We have left the elaborate if tired interior of the House of Scorpic for the dingy and tired market streets looking for a fight. Etsuriko and Fenelyn chose to stay with Ef’s aunt, Etsuriko still mining for embarrassing stories and Fen still schmoozing to get trade contacts and possibly a meeting or contact with the house employing Emisan Corbus. Vedis and Kenari have the idea of fighting for winnings to free slaves. Noble, certainly, entertaining…highly likely, dangerous…even more likely. Saving the Universe is not a well paying gig so we have sung for our supper, danced for silver and done other various and assorted odd jobs. This was different, we were not usually in a world known for being Chaotic Evil for long. It was a wonder that Ef turned out as he did, then again fighting your way free from a blood debt could do that.
We followed one of the house servants, weaving his way through the throngs of mostly humans. I had my cloak pulled around me and had obscured my features while we were out, no sense drawing undue attention to myself. Kenari got a few double takes with her cat folk features, however, most of us are human or appear human enough to go unnoticed. We had been warned repeatedly by Ef about the pick-pocketing here, that it’s far worse than anywhere else we have traveled. By the tattered and dogeared looks of even the finer buildings here, I can see why; resources are scarce and not easily replaced here. On the way Melchior had a run in with a couple of youngsters that attempted a bait and switch between his pistol and money pouch. Ef and the Captain intervened and the miscreants disappeared, literally into steam?! Buildings became further apart and replaced by market stalls, the moving people became clusters gathered to purchase goods or those skulking in shadows looking for the unwary.
The market opened up and a crowd was circled around ramshackle stands, an announcer’s voice (I could detect the modified tones of a Tongues spell) hawked the next fight. The Captain and Kenari decided to watch at least one fight before jumping in after noting it was as much spell casting as a physical fight. (I should note that the ring was enchanted and spell and psionic effects lit up in colorful arcs that normally would not occur.) A large Maenad stood in the center of the ring with bright blue and orange stones orbiting his head. The blue stone gave him a boost to wisdom for divine spell casting and the orange boosting his ability to critically damage an opponent. A ratfolk male in robes not dissimilar from our monk, stepped forward. The announcer called the opponents and the odds and gave the ten minute time allotment for bets to occur. It was noteworthy that not even Kenari bet on the first fight! I know more of Maenads due to my Captain than of ratfolk and I doubt I was alone in thinking the Maenad was more likely to win the bout but the Ratfolk was canny and had more than a few surprises of his own. Plus, as it turned out when the Maenad lost his shiny blue stone, he lost much of his spell casting punch. His spells as indicated by the color burst were much less vibrant and easily brushed off by his opponent. When the Maenad fell bleeding from dozens of wounds, the ratfolk claimed his victory, thanked Grandmother Rat and rolled the corpse. I have seen death many times, even by my own hand, perhaps it was an additional enhancement of the ring or simply the heightened energy of the crowd or a combination that made the deaths in the ring seem more violent, more grisly and more final.
When the blue stone was knocked from its orbit around the Maenad and into the crowd all hell broke loose as it was searched for. Fights and squabbles broke out amongst the spectators and even a couple of the skulkers dove into the fray for their try. Kenari muttered something and winked away, vanishing from her spot beside me and reappearing in a flash of golden fur across the ring. Of course she went after the shiny thing. I lost her in the crowd and in the Captain saying she was stepping into the ring against the Ratfolk. I asked her if she wanted me to cast anything on her, for her in preparation but she declined saying she would be fine. Most likely true, her skin while she mostly appeared human glinted like silica and was much tougher and denser than humans. She is tall and more powerfully built than one would expect. Her psionic powers are formidable and she has lived for a long time, not much surprises or fazes her.
As the captain stepped into the ring and gave her name to the announcer the Ratfolk didn’t bother to clean his blades or hide his conceit at fighting another Maenad. The odds were called 4:1 in favor of the Ratfolk. I bet 25 gold on the Captain.
Just then Kenari reappeared, bloodied and pale, holding tight to this black cloaked figure for a moment. She said something like “He’s got it” before she collapsed. There was no time to cast ‘Freeze person’ on whomever she had, she’s already dying. I roll her over and there’s a gaping sucking chest wound, compounded by rib fractures. I cast a healing spell, the ring affects making the area around us glow. I watched with relief as the ribs knit back together and the hole in her skin and fur sealed. She started breathing, shallow and painfully at first then more deeply. The Captain, true to her word, took some blows but in the end with her mindthrust essentially made the Ratfolk’s head disappear, in a violent and sanguinous fountain much to the delight of the onlookers. Kenari’s wounds were so grievous she required another healing spell as well as spells to mend the holes in her tunic and remove all the blood from her clothing, truthfully she looked like she’d been in the ring and lost. I healed the Captain just in time to see Ef…feign a drunken stumble into the ring!
Now it was the announcer that was pompous both at the sight of Ef’s Scorpic sash and appearance of intoxication. He announced that one of the Scorpic boys wanted to play and were there any takers? From the crowd stepped the tallest elf any of us had ever seen. Well over seven feet tall, his garb was of an arid desert dweller. His features were razor sharp and skin taut and leathery. Long black hair was tied back away from a strong featured, sharp boned face. Two bone swords, curved like scimitars crisscrossed in sheaths on his back. Ef tossed his coin pouch towards us and placed a bet on himself. We finished our own bets, as with the Captain I bet 25 gold. Ef must have cast ‘Fly’ as he shot 30’ feet into the air and his armor clicked into place. The gave a derisive grunt and with a running start leapt into the air launched off the ring, off a giant in the crowd’s head (found out later that accidentally tangling with him is how Kenari ended up in the shape she was in) and towards Ef while simultaneously drawing his swords off his back. His attack missed, but not by much. For the most part, Ef held his own, he took some damage but was meting it out as well and the elf was looking Iess haughty and more determined. Suddenly, in a shower of green sparks Ef’s head snapped back and he nearly lost control of the spell holding him in the air. That was the moment the battle turned out of his favor, most likely for good.
Since the fight was to the death the stakes were too high not to intervene. I prayed to Celestian for his Divine Intervention, sacrificing power as an offering to undo the elf’s last attack. My compatriots may have a dim recollection of the first attack but no one else there will. As if watching things unfold in reverse Ef steadied in the air, his head snapped again in the shower of sparks but a brief undoing of time and the explosion of green swallowed itself. Instead as the elf geared himself for the attack he was at an unknown disadvantage, the amount of power I sacrificed cost him. The normally elegant and graceful warrior, tripped on his cloak and cut his side on his sword. If looks could kill the one he aimed at Ef would have been lethal. Eventually the elf crashed to the ground, dead before he hit.
I felt some remorse at there being no alternative but death to the opponents but glad that my companions were not damaged beyond my ability to heal. They had indeed survived, made money, acquired some useful magical items and weapons. Since no one else had any particular interest and since I had helped him, Ef gifted me the bone swords of elf. Upon closer examination they were carved from a single continuous piece of bone (how in the Hells big was the animal it came from???) and the saw toothed edges were lined with small, serrated, razor sharp teeth. We needed to get everyone back to house Scorpic for rest and food, we will see about purchasing and freeing slaves in the morning.
Lenata Starbourne of Celestian