Part Two – The Knight
Elad staggered out into the pits, unceremoniously shoved through the gates by burly guards. Moments later a sword flew out to land at his feet, one notched by use and the hilt still damp from blood. The burning sun hammered down from a cloudless sky, glaring off sand marred with crimson pools of blood. His head throbbed dully. Fingers probed at the lump at the side of his head that caused it. He tried to swallow but could not, his throat too tight from lack of water and his lips cracked.
The crowd chanted around him, calling out from the stands for the Beast. As his eyes grew accustomed to the glare, he looked up at the crowd, the high walls that imprisoned him in the pit tipped with sharpened wooden stakes. Men, women and children packed the stands, robed and wearing head scarves to shade them from the sun, their dark faces twisted in bestial fury. Vendors moved amongst the crowd, selling them roasted meats, fruits and drinks.
The gates on the far side of the pit swung open and his opponent emerged. Elad could barely fathom what he saw, for he had not seem a beast of its like before. Immense, fully two and a half metres in height, and heavily built, it appeared much like a bull yet walked like a man. Its feet were cloven hooves and its head that of a bull, crowned by a pair of great horns. Though unarmoured and shirtless, revealing a hide of pure white, it carried a maul larger than one a human could wield. One blow from that weapon, Elad knew, would be all that would be required, a blow to smash bones and crush life. The beast had red paint on its face, running from its forehead between its eyes and down to its flaring nostrils, with further streaks beneath its eyes, running horizontal. More red paint ringed its white horns in broad bands.
Drums sounds from up in the stands as the local lord stood up in his private viewing area, one shaded with a red cloth to keep the sun from him. Around him gathered a crowd of guards, and of sycophantic aides ever eager to please.
He held up one corpulent arm to silence the crowd and a murmured hush fell over the pit.
“Today,” he called out in a blubbery, high pitched voice, “We have an exhibition unlike any that you have seen before. Today, gracing our sands once more, comes the ferocious, the undefeated, the Beast!” The crowds rose to their feet, screaming their approval. Elad watched as the beast raised its head, looking up at the crowds, a long tail flickering behind it. For a moment, Elad felt that the beast looked mournful, sorrow etched in that inhuman face, saddened by the events unfolding.
The local lord signalled for silence again before speaking once more.
“Facing him is one never to have graced our sands before. Behold, I give you one of the last Knights, the outlaw and criminal Sir Elad!” The crowd screamed again, except this time their faces were twisted up in fury and hate. Elad managed to spit on the ground, even though the action hurt, to show his contempt to the crowd. Bending slowly down, he picked up the sword. Raising it high, he swept it around to point at all of them. The crowd intensified their hateful screams.
“Gladiators, die well!”
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