4 - The Rite of BloodletA Story by Stories Of Atlas
The next installment of Stories of Atlas.
'The Rite of Bloodlet'
It was just a small room that Gin stood in, enshrouded in murky darkness. The heavy sword swung low in his hand and the dust and sand kicked up under his bare feet. He could hear the dull noise of the crowd outside, talking, cheering, laughing. The mood was jubilent and he knew exactly what was going to happen in a few moments.
Beams of light trickled through the old wooden door in front of him, his pale blue eyes glowed ethereally through the dark. He glances over his shoulder tentatively and looks down the long dark corridor, totally alone, a very rare pleasure. The grip on his sword tightens, he points the enourmous blade at the door, testing the weight, taking it in two hands and lofting it over his head he practices a few swings, the hum of energy from the sword brings a smile to his face, particles of dust and sand swirl and dance as they get caught in the air around the blade. His lips curl around two tusk like teeth protruding upwards from his mouth, already beads of sweat form on his brow.
Gins heart beats hard in his muscular chest, the slow deep rhythms of an Orcish heart can be heard loudly but Gins pointed ears have long since been able to filter out the sound. Even so the beating heart sounded loud as it beated out it's arhythmic song. Outside the crowd began to quiet down and hushed silence tumbled through the cracks in the wooden door.
Gin heard an announcer speaking, the crowd laughed and cheered as one at certain points of his speech, the announcer enthusiastically spoke words that reached Gins as sylabbles that couldn't me recognised as words. To Gin this was normal, he remembered back to his first time in this room, surrounded by Orcs and Trolls who stood in silence. Back then he had strained to hear what was being said, taking in as much information as he could. Now though he realised that what was being said wasn't for him to hear, his subdued nature lets him focus on more pressing matters, the blade in his hand, the heavy thump of his heart and the cold sand underneath his bare feet.
Gin tilted his neck one way then the other, closing his eyes and letting it crack, loosening his spine he stretches tall, tensing and relaxing his muscles. His eyes opened as the crowd erupted in applause, on cue the door lifted and light burst into the room. Gin stepped out into the rapturous applause dragging the tip of the blade in the sand behind him as the announcer screamed at the top of his lungs
He didn't register the crowd, he simply stood in the arena and stared forward at the door on the opposite side. The large circle was arid, dust kicked up and swirled in delicate patterns as the wind made it's way around the stadium. The crowd were all stood up cheering around the edge, high up and looking down on Gin. There was a large private box overlooking the arena where a few people sat in shade, the landowners, the organisors and friends. Gin didn't bother to look up at anyone, he focused on the door, awaiting his opponent to emerge.
The announcer hushed the crowd to relative silence once more.
"Let the Rite of Bloodlet begin!" he screamed again
The ritual had been drummed into Gin ever since he'd survived his first battle. Since being weeded out he had joined a training camp for gladiators where he honed his skills. The rite was a mark of respect born from the old world of battle. He turned to face the official box to his right and fell to one knee, he raised his weapon above his head as if offering it to them his head bowed in submission. He held this pose and then looked up. The most important member of the elite in the box was stood up and he motioned for Gin to proceed. Gin nodded his and raised slowly to his feet.
He looked around him at the rest of the crowd and let out a monstrous roar, this wasn't a part of the rite but he had affected it to be a part of his persona, the crowd loved him for it and they applauded and cheered loudly.
Gin took the edge
of his blade to his shoulder, carving a thick line out of his own
flesh, he winced in pain as black blood trickled down over countless
scars and tattoos on his chest.
His blue eyes flashing with menace and focused on the door at the other side, waiting to view his opponent for the first time.
The announcer had turned his attention back to the crowd, Gin tried to blank the noise out as he twisted the hilt of the sword over in his palm, letting the blade catch the light from the scorching desert sun, the hot sand burning into his bare feet. The noise from the crowd was building and building until a voice finally screamed "FIGHT"
The door at the far end of the arena burst open with a round of arrows instantly screaming through the air directly towards the startled Orc.
Gins reactions were slow but a quick burst of speed to the side help him narrowly avoid the first volley. He still hadn't laid eyes on his enemy. He glanced back again and leaped to the ground to avoid a second volley of arrows that cut through the air above him. Scrabbling to his feet he roared with anger and energy, frustration burning through his veins. He broke into a run to the side, strafing around the edges of the arena, arrows still flying through the air but now falling short of the Orcs massive frame.
Dust was kicking up at the other side of the arena creating a sandstorm in which the target was enveloped. Gin fell upon his other senses for aid his keen hearing picking up the sound of horses panting heavily within the fog. The arrows were flying three at a time, Gin knew his enemy. He gripped his sword in both hands, the long blade trailing behind him, he roared and charged towards the dust, arrows came faster and faster but he leaped and twirled to avoid them, his muscular frame shimmering with sweat as he approached the dust cloud.
He leaped to the side to avoid one arrow and landed poorly on his left foot, he looked up to see an arrow flying directly for the center of his chest. Dropping as fast as he could he attempted to dodget he deadly projectile but wasn't fast enough. He let out a scream as it struck him squarely in the shoulder. His shimmering blue eyes turned dark and he roared with fury. He was fallen on his knees, agony shooting through his torso, he looked into the sandstorm and saw the silhouette of a chariot roaming inside. He roared once again, a beastial roar of aggression and frustration, ignoring the arrow embedded in his body he leapt to his feet and charged head first into the dust cloud.
