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  #16  
Old 03-07-2020, 09:11 PM
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Talia
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Talia knew she had made a mistake when the three-eyed Tiefling/snake-tailed lady began speaking to her as if she was in charge. She was next to last on the list of who should be in charge, and that was even with all of their group present.
She didn't think this was wrong, in fact, she knew her role in times like these, and this wasn't it.
Doc and Verdigris had clammed up all of a sudden and the whole soul talk had scared her into drawing the line on that topic.

She regretted it.

She nodded to the woman as if she was listening and understood, all the while watching out for that snake tail, as they walked along. She
Dice Deception:
1d20+5 (17)+5 Total = 22
tried to act like none of it bothered her, but she didn't know if she fooled any of those that looked her way.

She knew this was bad by the way Doc and Verdigris were quieter than she had ever known them to be.

The tent didn't help. Sure, the ground seemed normal, but she wasn't sure how fast she could cut her way through the tent fabric if she had to. She hoped she didn't look like the cornered cat that she felt like.

When the huge woman sitting on the dirt couch speaks to Talia in her mocking and condescending tone, Talia's entire demeanor changes.
She becomes eerily calm and smiles slightly. She turns to look at Verdigris and Doc so they can see her face. She shifts back to normal as she looks at them and the look on her face is one they'd recognize. It clearly meant, "Are you sure you want me to bargain for all of us?" The look on her face clearly showed that she just got an attitude and it would go bad quick if she spoke back to the woman in the same tone she was just given.

 
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Old 03-08-2020, 11:08 PM
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Bellamy relaxed only barely when Talia managed to square off with the three-eyed demon-woman to some successful effect. The hungry stares of the market's monstrous inhabitants were still present but now, with the approval and protection of legitimate business, the looks were more fleeting and wistful. Doc shuddered. She felt like a meal that was put off-limits.

She maintained a mostly grim silence as they were lead further into the demonic city, her eyes narrowing as they were lead past the fighting pits. Gods. It was not hard to see where this was going. Soon they were in the tent of the statuesque Radeni and her demonic companion. Talia looked back at them as if for approval and Doc's eyes gave it. The feline woman had done an impressive job speaking for them so far and Bellamy hardly trusted herself to say a word in this place. She longed to reached for her warhammer and strike down the evil that infested this plane and worried, silently, that the rage she stoked to hide her terror would be the death of them all.

Bellamy reached forward with a nod to Talia and simply whispered, "Focus."


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Old 03-08-2020, 11:54 PM
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Radeni’s Pavilion
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As Bellamy casts her spell, Radeni’s companion’s eyes burn toward her! The winged man’s wings spread as his feet lift from the ground. The darkness of the unholy halo around his head flares and he shouts, "Your gods have no place here! They are weak!" Bellamy can feel her spell’s power dissipate in the dark brilliance of the evil angels aura. "Too weak to protect their own!!"

He floats forward toward Bellamy, his face contorted in rage!

But then Radeni clenches her massive fist. As she does, the chains around the celestial man tighten and the scarred skin beneath burns. He flinches in pain and recoils, but his hateful glare never leaves Bellamy.

"Enough, Telantes!" Radeni shouts! Her raised voice rumbles like an avalanche! Addressing Bellamy directly, she lowers her voice to a rolling boulder. "That is not how deals are made, priest. Whatever god you serve can strike their own deals with Radeni." She turns her head to the pavilion roof, or perhaps to the smoky, red sky above it. She shouts, "They know where to find me!" The great dao woman laughs and then turns her attention back to Talia. "Now, what do you want?"

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  #19  
Old 03-09-2020, 12:38 AM
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Verdigris
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Verdigris winced a little as the winged figure lunged at Bellamy. He had been considering offering his own magic to bolster Talia's tongue, but now he did not feel it would be a wise plan. He had always felt his magic stemmed from Exandria first, and Melora second... as blasphemous at that might seem to some. But the distinction was a weak one. If anything, the world and all of nature's glory was even more distant and muted than the gods. If they were to survive this, it would be upon their own strengths.

