Tweet of the Day: AW June Blog Chain: Setting the Scene
The afternoon sun beat down on Hadrian’s exposed skin. The harsh light glinted of the naked steel of his sword. The roar of the crowd washed over him. He was their favorite, their champion. He ignored it all by counting the clanks as the portcullis rose before him. Each metallic bank of the hidden wheels counting down to the engagement. Each one bringing him closer to the fight.
“If you want her, you will have to buy her,” said the jealous lover.
“Five hundred talents at least, my boy. Enough to make your dreams come true,” exclaimed his manager.
“Yes, I will leave with you, where ever you want to go my love. Beyond the mountains where the summer’s are cool and the winter’s quite,” said the woman he loved.
“Not this time. This time you will meet your match. My beast will feast on your bones,” exclaimed the exultant rival.
“Make it a fight for the ages, and your debt to me will be repaid in full,” said the petulant Duke.
All the reasons why he was here. One way or another this would be his last fight. Hadrian walked into the arena. He felt the sand between the toes of his sandals. The Duke sat high above him across the oval, surrounded by guards and war wizards. His girth a product of his opulence. He kept the bread and gave his people circuses instead.
And for the last ten years, Hadrian was the main attraction.
No wind blew this summer day. The red main of horse hair on top of the gladiator’s round helm lay limp. Droplets of sweat came down his arms racing down highways of nicks, muscle and cuts. He reached the center of the arena and bowed to the Duke. The fat man smiled back and raised his hand in salute. The motion quieted the crowed. The Duke stood from his bejeweled chair. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and pleasure to present to you the Champion of our glorious city, Hadrian the Unconquered!”
The crowd exploded in wild adulation. Hadrian raised his arms, punching the air with steel sword and bronze shield. “In this most glorious of days, the day our our city’s birth, Hadrian has consented to face his most dangerous foe. A great beast of the North, a Lyndwyrm!”
A hush descended upon the crowd. Once slaves battled beasts but gladiators fought other men. The Church tried to outlaw the games but they only managed to “reform” them. Gladiators rarely fought to the death and fighting animals was rare. Fighting such a dangerous beast could very well mean Hadrian’s death, and they did not want to see that. Not their beloved champion. But Hadrian bowed once again to the Duke and when he raised his head he gave the crowd a wide smile a smile that hid the fear that consumed his thoughts. Faint cries of “No” turned to screams of adulation.
The Duke smiled in turn. “Let the match begin!”
A panel slid open on the arena floor. A gigantic worm slithered from within the bowels of the arena with lighting speed. It’s beaked head raised to the heavens. It gave a ear splitting screech. Hadrian stared his at the dun colored, slime covered opponent. “Not the brightest idea you ever had,” he said at loud.
The beast turned down toward Hadrian. It’s beak like maw split open, spitting twin streams of viscous liquid that met in mid air. The gladiator raised his shield in time to block the attack, but saw in horror as the sun came though the wholes left by the corrosive spittle. He dropped the disintegrating shield just in time to see the wyrm descend upon him. He rolled to his left. The razor beak snapped in the air, spraying sand everywhere.
Hadrian stood with a kick stand, just to be battered by the powerful stroke of the wyrm head. The strike sent him flying against the masonry wall of the arena. Hadrian shook his head, trying to clear his clouded vision before the wyrm’s beak snapped him in two. He danced around the wyrm, using his size to stay under the wyrm body. But his attacks had little effect. The combination of the slime and the beast thick hide turned body piercing stabs into glancing blows. He drew thick, putrid smelling blood where the sand clung to the underside, neutralizing the ooze. Yet each strike only made the lyndwyrm angrier. Hadrian ducked and weaved careful not to slip in the trail of slime left by the wyrm. He ran until he reach the wall beneath the Duke’s seat. The wyrm charged him. At the last second Hadrian moved out of the way. The stadium shook with the impact. The beast reared it’s head, then spit anew. A pair of war wizards gesticulated wildly over a burning brazier. Columns of fire intercepted the acid raining down on the crowd. A guard stepped forward, crossbow in hand. The Duke glanced at him. The guard stepped back but kept the crossbow at the ready.
Hadrian traced the slime path way back to the wooden door from which the wyrm entered the arena. Once he felt wood underneath his feet, he angled his sword to catch the sunlight. The reflection shone on the wyrm’s black eyes. Enraged it dove down on Hadria. He rolled to his right. The worm struck the door, destroying it in a shower of splinters. It thrashed in sheer desperation. Hadrian crouched nearby waiting his chance. As the beast liberated it’s head, Hadrian slashed at the exposed eye. The dark eyeball exploded on contact with Hadrian blade. The beak missed Hadrian’s head by mere inches. Hadrian moved back and forth, taunting the creature by darting away at the edge of its damaged vision. It came down, again and again until Hadrian saw his opening. On the last attack, he rolled on his back and the jumped, holding his sword in an overhead two handed strike. This time the blade sunk deep into the wyrm’s head. The creature tried to pry his tormentor by shaking its head from side to side. Hadrian held on as much as he could. Then he slid down on the wyrm’s back. He landed with a thud on the ground, covered in blood, sand and slime. He turned in time to see the lyndwyrm collapse in a heap a feet away.
He calmly walked to the beast, retrieved his sword and raised it defiantly. The crowd went wild. “Hadrian! Hadrian! Hadrian!”
Every bone in his body ached, but he had won. He would miss the adulation and the excitement, but not the fear.
And for the first time in ten long years, unchained and unafraid.
Well that’s my entry. I hope you like it.