Fight to the Dead
A trumpet blew from inside the doorway that led underground to the tunnels under the rise next to the Arena. It was time for the fights to begin. I liked the look of his trumpet. It was shiny and would be great to have for our show. There are different kinds of fights in the different arenas we go to. I like this kind of fight the best. At the New Haven Arena they have a program with at least five fights, and the food vendors walk about amongst the benches and the stacked fruit boxes selling food and beer to the audience. The food makes you smell the dead a little bit less. Five fights is a good amount to have on the program. The smaller towns sometimes only have one or two fights, but they’ll add to it with acrobats like Raf and May, or trained dog and pony displays. Sometimes both. There’s a guy in Upper Market that has a dog that does tricks on a pony that does tricks at the same time. Usually it’s just one or the other. He’s pretty well known. I always feel sorry for the animals though. They never look very happy.
The fighters are given a choice of several wooden boxes that are dragged into the middle of the ring just before their fight. Inside are different kinds of weapons that he can use to fight the dead with. They don’t get to bring their own weapons. Sometimes it’s a sword and a rope-net, sometimes it’s an axe and a shield and sometimes it’s something strange like a rope and a hammer. The more fights the gladiator has fought, and the better known he is, the more unusual his weapons will be. One time the fighter was a well known gladiator in Schmidt when we were there last year and he chose a box that had a long pitch fork and nothing else. He stabbed and stabbed the two dead they sent after him, but he ended up getting bit by one. If a fighter is bitten they stop the fight and the other gladiators are sent in to round up the remaining creatures, and get them ready for the next fights. If a creature has killed a gladiator it becomes a real prize for the other gladiators to kill it. The guy who got the pitch fork and was bitten was killed in the next fight when they sent him into the arena as one of the dead. I thought that was a bit sad to watch. The audience didn’t cheer though. So they probably thought the same thing.
When the first fight started Boss instructed us to hide the pole cart out of the way. He didn’t want the mugs coming out of the fights and looking for our creature. Sometimes they bet on the fights and if the fight didn’t go the way they hoped it would they might come looking for the King to get even with. None of us asked Boss how much he made on the attraction, but I counted 211 people go through. That’s B633, assuming he didn’t let any of them in for free. He’s smart as well because it costs B6 to get into see the fights. B3 is the same amount it costs to buy a meal and since most of the mugs were in the area where the vendors were they would all have been holding B3 spare to either buy a meal or see the dead King with. I wonder if the vendors knew that Boss had dug into their profits by competing with them. I know that the pork knuckle guy paid to see the King though. That means that he gave Boss B3 and four pork knuckles to feed me, Bo, Ben and Raf with in exchange for seeing the show after the one he was allowed to sell food at and watch for free.
When we got into the Arena we were in the holding area where the dead are kept. It was the only place where we could see the show without getting in the way of the fighters. The dead were in their cages, moaning and making lunges at us through the bars when we got too close. God it stank. I put my shirt over my nose. Raf, May, Bo, Ben and I watched the first fighter as he walked into the Arena from the doors on the other side to us. The audience were above us and the door beside us opened straight out into the Arena floor. The announcer entered the ring with two other men, dressed like clowns. One was blowing a whistle and the other was banging a big gong. The people cheered and then began to listen as the announcer started bellowing at them.
“The next champion is a local from New Haven!” The audience erupted into a screaming roar. “He has been training for tonight for nearly three years!! This is his first professional fight, as he risks life and limb against a truly fierce opponent! Please make welcome Harry Myer!” The audience cheered as he walked proudly into the ring. He was wearing only a pair of blue shorts and he’d painted his arms red and his body and head blue. It’s said that the dead who were forest savages when they were alive are confused by humans that are painted red or blue because they aren’t colours seen often out in the woods. “He will be fighting against a scattered opponent and will be given a choice of three weapon boxes!!!”
I like scattered opponent starts. They’re my favourites.
The clowns wheeled out the cart with three large wooden boxes on it. They were numbered one, two and three in white paint on the sides and tops. The audience were screaming out the numbers they wanted him to choose. Finally, after a few seconds of thinking he chose number one. The clowns pulled it down off the back of the wagon and it landed on the ground with a heavy thud. They took their whistle and gong out and began blowing and gonging wildly as the audience cheered in a frenzy before they wheeled the cart out again. They make as much noise as they can to stir the dead up as they wait in their cages over on the sides before the match. They also round up the dead at the end with nets and ropes if the they bight the gladiator.
“Let the fight BEGIN!” the announcer bellowed and he walked swiftly out of the ring. The fighter, Harry, was very strong looking. He was probably about 20 years old, had thick black hair, and a big nose. But his body had no fat on it at all. He ran over to the box and turned it over. Out spilled a whip, a short sword and three stones about the same size as a fist. He picked up one of the stones, tucked another into his shorts, held onto another, and left the third one on the ground.