He could see the chariot more clearly now, the horses dragging it up and down the one side of the arena, creating the cloud to keep them hidden. It was turning to face him down once again, the riders wearing heavy helmets to help them see through the stinging sand. He ran at it full on, the three riders holding bows were alarmed to see Gin so close. They drew back another volley of arrows and fired quickly but their accuracy suffered and Gin span to the left, avoiding them all and barely breaking his gait. He gripped his sword tightly as he approached the horses and swung it around in front of him violently, sheering clean through the nearest horses muscular neck, instantly killing the beast, it's body dropping to the ground and sliding to a stop, the chariet behind crashing into the equine corpse sending the riders crashing to the ground. The remaining horse became unthethered and charged off to safety.
Gin brought up a muscular wrist to wipe the sweat from his brow, his eyes burning from the dust. The crowd were none the wiser for what was happening in the storm and had been relatively silent, some of them shouted with irritation.
Two of the riders had managed to get to their feet and had drawn their swords on the towering figure of the orc who walked towards them smiling.
Letting out a high pitched scream one of them attacked. Gin parried the blow easily knocking the human off balance, punching him in the shoulder hard Gin was able to spin him around and easily bury his sword deep into his back, slicing through the mans spine and killing him instantly and cleanly. The other took advantage of the moment and charged Gin down, the broadsword still buried in it's victims back Gin let them both fall to the ground and turned to face the figure approaching him unarmed. The enemy blade came in low and Gin sidestepped it easily, he grabbed the mans helm as he passed and twisted it, snapping his neck in one easy motion, leaving the man to fall to the ground.
The final figure was still on the ground, quaking with fear. Gin strode up to him as the sand began to settle on the battlefield.
The crowd was met with a frightful sight, the aftermatch. The fallen horse with its head hanging, severed almost completely from it's body. The bodies of two fallen Human soldiers, one of them propped up on his knees with the blade of an enourmous Orcish broadsword protruding from his belly and the monstrous Orc covered with red and black blood staring down on his next victim.
"P..p..p..please don't kill me" the man begged.
Gin looked around the crowd, they were all chanting for blood, shouting "Kill! Kill! Kill!" at the tops of their lungs, their eyes burning into him from every direction. He felt his heart beat faster and faster in his chest as his body surged with adrenaline.
He picked up a bow from the floor, an arrow was laying next to it.
He drew back
sharply on the bow and let it fly, pointblank into the defeated
Humans chest. He slumped back into the ground and Gin dropped the bow
and arrow onto him which clattered with deafening finality.
Gin raised his arm to the crowd and roared for them.
The shouts of the crowd were still ringing in Gins ears as he left the arena and descended into the stiffling heat of the armoury. The room was full of weapons and young fighters looking to prove themselves in the contests. The arena master rushed around touching shoulders and whispering into the ears of a few dozen younger Orcs and Trolls who had been conscripted from the streets to be the next "big thing". Gin didn't know any names or recognise any of their faces as most wouldn't survive long enough to be memorable.
When they realised he had returned they all stood up and saluted him, a fist pounding into their chests was the traditional alliance salute, he smiled and returned the gesture, wincing a little as the flesh around his wound stretched and contracted.
From the corner the arena medic noticed the wound and shuffled up to Gin carrying a small bag.
"Stuck with an arrow" Gin replied "I yanked it out though" there was pleasure in his voice, his pride hiding the true pain eminating from the wound.
The medic just tutted and shook his head. He was long past trying to reason with the Orcs, the ones that returned to be treated often looking worse than the ones that didnt.
"Take a seat then" he told Gin "I'll stich you up ready for the next fight" Gin did as he was told and sat on a bench with his back to the wall, stretching out with his feet on the bench opposite. The younger fighters all craning their necks to admire him, Gin sensed their stares and barked in there direction causing them to jump out of their skins.
He laughed to himself, his shoulders shaking with delight
"You pups have a lot to learn" he laughed. The medic was trying his best to thread the wound together while Gin laughed.
"Will you stop moving" he ordered "Do you want this wound closed or not?"
Gin glared at him, and pushed him away fiercely, the needle hanging from the few stiches he'd managed to put into the wound.
"I can do it" Gin barked taking up the needle in his large clumsy fingers, he pushed it through his flesh, hiding his pain well enough, closing the wound with big messy stiches, his blood still seeping through and staining his flesh.
"Damn beasts" the medic lamented as he walked away "They even treat medicine as though it were war"
Gin picked up a knife from the floor to sever the stich, freeing the needle. He admired the knife for a moment before stabbing it into the bench by his side as the arena master approached him
"And" the arena master continued "It wasn't very clever running into that dust, you're getting complaints that nobody could see the fight"
Gin grabbed him angrilly by the shirt and pulled him close, his eyes full of menace.
"If they wanted to see so badly" he growled "then let them fight next time" he held the weasel in his grip for a few moments before the guard at the door noticed and rushed over, his hand ready on his sword.
Gin stared at the man in his grip, showing his intense distaste before releasing him and sending him sprawling to the ground.
"Good boy" scowled the guard as he walked away, his armour clanking together at each step. Gins gaze was still on the man on the ground in front of him.
"I have no more fights today?" It was less of a question than an order
"That's right" he stammered "You're all finished here until next week"
"Good" Gin said as he stood up, he reached up to the shelf above him that held a change of clothes. Arena combatitants, Orcs, are only permitted to wear loin cloths whilst they fight. An act to make them seem like beasts, a call back to the times of the forever war. Gin changed into a ragged pair of trousers and pulled a loose woolen jumper over his head, his clothes were covered in holes and were worn and dusty, the blood from his wound had already staining the sleeve.
