As part of http://www.stephenwillis.co/writing-challenge/
Inspired by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxBTwMYkCBI
Taylor Swift – Badblood ft. Kendrick Lamar (In the Style of Disturbed)
It was time to shut out the crowd again. That roaring teeming mass, thousands all united in desire and hunger for action, for blood, as if they were one being. One monster. All that was between him and that monster was a circle of dirt, stained in blood and the cage. Yet, the cage was for the safety of the crowd.
A web of spikes, shining bright. They were polished to such by the scuttling arena crews after each day.
He put all of it out of his mind. First the roaring monster, the living sea. Then the cage. Then the dirt.
The only thing that remained was his own self. A hulf, one of the humans descended from wolves. Though at this point, he was more wolf than human. The black wolf of the pits they called him, as his fur was black, and all thought his heart was just as black. Gauntlets of dark metal enclosed his hands, gleaming as the back of a beetle, he had to treat them with a special oil to get them that dark.
His handlers demanded it. Good for his image they said. His brand. Something heavier than any slaver’s mark.
He put all of that away too, casting it into darkness.
There was one thing he could not cast away. A burning anger. How many years was it? Finally. Finally. Madness. The wolves of old were said to have been cursed with a scourging madness, one that made them into the vargulf. Slaughterers.
The black wolf’s mouth twitched and the sides of his mouth threatened to split open, revealing his fangs. He calmly checked the straps of his gauntlets. He wasn’t going to give into his passions. Not now when he was so close. Consume the madness before it consumes you, he learnt that in the pits.
Leash your passions or be leashed by them. There were too many that became berserk.
He could not cast it away… but he was able to cage it. A cage without and a cage within.
Power coursed through his veins as he went through his breathing technique. It wasn’t anything special. One of the most common among the hulf, the hound consuming wind.
The full title of it was the hound consuming wind, breathing out the ancient, returning to the origin. There are many paths to power, and one of the most reliable for martial fighters was stirring whatever weak lineages remained in their bodies.
The real trick was not losing oneself to the memories of blood before reaching the origin.
He was calm. He opened his eyes, green flecked with amber of old. The bits of amber took on a faint glow.
Next, he had to take everything back in.
First the hate. He removed the cage. It was tame for now. Submitting. He knew it would turn on him if he lost vigilance though.
There was the weight of the brand. His handlers. They were nothing. They could not see beyond the arenas any more than the sorriest slaves could. He was different.
Next was the dirt. Familiar. It would aid him. It would still approve of him. He hadn’t lost its favour.
The cage. He could easily tear through it. It didn’t mean anything. Nothing but comfort for those who didn’t know any better.
The crowd. They weren’t a monster. They were people. They were his. They came here for him. They came to see him. To see him and to see…
Frantic cheers rose up from the crowd.
He faced the man he once thought of as a friend, no a brother.
A fair face with milky skin, a wide muscled chest of the same, but the body was covered in green chitin as were the lithe limbs, at odds with the chest. A half-breed, orc and star elf. He was blessed, to have ended up with the power of an orc but the beauty of an elf, even down to the blue-black locks of hair. How many were just a mess of the worst parts of their parents?
The wolf suppressed a smile. He knew the truth, of just how blessed Caam was. Not just a half breed. Rather one of his parents was a half-breed. There was no outward evidence that the same blood flowed through Caam’s blood as the black wolf of the pits.
Descendant of a weapon made by magi, human descended from trees and human descended from wolves. Three bloodlines. A tainted. Cursed crossbreed of the races. If there was a risk of a half-breed ending up wretched, then the chances of a tainted ending up as Caam did were absurdly low.
“Brother” Caam said, straightening his fine red coat.
The wolf almost laughed then. Not a bit of regret. The lunatic even thought that nothing had changed between them. He came without armour.
Still, not a complete fool. The wolf eyed the spear that Caam brought with him. Her spear.
It was a light weapon, clearly made for a warrior deeper in magic than strength of body. A branch of fire with a leaf of a blade. The wolf had suspected that it was from the bone of a dragon, but he had never found out.
“Must we do this?” Caam asked.
That face. Again that face. That accursed expression. He had once thought it weak and innocent. Now he saw it was the face of a whining child.
“Can you not hear the crowd brother? They love us, we have to, for old times sake. Just put on a show for them” The wolf lied.
Everyone was always saying you couldn’t trust wolves.
The wolf himself definitely wished that he hadn’t trusted Caam. Now though, he was banking on Caam making that same mistake.
Caam let out a melodious laugh, and grabbed his spear in both hands, his form was sloppy. He wasn’t taking this seriously.
“Fine enough, I’ll give them a show to carve myself in their hearts forever, I’m afraid they’ll only be remembering me whenever they look at you after this!”
They began to lightly spar. Not properly. More like a pair of little girls slapping their hands together, but to a lot of the crowd, it looked like a fight.
It helped that the wolf would let his hands slip now and then, making some nasty cuts, nothing wounding, but nasty looking cuts. Caam wasn’t pleased of course and returned the favour two-fold.
