The Gears of Chaos
A young mouse (too young), Tael of Rumurik, stood alone in the dark.
He waited for a long time, his ragged, nervous breath the only source warming the frigid, stale air. No fires or torches graced this forsaken place. His mentor had spent a King's ransom on a room that was barely fit for a raker, and this part of the facility was no better.
Sand gritted between his paw and the hilt of his cheap rapier. He took a deep, steadying breathe. I am ready for this.
A door creaked open behind Tael, but he didn't turn around.
"They will call you in a moment, Tael," a flat, emotionless voice floated through the dark. "Sword-point up, elbows out, right paw back. Just stay in the circle this time. If you lose out there, it had better be because you died. You don't want to owe me what it cost to get you here."
Owe you? As if I had chosen to come here, thought Tael.
The murmur of a large crowd crept through the heavy double-doors. A brilliant slit of daylight glowed between the doors, but offered him no clear view of the grounds he was fighting on. He didn't care. He'd practiced in it every day for a year.
Besides, the last fighter had died. Tael wasn't fond of watching the rakers cleaning the mess off the sand. He'd been forced to watch this act many times, so he could be tempted to the sight of blood.
Realizing that his mentor was still present, Tael glanced over his shoulder. The haggard silhouette of a bent-over weasel was evident in the dark. Tael could feel him watching him.
"What?" Tael snapped.
The mentor didn't reply. Finally, the old creature closed the door.
As the weasel's pawsteps faded down the corridor beyond, Tael was confronted by a strange feeling. He hated his mentor. Such an evil creature. And yet, after spending a year, and countless hours under his instruction, Tael found himself worried that he'd never see him again.
Jagfang flipped twin daggers around his paws. The crowd cheered at the northland otter's deft display. They loved talent in young beasts.
15-21 seasons was the age range for a fighter. Jagfang was a cheater, however. He was actually 22, and a survivor of last year's games. The rules said fighters had to be fresh, with exactly one year to train. Jagfang's sponsor, however, was a top 3 winner of last year's games and so he (and the colony he was representing) had more clout than anyone else. A few bribes and a little face-paint kept the officials at bay.
It felt good to stand on the scorching sand again, to breathe the stifling air. Tenacity was a habit for him. An addictive habit. The harsher the circumstances, the greater his urge to stand a little taller, to prove what he was made of.
The doors on the opposite end of the arena opened. A small mouse was being lead out by two guards, who appeared to be answering some last-minute questions.
Jagfang sniffed in derision. This was his first fight of the year, and so he was limited the the same set of weapon choices:
A rapier, a spear, a small axe and one gauntlet, a short-sword or twin daggers.
Five choices. The weapons were made by the same smiths in the same forges each year. You could only buy new weapons by using the bet winnings from your match.
This was what agitated Jagfang about the newcomer. Easy win. The bets would be 3:1 in Jagfang's favor, so the people who won the bets wouldn't earn much money. This, in turn, meant he'd earn little money for weapons.
Ach, well… he thought. It doesna matter much. Ah kin wait a while fer finer blades.
The Merchant Council of Ridgemark sat watching. 12 Officials, one from each colony, lined the Arena's front stands. These twelve beasts in vastly different attire, all sitting at the same table. Some were dressed like kings, while others dressed like surfs. One was dressed in an old, brown habit. He did not speak, and he left his wine untouched.
"Who is the little mouse representing?" a kingly ferret whispered to one side.
"Rumurik." The rat to one side replied. He wasn't even watching the combatants. He was scratching tallies on a scroll, apparently bored by the impending slaughter. "He won't last a minute against the young otter. How old is that mouse anyway? 15… maybe 16 seasons? Not good for decent bets."
"Rumurik has already lost one of their fighters. They are down to this mouse and three others."
That caught the rat's attention, "What, already? We only started yesterday."
The ferret pointed to rakers on near the edge of the stone ring. The rakers were cloaked and hooded in grey, but the cloth was full of holes, and covered in bloody splotches. "They already cleaned up the body, but that was him over there. A fox, if I remember correctly."
A slightly less regal-looking vole piped in, looking shocked. "If you remember correctly!? The poor lad didn't even look old enough to be a fighter. How can you forget such violence so quickly?"
"For someone who doesn't enjoy these games very much," the rat beyond the ferret commented (still marking tallies on his scroll), "You seem to have done pretty well for yourself. You represent Muthos. You were bottom of the totem pole, weren't you?"
The vole shifted uncomfortably in his seat and turned he gaze back toward the combatants. The mouse and the otter were staring each other down now, as an announcer read the rules to them.
The ferret chuckled at the vole, "You participate in the Games, so obviously you know that it's a necessary evil. Don't look so uncomfortable. You do it for your own survival."
The vole shrugged.
"C'mon, Solcal," the ferret said. "If you didn't participate in the games, where would you be right now? No trading rights for your colony. No canal shipment priorities. Your people would be suffering economically from being the Twelfth Colony. Look at yourself now. Fourth Colony. A respected beast."
More quietly, he added, "And just between you and me, it gets easier from here on out. You get used to the death, and your fighters have better mentors and sponsors. Once you are already Fourth, it's easy to stay Fourth."
From around the Arena, drums started the pound, indicating that the fighters were free to move and strike. They started to circle each other.
The ferret official gestured toward the mouse. "If it makes you feel better, I'll bet on the mouse. 40 santos against 25?"
Out on the sandy turf, the otter was out-pacing the little mouse. He was stronger and better fed. He was also patient.
The vole hesitated, then shrugged. "Fine. 25 santos. You're going to lose them, though." He glanced toward the mouse official at the end of their table, clad in the brown habit. Socal felt a little guilty voting against his friend's fighter.
The drums stopped suddenly and the vole turned back toward the Arena. Tael of Rumurik lay dead on the edge of the sand ring. The crowd cheered as Jagfang tossed his cheap dagger to one sand and stepped off the field.
The ferret clapped Socal on the back. "See that? The mouse should've kept his sword-point up."
Despite himself, the vole smiled. "I guess you owe me 40 santos."
At the end of the table, the mouse in the brown habit quietly stood and left the stands.
"Hey, look!" the rat at the end pointed to his tallies. "I guess the crowd loves an underdog. They voted 3:7. My Jagfang will get a decent clip after all."
ooc- Remember to submit your applications me. Since the Prologue was late, the application deadline has been moved out to the 25th. All other dates and deadlines will be moved out, then posted in the appropriate places.
Also, any feedback on this prologue will be appreciated. Let me know what questions you have and I'll make the required adjustments.
(((This Topic is locked. If you wish to ask a question or make a suggestion, please post it Here)))