He turned around to watch a group of five young Orcs, they couldn't be more than fourteen years old, they each carried a short sword clumsily in a loose grip. They strode towards the arena entrance for their first fight, they joked with each other nervously but Gin could see the fear in their eyes. He caught one of their eyes as he glanced nervously around. Gin stood to attention and thumped his chest with his fist. The gesture wasn't returned but the young Orc smiled broadly at Gin before being hurried into the next room by the arena master.
Gin shook his head and began to push his way towards the exit. It was midday and the sky was high and large in the clear desert sky. The wind was whipping sand up and playfully tossing it, spinning it and casting it down again in strange patterns. The sound of the crowd at his back he tried to blank it out, the sound of crashing steel from inside the arena and the nearby gladiatorial training camp arrested his senses. He watched the young warriors learning to fight and he remembered his own training many years ago. He remembered being taught the basics of bladework, the rituals of arena combat and then eventually he was taught how to fight entertainingly for the masses. The crowds flock from miles around to watch combat and in these new ages of enlightenment it wasn't enough to kill for their pleasure, it wasn't enough to die for entertainment, they needed to see a show. Some battles even require the gladiator to remember a few lines of dialogue as they recreate battles from history, or stories, or songs.
Gin spat at the ground in disgust as he walked away from it all for another day.
The desert town of
Lorkia had become very prosperous due to the arena. It was once a
trading station linking many of the nearby tribes together and had a
reputation for it's growing Orc slave trade. Eventually, when tribes
moved north, the trade dried up and Lorkia was forced to find a new
source of income or whither and die in the hot sun.
The outskirts showed Lorkias darker side, a large shanty town built by the slaves for the slaves. It was walled off from view and guards manned the gates and patrolled nearby to keep anyone from viewing the towns well known secret. Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and Ogres all owned by the local nobles, bred into servitude to either fight or serve. The remnants of the forever war, captured and bred as an underclass of society.
As Gin walked passed these houses and shops belonging to the wealthy he was cast looks of disgust by the citizens that acknowledged him, his bare feet dragging along in the gutter. The citizens of this affluent town all dressed and ate well, they belonged to a world that didn't want to deal with Gin and his kind. He kept his eyes firmly fixed on the street, all the better to avoid the horse dung that littered the roads, across the street another Orc was busy shovelling the pathways clean. He past busy bars and restaurants full of somber looking people and happy people alike. The alcohol flowing as richly as the entertainment. A troupe of scantly clad dancers were performing in the road, leaping and spiralling along the cobbled streets as a young man played guitar nearby. Gin stood and watched among the crowd for a moment, the young girls moving elegantly with fixed grins as they performed intricate moves to perfection. They held ribbons which trailed and span behind them, forming beautiful patterns in the air, the sequins on their dresses sparkled magically in the desert light and the crowd gasped with delight at the performance. They each finished by cartwheeling and somesaulting, landing with precision next to each other to the delight of the crowd who started applauding instantly and throwing money into the guitar case. Gin brought his hands together in appreciation as well, an encouraging grin across his lips until he felt a cold hand on his shoulder. He turned to see a guard who, without speaking, motioned for him to move on. Gin looked around him at the people nearby, most had moved along but some had turned to watch him, the spectacle of an Orc being moved along. The grin fell from his lips and his shoulders dropped as he complied with the guard, daring not to raise his eyes he walked on towards his home.
Gin approached the gate solemnly, taking in a deep breath as he glanced at one of the guards.
"What are you looking at greenskin?" the soldier barked
Gin didn't reply, he cast his gaze back to the ground and trudged past the guard subdued. The guard smiled and kicked Gins backside as he passed, causing the Orc to lurch forward. He sighed and contained his anger, he carried on walking to the gate
"Open her up" the same soldier shouted to the other guards on duty "let this pig back in the pen" The other guards laughed and opened the gates for Gin to walk through. The Orc let out a soft growl as he passed out of the rich Lorkia and into the poor.
The streets within the wall were unrecognisable as a part of Lorkia, the first thing that hits a new visitor is the smell, a pungent stench of sweat, sewage and people. It's strategic position at the east end of town is no accident, the desert winds blow the fetid stink away from the rest of Lorkia and off into the desert flats. Gin, who had only left that morning, spent a few moments stood at the entrance, letting himself adjust to the smell before carrying on deeper into the shanty town.
The wooden buildings lined the narrow streets where children ran and played. The area was highly populated and Orcs, Goblins and Trolls crowded the area, milling around street corners in social groups. The woman washed clothes or bathed children by front doors or at least by curtains that hung in place of doors. The men who weren't working were gambling, Gin passed by a makeshift speak easy, alcohol was outlawed to the green races but homebrewed beverages were made and sold by entrepenuers who could bribe the correct guards and officials. They hung around laughing and telling jokes, playing Garot with a ragged deck of cards.
Gin rounded a corner and bumped into a couple of Orcish children
"Watch yourself pup" he said softly
They said in unison, smiling up at him with small tusks on show before running on
He watched them go and allowed himself a chuckle. The town, their town, looked horrific, it assaulted the senses like something unimaginable but it always made Gin proud to see his people laughing and playing and working together. He turned around to go on and another, large Troll bumped into him placing a hand in his and bringing his lips to Gins ear
Gin turned around to see the Troll disappear into an alleyway. Gin realised he had placed a scrunched up piece of paper in his hand. He unfurled it slowly, looking around him cautiously as he did, making sure he wasnt being watched.