“Out of the way, you lot!” a man behind us barked, as he began fixing the railings of the cage inside to open into the arena. Then, he pulled a rope that led from the ceiling to the wall making the door to the arena fling open. The two creatures that were in the cage saw the light from the arena, and they kind of jogged toward it. They were both male. Both very small; probably teenagers. They looked like they could have been related even, and they both moved quite fast. So I’d say they hadn’t been dead very long. They saw Harry in the middle and made a dash for him. The dead can’t move quite as fast as the living can, but they also can’t be stopped like the living can. They don’t get tired. They just keep going. Harry threw his first rock at one of them as it ran toward him, and it hit him right between the eyes. Its head flung backwards, but it didn’t slow down in any way. They both kept cantering towards him. He took the second stone and threw it, as well, but this time he threw it at their feet. It hit the other one on the left foot and it apparently broke several of the bones, making it limp a bit. He picked up the whip and the last rock and got ready to move. He threw the third rock; hitting the same creature in the middle of its knee, which blew it right out. Its leg was now no longer useful at all and it fell to the ground in a heap. Its attention was still on Harry, but it was unable to move because its bones wouldn’t support it, so it began crawling at him; lunging with its arms like it thought it was closer than it was, trying to grab at him.
Harry turned his attention onto the other one. He unfurled the whip and sent out a huge, deafening crack with it. The audience cheered wildly. He cracked it at the creature again, popping it loudly right in front of its face, but it didn’t even flinch! It just kept jogging toward Harry. He took a step backward and then flung the whip at it, winding it tightly around one of its legs. He pulled it tight, and yanked it in one swift move. The creature flew flat on its back, and Harry ran, dragging the creature behind him. He ran around the outside of the stadium, with dust flying up behind the creature as it was dragged along. He did this, most likely, to make the crowd appreciate him more. They cheered loudly as he passed them. Once he’d done a full lap he turned and ran straight toward the one with the broken leg in the middle. It had by now worked out how to drag itself along quite efficiently on one knee. Harry ran directly at it, dragging the other one behind him. He came to the fallen one and jumped it, dragging the other one along with him and making them collide into the other one on the ground. Then he changed course, still holding onto the whip, and ran in a circle, winding it around and around them both until they were tied quite tightly together. Knowing he had only a few seconds before the able bodied one would be free from the whip he turned to the audience and appealed to them to tell him which one he should finish first. Bo and Ben were very caught up in it all and were screaming out through the window we were watching through, “That one, THAT ONE!!” They’re such idiots.
The audience cheered loudly and Harry took his blade and slashed it into the back of the neck of the one with the broken leg. It went limp instantly. The audience cheered wildly! Then he jumped over its carcass and plunged into the head of the other with his blade as he landed. Unfortunately for him though, his strike didn’t kill the creature. What’s more, he yanked at the small sword and it was firmly lodged in its skull! Four times he pulled at it, as it stuck out the top of the creature’s head, making its whole body yank with it, but there it stayed and the creature flailed its arms upward trying to grab Harry. Not knowing what to do he looked around for a moment, and saw that he was quite close to one of the rocks he’d begun with. He got to his feet and began dragging the creature behind him by the sword, which in turn dragged the dead weight of the other creature as well, still lashed together by the whip, as he lugged them toward the rock. Three giant heaves and he was within reaching distance. and he grabbed the rock. He turned to the creature and began smashing at its face with the rock; pounding at it, sending spray of its black blood in all directions. The creature never stopped trying to grab Harry with its arms, even though after twenty or so impacts it had lost use of its eyes, mouth and nose completely. Finally, exhausted, Harry must have chopped his way to the back of the creature’s brain with that rock because as he eventually hit it with that rock it went limp and the top of its skull broke off, freeing the sword in his other hand.
Completely covered with the black goo from the inside of the dead thing, Harry stood up to the screaming applause and cheers of the wild audience, holding the rock in one hand and the sword with a the top of a skull on its end in the other hand, and completely covered in black, brains mixed with blue and red paint. It was extremely exciting. The audience began singing some kind of song in a language I couldn’t understand and they started waving flags that were white, with a blue stripe top and bottom and a blue star in the middle. People from all parts of the arena jumped the fence and threw him into the air, carrying him off to the side, and into the audience. It would be great to be a hero like that.
The fights that followed were not as exciting. This was good for us. They featured very well-known fighters who had a lot of experience, and were quite good at fighting, so they killed them off almost as soon as they staggered into the ring. The audience clapped politely, but they weren’t excited about it like they were when Harry won. The announcer walked in to the ring at the end of the last fight. The fighter had just made short work of three very fat and tall wasteland savages that they’d managed to dress in fairy skirts. It was quite funny I guess. He was given two swords in his box, so it was all over quite quickly.
After the last fight the announcer walked into the ring. Walking almost directly behind him was May and Raf. Bo, Ben and I walked behind them with the horns. May was wearing a G-string with a thin skirt over it and a tight cloth that held her breasts in place. Raf was only wearing tight, black trousers. The announcer stopped in the middle of the ring while May and Raf found places behind him to his left and right. In New Haven there are no naked dancing women like there are in some of the other towns. So this was a really risky stunt for May to attempt. She needed to be sexy but not too sexy.