Empire Road – Part 26

The Test

May grabbed Boss’ arm. She squeezed it really tight and she looked like she was not balancing properly. But Alexis wasn’t any the wiser yet. As far as he was concerned there were just three dead coming toward him. Once they got into the light, the female began moving faster than the big one, and she was the first to reach the pit. The audience were going crazy because she had big boobies that were bouncing around wildly as she headed toward him. Raf had been dead longer and was moving a bit more slowly. When he came into the half light of the pine torches we could see that the Panetians had given him a Pan-Rapier to hold in the way they do for their own. May still had his actual rapier in the new home wagon, but he lurched toward Alexis with the one he was holding, but he was just kind of dangling it beside him.

‘NO!’ she screamed! But it wasn’t heard over the audience. They were cheering loudly as they watched the woman head toward the middle of the pit. Alexis began with a move he calls the sweep. He took a large step to the side, pivoted on his left foot, spinning as he went into a squat. His sword came around and sliced straight through the knees of the female creature. She landed perfectly on the stumps beneath her knees, then bounced forward into a belly flop. The soldiers in the audience cheered loudly.  Even the women soldiers cheered. The noise seemed to give Raf a fright and he dropped his rapier. Then the big one from our cage went clambering toward him. But Alexis had something new in mind. Instead of using his sword he put it back in the sheath and dove into a tumbling roll away from it. It was a little confused in the dimly lit area and this gave Alexis the upper hand. By now he’d seen that there was a third creature about to make a swipe at him too. Cleverly, he leapt from the side of the big one to being directly behind it, grabbed the metal ring at its back and pulled it. The creature fell flat on its backside to the delight of the crowd. But then, as he craned his head over toward the side of the ring to look at the new, approaching creature he also realised it was Raf. Still holding the metal ring of the big one he started dragging it toward Raf, but looked directly at Boss for some kind of guidance. Boss put his arms around the shoulders of May and he whispered something into her ear. I didn’t hear what it was but she threw her face into Boss chest.

Boss put his hand in the air, made a fist, and then lowered his arm slowly to horizontal from his shoulder. I’d seen this signal before. It was a signal that Boss used to tell Alexis that they’d get a better response from comedy than blood. Alexis nodded at Boss and then kicked Raf fair in the middle of the chest. Sent him flying backward. Raf was grunting like a pig, and dragged himself back up to his feet. Finally letting go of the metal ring of the big one Alexis darted over to the audience in the front row and found a pretty looking, young Panetian soldier and he smiled at her. Then he took her boots and slid them off her feet. He did it without asking and he did it quickly. The audience love creative stuff like this because when they watch the normal fights the gladiator just tries to kill the dead as quickly as possible. This was real theatre for them and they were lapping it up.

The big creature was now on its hands and knees in the middle of the pit, and Raf had just begun cantering toward Alexis again when he turned to face them with the boots in his hands. But it wasn’t the boots that he wanted. It was their laces. He began acting like the bullfighters do in New Rome at their summer festival. Raf ran past the big one as it heaved itself back onto its feet and Alexis sidestepped past him. Ref stopped, turned to see where he’d gone, snarled and then made another run at him. The big one was now on its feet and Alexis got around behind it again. He’d slipped the boot laces out of the boots, and he threw the boots back toward the girl. He took the laces and slipped one through the metal ring on the big creature’s back. He pulled it tight, making the creature spin back around. Now it was facing the back of the pit where we were standing. Raf saw him then and charged.. Alexis yanked on the boot lace and sent the big creature onto its backside again, making Raf collide with it and also tumble to the ground. Alexis stretched out and grabbed the ring that was strapped to Raf’s knee and he pulled it; dragging him over to them. Raf took a swipe to grab him, sitting up as he was being dragged along the dirt. Alexis heaved Raf’s knee into the air, flipping him onto his stomach. He grabbed the ring on Raf’s back and pulled it to the ring on the big one’s back. Then, finally, much to the screaming and delight of the audience, he proceeded to tie the two together at the backs with one of the boot laces. But with the other he cut it in half with his blade, and tied the two elbow rings together so that neither could move their arms nor move forward without dragging the other.

