Friday, April 6, 2012

The Curse of Fierabras - Part Two

Part II - Cellmates

    Dante wakes when a bucket of cold water is splashed on his face. One of the guards spits at him and they walk out the door, locking him in. The room is dark and has a musty smell. Rough, dirty clumps of straw are scattered about on the stone floor. A single torch burns out in the corridor on the other side of the door, granting a small amount of light for him to see. His chains are gone and he rubs his wrists. Dante winces in pain as his hands pass over cuts from the metal bonds. His legs have cuts and scrapes everywhere from being dragged to this cell.
           Dante struggles to his feet, reeling back as a wave of light-headedness sweeps over him. A pair of rough, calloused hands grabs his shoulders and helps to steady him. He turns around and finds himself face to face with a giant. The tall man stares at him with his one remaining eye, frowning. Behind him are two others cowering against the wall.
           “You picked a bad day to come here,” says the giant. “It is our day to perform.”
           A frail old man begins to chuckle nervously. His long, white beard sways as the man laughs. He has two teeth left in his mouth, both yellow and rotten. He has a wild look in his eyes and he skitters forward to get a better look at Dante.
           “Hoggle thinks you’re not going to last,” the old man says.
           A short, heavy-set man looks at Dante with a hard glint in his eye. “He’ll outlast you, old man,” he says.
           “Hoggle will live,” the old man snaps. “New boy doesn’t know what is coming. He will be the first to die.”
           Dante is confused and irate at the exchange between these two. “What do you mean by perform?” he asks the giant man.
           “That coliseum above us isn’t just for appearances,” he answers. “Each week they pick a cell to fight up there, and bring the others up to watch. Today is our day to fight.”
           “Fight against whom?” Dante asks as he swats a fly.
           “Depends,” the short man answers. “Some days it is the Emperor’s Royal Guard. Sometimes mercenaries paid to fight. Sometimes wild beasts.”
           “No matter who it is, the odds are against us,” the tall man says.
           Dante turns and takes a step toward the door, looking at the ground. “In what way?”
           “Our opponents have weapons,” the short man says, “while we get a dull knife or a knotted stick if we’re lucky.”
            “Jerek is right,” the giant man says. “Few survive their first battle in the coliseum.”
            Dante sighs and turns around. “There has to be a way to get out of this.”
            “Hoggle thinks you are fool if you think of escape,” says Hoggle.
            “There is no escape,” Jerek says. “There is one chance of being released, but no one has ever managed it” The giant turns his head and glares at Jerek. “I’m telling him the truth, Slate, and you know it.”
            “No sense getting the kid’s hopes up,” Slate says.
            “What is it?” Dante asks.
            Slate looks back at Dante and shakes his head. “Anyone who wins five battles gets an audience with the Emperor. He is the only one who can release us, but he won’t.”
            “He seems like a good man,” Dante says, taking a step forward with a glint of hope in his eye.
            All three men laugh hysterically. The laughter dies down when Hoggle coughs violently, spraying a light mist of blood. Dante wants to ask them what is so funny, but the sound of footsteps approaching turns their attention to the door. Two dozen armed guards crowd the hallway outside the door as the captain turns the key. All four men are shackled without attempting to resist. Dante begins to understand why escape seems impossible.
            They are led through musty corridors, past dozens of cells holding prisoners. Everyone has the same look of despondency. They all expect to die soon, and have resigned themselves to that fate. Dante tells himself he won’t let himself fall into that same state. No one will escape if they don’t try.
            The cheers of thousands of people reach his ears as they reach the surface. Sunlight floods into the eyes of the men as they march forward. Dante brings his hands up to shield his eyes as they try to adjust. The guards fall in behind them, forming a defensive barrier to prevent escape. The chains are removed from the four men and they are shoved through a doorway.
            The cheers become a chorus of jeers when they see the prisoners step outside. The door they came through slams shut and is locked behind them. Dante tries to see the surroundings, but his vision is still blurred from the sunlight. His three companions take off in different directions, seeking weapons or shelter, while Dante is still trying to adjust. A gate across the arena opens up and the crowd cheers. Dante struggles to make out the forms coming out of the gate, his impaired vision still creating problems for him.
            Dante runs to his left, rubbing his eyes frantically to get them to adjust. He sprints past a large stone pillar in the ground. A spear flies past, inches from his face, and secures itself in the wall. Dante turns to see a large, muscular man dressed in gold armor standing five feet away from him. The man swings a giant sabre at Dante as the crowd cheers him on.

Go To: Part One - Into the Capital                                                       Go To: Part Three - The First Battle

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