Thursday, September 6, 2012

Gladiator Ring

The doors opened in front of Kaden. Sunlight reflected off the sand and stung his eyes, blinding him for a moment. He stumbled into the ring, squinting until he could make out the field. Four stands of five spears were placed around the arena. He trotted over to one, swiping his glaive around him as he ran, provoking cheers from the spectators. Grinning for them, he whirled it again. Might as well hype them up now, instead of trying to flourish his movements once his enemy was around.

The doors across the arena creaked open. The beast they revealed was large, and Kaden could just make out men behind it, prodding it. The monster yelled and stepped into the light.

It was a centaur.

Kaden swallowed and took a second look at where the stands were. The spears were a gift and a curse--it was hard to catch up to a centaur, their horse legs carrying them almost three times the speed he could go, but centaurs tended to be particularly gifted at throwing them as well. And the centaur could replenish his supply faster than he could.

The centaur charged. Kaden swung his glaive, hard, sundering the spears on the stand next to him, then ran for the next one. The centaur got to the stand nearest it and picked up the first spear. He hurled it, but Kaden rolled. He came up with his glaive ready and rent the second spear stand. Another spear glanced off his chain shirt.

He stumbled to the side but recovered himself, heading for the next stand. The centaur grabbed his three remaining spears and galloped for the last stand, loosing one of his weapons as he ran. This one whooshed just behind Kaden. So there are seven left.

They were close enough to each other now that Kaden could see the sweat bleeding down the centaur's taught muscles. For the span of a heartbeat he felt sorry for the beast. It hadn't chosen to be here in this death match as he had. But what choice had he, really? His family needed to eat. With that thought he slammed the shred of empathy out of his heart.

They were three yards from one another, the stand of spears two yards from each of them. The centaur raised another spear to throw.

Kaden swept his glaive up--pole first--just in time to toss the spear to the side. The centaur skidded to a stop by the stand and brought his last spear in hand to bear, pointed straight at Kaden's chest.

Kaden got just within range of it before stopping, stabbing at the centaur's front leg. He needed to injure it, so it couldn't flee with all its new ammunition. He'd gotten lucky so far, but he knew he couldn't count on luck.

The centaur reared, putting his strength into a jab of his spear. Kaden tried to duck to the side, but it caught in his chain and yanked him down. He planted the butt of his glaive on the ground, trying to stabilize himself. He felt bruised, but he managed to stay upright. As the centaur drew its spear back again he slashed its ribs.

The beast cried out, grabbed three spears in his off-hand, and galloped off, leaving a splatter of red behind him. The crowd cheered at first blood. Kaden dropped his glaive and took up a spear, and he and his opponent each tossed one at another. Kaden's slit the centaur down his flank. At first he thought the centaur's had missed, but as he grasped his last spear, he glanced down and saw the truth. His leg was impaled, his leather skirt unable to deflect the direct hit. Blood was seeping out of the wound at a rapid pace.

He tossed his spear in a whirl of panic, and before it left his hand he knew it would never land. He was going to die.

By some miracle, the centaur's next spear came short, skittering to a stop at his feet. He picked it up reverently, caressing the shaft of his final hope. If he didn't kill the centaur with this spear, he would bleed out. He leveled it, leaning all his weight on his good leg, took a deep breath, and sprang. All in one movement he expelled his breath, leaped forward, and extended his arm. He toppled over, his wounded leg buckling, and lay prone. The crowd went wild. Probably anticipating my death, he thought.

After what seemed like an era, a shadow loomed over him. That would be the centaur coming in for the final blow.

The shadow lifted Kaden onto a stretcher. "That was the best throw I've ever seen!"

"Right through the heart. What a comeback."

"Let's get him to the medic. Wouldn't want such a champ to die on us."

Kaden was weightless, floating over the arena floor. He frowned at the two men holding him up. They didn't look like angels.

I hope you enjoyed my first Friday fantasy scene. Please comment and let me know what you think!

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