The audience went crazy for this, as they watched Raf and the big one trying to get back to their feet with their elbows and backs tied together. Alexis took a bow, and stood back near the front row, with his hands on his hips, watching them. Boss took May by the shoulders and looked her in the face.

“Do you want Alexis to do it, or would you prefer to do it yourself?”

May looked at him and was still for a couple of seconds then she surprised all of us. “I want you to do it please.”

The big creature finally found his way to his hands and knees, which meant that Raf was pulled up onto his back like a turtle’s shell facing the sky. The big one stood up, and Raf was left dangling sort of from the back of him. Neither seemed to know why their movement was restricted, only that it was. Both were still trying to do their own thing but the best outcome was Raf being dragged along behind the big one. Alexis drew his sword but then heard Boss’ whistled. He whistled loud and sharp in one long blow that drew the audience silent. He walked into the ring.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great delight that we finish tonight’s show and we do so with this message. Here before you are two creatures from the wastelands. One was also once a son of Panerets. But here tonight we see them dressed in the slave rings of Jessop Kingdom and we are reminded of how futile their abilities are. These creatures do indeed possess the ability to make us also like them, but thankfully there are young men and women just like yourselves who have been trained, much like Alexis to destroy these horrible abominations. So now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to finish tonight’s performance myself and demonstrate that these creatures are every bit as mortal as you and I.”

He took Alexis’ sword and gave him a look of reassurance. He circled the creatures, who had little choice but to stand more or less still because each was counteracting the movements of the other. Finally Boss got so that he was standing side on to both of them. Raf was much smaller than the other one and his head came only up to the middle of its back. Boss drew the sword high over his head and with all his might he took the most powerful swing he could muster and landed it on the back of the neck of the big one. It didn’t cut all the way through like Alexis is able to do, but it was enough to kill it instantly. It dropped to its knees, then bent at the waist, flopping to the ground, with its backside in the air and still on its knees. Raf had no option but to fall backward, again landing on the big creature’s back like a turtle shell once more. He was stuck there and couldn’t move at all. He kicked his legs about a bit, but there wasn’t anything he could do with that dead weight tied to his elbows and back. Boss moved slightly and held up the sword. It was a straight and clean chop directly downward and landed on Raf’s throat. His head came clean off, and the sword found its way into the back of the bigger one in the same blow. They both fell still and the audience erupted. They cheered extremely loudly but it was an oddly short lived blast of happiness, as the soldiers seemed to know that this was the end of the show and they went from cheering to standing and moving off to wherever they were about to spend their night. Those that were to sleep on the stone seats unrolled their kits and the others showed themselves out of the arena.

Boss handed the sword back to Alexis. He put it back in its sheath and they stood there for a moment, looking at Raf’s body. Some of the torches had burned out and it was even darker now. May and I walked slowly over to the dimly lit centre of the pit and Ben followed with what remained of his pine torch. The brothers found their way over just behind us and we all stood in the centre for a moment, staring at Raf. Since we were in Basin none of us had had a moment to stop and process all that had happened or the loss of Raf. Ben’s torch went out and the coals at its end glowed.

“Thank you, Mr Fahaar!” a voice came from the dark back of the arena. “Our troops enjoyed it very much!” It was the Haji officer and with him were a dozen or so mixed troops.

“Well, we were glad to be of assistance.” 

“Now, Mr Fahaar, I must ask you and your troupe to follow me. I’m afraid that we must ask you all to leave Pan tonight.”

“Leave Pan?” Boss said with a concerned tone to his voice.

“Yes. I’m afraid that our soldiers discovered the two creatures that you brought into Pan on the back of your wagon. And I know that you have a business in the capture and execution of the dead, but we are unable to allow people to bring the dead into the city walls like this, especially during the siege that we are undergoing with Jessop.”

“Yes, I understand fully what you’re saying. I’m sorry we couldn’t have been of more help to you in this stressful time of hardship though.” Boss said, as he nodded slowly.

“Oh, but there is something you can do. And for your services we will be most grateful. Please follow us now.”

Published by RoyMaloy

To keep one of my agents happy I've started a blog... yup. It will mostly be a combination of stories I've written, stories that *actually* happened to me and stories I *want* to happen. Please susbcribe to my blog. and remember - if you read it and you enjoy it, please remember to share the link!

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