Part 41: The Fall of Immystrahl
Prior to the big fight, there is a large elimination bout, a free-for-all. In it, many are fighting in the arena until there are only a few left. The survivors are pushed out by guards.
After this bout, a voice booms over the crowd: "Patrons of our beloved arena, welcome to today's main event." "Martharg the Mighty, veteran of many battles in the many arenas, in many cities, returns!"
A door opens in the center of the arena floor, and a bronze finned helmet appears first. The crowd begins a wave of cheers. An impressively muscled figure, seven feet tall, clad fully in spiked and reinforced black leather armour, is lifted by a platform. Hefted over his right shoulder is the head of a double-bladed axe, its long haft stretching to below his knees, with a spike at it's end. When the platform fully ascends, Martharg hefts high his axe by its spike, waving its head over his head in two complete circles, and takes ten steps leftward, away from the platform.
The crowd's cheers intensify and unify into a wall of repeated cries of: "Martharg! Martharg!". The platform descends, and after several rounds of cheers, the booming voice continues: "Martharg's challenger, if he wins, will purchase his freedom from slavery and the arena. After ten fights, only one more remains. Raise your cheers for... Kar!"
Kar ascends, dark brown hair held back by a simple cap, secured by a band of braided leather. As he ascends, his lean frame stands, midway between five and 6 feet, dressed in a set of light brown leather tunic, breeches and simple boots. Each of his hands and forearms wrapped in leather straps. Kar carries a spear in his right hand, and a net in his left. The cheering breaks into a cacophany of individual bets and wagers, each now concerned with the outcome of the fight. Kar steps off the platform and moves ten paces away from Martharg. The booming voice is heard above the din: "BEGIN!" As waves of cheers descend upon the combatants, Martharg and Kar are acutely aware of each other. With their first cautious step, they close the chasm between them, knowing that only one can live.
Martharg begins a series of slices and thrusts, displaying technique for the crowd, garnering the wild hoots of support that fuel his battlelust. Kar takes his steps and stands firm, unshaken by the display. Three more steps, and both spring toward each other, Martharg his axehead tracing a line at the height of Kar's abdomen. Kar sinuously arches back, his body sliding under the the axe as it whooshes by.
The crowd inhales an audible gasp of suprise and Kar regains his upright stance. Reversing his momentum, Kar looses his net from his right hand, its rough cords gain purchase along Martharg's right flank and head, and around his torso. With a roar, Martharg flexes, then extends his arm, each time tearing the net, and sections of netted cords are flung to the ground. The crowd erupts into hoots and roars. Martharg launches jabs with his spike, aiming left then right, gaining momentum. Kar checks each jab with the butt of his spear. Just as the fifth jab is parried, Martharg twists his grip, and the axe head comes around for an overhead chop. Kar jabs the butt of his spear into the ground, and sidesteps the axe as hafts meet, the axe guided to the ground. Seeing the spiked armor, Kar resists the urge to strike out at any target.
Kar's instincts snap him into awareness, putting him into a backward roll away from Martharg, tucking his spear level to the ground. The crowd boos and hisses. With a double-step, Martharg closes the distance, first aiming a downward chop at the rolling Kar, then a stomp with his left foot. Shouts of "Kill! Kill!" can be heard from the crowd.
After the second roll, and only just out of Martharg's reach, Kar rolls into a crouch. Springing into the air, over the axehead, kicking with his left foot, Kar lands the sole of his boot onto Martharg's face guard. The kick does no damage to Martharg, but Kar siezes the moment, stabbing his spear at Martharg. But the spear glances off Martharg's armoured flank. A cheer of "Kar! Kar!" can be heard from the crowd. Martharg leans back, heaving his axehead upward, its haft catching Kar's foot, sending him into a head-over-heels spin. Kar, following the spin, somersaults over to land on his feet, just in time to backpedal away from a side swing of the axe.
Martharg uses a stab of his spear-end to set the distance, then reverses his swing to slash down, right to his left. Kar ducks under the stab, and steps to his left. Getting behind Martharg's flank, Kar notices one of the few gap in the spiked armor.
Martharg, never slowing, sends his right elbow directly at where he hopes Kar to be. Martharg feels the impact of his elbow connecting.
