, filling the room with enthusiasm and a barbaric delight in the sports of the ring. A loud voice boomed through the stadium, silencing the crowd.
“Now, ladies and gentleman, the moment you have all been waiting for!”
More cheers erupted through the stadium.
“The time has come—the scourge of the stadium, the most barbaric and ruthless warrior ever to breathe Neopian air, the champion of the ring finally has a challenger.”
A hush rushed over the crowd.
Within the chamber, the Grarrl began to become agitated. Why? he asked himself. Why do I fight? What is it for? Why do I stand for it? Why do I do it?
Outside, the announcer further egged on the crowd.
“Many a gladiator has felt the cold steel of his blade. Many a beast has fallen before him. Many of you have seen his ferocity, his courage, his valor in battle. And now he returns. Finally, he has a challenger. All the way from the forests of Meridell, from the land of kings and knights, the courageous, and some say foolhardy, Sir Roharn of Meridell!”
A gargantuan cheer erupted through the crowd.
The Grarrl had lost all interest in the fight by now. All his thoughts were focused within him, desperately seeking an answer. Why? Why do I stand for this life of fighting? This world of violence and barbaric sports? Who chose this for me? Did the world? Do I do it for the people? For the fame? For the attention?
I don't need their respect. I don't need their love. I don't need their admiration. They're the ones who put me down this path. They're the ones who led me into this destructive trap. They pushed me into this life—I life I love as little as my enemies.
They're my enemies. The people are, not my opponent. Every time I walk out there, I spur them on. Every time I step past this gate, they become stronger. Why should I listen to my enemies? Why do I listen to my enemies? They will do nothing for me. They have nothing to offer. Only I know where I want to go, not them. This is my choice. This is my life.
He could see it already. The gates slowly creeping open, letting light into the cold room. Triumphantly, he steps out, waving to the crowd more out of habit than sincerity. He bows and throws his hands into the air to urge on the crowd, and they cheer and holler at him in excitement. Turning to face his opponent, the world becomes silent except for his heart, and his focus concentrates on Sir Roharn's face.
He's arrogant. That's the first thing he notices. Sir Roharn is arrogant, a terrible weakness for a gladiator, hamartia, one might say. He's tired, but energized. But most importantly, he's afraid. His balance is slightly to his left. He grips his sword tightly, his muscles tight against his skin. His forehead is furrowed, trying to maintain his composure. Sweat drips from his face.
The Grarrl lunges forward, striking out with his sword in his own signature swing that often takes out his opponents in the first seconds of the fight. But Roharn dodges left and lands a hard swing to the Grarrl's left shoulder, which he promptly parries. Not too bad for a white Blumaroo, a normally soft and innocent race, in the Grarrl's opinion.
The two opponents circle each other for what seems like hours, each focusing his energies fully on his opponent. Calculating the balance, the weakness, and any trait which possibly might weaken them. Then the fight begins in earnest.
A strike to the head, parried and countered.
Several quick strikes at the arms, each skillfully blocked.
A sequence, rudimentary but effective.
A kick to the legs, and—
A weakness. The Grarrl sidesteps the kick and trips the Blumaroo in his off balance position, quickly disarming and pinning the gladiator. The cold steel of a blade presses against his neck. The smell of sweat and blood. Heavy breathing. Hearts racing. A cry from the crowd. All eyes aver to the king. A beg of mercy. The signal—life or death—is given, and—
Yes. He could see it all happening. The way it always happened. It never changed, only became more and more painful. This was not his life. This was not his path. He was free to do as he pleased, to go where he wanted and to travel the world. Yet here he was. Stuck.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the champion. The fiercest warrior ever to walk the earth. The greatest fighter of history. I give you, Stratavarius of Altador!”
The gates slowly creep open, letting light into the cold room.
The crowd hushes and turns to see their champion, and—
A cough echoes through the silent stadium.
The room is empty.
Twelfth Day of Sleeping, Y11
The wind howled violently in his ears. The white snow nearly blinded him as it whipped this way and that in the vicious wind. Visibility was low; he couldn't see more than five or six feet in front of him. The cold bit into his clothes, numbing his senses and dulling his sense of reality and purpose, but he pushed on.
A roar echoed in the distance, awakening sad memories. Echoes of warmth and happiness rang through his head. They were quickly tinted by the violence he paid for them. A tear slipped from his eye, freezing on his cheek as he hiked through the treacherous snow.
Then, suddenly, there it was. A cave opened in front of him, swallowing him as he collapsed into it. The wind disappeared, its howling continuing outside the cave, but its biting cold gone. He pulled himself against the wall of the cave and slumped against it, exhausted.
Pulling his pack off, he began to search it for his stove. It was small, but warm, and it would do him some good, if only a little. He quickly found it and assembled it, his hands clumsy and nearly useless in the bitter cold. Pulling out his last match, he lit the stove, holding his fingers near the flame, feeling the warmth, when a sudden gust of wind blew into the cave and—
It went out.
He slumped back against the wall. His last hope had gone out with the wind.
Stratavarius smiled inwardly to himself. Closing his eyes, he thought back to that day a year ago, where he had truly lost himself. He chuckled a hoarse, harsh laugh, as he thought of the irony. He breathed one last time as he succumbed to sleep.
He was finally home.