Slowly the pounding in Threz's ears gave way to the roar of the crowd.
“Finish him!” they seemed to be chanting.
Willing his eyes open once again required almost all of the little strength that remained in him. Breathing deeply Threz peered across the arena looking for the man in the white cloak who had been his opponent. The clang of a sword falling to the dirt a few feet away drew Threz's attention, twisting his neck Threz saw the man in white standing nearby with his back to him, the man's sword lying a few feet away between him and the man. Somehow Threz mustered the strength the rise to his hands and knees. Blood dripping from the gash on his head Threz began to crawl.
“I won't take this barbaric show any further!” he heard the man in white shout to the judge. The man's voice seemed miles away against the crowd and the pounding in his head.
“Haahaahaa! You will finish him or your blood will join his in the dirt!” the arena judge's entire obese form shook when he laughed. It was a cruel and unsettling laugh, one which Threz had been well acquainted with over the years he had spent in the fighting pits. In the Ravannese arena the highest form of mercy one could expect was to be finished off quickly after the fight had been decided. Finally reaching the man's discarded sword Threz glanced back up at the man in white, he didn't seem aware that Threz had moved from the pool of blood he had left him in.
“The Knights of the Last Stand are not butchers and I will not be a player in this sickening game any longer!” the man in white shouted back as Threz's hand tightened around the grip of the fallen blade…
“This man does not bear the taint of evil that so many in this city do. His life will not be forfeit as long as I, Gerbald the Fierce still draw breath!” the man in white declared.
Threz lurched to his feet as Gerbald turned to retrieve his discarded weapon and thrust the sword toward the man's chest. The crowd cheered as the blade sunk in deep burying itself almost to the hilt. Threz raised his head to see the look of shock in Gerbald's eyes.
“This way, at least one of us will make is out of here alive,” Threz said weakly as Gerbald's lifeblood ran down the length of the sword. “I had no other choice, they would have killed you if you hadn't finished me.” Threz pleaded to the dying man.
The look of shock on Gerbald's face melted to one of pity as his eyes began to flutter. Disgusted with himself Threz released his grip on the sword letting the man in white fall to the arena floor. The cruel heartless laughter from the arena judge's box found it's way to Threz's ears once again.
“Very good orc, I see you've learned a thing or two in these pits over the years.” said the judge after his laughter had subsided. “But you realize, that you won't be leaving this arena alive. You did, after all, lose the match. Guards!”
On the other side of the pit Threz saw the gate to gladiator pens open and half a dozen arena guards clad in black plate emerge from the holding pens and begin to advance on him while the crowd cheered louder still. Looking down at the sword still protruding from Gerbald's chest Threz knew there would be no going back to the gladiator pens now. Threz left the sword where it was and ran to the other side of the arena.
Coming up against the smooth stone wall of the pit Threz glanced back at the arena guards moving toward him. They were moving slowly, taking their time, knowing that they had him trapped. Knowing that his death was but a few dozen feet away Threz closed his eyes and murmured a prayer to whatever gods would listen.
“If you deliver me out of this place I swear I will not rest until I have repaid the sacrifice that Gerbald made for me.” he prayed.
Opening his eyes Threz looked again at the ten foot stone wall that surrounded the fighting pit. Searching the wall for anything that would help him in his escape his eyes fell on a small gap in the stonework a foot above eye level where some previous combatant's blow must have missed it's mark and chipped the wall. Summoning all his strength Threz leaped up and jammed his hand in the gap. Gritting his teeth through the pain Threz pulled himself up the wall and placed his other hand on ledge of the pit then swung his legs up and over and into the stands.
“Get him you fools!” he heard the arena judge yell at he rose to his feet. Shoving aside some of the arena's screaming patrons Threz made his way into the darkened tunnel that lead out of the arena and into the city. His vision began to blur as he ran toward exit but Threz kept running toward the light at the end of the tunnel without looking back…
…With a loud thud Threz fell from his hammock onto the hard wood floor. His head was pounding and he was soaked in a cold sweat. With a deep sigh of relief he wiped the moisture from his brow wincing with pain from the wound on his head. He'd only been dreaming again. He peered around the room and found himself back in the bowels of the ship he had bought passage on. The captain had been reluctant to take him on the journey to Sartarus with his wounds but when Threz promised him triple the normal rate just for a hammock in the ship's hold the caption had finally relented.
“It's normally very bad luck to have a passenger die while at sea but for this much I think I might be able to overlook that old superstition.” the caption had said with a half-grin on his face.
“Don't worry about me,” Threz had replied “I've still got more than enough strength to make it to Sarti.” Now thay were over a week out and it was beginning to look like he had been mistaken. He had spent the last few days below deck and was barely strong enough to stand.
“Orc!” Threz heard the caption's voice yell from the stairs leading to the deck. “If you're still alive get up here!”
“Don't worry about me!” Threz shouted back. Grunting through the pain he pulled on his dented helm hide the festering wound on his head. It wouldn't be a good idea to let them see how sickly he had become. Bracing himself against the wall of the hold Threz slowly rose to his feet. Taking a step forward he almost tumbled back to the ground as the ship swayed under his feet but managed to catch himself at the last moment. Leaning heavily against the wall Threz began to make his way up the steps to the deck of the ship.
Threz was breathing heavily as he exited the lower deck and found himself standing on the deck of the ship. He squinted under the bright sun and finally found the captain standing a few feet away surround by several of the crewmen. Making his way over to the captain Threz looked out onto the water and saw a spire of some distant city on the horizon. Finally reaching the captain Threz leaned heavily on the rail that ran around the edges of the deck as he addressed the captain.
“Is that Sartarus?” Threz asked.
“Haha! No,” replied the captain “That city isn't even half the size of Sartarus, that's…”
“Well when are going to reach Sartarus?” interrupted Threz.
“Well that's actually what I brought up here to talk about,” the captain said a malicious grin beginning to spread across his face. “It seems that the price of fare has gone up.”
“How much more?”
“All of it.”
“Take it,”responded Threz taking out his pouch of coins. He tossed it gently to the deck in front on the captain where it hit the desk with a loud thunk. “Just make sure that we get to Sartarus as quickly as possible.”
“Oh we will,” replied the captain the malice now clear on his face. “Well, your gold at least will. Can't say the same for you though. Hahahahaha!” He laughed loudly and daggers appeared in crew members hands as they began to advance toward him.
Threz raised his hands and tried to assume a fighting stance but his head began to pound again and the captian's smiling face began to blur. Just before the men were upon him the ship shook under the impact of a giant wave. Several of the advancing men fell to the deck but the captain just laughed.
Threz stumbled backward as the ship swayed and went tumbling over the rail into the sea. Struggling weakly to keep his head above the water Threz could hear the captain's laughter. “Well at least we won't have to worry about him dying on board! Ahahaha…”
Threz's strength began to falter and the waves continued to crash around him. As he began to sink below the surface he couldn't help notice how similar the crash of the waves sounded to the roar of the crowd in the arena….