Finally he cast his eyes to the note
For too long we've been slaves, it's time for change
Tell no-one, come alone
Gords " 3"
"Brother" Gin grumbled to himself and tore the paper up as he walked on. Home was a few doors away and he had other responsibilities to attend to.
He brushed aside the curtain to stride into his house and almost knocked over a small Troll who was about to leave. The trolls long robe flowed elegantly even as the Troll teetered around the small living space, trying to regain his balance.
Gin lurched forward to steady him, gripping a thin wrist in his huge hand.
After the Troll had caught his breath and recovered from the small shock he stood up as straight as any troll could, a hunch in his back bending him forward slightly and showing his age and fraility. The long robes were tattered and ancient and beheld him the rank of tribal witchdoctor, a Troll of great respect in the community. Around his neck he had necklaces of teeth given to him as a mark of respect from the heads of families that he had helped. He held a large staff with a small skull to mark the top.
"It's ok young one" spoke the Witchdoctor in his unpleasantly raspy voice "I did not see you enter either, if I was younger and considerably stronger, perhaps it would be you who would have lost his balance"
They both shared a shortlived smile before Gin asked
"Is she ok?"
"Your wife is in a state unchanged I am afraid to report, my healing is unable to change the situation, I am sorry. The torment she endures in her dreams is too considerable and the power that I wield is to weak, there is nothing I can do" He placed a hand on Gins chest in a ritualistic Trollish gesture of apology. Gin placed a hand over the top of it to accept.
"Of course the medicine of Man and Elf can cure her" the voice came from the corner. Gin hadn't realised that sat on a small stool in the dark was his brother, a much smaller Orc with only one tusk and wearing a pair of ring spectacles. "The medicine that is forbidden to us by our keepers"
"Flo" said Gin, approaching his brother "I didn't see you there"
"There is a lot of things that you do not see brother, and the things you do see you don't understand"
The Troll let out a sigh and made his way for the door "I can see you have much to discuss, the arguments shared by two brothers have no place in an old Trolls ears"
Gin and Flo both showed their respect to the Troll in a traditional Orcish way. They touched their fingertips to their lips, to their heart, to their forehead and ended the sign with a small flourish like salute. The Troll smiled and left the little room.
"I don't understand why you ask him to come here every day" Flo said, clear irritation in his voice "He couldn't do anything yesterday, he can't do anything today and I'll be damned to the fires if he'll learn anything tonight that'll cure her tomorrow"
Gin cast his younger brother an angry love
"I thought you believed in hope, hope for the future" he replied aggressively, pointing an incredulous finger at Flo "Without her I have no future"
stood up sending the stool hurtling into the corner behind him and
raised his voice to his elder brother "You had no future the
minute you allowed yourself to be a jester, a clown for their
Flo dropped his voice to almost a whisper "You'd be willing to die for the pleasure of the people who enslave our people?"
"No brother, I wouldn't" Gin continued to shout "I'd be willing to die for the woman I love"
The pair left that hang in the room for a moment or two. The silence falling softly through the air, the room still humming with raised voices, the tension was an electric charge that set their senses alight.
Gin breathed heavily his heart racing. Flo remained composed, turning to pick up the stool which had clattered against the back wall when he stood. The flimsy, spartan room had been host to many arguments between the brothers as they grew up, the family home, built, if that was the correct word, by their Grandfather, they had looked after it for decades. Not many families remained in Lorkia to keep such traditions.
"It's good to see you ok big brother" Flo eventually said under his breath, a coy little smile across his lips.
"It's good to see you still free" Gin countered "I was given another leaflet today"
"We target the stronger of our kind in case we need to fight, it makes perfect sense" Flo answered "I'll never understand why you don't join us brother, we need allies like you to rise up with us"
"The world already believes we are beasts, if we rise up they'll send armies against us"
"The world is already against us, it's unable to move on from the past, to see how we have developed, evolved, we are no longer connected to our primal arcane heritage"
Gin considered this for a moment "And you think the best way to show this is through more violence?"he shook his head "Everytime you strike a guard you're showing us to be beasts and that is why they treat us like beasts" he left the silence for a moment and circled the room to a drape that partitioned the living room from the meagre bed room. His enourmous arm hitched the drape up to reveal a bed, occupied by a still figure. She lay in silence, the only sign of life was the expanding and contracting chest, her eyes firmly closed and her lips curled into a delicate smile. Gin smiled at the sight of her, he still loved her, the thump of his heart and hers perfectly in sync, each beat they take together.
Her coma surfaced suddenly, a rare genetic condition that lays dormant in all Orcs but only surfaces in a few. It is the general belief that the disconnection from the Arcane realm is the cause, when the portals closed the arcane creatures left behind became free from control, they began to become aware, they began to develop and evolve, slowly at first but the signs of a new civilisation on Atlas were clear.
Flo walked up and put a supportive hand on his brothers shoulder.
"She's still beautiful brother" he said softly. Gin nodded slowly.