Az’goneth's descriptions, the foul monstrosities Radeni kept, and even her chained lapdog... they all pointed to one truth. Verdigris nodded to himself. It would work, if they could survive. He whispered to himself. "Our souls our own. We shall pay the price in blood as we have before and shall again."

He looked at Radeni. She was a powerful figure, imposing and imperious, but she had none of Az’goneth's predatory aura. He was not terrified into silence as he had been. She reminded him too much of the Masters. They were figures to be feared, even respected. Not as one person respected another, but as a person must respect the power of the storm. Or, he thought as he considered the Dao, as one must respect the earthquake. Too strong to fight against, so one must learn to bend with its power.

Finally, he looked to Talia. She might not know it, or understand it, but she was the one best suited to face this woman. Strength to match strength. Her own confidence would be a weapon with which to forge a bargain. All she needed was... a little boost. Born a slave, the Ravenite had never been one for grandeur and speeches. That was the domain of the Masters. But he had witnessed enough of their self-important posturing to know that any contest must begin with an announcement.

He gripped Melora's Blessing tightly in his hand, and as Radeni's laughter faded from the pavilion, he lifted it slightly at then rapped it sharply against the floor, commanding attention with the clack of wood on stone. He stepped forward slightly to address the Dao.

"Greetings to Radeni the Cruel. It is my great honor to present Talia Cat..." He pronounced Talia's name as boldly as he knew how, but it felt like it needed something more grandiose to match the personality he hoped to draw forth. He met Talia's eye and a small, toothy grin split his face as inspiration struck. "...the Queen of Knaves!" He swept into a florid bow towards his companion, then stepped aside, leaving his fate, and Bellamy's and Ron's as well in the hands of one of their own.

OOC
 

 
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  #20  
Old 03-09-2020, 01:01 AM
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Radeni"The Queen of Knaves?" The dao’s heavy cheeks lift in smile. But her eyebrow also arches in interest. "Now that is a title worth billing! ‘Talia, Queen of Knaves...and her retinue of Precious Souls’" She laughs the sound of sliding gravel.

Then, looking to Verdigris she says, "The dragon-man is a showman, eh?"

OOC
 
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Old 03-10-2020, 10:32 AM
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Talia
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As with most cats, Talia's interest level and demeanor could change in an instant.
Once she was "introduced" and then Radeni gave her some respect, she stood a slight bit taller and smiled.

She took off her hat, and
Dice Persuasion roll:
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bowed slightly and with flourish before putting her hat back in place and suddenly wishing she had her cane. But... it was back on the ship.

"It does have a certain ring to it, I must admit. A title granted after many a deed and exploit by myself and my followers, but a title it still is. Not a promise it is, nor a declaration like Radeni the Cruel. That, is most surely earned.
As to my follower here, yes, he is quite the showman. Once he dove into murky swamp waters, filled with man-sized beasts with gnashing teeth, just to retrieve a blade that I had mentioned a desire for.
Yes, quite the showman.

Now, as to what we want, it's quite simple. Our pursuits led us here, only to find that which we pursue is no longer here, or never was. So now we seek to return to whence we came. That is what the Queen of Knaves desires, a means of travel back to that place where the title of Queen of Knaves strikes fear and gives pause when it is uttered.
Does Radeni the Cruel hold power over such means of travel? I think surely she must."


 
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  #22  
Old 03-10-2020, 02:15 PM
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Radeni’s Pavilion
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"I can’t help but wonder what...or who...you were pursuing to end up here," Radeni says with a suspicious arching of her thick brow. "Or how you managed the trip with no prospects for return." The dao woman sounds unsure. She cocks her head to the side and appraises Talia like a predator deciding if their hunger is enough to take on prey of unknown strength.

Telantes takes advantage of his mistresses distraction to float a little closer. His expression leaves little doubt that he hopes to be allowed to kill Bellamy on sight. But his stalking is cut short when Radeni waives her hand dismissively.

"It matters little to Radeni," she says, hesitantly at first, but becoming more sure by the second. "Your old lives mean nothing. We must walk on the land beneath our feet."

