To The Death
March 2, 2015
The entire village had turned out to watch the fight to the death between Jack and Lithoca. Strange scents of cooking meat and the odor of unknown spices filled the air. Laughing children streamed by trailing bright cloths and feathers. Families gathered on worn tree stumps around the pit that would hold someone’s doom.
“Seems more like a spring fertility festival than some brutal gladiatorial fight to the death,” Jack said under his breath.
He hadn’t expected an answer, but he got one anyway. “Entertainment is always welcome amidst hard lives. Usually it comes with remorse, for one villager’s family would be forced to mourn, but with you being an outsider, no dark clouds will cover the joy of the battle.”
“Why is that?” Jack asked his reluctant coach, Gochathua, who was thankfully able to speak his language with the use of magick.
Gochathua’s bent form regarded Jack for a moment. The man had seen many summers and although flamboyant in nature, the colors of his sparse clothing and furs had faded over time. “Because, since no one cares about you, when Lithoca slays you it will only bring the village joy.”
“Thanks a lot,” Jack grumbled. “So what’s the rules about weapons and well… everything else?”
Gochathua sighed and sat down on a bench that looked almost as old as he was. Acting like each word was a wasted effort, he said, “Two is one of our mystic numbers, therefor two weapons are allowed into the pit.”
When he made no move to speak further, Jack prompted him with, “What about magick? Will our spells be allowed?”
Gochathua rubbed his chin. “Yes, to some degree, but the pit is enchanted against the use of Earth attacks.”
Jack felt a frown forming. “So great, I can’t use my primary attack, but I’m sure Lithoca will be allowed to use his Rapidity and anything else he has.”
“Such is the case and the reason I have my money on him.”
“Thanks for your confidence.” The Jack remembered how he’d been given a small sack of gold when he’d been supplied at the keep. “Since you love two so much, I have two more questions for you. What are the odds against me and am I allowed to place a bet?”
* * *
For once, Jack felt glad he couldn’t understand the language of the world he had found himself trapped on, for Lithoca spat a series of foul curses his way as they each entered the pit. The man had painted himself up like a yellow and black jaguar. For weapons he favored a war club with four rows of jagged obsidian embedded into its head. A black obsidian dagger filled his left hand.
Ignoring his opponent, Jack scanned the people circling the pit. As a whole, they all worked themselves up into a frenzy of blood seeking, his blood. All save Tynilia who looked at him through sad eyes like she already considered him dead.
Jack clutched his giant battle axe in two hands while he let his war dagger ride on his hip. Licking his lips, he found them dry. He shifted the grip on his axe and wished they could just get on with it. As if in answer to his thought, a ceramic pot was flung onto the floor of the pit between them, which signaled the fight had begun.
Lithoca flung his club at Jack. The Stalwart tried to duck under it, but the black volcanic glass cut a line of pain through his scalp. This had barely registered, before the thrown club magickally reappeared in Lithoca’s hand. With a sick grin, the man of Tezcatlipoca cast his Rapidity spell and his body glowed as his speed increased at least threefold.
Jack swung his axe in a wide arc before him. It kept Lithoca back, but he dodged it with ease. The man’s club impacted Jack’s shoulder a second later. He could have pressed the attack with his dagger, but Lithoca appeared to be playing it safe and staying out of Jack’s reach.
When he threw his club for the third time, Jack was ready and he blocked it with the head of his axe. He tried to step on the weapon, but it only disappeared and returned to Lithoca’s hand. The jaguar man threw it at once and Jack took a blow to his knee.
His protection of Yig had kept him in the battle so far, but if he didn’t score a hit, such advantages wouldn’t last long. He was going to have to mix it up. He healed himself a little while circling his adversary, but he knew his ability to heal wouldn’t be enough to see him through this.
Lithoca moved like a blur and Jack took another blow from the man’s club. Maybe that’s it, he thought. Let him feel overconfident. Jack started to limp and move slower. He took a wild swing with his axe. Lithoca laughed and tossed his club again.
Jack let the impact of the club, knock him off his feet. As Lithoca moved in for the kill, Jack double-handed his axe and threw it at the man’s thighs. Lithoca was beyond fast, but the attack had been unsuspected and caught him off guard. He attempted to leap over it, but the blade of the axe tore a deep gauge in his shin and proved enough to send him sprawling.
With a yell, Jack used his Mold Nature spell on the long handle of the axe. Lithoca cried out as, like a serpent, the handle of the axe entwined itself around his ankles.
Lithoca rained frantic blows down on the enchanted axe handle, but it held long enough for Jack to leap into the air and put his entire body weight into a right hook as he fell on Lithoca. The blow caught the man in the jaw and his head whipped back stunned. Somehow in the middle of the chaos, Jack sensed that the crowd above had fallen silent.
Lithoca continued to struggle until Jack drew his dagger and smashed the bottom of the hilt onto the top of his enemy’s head with all of his strength. It proved enough to drop the man and Jack let his knife hover over the unconscious man’s throat for a moment, before throwing Lithoca aside.
“Killing Stalwarts is not my way. Besides, he’ll need every man we have to fight off The Darken.”
Gochathua repeated Jack words with reluctance, but with a murmuring of anger the crowd departed. What surprised him was the look of fuming anger he saw on Tynilia’s face as she joined the others.
“Crap, even when I win, I can’t win.”
To be continued next Monday