"So this is why you submit?" Flo began "You do nothing? You let them get away with what they're doing to us?" He pinched his brow, pushing his spectacles back against his nose "As a race, this is why we fail brother, don't you see?" His voice never rising from the soft, quiet, empassioned speech "We let them send our children to the mines? To pluck our kin from their homes and make them fight for sport? To control our population like we're cattle? We are a species that is dying out brother, we are losing, we aren't surviving in this world, we are dying. The human population is swelling, the more they grow the more we shrink. Our settlements here may seem busy, sure. But ours is a home for refugees, tales of other camps invaded and destroyed bleed into our town every single day. Our kind is murdered because the Humans, the Elves, they can't afford to keep us. Soon we will be extinct brother. Do you understand that? And then your way? My way? Our Way? None of it matters. Our race will be talked about as though we were a disease that Man and Elf managed to cure"
Gin let a grunt of acceptance reverberate from his throat but Flo could tell his point had embedded itself, Gin's eyes flashed with menace and thought at the prospect of a free society.
"Don't you want to be free brother?" Flo added.
"Of course" Gin muttered.
"There is medicine that you are being denied brother, medicine that Human and Elf guzzle hungrilly when they are ill, don't you think you deserve that, to cure the woman that you love brother?"
"Yes" a tear ran from Gin's pale eyes, he wiped it away angrilly "I deserve it!" he shouted throwing a fist into the wall causing the whole structure to shake, knocking pictures from their perches on shelves and hooks
"Then go get it brother" Flo said smiling "Take what is rightfully yours"
Gin looked into his brothers eyes intensely, his heart thudding inside his chest, his fury welling up in his veins which protruded from his skin. His eyes sparking with menace changing from blue to green and from green to white. Flo placed his hands on Gins shoulders and said, quieter this time
"Take what is rightfully yours brother"
Gin nodded and stormed out of the room, his shoulder hitting the frame of the door as he strode out, the shack shaking once again causing Flo to run to the nearest doorframe and hold it to help maintain it's integrity. When the house stopped rocking he allowed himself to smile to himself, pinching his brow once again and pushing his glasses back firmly against the bridge of his nose.
"Take what is rightfully yours" he repeated to himself, this time with a little laugh to himself.
Gins heart pounded hard in his chest and his veins pumped with fury as he pushed his way through the broken streets. A way was cleared for the Orc as the residents of the slums stepped aside to allow his huge storming frame pass by without getting injured. Gin was unaware of anyone around him, his focus firmly set on his destination, the only solid structure in the shanty town, the prefects building.
A well guarded building in the center of town where the residents take their problems and receive licences for marriage and childbirth.
The buildings rooftops rose above any other building in this part of the town, it's solid construction allowed it to be raised to two stories whilst the homes and businesses of residents could only ever be one.
Gin carved a path too his destination, his barefeet leaving deep footprints as he slammed each step into the mud clumsily, his eyes burning pure white as he got closer and closer to his destination.
He barged his way through the middle of the market, through crowds and crowds of people, as more and more people were shoved out of the way more people became aware of his presence and moved aside, giving him a clear walkway too the offices. There were two guards on the door, neither of them aware of his approach. With full armour and swords against Gin's bare hands and flimsy cloth he didn't even decide on any tactics or strategys to gain entrance, his beastial nature took him completely, the closest guard noticed the commotion in the market place and turned to see what was happening.
Gin was already close, his eyes white with hate for all Human kind, for denying his wife treatment, for enslaving his kin, he couldn't think straight.
"Get back!" the guard yelled at him, his hand firmly gripping the sword which hung, still sheathed, at his side.
"Get back Orc!" the guard shouted louder this time, drawing his sword, the other guard on the door joining him, also drawing his sword
Gin let out a roar as he charged the two men, they raised their blades to strike but Gin was already upon them, he charged low, his arms spread, launching himself into them with a clattering thud. He sent one of the guards sprawling whilst the other landed closer to Gin. The Orcs enourmous hand found the guards shoulder and spun him over onto his back, the guard, ever ready, took the chance to bring the sword in his hand around in a vicious slice to Gin's arm.
Gin roared as black blood sprayed across the courtyard, he grabbed at the sword and found the mans wrist, breaking it almost instantly in his iron grip. The human underneath Gin screamed loudly in agony and dropped the sword, Gin, still gripping the broken wrist tightly, brough his other hand around and hammered it into the arm, the crunch of breaking bones was deafening as the shattered limb was dropped limply to the ground.
The other guard had regained his balance and was running headlong at Gin, his blade held in front of him like a spear. Gin quickly grabbed for the dropped sword, his hand wrapping around the blade with no time to swap it for the hilt, the guard yelled as he thrust the sword at Gin. Deftly Gin brought his own weapon around like a club, clattering metal against metal, sending the guards sword spinning out of his grip and into the side of the prefect building. Gin's hands bleeding from his tight grip on the blade, he let out another gutteral growl as he dropped the sword, his palm a mess of black, dripping from the wound. He reached forward and grabbed the guards head with both hands, twisting violently until he held the man, lifelessly between his hands.
A crowd had already gathered from the market place, creating a circle around Gin, it was hard to judge the mood. Most looked on in fear at what Gin had done, throwing down a gauntlet to their keepers. The Orc stood before them blood dripping from his body, holding the lifeless body of a Human in his hands, the feet dangling lifelessly a few inches from the ground.
Gin looked around at the faces of the people around him, there was nothing but anger in his eyes, he threw the corpse at the door of the offices and roared loudly.
He stood there, silence except for the whimpering of the spared guard. He stood in front of the door, awaiting a response from within, the crowds breath was held, some people had started to disappear from the crowd in fear but a brave few still watched, the screaming of the guard clutching his arm on the floor echoed around the courtyard.
