The smell almost made him pass out again. He knew that smell, knew where
he was. The stench of foulness was omnipresent; the air, the rugs, even
the walls seemed to have been drenched with it. Yes, he knew this place,
he had been here before, and although he never liked his trips here, the
pain he felt throughout his body told him that this visit was different
from the others, even more unpleasant. This time, he was the patient.
For a short time he felt the sensation of falling. Then the room began to spin wildly, and the voices in the background, a discussion between two men, faded as he slipped back into unconsciousness. "Iím dreamingÖ" he mumbled to himself, hoping what he said was the truth, but the pain told him otherwise. He wasnít dreaming at all, it had really happened. He had been defeated, and was probably dying. Falgar the Healer once told him that he sometimes had to give up on patients when treatment would just be a waste of bandages and potions. He wondered what Falgar thought about him now. Only a warrior has the right to judge whether someone lives or dies! Since his opponent decided to spare him, Falgar had no choice but to care for him!
He could barely recall the fight. It didnít last long, after all. He remembered rushing into one of the four large chambers dedicated to the four elements, looking for his opponent. But despite the experience he gathered in the Arena of Air, he took too much time to find him. His enemy had used the magic of the floating fields to fly across the air, and while not even the swiftest could jump onto three different fields in a row before touching the ground again, he managed to stay in mid-air for a minute at least, trying to find the right opportunity to strike the first blow. The only way to get an advantage over a floating enemy is to step onto one of the fields yourself to reach a similar or greater height, but there was no time to do so. Before he could reach the first of the fields his opponent landed right behind him and needed only two direct hits to win the duel and seal his fate. Gone was the honor earned in previous duels, gone was the equipment he had found, won or stolen. He felt for his leg, nothing more than a stump now; gone was his ability to fight again. He would die here. He would never leave the Pits of Carnage.
The nobles call it a "second chance". Euphemisms, a rhetorical bouquet
of flowers for those sentenced to death. But there is no chance here, no
matter how far you get, how much you train your swordarm, how many fights
you win. Even Dorstag didnít make it! Once the dungeon doors are closed
the people on the surface forget you. You are declared a dead man. No one
knew this better than he. He wrote poems and songs about the Pit, protested
against such a vile form of punishment. This seemed a lifetime ago. The
nobles had found him guilty of treason, and now he would never see sunlight
"So I may take the men with me?" One of the two men was obviously the other
"We need thirty of your best men here. Pick the ones you like. But remember, as their leader you are responsible for them as I am for you. Do not fail me."
The stranger talking was visiting the Pit. A visitor! The other day he had come down with three bodyguards and a letter from the nobles explaining that he had permittance to free a great number of prisoners. Such a letter was enough to grant you safety here. From the day of his arrival he had watched the duels. A large and slender nobleman with a foreign accent, always washed, always shaven, never saying a word, only watching. He was treated like a lord: he lived in Dorstagís room and ate the prisonersí food. No one knew how long he would stay, but now it seemed he was leaving.
"You care for the reason we fight?", the stranger mocked, "Maybe I should look for someone more loyal to the man saving his life."
"Excuse me, my lord, I was merely asking. I will do whatever pleases you."
"Our cause is a good one, believe me. Pack your things. I will wait for you and your men at the entrance." He paused, "At the exit."
Both men left. It was too late to shout. It was too late to beg them to give him a chance. It was too late to swear that he was a fierce warrior, even with only one leg. Too late to make promises.
Falgar made his rounds, checking his patients. He didnít even look at him.
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