Radeni approaches Talia slowly, conspicuously leaving the heavy hammer behind and keeping her large hands open. Her bright eyes look the shifter over, seeming to examine something around her that is not visible to the rest of them. "The smell of death is still upon you. And your shadow...dark." The dao merchant’s face becomes grim as stone. "You seek to return there?" Confusion and respect pass over her face. She looks over the rest of the Knaves, seeking confirmation that this is indeed what they want. Seeing resolve on all of their faces, Radeni nods. "Yes. Yes, I can send you back there." She walks back to her earthen mound and sits. "These are my terms; you will first serve me in the arena. Your arrival has already piqued the interest of many in Lao Shu Po. By bringing you into the pits, my position among the pitmasters will become greater."

Radeni looks thoughtful, formulating a plan for her own advantage. "You will fight a battle in the Dome of Released Souls, today, against a foe of my choosing." Her tone makes it clear there will be no argument on that point. "If you are victorious, I swear by Telantes’ chains that I will send you back to the shadowy nightmare you seek." Her words carry a solemnity as she utters the oath, and Telantes’ straightens with sudden gravity.

Radeni continues, "But if you lose, you belong to me. If you survive your failure, your souls will remain within your bodies, but those bodies will serve me for as long as you draw breath..." She smiles. "...and I am a harsh mistress. You may wish your souls were free of the life of misery most of my servants endure."

She looks seriously at all the Knaves. "Do we have a deal?"

OOC
 
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Old 03-10-2020, 03:39 PM
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Talia
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Talia wasn't liking how this was sounding. It seemed to only be getting worse with each passing word from the gravel-throaty sound of Radeni.

"At least she's only holding me -", and then she said "your souls", plural, and Talia's hope for sole glory, and risk of sole punishment was lost. What have I done?, she asked herself.

"I have no claim over the souls of my followers. For the deal to be made, each of them will have to accept and place their own souls at risk. What say you?" She dare not speak any more or she might be binding the fate and souls of her other friends as well, even though they weren't here.

She looked to Verdigris and Doc, and then to Ron. To Ron she said, "She is saying that if we fight and win, she'll send us back. But if we lose, we stay here forever."

 
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Old 03-10-2020, 04:03 PM
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Verdigris
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Verdigris could only shrug at the deal they were offered. It was neither good, nor fair. But the universe had already proven it had no care for such things time and time again. It was a deal. It would get them where they needed to be, if Radeni could be trusted. If she could not... well, they were no better or worse off here that fighting for their lives against the soul-slavers of Lao Shu Po.

He looked around at the others. Ron. The man was an elemental force that even the denizens of this dark place would crumble before. Bellamy. If these creatures could bleed, they would feel her wrath. Talia. Her own creature through and through. But fast and deadly in battle. He hoped only that he could be the companion they deserved. "We fight. It is what we do. When our end comes, we push back. It is all we can do. We remain standing to the last. They will never say of us that we lay down and died."

He looked seriously at Radeni for a moment. "Until we no longer breathe. The contract ends with victory or death." His soul might remain his own, but he had no desire to spend an eternity trapped in this plane, raised by whatever dark magics to fight for her pleasure until the end of time. If they won, they were free. If they were to lose, let there be at least freedom in death.

OOC
 

 
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Old 03-10-2020, 04:28 PM
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Radeni"Excellent!" Radeni smiles at Verdigris’ words. "Can you give that speech again on the red sands of the arena? Remember to speak loudly." She laughs. "And agreed. If you fail, your indentured servitude ends upon your deaths. You’ll find no better offer here. Most would suck the souls straight from you. Now, if we are agreed, I have preparations to make. Az’goneth, would you show them to the pits."

OOCMoving right along Last chance to speak up. The pits are your standard filthy cells and cages and prep areas beneath a gladiatorial arena. You’ll have a few hours to prepare while Radeni promotes the fight.
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Old 03-10-2020, 04:39 PM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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Everything about this place is confusing. The people, the smell, the architecture of the buildings. Everything. But the most confusing thing of all is when his friend the horse introduces Talia as a queen. Ron scratches his head. What does this mean? Is she now the boss?