The heavy doors finally opened. They swung apart slowly on their hinges, huge thick wooden doors that creaked ominously as necks craned and faces were hidden in the crowd. Gin stood in front of them, breathing hard, fury still buried deep within his heart. From inside the prefect building came the sound of marching, the noise of feet stamping in time, armoured feet, and then they came. Guards, at least twenty, fully armoured with shields and swords, they left the building confidently, weapons ready they marched out in two columns that split and surrounded the Orc, shields raised, they closed him in with nowhere to run. With a final stamp to attention, the Guards halted.
Another figure was standing in the doorway, he walked out slowly, picking his teeth with a cocktail stick before wiping his mouth with a napkin that he tucked into his side. He was a large man, small and squat but built, his dark hair tied back in a ponytail his features were defiant at the sight of death that he encountered.
He smiled at Gin when their eyes met, extending his hands infront of him he began clapping, still moving slowly towards the Orc, he extended the applause to the crowd who all just stood still in shock.
The prefect enterered the circle which closed around him instantly.
"And you are?" he asked, studying Gin as though he were an experiment.
Gin remained silent, instead letting out a menacing growl
"Well, no need for introductions my friend" the prefect continued "To my eyes you all look the same although, there is something slightly familiar about yo... ah yes, of course, the arena. You are Grill? Groll?, no no, that's not it, ah Gin, Gin Strongarm of course"
Gin roared towards the sky, his back arching, his fists clenched firmly at his side. He took a step towards the prefect, his hands drawn out towards him when an arrow zipped through the sky and struck Gin directly through the foot, pinning him to the ground. Gin collapsed in agony, gripping his foot and yanking the arrow out, causing blood to streak the sky and stain the dusty, dry ground. Gin glanced up to see archers lining the roof of the prefects building, their bows taught with arrows, all pointed towards him.
As he uttered these words quietly, a brick thudded against the ground inside the circle, landing between the two adversaries. Nobody saw the small bespectacled Orc who threw it but it caused the crowd to yell and shriek as one. A jar flew through the air, smashing against the back of one of the guards. The crowd of Orcs bellowed and screamed at the guards who stood their ground at the circle. The archers aiming their loaded bows directly at the crowd only fueled their anger.
Gin took his eyes from his foot and glared at the fat man before him "You make a wrong move and Lorkia will be overrun" he growled.
"Guards! About face!" screamed the prefect. The guards instantly turned to face the crowds and stood ready
"Archers!" he screamed again "My target" the archers turned their arrows back towards Gin.
"Let him go!"
"Leave him alone" The crowd was screaming
"Give us back our homes"
Gin started laughing as he struggled to his feet "My blood first" he muttered "and then yours"
"What is it you want Gin Strongarm?" he asked
"I want dignity, my wife is deep in the arcane dream and my requests for medicines have fallen upon deaf ears."
"Ha! If I let one Orc have medicine then all the Orcs and Trolls and Goblins will want medicine, there won't be enough to go around"
Gin grinned slyly and turned around to address the crowd "Allies of Lorkia!" he bellowed, his voice as deep as a roar "It is time to take what is rightfully yours!"
The crowd screamed and shouted louder and louder, they stamped their feet and threw more and more.
The prefect placed a hand on Gin's shoulder, Gin spun around and pushed the Human away, the zip of an arrow narrowly flashing past his leg.
"Get away from me Human"
The prefect landed hard against the floor.
"You fool" the prefect muttered indignantly "Don't you see what will happen, if you do this, if you spark a riot then all your kind will be destroyed. Do you think that we don't have plans in place in case you get ideas above your station? Do you really think we'd let that happen?" he laughed still sat on the floor, spit flecking from his lips
Gin looked around, at his people in the crowds, passion in their eyes, he could see children out their holding onto parents legs. In the distance he could see the gates opening, the sunlight glinting off armour as more guards entered the town.
"I can't do that"
"GIVE ME THE MEDICINE!" he roared, his fury rising once again
The prefect smiled and slowly raised to his feet, he took the napkin from his armour once again and dusted his hands off before placing it to his lips, dabbing away the spit.
"I'm not an unfair man Gin. You creatures think that I am cruel and heartless, but I am Human, I have something you cannot have, Humanity. Perhaps there is a way"
The sound of marching feet drove closer and closer, it was followed by crashing sounds. Gin looked over towards the gate, dust was rising, it was hard to see what was happening.
"As you can see" the prefect continued "More guards are on the way, houses are already being demolished, perhaps your kind are already being killed"
"Make them stop" Gin said, taking a step towards him, forgetting his wounds until the pain shot through his body like electricity.
"Oh, I can make them stop." he said through curled lips "and I can give you your medicine but we need to settle this revolt. I propose a game"
"What?" Gin asked confused
"Yes" the prefect hissed "a game. We humans are civilised beings, you are a Gladiator are you not"
Gin nodded with a grunt of acceptance
"Then you will fight. If you win you will get your medicines, if you lose.."
"I don't lose" Gin glared at him
The prefect smiled, "if you lose you will die"
Gin contemplated what he was being offered. "Who should I fight?" he asked suspiciously
"I'm not the arena master" he laugh "surely that would be his decision"
Gin grunted as he thought, his fury subsiding and his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. The marching was closing in, it was loud over the shouts of the crowd, how could they not hear it? He wondered to himself. The splintering of wood and the crash of metal was deafening to him.
"Call your guards off" Gin said
"Do you accept the challenge?"
