Chapter 12. "Brave enough to try."
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.”
-Invictus, William Ernest Henley
Early the next day, Alix is up and pacing across the small room. “I need to get out of here,” she mutters, checking the room once again for any sort of weapon. She sighs, her frustration increasing. Her burns from yesterday are, thankfully, minor.
“But they still hurt,” she mutters, inspecting one on her forearm. She looks up as the door is unlocked and opens to reveal a servant girl with a tray of what was probably a terrible excuse for breakfast, but Alix doesn’t wait to see. She immediately recognises a chance to escape, and takes it.
Alix speeds down the corridor, glancing behind her to see if anyone is giving chase. In that split-second glance, she barrels into a burly guard. Before Alix can do anything but take a step back and clench her hand in preparation to swing a punch, he takes the hilt of his sword and renders her unconscious, having clearly been ready for her to try to escape.
“Foolish Girl. Thought you could get away that easily?” Ralph inquires as Alix slowly comes to.
“At least I was brave enough to try,” she growls, her head throbbing.
“Isn’t that a shame,” he sneers.
“For you,” Alix spits.
“But now, as punishment, you will have to go into the arena again tonight,” Ralph chuckles.
Alix sits up straight, horrified, “What! You can’t do that. I nearly died yesterday!”
“Which is the point. Girlie, they’re called the ‘Death Games’ for a reason,”
Alix glares. “Why don’t you fight me then? We will see how well a simpleton like you does against an Araluen Ranger,” she spits, getting to her feet.
Ralph laughs, “No. We have something extra special planned for you. Something very deadly. At least you can thank us because we didn’t bring your apprentice here to see you die,”
Alix flushes with anger, her fists clenched at her sides. “I don’t plan on dying,” she growls and swiftly punches him in the face.
Rea looks up at Gilan. “So, you know where we are going now, right?” she asks him after he finishes talking with a local.
He shrugs, “I only understood about every other word he said. My Gallic is a little rusty. I do have a fairly good idea of where the arena is located though. Shouldn’t be too hard to find such a massive structure.”
She nods her agreement, “How close are we?”
“If all goes to plan, we should reach it about an hour before sunset.”
Gilan and Rea reach the town encircling the colosseum slightly later than planned, but both are pleased to have arrived with no problems.
“We need to get rid of our ranger garb,” Gilan says, pulling his cloak off his shoulders, “We’re too recognisable this way,”
Rea does likewise, “If we aren’t going to look like rangers, what will we be?”
Gilan thinks for a moment. “From what I’ve seen and heard, it seems plenty of Gallic Nobles and officials come to these dastardly games.”
“I don’t think that would work as well for me,” Rea disagrees. “I don’t speak any Gallic and have no idea of the customs here. You could do it, but I would rather not.”
After a moment of thought, Gilan nods, “I suppose that’s true. What will you be doing then? I can’t imagine you want to sit and do nothing.”
“I could pose as a servant girl looking for work,” Rea explains. “It might get me close enough to help Alix, whereas you could do something about Kaden and Ralph.”
Gilan raises an eyebrow, “Kaden and Ralph?”
“They are the brothers who took Alix.”
“Right,” Gilan says, handing her a few coins. “Go get what you need. There should be some people around here who speak the common tongue.”
Rea nods, “Thanks Gilan.”
“Stay safe. Meet me back here as soon as you can. We’ve got to get Alix out of there.”
The sun is sinking below the horizon as Alix is led into the torchlit arena, her wrists bound once again. Her left cheek sports a large bruise from earlier that morning when Ralph’s burly associate returned the blow she gave Ralph. The crowd cheers as she enters, clearly remembering her skills from the previous task. Alix is unbound, and given instructions by the same man as before.
“Kill other,” he answers gruffly.
Alix nods her understanding, “The last one standing needs to be me.”
She glances at the exit of the arena as he departs, tempted to try to run for it. The urge vanishes when she sees the well-muscled guard standing there. The gates close, and Alix is left to see who the other combatant is. Alix’s eyes widen when she sees a brawny, giant of a man enter.
“He’s got to be well over two and a half meters tall!” she exclaims. “How in the world am I supposed to face him with just my fists?”