The wolf was waiting. It was so hard. Just one opening. Just one and he’d tear that head right off his shoulders.
“Haha, this is just like old times. I’ve missed this!” Caam laughed.
The wolf snapped.
He missed it? After all that he did? He missed it? What in Relhs was the point of what he did if he MISSED IT?
The wolf’s gauntlets dived together, aiming at that uncovered chest that Caam was so proud of, aiming to rip the wizened heart right out of it. A shocked expression covered Caam’s previously smugly satisfied face. He didn’t have time to dodge or parry with his spear, he stirred the spear and fire blossomed from it, a shielding flower formed, and while this saved his life, he was still sent sliding back. The crowd was silent as the dirt drank the wine that fell unwilling from Caam’s chest.
There was actually a shocked and hurt expression on Caam’s face. The nerve of him.
The wolf brought his temper back to heel, a bitter taste in his mouth. Years enduring, all wasted. Well, not completely wasted. He shook his gauntlets. Caam was still in the pit with him after all.
“D-Did, did you just try to kill me? Why did you do that? I don’t understand, did you go mad down here?” Caam whined.
“Ahahahahaha! Mad? You don’t understand?”
“I thought you might be a bit jealous, but I had no idea that…”
“Jealous? Duath take you! After all you did, you think I’d be jealous? After you sacrificed them to become the slave of masters worse than we ever had down here? It isn’t just your heart that is hollow but your head too”
Caam retreated back, pointing his spear at the wolf. The wolf himself was on all fours now, the gauntlets more like claws now. The wolf lunged.
Claw met spear. Caam tried to scourge him with fire, but the dust of the dirt swirled up and obscured his aim. Caam found himself in the centre of the arena, wolf prowling around him. The wolf slipped forward, and Caam scrambled to guard. It was however a feint and the wolf tumbled to the side, rolling in the dirt and sending a claw to loop upwards. A wound on the side this time.
The spear struck down, vines of fire lashing, but the wolf had already scrambled away, laughing as he was whipped by the tail ends of the vines.
“I thought you didn’t care about them” Caam screamed.
“I let you think that, why wouldn’t I after you led them to their doom!”
Caam’s face twisted, as did his shadow, and it was now four hands gripping the spear, not two. His shadow was draped over his shoulders. The wolf laughed. Caam had grown soft on slaughter. Merely killing every day wouldn’t beat being honed by conflict.
“Don’t you have anything new from your masters? Well, I’ve something new for you!”
The wolf jumped at Caam. It was a move filled with holes, and Caam easily pierced the wolf through. The wolf stopped mere inches from his head, suspended in mid air on the spear. There was no blood.
The wolf burst into dust, and Caam wailed as the real wolf reared up behind him and tore his right arm off. He had wanted to tear Caam in half, but sadly as soft as Caam had become, he wasn’t that rotted in terms of skills.
Caam’s shadow dragged him backwards, towards the cage.
“Guardian! Save me! HURRY AND SAVE ME!” he shrieked.
There was startled cries from the crowd along with boos as something with red scales and leathery wings leapt from the stands and flew to the cage, pulling out a sword of fire and sundering the cage of the arena.
The intruder wore a robe of silver cloth and mail, and his long face was ensconced in a muzzle of ethereal orange chains. Bindings for a slave of great power.
“Kill him! Tear him apart! Make him beg before me”
The slave stared at the wolf, some small measure of respect in his eyes. Then, he spoke without moving his mouth.
-I dare not, I have been charged with your safety, and while you cannot see it, I see what this man has done to the soil of this place. I am not stupid enough to fight a warrior on bonded ground-
“SHUUUUUUTTTTT UPPPP SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP!!!! YOU OBEY ME SLAVE, YOU AREN’T WORTH THE DIRT UNDER MY NAILS! KILL HIM NOW YOU WORM!” Caam yelled.
The slave turned on Caam, blazing brand in hand.
“H-hey, wait, what are you doing?”
The slave proceeded to scour Caam’s wounds closed. After Caam finished screaming. The slave turned to face the wolf.
-You did not attack? I am surprised-
“If I did I still wouldn’t get what I want. The spear is enough for now”
-Smart man, you know it doesn’t end here-
“Yeah, well your masters can make a prince out of him, but I’m going to be king here, and then I’ll come for all his debts.”
-Fascinating. Well, I’m afraid I must be getting the ‘prince’ back, my masters would be most upset if they lost such a promising specimen.-
“Can you wake him a bit?”
The slave was silent for a few moments, then he put a palm on Caam, who had fainted from pain.
A pulse, and a gasp came from Caam.
“Caam. There’s nothing between us now, nothing but bad blood. I’ll spill it all out. Just wait for me!”
The slave grabbed Caam and flew away, so the wolf didn’t hear Caam’s furious reply.
As the wolf left the arena, the crowd could not see the tears behind his angry eyes.
Tears for two young half-brothers, united in the struggle of the pits. For what once was.
Anger for unfilial betrayal. For what was now.