"Call them off"
"Do you accep..."
"Yes!" Gin roared "Call them off NOW!"
Gin collapsed on the ground, exhausted, gripping his foot as the agony burned inside him. The prefect laughed
"Then we have a deal" he spoke a word into a nearby guards ear and sent him off with the message to the other guards
"Everyone may disperse now!" The prefect shouted to the crowd "This matter has been resolved, if you remain here you will face charges of trespassing"
Another jar flew through the sky landing at the prefects feet and shattering loudly, causing him to stumble backwards in shock.
"You" he pointed at Gin "Tell your people"
Gin glared at him, fury bursting from his eyes, his green frame quivering with rage, feeling the diplomatic trap closing in on him
"Go home" he shouted "The problem is over"
The crowd looked confused, disappointed. There were a few boos and slander was being shouted still but it fell upon deaf ears, fear raised up in the masses and they submitted once again and shuffled back to their houses.
The prefect turned his cruel gaze back on to Gin, a broad smile across his face.
"Lets get you to the arena then" he spat
The sun was starting to fall low in the sky as the parade of guards escorted Gin back to the arena. The sun was a huge orange ball of fire burning its dull blaze in the desert sky, picking out specks of sand and dust that were caught in gusts of light, dancing around the four heavily armed soldiers and the burly figure of the Orc who hobbled the best he could to keep in time with the guards, blood dripping from his palms and the wound on his arm. He wobbled on his wounded foot and would receive a harsh push when he wandered too close to the guards.
Lorkias better half made way for the spectacle, muttering too each other as the Orc passed, occasionally shouting out derogatory statements, thinking that Gin was under arrest. Already news of an uprising being quelled in the lower classes had been reported, exagerated and spread.
Since the deal had been struck and the crowds organised, the prefect had mounted his horse and rode off ahead to the arena to make sure that they were still entertaining the people, the sound of cheering and metal striking metal could still be heard however even from where Gin was walking.
The colluseum towered above everything else in the town, the whole town built up around it as a monumental center piece. Gin had never been impressed as most were with it's exquisite design and enormity, to Gin it held memories of lost friends and immense pain from battle. It was a place of danger, to be feared and nothing else. He knew that the battle ahead would be hard, least of all because he was injured, his sluggish warriors mind sensed danger, the way the prefects lips curled into a cruel smile when he suggested the deal made Gin instinctively suspicious. He plodded on regardless, not knowing what he was going to see inside the ring.
From this distance Gin could hear the announcer shouting above the crowd, a fight had just finished and he was telling them of something special coming up.
Gin glanced at the sky, the second moon of Atlas was faint in the sky, it's point facing up, away from Atlas, the witch doctor would say that this would state that good luck is ahead for the night and Gin prayed to the arcane maker that the folklore was true. A ship was rising from the nearby skyport, a loud siren filled the air signalling it's departure. The balloon lifting the ship effortlessly into the sky.
The armoury was empty, the participants had all gone home or to another place by now, the prefect must have arrived here just in time to organise a final fight for the evening. Gin was pushed forcible through to door, he landed hard on his wounded foot and collapsed to the ground, roaring in agony as his shoulder struck a bench. The guards behind him laughed loudly.
"Go on then you dumb greenskin, get ready for your last fight" one of them ordered him. Gin rose to his feet and turned around to face them, his fists clenched tightly by his side
"What are you going to do?" the Guard said smiling "Go on, give me an excuse" he added, drawing his sword.
Gin backed down, spitting on the floor as he turned back to find his gear "Don't want to snap anymore human necks than I have to today" he grunted, half to himself.
A set of leather armour had been set out for him, this was unheard of in the arena, Orcs traditionally had to fight just in loincloths in order to show them as simple barbaric beasts that Man was trying to tame. The leather armour was of extremely high quality and Gin appreciated that it must be rare to find armour that was made to fit an Orc, we donned it quickly and walked up and down the changing room, the cushion in the boots eased the pain of each step.
"Weapon?" Gin asked the Guards
"Don't worry greener, the weapon will be in the arena, we can't trust you with one in here" the Guard replied, glaring at him in disgust. He turned back to another guard "Why d'ya spose they gave him armour?"
"I erd it was to hide his wounds" another guaurd whispered back.
The arena master burst through the door, sweat glistening on his brow.
"Oh thank god you're here" he said, addressing the guards
"We've bin ere for a good fifteen minutes mate" was the reply.
"Well this is very unorthodox, very very unorthodox" he looked Gin up and down "ermmm.. is he supposed to be dressed like that?" he questioned
"Orders from the top I'm afraid, they'll have em in Arcadian dinner jackets next" the guard said with a laugh.
The organiser pointed a fat finger towards Gin "Go on then, get into the ready room, you have a weapon in there so I'm told"
Gin looked at the door suspiciously, the guards behind him had fallen silent, Gin knew something was wrong but there was little he could do, he knew his family was at risk.
"What if the prefect doesn't keep his word" he thought to himself, "what if this is all a trick". He stopped short of the door for a moment.
"Get a move on boy" one of the Guards shouted "You ain't scared are you?"
Gin smiled as a thought slowly dawned on him, the prefect wouldn't dare go back on his word with so many witnesses, it would be too risky to insite the crowd to further violence.
The rickety wooden door creaked at his touch, the sound of the old hinges was something he had heard many times before. The old door was one of the few remnants of the arena as it used to be before the town had built up so spectacularly.