Just then, as though her question summoned it, a servant in the frontmost row of the stands throws two spears. One to Alix, and one to the ‘Giant’. The ground of the arena was several meters below the stands, most likely to prevent injuries to onlookers, Alix muses. She takes the spear, its weight unfamiliar in her hands.
“I’m going to get skewered by that guy,” she mumbles, her grip tight around the unfamiliar weapon.
“There you are! Find everything alright?”
Rea nods, “Yeah, wasn’t too bad. I see you found what you needed.” she comments, gesturing to his shirt and trousers. Simple, yet more sophisticated than what a ranger would commonly wear. He has his sword at his hip, his bow clearly being much too conspicuous.
He glances down at himself, then looks back at Rea, “And I can say likewise.” Rea is dressed in servant clothing.
“Did you find out anything about the games?” she asks in a lower tone.
“Yes. The games will go on until only one champion is left,” he says. “I’m going to try to talk to the leader of this barbaric organization, get on his good side, bribe him if I have to. I will find out as much as I can about anything and everything.”
“I’ll try to locate Alix. Should we meet back here?”
Gilan nods, “Yes. When the games conclude for the night. Don’t try to free Alix tonight while you’re on your own. We have a better chance as a team.”
Rea nods, “Alright. Goodbye Gilan.”
“Be careful, I hate to send you off on your own.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” Rea promises.
Alix watches as the ‘Giant’ laughs when he sees her, “I have to fight this puny thing?” he takes his spear, snaps it in half, and tosses them carelessly aside, clearly ready to attack her with just his fists.
“I’m not that short!” Alix protests, backing up as he comes closer, cracking his knuckles.
“Tell me that when I wring your neck,” he growls.
“Oi, look, we’re all friends here, right?” she backs up further, the beginnings of a plan forming in her mind.
“That’s what you wish,” he growls with his thunderous voice. As he pulls his fist back to attack her, Alix runs towards him. She ducks under his swinging fist, and then brings her spear up to jab at him. The giant howls as the spear makes contact. He pulls the point out of his upper arm, pulling the spear out of Alix’s grasp. He tosses the spear aside, more angry now than ever.
The giant cackles cruelly as he lumbers towards Alix. Alix backs away, hating the thought of being within reach of her opponent. Alix stops, her back against the arena wall and a sinking feeling in her gut. She knows she needs a weapon in order to win this, so despite being untrained, she needed that spear.
He strides towards her, clearly confident in his abilities of defeating her with brute strength. He pulls a fist back, and when Alix begins to move her arms to deflect the oncoming punch, he kicks out and knocks her feet out from under her. The moment she lands on the ground she rolls away from the giant, dodging the second kick that was coming her way. She leaps to her feet, ducking under his fist then dodging behind him to grab the spear. As the giant spins to face her, she thrusts the spear towards him, and it plunges into his side.
Alix stumbles away as he falls to the ground. She scrambles for the sharp half of the giant’s spear, ignoring the noises from behind her. Half a spear now in hand, she stands over the fallen giant, “Don’t ever doubt a Ranger,” she spits before finishing the duel.
Gilan arrives at the colosseum in time to see a familiar head of auburn stumble away from a extraordinarily tall and burly man. Gilan’s eyes widen when he realizes what kind of task his former apprentice has just completed. The tall ranger makes his way closer to the center, trying to see the details clearer. The crowd is cheering, elated at Alix’s success against such a dangerous opponent. Gilan watches as Alix’s wrists get bound, and she gets led out of the arena.
“Now I just have to hope Rea can find her,” Gilan murmurs, deciding it was time to locate the leader of the Death Games.
Gannon looks up as his lieutenant, Derrick, walks up to him. “Were they successful?”
Derrick hesitates, “For the most part, yes.”
“They captured the Ranger. We shouldn’t be seeing any more of her,” Derrick begins, “But, our informant sent word that another ranger went after her, he thinks it might be the Commandant.”
“I see. And the apprentice?”
“There has been no clues as to what they did with her. She is presumed dead.”
“Good. One less to deal with. Send word to the imbeciles Kaden and Ralph and warn them of the other ranger. Tell them to kill him too.”
“I will do that,” Derrick says, bowing slightly before exiting the room.