“Will our reigning champion please take the stage?”
Manadag had been waiting in the preparations room for what felt like hours. This particular announcer seemed to have a deep passion for running his mouth. Manadag was well aware of the procedure. Get them hyped and they’ll cheer more. If they cheer more, they spend more money. And the more the arena profits, the longer Manadag was relieved of certain tasks. It was true, the only reason he even accepted his position was to stay off of the disease-ridden streets. He recalled the harsh world outside all too well.
For the past nineteen years, a lack of food has crippled Alceria. For some reason, a usually dormant disease decided nineteen years ago would be the perfect time to mutate. Nineteen years. Enough time for an entire generation to feel the pangs of hunger. In fact, this disease that inexplicably passed from cattle to human was killing both populations simultaneously. Depending upon the area, people may have attributed the disease to many different things. Of course there were the crazed and the paranoid who made wild claims of involvement of witches or devils. In all honesty, Manadag did not care about this illness, or those suffering from its effects, as long as he himself had food to eat. This is why he fought.
When the announcer, a Jake Sullenburg, was finished chattering, three attendees brought Manadag out into the arena. The force of the two large oak doors opening created a pleasant stream of wind, which Manadag happily invited. After all, Sullenburg had kept him in that airless room for long enough.
“Ah,” Manadag exclaimed as his opponent took its corner. He recognized this breed of creature very well. He had fought its brethren dozens of times. It was a large Hybride, creatures mutated with alchemy to become something other than their original race. The development of these new species was common practice for city alchemists. The one Manadag currently gazed upon resembled a large scorpion with four razor-sharp fangs, and a long, curling tail. However, this tail was coiled, rather than the ordinary slightly-curled scorpion tail. Manadag thought how closely this tail resembled the shell of a snail. Those insects, too, were familiar to him, as they could be found almost anywhere in the warm, sultry atmosphere of the barracks where he and the other warriors were housed. They were a minor inconvenience, and there seemed no way to prevent them from entering one’s quarters. Manadag had often found them crawling across his jackets in his wardrobe, or across the head of his bed. They were usually ignored, if not given to the occasional wandering tomcat.
The crowd let out a roar upon seeing Manadag charge at the beast. His weapons rested in his hands, placing complete faith in his capabilities. If anyone doubted his abilities, Manadag knew his weapons, a pair of spears, would always believe in him. Of course, Manadag knew his weapons were merely objects. However, to him they represented more. The fine craftsmanship showed his experience. The golden engravings against the handle and blade showed his wealth. The blades themselves, sharpened habitually everyday, showed his resolve. Their silence and refusal to complain even when he was at his worst assured him of an everlasting dedication. And most importantly, though he would never admit it to anyone, the cold metal spears would never be taken away from him by disease. “Not like those weak humans,” he thought to himself.
The crowd’s animal roars brought him back to his senses. He gripped his spears tighter, and was finally within a fair fighting range of the creature. With one swift jump, he leaped into the air and landed atop the Hybride’s head. It writhed, trying to throw him off, but his feet gripped its armored back plates too tightly. The spears spun in his hands rapidly. A shallow breath passed throughout the audience. He finally caught the spears and thrust each of them into the space between two armored plates, making a v-shape. An unnatural green blood spouted out from the fresh wound. Manadag slashed and cut while the beast raged. Twice, its claws scratched it his back; however, no serious injuries were inflicted to him.
Manadag was now drenched in this fluid, which exuded a foul odor. He hopped off of the beast and walked to a safe corner, while the beast thrashed in pain. Noticing he had some time before the Hybride could regain its balance, he drew a small sweat rag from his belt, and proceeded to wipe his blades clean. He then threw the rag to the ground, ignoring the grime and thick layers of sweat on his own face. When the Hybride stood once again, Manadag ran toward it, and with one powerful blow, removed the creature’s head. The crowd roared yet again, elated over his victory. He only had a couple scratches, so he waived the offer of a stretcher and first aid. Manadag was more tired than hurt, so he thought it best to drag himself back to his quarters.
The moment he stepped back into the musty preparation room, he began to sweat again. The battle was certainly tiring. How he wished for a strong gale to cool him! He continued down the hallway, nodding to a couple familiar warriors, and even greeted a new one. However, he decided it would be best just to rest, as he was growing rather uncomfortable with the stifling air. Everyone else continued about business as usual. With the sweat still coming from his forehead, and his eyes which now began to sting, Manadag was ready to just collapse. His eyes stung and blurred, and he had to feel along the wall to find his room. “Perhaps I should have wiped my brow?” he thought to himself.
He was almost at his room, he figured, when a man, the same new warrior he introduced himself to earlier, brushed along him. Through his watering eyes, he saw the shadow of the man running. “What a jack---“ Manadag attempted to say. However, it only came out a garbled mess. He forced his eyes open, and he realized he had fallen to the floor. He didn’t even notice! The man bumped into him so gently, too. Then he realized why this new figure had run. Manadag desperately tried to shout for attention, but no words formed coherently. His spears, his most precious possession, his trusted companions had been stolen. By now the man was probably far away. Unsure of what to do, still panicking, but now noticing an intense pain from the previous back wounds, Manadag reached for the afflicted area. However, instead of a missing mass of skin as he was expecting, there was an enormous round lump. This inflammation had entirely replaced the natural curve of his back. His eyes began to blur again, but he realized this was not cause by the sweat. Rather, his sweating, which persisted, and the pain in his eyes were effects of one root cause. And at once he damned the Hybride’s venom. And at once he rested, slipping away from the arena. Away from the thief and his spears. Away from the crowd and Jake Sullenburg. And in this new darkness, he found he was embraced by some familiar person, and he felt sure that no disease, no monster, and certainly no thief could ever separate them again.
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