The corridor beyond the ready room, the dusty track uphill towards another door, shards of light shone down and cast long shadows across the ground, the soft ground that hundreds of Orcs had trodden, tentatively, fearfully, bravely, the footsteps of a hundred emotions of the young and old alike. The Orcs entrance, the enemies entrance, he slowly approached the arena. The crowd was already roaring, this was the intermission, the crowd growing restless as the ring is cleared of all debris, bodies and arrow heads. The announcer telling jokes and keeping the crowd entertained, informing them of the food stalls whilst Gin pondered his future, the battle ahead. Next to the door he found his broadsword, still flecked with blood from the fight earlier, he had picked it from a combatant many fights ago and kept it as his own ever since, it's razor sharp edge as sharp as the day it was made, it's serrated design by the hilt had rended many fatal wounds and still the sight of it brings fear to the toughest opponent.
Gins mind wandered, he placed a hand on his heart to feel the thump inside his chest. Who is his opponent? He thought to himself "what's through those doors?"
He knelt down in the dust and placed a hand against the floor, he thought of his wife, she always spun through his mind, he fights for her, for his family, this fight, this final fight, he fights for her freedom.
He smiled and rose to his feet, his heart had audibly slowed, his breathing had calmed, his pale eyes firmly fixed on the door, waiting for his name, waiting for the door to raise, waiting for the battle ahead.
The door remained closed, the shards of light pierced the air around him, picking out the same particles of dust that he had witnessed earlier. Gin thrust the sword into the ground and clasped his hands together and squeezed, testing his grip. The leather gloves made a satisfying noise and his knuckles crunched and loosened up, he winced as the flesh around the cuts on his palms parted and moved. He did the same to his neck, tilting it one way and then the other, grimacing at the sound of the cracks.
His mind was full of thoughts of his wife, of obtaining the medicines, the battle ahead, the door infront and the blade by his side. Gin swung his elbows back and stretched out his arms when the door opened.
His name had been called without him realising and the light rushed into ready room causing him to recoil and block the light from his eyes. He staggered out into the open to thunderous applause Gin tried to mask his limp and he strode confidently into the arena. The announcer was telling the crowd that this was a special fight, the champion Orc versus a suprise enemy. It took Gin a while for his eyes to grow accustomed to the light, he realised that the stalls were full of Humans and Elves, even the official box was full this evening, people he had never seen before, the lords and ladies, the landowner himself and a figure stood at the back in a red robe. They all looked down at him as a curiosity before resuming their conversations.
The announcer waited for the applause to die down before booming theatrically
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Let the rite of Bloodlet begin!"
barely heard him, his mind still racing with thoughts of his home, of
his brother, of the scene that he had just left behind in Lorkia, the
medicine and the threats. Flos words still rang in his ears.
He thought back to the crowd that had formed outside the prefects office, he hadn't realised that the people were so volatile, so ready.
The voice of the announcer caused him to snap out of his trance. Gin looked around confused, looking around the crowd before locating the announcer high in the stalls.
"Let the rite of bloodlet begin!" the announcer repeated.
Gin looked to the Lords box, a man had stepped forward and was glaring at Gin who was keeping him waiting.
Gin fell to one knee without thinking and raised his weapon as an offering, his movement restricted slightly by the armour and his wounds. Glancing up he recieved the nod to proceed with the ritual. Gin stood up and turned the weapon over in his hands, placing the blade against his cheek, the only exposed piece of skin on his body.
The cold steel felt good in the searing heat of the arena, it made him feel calm, it gave him focus. All of a sudden Gin understood what he had to do. He had a purpose. He moved the blade away from his face and dropped it to the ground. The broadsword fell in slow motion to the ground, the tension in the crowd was palpable, they fell silent as one, every set of eyes in the colloseum followed the blade on it's path to the ground. It fell flat, the blade reflecting the light, casting a spectrum of colour from it's edge. It hit the ground with a dull thud which hung in the air long after the plume of sand the impact created had settled.
Gin felt a change in the crowd, he felt hundreds of eyes burning holes in his flesh, he felt the silent thoughts echo around the cold walls of the arena, he felt the warmth of change burn inside his vein.
"I shall not fight!" he roared "For too long the Greenskins have been your slaves! your toys!" Gin pointed to the blade on the floor "That is the last weapon that will be held by an Orc for the entertainment of a Human or an Elf! It is time to change! He finished his speech with a thunderous beastial roar. The crowd had started to disperse, scared of what was happening before their eyes.
The announcer was the first to react "Guards" he screamed unnecessarily as the arena floor had already started to fill with Lorkian soldiers, heavily armoured with weapons drawn.
Gin smiled and placed his hands against the back of his head.
"I shall not fight" he said as the first guard approached "You will not get a reasonable excuse to kill me" To further his submission Gin calmly gave way to his knees.
The circle of guards closed in on him. The nearest one took the hilt of his sword and smashed Gin in the face, knocking the Orc off balance. "Insightment to revolt is a pretty decent excuse in itself Greener" the guard said through gritted teeth before booting the Orc square in the jaw, the thud of solid steel against bone bounced from the stone walls and Gin collapsed backwards to the ground, his face bloodied and swollen. The guards closed in further with their weapons drawn.
The same guard spat on the fallen Orc and raised his blade. "We'll see about that" he said and sent the blade through Gin Strongarms armour.
Enjoy more stories at
Thank you for reading :)
© 2010 Stories Of Atlas
Stories Of Atlas