The large dark-skinned woman and her hammer are interesting to watch though, so Ron stares at her instead of thinking too much about who's the boss when both Cyprian and Ada are missing. The woman looks far stronger than him, and the hammer is much larger than Ronda. If they have to fight, he’s pretty sure she has him beat. Although skill can win fights, there is only so much it can do to weigh up such an advantage in size and strength. Ron going after her would be like a five-year old trying to beat up Ron with a toy hammer.

The winged man he doesn’t think too much of. That one he could probably beat up, he figures. But appearances can be deceiving. Some skinny people can be deadly. Like Cyprian.

It is quite fortunate that the two strange people in front of him are so different from what he’s used to, and that he can occupy his time watching them, wondering how to take them on in a fight, because he can’t understand the conversation taking place. An arena he gets. Like the underground fighting ring back home in Stilben. The enforcer knows that place intimately. Some fights there he won, others he lost, and yet others he was told to lose on purpose. It didn’t matter much to him, he got paid the most when he had to take a dive.

Apparently the large woman wants them to fight in her arena, and is trying to strike some deal with Talia, but the cat has an unusually smooth tongue for a feline and her words confuse Ron’s head. Until she turns to him and explains what’s taking place.

When Talia lays out the deal in terms he can understand, Ron nods enthusiastically, but then looks at the others. They don’t seem excited. They don't understand. But this is Ron's world. Win and you live. Lose and you probably die.

"I’ll make you a better deal," he tells the woman, hefting his hammer. "We fight like you say. We win, you get us back to the boss. But if we lose, you send the others back anyway and keep me for as long as you like. I’ve done this before. I know your game," he says, walking closer to the woman, close enough for her to smell the sweat, dirt and blood on his thoroughly filthy body. "They call me Ron 'One-Bone' Devyn. I've fought so many people I've made a rule. If someone wants to try to beat me in a fight there is a price. I may let them live, but I break something in their bodies every time. Perhaps just a finger. Perhaps a kneecap. And if they really pissed me off, I might break the spine. I'm the kind of guy you want in the arena," he says, utterly and completely sure he's right.

"The others, they don’t understand. But I do. You don’t want killers in there. You want people who make the crowd go wild. People who can put on a show. And even people that know when to go down in ways that makes you the most profit. I can do that. The others, they can’t. We lose, you keep me. Not the others. Deal?" he asks, Persuasion check was a mighty 15staring the woman in the face. He got the others into this mess by picking on his scabs and bleeding all over the place. And now he’s going to make sure they don’t have to suffer because he’s so stupid.

OOC
 
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Old 03-10-2020, 06:05 PM
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Radeni’s Pavilion
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Az’goneth pauses when Ron speaks up. She looks to Radeni uncertainly.

The dao pitmaster listens to Ron’s simple speech. His limited vocabulary and lack of subtlety almost seem to lend credence to his words. And he has the benefit of speaking the truth, in this case.

Radeni addresses him. "It’s been a long while since any human has proven themselves formidable in the arena. The crowd loves it. Something about seeing your docile, weak race occasionally rise above themselves amuses them. And me. It’s a novelty. But they never last for long. Your flesh is so...prone to tearing." Her big, stony finger pokes the enforcer in the chest.

"You do seem hardier than most. But to be worth three other slaves...well, that would require more of a commitment. I am willing to accept you as the prize. But you must surrender your body and soul to me if you lose."

Az’goneth shoots Radeni a questioning glance. The dao doesn’t return the look, but does clarify. "Oh, not for consumption or trade. No. If you lose and I take ownership of you, I will get a return on my investment! You will spend a thousand years fighting and dying and suffering for the amusement of the crowd. Your body will be torn apart, incinerated, crushed into the dirt. But for you there will be no easy release of death. Your soul will be bound to my service by Telantes’ own chains. He will raise you up after each death to die anew, in whatever way pleases the bloodthirst of Gehenna!"

She lowers her voice seriously as she looks hard at Ron. "Do you understand? Can you accept that? That is the price of your companions’ freedom in the event of your failure. You must swear it."
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Old 03-10-2020, 06:16 PM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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Ron stares at the big woman when she speaks, nearly forgetting to listen to her words. Not for the first time he mentally kicks himself. She’s saying something about flesh tearing, so that’s slightly disconcerting.

