What do you give the man who has killed everything? Only one way to find out!
PART TWO now online!
Ah, the roar of the crowd. How pleasing! The circus never fails to impress; the jolly colours flying from the poles; the smell of spices from the furthest reaches of the Archipelago (and a liberal helping of sweat, of course); the tang of iron almost visible in the air…the children and the old men say they can taste it, even, but of course, they are the foolish ones.
Under the roar, always, the drone of flies, clustered thick around the coagulating pools. They feast for a while then, startled by the approach of slaves, they launch into the air, an angry, fuzzy cloud. A cloud that drips.
How many have lost their lives in the circus? Too many to count, but that is not important. The more important question is: how many have made their lives in the circus? And that is important, because the man striding onto the clay is a living legend. Forget, for a moment, that people have paid to watch him kill. Forget also that some have paid hoping to see him die. Know only this – Chran lives for the circus, and the circus lives in him.
To date, Chran has killed the following things: from the land of Naaset, three monsters from the desert, one ipphus, and one of their strange reptiles (a rather tame battle); from Wushnia, a giant, standing at nine feet; a pelted elephant from Tarysha; a giant bird from I do not know where. Other monsters, as well, too many to name. And that, in addition to over a hundred men and women, not including the heroes, of course.
How does he do it? children ask their parents, and never twice receive the same answer. “It is his skill,” some say, when they wish for their children to focus on their own training. “It is his strength,” reply others, “which is a result of cleaning his plate, and of good, hard work.” The bearded men tell their acolytes that it is the will of the Gods, and that piety is the best way to thank them. Whatever the answer, Chran remains scarred but alive.
He raises his hands and the roars multiply. Is this the day that Chran is finally thrown into the pit? That is what they all ask themselves. Will the slaves take his lifeless body from the clay and roll it into the fires? Many take bets to this effect, for no man – and there are no exceptions – no man escapes the pit forever. Looking at the body of that warrior, however…seemingly carved out of living stone, white, and shining, and thunderously muscled…it is difficult to imagine the opponent that could best him.
As the door opens on the other side of the arena, even the imagination of the wildest child is tested to the limit. For it is a frail, minuscule thing that is pushed onto the clay, dressed in silks, not leather. It isn’t even armed. The roars turn to bellows of laughter. Surely, wives say to husbands, surely Chran is not expected to fight this thing? Heads are shaken in reply, or else there is simply a knowing smile. The circus master always has a plan, they say, and wait to be proven right.