Kar feels the impact as well, but his instincts make him turn at the last, so only the stitching of his tunic and two lines of blood became Martharg's reward and not a nose instead. Grunting through the hit, Kar kicks his right foot, connecting with the back of Martharg's left knee. Martharg bends, and stabs backward with his spear-end, forcing Kar backward. Martharg follows the stab with an axe-swing level to the ground.
Kar caught in the reach of the swing, placing his spear-haft in the way. The hafts meet and the attack is checked, Kar feels his spear haft cracking under the strike. Kar stabs his spear-butt at Martharg, barely denting the spiked armour. Martharg, roaring, plants his weight into pressing his axe-haft into the spear-haft, and the spear splinters. Fragments fall to the ground. Kar holds onto the last foot of wood, the simple onyx spearhead and the leather strap binding them together. The crowd erupts with renewed vigour.
The two combatants face off, Kar sensing the satisfied smirk spreading under Martharg's faceguard. Martharg's calm, bass voice resonates out from his helm, "Don't make this too easy, fool. What makes you think they'd let you have your freedom?"
Kar clenches his jaw, setting his face into a grimace, and steps forward. Measured thrusts, swings and parries meld into an exchange between the two warriors, feeding the crowd's enthusiasm. The tides of cheers and bets surge, alternating their support. Neither man feels the the thrill of the crowd's support, only looking forward to the other's doom. Each trying to wear the other down, looking for opportunities to strike the final blow.
Several minutes pass, and Kar sports a number of small cuts and scrapes given from Martharg's armour, but no major wounds. Martharg, in his armoured shell, shows no damage from the combat.
Kar attempts a lunge forward, kicking with his left foot, and feints toward Martharg's right flank. Martharg swings with his haft, but stops short, stabbing out with the axe head. Kar lets the axe glide by, stepping alongside the haft, and thrists the remainder of his spear toward Martharg's face. The spear tip connects, but slides between the faceguard and the face beneath.
Kar twists out of reach, scratching his arm against the armour, and leaves his spear tip behind. The crowd momentarily hushes into silence, and roars its excitement as Martharg rips off his faceguard, releasing the spear. Revealing a square jaw, a hawk nose broken too many times to count, but only the one line of blood where the spear left its mark.
"You'll pay for that, little man." Martharg grunts, stomping on the remaining spear haft leaving only the four-inch onyx tip. His rage intensifying, Martharg's renews his attacks, stronger and faster than before.
Drawing on his own inner power, Kar's reflexes match Martharg's speed. Using this heightened awareness, Kar senses the pattern of Martharg's attacks. Stab-stab-swing, swing-stab-swing.
Feeling the flow of the next stab-stab-swing, Kar ducks under the swinging axe and stands in the path of the back-swing, stopping it with his left arm, grabbing the haft with his right. Focussing his entire will onto the axehead, Kar kicks at the the point where the haft meets the axehead.
The result catches both men off guard. Martharg presumes that the kick will not damage his well-crafted axe. Kar just hopes for a result.
The kick forces the end with the axehead away from Kar. With himself as the accidental fulcrum, Kar is twisted clockwise as the spear-end is ripped out of Martharg's hands.
Kar continues the spin, heaving its bulk. The flat of the axe slams into Martharg's right calf, driving him down onto his knee. Kar drives his left heel into Martharg's exposed left knee, just as Martharg finds the ground with his right foot. Martharg turns his face over his right shoulder, seeking his opponent.
Kar springs from his left foot, on the back of Martharg's left knee. Kar's right boot catches Martharg's exposed face. A roar erupts from the crowd. A crunch of bone, a spattering of blood and spittle, and Martharg sprawls onto his back. Kar lands on the ground, only three feet from his unfinished foe. Martharg is already on his left side, able to swat away incoming attacks. Instead, Kar takes two steps back, and swings the double-weapon away from them both, evening the fight. A mix of cheers, hoots and boos swells from the crowd.
Martharg is on his feet, sees his weapon thrown further away, and steps in, swinging at Kar, who nimbly evades. Martharg continues his assault, fueled by his rage. A right-left-right set of punches connects with Kar's right shoulder, and he is sent in a spin. Using the spin, Kar propels himself several feet away, to land in a crouch, his back to Martharg, and sees that his onyx speartip is at his feet.