The enforcer doesn’t hesitate. Fighting is all he knows. If he has to do that for a thousand years? Well, there can’t be thousand years, can there? The world can’t be that old, after all. If it were that old, it would be dead, like the old people. At any rate, it’s not like he has a choice.

Strangely, her terms makes him more relaxed about the fight facing them. All he wants is to get the others back home. And so unless they get killed outright in there, he’s already won. Now all he’s got to do is keep them alive, even if they lose. Of course, winning would be better, but either way, he gets what he really wants.

"Yeah. Done," he replies to the gigantic woman. When she keeps staring at him he realizes he needs to say something more. "I accept. I swear it," he says, staring at the woman. If they lose and he has to stay, he’ll just have to fight for long enough to get good enough to kill her. And then figure out a way to get back home.

"Let’s get this over with," the enforcer from Stilben says, smiling at his friends. He’s going to fix everything.

OOC
 
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Old 03-11-2020, 12:54 PM
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The Dome of Released SoulsTime passes slowly in the pits beneath the Dome of Released Souls. It’s dark down here, away from even the reddish glow of Gehenna’s surface. The creaking of the structure above echoes through the stone halls as the arena’s seats are filled with fiendish spectators. The heavy, muted air of the pits stinks with the smell of rot and the tang of iron. Whether the latter is from the rusty chains and bars that line the walls, or the obvious stains of freshly spilled blood is difficult to say. Somewhere in the distant darkness, the echoing drip of liquid on stone marks the time.

In this place of waiting death, Ron, Verdigris, Talia and Bellamy prepare themselves for the coming fight as best they can. Clay pitchers of stale water sit on the bare floor, amongst the torn clothing and shards of broken weapons.

There are no lamps, but Bellamy’s eyes reveal a labyrinth of empty cages and passageways continuing beyond her vision. Looking up, she notes that the heavy wooden beam spanning their open cell has been nearly covered in carved graffiti. Most of it she cannot read, written as it is in the tongues of the outer planes. But a few words in Common catch her eye, crudely carved with the point of a spear or the tip of a sword.

”Violetta, my soul is yours...” The last word is hurriedly finished, the “s” incomplete.

Somewhere above them, an amplified voice makes announcements in Abyssal. While the words are unintelligible, the cadence, tone and crescendos of the speech is clearly some demonic master-of-ceremonies whipping the building crowd into an excited frenzy. Brief pauses in the shouting are punctuated by bestial cheers and the howls of bloodthirsty daemons!

Heavy, approaching footsteps sound in the entrance tunnel, the dull thud of stone on stone. Rukvaaruck, the gargoyle, steps into the dark chamber. At least, Talia assumes it is the same gargoyle who conducted them to this chamber earlier in the day. It is difficult to tell.

"Time to go up," Rukvaaruck announces without ceremony in his barely understandable grinding voice. He turns and leads them back up the inclined tunnel, then up iron stairs towards the arena floor.

Emerging from hours below ground in the darkness, even the hazy red volcanic light of Gehenna is bright to Ron’s eyes. The dull roar of the crowd grows louder as the spectators note their arrival in the gated paddock. Looking through the bars into the stands, the Knaves see a throng of monstrous creatures! Abominable approximations of anthropomorphic beasts, each the star of their own nightmare, shout and jeer and laugh from snouts, beaks, and toothy maws! Hooves and splayed feet stamp in a cacophony of anticipation, gradually synchronizing into a unified pounding, like the heart of gargantuan beast, waiting to swallow them up! If the hells had a zoo, this would be it...

But here, the Knaves are the ones on display. From behind them, Rukvaaruck says, "Give them a good show, and be remembered well." The loud clinking of heavy chains is suddenly heard above the din, and the thick-barred portcullis before them rises slowly.



Stepping onto the sands of the arena, Talia scans the crowd. To her left, just above the ring wall in a box obviously reserved for important guests, Telantes sits, watching them arrive.

