Pit of Despair
A bloody blade slashed down to skim along Gwennil’s shield with a screech of metal. The jagged edge caught her ear.
“Fasa,” she roared at the headless humanoid. With an elemental blast toward the creature’s eyes that blazed from its armored abdomen, she used precious energy.
The residual magic spun the loose soil into the air, blocking her from view.
With only a cough beside her as warning, she lifted her weapon, prepared to strike.
Mac’s thick thighs dropped to a fighting stance as he wiped a swatch of skin clean upon his face.
“That Fasahead nicked my ear.
His gaze skimmed over her. “I told you to cover them. Those pointy tips wiggle above your braids and beg to be trimmed.”
His deep chuckle tempted her lips up into a smile that she quickly wiped clean from her face.
His gaze darted about the pit. “There is a buyer in the stands today.”
She clamped her teeth together.
His blue eyes narrowed.
“What? I didn’t say anything.” Tremors shook her arms.
A shuffling noise caused her to spin. Blade anchored at her waist, she thrust forward. A startled shriek of pain ended in a gurgle.
Mac dropped low and parted a creature’s lower limbs from its body. Blood spattered across them both.
Gwennil retreated from the smell of blood and death.
The horn sounded among hoots and groans as money was exchanged in the stands.
Mac’s sweaty hand landed and slid off her shoulder. “This is your chance to get out of the pit.”
Legs heavy and unwieldy, she shuffled toward the champion’s room. “I’m the best fighter this sorry little mud hole has ever seen.”
“A bad day with your name on it is coming.”
Between her teeth, she said, “I’m not a piece of meat to be bought!”
“That is exactly what you are. Suck it up, play nice, and get yourself a master.”
“They are all full of–”
“No,” Mac slashed his axe through the air. “They are not.”
“Name a good one.”
“The Holly King and you set him on fire.”
She smiled and her lips pulled tight, the skin on the verge of cracking. “Not fire, frostbite.”
His sigh moved her hair. “He needed stealth and magic. With you he would have had the perfect package.”
She shrugged. “Fine, one.”
He scratched a patch of mud on his chin. “Two, the dwarf. Why did he return you again?”
With a smile hidden behind her hand, she said, “Because I patted him on the head and asked if he was okay after rescuing him. He didn’t know water hereabouts has a mind of its own. The pond pounced and gobbled him whole. Sunk like a bolder. His boots were stuck in the muck, had to leave them behind to get to the surface. Never knew someone to love boots like that. I think he would have killed me if I hadn’t just saved his life.”
With a shared laugh, they entered the room cut into the side of a dune.
After taking care of her weapons, she broke a hunk of the bread free. Almost too tired to chew, she swallowed past the grit on her teeth. Nothing came clean in the desert. Dirt was in all her bits and pieces. It was a shitty home, but it was better than where she’d come from.
The horn sounded. Her heart began to pound.
“Remember what I said.” Mac left the room.
Her hands shook as she finished tying the leather cord around the end of her braid. Entering the common room, she saw his ears first, pointing from the top of his silver hair. Elf. Her nervousness evaporated in the heat of welcome anger.
The elf’s upper lip lifted in a sneer of distaste as he dropped a pouch into Glik’s huge hand. Glik smiled, revealing his sharpened teeth. Mac shifted to stand with the elf’s mercenaries.
Her chest hurt and she couldn’t breathe for a moment. Mac’s gaze pleaded with her.
“Why did you bring me this ugly thing?” Pretty Boy asked in Elvish, with a side glance her way. He didn’t say half-breed, but the insult was clear on his face.
Gwennil responded in Elvish. “Yeah, well you’re–“
Mac cleared his throat.
“Pretty enough for the two of us.” Gwennil finished. “Don’t worry the boys will still be looking at you.”
The elf’s face went blank. He turned on his heel and strode away.
She met Mac’s resigned gaze. His lips lifted in a toothless smile and then her friend was gone.
The other fighter’s gazes felt as sharp as her sword.
Glik’s footfalls shook items from the rickety walls. Red-faced and wheezing he asked, “Do you know how much he offered for you?”
“Not enough likely.” She kept her stance loose.
“I should have brought you out bound and gagged.” Spit squeezed from between his pointy teeth to dampen the dirt on her face. She’d never seen the ogre so angry.
The punch was slow enough she could have easily avoided it, but she kept her ground. Her cheek exploded with pain and then went numb. Somehow, she stayed on her feet.
“If you can’t block a slow ogre’s punch what use are you?” the elf asked.
Taken by surprise by his reappearance, she startled. “I could have blocked it.”
The elf tossed a bag that bounced off Glik’s chest to land in his over-sized hands. “Likely too much.” He strode off.
“Well, follow him you stupid girl.” Glik wiped at his suddenly shiny eyes. “Never thought I’d see the day.” He opened the pouch and clutched it to his chest.
Gwennil strode off after her new master and grimaced. Even thinking the word made her want to throw up. Her long-legged gate soon had her pulling alongside the elf.
“You stink,” he said, his delicate nose wrinkled at the edges.
Already, his authority chaffed. She would gain her freedom, or die trying.