Seizing the speartip, Kar waits, listening for Martharg's approach. Martharg charges, seeking to bury Kar under his spiked carapace. Kar turns at the last moment, giving Martharg no chance to change course. As Martharg bears down, landing, and begins thrashing which reduces to twitching. The crowd ceases, a hush descending, as they wait...
Martharg's body rolls over to the ground. A bloodstained Kar, his lower legs and forearms bearing scratches from the spiked armor, his face and torso stained with Martharg's blood. Kar gets onto one knee, looks over at Martharg, and cautiously looks into his opponent's now blank eyes, a look of calm replacing the rage.
"Rest, noble warrior, you need fight no more." Kar whispers, and removes the speartip from the hole in Martharg's neck.
The crowd erupts into cheers and cries, and people clamour for their winnings. Kar continues to remove Martharg's bracers and leg-guards, and then stands up and retrieves Martharg's weapon.
The crowd, concerned only about its bets, does not pay attention to either victor or vanquished...
And finally the parts that I added last night:
Kar continues to remove Martharg's bracers and leg-guards, and then stands up and retrieves Martharg's weapon.
One of the guards of the arena grabs Kar and begins to usher him out a now open portcullis to the side of the arena. As he does so he says:
“You were always my favourite to watch. It is a shame that you will be leaving us but you have earned this freedom.”
He hands him a necklace engraved with a leaf. A symbol of the king himself. On the back it states in elvish that he is now officially a free man.
As Kar moves through the portculis he is in a part of the Arena that he has never been before. A part where free men can move about. And then he feels it. Something not right. The same feeling as the sky is giving him. A door is there, down the end of a long corridor. He is drawn to it. It is ajar.
Inside is a man hanging naked from the ceiling by his wrists. On his side is a strange silver wound with black tendrils that spiral out from it. It is leaking silver. The man sees Kar but says nothing. He looks dazed like he has recently taken a blow. A woman stands in front of him. She holds a pulsing crystal in her hand and it is glowing red like the clouds above.
“You are a fool Ezra. All this time you have been coming to me as I planned. Right into my hands. I have manipulated you, your friends and fate itself to bring you here. Where are those friends now? They have run like the cowards they are.
“Ever since you were chosen by the Great One. You thought that he was benevolent, but you were a fool. You believed that you could stop us but you played right into our hands. You see, your real father, the one you never knew, was the last direct descendent of Bayod Naz the founding member of the Black Circle. And now you are his final descendant. Power runs in your blood. And now it is time for it to be used for a worthwhile purpose.
“We have been in this city gathering our power now for years. Feasting on the dreams of the elves as they slip into the miasma of the Black Milk. But we needed a pure human soul. One capable of incredible power… and you came right to us. Today, with the whole city in the arena becoming intoxicated on the milk we finally have the power to summon forth the Father of Chaos himself.”
She lifts the pulsing crystal higher. It suddenly stops pulsing and glows solid red. Outside thunder claps in the sky as lightning bolts start to rain down onto the towers of Immystrahl. Mist begins to form in the chamber and Ezra’s eyes begin to roll back in his head. His head lolls backwards and his mouth begins to foam. Then his leg lets out a mighty crack as it breaks. Followed by his other other leg. The leg seems to mend but with its knee bent at the back and the whole leg is much longer. Ezra screams in horror and pain before the mists obscure him from view.
“Great One! Great Narlethotep!!! I summon thee!! I command thee!!” Screams the witch Telisha in a rapture.
A man grabs Kar’s shoulder and pulls him from the room. He recognises him as the guard who was his fan in the arena.
“It is too late. You must flee. There is a boat leaving from the docks, The Maiden’s Mystery, with very important people on it. My friends will get you out. You be on it too!”
He plunges into the room sword drawn screaming “Ezra!!” and then screams in horror and agony. It is then that Kar hears the words in a deep and unearthly voice:
“Where is my book?”
And with those words resounding in his head, Arcandur is shocked back to reality.
The party meets Khar and fights their way back to Arcandur through a growing swam of Demons. The building Arcandur is in is set alight. The party run for their lives. Immystrahl falls to the demon horde.