Verdigris stands silently holding the staff of Melora, representative of the natural world that is so far away. Beneath his fingers, he feels the wood grow cool in defiance of the lava heated air of Lao Shu Po. The shouts of the crowd are replaced in the ravenite’s ears by the rustle of leaves in the wind. He briefly closes his eyes as a Spring breeze passes over his bronze scales. Looking over at the staff, he sees budding growth from the top third of its length. Small nodules in the wood open into downy willow blossoms above his hand and beneath the embedded pearl.

And then the breeze and the rustling leaves are gone. The shouts of the crowd re-emerge and the smoky heat surrounds Verdigris once more. But the willow blossoms remain.

The portcullis lowers behind them. Even before its pointed bars touch the sand, the opposing portcullis at the far end of the arena begins to rise. The crowd grows quiet in anticipation with each foot it ascends. The spinning chains on their pulleys scream louder and louder!

And then they stop.

The sands nearest the far gate begin to swirl and are pulled into the darkened space within, like a dragon sucking in breath before spewing forth death!

Then, in a rushing maelstrom of wind and sand, clutching her titanic hammer in huge, brown hands, Radeni the Cruel, Dao Pitmaster of the Dome of Souls, roars onto the arena floor!




OOC
 

Last edited by 4eyedBadger; 03-13-2020 at 12:21 AM.
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Old 03-11-2020, 02:26 PM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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After waiting stoically under the arena for a little while, not even thinking what they’d be faced with, Ron slowly starts to get more nervous. Fighting he knows, but it’s been a while since he fought in the underground ring in Stilben. And the people here are strange. Like the frog-man who jumped on the boat. He consoles himself with the thought that there is nothing they can do to change what’s about to happen, but the others can see an uncharacteristic wrinkle of worry on his bald and filthy forehead.

"I know how this works. Just stay behind me, let them come. Keep your distance if you can," he helpfully instructs the others as they hear the crowd outside being whipped into frenzy by the announcer. Old Two-Tongue Olrek was good at getting the crowd screaming for blood, but this guy is probably better, Ron decides. Not that he can understand what the announcer is saying.

For a brief moment he is distracted from the upcoming fight thinking about Two-Tongue. Poor fellow was apparently a lady’s man long before Ron’s day, able to perform marvelous acts with his tongue. Or so someone told Ron. He never really got it, figuring Olrek was a glib one even back then. Apparently, there were rumors Olrek had used that magical tongue of his in a conversation with the girl of one of the bosses, a claim denied by the charmer. And so the boss had his tongue split in two to deprive the man of his favorite weapon.

Lost in thought, Ron is startled by the strange stone-creature, but he obediently follows it up onto the floor of the arena, looking wide-eyed at the terrifying creatures in the audience. If the people in the stands are terrifying monsters, what kind of horror will they send against them?

"Just don’t get yourself killed. I don’t know what will happen, but if you don’t die, you go home. So play dead if you have to," he shouts at the others as the portcullis rises, trying to be heard over the roaring crowd.

And then, hefting his hammer and displaying confidence he doesn’t really feel, Ron steps onto the arena. Kill or be killed. Simple. This is what his life has been about since forever now, and Ron’s confidence rises as he pushes to the front of the four Knaves, raising Ronda high in the air, greeting the crowd like Two-Tongue Olrek taught him what seems like eternity ago.

The blood freezes in his veins when their opponent is revealed. The big woman. Ron has never gone into a fight thinking he’s going to lose. Except when he had been instructed to, of course. But now he has a sinking feeling in his stomach as he recalls someone saying something about this big lady never having been beaten.

Ron spits into the sand. The crowd doesn’t love a weasel, and if he’s going to get beaten, he’s going to go out swinging. If he doesn’t stay true to his word and puts on a good show the big woman might not keep her word. And, as he’s experienced so many times in his relatively short life, everyone can be killed. It might take strength, skill, luck, or all of the above, but everyone can die. Even huge women with massive hammers.

Although he’s usually silent when in battle, this time Ron roars, raising Ronda in the air again. Gotta play to the crowd, after all. The enforcer from Stilben looks at his friends, shakes his head a little, as if to apologize for getting them into the mess, and then charges forward, towards the big lady and her hammer. Time to put Ronda to the ultimate test.

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